Steelmanning

This article from The Atlantic about ‘steel-manning’ went viral, The Highest Form of Disagreement

We probably know best which arguments are most difficult for our position, because we know our belief’s real weak points and what kind of evidence we tend to find compelling … use that information to look for ways to make their arguments better, more difficult for you to counter. This is the highest form of disagreement. If you know of a better counter to your own argument, say so. If you know of evidence that supports their side, bring it up. If their argument rests on an untrue piece of evidence, talk about the hypothetical case in which they were right… Because if you can’t respond to that better version, you’ve got some thinking to do, even if you are more right than the person you’re arguing with.

To steelman an argument is the opposite of a strawman: instead of misconstruing or misrepresenting the opposing side’s argument, you ascribe the strongest possible argument, even if your opponent hasn’t actually argued it. It’s to give as much intellectual charity to your opponent as possible.

Despite the charged partisanship of the mainstream media, there’s huge demand for nuanced discourse, especially on high-IQ sites such as Reddit , Hacker News, 4Chan, Medium, Quora, etc., all of which in the past few years have seen huge growth in terms of traffic and membership. Regarding intellectualism culture, it’s not so much about values being right or wrong, but rather the premises one uses to derive such values being correct, so most debates are over premises, not values. This can sometimes be tedious (such as a recent post by Vox Day that garnered 200+ comments about the meaning of ‘posterity‘), but it does make more more evolved, productive discourse than just flame wars and mud slinging. Rationalism, centrism, and internet postmodernism, although all related, connote leftism. Intellectualism culture spans the entire spectrum. It explains why Vox Day is closer, oddly enough, to Scott Alexander than Sean Hannity even though the latter is a conservative and the former is not. Scott and to a lesser extent, Vox, are not ideologues, meaning that their values are derived from quantifiable empirical evidence and science (deductive), whereas mainstream pundits do the reverse (beginning with a pre-established, unwavering conclusion and then looking for evidence to confirm it…(inductive)).

The difference is shown below: