Saturday, April 12, 2003

Conceptual error...

It is very annoying when you get caught up in certain debates and then instead of posting on charming and whimsical topics as you are supposed to, you find yourself posting on grim and grey political issues...


The main thing that gets me going is conceptual error or bad reasoning. Plain old falsity can get you going...but when people believe they have proved something and at the same time used reasoning that cannot pass muster in ordinary circumstances then it is hard for me to hold my tongue.

I think this whole: "The protesters were wrong!" claim is getting to me for that reason.

This seems to be the argument: People in Iraq are happy now they got rid of Saddam Hussein. Therefore anyone who opposed the war to get rid of Saddam Hussein must have been wrong. The assumption there would be: If you bring about a good end then whatever means you use are automatically justified.

The protesters did not deny that getting rid of Saddam Hussein--in isolation--was a good end. Instead they questioned the means (and also the many dangerous side effects of the war). They didn't think it was so great to get rid of Saddam Hussein that you are then permitted to do something wrong to do so.

They thought going to war was wrong. You can disagree with that idea but you can't say that success getting rid of an evil dictator automatically makes the war morally or legally correct. In other words, you still have to argue the war wasn't wrong in the first place to show the protesters were wrong. Everyone knew that the U.S. would be successful at eliminating Saddam Hussein and I do believe most protesters were hoping against hope it would be quick and easy.

They were still against it. Sorry Christopher the debate was never about how 'easy' it would be.

Some examples of doing wrong for a good outcome: Wouldn't getting rid of crime--all crime in the U.S.--be a good end? But what if I proposed a chip to plan in people's brains to make them incapable of committing crimes?

Brave New World proposes a society in which everyone is happier through social control but we don't want to live in that society because we don't think that end is worth the means of social control it takes to bring it about.

If a man held 500 people hostage in a building with a bomb and we know that if we bring his little daughter in front of the building and torture her he will give up--should we do that?

No--because that's something so wrong that we shouldn't do it even if it saves people's lives.

I could save millions of lives right now if I managed to get my hands on Bill Gates' money and use it for water purification, small businesses, famine relief, health care programs, etc. If you think the end justifies the means then you should be all for that--what is one guy's billions of dollars against millions of lives?

Not for it? I didn't think so.

(I am of course but I doubt if the pro-war people would be.)

So even if one grants that something good has been done by getting rid of Saddam Hussein (which is pretty obvious) and even if one grants that most Iraqi people are going to have very good lives from now on (which is less obvious but we can hope that's true) you could still deny that the war was (a) legal or (b) moral. It is far from clear that things have turned out well at this point. But it is consistent with rejecting the war to hope that things turn out as well as they possibly can for Iraq.

I wish people would use better arguments to support their views--even if what you believe is false can you just not be stupid?


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