Patterico's Pontifications

12/13/2009

How Jeff Goldstein Falsely Argues That I Don’t Understand Intentionalism

Filed under: — Patterico @ 1:59 pm

The fundamental premise of Goldstein’s attacks on my view of language is that he falsely ascribes to me a philosophy that gives the listener the power to define the intent of the speaker.

He likes to go on and on about how I don’t understand his theories, etc. This is all false. Then, when I show in a particular example that I do indeed understand precisely what he is saying, he accuses me of changing my position, by using language like: “you now concede” or some such. It’s a neat trick, as it implies that my EARLIER view was really that the listener gets to determine intent, but now I have “backtracked” or “shifted” or some such. And because Goldstein has gotten many people to believe that I give the listener power to seize intent, many are fooled.

But it’s all based on a campaign of distortion of my views.

I have said many times that I believe Jeff and I agree on the basic principles, though he loves to claim otherwise. The closest I have ever come to setting out a comprehensive statement of my views on language is in this post:

1) Interpreters should try to divine the speaker’s true intent.

2) Intent is whatever the speaker meant.

3) The speaker is not necessarily the most reliable interpreter of his own words.

4) It is perfectly justifiable to tailor one’s presentation to suit the audience.

5) If you fail to communicate your position to the audience because you failed to signal your intent properly, you should clarify.

6) Speakers have no responsibility to self-censor to prevent unreasonable and bad faith misinterpretations of their words.

Despite the bolded statement above, Goldstein has managed to convince many of you that I espouse a view of language that puts all the authority in the hands of the listener. I do not. I never have.

So how has he convinced you of that?

Easy. Goldstein and I both agree with point #3 above: “The speaker is not necessarily the most reliable interpreter of his own words.” There is a distinction between INTENT and INTERPRETATION that most people miss in these discussions. And when I talk about my INTERPRETATIONS of language, he pretends that I am substituting my INTENT. Presto-change-o, I am substituting my intent for the speaker’s — even though I never say I am doing that.

Here’s his view of language — and yes, I understand it fine, because it’s not complicated. I’m going to put it in regular English rather than linguistic-speak, but this is still the essence of it.

The speaker’s intent determines the meaning of his words. The intent is what gives the words meaning when they are spoken.

However, once the words are spoken, their meaning is fixed according to that intent — and all we can do at that point is interpret, which means to try to figure out what the intent really was. To do this, you don’t necessarily just accept the author’s INTERPRETATION of what his INTENT was. Because he could be lying or mistaken.

This last point leads us to a very important point: the listener may end up having the best interpretation of the speaker’s words. This is so, as long as that listener is arriving at his interpretation by appealing to the speaker’s intent. If the listener’s argument as to the speaker’s meaning is better than the speaker’s, using all relevant context and other information, then the listener’s interpretation can be the best. (Some might say the most reasonable, which in this context is just a synonym for “best” — as long as the interpretation appeals to the speaker’s intent, which I understand it must.)

Now, let’s say that someone is arguing that his interpretation is better than the speaker’s. This listener can make that argument, consistent with all of the above. But the listener is not always going to preface his argument with a lot of harrumphing and recapping and caveats about how, when he sets forth his interpretation, he is appealing to the author’s intent, but there is this thing called the authorial fallacy, and the speaker may not be the best interpreter of his own words, and so please keep all that in mind when you hear my interpretation, which is as follows . . . blah blah blah.

No. The listener will simply say something like: “This is what that statement means” or “This is what the statement sounds like to me” or “This is what the speaker was really saying” or “This is how I interpret that statement.”

Now all of those phrases, spoken by someone who, like me, understands that words mean what the speaker intended, mean: “This is my interpretation of the speaker’s intent.” But in casual conversation — if the interpreter forgot to explicitly repeat the caveats — those phrases can SOUND LIKE the listener is placing HIS REACTION to the words above the SPEAKER’S INTENT.

In fact, the listener is not. He is merely saying that he is getting ready to set forth his interpretation, which he thinks is the best one — i.e. the interpretation that most faithfully reflects the speaker’s intent.

Now, I understand all of the above. But Goldstein maintains that I do not. Whether he really believes it or not, I don’t know. But either way, it gives him a hell of a rhetorical cudgel to use against me — because any time I say something like one of the above phrases, he will seize upon it as an example of my giving primacy to my own intent rather than that of the speaker.

But I’m not. I’m just saying: “this is my interpretation.” Yet I may express the concept in one of the colloquial ways set forth above.

Let’s move to a particular example. When Goldstein wrote:

Frey called McCain a racist . . .

