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Programming Note

I’ve switched this blog to the URL, thoughtfully purchased for me by my wife, Jen. Any links or bookmarks to the old URL will redirect to the equivalent link under the new domain name.

Also, do me a favor and click the “Fave This Blog” Technorati button at the bottom of the sidebar. I’m tired of being ranked 4,669,886th. 🙂

If there are any of the other social networking sites that I should be linked to, please suggest something.

It’s Axiomatic, Dear Boy

Axiom: a proposition that is not susceptible of proof or disproof; its truth is assumed to be self-evident.

I’ve found when arguing or debating an issue it’s very helpful to be able to identify a difference in axioms, and if one is found to disengage from the argument as politely as possible, declaring that you’ll just have to agree to disagree, because arguing further is just talking past each other.

There are two varieties of axiom clash:

If your axiom is “There is a God” and my axiom is “There is no God,” then we have competing axioms.

If we happen to agree on the axiom “There is a God,” but you hold the axiom “God demands world conversion to religion X by force” and I do not — that is, if one’s position is the absence of a competing axiom — then we have mismatched axioms.

When identifying an axiom clash, I look for the lowest-level axiom logically behind a stated proposition. For instance, “The Bible is the inerrant Word of God” assumes “There is a God,” and since my axiom is “There is no God” then that’s where the competing axiom clash occurs, rather than at the mismatched axiom level of “The Bible is the inerrant Word of God” versus “no, it isn’t.”

Since people hold a large number of propositions in their head as axiomatic, I’ve found it useful to try to find the highest-level competition or mismatch and end the debate there. Sometimes you can identify a principle that your counterpart thinks is axiomatic but isn’t in terms of other lower-level axioms they also hold; in such cases you can sometimes influence their thinking, especially if some or all of the lower-level axioms are ones you share.

Now, obviously it’s not possible to always agree to disagree if one or both parties to the clash decide that the clash is itself intolerable and must be decided by resort to force. Ultimately, we all have to decide whether our axioms are worth dying for if the other party believes their axioms are worth killing for. I believe that some axioms are worth dying for — although I pray it’ll never come to that — even though it means anything up to the level of total war.

I’ll try to identify those propositions I hold as axiomatic as I go forward on this blog, and I think being able to identify one’s own axioms is a necessary tool of philosophy and should be practiced by everyone. If you spot a contradiction among my axioms like I’ve just described, please point it out to me. But if your axioms clash with mine, then it’s probably best if you just say so up front and spare us the argument-at-loggerheads.

First Post! All About Me

My wife says I have lots of opinions, and I should share them…

Seriously, I have for some time thought about starting a blog, but I’ve always run up against the barriers of I have nothing in particular to say and I have no particular area of expertise and I should just post to my LiveJournal.

But y’know, screw that.

  • I have nothing in particular to say. Wrong. Ask anyone I know: I’ll go on for hours, raising my voice and gesturing wildly at the slightest provocation. I want to use this blog to think about what I think, refine how I think about it, and learn by doing how to communicate it in writing. I’ve got a whole series of “This I Believe” posts planned, to run the gamut from Life, The Universe, and Everything down to fairly trivial current issues.
  • I have no particular area of expertise. Well, so what? I’ve always thought of myself as a generalist. I have a B.A. in History, I’m a competent web programmer, I have a wide range of interests, and I have a vast store of trivial knowledge. This isn’t going to be a blog that laser-focuses on politics or international relations or the military or the media. It’s going to be a look inside my head: some parts are pretty sharp and some are pretty blurry.
  • I should just post to my LiveJournal. Well, no, not really. I consider my LJ to be the place I post stupid jokes, talk about my soon-to-be baby, or find out who’s going out to the club tonight. Most of my social circle is aware to some degree that I’m a Republican (gasp!) — I’m not, actually — or conservative (how could you!) — more libertarian, actually — or just not a knee-jerk liberal like most of them. But posting ranty political screeds just feels like poking them in the eye with it and I just don’t want the social hassle.

So, more about me:

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