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[Gnu-arch-users] Re: [OT] flame-fest

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: [OT] flame-fest
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2003 21:49:51 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1002 (Gnus v5.10.2) XEmacs/21.5 (celeriac, linux)

>>>>> "Tom" == Tom Lord <address@hidden> writes:

    Tom> My understanding was that you wanted to understand some of
    Tom> what I believe about the ethics of software freedoms, and
    Tom> why.

Yes.  But not just any "some", rather certain specific points on which
(a) your intuition is clearly (to me) as good as mine and (b) which
are not core beliefs for the mainstream economist.  (Not that "core
beliefs" can't or shouldn't be contested, just that I didn't think
this was the time or place when I have other beliefs that are much
shakier in my own judgment.)

In particular, you say you believe we agreed that:

    Tom> All but one of the software freedoms (access to source) exist
    Tom> until they are specifically restricted by copyright,
    Tom> contract, or similar constructions of the state, deployed by
    Tom> individuals.

I do not agree, and never did.  If I appeared to do so, it was because
I didn't realize that you link physical lack of encumbrance to the
social phenomenon of freedom as closely as you do, while I see a clear
distinction.  This is precisely what I wanted to discuss.

    Tom> I have seen evidence that, intentionally or not,

    >> And there you go again.  The word "intentionally" clearly
    >> implies ill-intent on my part, but by grammatically making it
    >> an arm of a disjunction, you can deny that you asserted it.

    Tom> No, I asserted that there is ambiguity on the matter

For heaven's sake, Tom!  That is the definition of "disjunction", and
I do not believe you are foolish enough to believe I don't know that
you know that I know that.  Are you playing to the crowd again?

Or perhaps you require explanation of the implications of "plausible
deniability"?  It is not merely a matter of "dumbing down" of
political discourse.  In fact, in some ways it is a consequence of the
opposite.  I thought by use of that phrase you would immediately
understand that I meant "grandstanding".  You and I know what you're
doing (at least, I have until now assumed that you know, too).  But
the rest of the audience is sharp enough, and tolerant enough, to know
that I have claimed goodwill and the desire to learn, and give my
claim credence until strong evidence to the contrary is presented.

So (entirely hypothetically, of course!) you must introduce any
propositions to the contrary in an ambiguous way to avoid looking like
it is you who are attacking and harbor ulterior motives, not me.  I
believe you would lose a lot of sympathy if you simply accused me of
lying about my motives---and I think you believe that, too---precisely
because the audience is _intelligent_ and of good will.  Thus the use
of plausibly deniable phrasing.

Surely you know that's how the game is played in many circles, the
kind of circles where the Stephen you worry "might" exist comes from.
But now that you've raised the specter of _Stephen_'s evil twin,
logically you're stuck with another ambiguity: _you_ might be playing
such games, too.

    Tom> and, by implication, that the resolution of that ambiguity is a
    Tom> question worth considering.

Fine, let's resolve your ambiguity.  I bear you no ill-will in this
controversy, nor do I wish to undermine free software (although I am
willing to risk doing so by pointing out uncomfortable contradictions
as I see them).  I do think that there are things I can learn from you
in political economy, and I do wish to explore them.  I do know what I
am saying and am not confused.

Now, let's resolve mine.  I did not ask you to _explain_ your verbal
behavior---I don't care what your motive is.  I asked you to _stop
it_.  It makes me uncomfortable, I believe it is detrimental to my
public image (and I believe you intend that effect, perhaps merely to
"stimulate discussion"), and there are other ways to accomplish your
putative goal of resolving the ambiguity about my motives (and I even
described one).

You have not responded to that request.  I will make it again, now:
will you please stop using phrasing that is easily perceived as a
verbal attack, and which is unnecessary to your stated purpose?

    Tom> What I'm trying to call your attention to is that _you_ are
    Tom> showing scant evidence of trying to follow them with care in
    Tom> any kind of detail

But you also complain that I keep raising "irrelevant" details (like
the degree of enforcement implicit in the GPL, and the possibility
that the right to contract might exist but be trumped by the right to
privacy in some circumstances), which you say are obviously irrelevant
---but now claim you "would get to later", although unacknowledged at
the time.  That is, you spray a large number of facile arguments and
opaque assumptions (many implicit or stated in "hackerspeak" terms
that mean something very different to a social scientist) about, but
are not willing to stop and examine them in detail.  What's that you
say about "black," Mr. Pot?  Why is _your_ perception of relevance
sacrosanct?  Especially given that it's _my_ understanding we're
trying to improve?

The communication problem, as far as I can tell, is simply that we are
interested in discussion of different things, and perhaps at different
levels of detail.  This leads to conflicting proposals of different
sets of details as topical.  Questions like this often take a hundred
years before people even agree on a statement of the problem.  I find
this frustrating, and I'm sure it shows.  You are frustrated too, you
say, but I think you go overboard in responding by bringing up the
possibility that I'm engaging in discussion out of malice or simply to
grab a political soapbox.

    Tom> and that is disappointing, puzzling, frustrating, seemingly

"Seemingly"?  Yeah, I know, you can explain that one away, too.
Wouldn't things go more smoothly if you didn't have to?

    Tom> uncharacteristic of you, and thus does raise in my mind
    Tom> questions about your motive.

Hm.  You ask me to believe that you lack both the imagination and the
experience in philosophical controversy to hit on the hypothesis that
"the discussion is deep and complex, and different people will wish to
focus on different parts," and "therefore" resort to hypotheses about
other participants' motives?  For shame.

We would both be well-advised to spend a little more time considering
what the other is trying to get at, and perhaps in that way acquiring
clues about what topics would be of mutual interest.  If you're
interested in exploring the intersection (at least to see if it's
non-empty), let me know.

sincere regards,

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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