Here is the full context of what he said:

Now, leaving aside the audacity it takes to do a series of public posts speculating on someone’s “racism” before eventually claiming you don’t know if he’s racist or not (I mean, who can POSSIBLY be hurt by such a thing, right?), the fact of the matter is, Frey called McCain a racist the moment he said that “it still sounds like racism to me.”

He was referring to a statement of mine in which I said:

“You can put as much context around that as you like. It still sounds like racism to me”.

Now, this was was a casual way of saying I had considered McCain’s context and did not see it as undercutting the racism of the statement that is plain on its face. This was clear to anyone who read the post, and I was careful to give McCain’s full context. Similarly, when I said:

“It still sounds like racism to me”.

That was shorthand for: “my interpretation of the statement is that it was a statement animated by racist thought.” (Given that I have never argued that the listener’s intent substitutes for the speaker’s, and that I have said more than once that it does not, it is unfair to rip this statement from its context and call it an attempt to substitute the listener’s intent for the speaker’s. I have even explained this since, in my post quoting Beldar: “For a statement to be racist, it does have to be the product of racist thought.”)

Note that I don’t say it’s shorthand for “my interpretation of the statement is that it was a statement made with racist intent.” I could say that — as long as I made clear that I am here using the word “intent” only in the linguistic sense that Goldstein uses the word. If I don’t, then by saying “racist intent” I will be signaling to most readers that the “intent” at issue is conscious. And it needn’t be. For the statement to be racist, it can be made with subconsciously racist thoughts. As I explained in my post quoting Beldar, when you say that racism must be “intended,” that mode of communication says to most people that you’re talking about conscious intent. Unless you explain it.

Oh — there I go again talking about the reaction of most people. So let me once again include the caveats and the harrumphing, since Goldstein seized on THAT TOO as evidence of my desire to substitute my intent for that of the speaker. WHAT I AM ARGUING is that, if you intend to argue only that racism must be animated by racist thought, which might be conscious or unconscious, then you signal your intent poorly if you merely say that the racism must be “intended” — unless you specifically make clear that your definition of “intended” is the linguistic definition, and encompasses subconscious thought as well.

Which you might assume if the speaker is a linguist, will be the return volley — except that the speaker and his minions are busy resorting to dictionary definitions of “intent” and arguing that they are the same as the linguistic definitions. Which means that they have failed to see the disconnect between the way they have chosen to signal their intent, and the way that their intent will likely be interpreted by a large body of readers unfamiliar with their personal linguistic definition.

On March 14, 2009, I explained a lot of this in a post titled “What Words Mean”:

Communication is a two-way street. Listeners must try to divine the true intent of the speaker. Speakers must clearly communicate their intent if they wish to be understood.

Speech always must interpret speech. If speech is unclear, people often disagree on the correct interpretation. Some interpretations are reasonable and made in good faith, and some aren’t. When they aren’t, speakers and other listeners should tell the world why they aren’t.

When multiple interpretations are reasonable, we should favor the most reasonable interpretation offered by a reasonable listener honestly attempting to divine the speaker’s true intent. Ideally the listener will be armed with all necessary context, including (but not limited to) the author’s expression of his own intent.

I have stated this in the past in a more shorthand way: “Words should be interpreted the way a reasonable person would interpret them.” But that formulation is subject to misinterpretation, as it could be read to suggest that the speaker’s true intent is whatever a reasonable listener would divine it to be. The thing that I have learned from the intentionalists is that this is not so: words mean what the speaker intended, nothing more, nothing less. But when it comes to interpretation — when there are multiple reasonable interpretations of the speaker’s true intent — we have to decide which to favor.

The fact is that we don’t always do all this harrumphing and explaining. But I fully explained this back in March — that I understand that an interpreter must interpret by appealing to the author’s intent.

Goldstein even showed up in comments to that March post, to acknowledge this:

Yes, Pat, I agree that you’ve gotten to the point where you now understand that intent is central to meaning — and that an appeal to intent is required for any procedure wishing to call itself interpretation.

(He proceeded to pick at one isolated phrase that I had already fully explained in the post, and pretend that I hadn’t explained it, because he always has to be right, regardless of logic and objective truth. Note also the phrasing that suggests I am backtracking — which is what he ALWAYS does when I take on the subject at length and show I do understand the concept.)

So Goldstein knows I understand all this — yet he continues to argue that I don’t. And it’s VERY EASY to take a listener’s statement setting forth his interpretation of a text, and scream that the listener is substituting his intent for the speaker’s. As long as the interpreter doesn’t include the caveat “I am of course trying to divine the speaker’s intent with this interpretation” then a pedant like Goldstein can come along and accuse the interpreter of overlooking that requirement. But I have explained until my typing fingers are raw that I don’t believe in substituting the listener’s intent for that of the speaker. I just believe that the listener’s interpretation might be better.

