Wednesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. For a site that depends on logical arguments … failing to think logically is a big problem. The statement “slavery was/is not evil because of cruelty” does not depend or imply the statement “cruelty is not evil.” The statement means slavery is evil without cruelty (more accurately does not depend on the evil of cruelty to be evil), but does not imply that cruelty is not also evil.
  2. Oh … Hell
  3. Comparisons of comfort.
  4. Truth to power.
  5. Weather implies climate change? Only when it fits the rhetoric I guess.
  6. What if? Hmmph. That shouldn’t be a question. It isn’t.
  7. Ride a bike.
  8. Heh. Snort.
  9. Yes they do. I don’t think there should be any question about that, although I don’t think “during a recession” is a necessary qualifier.
  10. I hate those “compelling life story” rhetorical techniques … so when they backfire … people should notice.
  11. For St. Patrick’s day.
  12. More transparent administration, is measurably much less transparent. Color me unsurprised.

16 Responses to Wednesday Highlights

  1. For a site that depends on logical arguments … failing to think logically is a big problem. The statement “slavery was/is not evil because of cruelty” does not depend or imply the statement “cruelty is not evil.” The statement means slavery is evil without cruelty (more accurately does not depend on the evil of cruelty to be evil), but does not imply that cruelty is not also evil.

    Your analysis seems arbitrary. It’s true that the statement implies that slavery is evil even in the absence of cruelty (if such a thing is possible.) But it also seems to imply that cruelty does not necessarily cause something to be evil.

    If you think I’m wrong, ask yourself this: is the statement “Slavery is evil not because it violates the natural state of man by reducing the divine to the profane but because of cruelty?” identical in implication? I don’t think it is. Therefore, the original statement is clearly making the argument that “reducing the divine to the profane” is more evil than “cruelty.” Cruelty may (or may not be! — the original statement is ambiguous) still be evil, but it’s just not as big a deal.

    The clear implication is that cruelty is not as evil as “reducing the divine to the profane,” whatever the eff that means.

  2. JA,
    A statement X does not posses property Y because of Z does not imply that Z cannot give X property Y. It means that Z is not the only cause for X to have property Y. Furthermore statements that Z is not the first reason it is Y does not mean that absent the “first reason” that Z would not also give it cause to be Y.

    The clear implication is that cruelty is not as evil as “reducing the divine to the profane,” whatever the eff that means.

    It means it lacks empathy. :D

  3. A statement X does not posses property Y because of Z does not imply that Z cannot give X property Y.

    In formal logic, you are correct, but in English, I’m not so sure.

    If I said that talking on a cell phone while driving is not dangerous because it occupies a hand but because it occupies part of your brain essential to safe driving, you would correctly infer that I mean occupying a hand is a lesser problem than occupying part of your brain. I think the original statement in question clearly implies (in English) that cruelty is a lesser concern than “reducing the divine to the profane” and it does not take a stance on the claim that cruelty itself makes slavery evil.

  4. JA,

    does not take a stance on the claim that cruelty itself makes slavery evil.

    Exactly. So concluding that it means that cruelty is not evil is faulty logic. No stance means no stance. It means conclusions about cruelty w.r.t. to evil cannot be inferred from the sentence because no stance or conclusion about that can be made.

  5. Mark:

    I agree that it is not (necessarily) saying that cruelty is not evil.

    I think you can agree that the author sees “reducing the divine to the profane” as more evil than cruelty. Yes?

  6. JA,
    Sure. But … RBP stated, “What a revelation! Cruelty is not evil, says Joseph Phillips.” which does not logically follow from the quoted piece. This is a conclusion which you as well jumped to (or so it seemed to me) and it is unwarranted.

  7. That wasn’t my conclusion and I don’t agree with it.

  8. JA,
    You had written, “But it also seems to imply that cruelty does not necessarily cause something to be evil.” and “Once you divorce morality from things like abhorring cruelty, you’re in very dangerous territory.”

    Those conclusions are not warranted. They were it seemed your conclusions from the piece and as I think I’ve shown (and you’ve agreed) weren’t not warranted conclusions from what was said.

    On the other point, whether or not abstract principles such as “ontological dignity of man” or the less clear statement in the piece quoted should or should not stated as a more or less important facet of the evil of slavery is a point on which we disagree. But it’s not “revolting.” A Libertarian might posit that the loss of freedoms and personal liberty is the primary evil associated with slavery. I think revolting is a un-helpful characterisation of that position.

