FOM: Etiquette of discussion

Neil Tennant neilt at
Sun Dec 7 13:46:22 EST 1997

A discussion starts on CH and whether it has a definite meaning. The
philosophical considerations ramify, and touch on general issues of
epistemology and metaphysics.  Just where (I would want to say) the
discussion is at its most fruitful and interesting, and contributors'
deepest underlying philosophical presuppositions and assumptions are
being brought to light, some people dismissively call the discussion

In one-on-one discussion this would be rude; in the context of a large
multi-disciplinary academic list, it is both rude and coercive. This
list caters to both philosophers and mathematicians. Just as the
philosophers stand to learn a great deal from the many distinguished
mathematicians on the list (as I have) there might be the odd occasion
when a philosopher has something to offer the mathematicians. 

If one is not interested in pursuing a particular agenda beyond its
naive and nascent stage, one can always use the 'next' button on one's
email software.  I think we ought all to bear in mind that there are
many members on this list who read and think about many of the
messages, but who do not themselves contribute to it. Some of those
might resent having a topic effectively suppressed by people who, for
whatever reason--difference in professional training and/or
intellectual inclination--are more anxious to move on to other
matters. The great advantage of a list like this is that there can be
parallel lines of discussion. One does not have to follow all of them.
One can move on by moving sideways.

Neil Tennant

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