So why, when I have stated this clearly before, does Jeff Goldstein continue to assert that I believe in substituting a listener’s intent for that of the speaker?

He will say it is because I continually show I don’t understand his argument. But the truth is, I do, and I just don’t include the little caveats all the time — nor does ANYONE. That does not make it defensible for him to ignore my history of acknowledging that we must appeal to the author’s intent.

Oh: and since people keep asking: what was my motive in all this? It is what I always do: call out bad arguments where I find them. I called out Ebonie Johnson Cooper, a black woman, for a racist comment opposing interracial marriage, and saying she might not have voted for Barack Obama had he married a white woman. And I saw a similarity between that and McCain’s verbiage, and decided to call him out — because I don’t call out only one side. And I found proof that he had said the quote — coupled with weaselly statements he had made implying he hadn’t — and I thought that was interesting and worth addressing. I didn’t hold a gun to his head and make him say the racist quote above. I think it was worth discussing.

To specifically answer Goldstein’s passage here:

If what Patterico is arguing here is that he is not calling RS McCain a racist now, but that at one time RS McCain must have been a racist, having written something that is, in Patterico’s estimation, racist (and so intended as such), then we don’t really have an intellectual quarrel, save for Patterico’s refusal to square the circle: he believes McCain was a racist, as evidenced by his having made racist statements (the logic being that you would not believe a statement racist unless it sprung from racist intent, which is what properly describes racism to begin with). So if he no longer believes him to be a racist, why spend several posts going over and over McCain’s “racist” past?

Well, as I have explained, I don’t know that he is not a racist, so right there Goldstein is loading the dice by imputing to me a sentiment I never expressed.

Also, I cannot say that he at one time was “a racist” simply because at one time he made a racist comment. As I have explained at length.

So: we have a guy who may or may not be a racist now, and may or may not have been a racist back in the day, but who said something 13 years ago that I believe was racist. That alone would not be enough to write about. But when another prominent blogger raises the issue as part of a larger (and perhaps unfair in part) campaign, and the speaker of those words WEASELS about whether he said them, then it’s a live controversy. And yes, I’m writing about it now and not two months ago because a) Ebonie’s comment reminded me of it, and b) I finally found the proof that McCain had admitted the quote to Founding Bloggers.

So there’s your explanation, Jeff and Joy, and I had already given it several times before.

To me, that’s not the issue. The issue is language — and how Goldstein distorts my views of it.

UPDATE: Goldstein tries to discourage his readers from reading this post: “Does anyone else find themselves not caring what Patrick Frey’s take might be?”

So much for his claim to be a guy who takes on every argument on the substance.

53 Responses to “How Jeff Goldstein Falsely Argues That I Don’t Understand Intentionalism”

  1. […] of mine to which he referred, is long and beyond the scope of this post. So I have placed it on a separate page, where I place it in the context of my views of how language works. Don’t defend […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Jeff Goldstein’s Views of Language Will NOT Prevent You from Being Misinterpreted (e4ab32)

  2. UPDATE: Goldstein tries to discourage his readers from reading this post: “Does anyone else find themselves not caring what Patrick Frey’s take might be?”

    And the devious bastard also linked to this post and quoted it. Are there no depths he won’t sink to?

    Pablo (99243e)

  3. And the devious bastard also linked to this post and quoted it. Are there no depths he won’t sink to?

    He also left Patterico’s linking to it in the comments at Protein Wisdom completely alone, for anyone to click on and peruse at will. There really are no depths Jeff Goldstein won’t go to to make sure that people read Patterico’s drivel.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  4. And the devious bastard also linked to this post and quoted it. Are there no depths he won’t sink to?

    Fine. I included an update to the main post stating that I will accept his assertion that he wasn’t trying to discourage people from reading the post. When he implied he didn’t care, and solicited opinions as to whether anyone else also didn’t care.

    It’s a distraction. So I have accepted the assertion and we’ll move on from there.

    Do you have anything to say about the arguments made on this page, Pablo?

    No. You don’t. You’re a Goldstein sycophant out to score points. You’re not here to discuss ideas.

    Anyone else?

    Patterico (64318f)

  5. I’d suggest that anyone interested in my opinion of your arguments read the Little Miss Atilla and/or pw threads.

    You’re right. I’m not here to discuss ideas. I quit doing that months ago and tend to do that elsewhere these days. There’s a reason for that.

    Pablo (99243e)

  6. No. You don’t. You’re a Goldstein sycophant out to score points. You’re not here to discuss ideas.

    Anyone else?

