This Is Why We Don’t Argue Tu Quoque

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar LeeEsq
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    One of the things that amuse me is that a lot of people who complain that the Abrahamic religions are anti-sex often speak positively about the Dharmic religions. This kind of ignores the fact that the Dharmic religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are very into celibacy and sexual restraint.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      Oh definitely. I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism lately. It’s not what people imagine it to be at all.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        a lot of that is not having buddhists and hindus up in their grill most of the time (in the west) so they don’t immediately get grouped into the venn circle labeled “jerkward religious bros who suck”.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        Most of the “Buddhism” I’ve encountered in the US is of the “Seriously Not Christian But Still More Spiritual Than You” flavor of The American Religion.

        “Paganism” tends to not make it past “Seriously”.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird
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          My short take is that the historical Buddha’s philosophy as expressed in the earliest texts is a lot like Schopenhauer’s — which is to say, it’s very estimable, especially given that he lived around 2,000 years earlier and didn’t have Hume and Kant to build on. I am personally increasingly impressed by Schopenhauer, I should add. The guy’s really growing on me.

          But the later Buddhist texts are often just a mishmash of confused wordplay and unhelpful mythology. And the strange obsession with the monastic life, which does not strike me as necessary to reach the intellectual understandings that constitute the core of the religion.

          Of course, I could be wrong. “Spend your life as a monk, and only then you’ll know” is a hard statement to falsify.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            The corners of Buddhism that make sense to me are the “Live A Life Of Constant Moral Awareness” corners. Do not react to anything. Always act. Choose to say something instead of merely responding. Choose to act following the act of another rather than reacting.

            In any given situation, a Moral Agent can tell the difference between “running on autopilot” and “actively engaging”. Always Actively Engage.

            And it seems to me that it’s possible to train oneself to fly on autopilot less… and a lot of the Buddhist core stuff seems to be among the disciplines that are useful to training oneself to use autopilot less.

            “Spend your life as a monk, and only then you’ll know” is a hard statement to falsify.

            Now, I also wonder how much of that is being all hepped up on hormonal soup from the time you achieve self-awareness to the time you actually can sit down and ask your navigator “wait, where are we?”… wisdom presents pretty closely to being tired, I’ve found… and, as such, it seems to me that “Spend your life as a chef, and only then you’ll know” or “Spend your life as a shopkeep, and only then you’ll know” are equally true.

            But I’m rambling.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            Glad to hear Schopenhauer is growing on you. I was just telling people to read him on one of the sub-blogs the other day.

            And it’s not surprising that you find Schopenhauer in Buddhims, because Schopenhauer was influenced by Buddhism (and the Upanishads, the translation of which into German he thought was one of the most important intellectual achievements of his century).Report

        • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jaybird
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          Speaking as a “pagan” (by the definition of those idiot christians who can’t imagine any sort of non-monotheistic spiritual belief system), I take some offense at that. Most “pagans” I know are very serious about their faith. We just don’t have the, hair-shirt-wearing baggage, self-flagellation baggage, mommy/daddy parent issues, catholic conscience issues, constant need to run around proselytizing and throwing our religion in others’ faces as if it were priestly genitalia around 5 year old boys, “go and overpopulate and ruin the fucking planet” orders from on high, or any of the other self-aggrandizing and narcissistic superiority complexes that come from any monotheistic “you are the chosen people” delusion system.Report

          • Whoa….danger, danger, Rogue Robinson!

            I’m not for dismissing paganism or its variants, but I’m not too keen on baiting all monotheists with collective responsibility for pederasty and the end of the world. And frankly, I have trouble seeing who here has criticized paganism in the way you seem to think it’s been criticized. Even jaybird’s comment was about “most” that he has encountered and not about all (and he was talking about Buddhists).Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rogue Economist
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            says:

            I would like to apologize. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend with my observation and I should have thought about it before coming out and saying something like that because, yeah, I can see how anyone who categorizes themselves as “Pagan” would be offended by what I wrote.

            Again, I’m sorry.Report

            • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              Perhaps I was also too dismissive of what was said about Buddhism or, by implication, about Paganism, especially because I am neither Buddhist or Pagan. And I should apologize for my dismissiveness.Report

            • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              Having tried four times yesterday to accept your apology only to have this site’s misbegotten spam filters cause my responses to vanish into the aether, I shall make one last attempt today.

              Apology accepted and thank you for recognizing the trouble with your chosen words.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Rogue Economist
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            says:

            Most “pagans” I know are very serious about their faith. We just don’t have the, hair-shirt-wearing baggage, self-flagellation baggage, mommy/daddy parent issues, catholic conscience issues, constant need to run around proselytizing and throwing our religion in others’ faces as if it were priestly genitalia around 5 year old boys, “go and overpopulate and ruin the fucking planet” orders from on high, or any of the other self-aggrandizing and narcissistic superiority complexes that come from any monotheistic “you are the chosen people” delusion system.

            You know, I’ve always kind of suspected that people who self-identify as “pagan” do so largely because they want to have the feel-good aspects of religion while still signalling that they’re not one of Those People (i.e., Christians).

            Clearly I was mistaken.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg
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              BB, in this response are you a) signalling a particular self-concept to others or are you b) expressing how you actually feel about these issues?

              How can a person express themselves without also signalling (at least, in someone’s view of things)? Does all expression reduce to merely signaling-bahaviors in your view?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                How can a person express themselves without also signalling (at least, in someone’s view of things)? Does all expression reduce to merely signaling-bahaviors in your view?

