Saturday, March 07, 2009

Regarding criticism

I suppose I hold my share (or, arguably, a bit more) of controversial viewpoints given my particular location in early 21st century America in the Bible belt. I sometimes find folks that struggle with my positions - or, often enough, their perception of my positions.  One of my favorite armchair philosophers and great 20th century thinkers is Mortimer J. Adler.  Here's his view on the topic of criticism that I hereby officially adopt:

The only polite thing to do is to ask them to state your position for you, the position they claim to be challenging. If they cannot do it satisfactorily, if they cannot repeat what you have said in their own words, you know that they do not understand, and you are entirely justified in ignoring their criticisms. They are irrelevant, as all criticism must be that is not based on understanding. When you find the rare person who shows that he understands what you are saying as well as you do, then you can delight in his agreement or be seriously disturbed by his dissent. (How to Read a Book, pp. 144-145)

2 comments:

Max Weismann said...

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Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

http://www.thegreatideas.org/

Eric Livingston said...

I disagree with Adler. I don't really get what he's saying, but still, I disagree.

Kidding of course.

He's right when considering criticism of a position in most contexts. However in the local church context, there is always a pastoral concern which gives benefit of doubts, tolerates inaccurate depictions, and rarely (if ever) discounts criticisms.

In short, the presence of Christian love throws a wrench in Adler's claim.