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Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech

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Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Kenneth Folk 2/13/15 12:30 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Not Tao 2/13/15 12:52 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Daniel - san 2/13/15 2:31 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Steve Anonymous 2/13/15 1:32 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Dada Kind 2/13/15 1:32 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Kenneth Folk 2/13/15 2:06 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Dada Kind 2/13/15 2:55 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Ryan J 2/13/15 11:12 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/15/15 2:07 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/15/15 2:26 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Psi 2/13/15 3:34 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Eva Nie 2/15/15 2:33 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Psi 2/15/15 10:58 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/16/15 5:16 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Psi 2/16/15 9:25 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/13/15 8:16 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Kenneth Folk 2/13/15 11:06 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/15/15 2:41 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Ryan J 2/15/15 12:33 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/15/15 8:28 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Ryan J 2/16/15 11:31 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Kenneth Folk 2/13/15 11:37 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Psi 2/14/15 1:09 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Dada Kind 2/14/15 11:09 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Ryan J 2/15/15 11:52 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Dada Kind 2/15/15 2:26 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Alin Mathews 2/15/15 12:00 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Noah 2/14/15 11:44 PM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/15/15 1:54 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech CJMacie 2/16/15 5:31 AM
RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech Steve 2/17/15 6:50 AM
Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 12:30 PM
In online discussions, it sometimes seems that anything goes. The lines between skillful and unskillful behavior are blurred, and it's hard to know what guidelines, if any, to follow. Should I be kind? Or should I be brutally honest? Should I express my feelings or hold back to avoid hurting someone? Does it support my practice to turn the other cheek when I think I'm being treated unfairly, or is it better for everyone if I call out what I perceive as bad behavior?

Whatever you think about these questions, it's easy to find someone online who will convincingly argue the opposite. The very idea of right speech in the Buddhist sense can seem hopelessly naive when dealing with people who don't value it. But all is not lost.

I think the key to effective and wholesome online discussion is intellectual honesty. When intellectual honesty is explicitly held as a value, much of the confusion disappears; there really is such a thing as clear communication. Intellectual honesty can be taken on as a practice. It is based in a commitment to ethical behavior and is consistent with the Buddhist concept of right speech.

Below is a post written by Mike Gene, cut and pasted in its entirety from his website.

Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty

When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual honesty.

1. Do not overstate the power of your argument. One’s sense of conviction should be in proportion to the level of clear evidence assessable by most. If someone portrays their opponents as being either stupid or dishonest for disagreeing, intellectual dishonesty is probably in play. Intellectual honesty is most often associated with humility, not arrogance.

2. 
Show a willingness to publicly acknowledge that reasonable alternative viewpoints exist. The alternative views do not have to be treated as equally valid or powerful, but rarely is it the case that one and only one viewpoint has a complete monopoly on reason and evidence.

3. 
Be willing to publicly acknowledge and question one’s own assumptions and biases. All of us rely on assumptions when applying our world view to make sense of the data about the world. And all of us bring various biases to the table.

4. 
Be willing to publicly acknowledge where your argument is weak.Almost all arguments have weak spots, but those who are trying to sell an ideology will have great difficulty with this point and would rather obscure or downplay any weak points.

5. 
Be willing to publicly acknowledge when you are wrong. Those selling an ideology likewise have great difficulty admitting to being wrong, as this undercuts the rhetoric and image that is being sold. You get small points for admitting to being wrong on trivial matters and big points for admitting to being wrong on substantive points. You lose big points for failing to admit being wrong on something trivial.

6. 
Demonstrate consistency. A clear sign of intellectual dishonesty is when someone extensively relies on double standards. Typically, an excessively high standard is applied to the perceived opponent(s), while a very low standard is applied to the ideologues’ allies.

7. 
Address the argument instead of attacking the person making the argument. Ad hominem arguments are a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty. However, often times, the dishonesty is more subtle. For example, someone might make a token effort at debunking an argument and then turn significant attention to the person making the argument, relying on stereotypes, guilt-by-association, and innocent-sounding gotcha questions.

8. 
When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it. A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest is to portray their opponent’s argument in straw man terms. In politics, this is called spin. Typically, such tactics eschew quoting the person in context, but instead rely heavily on out-of-context quotes, paraphrasing and impression. When addressing an argument, one should shows signs of having made a serious effort to first understand the argument and then accurately represent it in its strongest form.

9. 
Show a commitment to critical thinking. ‘Nuff said.

10. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when a point or criticism is good. If someone is unable or unwilling to admit when their opponent raises a good point or makes a good criticism, it demonstrates an unwillingness to participate in the give-and-take that characterizes an honest exchange.

While no one is perfect, and even those who strive for intellectual honesty can have a bad day, simply be on the look out for how many and how often these criteria apply to someone. In the arena of public discourse, it is not intelligence or knowledge that matters most – it is whether you can trust the intelligence or knowledge of another. After all, intelligence and knowledge can sometimes be the best tools of an intellectually dishonest approach.