                What is the difference between “I’m expressing myself!” and “I’m deliberately attempting to communicate a particular message!”

                My anthro teacher was a behaviorist and, lemme tell ya, he was less than no help on this point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                THe word “signaling” implies that there’s no deeper content than group identity, or cultural affinity, or ideology. I tend to think that most people say things because the actually believe them to be true, independently of group identity or cultural affinity or ideology. It’s strikes me as not only the better description of people’s behaviors, and has the added bonus of not being condescending.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                Yeah, I tried to explain to him that behaviorism was rude. He just laughed. I called him a dick. He laughed some more.

                I got a B. I think it was on the strength of my class participation.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Given your age, the fact that your college teacher was a behaviorist is all anyone needs to know.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater
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                A little bit of both, I suppose.

                I’m all for dumping Christianity in favor of a rational worldview. I like to think that I’d have done it myself if I’d ever been a Christian in the first place. But trading in Christianity for another mystical belief system? What’s the point? Does anyone actually sit down, compare religions, do experiments to determine which one is correct, and then convert based on that? I’m fairly certain that conversions are almost always done for social rather than epistemological reasons.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Brandon Berg
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              Honestly, my experience with Pagans tends to run contrary to Rogue’s and more similar to Brandon’s. I do know at least a couple people who I would consider to be very serious about it! But I think it really does often come down to social dynamics.

              I think this is true of most religious people of any faith – I’m cynical, that way. But some groups I tend – in the aggregate – to have more trouble with than others.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        Buddhism is basically “Every man for himself”.Report

        • Aristotle was NOT Belgian!Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling
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          FYIGM Buddhists.Report

          • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to James Hanley
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            says:

            Q. What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

            A. Ka-CHING!Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pierre Corneille
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              When I was in grad school we used to talk about materialism and empricism all the time. I’d argue that the limits of empiricism are always open, given that technology and whatnot continue to reveal new phenomena that previously were only hocus. (Newton was ridiculed for advocating action at a distance!)

              During these discussions, a fellow “taker of the vow of poverty” used to talk negatively about Buddhism all the time, because the claims weren’t empirically, scientifically demonstrable. So he’d disparage the view, and I’d try to build it back up. Then came a time when another student talked about observable evidence that some Buddhist stuff was real, some of the weird “miracle” stuff. And I mentioned to him a film I’d heard of which was produced by a couple of guys set out to discredit Buddhism but who became real believers as a result. They filmed Buddhist monks slowing down time, materializing objects, affecting the weather, teleporting!

              After saying all this stuff to my buddy, he said he rejected all of it. That it had to be wrong. I asked him why. He said: well, because none of this stuff is consistent with our current scientific understanding of the universe. I said, well sure, but do you think science has reached it’s end point, that everything that’s true is already known? We quibbled about that for a bit, then he gave his ultimate take-down: if Buddhist monks can materialize objects why don’t the materialize a bunch of gold? see? and why aren’t they right now living in Aspen or NYCity or Paris in opulence and luxury? But the aren’t, right?

              There’s a koan on there, I think.Report

            • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Pierre Corneille
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              says:

              Isn’t that the sound of one hand fapping?Report

  2. Avatar Sam
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    When we encounter those who appear to be above the charge of personal hypocrisy, we can then discuss the merit of the claims that they are making. I find it impossible to have that conversation with somebody who is being obviously dishonest. If Domenici was sitting in front of me, trying to convince me of the sanctity of marriage, the entirety of his points would be undermined by the fact that I knew that marriage wasn’t that important to him. If the Pope was sitting in front of me, trying to convince off the sanctity of marriage, I would be having an entirely different conversation with him, one that was perhaps more theological in nature.

    As for Gavin Newsome, I say this: I am troubled by those who point at a problem, and then tailor a solution to address that problem which somehow excludes their own misdeeds. Domenici’s solution for defend marriage’s sanctity involved excluding gays forever; his solution notably excuses his own behavior. Newsome never floated a proposal like that as far as I know – and if he did, I withdraw the comment. Instead, Newsome proposed to open the institution further. He didn’t propose policy that hurt anybody or sanctioned his own behavior. Domenici’s proposals did both.

    Is that not a substantive difference?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam
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      says:

      When we encounter those who appear to be above the charge of personal hypocrisy

      Put one hand on your wallet and your other hand on your gun.Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Jaybird
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        I am starting to see why Jesus had such a hard time with the Romans.Report

      • Avatar Sam in reply to Jaybird
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        I don’t think anybody (save those involved) realized that Domenici was the philandering sort until after he acknowledged his own misdeeds, right? So before anybody knew, the argument would have involved a different sort of back-and-forth.

        But I’m meant to ignore his own misdeeds once I know about them, even if those misdeeds undermine his own stated claims?Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam
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          I am not claiming that hypocrisy is fine. Hypocrisy is a vice, and it ought to be avoided.

          But an instance of hypocrisy doesn’t say anything about the goodness or badness of the underlying acts. If Jeffrey Dahmer said, “Hey, don’t be a murderer, that’s bad!” – well, what do we do? Do we incline toward murder, now, because a notable anti-murder advocate turns out to be a hypocrite?Report

          • Avatar Sam in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            Yes, I begin to murder everybody in sight. Immediately. Murderpalooza 2013!

