Saturday, November 14, 2009

Debate Heirarchy

I StumbledUpon this neat little graphic over here. It's a graphic representation of this article. I very much prefer the visual representation, having always been a fan of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, though I don't 100% agree with it.**

I try to keep my arguments always within the top three. I abhor making an argument without examples, which is one of the reasons I post relatively seldom. A blog post for me that's not about, well, me requires a lot of research and I try to not use obviously slanted sources. (You will not, for example, ever find me using Mercola to further an argument, no matter that I agree with some of the stuff on the site.)

All this said, I don't have anything against the very bottom level of argument, so long as it is supported by one of the three highest forms of argument. Because, let's face it, calling an asshat an asshat is sometimes deserved.

In my internet meanderings I am sometimes bedeviled by a woman who vehemently disagrees with me on politics. The problem? She never says "Sabra, you are wrong because of X, Y, & Z, and here are links to support my counterargument." Rather, she says "Sabra, you're a fucking stupid-ass bitch." (If that's not a direct quote, it's close!) And she never, ever so much as presents a counterargument, much less provides anything to back it up.

Thing is, on subjects other than politics, she's shown herself to be pretty darned intelligent, and we even find ourselves agreeing on many things. So I have always been rather bemused by these political discussions.

I see a lot of name calling and ad hominem attacks from the Left, and relatively little of it from the Right (Sean Hannity is distressingly prone to this; it's why I no longer listen to him). It only plays into my personal theory that modern liberalism (as opposed to classical liberalism a la John Rawls) is fundamentally an illogical philosophy based more upon feelings than upon facts. That some moral theories are based upon feelings is nothing new--hedonism dates back to Epicurous, and of course John Stuart Mill's destructive philosophy of Utilitarianism is based upon the idea that what is right is what feels good. That I find this attitude incredibly distasteful is also no secret to my regular readers.

At best, much of the "reasoning" I have seen lately from the left falls into the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy--or, to put it in a form you might be more familiar with, the belief that correlation implies causation (not quite it, but close). This is most readily visible in cases of gun crimes. Because guns are easily accessible (they're not; I know), any crime committed with a gun must have been committed because of this ease of access; therefore if we restrict legal access to guns, we will reduce illegal activity with guns. The problems with this argument are readily apparent, of course; nevertheless it is one that is frequently proffered. I think this logical fallacy is why so often it seems liberals are more interested in treating the symptoms rather than the disease (witness choosing abortion as a women's rights issue rather than the continued objectification of women and the overwhelming societal influences encouraging us to depend only on our sexuality for self-worth).

I actually think that classical liberalism has much to offer modern political discourse. It's a damned shame that the Left has allowed itself to be overcome by the feelings rather than facts crowd, and I don't doubt this is a large portion of why conservatism has been strengthening over the last few years. I have spoken in the past of my general appreciation for former President Clinton, and in truth when I turned 18 I registered as a Democrat. I was a Populist as a teenager and honestly continue to think of myself as one. However, I found no home for my populist ideals within the DNC, as I believe the populace at large is best served by strengthening the individual in particular. And somehow, I doubt I'm the only one.

Just something to think about this weekend...

**It's not that I disagree with Maslow's Hierarchy per se, rather that I don't feel it's nearly as linear and well-defined as it's often presented.


Dave said...

Other than leaving the occasional comment somewhere, I have had to just stop discussing politics, especially on the internet and blogs. Too many people think they are Democrats, yet if you asked them a lot of questions about how they side on certain issues, you would see that they are closer to the Republican side.

In the meantime, politics is treated like sports, where at all costs, you will defend your team. People are less interested in discussing the finer points of a game, but only pointing out the plays where their team scored.

I have totally given up on cable news shows. I used to watch Fox just to have it on in the background, but I simply can't take it anymore. And I had to stop listening to Hannity over a year ago. Between his callers who are all idiots and his willingness to tip-toe around the issue to only hit the points that make his side look good, it is just dishonest. And this is from a guy who agrees with most of Hannity's points of view!

Every so often, I visit the DailyKos or other equally ridiculous pages, only to remind me that if I think Rightwing talk radio is bad, the Left is ten times worse.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there...

the pistolero said...

let's face it, calling an asshat an asshat is sometimes deserved.

This one made me laugh out loud. I'll admit it. :-) I never thought that one could justify the ad hominem attack, but perhaps that's because the emphasis over the years on avoiding the ad hominem has wormed its way into my conscious. As I've said, things are wont to do that when they're taught that way, whether you're beaten over the head with them or it's more subtle.

Sabra said...

Dave, cable news is a large reason I don't own a television. At its best, it's inane. You and I probably stopped listening to Hannity at about the same time, as I know I gave up during the election cycle.

As I've said, things are wont to do that when they're taught that way, whether you're beaten over the head with them or it's more subtle.

Well, I know you have to in your day job, baby, but you seem to do a good job of whapping people over the head in your blog. ;-)

bothenook said...

well thought out, well reasoned. thanks for this. i've given up discussing most topics with "the general public" mainly because the trail almost always detours around silly things like facts, and ends at "oh, you must listen to (fill in the blank). don't you have any thoughts of your own?" i'll talk (and have) all day long about topics that i know about, as long as the discussion stays on topic and doesn't degenerate into ad hominem diatribes when the other person runs out of canned responses and can't think of a suitable rejoinder.
but i do have to agree, sometimes resorting to calling someone else an asshat is the only response possible.