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posted by martyb on Monday May 09 2016, @10:44AM   Printer-friendly
from the tongue-firmly-in-cheek dept.

A short while ago, a student pointed out that what Socrates was doing back in Ancient Athens was actually what today would be called “trolling”. And a case was made that philosophy itself is trolling. Well, now we a have paper purportedly by Aristotle, philosophically analyzing trolling.

That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called ‘troll’, all are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are, and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear.

If you want something speciated and specifically differentiated, Aristotle is your philosopher. The concept of the "excellence of the troll" is intriguing.

The end of the troll is not in his own speech, then, but in that of the others, when they take up his comments in as many ways as bring regret. For there is excess or deficiency in each response, and then more again in each response to that; and every responder chooses his own words lightly but demands exactitude from the rest, and while correcting the others he introduces something new and questionable. And so resentment is built up, and the slighting begins; and the strife is the work of the troll but the origin is not clear.

Trolls bring regret? Hmm, this could actually be true. But they are not responsible for it? This could also be true! But the author is maintaining that the strife is caused by the trolling. This will not end well.

One might wonder whether there is an art of trolling and an excellence; and indeed some say that Socrates was a troll, and so that the good man also trolls. And this is in fact what the troll claims: that he is a gadfly and beneficial, and without him to ‘stir up’ the thread it would become dull and unintelligent. But this is incorrect.

The ultimate conclusion is available in the paper itself. It behooves all aspiring trolls and philosophers to read this recently discovered work by The Philosopher!

Original source: The Daily Nous , which in turn references the abstract published in Journal of the American Philosophical Association. (Abstract features links to the full text.)


Original Submission #1
Original Submission #2

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  • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Monday May 09 2016, @11:18AM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Monday May 09 2016, @11:18AM (#343550)

    Already?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @11:24AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @11:24AM (#343551)

      Only 4 submissions in the queue.

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday May 09 2016, @11:31AM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 09 2016, @11:31AM (#343552) Journal

        I think I'm going to visit EF's troll farm, see if he's got any ready for sale. I might even buy a breeding pair! There's a future in trolls, is what I think.

        --
        We've finally beat Medicare! - Houseplant in Chief
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @06:23PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @06:23PM (#343807)

          With Runaway, it's always about the sex. Even Troll sex! Eeeewww!

  • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Monday May 09 2016, @11:55AM

    by q.kontinuum (532) on Monday May 09 2016, @11:55AM (#343555) Journal

    That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called ‘troll’, all are agreed;

    As with everything, there are good and bad trolls. Some can be highly entertaining for the outsider, others can be highly educational, some are both.

    --
    Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Bot on Monday May 09 2016, @12:01PM

    by Bot (3902) on Monday May 09 2016, @12:01PM (#343556) Journal

    Maieutics is not trolling, trolling is about needing an emotional response from the victim to validate self.
    One can troll as a shock therapy for the good of the victim, sure, but that does not change the dynamics.
    Socrates was probably convinced maieutics was a thing, but in fact it is just a way to present logical reasonings.

    --
    Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Vanderhoth on Monday May 09 2016, @12:26PM

      by Vanderhoth (61) on Monday May 09 2016, @12:26PM (#343562)

      My view on this is sometimes people just don't know why they believe something or think a certain way, and when someone is set in a belief the only person that's going to change their minds or make them search deeper is themselves. Anyone else that tries to just right out tell them their wrong or present some alternate reasoning is going to be shut down and/or seen as an adversary.

      Using maieutics, you can get someone thinking about why they believe something. Is it because they were told something? because they've witnessed it? (actually witnessed it as opposed to a second hand antidote, "I know Y happens to X all the time. It happen to it to my sister's friend's aunt, so it must be common)

      People have a tendency to just believe the first thing they're told, especially when it's something they think is really insignificant so they don't bother verifying it. That information will sit with them for years until some related topic comes up at which point most people are happy to share their expert knowledge of this thing they once heard happens all the time. And it's really hard to "retrain" people once they've picked up bad information, some will believe it even in the face of contrary evidence, and fighting them on it will only make them more set in their belief. Asking them questions that get them thinking about WHY they believe something can get them questioning their original position or original information. It forces them to reason out why they believe something.

      --
      "Now we know", "And knowing is half the battle". -G.I. Joooooe
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @09:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @09:50PM (#343935)

      Ha, look at this lamer conflating flaming with trolling!