            No, but seriously, I believe we’d question Dahmer’s belief in what he said, knowing what he’d done. That’s my point. There were an awful lot of reasons in that freezer to disbelieve what Dahmer just told us about his OWN beliefs. My response then would be to say, “You’re saying this but you did THAT. I don’t believe that you’re being honest with us.” Then we go from there.Report

    • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Sam
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      says:

      Sam,

      I’m on Jason’s side here, but I think you guys might be talking past each other a bit. You write:

      “I find it impossible to have that conversation with somebody who is being obviously dishonest. If Domenici was sitting in front of me, trying to convince me of the sanctity of marriage, the entirety of his points would be undermined by the fact that I knew that marriage wasn’t that important to him.”

      It’s perfectly valid to find it impossible to have a conversation with a dishonest person. It’s fine to not believe Domenici because of his actions. But neither of those things address the actual question of SSM. It’s just a question of whether you would talk to or believe Domenici. So, basically, the subject isn’t SSM, it’s Domenici.

      And that’s kind of what I took from your post (and especially from the title). Domenici is a hypocrite and can’t be trusted as a moral authority on anything to do with marriage. That’s not a Tu Quoque argument; that’s an argument about Domenici.

      I see there being no conflict between saying that (1) Domenici is a hypocrite and no one should take him seriously on, well, anything; and (2) that Tu Quoque arguments are bad/unhelpful/whatever.

      You can completely dismiss Domenici as a source of arguments against SSM, but that doesn’t dismiss the arguments.Report

      • Avatar Sam in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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        says:

        It doesn’t dismiss the arguments.

        That said, a question: suppose I was talking to someone of the sort of moral authority that Jason has sketched out above, be it the Pope or some more local activist who is known to have loved and honored his (or her) spouse for the entirety of their marriage. Would it be unfair of me to ask that person if they condoned adultery and, if they didn’t, why their policy proposals to protect marriage didn’t involve punishing the sort of adultery that this individual’s compatriots engaged in?Report

        • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Sam
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          says:

          That line of questioning would certainly be fair. Those questions focus on ideas, policies and opinions. Those are exactly the things Jason is suggesting we talk about.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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            So now Sam has made clear he does not think that addressing someone’s personal integrity bears on the justification for any substantive position.

            It seems to me it’s now on you to show what is wrong with spending a bit of time pointing out that someone is a hypocrite, if it serves some rhetorical purpose.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew
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              says:

              So now Sam has made clear he does not think that addressing someone’s personal integrity bears on the justification for any substantive position.

              So he has. I wonder then what meaning it has to say that he has trouble taking the statements of a hypocrite seriously.

              To me, that says “I assign less than full truth value to the statement.”

              I don’t see what other meaning it could possibly have. But if so, we’re back at square one.Report

              • Avatar Sam in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                says:

                To my mind, and this might be wrong, the best way to get at the animus explanation for opposition to gay marriage is to show where your opponent has not addressed other, more obvious threats to marriage, like adultery (in Domenici’s case) or divorce (in Gingrich’s case). In the case of Domenici, the evidence is the man’s own history. Is there a better way to get at animus as a motivating factor? If there is, I’m certainly willing to hear it. If there isn’t, why am I duty-bound to ignore this as a strategy if I believe that animus is the motivating factor? Why do I owe Domenici the service of allowing him to get away with what appears to be dishonest argumentation?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam
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                I suppose it might suggest animus. But it’s far from conclusive. We humans are commonly inconsistent about all sorts of things that we profess to believe.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Sam
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                says:

                Gingrich is an interesting example, because his argument abut SSM isn’t logical or evidence-based. It consists of “Because I feel marriage is sacred.” The thing is, it’s quite possible, based on who he is and what he’s done , to conclude that he doesn’t feel that and never has. Or that if he does, it can’t be a strong feeling, because it has had no effet on his life. Here, recognizing his hypocrisy is part and parcel of dismissing his argument.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Yeah, if someone’s argument is, “I feel marriage is sacred, therefore I think that gay marriage should be outlawed,” we should not take them seriously if their behavior tells us they don’t feel marriage is sacred at all.

                This is something different from what Sam is doing. Sam is saying, “This person thinks that gay marriage should be outlawed because it can harm marriage. This person has also participated in behavior that can harm marriage. Therefore this person’s argument is wrong.” That is a fallacious argument, and it is not only not the same as treating actions as more important than words, but actually doesn’t treat actions and words as related in a coherent way, making the bridge between them arbitrary, which in a way means it’s not taking actions or words seriously.Report

              • Avatar Sam in reply to Chris
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                “This person thinks that gay marriage should be outlawed because it can harm marriage. This person has also participated in behavior that can harm marriage. This person has proposed no laws that punish his own harmful behavior. It is therefore fair to question if the issue is harm done to marriage or if something else is going on here. We ought to be suspicious of what we’re being told. Therefore this person’s argument is wrong.”

                I don’t care that we disagree. Such is life. But that bolded part that I added is important. Without it, you’re making a leap that I am not.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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                Sam, you yourself have explained why they’ve proposed no such laws. Do you think they would be opposed to that laws? Most of the evangelicals I know wouldn’t, and I don’t know many Catholics who would be either. They just know that such laws are politically and culturally impossible. So instead they fight the battles they think they have a shot at winning (though they’re clearly losing now), and they complain about the increased secularization of our society, one piece of evidence for which they always cite is changes to adultery and divorce laws!Report

              • Avatar Sam in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Yet, they do nothing on those issues, refusing to risk further marginalization. Am I supposed to respect their cowardice when it comes to campaigning against straight freedoms? Am I supposed to respect their aggression when it comes to campaigning against gay couples? I don’t see how these points you’re making are supposed to convince me of anything. You’ve clearly described that movement’s rank hypocrisy regarding its treatment of gays and straights; you’ve then asked me to respect that while they’ve willing to support anti-straight laws, they’re not interested in doing any of the heavy lifting themselves.

