Talisse and I have a short piece on what constitutes a dialectical fallacy over at 3QuarksDaily.
This post at Talking Points Memo is pretty much the essence of nut picking. A taste:
Republican politicians have tried to pay homage on Facebook to the late Nelson Mandela since his death on Thursday, but many of their conservative supporters want to hear none of it.
Peruse through comment sections of the GOP’s Facebook tributes to Mandela, and there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of vitriol for the former South African president and for the politicians who praised him.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote that Mandela “will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.” One commenter took a different view of the anti-apartheid leader’s legacy, urging “all you Mandela lovers head on over to South Africa and see what’s going on now that ‘Mandela’s people’ have control of the nation.”
No kidding. ”Peruse through the comments on Facebook” tells you all you need to know. More interesting, however, are the actual comments from the Republicans themselves over the years. See here for that.
More on nut picking here.
Image of the battle against Obamacare, 2013
Yesterday, Nelson Mandela died. This somehow prompted Rick Santorum, former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, to equate Mandela’s epic struggle against Apartheid with the GOP battle against Obamacare and fictional government enlargement:
“Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that. That’s the reason he’s mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed,” Santorum said. “But you’re right, I mean, what he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that.”
Where do these people come from?
Arguments in the real world involve the expenditure of finite resources: time, attention, good will, among other things. This is one reason people are reluctant to get into them. It’s not worth arguing with Uncle Dewey at Thanksgiving, because nothing will be achieved. Sure, this runs counter to our Millian intuitions–that every crappy view, (even uncle Dewey’s unrepeatably racist theory about Detroit) deserves a hearing, if only so we can strengthen our views against it–but time is short here on earth, and we need to get stuff done.
For these reasons, I find it puzzling that Andrew Sullivan, British expat blogger famous in years past for suggesting the moderate American left would mount a fifth column (he has since repented, I think), labored to point out, in substantial detail, that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t know anything about Christianity. I think the saddest thing about this, is that it gives way too much credit to Limbaugh. Sullivan writes:
And in the Church of Limbaugh, market capitalism is an unqualified, eternal good. It is the ever-lasting truth about human beings. It is inextricable from any concept of human freedom.
Maybe Limbaugh might have said something along these lines once, but it’s giving too much credit to this guy to attribute a doctrine (or anything similar) to him.
Who, I wonder, is traversing Sullivan’s site in need of such a rebuttal in the first place? If Uncle Dewey doesn’t drop by for Thanksgiving, you don’t need to take his place.
Fig 1: violence
We begin with a tale of inconsistency, borrowing (pretty much completely) from Atrios:
Krauthammer. [2005, when Republicans held a narrow majority in the Senate]
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist seems intent on passing a procedural ruling to prevent judicial filibusters.
The Democrats have unilaterally shattered one of the longest-running traditions in parliamentary history worldwide. They are not to be rewarded with a deal. They must either stop or be stopped by a simple change of Senate procedure that would do nothing more than take a 200-year-old unwritten rule and make it written.
What the Democrats have done is radical. What Frist is proposing is a restoration.
versus Krauthammer. [2013, when Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate]
The violence to political norms here consisted in how that change was executed. By brute force — a near party-line vote of 52 to 48 . This was a disgraceful violation of more than two centuries of precedent. If a bare majority can change the fundamental rules that govern an institution, then there are no rules. Senate rules today are whatever the majority decides they are that morning.
These two views are hugely inconsistent, of course.
What is even more ridiculous, however, is how Krauthammer characterizes a losing vote: “violence,” “brute force.” Er, no. It’s the opposite of that.
Furthermore, just because you can change rules (even allegedly longstanding ones) does not imply there are no rules. For, after all, there is a rule that says how rules are changed. That rule, at least, stays in place.
Fig. 1: Thanksgiving
A heaping serving of thanks to all of The Non Sequitur readers–but special gratitude to the commenters. Extra special gratitude to my co-contributors over the years.
On that note, please enjoy this 3QuarksDaily essay by Scott and Rob Talisse and Thanksgiving and Christmas. A taste:
Unlike Halloween, Thanksgiving is a holiday of human significance. Though it is occasioned by the mythology of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians, the point of Thanksgiving is not that of rehearsing or commemorating that original event. In this respect, Thanksgiving differs crucially from other holidays. The Thanksgiving gathering is not a means to some other end, such as memorializing the signing of a document (July 4th), observing an ancient liberation (Passover), celebrating the birth of a god (Christmas), or honoring the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers in war (Veterans Day). The point of Thanksgiving is rather to gather with loved ones, to reaffirm social bonds, to enjoy company, and to appreciate the goods one has. To be sure, the Thanksgiving celebration is focused on a meal, typically involving large portions of turkey and cranberries. Still, the details of the meal are ultimately incidental. The aim of the Thanksgiving gathering is not to eat, but to be a gathering. The coming of people together is the point– and the whole point– of Thanksgiving.
I was the speaker for the Cum Laude Commencement at University School of Nashville this last October. The University School has posted video of the event in two parts. The first is the presentation of awards and second is my talk. Video HERE.
Talisse and I had a short webinar with Critical Thinking and Political Philosophy professors this last Thursday. We have a short transcript of our opening remarks over at WWA. (Unfortunately, the software for the webinar didn’t cooperate, so it didn’t record. So I can’t post audio of the full conversation. Too bad, because we were awesome!)