karl_lembke (karl_lembke) wrote,


Arnold Kling has an article on Tech Central Station on the ways people arrive at conclusions.

...we use one brain mechanism to analyze the physical world, as when we line up a shot on the billiard table. We use another brain mechanism to interact socially, as when we try to get a date for the prom.

The analytical brain uses the principles of science. It learns to make predictions of the form, "When an object is dropped, it will fall toward the earth."

The social brain uses empathy. It learns to guess others' intentions and motives in order to predict their reactions and behavior.

The difference between analytical and social reasoning strikes me as similar to the difference that I once drew between Type C and Type M arguments. I wrote, "Type C arguments are about the consequences of policies. Type M arguments are about the alleged motives of individuals who advocate policies."

In this article, Kling looks at gas prices: Type C arguments focus on market forces, competition, and relative abundance and scarcity of resources; type M focuses on how greedy those evil oil companies are.
He also looks at philosophies of government and international trade.

C.S. Lewis came up with the term "Bulverism" to describe one form of "type M" argument – "you only advocate this position because of your evil motives". This is an argument that shortcuts around whether position X is factually better than position Y and addresses the motives of those who support X or Y. When you see Bulverism in action, you have a big clue that the person making the argument is making a type M argument.

A couple of people on Live Journal have discussed a couple of points of view: "Debaters vs. Declarers".
It strikes me that this dichotomy is related to type C and type M thinking. To a "Debater", the truth or falsity of a proposition is something to be arrived at by examining the data, testing hypotheses, sifting through evidence – in other words, by debate. A Debater looks at the consequences we would observe if some proposition were true.
To a declarer, the truth is determined by the motives of those who offer or oppose some proposition. Motives can be good or evil, and this perceived good or evil is going to determine where the declarer will plant his idological flag. (Who in his right mind is going to deliberately side with the bad guys?)
Can the gulf between the two modes of thought be bridged?
I've seen it happen a time or two, but I've also learned not to count on it.

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