-Mike Gene


RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 12:52 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
I don't think the Buddha's instructions are naive in this case.  If we consider that their purpose is to help remove clinging, then it makes sense that a person should only speak if they can be both kind and honest.  If there is any aversion, there is clinging, and with that clinging comes intellectual dishonesty. How can we notice the holes in our own arguments if we feel the need to defend them? If there is a strong motivation to correct someone, that more often comes from aversion rather than goodwill doesn't it?

If you are truely interested in helping someone, wouldn't the first instinct be to keep them happy and introduce your ideas in a way that wasn't offensive or likely to turn them away? And if you aren't interested in helping them, but rather in propping up a feeling, or defending yourself, or getting revenge (however small), or controlling a situation - all of this points to clinging that is worth investigating. I think the Right Speech described in the suttas is actually pretty pragmatic. It's difficult, definately, but by the time you fill all of the qualifications, any aversion and clinging has been filtered out of what you have to say. I think this turns into an easy habit, after a while.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 1:32 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
My experience with Buddhist forums dominated by Westerners is that "Right Speech" becomes code for "shut up".  One of the reasons I left dramawheel was that I felt like I couldn't express myself honestly.   I felt that if I could have been honest ( not necessarily insulting or even blunt ) or if other people could,  a lot of nasty, passive-aggressive beating around the bush could have simply ended before getting to that point.

I agree with you that many online Buddhists simply don't value Right Speech and that you aren't going to get through to them.

Eventually I had a good retreat and some really extraordinary states of mind at home.   Those experiences helped me see that my entire life made contributions to my mental states, including the way I acted online.   I wanted more cool-silence and less cranky-kibbiting.   Now, if I get the sense someone just isn't hearing something or if they are getting cranky with me online I will just go away ( most of the time ).  Having those conversations just isn't worth my time compared to what I could be getting instead.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 1:32 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Can you define intellectual honesty

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 2:06 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:
Can you define intellectual honesty


Hi Droll,

I can't tell if you're joking, but from some of your other posts I get the impression that you have a good sense of humor, so I offer the following in the spirit of good, clean fun and family entertainment:


http://lmgtfy.com/?q=intellectual+honesty

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 2:31 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
I don't think the Buddha's instructions are naive in this case.  If we consider that their purpose is to help remove clinging, then it makes sense that a person should only speak if they can be both kind and honest.  If there is any aversion, there is clinging, and with that clinging comes intellectual dishonesty. How can we notice the holes in our own arguments if we feel the need to defend them? If there is a strong motivation to correct someone, that more often comes from aversion rather than goodwill doesn't it?

If you are truely interested in helping someone, wouldn't the first instinct be to keep them happy and introduce your ideas in a way that wasn't offensive or likely to turn them away? And if you aren't interested in helping them, but rather in propping up a feeling, or defending yourself, or getting revenge (however small), or controlling a situation - all of this points to clinging that is worth investigating. I think the Right Speech described in the suttas is actually pretty pragmatic. It's difficult, definately, but by the time you fill all of the qualifications, any aversion and clinging has been filtered out of what you have to say. I think this turns into an easy habit, after a while.

sadhu sadhu... (very well said, well said)

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 2:55 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
I wasn't ONLY being a smartass. I was going somewhere with that.

I just think the concept is useless, even laughable. Generally, in the ordinary sense of the word, we're either honest or not. It's a fairly binary situation. In the intellectual sense it's not a binary situation at all so to claim we're "intellectually honest" seems absurd to me. There's no way to be. We can try to be more "intellectually honest" (assuming it's been defined) but then why use this honesty metaphor at all?

I also don't think it can be precisely defined. Even if it could be precisely defined then how would we judge an argument about the validity of the definition?

Of course, learning about basic fallacies, logic(s), fact checking, respect, open-mindedness, etc is valuable but attaching the phrase "intellectual honesty" to it seems absurd to me.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 3:34 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Reply to all:

Well, Right Speech and Intellectual Honesty,   Hmmmmm.....

Well, first off, from my experience most people do not handle the truth very well.  Especially when there is an ego involved, the ego has been formed very carefully by individuals for many years, and people become very proud of their egos, and sometimes the truth will absolutley crush a person, even if the truth is beneficial to them in the long run.  Sometimes when people hear the truth it can even result in drastic reactions, even suicide.  If everyone were able to view reality with dispassion and equanimity then humanity could move along much faster and there would be a huge upsurge in economic efficiency, there may be an end to wars, thefts, and all types of criminal behaviors, and the economic impact recovered from the costs of maintaining militaries and police forces, locks, security, etc would be a huge economic boom for the entire planet.  Oops, like any of that will ever happen, haha...

Anyway, The Right Speech Formula from the Buddha goes something like this: from memory...so....

If it is not true, and it will harm someone , do not say it.

If it is not true, but it will not harm someone, do not say it.

If it is true, but it will harm someone, do not say it.

If it is true, and it will not harm someone, say it , but at an appropriate time.

So, Right Speech is tough, one of the harder trainings, for me anyway, and as I am sure you are all aware, I still mess up...  

emoticon Don't underestimate the Powers of the Dark Side....

But, I think Right Speech is pretty important, as to train one's mind in Right Speech, one also gains ground in the battle to purify the mind, The Language centers of the brain are vastly complex, and have intricate connections, and can even migrate to other areas if damaged, so to be able to Master the Language Center , or Broca's area, one achieves a major victory in the purification of the mind and of the ridding of kilesas or kleshas, at least related to the speech areas of the brain and all that it is connected to.