    Irony alert!

    chaos (9c54c6)

  7. There’s a reason I don’t trust you anymore, Pablo. It’s because you betray confidences. I used to really like you as a commenter and you’re a really smart guy. But you promised to keep an e-mail exchange of ours confidential, and then (when I engaged in an outburst that I got over an hour later) you went straight to Goldstein and violated the confidence I had placed in you.

    If you had kept your promise, there’s a good chance that things would not have gotten as bad as they did in March. Because I popped off, in a moment of weakness (yes, I have them too, and Jeff is not the only one who gets to use that excuse) and threatened to compile a post of his past threats of violence (not including the cock-slapping, which I always found funny, but real, serious, “Give me your name and address so I can come beat you up” threats).

    About an hour or less after sending you that e-mail, I took a deep breath and decided that it was a stupid idea.

    But you, VIOLATING YOUR PROMISE, went and told him. The night before you had promised to keep our discussions confidential, and yet you shared with him something I sent by e-mail the following morning. Calling it a “different conversation” or something.

    That’s when I learned I couldn’t trust you.

    You were always more loyal to Jeff than to me, and my mistake was in realizing how deep that loyalty went — to the point where you would violate an explicit promise you made to me.

    The temperature of everything that happened in March went way up after you broke your promise.

    So don’t get too sanctimonious on me.

    Patterico (64318f)

  8. But you promised to keep an e-mail exchange of ours confidential, and then (when I engaged in an outburst that I got over an hour later) you went straight to Goldstein and violated the confidence I had placed in you.

    That’s bullshit, and I’ll gladly publish our bentire email communication trail if you’d like me to PROVE!! it with QUOTES!!!

    You’re pissed that I related to Jeff something you said on a phone call, namely that you in tended to publish a “nuclear” hit piece on him. Sadly No! wept.

    Oops. Was I supposed to say that?

    Sorry, I don’t give a shit. Shall I share those emails, Pat, or would you rather I didn’t? After all, I wouldn’t want to BETRAY you.

    Pablo (99243e)

  9. There’s a reason I don’t trust you anymore, Pablo. It’s because you betray confidences. I used to really like you as a commenter and you’re a really smart guy. But you promised to keep an e-mail exchange of ours confidential, and then (when I engaged in an outburst that I got over an hour later) you went straight to Goldstein and violated the confidence I had placed in you.

    If you had kept your promise, there’s a good chance that things would not have gotten as bad as they did in March. Because I popped off, in a moment of weakness (yes, I have them too, and Jeff is not the only one who gets to use that excuse) and threatened to compile a post of his past threats of violence (not including the cock-slapping, which I always found funny, but real, serious, “Give me your name and address so I can come beat you up” threats).

    About an hour or less after sending you that e-mail, I took a deep breath and decided that it was a stupid idea.

    But you, VIOLATING YOUR PROMISE, went and told him. The night before you had promised to keep our discussions confidential, and yet you shared with him something I sent by e-mail the following morning. Calling it a “different conversation” or something.

    That’s when I learned I couldn’t trust you.

    You were always more loyal to Jeff than to me, and my mistake was in realizing how deep that loyalty went — to the point where you would violate an explicit promise you made to me.

    The temperature of everything that happened in March went way up after you broke your promise.

    So don’t get too sanctimonious on me.

    Is this the loyalty lecture you kept saying I give?

    Aw. “Sack up, bitch.”

    JeffG (88bc84)

  10. Correction, that tidbit was in an email. But it was not in the conversation that I was asked to keep confidential.

    Again, I’ll gladly post the whole mess if you’re in agreement, Pat, and we can let the objective reader decide who looks like an asshole.

    Shall I?

    Pablo (99243e)

  11. I didn’t know that about Pablo. There’s nothing worse than a rat.

    nk (df76d4)

  12. I didn’t know that about Pablo. There’s nothing worse than a rat.

    Pablo says otherwise. So how do you choose whom to believe? Rather obvious answer I suppose.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  13. “Sorry, I don’t give a shit. Shall I share those emails, Pat, or would you rather I didn’t? After all, I wouldn’t want to BETRAY you.”

    This is so cute. I can’t believe y’all get this close.

    imdw (f318b6)

  14. Bite me, chaos.

    nk (df76d4)

  15. Bite me, chaos.

    What if I don’t want to? You going to put some contraption on my head that will force me to bite you?

    Come on get a sense of humor buddy, I mean it’s obvious you think very highly of yourself, and there’s nothing worse than an arrogant man who gets sullen too easily.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  16. This is so cute. I can’t believe y’all get this close.

    Comment by imdw — 12/13/2009 @ 4:41 pm

    That’s because you have an IQ of 85 and get your talking points from the DNC, little Soros-bot.

    nk (df76d4)

  17. I believe the relevant quote, Pablo, is this:

    Pablo:

    “And yes, this is a private conversation and will be kept as such.”

