Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2005-08 > 1122928515

From: SJ Doc <>
Subject: Re: (RSPW Recruiting) D. Spencer Hines
Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2005 16:35:15 -0400
References: <> <> <kIuGe.22157$9t7.14238@fe13.lga> <> <moyGe.171428$tt5.77829@edtnps90> <> <> <>

On Mon, 01 Aug 2005 15:34:18 -0400, Vince Brannigan wrote:

>you are I believe conflating two or even three different types of
>in Usenet most reasonable argument fall into one or more of
>several categories.
>1) argument from "experience" Those who have "been there done
>that" have a special experience to add which we may not accept
>as gospel but should respect as evidence.
>2) Arguments from "authority" attempt to cite or present a person
>as some type of expert whose conclusions can be believed because
>of some special training or insight.
>3) Arguments from "position" are based on unique access to
>information or that a person who holds such a position must have
>unique knowledge.
>4) arguments from "logic" attempt to state premises and logically
>develop the conclusions form those premises.
>any person who claims that their own personal position, authority
>or experience is critical to the acceptance of their argument is open
>to "disparaging" (often insulting analysis) of their personal under-
>When one claims for example to be a "combat veteran" a legitimate
>question is "what kind of combat and what did you see and do?
>logical arguments are essentially impersonal. personal attacks simply
>play no role whatever. similarly, while arguments from authority
>position or experience of others may be useful, abuse aimed at the
>person presenting such an argument is a waste.

I see your point. I suppose I'm yet again the victim of Usenet in-
experience. In both professional discussion and in hobby-related
intercourse (wargaming, science fiction fanac), the value of empirical
knowledge is extremely limited, and therefore categories (1) and
(3) do not represent solid bases for assertions. One can use them
as explanations of *why* one had sought other information to confirm
or rule out a particular concept (personal experience in diagnosing
and treating lung cancer, for example, once led me to misdiagnose
a migrant farm worker as having this condition when bronchoscopy
demonstrated - surprise! - that the man had cavitary pulmonary
tuberculosis, a condition commonly seen by the generation of doctors
preceding mine, but rare as all hell in our era of effective antimyco-
bacterial chemotherapy) but without supporting citations from the
literature - in medicine, from the most current available peer-
reviewed sources if at all possible - conclusions based on one's
personal experience just aren't going to cut it.

Has Mr. Hines been using such claims of personal experience as
his sole supporting sources? I know he likes to drop names about
the various government thugs, poltroons, and megalomaniacs he
has met, but I mark that as a relatively harmless and fairly common
failing. He can talk about JFK all he goddam pleases; *I* once
shook hands with Robert A. Heinlein, and that's an encounter with
a former naval officer *worth* boasting about.

But I don't reckon myself much of an authority (people with such
tendencies don't generally go into general practice to begin with),
and my personal experience is both limited and not truly represen-
tative of anything except (chiefly) the practice of primary care
medicine in suburban and rural South Jersey. And I wouldn't
expect anybody to take my word on assertions I might advance
even in that area without some sort of supporting citations to
put the subject in context and confirm those assertions' validity.

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the
immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy;
it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not
merely for one group but for all groups.

-- Henry Hazlitt

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