FOM: Strong rhetoric wtait at
Fri Mar 13 18:37:59 EST 1998

Jaap van Oosten's (jvoosten at ) last posting (3/13) ended with 
a protest about Steve S's aggressive and insulting style. I think that v 
O's protest was not itself in terms most likely to defuse the rhetoric, 
but I at least feel that he has a point. 

To me, the issue is not violence, which I am quite happy with between 
consenting adults; and if I don't want to witness it, I can screen it 
out. But when you insult people, they are no longer simply interested in 
the intellectual issue: they want to defend themselves or attack you. 
What is happening is that the list is being overwhelmed with issues that 
are not in the end about foundations at all but about who was right and 
who was wrong---line by line responses, more geared to scoring points 
than adding content to the discussion. The interminable back-and-forth 
argument about Boolean algebras/Boolean rings/isomorphism is a case in 
point (but far from the only one). Can there be anyone who did not 
understand after the first exchange what each side was really saying? The 
rest (or as much of it as I have been able to bear reading) has all been 
about words: what words one or the other person ought or ought not to 
have used. 

If the above is not persuasive, perhaps I can appeal to a sense of 
dignity: what has been going on is what gives us nerds a bad name.

Bill Tait

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