Tag Archives: academic arguments


There is a debate about whether everything that can be debated ought to.  The thought goes something like this: just because something can be known or discovered, does not entail that it ought to be (or it does mean it ought to be, or some variation on this thought).  A corollary to this argument involves Poe's law considerations: just because there are people who will argue for abhorrent view x, does not entail that either (a) their view deserves consideration or (b) the matter is open for debate.  We have moved beyond the KKK, the Nazis, the young-earth creationists.  They still exist, of course.  Their views no longer merit debate, but rather explanation: why in the face of so much evidence, does this person continue to believe x?  That's the issue now. 

MSNBC fired Pat Buchanan for being what he has always been: an unrepetent racist.  Good, I say.  There are things we need to get done around here, and we no longer have the time, and never should have had the time, to sit around and wonder whether some of us were genetically or culturally up to the challenge. 

Buchanan's MSNBC friends, however, thought he still had a place in the debate.  They write:

"Everyone at Morning Joe considers Pat Buchanan to be a friend and a member of the family. Even though we strongly disagree with the contents of Pat's latest book, Mika and I believe those differences should have been debated in public. An open dialogue with Morning Joe regulars like Al Sharpton and Harold Ford, Jr. could have developed into an important debate on the future of race relations in America.

Because we believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant, Mika and I strongly disagree with this outcome. We understand that the parting was amicable. Still, we will miss Pat." 

Sunlight hasn't disinfected anything, obviously.  It was time for an amputation.

Ward, you were a little hard on the Beaver last night

There is a new academic paper defending the idea that marriage of the "Leave it to Beaver" variety is a metaphysical fact (and no, I'm not kidding):

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.

The paper is at the link.  Here is one critique of the academic variety; here another, slightly less academic, but equally poignant.  I'm not going to bother with the arguments, at this point, because I think that matter has been resolved–however much the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy might disagree.  Well, ok, just one.

Our organs—our heart and stomach, for example—are parts of one body because they are coordinated, along with other parts, for a common biological purpose of the whole: our biological life. It follows that for two individuals to unite organically, and thus bodily, their bodies must be coordinated for some biological purpose of the whole.

That sort of union is impossible in relation to functions such as digestion and circulation, for which the human individual is by nature sufficient. But individual adults are naturally incomplete with respect to one biological function: sexual reproduction.

I suspect questions are massively begged on the idea of "biological purposes"–and I think "organic" uniting is probably different from anything you can get at your Whole Foods.  Whatever their meaning may be, the hilarious part/whole purposes analogy cries out for inclusion in one's Introduction to Logic text.  My liver has a function, ergo, ipso facto you must marry me.

Let's go ahead and suppose that lots of arguments can be dreamt up for Leave it to Beaver marriage.  They're all going to suck, because they presume stuff that just can't be presumed, or they try to establish things as facts that can't be established as facts without the presumptions. 

I wouldn't even consider this an academic argument at this point–one whose outcome matters not.  The outcome of this argument matters a lot.  It's just that we've already seen it.  Does this mean, real question here, that we have duty not to entertain this kind of argumentative detritis?

via Leiter.