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by theluggage on Monday May 09 2016, @12:05PM

    by theluggage (1797) on Monday May 09 2016, @12:05PM (#343558)

    And a case was made that philosophy itself is trolling.

    Well, claiming that "Philosophy is trolling" sounds like trolling to me.

    Anyway, since formal logic got absorbed into Mathematics and Science took over the "how does the universe work" gig, what's left of Philosophy is pretty much theology for agnostics.

    That was trolling, by the way - ergo, look mum, I'm a philosopher! (and my 4-legged dog just meowed in agreement).

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @12:12PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @12:12PM (#343559)

      Who Trolls the Trollers?

      God.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by wonkey_monkey on Monday May 09 2016, @12:20PM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Monday May 09 2016, @12:20PM (#343561) Homepage

    Amateur. Diogenes lived naked in a barrel and peed on anyone he didn't care for.

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk
  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Monday May 09 2016, @12:32PM

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Monday May 09 2016, @12:32PM (#343566) Journal

    The question is: Was this a serious article, or has the journal been trolled?

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday May 09 2016, @12:59PM

      With a really good troll or a really good argument, it's nearly impossible to tell.

      --
      My rights don't end where your fear begins.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @05:28PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @05:28PM (#343774)

        With a really good troll or a really good argument, it's nearly impossible to tell.

        Yes, that's what's missing from today's trolls. In the good old days (of usenet), an expert troller could get his victims really worked up and be on to his next set of victims without the first group being any the wiser. I miss those days.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @10:15PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @10:15PM (#343943)

          YHBT

          HAND

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by gidds on Tuesday May 10 2016, @12:25PM

        by gidds (589) on Tuesday May 10 2016, @12:25PM (#344178)

        I think you've just coined Clarke's Third Law Of Trolling!  ("Any sufficiently-advanced troll is indistinguishable from philosophy.")

        --
        [sig redacted]
        • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday May 11 2016, @05:12AM

          by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday May 11 2016, @05:12AM (#344518) Journal

          Which, of course, generates Clarke's Fourth Law: "Any sufficiently-advanced philosophy is indistinguishable from trolling." And, crap, now I can't tell the difference! Except, perhaps, for the fact that there are no Tr.D.s. Think about it.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by RamiK on Monday May 09 2016, @01:24PM

    by RamiK (1813) on Monday May 09 2016, @01:24PM (#343589)

    shouldn't write on the subject of Greek philosophy.

    I'm saying this sincerely as someone who failed to learn the language. The works, from poetry to philosophical discussions, are filled with tiny innuendoes and poetic devices that can't be translated. More over, context is everything. When a rich young man asks something disrespectfully, Aristotle and Plato will troll him to no ends. They'll purposefully say nonsense that sounds clever and reasonable but means nothing. Often, they'll say what he wants to hear to get his money and political support.

    Even today, most people who learn the language and read the texts, still miss out most things because they lack political and historical context. I'm told Chinese, Hebrew and Arab texts suffer from the same problem. Even when people go through learning the language, the context of the works and the literal devices, even the idioms, are completely lost on them.

    Honestly, if the guy writing the paper hasn't devoted a good decade of his life to learn the language, history and culture, I wouldn't bother with his interpretations. Even then, everything is highly suspect to errors due to us missing much of the texts of the period and not noting some pop-culture connotations since they were never recorded.

    --
    compiling...
    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Monday May 09 2016, @01:38PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Monday May 09 2016, @01:38PM (#343600) Journal

      Idioms are a good point. Imagine someone writes today in some text "it was raining cats and dogs", and for some reason, in a few thousand years that text ends up in the holy scriptures of some new religion. I guess it would be entertaining to watch the scholars of that future religion argue whether those were alive or dead animals, and if the former, whether they survived it. ;-)

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by VLM on Monday May 09 2016, @02:04PM

        by VLM (445) on Monday May 09 2016, @02:04PM (#343626)

        and for some reason, in a few thousand years that text ends up in the holy scriptures of some new religion

        Save a couple thousand years, begin your bible study now.

        Traditional bible study is pretty boring, "here, read it so that the folks in power are the best-est and call it good". Modern LARP style is pretty dull too, predictably left wing establishment, merely a different powerful authoritarian establishment.

