List Death

Hans Ehrbar ehrbar at
Fri Aug 9 22:25:48 MDT 1996

Tony suggests that "maybe the list leadership can provide a regular
commentary on the list, detailing useful threads, and by contrast,
posts which should have been blocked in the interests of the list and
its agenda".  I have been thinking along similar lines, but with the
following difference:

This should not be the job of the "list leadership", but anyone should
be welcome to do so.  In my view, it would be a fruitful contribution
to this list if people were to post critical review pieces in which
they say which of the contributions they like and which they don't,
without having to go to great lengths to defend it.  Think of it as a
convention where the listeners meet in the halls and say to each
other: "did you hear so-and-so?  Really good. But that other one
sucks."  Despite this implied informality, people will probably be
quite careful about such opinion pieces, because they will throw as
much light on the reviewer as they do on the reviewees.

This kind of opinion piece is the lowest level in Bhaskar's "truth
tetrapoly" (see his Dialectic, Verso 1993, p. 214 sqq).  It is the
"trust me, act on it" level.  In an email discussion list it is
tempting to think that everything that is said should be backed up by
conclusive scientific proof.  This leads us to the dilemmas of Rolf's
"proof" that nuclear power is good or Adolfo's "proof" that the Moscow
trials were just.  We all know that these proofs are wrong, and if we
were in an actual meeting, we would communicate these insights with
each other by yawns and empty seats during their talks, but on this
list we do not have the language to build a consensus on these kinds
of things.  Perhaps it is possible to consciously and deliberately
build up a culture of shared "normative-fiduciary" (Bhaskar's term)
opinions, which are of course also open to constant challengees.

Hans Ehrbar.

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