Tuesday, November 15, 2011


As is well known, the Internet is rife with wrangling of all sorts. Some of it has occurred in these pages. That's life, I would suppose.

But some people say that there is a simple rule that will obviate most of this stuff: criticize ideas and opinions, not persons.

This is a noble ideal, but it is not always practical. If someone says, e.g., "Adolf Hitler has been misjudged. He was a great man who did much for Germany and the world"--surely it is not enough to refute this obviously wrong view. It is appropriate to ask pointed questions about the mental make-up and character of someone who could make such a bizarre claim. In such cases, it is better to be forthright than to adhere to a purist position: "just criticize the idea."

Moreover, many sometimes feel, not always without reason, that when their views are criticized there is some personal animus involved. This is particularly a problem when person A keeps criticizing the views of person B. In principle, I suppose the sense could be alleviated if person A indicated from time to time that (s)he holds person B in high regard. But such assurances could seem insincere.

In such matters there does not seem to be any universal rule, to be followed in every instance.



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