Dan Fincke has started an interesting discussion both at his own blog and several others run by his readers. It all started with a Civility Pledge – a 3,800-word statement of what he means by civility and specific things he pledges to do, including respecting minority viewpoints, keep things from getting personal, respect peoples’ right to speak their opinions even when he find those opinions odious, avoid profanity and slurs, and things along those lines. It’s meticulous and shows a lot of careful work on the issue.
I agree with Dan on a lot of the points he raises. If you know pretty much anything about me, you probably get that I place a high priority on civility, almost to the point of giving people too much benefit of the doubt at times. But after careful thought I’ve decided not to sign it. I really am not very comfortable with pledges because it seems to assume I’m not telling the truth generally. I think we keep things civil around here and I definitely aim to keep doing that, but it’s not the kind of thing I really need to promise to do, because it’s a big part of my values and because I hope my past record speaks for itself. It also helps that most of us know each other around here. Aside from respecting everyone’s opinions generally, you guys are my friends.
But even if it weren’t for those things, there are some parts of Dan’s pledge that do give me a bit of pause. I think a lot of this comes from the different ways Dan and I think of rationality.