    Your defense: what you revealed to Jeff was sent to you six days after you made that promise — and I said it in a new e-mail, instead of hitting “reply” and including it in the same e-mail thread as the one containing your promise.

    Patterico (64318f)

  18. Actually, chaos, my problem with you is that I don’t think you are arguing in good faith for either side. And I think Jeff’s STFU means he does not think so either.

    As for Pablo, I’m totally disappointed, I had thought better of him. The little rat. There’s one thing about me I can guarantee, nobody has to be afraid to turn his back to me.

    nk (df76d4)

  19. Your defense: what you revealed to Jeff was sent to you six days after you made that promise — and I said it in a new e-mail, instead of hitting “reply” and including it in the same e-mail thread as the one containing your promise.

    So he’s a traitor and you’re an asshole over something that may have been a misunderstanding? Or maybe not, only the two of you really know.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  20. I wondered where Pablo had been…

    For what it’s worth, Pablo, I think you were one of the best conservative commenters this site had. I didn’t realize that you’d had a falling-out with Patterico. That’s too bad.

    Can I ask you something, though, without anything attached to it one way or the other? Why would you tell Jeff Goldstein anything Patterico said in a conversation with you if you’d promised to keep confidence as to Patterico’s remarks at any point, regardless of whether or not the conversation in question was the one you’d agreed to keep quiet about? I mean, better to ere on the side of caution, especially on so sensitive as issue as a promise of confidence, right? But I don’t know the details, so I won’t draw conclusions either way on this one.

    I will say this, though: I’ve been reading through the comments at Little Miss Attila, and Jeff Goldstein seems… well, it seems that he is having a very hard time wrapping his self-proclaimed brilliance around a very simple point that Patterico’s made perfectly clear to those willing to listen: Words Mean Things. That’s the significance of calling RSM’s statement racist while simultaneously reserving judgment as to the application of the racist label. Goldstein keeps squawking “but how can his statement be racist without him being a racist?” – but the answer should be evident from Patterico’s consistent emphasis throughout this whole sordid affair: Words Mean Things. And that ought to be reason enough to merit a post on RSM’s words, to chastise a prominent fellow conservative for being careless in his choice of words (at the very least), since those words mean things.

    To Patterico (and to me) RSM’s words meant racist things; but that doesn’t make RSM a racist. My Grandmother once said that Hispanics don’t treat their dogs well; while it was a racist statement, it didn’t (and doesn’t) make her a racist. Why is this so hard for Goldstein and his folks to understand?

    Anyway… it’s an unfortunate deal, Pablo. This whole thing’s pretty weird for me – as a liberal who frequents a conservative site and would nonetheless would like to see that (generally amiable) community of thinking conservatives prosper.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  21. Actually, chaos, my problem with you is that I don’t think you are arguing in good faith for either side. And I think Jeff’s STFU means he does not think so either.

    Well see that’s the thing, I’m not arguing for either side. I’m arguing for my side which is that Patterico has been an asshole for the last two and a half weeks or so and I don’t really give a damn about Jeff Goldstein so how could I argue for his side. I also don’t know where Jeff told me to shut the fuck up so if you could link it that’d be appreciated, although of course it will be disregarded.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  22. Isn’t it lovely how focused the discussion here is on IDEAS? Goldstein and I both veer between profane insults of the other and discussing ideas. So now he’s acting like an angel, dredging up some of the times when I insulted him, and failing to discuss the content of the post.

    As if he never said “Fuck Patterico” in an unprovoked comment on his site, or tried to make some linguistic point by gratuitously using an example of me sticking my thumb up my ass and barking like a seal, or leveled a million other insults.

    Great. So we have both done that. (It’s only moments of weakness when Goldstein does it, of course.)

    Now that this is established, does ANYONE want to discuss the ideas in the post?

    I spent a long time on it. And nobody is addressing the points I made. We’re in this stupid flame war, set off by Pablo the rat, and I guess that’s a lot more fun than reading a lot of words.

    This is ridiculous.

    Patterico (64318f)

  23. Sorry, Leviticus, I didn’t see your comment before I posted. That’s one commenter willing to discuss the ideas.

    I think it’s easier for a reasonable center-leftist like yourself to focus on the ideas, because you’re not invested in protecting R.S. McCain. You seem to have the focus down well.

