People are different. This is a truism that bears repeating, because we all tend to think that other people think like us. After all, the only mind we're directly acquainted with is our own.
And even that mind we know only imperfectly, since most of what goes on in our cranium happens subconsciously, with only the tip of the iceberg of our psyche rising into conscious awareness.
After fifteen years of blogging, which has entailed reading many thousands of comments on my posts, I continue to be intrigued by the various ways people use to make a point about something.
Following is an off-the-top-of-my-head of some of the commenting styles I've observed.
Now, obviously one person might use various styles from time to time, or even in the same comment. And I'm not claiming that any style is more right or wrong than the others, or should be preferred. These are just various ways of communicating.
I'm going to use subjects addressed by this blog as examples of the commenting styles, because, duh..., I'm posting on this blog.
The Logician. This style aims at producing an iron-clad set of reasons for believing this or that. A commenter who favors The Logician tends to write lengthy comments, because it takes quite a few words to lay out the case for why such and such is true.
A drawback is that apparent in Aristotle or Plato: logic takes us only so far in understanding the world, or other people. So just because something makes sense, doesn't mean it is true. All the logical arguments in the world for the existence of God don't total up to evidence that God exists.
The Relativist. But some people don't accept that objective truth exists. Along with "deconstructionists," they consider that truth is a cultural invention, with even science falling prey to subjective biases. So they elevate subjectivism, especially their own subjective experience. If something is true for them, why, it must be true for everybody. The downside is that this perspective applies to others also, which makes it tough to find common ground.
And if we accept that everyone's experience is equally valid, the door is left wide open to crazy ideas, conspiracy theories, and unfounded theories. Sure, it is possible that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu, the Vedas, and so on all are talking about the same spiritual reality, but this requires that the revelations of every religion somehow fit together, even though they clearly don't.
The True Believer. A person using this style doesn't attempt to convince others of what they believe. They simply repeat a dogma over and over, because it is just so damn obvious that it must be believable. With little or no room for doubt in their mind, they can't understand why others don't see the marvelous truth that's lying right out there in the open.
However, what is obvious to one person is obscure to another. And when two or more True Believers try to talk to each other, it's like ships passing in the night if they believe in different things. No connection is possible when, say, the absolute truth of the Bible is contrasted with the absolute truth of the Koran.
The Poet. This is a more appealing version of The Relativist. Someone using a style of The Poet embraces a creative vision of reality that is hard to pin down, since it relies more on soft imagery than hard concepts. They try to get their point across indirectly, subtly, creatively.
There's a lot to like about a poetic sensibility, especially when we're dealing with something that can't be pinned down in other ways. A five thousand word essay isn't going to capture how someone feels about entering a Gothic cathedral, but a hundred poetic words could come much closer. But if I want to know something objective, like why my computer isn't working, poetry isn't going to be of use.
The Scientist. Someone taking a scientific perspective believes that objective reality exists, and that it is possible to come to know this reality through careful observation, experimentation, reasoning, and such. They (correctly) consider that most human progress has been attained with the aid of modern science, so like to use it whenever possible. Skepticism is a big part of being scientifically minded.
But as the saying goes, to someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Taken to extremes, a scientific world view can downplay alternative ways of looking upon reality. And it is possible that while science works for knowing many things, at the farthest edges of time and space the scientific method may face insurmountable roadblocks, which also is an argument against applying it to religious and mystical questions.
The Nihilist. A person with this style isn't prone to commenting on blogs, thankfully, so I've rarely encountered one. Basically they're The Relativist on steroids. Not only is there no objective truth, there's barely any subjective truth, because reality is so empty of anything meaningful, there's no reason to give a shit about anything.
On the positive side, though there's little to be positive about concerning pure nihilism, a small dose of existential despair can be an appealing antidote to simplistic feel-good narratives. I am both embarrassed and pleased to admit that I've ordered a copy of "My Beautiful Despair: the Philosophy of Kim Kierkegaardashian." These sample revelations in the Amazon book description helped make the sale:
– I have majorly fallen off my workout-eating plan! AND it's summer. But to despair over sin is to sink deeper into it.
– Obsessed with protecting your skin, lips, hair & face from the sun? Close the cover of the coffin tight, really tight, and be at peace.
– I like my men like I like my coffee: a momentary comfort in the midst of all my suffering.
– What is the operation by which a self relates itself to its own self, transparently? Selfie.
– What if everything in life were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears? Scared LOL!!
– Glamour, menswear, top hat…I stick my finger into existence, and it smells of nothing.
– I took my cat Mercy to the groomer, to brush out the dreadful tangled confusions of its existence.
– I’ve been going to bed a little bit earlier each night, to get a taste of death.