        Its more fun when you permit a more open mind, and the burning bush is smoking up an entire weed plant and the stars over Bethlehem are UFOs. Now whats interesting and on topic about the previous line, is its trolling if that was intended to piss off the traditionalist reader, which it probably does, but its genuine scholarship if its intended to get the creative juices flowing by putting the most entertaining possible interpretation out there. I suppose there are people who think "holy blood holy grail" was a troll, some think its scholarship, some think its a parody of conspiracy theory like Umberto Eco would have written if he were less competent of an author.

        Here's a philosophical argument that can be presented in troll fashion or non-troll fashion. Certainly, literature is ambiguous. Certainly the longer a piece of literature is, or the longer its studied, the more messages and details can be inferred out of it. Certainly a long enough document could contain all possible messages, at least "all" for a small enough mind. Certainly many anti-gay people have found fertile ground in the "god hates fags" interpretations of the bible. Yet, being a large ambiguous document, that also implies it equally "must" contain the messages "god loves fags" and "legalize weed" at some apparently lower signal to noise ratio, yet its just as surely in there, any sufficiently large sample of white noise contains all messages just like billions of monkeys at billions of typewriters produce Shakespeare, or Shakespeare was produced by billions of evolved monkeys thinking they too can become published authors and unlike most of them, Shakespeare is merely one that didn't suck so much. Now the meta-troll to the trolls above, is if any document can be interpreted to contain any message, is any document worth believing, does any document mean more than entertainment or idle chatter? Including this document itself as the meta-meta-troll? Now that's a nice troll indeed!

        This is aside from troll as an attack, as a slur. People who philosophically hate the concept of human biological differences will call a medical review of sickle cell disease a troll because not fitting the authoritarian establishment worldview means all punishments are acceptable including calling something a troll as an attack. Likewise, the folks who Socrates made a fool of, surely called him a troll, not because they're not fools or because he was actually a troll, but just because they're pissed off and trying to get even.

        • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Monday May 09 2016, @07:00PM

          by aristarchus (2645) on Monday May 09 2016, @07:00PM (#343828) Journal

          Now whats interesting and on topic about the previous line, is its trolling if that was intended to piss off the traditionalist reader, which it probably does, but its genuine scholarship if its intended to get the creative juices flowing by putting the most entertaining possible interpretation out there.

          Yes, interesting. But what worries me about the FA is the apparent claim that intentions do not matter. Trolls can be motivated by the lulz, by a sense of paternalistic righteousness ("someone is wrong on the internets!!"), or by money, the article says, but what defines the troll is the outcome? Or that the art of the troll is (from the FA):

          For annoyance results from many kinds of speech; and the peculiarity [idion] of the troll is not annoyance or controversy in general, but confusion and strife among a community who really agree. And since the one who does this on every occasion must act with knowledge, and on the basis of practice and care, he has a kind of art—just as one might speak of the art of the hack or of the grifter. But it is not really an art, being without any function; and it belongs not to the serious person to be a troll but to the one who lacks education.

          The purpose of the troll is confusion and strife among those who actually agree? I take exception to that. But then, that being the purpose does suggest that the intent of the troll enters into whether or not they actually are a troll?

    • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Monday May 09 2016, @06:35PM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Monday May 09 2016, @06:35PM (#343811) Journal

      But Aristotle himself (ipse dixit!) said:

      πᾶσα τέχνη καὶ πᾶσα μέθοδος, ὁμοίως δὲ πρᾶξίς τε καὶ προαίρεσις, ἀγαθοῦ τινὸς ἐφίεσθαι δοκεῖ: διὸ καλῶς ἀπεφήναντο τἀγαθόν, οὗ πάντ᾽ ἐφίεται. διαφορὰ δέ τις φαίνεται τῶν τελῶν: τὰ μὲν γάρ εἰσιν ἐνέργειαι, τὰ δὲ παρ᾽ αὐτὰς ἔργα τινά. ὧν δ᾽ εἰσὶ τέλη τινὰ παρὰ τὰς πράξεις, ἐν τούτοις βελτίω πέφυκε τῶν ἐνεργειῶν τὰ ἔργα. πολλῶν δὲ πράξεων οὐσῶν καὶ τεχνῶν καὶ ἐπιστημῶν πολλὰ γίνεται καὶ τὰ τέλη:

      Nicomachean Ethics, Book I, chapter I, Bekker page 1094a

      and I think he was right in this. The question still is: what end does the troll aim at?