  9. I stand by my conclusions. If you can’t tell them apart from RBP’s I don’t know how to further this conversation.

    On the other point, whether or not abstract principles such as “ontological dignity of man” or the less clear statement in the piece quoted should or should not stated as a more or less important facet of the evil of slavery is a point on which we disagree. But it’s not “revolting.”

    I am revolted, and therefore it is revolting, at least to me. Perhaps if you’d chosen to engage in the discussion about the curse of Ham and how religion and Christianity in particular were used to rationalize slavery for centuries, then we could have gotten somewhere on this subject.

  10. JA,
    We have a different view of history and as well the impact of Biblical messages on notions of self, government and liberty. I’m unclear how we’re going to get “anywhere” on that subject by going that route. “Defenders” of slavery used the Bible to keep the institution intact, those attacking it used it as well. The Bible was important in discourse on any topic involving ethics in that era.

    I’m thinking you’re not going to try to argue that pagan Rome, in the absence of Christianity would have “clearly” gotten rid of slavery much much earlier. Hospitals, food/clothing services for the indigent, and institutions set up to care for widows an orphans were specifically Christian innovations in the Roman world. One might put the verses with Cham (who raped his father Noe?) alongside St. Paul’s letter to Philemon.

    So, what useful direction do you think that sort of discussion might go?

    And I’ll have to remember that for you revolting is an valid dialectical tactic when the topic of late term abortion arises next time. ;)

  11. I agree that Christianity brought a lot of great stuff with it — Jesus (assuming he existed) was a pretty cool dude, a real liberal — more concerned with helping the poor and the outcasts than with archaic laws like kashrut (kosher) and rules about sex. As Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Maybe it’s Paul’s fault. More likely, it’s just the expected effect of having unaccountable men running the hierarchy for thousands of years.

    And I certainly haven’t argued that paganism was better! Why would you bring that up? I’m not a pagan.

    So, what useful direction do you think that sort of discussion might go?

    Well my whole point was that basing morality on abstract principles rather than on empathy and compassion is dangerous in that it allows for and practically encourages all sorts of rationalization and many moral conclusions which strike the nonbelieving person of conscience as… yes, revolting. So I thought the discussion could go in that direction.

    I think it would be appropriate for you to say that you found late-term abortion or the idea that it should be legal revolting in a discussion about that if that’s how you feel. Why not? Not that everything you personally find revolting should be illegal, but it’s certainly relevant to the conversation, right? Especially if we get behind the feeling to see what’s causing it (although that might be a bad example because probably most people find the idea of late-term abortion revolting.)

  12. Here’s an interesting point: Peter Singer (an atheist philosopher) uses a similar technique as religious thinkers, he just starts from different assumptions. But his conclusions, like religion’s conclusions, strike many people of conscience as revolting. That’s because he starts from axioms and reasons his way to conclusions, without stopping to check along the way if his reasoning has taken him towards the monstrous.

  13. JA,
    You’re arguing against a straw man. I’m not claiming that one should base one’s meta-ethics on only abstract principles. I certainly concur that reasonableness checks and “avoiding the monstrous” is to be valued. My argument is that the reverse, which seems what you promote, which is one’s meta-ethics should have no abstract principles is likely to lead to equally monstrous effects.

  14. You’re arguing against a straw man. I’m not claiming that one should base one’s meta-ethics on only abstract principles.

    The quote in question appeared to be elevating abstract principles over the more direct concern of cruelty (in a case where “cruelty” is a big understatement.) That’s what I was arguing with.

    My argument is that the reverse, which seems what you promote, which is one’s meta-ethics should have no abstract principles is likely to lead to equally monstrous effects.

    Ok, that sounds like an interesting argument. Can you give an example of a situation where not having abstract principles is likely to lead to equally monstrous effects?

  15. JA,
    I haven’t forgotten this conversation btw, I’m planning to write a longer response than a comment reply to it … but was kinda busy this weekend. My wife’s grandmother had her 97th birthday yesterday, which between that and our families “weekend movie night” which had been pushed to Sunday ate my day. We watched “Bright Star” by Jane Campion which was quite good.

  16. Hey Mark,

    No worries. Happy birthday to her! I’ve never seen Bright Star, but I enjoyed The Piano.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>