Argument From Silence

Most Wiki writers have taken silence as either disapproval, boredom or at best "enough said". Either way, this is humbling and stops those of us with a modicum of social awareness of just shame from banging on about or implementing the burning issue or insight in question. This is almost always the right response to silence on Wiki.

When someone doesn't take this view of silence it's pretty serious and demands a quick and more proactive response from those who would normally prefer to be silent.

Remember Sir Thomas More and his Silence. Or King Henry the Eighth to whom More's silence spoke more loudly than all his (vocal) supporters' words?


(I don't remember it. Can you TellTheStory? please?)

Thank you for asking: it's a long story - you could read or see Robert Bolt's 'A Man For All seasons' instead!!!

In short, Henry the Eighth wanted his subjects to assent or agree to his divorce from his 1st wife, Katherine of Aragon, and to his adulterous marriage to Anne Boleyn. Most folks, being rather pragmatic, agreed. Thomas More initially neither agreed nor disagreed, publicly, but kept his silence on the matter.

However, it was said that his silence was more eloquent than so many people's words, and it was presumed that his silence (deemed to be assent generally under the Law) actually denoted his disapproval.

More only broke his silence when he had been condemned to death for not agreeing to sign a positive affirmation of the King's divorce and re-marriage. Silence, which had previously been his legitimate defense under the Law, was no longer sufficient to protect him against the anger of a sinful king seeking to legitimize his wrong doing by getting enough signatures to support it. (Democracy can work like this sometimes too!).

More therefore went to the scaffold and along with his contemporary Bishop John Fisher is accounted a Saint within the Catholic Church.

-- MartinNoutch

Of course, his claim was that the legal principle relevant was that "silence gives consent" and people should have assumed that he agreed to the matter. The implication for us could well be that silence in the face of egregious comments is assumed to agree with them, lacking counter-arguments. -- RussellGold

It is hard to argue from silence. Silence can mean you agree, or that you are not interested, or even that you are not qualified to comment. But it is a lousy tool for disagreement. I think.

Silence works better face to face than on a low frequency bulletin board.

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