                This is precisely the evidence that I keep pointing to when I suggest that this is about an animus toward gays, not about some deeply held belief about the sanctity of marriage. If they cared at all about marriage, they’d risk marginalization to make their point.Report

              • Avatar Kimsie in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                I find myself thinking of a more pressing question. I find myself doubting the expressed reasoning behind actions that hypocrites take.Report

            • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Michael Drew
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              says:

              It depends what you mean by “wrong”. If you mean faulty, I think Jason has done a lovely job of that in the OP.

              If you mean “inappropriate”, well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish*. As long as Sam is being honest in his argument, I don’t have an issue (and, to be clear, though I agree with Jason’s OP, like him, I don’t like hypocrisy and dishonesty and will tend to dismiss people who behave that way).

              If you mean “ineffective”, then I really can’t. He may, quite ably, serve a rhetorical purpose in employing a Tu Quoque argument. That’s cool. It’s a fallacy – as we seemed to have established in these past few comments – but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.

              But, really, I don’t think it’s wrong to point out that someone is a hypocrite. It doesn’t really address the underlying arguments, but it’s not wrong. And it may be quite useful when we’re talking about politicians – since we have to judge them and not just their words.

              *This is an instance where The League’s replacement F-word makes things a little weird.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    It’s not the same thing to incline toward SSM bc Domenici is a hypocite and to say that one should not incline against SSM on Pete Domenici’s say-so – both because that’s the wrong kind of reason, and because he is a hypocrite. There are various reasons people may incline towards a proposition just on someone’s say-so, despite that being the wrong kind of reason. People may think that Pete Domenici is a moral authority of some kind, and be impervious to an argument that that is the wrong kind of reason to oppose SSM marriage. If it’s more convincing in those cases to address those reasons directly, so be it. It remains the case that it’s the wrong kind of reason to oppose SSM because someone of irreproachable personal character opposes it – for Sam and everyone else. It doesn’t commit Sam to opposing SSM to point out that Pete Domenici is not a morally exemplary individual, even in the area of sanctifying marriage, and that if that is your reason for opposing SSM – because Pete Domenici says so and you think Pete Domenici is a morally exemplary indivisual – that you are (likely) mistaken on the facts (depending what you consider morally reproachable behavior).Report

  4. Avatar Rogue Economist
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    “Tu Quoque” is not valid when calling someone out on points of fact, but it IS valid when pointing out hypocrisy of opinion.

    In Domenici’s case, we have a man arguing about “the sanctity of marriage” while simultaneously showing that he doesn’t give a whit about the sanctity of marriage.

    In Newsom’s case, we have a case of someone who’s been married, had his affairs, had his divorce experiences… and argues that gays should have the same right to go through life experiences of that nature as straights do.

    In Domenici’s case, hypocrisy of opinion. In Newsom’s case, NOT hypocrisy of opinion. Newsom isn’t arguing for “sanctity of marriage” or any of the other right-wing bullshit that gets thrown into a civil rights issue: he is arguing that gays ought to have the same civil rights as straights to get married, or get divorced, and go through all the associated trials and tribulations.Report

  5. Avatar John Howard Griffin
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    says:

    The “both sides do it” (balance fallacy or false balance) that you are making here, Mr. Kuznicki, looks a lot like the tu quoque that you denounce, to my eyes. The balance fallacy/false balance is often used to avoid tu quoque, but it is still a fallacy.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Balance_fallacy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_balanceReport

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to John Howard Griffin
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      I agree that those are fallacies. I don’t advocate reasoning that way.

      What I suggest here is to begin with tu quoque, and to suppose that it’s permitted. I find then that tu quoque collapses very quickly into the balance fallacy, and because that fallacy is sillier and even more obviously wrong, tu quoque is therefore refuted.

      It’s a proof by contradiction, in its logical structure. Not an endorsement at all. I prove “tu quoque is invalid” by showing that “tu quoque is valid” yields unworkable results.Report

      • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        Except that your proof doesn’t work. You “prove” nothing.

        If we are arguing mathematics, whether 2+2=4, and we argue that Sam’s argument on the pro-4 side is invalid because Sam has to reach for a calculator in order to balance his checkbook and still often gets it wrong, that is an invalid argument.

        When we get to questions of morality and hypocrisy and reputation, however, Sam has very valid points. If we are making a purchase of goods or services, we want to know something about the reputation of the seller because this informs us of the possibility that there is some fraud in the sale because of withheld or misrepresented information. This is why eBay has reputation rankings, Amazon has seller reputation rankings, and why the Better Business Bureau exists.

        When we are presented a “moral argument” or an argument resting on some form of morality, we are being sold a belief. In the case of gay marriage, those arguing for “the sanctity of marriage” are arguing that we should subscribe to their description of morality. They are trying to sell us something. Moreover, they are trying to sell me the idea that the rights of others should be restricted based on the description of morality being peddled.

        That’s already a pretty high bar to jump. But they are selling something. They are selling a belief system, an emotional and moral code. The reputation of the seller matters.

        When we find out Domenici insists that the “sanctity of marriage” should be absolute, but that he ignores it himself, it matters. It matters because there IS fraud involved. He is selling us a belief system that he, provably, does not possess. He could be selling us kansas oceanfront property in exchange for money, or he could be selling us his useless, invalid belief system in exchange for our votes.

