Saturday, September 03, 2016

The End of Argument

Argument used to be the foundation of intellectual activity. Between the internet and the more general culture of outrage, it's kind of dead. Nobody really argues on the net; when people try, it reads as trolling. Now you are only supposed to talk to people you already mostly agree with. That might be great for socializing but seems awfully boring or worse for ideas, which can only thrive under conditions of opposition.

One reason this is the state of things now compared to early iterations of electronic communication is the replacement of public space (mailing lists and usenet groups) with privatized spaces (Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter feeds). Whether or not this is a bad thing, it means that there is no public square to have a fight over. Now it makes more sense, instead of having an argument to settle the matter, you just go start your own blog and attract like minded people.

I suppose this is just a particular incarnation of the more overarching transition from modernity to postmodernity. In the latter state, every community gets to have its own version of the truth, and there is no master narrative, nothing worth fighting over.

In some ways this is a good thing. The old-style intellectuals were arrogant and their testosterone-fueled contest to impose the One True Ideology or Philosophy or whatever had some unfortunate consequences. Yet something feels lost.


Dain said...

Does it read as trolling? Maybe if put too pithily. Otherwise debate can be salvaged.

patchworkZombie said...

That sounds like what happens when there is more space available than there are people to fill it.