Former Minister Eric Abetz was in the Oz the other day, complaining that

How often, for example, have I had to put up with the tag of ‘religious Right’ or ‘far Right’, whereas you hardly ever hear it of the ‘religious Left’ or the ‘irreligious Left’ or the ‘far Left’ or the ‘extreme Left’ when talking about the Australian Greens or vast elements of the Australian Labor Party,

That reminded me that I needed to update my testimonial list with one from Michael Stutchbury, then at the Oz. It’s appropriately placed on the far right of the page.

32 thoughts on “Testimonial

  1. @J-D

    When words are combined into phrases and then placed in context in a larger piece of text, the full imports, assumptions and associations surrounding those words are augmented well beyond their narrow, isolated dictionary meanings. You were making a larger, implied argument using poorly framed and un-examined assumptions.

    Are you unaware that judgements about “behaving badly” are value judgements relative to the value system applied? Alternatively, if you want to advance a universal moral system, or at least your own preferred system, you will need to develop that out before you can blithely advance the phrase “behaving badly” as if its content is obvious to all.

  2. @Ikonoclast

    You assert that ‘judgements about “behaving badly” are value judgements relative to the value system applied’; but it is only possible for you to assert this meaningfully (let alone correctly) if you understand the meaning (in context) of the term ‘behaving badly’; if you don’t have in mind some definition for the term ‘behaving badly’ then your assertion is meaningless.

  3. @J-D

    I understand the general import of the phrase “behaving badly” in isolation from context. Clearly, it means behaving badly relative to some implied standard of good behaviour. Your argument relied on some implied but unstated standard of good behaviour. You needed to explicitly state that standard to make your argument logically supportable or at least persuasive. The reason that you needed to explicitly state that standard is that you were arguing in the field of religious ethics and religiously motivated behaviors. This is a field notorious for disagreements about what constitutes good behavior and bad behavior.

    You seem to want to reduce this to a semantic argument which you win by showing I understand in general terms what one might call the “non-contextual” meaning of the phrase “behaving badly”. Clearly I do but that isn’t the issue. The issue is its use in the context of an ordered argument of yours. In that ordered argument the phrase “behaving badly” needed a contextual definition via a statement of what constitutes good behaviour in your view or according to some universal moral standard if you could demonstrate such in the argument. Without this statement your argument lacked a specific definition to condition the meaning of “behaving badly”. “Behaving badly” became an “empty operator” in the argument. (I use the term “empty operator” here in a logic sense not in a linguistic or semantic sense.) This rendered your argument logically (and rhetorically) empty even though it has a clear first level semantic meaning.

  4. @Ikonoclast

    My argument does not rely on any implied but unstated standard of good behaviour. You can choose any standard of good behaviour you like — or anybody else can choose one — and the force of the argument remains the same.

  5. @J-D

    Professor X was an eccentric anthropologist. He liked to place his students singly on a remote island to study the native inhabitants. He ensured that each student knew nothing at all about the islanders or their laws, customs and beliefs before the study. From a supply ship, Professor X would land his next student on the island by launch. Professor X always shouted his final advice to the student before he departed.

    “These islanders are very quick to take offence and they are very violent. They also have many strange beliefs and customs which it is death to offend against. Remember, whatever you do, DON’T BEHAVE BADLY!”

  6. @Ikonoclast

    The warning ‘don’t behave badly’ given by Professor X, in its context, depends for any value it may have on what behaviour is considered to be bad.

    My argument stated earlier, in its context, does not depend for any force it may have on what behaviour is considered to be bad.

    The two contexts are different.

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