        Tu Quoque is not invalid. It’s evidence of fraud in the sale and that invalidates your so-called proof.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rogue Economist
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          says:

          Look, we’ve been over this before. Many times now.

          I’m not arguing that there is no such thing as hypocrisy.

          I’m not arguing that hypocrisy is okay.

          I’m not arguing that Pete Domenici isn’t a hypocrite. Clearly he is.

          I agree with you — on all of that!

          I simply assert that any given individual’s hypocrisy is no basis for accepting or rejecting a proposition.

          We can have a conversation about that individual’s hypocrisy, and when he’s an elected official, we certainly should. But that’s a different conversation from the one that we had been having, the one about the policy choice. Using the one in the place of the other is what’s invalid.Report

          • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            I simply assert that any given individual’s hypocrisy is no basis for accepting or rejecting a proposition.

            I propose to sell you a house, sight-unseen. You must take my word for it that the house is in good condition, roof recently replaced and under a valid warranty from a reputable company, kitchen appliances recently replaced, interior recently repainted.

            In one case I am a licensed realtor with years of feedback with the Better Business Bureau and no accusations through them of malfeasance.

            In another case I am a fly-by-night seller who listed it on Craigslist with photos that may or may not be of the house in question and when you looked my name up with the BBB you found an “F” rating for me as a house-flipper who patches over glaring deficiencies, improperly handled water damage, and other irregularities just well enough to make it superficially look good and whose house sales have tended to result in unaware buyers spending $20-40k in repairs after the fact.

            Reputation matters. Whether you’re selling a house for money or a belief system for votes, reputation MATTERS.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            I simply assert that any given individual’s hypocrisy is no basis for accepting or rejecting a proposition.

            Sure. But hypocrisy is a basis for rejecting that the person who utters it actually believes it to be true. I think that claim has some merit, myself. And if it does, we can discount Pete Domenici’s arguments and views based on that evidence, or at a minnimum ascribe to him a different motivation for making certain arguments or assertions than sincere belief in the expressed proposition’s truth.

            I might be wrong, but I think that’s the distinction driving some of the disagreements on this thread. Most people are focusing on the truth/falsity of a proposition regardless of who utters it; other people are focusing on the individual who expresses it. Personally, I think both approaches have merit, even tho the second one is much dicier since it can lead – not always will lead! – to an invalid argument attempting to reject a proposition based on considerations of the psychological factors of those who utter it.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Rogue Economist
          Ignored
          says:

          The reason why the reputation of a seller matters for goods and not for moral visions is that the car sold by an honest dealer is different from the one sold by a crooked one even if they are both 2 year old Honda Civics. But the moral vision sold by the Pope and by Domenici is the same at least as with regards to SSM.

          Arguments from analogy are at best intuition pumps. If done well, they confer understanding on the point being made. They have dubious dialectical force and no justificatory force on their own.Report

          • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Murali
            Ignored
            says:

            Asserting the pope as a moral authority to a pagan won’t get you very far. Between him, his predecessor, and the collected cardinals and their complicity in the misbehavior of their little empire you’ll be hard-pressed to get me to see them as a moral authority even for things like murder and theft.

            In fact bringing up the Pope at all is fallacious. Argument to “tradition” as the main argument of the anti-SSM hypocrites is just a subset of that same fallacy, replacing “specific authority” with an idea that because many people before didn’t object, a specific practice or argument is de facto correct by the whim of collective “authority” that is to remain unchallenged.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rogue Economist
              Ignored
              says:

              I don’t cite him as an authority. I cite him as an example of someone who is clearly not a hypocrite.

              By all accounts that I am aware of, Francis is a reformer. He had no role in the sex abuse scandals, and he has been put in office to clean house.Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Hypocrisy implicates the question because the only argument those against SSM have ever made is argument-to-authority.

                They argue “the pope says” or “the bible says” or “tradition says.” Furthermore it is a transaction. It is a sale. They are selling a belief system in exchange for votes.

                All of this is appeal to authority, which is already fallacious. It might be possible to evaluate on that basis were the authorities in question credible. First, however, we must determine whether the speaker even thinks that the authority they are appealing to is credible.

                So does Domenici really think the authorities he appeals to are credible? He is asking us to take, upon word of authority, a certain viewpoint. This is where tu quoque comes in. Domenici, and so many others, clearly rely on the authority of Pope or Bible or Tradition for this one instance while rejecting them as valid authorities in virtually every other aspect of their lives.

                This is no different from the other instances of fraudulent sale brought before as analogy. A fraudulent sale is a fraudulent sale. False advertising is false advertising. That is just as true whether the seller is trying to sell me a house, a car, or a bible by lying about the content.

                When someone who has moral credentials you inaccurately ascribe to the current pope offers to sell me a bible, then the question becomes whether the belief system they are offering me is worth buying on its own merits. The question of whether they are deliberately and willfully engaging in false advertising is at that point moot though there still remains a possibility that they are gullible fools who don’t realize they are selling a fraudulent product, sort of like the teenagers who constantly try to get me to take a Scientology “personality test.”

                Contra, when there is prima facie evidence that the seller is engaging in false advertising, we need go no further. They actively know that they are selling a fraudulent product or belief system and we know that they know, therefore there is agreement to the falsity of their claims.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                the only argument those against SSM have ever made is argument-to-authority.