Psi

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 8:16 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
This thread presents perhaps a valuable opportunity. Thank you, Kenneth, for stepping out here.

I've been trying to come to terms with an impression / perception, a reactivity (and referred to also by others in these discussions), that Kenneth's presentations here are framed to imply some sense of privileged authority; seen at an exaggerated degree in the guidelines proposed in the threads "Q& A with Kenneth Folk…", which, admittedly, are not explicitly authored by him.

"Stepping out" above perhaps could have read "stepping in", i.e. into discussions here. The "out" aligns with the point ventured here, namely:

What would you, Kenneth, think about an experiment here, engaging in a peer-level discussion, e.g. detailed analysis of a couple of specific instances of statements from these discussions, by yourself, by me, by anyone (who, however, should probably be notified and assent to it, probably participate), with a view of seeing exactly how right-speech and less-so-right speech are constructed (in syntax, semantics, rhetorical gesture, ...)? A kind of case-study format.

Referring, perhaps, to the concepts outlined in Mike Gene's piece. And, of course, focusing on passages that present some kind of reasoned ideation; not overt flames or rants.

This could be quite interesting, though it might also invite some of the usual noise on the edges.

Any thoughts?

I would be willing to offer an initial example case to demonstrate – from one of your passages. (Equally valid, someone on one of my, or another's passages. Should probably, however, not be started by someone using one of their own passages.)

Touchy at it may seem, the point here would be investigating perception and expression at some perspective distance from the "mine-ness" or "yours-ness" of the material discussed.

[some stylistic edits 6:15 PM]

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 11:12 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll,

Laughable by rigorous scientific or philosophical standards? 

I think the phrase intellectual honesty, well, I'll just give it an 7.5/10. I think of phrases/words are good or not depending on the visceral aura of the words that spring forth from their utterance, which is the way a writer would think about words, not the way a mathematician would think about the words, which would be precision. I also find that it pairs well with emotional honesty, like the stock standard mainstream Brene Brown type of vulnerability stuff. It's simple enough for most people to be on board with. It works for the level of rigour we are talking about, or at least, I feel that way.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I don't really care to speak with the precision even though trying to be intellectually honest is far more fuzzy and fractal and isomorphic and dynamical and multilevel inherently contextually unrectifiable and set theoretical constructivistic whatevericalism if you wanted to be really serious about it. It's simply good enough, particularly for online discussions. Or maybe I don't understand what you're getting at.

Most people can look at these lists and learn to be more approximate with phrasing their ideas and being appropriately congruent with what they present. My reaction to the list was simply, "Yep, seems reasonable." But I'm already on board with such a list and have been trying to push for such behavior on the DhO with every post I have made. Honestly, the DhO seems to attract some fairly religiously dogmatic people. A list like this is especially important here.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 11:06 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:

What would you, Kenneth, think about an experiment here, engaging in a peer-level discussion, e.g. detailed analysis of a couple of specific instances of statements from these discussions, by yourself, by me, by anyone (who, however, should probably be notified and assent to it, probably participate), with a view of seeing exactly how right-speech and less-so-right speech are constructed (in syntax, semantics, rhetorical gesture, ...)? A kind of case-study format.


Thanks for the suggestion Chris. It's an interesting idea. But I have something else in mind for this thread.

I've presented Mike Gene's essay on intellectual honesty in the OP as an introduction to the topic, hoping that people will read it more than once and ponder it a bit. I believe intellectual honesty is an incredibly powerful concept that has the power to transform a learning community by becoming a cultural value. My hope is that intellectual honesty will become a cultural value here on the DhO, and that the forum will become even more interesting for serious practitioners while simultaneously less of a target for trolling. Equally important, I think that anyone who takes on intellectual honesty as a practice is likely to benefit in all sorts of ways, and it feels good to imagine where that might lead, not just for online discussion but for our culture at large.

The more I learn about intellectual honesty, the more I see all the places where I fall short, and the more determined I am to improve. I offer the post in that spirit; I value intellectual honesty because it's helping me to make sense of the world and my place in it as well as giving me an easily understandable structure for ethical behavior in discussion. I invite anyone else who is interested to also take it on as a practice and meet me back here to discuss it.

In this initial post, I'd like to avoid allegations of past intellectual dishonesty directed at other members. There will be plenty of opportunity to call it out in realtime in this and other threads. This is an education thread. Intellectual honesty is a way to approach discussion. It's wonderful. Commiting to it makes for better discussions and better relationships. It's a challenge, and it's worth the effort. If you've ever come away from an online discussion feeling like you needed a shower, intellectual honesty is for you; even though we won't always be perfectly intellectually honest, the very commitment to it makes you feel a little lighter, a little cleaner. I hope everyone will learn about it and give it a try.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/13/15 11:37 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Paweł K:
Is is lack of intellectual honesty when one is not telling blunt truth using normal language that anyone could understand and rather uses ambiguous expressions like emptiness, non-duality, etc that point to nothing?

