Here's a hypothetical situation. Me and Daniel Davies are engaged in a friendly conversation. We are discussing what are the minimal criteria for someone to count as a good example of the meaning of the expression 'the crooked timber of humanity'. Daniel and I agree that if someone is a prize scumbag they will serve well in exemplifying the phenomenon to which the expression refers. But we disagree over whether someone who is (merely) a petty-minded creep would fall within the same category. Daniel thinks they would not; but I think that being a petty-minded creep suffices as an illustration of the meaning of the phrase.
Our discussion proceeds and at a certain point, wanting to provide an actual, living instance of a person of whom one can truly say 'Now, there is some crooked timber of humanity', I refer to a third party well-known to both Daniel and me, making it clear that I regard this person as a prize scumbag and that I think this makes him an apt exemplar, therefore, for the meaning of the aforesaid phrase.
Here Daniel rejoins: 'Aha, so you have recanted. At any rate you are stumbling towards sanity - you now concede that a person must be a prize scumbag before they can exemplify crooked timber.'
Must we conclude from this that Daniel is a fool? He has failed to see that someone who thinks that both A and B satisfy the requirement for applying a certain term is in a position to apply it where A is the case or where B is the case (as well as where both A and B are the case). He has failed to see that I might still think a petty-minded creep exemplifies crooked timber of humanity even though I happen now to be using a prize scumbag for my example. Above all, Daniel's intelligence has taken a hike since it has not occurred to him that, in conversation with an interlocutor for whom someone must be at least a prize scumbag to count as crooked timber, I might be inclined, in trying to persuade him on a question at issue between us, to point to the case of a prize scumbag and not merely of a petty-minded creep (though, as it happens, the person I do choose to point to is a petty-minded creep as well).
But no, despite all this, we are not bound to conclude that Daniel is a fool. Everyone's intelligence occasionally takes a hike. It can happen when they are moved by ideological animus to score what they see as a quick debating point. To be a fool it is not enough that this might sometimes happen to you; it has to happen to you much of the time, or not happen that much at all because there isn't enough intelligence there in the first place - evidently not true in Daniel's case.
Daniel, I might add, likes to exercise himself over why, though he is often ready to engage with me, I am less ready - in fact I am completely loath - to engage with him and one or two others in his neck of the woods (this even though he seems to be familiar with the post here which explains it clearly enough). Simultaneously, he likes to flatter himself with the notion that it is because I am unable to meet his and their arguments. Dream on. This is a man so keen to get in a jab that he is, at least when in this mode, unable to master the logic of either-or (as set out here, here and here, section 2). This is a man the considerations ruling whose blogging intelligence may be judged by the fact that, when Marc Mulholland made a smearing imputation to me for which he will be able to produce not one single word of credible evidence, he (Daniel) could scarcely contain his excitement - it made me look, he said, 'really really bad'. (See the comments thread to the post 'The Norms of Civilised Debate' at January 30 2007 here.)
Still, as I have made this exception to a self-denying ordinance of some four years and taken the trouble for once of writing directly about a post of Daniel's while mentioning him 'by name', I will oblige him with an explanation of my lack of enthusiasm for debating with him personally. Apart from his internet presence I do not know Daniel Davies. It is entirely possible that in real life he is the very soul of charm, and capable of warm friendships, a deep sympathy for his fellow human beings, acts of courage and generosity. He may well be the bearer of a keen wit and of a wide-ranging knowledge of the history and lore of baseball. Daniel could be a man I would want to spend time with or even have for a next-door neighbour.
But online he is just - how can I put this?... well, not very loveable. Am I saying that I debate only with the loveable? Of course not. But as the social rules (such as they are) governing personal attachment do not forbid anyone from choosing amongst the loveable whom actually to love, just so the rules governing personal disregard permit one to select from among the less loveable those one will simply ignore. I am saying that, like anyone else, I'm free to choose the people I want to spend time talking with or about.
One of the things some people really can't take is being disregarded; it can eat away at them indeed. That is a sad condition, particularly amongst grown men.