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @06:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @06:57PM (#343826)

        Meh, it's all Greek to me.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @01:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @01:55PM (#343613)

    havent really brushed up on philosophy in a while but i think the
    class of philosophers that argue for argument sake are called sophists and in my opinion
    classify as trolls more then socrates.
    the ones to look out for, however, are the epicureans...

    • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday May 11 2016, @07:45AM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday May 11 2016, @07:45AM (#344527) Journal

      What is wrong with the Epicureans? But to equate Sophists with Philosophers! This shall not stand, man! First: as Socrates himself stated, philosophers are "lovers of wisdom", which is exactly what φιλοσοφία means, and according to Diotima (Beloved (or honored) of the gods) taught Socrates, loving something means not having it. So philosophers love wisdom, pursue it, but they don't have it. Major definitional point. Now "Sophists" claim not to love wisdom, but to possess it, and also that they can teach it to you, at a price. This is what is now called STEM, or Political Science and Public Speaking and Public Relations, there are so many variants that one can easily lose track. But the point is, they do not love wisdom, they love getting people to agree with them, for there lies political power.
      Whether political power aligns with truth is not an issue for Sophists. It is for philosophers. Epicureans relinquished political power in favor of the truth. It's those darned Stoics you have to watch out for, especially those that are hooked up with evangelical Catholics. Talk about not being lovers of truth! Haters, gonna hate?

  • (Score: 0, Troll) by MooCow on Monday May 09 2016, @02:02PM

    by MooCow (6048) on Monday May 09 2016, @02:02PM (#343622)

    does it mean we can have them drink a hemlock infusion too?

  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday May 09 2016, @06:48PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Monday May 09 2016, @06:48PM (#343821)

    "A short while ago, a student pointed out that what Socrates was doing back in Ancient Athens was actually what today would be called 'trolling'."

    Except it wasn't: Trolling is saying ridiculous things that the speaker knows to be falls in order to elicit a certain response from one's audience. Socrates, on the other hand, by all appearances believed what he said, and when he went after a target did so because he spotted a flaw in their thinking.

    The greatest troll of the Athens of Socrates' day wasn't Socrates, it was Aristophanes, the comic playwright.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @10:07PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @10:07PM (#343941)

      Flaming is posting inflammatory comments and might be used as a part of trolling for comments (like the fishing), but flaming is not required to troll. When trolling newbies one might resort to obvious trolls, baiting with what is clearly incorrect or down right insane in an effort to signal to nearly all community regulars that what you're doing is trolling. However, that is certainly not the extent of trolling, nor does trolling require such inflammations.

      Socrates didn't necessarily believe the things he said. He entertained them and encouraged others to entertain such thoughts for the sake of argument. There is an element in the best form of trolling whereby one causes the audience to question their beliefs by pointing out how something may be seemingly absurd in a given context. If one begins the approach of said ridiculous context from a logical angle the audience may be forced to concede the point that their beliefs or some other artifacts of culture are indeed quite silly. This form of questioning may cause some to reevaluate their own beliefs and even strengthen their stances. The brutish method of doing so is called being the Devils Advocate, but the trollish way is called the Socratic Method.

      Socrates was not a Troll, and neither was Aristophanes. This is because, contrary to popular incorrect usage, a troll is a comment one posts when trolling not a person who trolls. If you associate "nasty under the bridge dweller" with trolling then this reveals much about you, newbie from the Eternal September.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @07:49PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @07:49PM (#343859)

    As others have mentioned, calling people on the BS they uncritically repeat is not trolling.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @08:24PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09 2016, @08:24PM (#343881)

    Having read Plato's works I find Socrates to be less of a troll and more of a vagabond transient. He would walk around all day ranting and raving interjecting himself into peoples conversations then when he gets hungry go to some random house of a "friend" and abuse their goodwill by imposing himself on them and their food. To ensure he is able to eat enough he would talk in circles and throw out hypothetical comparisons while gorging himself. This is even commented at in the Republic where a house guest asked if Socrates had had enough to eat or if he intended to prolong the argument until he had, naturally being the shyster that he is he found a new angle to argue his point. He would make bets and wagers that he knew he could lose then argue in circles until the people around him left.

    I think that more transients on the west coast would act this way if we had rules regarding hosting like they did in ancient times.