punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

The quest for truth... hold onto your lantern

Last night, I had a very engaging talk with thedreamymoon, where we discussed the frustration of people who don’t “play by our rules,” so to speak.

One of the problems with intellectual fans is that we have a tendency to cling to the truth almost fanatically, almost to the point of denial. I brought up some topics from Gricean Maxims, notably, the Maxims of Quality and Relation (thank you, Neal, for teaching me this a few years ago). So this doesn’t sound like over-the-top educated ego-babble, basically, we have two false assumptions: that people play by our rules and understand our rules.

One of the practices I hate most in figures of authority are “leading questions.” For example, suppose someone asks you, “are you stupid?” when you make a mistake. I think this is less of a question, and more of a comment that twists on itself to make the recipient conclude they are stupid in their own mind, without making the accuser seem mean... almost like a “backhanded insult.” This form of mockery is very cruel and arrogant. The best retort I have come up with is, “what kind of answer would be acceptable for such a question,” or maybe just, “why would you ask that?” Sadly, the type of people who ask “are you stupid” would usually answer, “shut up” or “because you act stupid.”

When one of “our type” runs into people who ask questions, we get hurt more than most, I think, because we make the false assumption that the speaker is following the same rules of debate that we do. So we attempt to answer, “are you stupid?” because we think that the maxim of quality applies: do not say what you believe to be false or say that for which you lack adequate evidence. Thus, you conclude you are stupid, because you made a mistake. Sadly, this also breaks the quality of relation: it is not relevant.

We’re living with Spock’s brain in a Kirk universe.

I was watching an episode of “House” a while ago, and Dr. House said the something that while I have heard before, for some reason when that charactered said it, it clicked deep. He said, “Patients always lie.” The second he said this, it seemed to apply to so many problems I have run into in the IT world. People lie. Like, a lot. More often than not, when a customer reports something broke, and you don’t know what broke, assuming they are lying about something, even something small, is often a safe bet. And the more arrogant they are, the closer they are admitting, “I did something.” I get SO angry when I discover this, and yet I get fooled again and again. Recently, a woman started screaming she couldn’t get to her site an upload content ever since we had a huge crash. A cursory look of her site showed files that had been updated since the crash, some as early as last week. She also said that we broke her web scripts, and a quick glance showed those were also updated. “If we broke them since the crash, how come you waited almost two months to tell us? And who updated the files on the 6th?” Well, she got more belligerent, and long story short, she fucked up her web content software, blew away the settings, and now stuff won’t work. That’s not our problem, but she tried to make it look that way so her boss would blame us and not her (I guessed this based on the cc’s she made to her boss throughout the ordeal).

This customer broke a lot of maxims, and I have to get my thought-filled head out of my ass and realize that some people just lie, it sucks, but I should suck up and move on.
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