Intellectual Honesty – How to Avoid Fights in the First Place

A couple of years ago, I saw this post on Judith Curry’s website.

10 signs of intellectual honesty

Specifically, she linked to this:

I’ve found few things as important in terms of resolving or even preventing disputes than being up front about the strengths and weaknesses of one’s position.  In fact, the more honest somebody is about the holes in an argument, the less there is to argue about.

Being intellectually honest does mean setting ego aside.  It means being responsive and open to criticism.  In fact, it means being proactive and admitting up front to issues, thus taking the leverage away from the opposition.

Here they are, in redacted form. For more detail, please visit the links:

1. Do not overstate the power of your argument. 

2. Show a willingness to publicly acknowledge that reasonable alternative viewpoints exist. 

3. Be willing to publicly acknowledge and question one’s own assumptions and biases. 

4. Be willing to publicly acknowledge where your argument is weak.

5. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when you are wrong.

6. Demonstrate consistency.

7. Address the argument instead of attacking the person making the argument.

8. When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it. 

9. Show a commitment to critical thinking. 

10. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when a point or criticism is good. 

The neat part about these rules are that they apply to everything. They apply to politics. They apply to marriage. They apply to the workplace. They apply everywhere.

Even if the other side is not following these rules, you can. And you can spot what people are doing in acting defensively. In another post, I will identify some strategies on how to cope when others are not following these rules.


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