Not necessarily. Here is one good definition from Rational Wiki:

"Intellectual honesty is honesty in the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of ideas. A person is being intellectually honest when he or she, knowing the truth, states that truth."

By that definition, it would seem that if you don't know better, you are not being intellectually dishonest. If someone talks about emptiness, etc., because they don't know a better way to express what they are thinking or feeling, they are not being intellectually dishonest.

If, on the other hand, they know better, and are doing it to confuse the listener, or they are just making up stories or parroting something they have heard but not experienced, then they are indeed guilty of intellectual dishonesty as I understand the term.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/14/15 1:09 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth Folk:
Paweł K:
Is is lack of intellectual honesty when one is not telling blunt truth using normal language that anyone could understand and rather uses ambiguous expressions like emptiness, non-duality, etc that point to nothing?

Not necessarily. Here is one good definition from Rational Wiki:

"Intellectual honesty is honesty in the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of ideas. A person is being intellectually honest when he or she, knowing the truth, states that truth."

By that definition, it would seem that if you don't know better, you are not being intellectually dishonest. If someone talks about emptiness, etc., because they don't know a better way to express what they are thinking or feeling, they are not being intellectually dishonest.

If, on the other hand, they know better, and are doing it to confuse the listener, or they are just making up stories or parroting something they have heard but not experienced, then they are indeed guilty of intellectual dishonesty as I understand the term.
That is good, and agreed upon.


I like to frame it as Believing versus Knowing:

The Difference Between Believing and Knowing

"I don't believe, I know!" - Carl Jung, when asked about his belief in 'god'

Believe 
12345
1 a : to have a firm religious faith b : to accept as true

2 : to have a firm conviction

3 : to hold an opinion
Know 
123456789101112131415
1 a : to perceive directly : have direct cognition of

   b: to have understanding of

   c: to  recognize the nature of : DISCERN

      (1) : to recognize as being the same as something previously known

      (2) to be acquainted or familiar with

      (3) : to have experience of

2 a : to be aware of the truth or factuality

   b : to have a practical understanding
Believing is holding an opinion. Knowing is to have direct experience, to understand, and to have a practical understanding of some concept.

To further delineate the two different terms, it is important to realize that while one can "make- believe", one cannot "make-know".

Main Entry: [1]make-be·lievepretending to believeOne can pretend to believe, because in order to believe, one does not need factual knowledge. You just make it up.Of course, I suppose it is true that you can "pretend know" - but we usually call this lying.When one maintains in an argument: "I don't believe, I know", without actually possessing direct cognition of, or evidence for, their proposition, they are in fact using a persuasive defintion (i.e. one that is misleading, which we otherwise refer to as lying. (Literally, pretending to know)

From here:

http://editthis.info/logic/The_Difference_Between_Believing_and_Knowing

Psi

But, sometimes we do speculate, as a way for the mind to explore and investigate, but if we are speculating it is wholesome to let others know one is speculating.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/14/15 11:09 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
@Ryan
No, I think the concept is mostly practically useless too.

I feel the need to combat notions of absolute 'objectivity' or rules in debate or reasoning. That's partially motivating my complaining here.

Kenneth you provided a perfect example with RationalWiki.
RationalWiki is a free-access wiki written from a skeptical, secular, and progressive perspective.
Now, for a given article, does RationalWiki know "the truth" and then state it? Are they "honest" in the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of ideas? Why would people feel the need to specify the perspective of RationalWiki... unless ... it was necessarily influencing their "honesty"?

Any time one has a focus one will be leaving out information that contradicts that focus and over-representing information that is consistent with that focus. This can only be worked on, not eliminated.

Then, the word "honest" just does not apply to the acquisition, analysis, and transmission of 'ideas'.

Anyway, care to define -- "ideas" and "truth"? Last I checked it was impossible to acquire or transmit ideas. I've only ever transmitted and acquired symbols.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 11:52 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll,

I overwhelmingly agree with the everything you said with respect to different perspectives revealing and concealing. (Edit: or you say only concealing from what I gather as rereading your post?). The rationalwiki prides itself on being 'less wrongish' and the skeptic community, basically does what you say it does, I'm too lazy to rewrite what you said as I totally agree with it already. And yet, when I look at that list above, I can't really disagree with a single item on that list, which I'm biased because most of my posts have those traits fairly explicitly (Get it? I just did one of the things on the list! Hohoho) I wish there were, however, a statistical measurement of how 'well' a conversation goes, and while I don't suppose there is some absolute rule for conversations, I would bet conversations that abide more or less by these rules allows for the DhO to flourish and ones that don't abide by them lead to a breakdown in community.

I'm both split by overwhelming agreement with you, yet I cannot shake the notion that a culture that sufficiently abides by these rules will be a paragon for awakening of many flavors, shapes, sizes, textures, melodies, and so on. That I would pay a minor price for cultural structure, as the absolute notion that there is no absolute rules is too an absolutism (Perhaps I'm strawmanning you here? Not sure) But irregardless, it would just be that much less of a pain in the ass, imo.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 12:00 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
As i see it the intellect is but a surface function (google Nine Types of Intelligence) of the brain's biological innate intelligence.

whats warping and crippling those functions is the inability to be emotionally honest 'with one's self'.

much easier to intellectualise about intellectual honesty or dishonesty than face what's really distorting it.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/14/15 11:44 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
I totally agree with the idea of intellectual honesty.  I feel like a lot of the responses on this thread are sort of nitpicking in some sense or another (either the specific word choice or the inherent duality of the concepts behind the words).  However, in the actual practice of discussing matters of meditation online, using this 'intellectual honesty' to guide one's speech makes perfect sense.  We're dealing within the relativistic realm of language, after all (not the more 'ultimate' arena of subject-object, emptiness, etc.).