    Patterico (64318f)

  24. Well, Patterico, you know I disagree with both Jeff and you. Although Jeff more. When I write poetry, my Muse may evoke things in my readers that I might never had intended or ever had the intellect to formulate. But when I talk to people, I hold myself strictly liable for being misunderstood. If I am misunderstood, as I might understand having been misunderstood, I apologize (or not) and restate myself. Maybe in Spanish.

    nk (df76d4)

  25. Oh, and Pablo?

    Yes, I definitely look like an asshole in that e-mail exchange. I’ll spot you that. I was very upset at the time and did a lot of venting about Goldstein to you.

    Because you were someone whom I regarded as a friend. And because you had explicitly promised to keep our conversation private.

    Friends vent to people whom they trust. That’s what I did. You proved to be a rat. Now I don’t trust you. That simple.

    Patterico (64318f)

  26. Patterico,

    Is that a more or less accurate summary of your primary point, though – that the importance of the debate over RSM is that “words mean things” (as you state quite plainly in one of your posts)? Just for my own understanding – I try to restate an argument to the satisfaction of its purveyor whenever I can, to be sure I get where they’re coming from. But if that’s the argument you’ve been making all along, I agree with you, and am befuddled by the inability of some of the people over at the Little Miss Attila thread to pick up on what seems to be an extremely simple and intuitive point (and the distinction it entails).

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  27. And I know how to read. Patterico talked about a possibly racist statement not a racist person.

    nk (df76d4)

  28. Why is this so hard for Goldstein and his folks to understand?

    Probably because it does seem like there’s a logical disconnect there. But there isn’t. Racism to me requires that you believe that Group of People X all share a certain characteristic or series of characteristics and that this characteristic makes Group of People X inferior to your own Group of People Y. If you just have the first part, like your grandmother saying ‘Hispanics don’t treat dogs well,’ that’s prejudicial but it isn’t an expression of racism unless your grandmother believed Hispanics were inferior to whatever ethnicity she happened to be (white I assume) because they ‘don’t treat dogs well,’ in other words, that their treatment of dogs is a sign of their inferiority.

    Now that may sound a little silly because it is a little silly, but that’s the example Leviticus gave me to play with.

    And I know how to read. Patterico talked about a possibly racist statement not a racist person.

    Patterico pounded it into the dirt until the implication was plain for all to see.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  29. And those who practice law at the Daley Center in Chicago understand the importance of stating your case in the first three lines of your motion or pleading because that’s all your judge will read. 😉

    nk (df76d4)

  30. Is that a more or less accurate summary of your primary point, though – that the importance of the debate over RSM is that “words mean things” (as you state quite plainly in one of your posts)? Just for my own understanding – I try to restate an argument to the satisfaction of its purveyor whenever I can, to be sure I get where they’re coming from. But if that’s the argument you’ve been making all along, I agree with you, and am befuddled by the inability of some of the people over at the Little Miss Attila thread to pick up on what seems to be an extremely simple and intuitive point (and the distinction it entails).

    That’s a very un-nuanced way of putting it, yes.

    The slightly more nuanced way of putting it is this:

    Words mean whatever the speaker intends them to mean. But the speaker’s intent is unknowable to 100% certainty in real life — although in many cases it’s plenty close enough to 100% to amount to beyond a reasonable doubt. So after the fact, all listeners can do is interpret.

    Adherents of Goldstein’s view, which makes sense to me, say that the interpretion must strive to ascertain the speaker’s intent. BUT the power to interpret is not held exclusively by the speaker — and under Goldstein’s view, the best interpretation is the one that makes the best argument, using all available clues, as to what the speaker’s intent really was. That best interpretation might well be given by a listener.

    This is why words mean things. Because they help you express your thoughts (in Goldstein-speak, “signal your intent”) in a way that will lead most listeners to understand/interpret your words in a manner consistent with your thoughts (or “intent”). And so, since in real life you as the speaker are inevitably going to have your words interpreted by other people, all you can do is a) insist that they TRY to ascertain your intent, a la Goldstein, and b) try to speak in a manner that is most consistent with your intent.

    It is the latter part of the equation that most interests me, because I consider point a) to be important, but rather pedestrian ONCE IT IS UNDERSTOOD. In real life, the rubber meets the road in the INTERPRETATION — and so debates in my mind should revolve around issues of what happens when people speak unclearly, as long as everyone is on the same page in terms of understanding that the only proper interpretation is the one that tries to understand what the author meant.

    I think many of Goldstein’s adherents ignore the fact that words inevitably get interpreted by others, and use the ringing phrases about owning your intent as a way to imply that the most valid INTERPRETATION is the speaker’s.

    And, as I say in the post above, whenever someone like me comes along and gives an interpretation they don’t like, they haughtily declare that I “don’t care about intent.” Even though I have said, a million times, until I am blue in the face, that I do.

    It’s an effective but dishonest way to discount my arguments.