                This is factually incorrect. Consider the natural-law arguments made by someone like Robert P. George. They’re not invoking any authority, not even that of God. Just claims about what people supposedly are like. That’s all.

                My citation of the pope is not an argument from authority, either, because I am not relying on the moral authority that allegedly comes from his office.

                Instead I am relying on what I have read of his character, which I take to be exemplary. And even if that character ultimately wasn’t exemplary, I would ask you for purposes of the argument to picture someone else, whose character was. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything bad about Professor George, personally. Would he suffice, for purposes of argument? You know, so we could talk about what matters here, and not the distractions?Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                Please, you mean this work of immense scholarly dishonesty? Robert P. George is so obtuse that he won’t even recognize the number of current nations in the world that recognize polygynous marriage today.

                Mark Stern’s already done the heavy lifting of deconstructing this nonsense, so I see no need to repeat his work here. Suffice for the shortest version that George and his fellows say the words “natural law” when what they really mean is “appeal to tradition”, a subset as I said earlier of appeal to authority.Report

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                “you mean this work of immense scholarly dishonesty?”

                No *True* Scot would use *anything* other than an argument from authority to criticise same-sex marriage!Report

              • Avatar Rogue Economist in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                From before, I ask you to respond to this please.

                When someone who has moral credentials you inaccurately ascribe to the current pope offers to sell me a bible, then the question becomes whether the belief system they are offering me is worth buying on its own merits. The question of whether they are deliberately and willfully engaging in false advertising is at that point moot though there still remains a possibility that they are gullible fools who don’t realize they are selling a fraudulent product, sort of like the teenagers who constantly try to get me to take a Scientology “personality test.”

                Contra, when there is prima facie evidence that the seller is engaging in false advertising, we need go no further. They actively know that they are selling a fraudulent product or belief system and we know that they know, therefore there is agreement to the falsity of their claims.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Rogue Economist
                Ignored
                says:

                Look, in order for false advertising to even be a practical issue, it has to be the case that the endorsement of a belief system by that person would otherwise incline you to some degree towards that belief system. i.e. if he wasn’t dishonest scum, you would actally think he had some authority. In fact it has to be the case that he ordinarily has authority. Consider the car salesman. You ordinarily afford the claims of a salesman (assuming he is odinarily honest) a certain weight simply on his or her say so. When someone tells you that car he is selling has good mileage and has not been used much, unless you have some reason to think he is dishonest, you actually treat him as an authority on the quality of the cars he is selling. Reasons that undermine your trust in him also undermine his authority. It is approprite that the honest and competent car salesman has authority because he would have done his best to investigate on his own and done the due deligence to make it the case that a car he sells is more likely to be better than a superficially similar one that his less honest or competent competitor sells. Would it be appropriate to give a politician that authority even if he was honest?

                If someone said the following “I became more prepared to accept gay people in our society because my senator came out in favour of doing so”, while we would be happy that he got the right answer, the reasoning towards that answer would strike us as odd. You would say: “hold on. I’m sure your senator is a nice guy and all whom you agree with on lots of things, but surely your senator is not your guru. You choose your senator because you know he already reflects your values. You don’t change your values because you choose him.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to Rogue Economist
              Ignored
              says:

              I’m not saying that the Pope is an authority. I’m saying that if the moral credentials of a person proposing an idea matter in the case of Domenici it should matter in the case of the Pope. Now, if you say that it doesn’t matter that the Pope who seems like a generally morally upright guy opposes SSM, then it shouldn’t matter that scum like Domenici also oppose SSM.

              About the only time authority can confer justificatory force on a belief is if the vast majority of authorities on the subject agree. e.g. we are justified in believing the theory of evolution because most biologists accept that theory and we recognise what they do as giving them authority.Report

            • Avatar Sam in reply to Rogue Economist
              Ignored
              says:

              There do seem to exist questions about the way in which then Bishop Bergoglio and now Pope Francis handled abuse within Argentina. I do not believe it is necessarily fair to cite his (non)handling of sexual abuse within a conversation about gay marriage though, unless there is some obvious relationship between the two.Report

        • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Rogue Economist
          Ignored
          says:

          ” In the case of gay marriage, those arguing for “the sanctity of marriage” are arguing that we should subscribe to their description of morality.”

          So if someone else were saying exactly the same words but *weren’t* adulterous, that would mean their arguments about “sanctity of marriage” were valid?

          Because, y’know, there’s actually quite a lot of people who oppose same-sex marriage and are not adulterous.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        I think I disagree. Tu quoque collapses very quickly into the balance fallacy because tu quoque is NOT allowed (it is considered a fallacy), not because it IS allowed.

        Simply drawing attention to some perceived flaw of a position or group can be seen as a wholesale attack on the entire position or group. Thus, people often engage in the balance fallacy not out of any true belief that both flaws that they are mentioning are equal, but rather out of desire to avoid tu quoque attacks. This then often backfires and results in accusations of being a “concern troll”.

        Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Come on, Jason, you argue tu quoque all the tine.Report

  7. Avatar John Howard Griffin
    Ignored
    says:

    Two links in my comment has left me at Mobil Ave. Hopefully someone will traverse the dangers to bring it into the real world.

    Are we limited to only one link per comment?Report

    • Cleared. I believe one link per comment is the limit on the spam filter.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to John Howard Griffin
      Ignored
      says:

      I’ll ask again: has anyone changed that setting, or has WordPress grown a (demented) mind of its own?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t think it makes the call solely based on the # of links alone, there may be other triggers too (like the amount of accompanying comment text, and/or “trigger” words in that; maybe even something about the links themselves?)