Also, it seems like a lot of the time on the DHO people just don't want to admit that they might be wrong, or only partially right.  Imho, the quality of many threads decreases when posters hold on to their original arguments for dear life.  

One last thought- a phrase that I would connect to the original term is "common sense" as well as "being reasonable".  

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 1:54 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
re: Kenneth Folk (2/13/15 12:30 PM )

Mike Gene's proposed "10 signs of intellectual honesty" contains excellent points, for everyone of us to attend to. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

A couple of more subtle aspects could also be high-lighted; (quotations are from Mike Gene's material)

In the intro:
"… just because someone may come across [in public discourse on the internet] as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty.”
and in the conclusion:
"…
be on the look out for how many and
how often these criteria apply to someone."

This "track record" notion, the reification of "how many and how often", might become a temptation to form a judgment, a characterization about the "someone," i.e. as "intellectually dishonest," and subsequently color one's receptivity in discussion, rather than maintaining moment-to-moment, case-by-case consideration of the arguments. In fact, the phrase "apply to someone", as distinct from "apply to someone's arguments" makes this rather explicit. (Mike Gene might not be as attuned to anatta as here in DhO.)

"8. … A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest is to portray their opponent’s argument in straw man terms. In politics, this is called spin."

Mike Gene's statement contains something of an abstract ad-hominem: The text characterizes the personification of a behavior. "A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest [person]…"might be more "intellectually honestly" phrased as: "A common intellectually dishonest tactic [not person] is the portrayal of an opposing argument in straw man terms." 

These points are subtle, but in concrete situations, as distinct from high-sounding ideals, Buddhist right-speech can be a remarkably subtle endeavor, a challenge to mindfulness.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 2:07 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
re: Droll Dedekind (2/13/15 2:55 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.)
"… Generally, in the ordinary sense of the word, we're either honest or not. It's a fairly binary situation. In the intellectual sense it's not a binary situation at all…"

I agree that the concept 'intellectual honesty', as attractive as it rings, could use clarification. The term 'honesty' itself can have subtle shades – honesty to oneself, relative to some internal standard; honesty relative to some abstract 'truth'; honesty relative to the concrete context in which a statement is applied…

The term 'intellectual' can be used in multiple, wide ranges of meaning. For instance, in Buddhist Abhidhamma, translators and commentators often struggle with it's several senses in dealing with that complex of terms relating to 'mind': citta, mano, vinnana, nama…And in American discourse the connotation is often automatically negative – American 'pragmatism' frequently branded as 'anti-intellectualism'.


All in all, it's a term more associated with academic circles, less popular press, or general internet discussion – it would seem strange in, say, in Facebook. This relates to the problem where (Western) Buddhism has been quipped (by a Spirit Rock teacher) as "the upper-middle way".

In Kenneth's opening post:
"I think the key to effective and wholesome online discussion is intellectual honesty."
It certainly is a concept worth considering. In light of the fuzziness surrounding the term, proposing it as "the key…"here could be expected to elicit challenges. (Mike Gene: "1. Do not overstate the power of your argument"?)

Good way to trigger discussion though.

(Just as Kenneth "can't tell if you're joking", often I can't tell if Kenneth's statements are in earnest, rhetorical, or simply intended to provoke, and lead, discussion – albeit these are non-mutually exclusive possiblities.)

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 2:26 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Split-off as a post with distinct issues from my last response, but also relating to:
re: Droll Dedekind
(2/13/15 2:55 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.)
"… Generally, in the ordinary sense of the word, we're either honest or not. It's a fairly binary situation. In the intellectual sense it's not a binary situation at all…"

The Buddhist (Pali) canonical definition of 'right-speech' (sammā-vācā) is interesting in that it is complex, multi-faceted, going beyond simple 'honesty' as 'truthfulness'. (And somewhat odd in that the syntax of (the Buddha's purported) definition is in terms of negatives – NOT untruthful, NOT harsh, NOT divisive, NOT trivial or inane.)

In a college course many years ago at Stanford, taught by a visiting German professor named Josef Piper, the entire 12 weeks (quarter-system) was devoted to deciphering a single page – a couple of paragraphs – from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, namely just a definition of 'veritas' -- Latin word for 'truth'.

The application to our context here (right-speech) is that Aquinas' definition was also multi-faceted (like right-speech), and contained an ethical aspect (compare Droll's "not …binary"). It was also taught (not in the text, but in the class) in contrast to the more singular Aristolian notion of 'truth' as 'non-contradiction', which is foundational to modern science (more clearly in the "hard-sciences") and in mathematical logic – something is either 'a' or 'not-a', with no possible shades of in-between (compare Droll's "binary").