    Patterico (64318f)

  31. Patterico, are you sure that you are not adding persuasiveness into the mix? Because advocacy is part of speech but not all of it.

    nk (df76d4)

  32. Alright. I think I understand. Actually, I think I understood most of that already, but (for the purposes of simplicity) didn’t go into it.

    “Words mean whatever the speaker intends them to mean” – I agree. This is why the speaker has the right to clarify his remarks if others misinterpret them (i.e. “what I actually meant is …” etc.).

    This is why I asked you to tell me whether or not that was the point you were arguing: because your words mean whatever you intend them to mean, and it’s on me to try to ascertain your intent, not just to develop my interpretation of it and be satisfied with that.

    I also agree with the notion that it is on a speaker to “try to speak in a manner that is most consistent with [his] intent.” As I wrote above, it is a speaker’s right to clarify his intent (because he alone controls it); but it is also his responsibility, insofar as he wants to stifle misinterpretation.

    I certainly agree that “in real life, the rubber meets the road in the INTERPRETATION”, so long as “everyone is on the same page in terms of understanding that the only proper interpretation is the one that tries to understand what the author meant”, which is why I appreciated your post on contract law and its litmus tests. Which leads me to this:

    Goldstein has accused you of anti-Semitism for calling him “money-grubbing” while simultaneously not referencing his Jewish heritage, correct? Even though he and his crew acknowledge that authorial intent is a) the primary criterion for establishing meaning, b) your right (i.e. established by you), and c) that you have fulfilled your responsibility to clarify your remarks to facilitate their divination of your intent (by stating explicitly that your words had no anti-Semitic implications)… correct?

    So this is some hypocritical bullshit on his (their) part, correct? Especially given those contract law litmus tests, which stated (essentially) that the meaning of a remark could be definitively established (without mediation) only if a) the speaker knew of no other way the other party could receive the remark, and b) the other party could have received the remark no other way.

    So essentially, by those contract law standards, Goldstein would have to establish a) you knew that “money-grubbing” could only be interpreted as anti-Semitism, and b) that he knew of no other way to interpret “money-grubbing” but as anti-Semitism, and he can do neither of those things without looking like a hyper-sensitive, race-card-playing little whiner, correct? So his charge was spurious by his own supposed standards, correct?

    Just making sure I understand how this is unfolding. Please clarify if (where) I am amiss in my interpretation.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  33. Leviticus,

    Not only is it some hypocritical bullshit on their part, but I didn’t even use the term “money-grubbing.” Hang tight; I’m going to work up that post now.

    The only dodge he has is to argue that he was trying to SHOW ME WHAT I WAS DOING. I.e. to teach me a lesson for espousing a theory of language that allows intent to be determined by the listener.

    Except that I don’t espouse such a theory.

    And that is what I talk about in this post. In fact, I may make this page a post tomorrow, and add a quick summary at the beginning, since that’s all anyone will read.

    It’s not irony if I never espoused the theory he is seeking to mock me for supposedly espousing.

    Patterico (64318f)

  34. Patterico, are you sure that you are not adding persuasiveness into the mix? Because advocacy is part of speech but not all of it.

    What do you mean?

    Patterico (64318f)

  35. But when another prominent blogger raises the issue as part of a larger (and perhaps unfair in part) campaign, and the speaker of those words WEASELS about whether he said them, then it’s a live controversy.

    Your word choice there, Pat, (weasels) seems to me to be leading. That’s a word you might choose if you want to convey to an audience (or a jury) an implication that someone (say, a defendant you’re out to convict) is already presupposed to be guilty of something. And you want the jury (sorry, your readers) to be sure that they know you think he is guilty. Because, damnit, he wouldn’t be on the stand if he wasn’t guilty, right?

    How long, by the way, should be a statute of limitations on a casual blog post or a long-dead forum thread? Because I think back in grade school I wrote on a piece of paper that I though Mrs. Buchanan had nice tits, and I’d hate for that to come out now, since I’ve been happily married for 24 years.

    serr8d (5cfc5b)

  36. Patterico,

    Is my understanding of the contract law stuff you cited in that one post more or less appropriately applied to this case (in #32)? I’m real interested in learning to properly apply that stuff…

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  37. 34.Patterico, are you sure that you are not adding persuasiveness into the mix? Because advocacy is part of speech but not all of it.

    What do you mean?

    Comment by Patterico — 12/13/2009 @ 6:50 pm

    Well, you have made the point before that a receptive audience is necessary to an effective argument. But if you do not care to persuade anyone, simply to communicate your idea, regardless whether your audience agrees with you, as long as it understands you …?

    nk (df76d4)

  38. I believe the relevant quote, Pablo, is this:

    Pablo:

    “And yes, this is a private conversation and will be kept as such.”

