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Friday, September 18, 2015

Whose Side Are You On, Anyway?

Recent comments on abortion have provoked friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike to make the above inquiry and—in some of the less friendly instances—to imply that one is a renegade from a cause previously believed to have been shared. In the past, comments on climate change, immigration, homosexuality, crime, religion, and others, have caused similar responses.

One could, perhaps, just state one's ultimate conclusions—of which the author is in ample supply—add some venomous barbs for all who do not share them, and consider the job well done. Indeed, most commentary seems to fall squarely within that category.1

But that would do little except gratify one's impulses and perhaps earn the occasional attaboy from those who already inclined to share these conclusions. Outside of the set of those already in awe of the author's wisdom—sadly even smaller than the readership of this blog—it could not and should not move the mind of anybody undecided or of a different opinion. Hence, one feels it would serve little purpose and hold even less interest.

When addressing issues on which already a great deal of ink has been spilled and many have reached opposing conclusions, one finds that the truth is obscured by a great underbrush of fallacies2 pointing in all directions. By exposing these fallacies, including those pointing in the direction one ultimately concludes is correct, one can often more readily discern the truth or at least conclude that one cannot identify the truth. Moreover, exposing widely held fallacies may hold interest to those who hold them, yet have an open mind or just enjoy a good argument. This is a far larger set and one this blog addresses.

So criticism of any argument in these pages should be read as implying nothing more than that the author considers that argument to be weak or flawed. In particular, it does not imply that the author disagrees with the conclusion.

As to the title question, the answer, accurately if perhaps a bit pompously,3 is that the author, being a philosopher, is on the side of the truth, whatever it may be and however it may be found.

1 Nothing illustrates this tendency more than the vacuous, yet popular form of blog post consisting solely of a sentence- or paragraph-length quote attributed to somebody On the Other Side followed by an exclamation, frequently an obscene acronym. No explanation, however brief, of what is wrong with the quote is necessary because all Good People already know the reason. That people On the Other Side would say such a thing once again proves irrefutably that they are not Good People. For the blogger to offer an explanation would offend the readers because it would imply that some of them might not be Good People. For readers to expect an explanation would offend the blogger because it would imply that the blogger might not be a Good Person. This sort of post conveys no information and changes no mind. Its sole and express purpose is to permit the poster and reader to bask in the warm feeling that they, in contrast to those On the Other Side, are Good People.

2 The author briefly considered adding a Fallacies tag to some posts, but abandoned it when he realized that it would cover most posts. Also unkind persons might suggest that this label was descriptive of these post, rather than what they addressed.

3 Pomposity is, of course, not an impression ever given rise to by any previous musings in this blog.