Eugie Foster (eugie) wrote,
Eugie Foster

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It's all about the words . . .

Having--although I guess it's probably more of a "had" by now--a mini-debate over on mouseferatu's LJ about whether Atheism constitutes a religion.

Obviously (or perhaps not so obviously), I'm taking con. Being an Atheist, I don't consider myself to have any religion, and defining my disbelief in things supernatural as faith don't make no sense to me.

But that's largely tangential, or rather the catalyst for this entry.

Has anyone else noticed that most real debates end up being comprised almost exclusively about semantics when you finally pare away all the other dross?

Matthew and I have discussed this before. We're both science-minded folks--his background's in Physics and mine's in Psychology. Add on to the equation that he did the graduate school in Philosophy thing, and suffice it say, we've gotten existential on some snow-bound lazy Sundays. Anyway, comparing notes, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that most debates just plain devolve down to semantics. Not talking 'bout the "why can't you clean up around here a little?" or "I don't wanna watch ESPN, gimme the damn remote!" sorts of conflicts, but rather the ones about what people believe and why. I'm thinking the numbers might come down to 90% of those debates are about semantics. Maybe even more. By the time all terms are expressly defined by all parties, people often find that there's nothing left to argue about. Of course, getting to that point is often a battle in and of itself.

And then there's the small percentage of debates that aren't about semantics. The only way they can manage it is 'cause all the debaters have spent a goodly amount of time specifying explicitly what their terms mean in the first place.

Strange to think that we're all ostensibly speaking the same language yet at the same time we can have so much difficulty understanding each other.

Hobkin, on the other hand, communicates just fine. When he paces back and forth in front of the refridgerator, he's saying "It's time to eat! Now!" Sometimes we disagree, but he's always right.
Tags: hobkin

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