Wikipedia:I just don't like it
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|This page in a nutshell: Expressing a like or dislike for the issue in question is not a helpful or useful argument in a discussion.|
I just don't like it, its inverse, I just like it, and their variants, are not arguments to use in talk page discussions.
In their book, Business Negotiation, Paul Steele and Tom Beasor recommend a tactic in business negotiation, which they characterize as a "trick of the trade", called "emotion trumps logic", thusly:
When faced with an incontrovertible fact use an emotional response to counter it. Expressions such as: "I just don't like it."1 or "the deal just doesn't seem to appeal to me" often beat dozens of well-argued statements.—Paul Steele and Tom Beasor, Business Negotiation
Here at Wikipedia, we require the opposite to apply. Emotion does not trump logic at Wikipedia. The point of an encyclopedia is to provide information, not to describe what you "like" or "don't like". We are not trying to "win" what Steele and Beasor characterize as a "game". Wikipedia is not a business deal. It is an encyclopedia. Well-argued statements do beat personal, subjective tastes.
Wouter H. Slob, in Dialogical Rhetoric, called "I just don't like it" a "feeble argument". As far as discussions at Wikipedia are concerned, that argument, and its counterpart "I just like it", are sufficiently feeble that they should be given no weight whatsoever.
Editing disputes are expected to be settled by reasoned civil discourse, and editors are expected to base their arguments as to content upon what can be verified—without introducing their own arguments, analyses, hypotheses, and conclusions—from reliable and independent sources. The Neutral Point of View requires that we make the best efforts to leave our innate prejudices at the door when we edit here, be they political, social, geographic, linguistic, cultural, or otherwise. Wikipedia:Writing for the enemy indeed recommends that we actively attempt to include points of view that counter our own prejudices.
"I like it" and "I don't like it" are also two of the several arguments to avoid in deletion discussions. The principle here is that we do not organize Wikipedia along those lines. This is intended to be an encyclopedia, a reference work. To decide what should be in it purely on the basis of what is merely popular or interesting to whatever small group of editors happens to be around at the time that a discussion is had, is to head down the road towards chaos and confusion. Wikipedia's editing community comprises a broad spectrum of people from around the world, and what is uninteresting and dislikable to some is of vital interest to others. It is neither productive nor desired to have multiple groups of editors trying to out-"vote" one another, treating editorial decisions on content and topics as popularity contests. We have had experience of this in years gone by, and it did not lead to the betterment of the encyclopaedia. Human knowledge is what Wikipedia covers, and its extent is determined by the world at large, as documented and recorded in reliable sources, not by us as editors choosing what we personally consider to be popular. Again, we base our arguments upon what sources say, not upon our personal likes and dislikes.
"I like it" and "I don't like it" are arguments to avoid in discussions about article titles, be it a Requested Move discussion about a specific article or a discussion about wording in a naming convention guideline. Non-constructive oppose arguments in requested move discussions include:
- "ProposedTitle already redirects here". Well, if that's not an error, that just shows that the topic of this article is the WP:PRIMARYTOPIC for ProposedTitle. This is not an argument not to move this article there. Please address the arguments made in support, and explain why you disagree with them.
- "This is a contentious issue; leave it be". Well, of course. If it weren't a contentious issue, there would be no discussion. Please evaluate the arguments on both sides with respect to the principal naming criteria from a neutral point of view and explain your position.
- "There is no consensus for this". Although this can be an appropriate response when an editor disagrees with another editor's assessment of a move discussion, it is not a substantive reason to oppose a move during the discussion itself.
User interface discussions
When discussing whether a particular aspect of the Wikipedia user interface should be changed to be easier for novices, it is not uncommon for experienced editors to say, of that aspect, "I like it." Typically this is phrased as "I don't have any problems with that" or "It's easy for me" or "I've gotten used to it that way". All of these are variants on expressing the personal opinion that "I like it". None are relevant to the question of whether the user interface aspect is a problem for novice editors.
It is certainly fair to argue that changing something might make that something easier for novices but would be a problem for experienced editors used to the current situation. But an editor who simply says "I like it" is being intellectually dishonest by failing to acknowledge the first half of this argument, if the editor accepts that half, and is being stupid if unaware that what he/she thinks, as an experienced editor, is somehow relevant for all editors of all experience levels.
When there is acknowledgment by experienced editors that as aspect of the user interface that they like is, in fact, difficult for novices, then two things become possible:
- A consensus is more likely to develop as to whether the advantages of the change, for novices, are worth the costs of the change to experienced editors.
- Workarounds may be found for experienced editors, such as creating a gadget that experienced editors can select to put the user interface back to the way that they've become accustomed to. Such workarounds minimize the costs of the change.
Dispute resolution discussions
Just as in other contexts, merely stating one's opinion about someone else, or their behavior, is not helpful or useful to others. Identify and explain the reasons for the opinion that you hold. Focus on the result (actual edits to articles, policy pages, talk pages, etc.) of the actions at issue, not the person who did them, and explain how those results are consistent with, or contrary to, policy, guidelines, conventions or the good of the encyclopedia. Give specific examples, normally identified with diffs.
Because I say so
Many discussions on Wikipedia devolve into statements of opinion that the editor expects to be accepted as fact. This is an example of ipse dixit ("He, himself, said it"), also known as the bare assertion fallacy, a term which is used to identify and describe a sort of arbitrary dogmatic statement which the speaker expects the listener to accept as valid.