For Aquinas, truth has 3 essential qualities: unitas, claritas, and adaequatas. The first two aren't hard to decode from the Latin. Unity – having internal consistency – and Clarity – intelligible.

The interesting aspect is the third – recognizable in the English word 'adequate'. That is to say, the 'truth' of a statement is also, and in essence, a function of its relationship to the context in which it is presented. Someone might defend a 'half-truth', a harsh, devisive or trivial utterance by saying "well, it's true, isn't it?", but for Aquinas, and in a Buddhist ethical sense, it really isn't true to the situation, isn't right, isn't appropriate or adequate, isn't skilfull.

This relates to something we've also witnessed happening (and being pointed-out) in recent "discussions": slicing a target argument out-of-context with a critique that's clearly invalid when the larger context remains in view -- not a titled topic in Mike Gene's list, but mentioned under "8. When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it."

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 2:41 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth Folk:
Chris J Macie:

What would you, Kenneth, think about an experiment here, engaging in a peer-level discussion, e.g. detailed analysis of a couple of specific instances of statements from these discussions, ... with a view of seeing exactly how right-speech and less-so-right speech are constructed (in syntax, semantics, rhetorical gesture, ...)? A kind of case-study format.


Thanks for the suggestion Chris. It's an interesting idea. But I have something else in mind for this thread....

Afterwards, I noticed:

RE: Q&A with Kenneth Folk #2
re: Kenneth Folk (2/12/15 5:52 PM as a reply to Connie Dobbs. )
"Teachers with whom I discuss dharma on
an informal or peer basis:…"

So I wonder if you just prefer not to interact here on a peer-level, but only as teacher and authority?

In the context of your informal bio (quoted above), that statement might be taken along the lines one of G. Buddha's explanations of 'kalyana-mittata' ("admirable friendship"), in recommending those at a given phase of practice use a sort-of buddy-system, relating mostly with others at the same level.

('Kalyana' being of the same PIE root/word as Greek 'kalia' – beauty, as in "goodness, truth and beauty"; and 'mittata' obviously a close relative of 'metta'.)

Here in DhO, though, we mix it all up as to levels, and that's a potential plus – like learning in a one-room school house.

Thanks for replying, anyway.

P.S. (the thoughts keep rolling…) Part of the weakness, susceptibility to criticism in the Vipassana/Insight Movement teaching style is the tendency to dumb it down to the lowest common denominator, so as to, supposedly, avoid newbies being felt left-out and getting anxious. (The "mushroom method"?) But I have several times witnessed advanced monastics (Westerners with 30-40 years of (asian) practice and learning under their belts) who are somehow able to address a heterogenous group of listeners (newbies to adepts), and move back and forth in talks or Q/A between day-to-day concerns and issues of deep attainment, without disturbing anyone. I found the same in reading Than-Geof's translation of the teachings of one of his teachers (was it Ajahn Lee?), whose talks had the same effect. Perhaps that's a rare skill, but it's certainly a treasure to come across such a teacher.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 12:33 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris,

In your post above you wrote,

"re: Kenneth Folk (2/12/15 5:52 PM as a reply to Connie Dobbs. )
"Teachers with whom I discuss dharma on an informal or peer basis:…"

So I wonder if you just prefer not to interact here on a peer-level, but only as teacher and authority?"

This caught my eye. Did you really just conflate Kenneth's statement that he talks to some teachers casually with the notion he will only talk to others on the DhO as a teacher? That logical jump is so weird and nonsensical that I don't really know how to formulate a rebuttal as a 3rd party observer. My issue with your statement is that the logical jump is just utterly, completely random, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Kenneth folk talks to some teachers casually --> Kenneth folk won't talk to people on the DhO as peers

What?

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 2:26 PM as a reply to Ryan J.
I'm in almost total agreement with the 10 points in the OP. I'm not in agreement with the label "intellectual honesty". I think the label's pernicious.

Sorry if my posts seem pedantic, impractical, or nit-picky. To me, accounting for the relationship between language and thought/behavior is very practical.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 2:33 PM as a reply to Psi.
Psi:
Reply to all:

Well, Right Speech and Intellectual Honesty,   Hmmmmm.....