    Your defense: what you revealed to Jeff was sent to you six days after you made that promise — and I said it in a new e-mail, instead of hitting “reply” and including it in the same e-mail thread as the one containing your promise.

    Comment by Patterico — 12/13/2009 @ 5:07 pm

    I’ll take your posting of our conversation as your permission for me to do likewise. The rest of it will go up at the PW Pub in the morning. The exchanges will speak for themselves. But I’ll tell you this now: If you think we had some sort of blood oath that all discussion we might ever have was confidential, that’s creepy as hell and you’re out of your mind. TTFN.

    Pablo (99243e)

  39. I’ll take your posting of our conversation as your permission for me to do likewise.

    As if you needed such permission, since you’ve already posted part of the conversation.

    And while I would hardly consider one sentence to be “posting of [your] conversation”, I find it interesting that you didn’t deny that you made that vow in the first place.

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  40. “I’ll take your posting of our conversation as your permission for me to do likewise.”

    Permission denied.

    But that didn’t matter to you before.

    Patterico (64318f)

  41. Pablo, you’re a creep. I understand you’re a lawyer. God help any client of yours who speaks to you presuming confidence.

    nk (df76d4)

  42. Sorry, Pablo, I take that back. What I meant to say is that there are thirty dollars in it for you for each tidbit of dirt you email me.

    I know, that’s anti-Semitic.

    nk (df76d4)

  43. If Jeff is half the man he thinks he is, he will not allow you to post at PW Pub but will instead ban you, you filthy little Judas.

    nk (df76d4)

  44. If Jeff is half the man he thinks he is, he will not allow you to post at PW Pub but will instead ban you, you filthy little Judas.

    You sure seem to have a great emotional investment in Mr. Frey’s reputation, don’t you?

    Judging by how vehement Mr. Frey and his goons have been regarding Pablo’s threatened disclosure, what conclusions should we draw as to how Mr. Frey will look after those disclosures? Hmmm…

    chaos (9c54c6)

  45. “If Jeff is half the man he thinks he is, he will not allow you to post at PW Pub but will instead ban you, you filthy little Judas.”

    nk, Jeff publishes private e-mails all the time.

    Patterico (64318f)

  46. Judging by how vehement Mr. Frey and his goons have been regarding Pablo’s threatened disclosure, what conclusions should we draw as to how Mr. Frey will look after those disclosures? Hmmm…

    I will look like someone who lashed out about Jeff Goldstein, to a person who promised to keep the discussion in confidence.

    Nothing more than that.

    Patterico (64318f)

  47. You remember how you and me struggled over a Jamie Gold email, one time, Patterico? Fuck them. They do what they do and we do what we do.

    nk (df76d4)

  48. chaos,

    Referring to people who support Patterico as “cultists” and “goons” does not reflect on them as much as it does you. I know you feel you’ve been attacked, but if you truly believe that Patterico should let this go despite his belief he was provoked, maybe you should practice that? You’ve been around for a while now and get pretty passionate about things sometimes. This seems out of character for you though. I know you’re not a sock or troll, can express yourself clearly, and really want to be taken seriously. I always have before, but it’s getting hard when any support of Patterico is met with “goon” and “cultist”. Bugs me.

    Stashiu3 (44da70)

  49. It looks like I’m getting caught by the spam filter a lot. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing.)

    The h**l with them, Patterico. They do what they do and we do what we do.

    nk (df76d4)

  50. “I’ll take your posting of our conversation as your permission for me to do likewise. The rest of it will go up at the PW Pub in the morning. The exchanges will speak for themselves. But I’ll tell you this now: If you think we had some sort of blood oath that all discussion we might ever have was confidential, that’s creepy as hell and you’re out of your mind.”

    – Pablo

    Patterico reiterates what I assume to be your promise of confidence, and you take that as an … excuse to post the rest of the conversation? Why would you do that, one way or the other? What’s to be gained from that, regardless of which side you come down on in this little spat between Patterico and Goldstein?

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  51. […] has aptly summarized the mindset behind this maneuver: So this is some hypocritical bullshit on his (their) part, […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Jeff Goldstein Plays the Race Card (e4ab32)

  52. […] wrote this yesterday as a supplement to a post, but it deserves to be posted in its own right. So I’m republishing it as a front-page post, […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Jeff Goldstein’s Fraudulent Application of His Views on Language (e4ab32)

  53. […] some offline conversations that took place between us. If you haven’t seen any of that, start here and scroll down. Are you feeling the hate? Now ask yourself, would you want to be a little rat? No, […]

    I don't know if Patrick Frey is an anti-semite, but he's quite clearly an asshole. (38c333)


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