Dealing with such arguments
Dealing with such arguments comprises two separate activities: not making such arguments oneself, and addressing such arguments when made by others.
The difficulty of addressing such arguments made by others is exemplified by Dixy Lee Ray, talking about how to deal with irrational and subjective arguments, based upon "gut feelings", made in the debate over nuclear power:
How can logic deal with such an attitude? It is very difficult — how often I've had the experience of answering every objection raised by our otherwise reasonable opponent […] who then responds, "I'm sorry. I know you're probably right, but I just don't like it!" Or as expressed by a representative [of one side in the argument], "They […] want you to use reason and logic … it's time to start using our emotions and feelings, not reason and logic, in making our decisions."
One thing not to do is to sink to that level oneself. "I just like it."/"I just don't like it." is as weak and feeble an argument in rebuttal of its opposite as it is weak and feeble in counterargument to any other point. One may point out that such arguments are subjective, have no bases in Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and as such hold little to no water at Wikipedia, and are often ignored outright when determining consensus. But one must not simply try to out-vote such arguments with their opposites. Wikipedia is not helped by a return to the practices of yesteryear with gangs of editors organizing argument-free collections of block votes. Wikipedia is organized through discussion, not votes. Indeed, in many discussions here, it is not about the votes at all. Polling is not a substitute for discussion, remember. There are no ballots to be stuffed.
Ray makes a further important observation: The people who, in her words, "reject objectivity and facts to find truth" are likely to ascribe those same methods to their opponents, because it is "entirely consistent with their beliefs" that everyone else does as they do. Nonetheless, that does not make it correct to do so in response, here at Wikipedia.
Avoiding using the argument in reply to its use by others is but one part of entirely avoiding using it oneself. One should recognize when one is oneself using "I just don't like it." and "I just like it.", and avoid doing so.2
One tell-tale characteristic of the employment of such an argument is implicit in the word "just".3 Part of the very problem with such arguments is that they are just an expression of like or dislike. They are solely that statement, without any rational foundation or reasoned underpinnings. An observation by Sir Richard Eyre, discussing the subject of theatre criticism, illustrates this:
Ideally you want to read an intelligent account of what you've attempted to do and you want argument about the reasons it has or has not been achieved. You don't want someone saying, "I didn't like it. It's not for me." That's completely subjective; that's personal chemistry. When you read a well-argued review and it says, "I don't like it because of x, y, and z.", although at the time you rage against what the critic has said, maybe two or three months later you think, "They were right.".
Eyre argues that a statement of like or dislike is not useful without reasons for that like or dislike. This takes us part of the way towards what is wanted here at Wikipedia. But we must take things yet further still. Not only must we add reasons to "I just don't like it.", we must subtract the subjective opinion too. While opinion forms a part of theatre criticism, it doesn't form a part of encyclopaedia writing. As Wikipedia:Talk page explains, discussion pages at Wikipedia are not for voicing and debating our personal opinions on subjects. They are there for discussing the writing and editing of the encyclopaedia. Talk pages are not soapboxes to stand upon and pronounce our personal opinions of the topics of encyclopaedia articles.
- ^1 Kiparsky, as cited in Lasnik, observes that, from the point of view of strict logical construction, "I don't like it." does not actually mean "I dislike it.", although that is what speakers sometimes intend it to mean. In linguistics, this sort of transformation is called Not Hopping.
- ^2 In social psychology, "I don't like it." is one of the three components of resistance to persuasion. It is the so-called affective component. The other two are the cognitive ("I don't believe it.") and motivational/behavioural ("I won't do it.") components. Wikipedia editors should be open to persuasion, by rational arguments supported by cited sources.
- ^3 This applies equally to synonyms such as "simply", as in "I simply don't like it.".
- Paul Steele and Tom Beasor (1999). "Practical Negotiation". Business Negotiation. Gower Publishing, Ltd. p. 81. ISBN 9780566080722.
- Wouter H. Slob (2002). Dialogical Rhetoric. Springer. p. 127. ISBN 9781402009099.
- Whitney, William Dwight. (1906). "Ipse dixit," The Century dictionary and cyclopedia, pp. 379-380; Westbrook, Robert B. "John Dewey and American Democracy," p. 359.
- Dixy Lee Ray (1984). "Problems in Public Perception of Nuclear Power: Fears and Risks Analyzed". In Behram Kurşunoğlu, Arnold Perlmutter, and Linda F. Scott. Global energy assessment and outlook: proceedings of the International Scientific Forum on Changes in Energy, held in Mexico City, Mexico, November 9–13, 1981. Taylor & Francis. p. 108. ISBN 9783718602247.
- Kalina Stefanova (2000). "Criticism should be … But in reality …: Theatre-makers have their say". Who Keeps The Score on the London Stages?. Routledge. p. 100. ISBN 9789057551161.
- P. Kiparsky (1970). "Semantic Rules in Grammar". In H. Benedikktson. "The Nordic Languages and Modern Linguistics, Proceedings of the International Conference of Nordic and General Linguistics, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, 1969". Reikyavik.
- Howard Lasnik (1975). "On the semantics of negation". In Donald Hockney. Contemporary Research in Philosophical Logic and Linguistic Semantics. D. Reidel Publishing Co. p. 300. ISBN 9027705127.
- Eric S. Knowles and Jay A. Linn (2004). "The Importance of Resistance to Persuasion". In Eric S. Knowles and Jay A. Linn. Resistance and Persuasion. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 5. ISBN 9780805844863.