Well, first off, from my experience most people do not handle the truth very well.  Especially when there is an ego involved, the ego has been formed very carefully by individuals for many years, and people become very proud of their egos, and sometimes the truth will absolutley crush a person, even if the truth is beneficial to them in the long run.  Sometimes when people hear the truth it can even result in drastic reactions, even suicide.  If everyone were able to view reality with dispassion and equanimity then humanity could move along much faster and there would be a huge upsurge in economic efficiency, there may be an end to wars, thefts, and all types of criminal behaviors, and the economic impact recovered from the costs of maintaining militaries and police forces, locks, security, etc would be a huge economic boom for the entire planet.  Oops, like any of that will ever happen, haha...
My first thoughts on this were along these lines as well.  In order to be honest with others, you first need to be honest with self.  IME, most people have a lot of areas in their psyche were they are dependent on certain beliefs and assumptions to maintain mental stability.   Some of the beliefs may have been taught to them in childhood, others may have been accumulated to help stabilize other weaknesses, insecurities, etc.  The more those beliefs are threatened, the more you tend to see unstable behavior, illogical thoughts, anger, aggressiveness, etc.  Most people have landmines in their psyche that tend to blow if you step on them, ideas about the nature of life and reality, about their skill sets, value, uniqueness, importance as a person, etc.   Idea that threaten those areas will often yield an emotional and often illogical response in people that they don't even truly understand themselves at the time and usually believe in their minds (also part of the defense mechanism) is the fault of circumstances and other people.  SInce that is what they believe with their surface mind, in their mind, they are being honest, it's as good as they are able to do in that time and situation.  But since they haven't not sorted that mess out themselves, since they are not honest deep down inside with self, they are also not going to be truly honest with others.  In order to speak truth, you need to know it first.  Looking back, there were many many times when my outer actions were a reflection of things I would not admit in myself.  Probably there are more of those still inside me to find as well.  IME, the outer reflects the inner and efforts to change outer are generally going to be efforts to change symptoms but not causes.  People may agree on codes of conduct, and maybe codes of conduct are better than nothing and may at least shine a bit of attention on things that might go under the radar otherwise, but I do think outer change can only be expected after inner change. If inner change does not occur and if too much pressure from the outside to appear a certain way, I think behaviors may go more underground and be less obvious, but will still be operating with the same energy and in essentially the same way.  It's a tricky balancing game and I don't know if it would be easy to find the best middle ground on it.      

Anyway, The Right Speech Formula from the Buddha goes something like this: from memory...so....

If it is not true, and it will harm someone , do not say it.

If it is not true, but it will not harm someone, do not say it.

If it is true, but it will harm someone, do not say it.
This one can be tricky.  What is the definition of 'hurt?'  I don't think I could have evolved or learned as much as I have without at least some pain or 'hurt.'  It would be nice if there were a no pain path to improvement, but I've not yet seen it.  All paths I have seen have both pain and pleasure.  I think sometimes the person needs to hear the truth even if it hurts a bit (ie not fully mentally pleasing), but when and how far to push that is tricky.  You certainly don't want to push more than they are able to deal with.  And sometimes things upset people in unexpected ways, like eating cheese in front of a diehard vegan.  The best I have come up with is to try to keep my intent as clean as possible, try to make sure I don't have too many hidden motivations of ego and whatnot behind the decision making.  Which isn't easy either.
-Eva 


RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 8:28 PM as a reply to Ryan J.
re: Ryan Kenneth Johnson (2/15/15 12:33 PM as a reply to Chris JMacie.)
"...That logical jump is so weird and nonsensical that I don't really know how to formulate a rebuttal as a 3rd party observer. My issue with your statement is that the logical jump is just utterly, completely random, it makes no sense whatsoever..."

Hi Ryan,

Your writing seems some sort of reaction, but, as you state, you couldn't (at the time) quite formulate it. I'm not even sure, except possibly from the term "rebuttal," if it's an adverse reaction or otherwise.

So I will await a more specific formulation (if you're still so inclinded).

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/15/15 10:58 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:
[quote=This one can be tricky.  What is the definition of 'hurt?'  I don't think I could have evolved or learned as much as I have without at least some pain or 'hurt.'  It would be nice if there were a no pain path to improvement, but I've not yet seen it.  All paths I have seen have both pain and pleasure.  I think sometimes the person needs to hear the truth even if it hurts a bit (ie not fully mentally pleasing), but when and how far to push that is tricky.  You certainly don't want to push more than they are able to deal with.  And sometimes things upset people in unexpected ways, like eating cheese in front of a diehard vegan.  The best I have come up with is to try to keep my intent as clean as possible, try to make sure I don't have too many hidden motivations of ego and whatnot behind the decision making.  Which isn't easy either.
]
-Eva 


Yes, I agree, at this time in life anyway, and I will explain why, but have to in metaphor as it is easier for me to explain in this fashion.

Say there is a baby, and it has grabbed a shard of glass, and has put the shard of glass in it's mouth.  It is indeed better, to put a finger in the baby's mouth and pull out the glass shard, harming the baby and causing the baby to bleed from cuts, than to let the baby swallow the glass shard and cause further harm in the future.

So, sometimes a little applied dukkha now, stems alot of dukkha later.  Sometimes.

But, even so, one has to be prepared for backlash, and even if you helped someone, they just may not like you, just remembering you and connecting you with the pain...

But, there is dukkha...

Metta

Psi

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/16/15 5:16 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
re: Eva M Nie(2/15/15 12:33 PM as a reply to Psi.)

(This thread I've been reading and re-reading quite carefully, because I feel it's on to something. Elsewhere on DhO, there's been objection to "discussion revolving around word choice or minute distinctions between concepts", which is also a point well taken. Vipassana, however, in my mind implies a quest for precision, in both discernment of experience and in expression when trying to communicate it. So I'm hoping the following isn't taken as nit-picking or an attack.)

Psi (quoting a sutta): "If it is not true, and it will harm someone , do not say it..."

Eva: "This one can be tricky.  What is the definition of 'hurt?'  I don't think I could have evolved or learned as much as I have without at least some pain or 'hurt.'... "

"Harm" is an English word here translating 'vihimsa,' defined as cruelty or injury; it's the same Pali word used in the 'precept' against injuring, especially killing living beings.