        Even in the past the number of allowable links could vary, and a three-link comment would post, while a one- or two-link-comment would not. The two-link-limit always seemed to be a general rule of thumb, not a hard-and-fast rule. (I even did a comment once, with NO links, that would not post even to moderated status – I think the filter was “reading” the comment as a threat, due to the inclusion of certain words).

        Given the amount of spam that gets successfully completely-filtered, I am actually starting to be surprised that it does as well as it does.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
          Ignored
          says:

          It seems to me that people have been asking for two-link comments to be rescued more frequently over the past few weeks than before. I’ve never had that problem until recently, myself. My conclusion is that there has been a real change in behavior.

          Let’s do an experiment. This comment has a reasonable amount of text, and doesn’t have any obviously problematical keywords that I can see. Let’s see what happens if we try to reference the wiki articles on both quantum mechanics and relativity.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
          Ignored
          says:

          I just did an experiment. I wrote

          It seems to me that people have been asking for two-link comments to be rescued more frequently over the past few weeks than before. I’ve never had that problem until recently, myself. My conclusion is that there has been a real change in behavior.

          Let’s do an experiment. This comment has a reasonable amount of text, and doesn’t have any obviously problematical keywords that I can see. Let’s see what happens if we try to reference the wiki articles on both quantum mechanics and relativity.

          With the two articles being links. It got trapped.Report

  8. Avatar Pierre Corneille
    Ignored
    says:

    “What? You won’t change? Should we continue the count? Does anyone in the entire world ever really decide things this way?”

    Sadly, I think a lot of people do, at least along some margin. In fact, it’s possible I do without fully admitting it to myself. As much as I think tu-quoque’ism is a fallacy, I am turned off by and resist a lot of arguments in part from revulsion at what I take to be the personality or writing-style of those who make them. (I do believe that style and tone make up substance by I also think I approach something like a tu quoque, too, and that’s not okay.)Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pierre Corneille
      Ignored
      says:

      To some extent, we have to do this, if only in self-defense. There are an awful lot of opinions and arguments out there, and we don’t have time and energy to consider them all carefully, so part of evaluating them is to consider the source. Suppose I told you that there was an well-reasoned scientific analysis of racial IQ disparities that shed new light on the subject. How likely are you to take a look at it? Now you click on the link I mailed you and you’re at Taki’s Magazine. How likely are you to close your browser without reading a word of it? That’s a form of tu quoque, but an entirely justified one.Report

      • Good point, and I realize that you’re arguing “to some extent, we have to do this.” And that rests largely on how to discern among claims to authority that compete for our time and intellectual energy.

        But I do find, at least for myself, “another extent” to which I could be more receptive to certain ideas. I do think that if I saw Mr. Domenici give a speech on TV about the sanctity of marriage, I’d just write him off as a hypocritical blowhard and let him confirm my suspicion that opposition to ssm is morally bankrupt.

        On that score, I don’t think either of us will mourn my own version of tu-quoue’ism. But when, for example, I learn that one effect of Obamacare is to shunt some workers to part-time status, my tendency is to write off those who point this out as concern trolls who really don’t care about less affluent people, even if 1) they’re right on the facts and 2) the person who relayed that information personally cares about the less well off. In that case, I think it’s a problem for me.Report

      • Avatar Johanna in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        To some extent, we have to do this, if only in self-defense. There are an awful lot of opinions and argumentscriminals out there, and we don’t have time and energy to consider them all carefully, so part of evaluating them is to consider the source.their race
        FTFY – Dangerous reasoningReport

  9. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    Jason, this is awesome.

    But just because I agree with this essay, does it mean I have to agree with all your essays?Report

  10. Avatar Alex Knapp
    Ignored
    says:

    Pedantic point. These aren’t the Dalai Lama’s views on homosexuality. I couldn’t actually find this alleged Vancouver Sun interview. But he’s said, on numerous occasion, that homosexuality is fine as long as it’s consensual. (Though in his teachings, chastity is considered ideal for everyone – both heterosexuals and homosexuals.)

    For example in 1994, when he did an interview with Out and said, “If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask ‘What is your companion’s opinion?’. If you both agree, then I think I would say, ‘If two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.'”

    And of course, Buddhism on the whole doesn’t really have a set of prescribed ethics and is much more content to go with the flow of culture on sexual matters.Report

  11. Avatar Alex Knapp
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s also worth mentioning that Tibetan Buddhism itself is pretty conservative on matters sexual, but it’s also among the most socially conservative branches of Buddhism generally. You’re not going to see Zen teachers, for example, teach against homosexual conduct. (Which in part has to do with its Japanese origins. Japanese culture was pretty freewheeling sexually until it was corrupted by contact with the West.)Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Is anyone else picturing someone’s arm coming off and small children screaming while Jeffrey Tambor bellows “And that’s why we don’t argue tu quoque!”Report

  13. Avatar Barry
    Ignored
    says:

    Jason K: “Messengers have nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of the argument itself. They don’t change the relationship, if any, between the words… and the facts of reality. Those statements are either true or false, and no amount of adultery can change that.”

    Let me put it this way: there’s an argument going on. One guy has been taking viewpoint/argument A, and has been 90% right. Another guy has been taking viewpoint/argument ~A, and has been 90% wrong. For the next iteration, whom do you believe? Perhaps reality is independent of the speaker, in a philosophical sense, but in a probabilistic sense, it’s not (i.e., the correlation between speakers and reality is not 0).

