Daniel Dennett (b. March 28, 1942), whom artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky has called â€œour best current philosopherâ€ and â€œthe next Bertrand Russell,â€ poses an apt question that probes some of the basic tendencies and dynamics of todayâ€™s everyone-is-a-critic culture: â€œJust how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?â€
In Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (public library) â€” the same fantastic volume that gave us Dennett on the dignity and art-science of making mistakes â€” he offers what he calls â€œthe best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature oneâ€™s opponentâ€: a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport, best-known for originating the famous tit-of-tat strategy of game theory. Dennett synthesizes the steps: How to compose a successful critical commentary:
You should attempt to re-express your targetâ€™s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, â€œThanks, I wish Iâ€™d thought of putting it that way.
You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.