"Hurt" is another English word, in common usage often used as synonym for "harm", as you, inadvertantly, did ("What is the definition of 'hurt?'"). Both English words have a range of shades of meaning. "Harm," in the sutta, I suspect, intends a stronger sense of causing serious damage*, though not physical in this context.

As you rightly point out, "pain" or "hurt" are often applied to events that are not seriously damaging, but can be actually beneficial. I'm just pointing out that it what you're referring to may not be in conflict with Psi's sutta quotation. Your point does offers a worthwhile balancing perspective to the negative effects that pushing 'the truth' on people can have, which I think Psi's was bringing-out.

* himsa is teasing or hurting in a milder sense
the vi- added in front intensifies it – teasing turned into cruelty
like the vi- in vipassana
passati is to see, to understand
vipassana, as we know, is more intense.

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/16/15 5:31 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
re: Chris J Macie. (2/14/15 11:54 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk. )

…following Kenneth Folk's suggestion to look at "intellectual honesty" and Mike Gene's analysis in terms of practical experience…

Looking more closely at Mike Gene'ssuggestion (as quoted in my earlier post):
(intro) "… What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty.”
(conclusion "…be on the look out for how many and how often these criteria apply to someone."

Earlier I offered that following these suggestions "… might become a temptation to form a judgment, a characterization about the "someone," i.e. as "intellectually dishonest," and subsequently color one's receptivity in discussion". Or even result in a labelling as an outright prejudice.

Then it dawned on me that something like that may well have be taking place in one's (mine, anyone's) mind during the dramatic events of the last two weeks.* Did I, did others, come away from that all with distinct notions, based on the recent "track records," that so-and-so was a troll, or so-and-so was a sockpuppet, was a whatever? Though it's considered inappropriate now to mention specifics from those past discussions, accusations directed at (now anonymous) 'trolls', 'sockpuppets' (personifications), etc. are still being tossed-around. Many have attempted to move the discussion to a more constructive meta-level, but a lot of the raw tone has persisted.

So, I've been trying to recognize in my own mind such processes (when discerning a "track-record" morphes into catgorizing a person), and then to explore deconstructing them -- practice exercises to re-examine such already formed judgements, and to guide perception and reaction, moving forward, in the direction of recognizing and defusing them as they arise.

…As well as becoming consigned to the empirical reality that, whatever one says here, and however diplomatically one tries to frame it, it will probably come under fire from some quarter.

* I remember it as "the Snow Moon Massacre" -- Feb 3, 6:09 pm EST was exact full "Snow" moon, about the time the thread "Q & A With Kenneth Folk[#1]" started spilling-over into the thread "Buddha and Money".

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/16/15 9:25 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
re: Eva M Nie(2/15/15 12:33 PM as a reply to Psi.)



Psi (quoting a sutta): "If it is not true, and it will harm someone , do not say it..."



Okay, I was recalling right speech from memory, and since I brought it up, here is the sutta I was referring to.

 I also want to add, @ everyone, it is in my view that the suttas should be examined and investigated to find out on one's own whether what is in any particular sutta is true or not, beneficial or not, wise or not, etc.  No being should take anything on blind faith.  Investigation is key.

The criteria for deciding what is worth saying

[1] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."

— MN 58

I take this sutta as a guideline, and as pointed out before, there are always exceptions to rules.  And also as stated before, be prepared for backlash, which brings me back around to maybe learning from all of this that perhaps it is better to simply just not get involved in some interactions.

Psi 

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/16/15 11:31 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris,

I did have a rebuttal at the time, but it was considered off limits in light of the drama of the past few days. I was going to call into question your motivations, which from my perspective are clearly politically motivated. I refrained from my rebuttal because of this. I will continue to do so. I could make an argument that you're reacting far more than I am, especially given the lengths of your posts, but I don't believe the arising of emotions somehow diminishes one's argument, so I won't make it an issue.

I'll basically restate my post again:

You made the jump in inference of:

Kenneth talks to some teachers casually
implying
Kenneth prefers being only a teacher on the DhO
Kenneth will only be a teacher on the DhO

The conclusion reads both ways, you can intellectually gestalt your words and they both are valid interpretations. I chose the latter given the context of your posts I have read on the DhO, and the general structure of the image you create of Kenneth in what I can gather to be your expectations of how Buddhism ought to be.

But the hypothesis and conclusion are actually irrelevant. Because if you go back to the Q&A #2 thread, read where Kenneth says he talks to some teachers casually. Then look at your inference that Kenneth will only teach on the DhO, this is a disastrously incorrect implication. It's just false. It's utterly baseless. It's like saying, "Kenneth thinks cars are cool" implies "Kenneth dislikes CNN."

RE: Intellectual Honesty as Right Speech
Answer
2/17/15 6:50 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
People who are inclined to follow such a list aren't likely to be the people who are a problem.  

For the same reason, I think some of the voluminous TOS agreements on some web boards are silly.   Everyone knows how to be nice and polite.      Spelling out in detail on how to be polite doesn't influnece their choice when they decide not to be.