How to Criticize Something

Art Critic (1955) by Norman Rockwell

Art Critic (1955) by Norman Rockwell

Social psychologist Anatol Rapoport’s rules for criticizing something:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, "Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way."
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Via Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking, by Daniel C. Dennett.

Some other quotes from the book:

No matter how smart you are, you’re smarter if you take the easy ways when they are available.

Philosophy—in every field of inquiry—is what you have to do until you figure out what questions you should have been asking in the first place.

Carpenters don’t make their saws and hammers, tailors don’t make their scissors and needles, and plumbers don’t make their wrenches, but blacksmiths can make their hammers, tongs, anvils, and chisels