Leftists love to “reason” morally. If you say or do something that Leftists don’t like, they proceed to “argue” with you, accusing you of logical “inconsistency.” Their patter is simple:
You’re doing X, but X is bad. It’s bad because doing X implies not-Y and, as you’ll be the first to admit, not-Y is very bad indeed. Since you believe that Y, the opposite of not-Y, is good, and X is incompatible with Y, just stop doing X. If you don’t, then you’re being inconsistent. Yada yada yada, blah.
First, as I’ve argued more than once before, morals are a matter of preference and there is no such thing as inconsistency or incompatibility between preferences. Liking both sweet deserts and sour ones is not a logical inconsistency; and neither is liking one batch of humans and not another; killing one batch, but not another; helping one batch and not another. Turning all of these preferences into exercises in logic is a strategy to compel people to do things they prefer not to do. There are two ways of responding to such a campaign.
The first is simply to deny the generalization being used by the moral “reasoner” to argue for inconsistency. When he argues that you must be against all kinds of killing of people because you are against the killing of your family members, you just repeat that you are not against the first, but definitely against the second. Just refuse to generalize your preferences beyond your chosen range. Point out to him that since you are firmly not against the former and firmly in favor of the latter, there must be something wrong with his generalization. In this response, you do not give any reason for denying the generalization other than that it leads to an unacceptable conclusion: whatever leads to inconsistency must be false.
The second is to challenge the forming of the generalization as a non-sequitur. That is, to point out to the moral “reasoner” that his generalization is the result of an unwarranted inference for the sole dishonest purpose of creating a straw man in not-Y, the bad implication of your action. A so-called straw man is a weak position that one’s opponent does not hold, but which we attempt to pass off as his position in order to demolish it. The current controversy over the Ground Zero mosque presents an excellent example.
I have just heard a representative of some evangelical group arguing in favor of the mosque. His argument was that we must draw a distinction between the evil 9/11 Muslims and the “good” American Muslims. Denying the mosque, he says, would be, in effect, to paint the good Muslims with the same brush as the bad ones.
Hence, the argument goes: You’re resisting the mosque being built (X), but this is bad. It is bad because resisting the mosque (X) implies treating the whole of American Muslims as terrorists (not-Y) and, as you’ll be the first to admit, that is very bad indeed. Since you believe we should never blame a whole group for what a small number have done (Y) is good, and resisting the mosque (X) is incompatible with that (Y), just stop resisting the mosque.
The problem lies in the move from X, resisting the mosque, to not-Y, treating all American Muslims as terrorists.
The “you’re painting all Muslims as terrorists” argument is an instance of a straw man argument. The person who objects to the building of a mosque at Ground Zero has in fact made no claim at all about “all American Muslims.” At the most, he may have made a claim about the Muslims who are backing the building of the mosque. Thus, the claim that one is violating the principle that one should not blame everyone in a group for the actions of a few is a prime example here of a straw man. The claim that anyone who resists the building of the mosque is violating a “basic moral principle,” (that one should not blame everyone in a population for what a few do), is simply false and just one more instance of pretentious Leftist specious “reasoning.”
The “you’re painting all Muslims as terrorists” is not the only straw man being erected by the Left on the mosque issue.
President Obama recently inserted himself ambiguously in the mosque debate. First, he seemed to be arguing in favor of the mosque on the grounds that resisting it would be inconsistent with the
In any case, others have also argued that the issue at hand is that of freedom of religion.
It’s informative to look at freedom of religion as addressed in the Bill of Rights. The relevant text is the first amendment and it reads as follows:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
“Congress shall make no law”? Well, gee, who’s been talking about passing a law, anyway? Appealing to the Constitution would seem seriously besides the point.
But even if we pass over this, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who has suggested that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to worship as they please. Hey, this isn’t
There are thus two things we want to say to a moral “reasoner.”
1) There is no disputing about tastes (de gustibus non est disputandum); and
2) If you are going to insist on reasoning about moral matters, don’t cheat.
After you shake hands with a Leftist, count your fingers! (and wash your hands)