    Two recent and current examples are economic and climactic:

    1) We’ve seen Krugman’s opinion on the relationship between Fed policies + fiscal policies and inflation during the current crisis, vs. the opinion others let’s say represented – well, by every economists who predicted imminent high inflation. Now, if you were betting your house on inflation rates for the next year, who’s estimate is closer to reality? Krugman’s, or an inflation hawk? Please note that the financial markets are calling Krugman’s opinion as being worth many, many hundreds of billions of dollars better than, say, Alan Reynold’s opinion.

    The other is global warming – do you take a proven consensus of people who know what they’re talking about, or a bunch of people who are generally both ignorant and wrong?
    In terms of ad hominem, is it important that there’s a chunk of the second group who are funded by people who’s financial interests lie with deluding you about reality?Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Barry
      Ignored
      says:

      Another good example – take the guys who told us many, many, many things about Iraq, the easy war, massive stockpiles of WMD’s, links to Al Qaida. How do you weigh their judgement on intervening in Syria? If they promise a quick and easy war, do you believe them?

      If so, why? If not, why not?Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        None of these even come close to being relevant.

        You probably actually do agree with Domenici about 90% of moral issues. Random killing is wrong; theft is wrong; arson is wrong… all that stuff.

        But if I presented him to you and said “Here’s a guy who’s been 90% right” — would you assign a 90% likelihood to the next thing that comes out of his mouth, namely that homosexuality is wrong?

        You wouldn’t. So don’t pretend otherwise. You too have stacked the deck here.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          Jason, would you do me the courtesy of actually reading my post, understanding my argument, and replying to my argument?Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Barry
            Ignored
            says:

            In all sincerity, I thought I had.

            I presented you with someone who agrees with you 90% of the time, or very probably more.

            He agrees with you that random killing is bad. Like you, he’s against shoplifting. He frowns on the recreational arsonist. He thinks it’s awful to deliberately vomit on a stranger. He doesn’t like torturing puppies, and he won’t ever be caught in the company of someone who does.

            And so on and so on.

            His name is Pete Domenici. And he’s way, way more than 90% in agreement with you.

            By your own logic, you ought to give way, way more than 90% confidence to his arguments, just right off the bat, right?

            Well. One of his arguments is that homosexuality is always morally wrong.

            Why don’t you give equal weight?Report

        • Avatar Kimsie in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          Jason,
          I’m not concerned about the folks that I agree with on 90% of moral issues.
          I’m concerned about the people I disagree with on 90% of moral issues.
          At least the powerful ones.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        “take the guys who told us many, many, many things about Iraq, the easy war, massive stockpiles of WMD’s, links to Al Qaida. How do you weigh their judgement on intervening in Syria? ”

        See this is kind of interesting because the guys who would promise us a “quick and easy war” in Syria are *not* the guys who “told us many, many, many things about Iraq”.

        So I’m not sure what point you think you’re making here.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Jim Heffman
          Ignored
          says:

          Let me clarify. Take the list of people urging us to intervene in Syria, and see how many also supported the Iraq War. See what they told us about that war beforehand.

          Or rather, take the list, and see how many did not support the Iraq War. This will be a much shorter list. Possible the null set.

          My basic question on this list is (which Jason has apparently never encountered in philosophy, apparently), is should you treat the question of intervention in Syria as is it is an argument found in the desert, or as a used car offered for sale by people with a track record?Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Barry
            Ignored
            says:

            You should treat it as an argument that you found in the desert. As it were.

            That doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. On the contrary, one of the things that we do with tablets found in the desert is to compare them to past experience. If the tablets say “Invade Syria!” — well, we have some experience with things like that.

            It startles me that you and several others seem to think you have to resort to tu quoque to reject bad ideas. I certainly don’t.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki
              Ignored
              says:

              It startles me that you and several others seem to think you have to resort to tu quoque to reject bad ideas. I certainly don’t.

              Not really fair, but still an awesome riposte.Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                “That doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. On the contrary, one of the things that we do with tablets found in the desert is to compare them to past experience. If the tablets say “Invade Syria!” — well, we have some experience with things like that.

                It startles me that you and several others seem to think you have to resort to tu quoque to reject bad ideas. I certainly don’t.”

                “…well, we have some experience with things like that.”

                To me, that’s not treating it as an argument found in the desert; this is a large part of my position. Things and people have histories. Please note that we don’t have a history of ‘invading Syria’, and that ‘things like that’ is a major thing – what comparisons should we make?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Barry
                Ignored
                says:

                I mean that we have some (real-world, not ad hominem) experience with invading countries to reform them.

                We have noticed that that activity often has hidden costs. Those costs are independent of the person who makes the argument. And they are knowable not by personal character, but by observing reality.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jason Kuznicki
                Ignored
                says:

                So mentioning the fact that the same individuals who cheerleaded us into other wars – relying on unrealistic assertions and bald-faced lies – should be left on the cutting room floor?

                Is it really so wrong to say, “Let’s remember what ELSE this particular advocate has encouraged us to do?”Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                It is really, really wrong.

                Why? Because you’re never, ever actually being consistent about it. You’re only telling yourself that you are.

                Consider: Dick Cheney supported the Iraq War. He also supports same-sex marriage.

                Do you ever, even once, question same-sex marriage — because it’s supported by a dishonest warmonger like Cheney?

                No, you don’t. No one thinks that way. So don’t say that personal character enters into it. It never really does. It’s just a way for people to signal their biases, and to be lazy about arguing.

                This is not to say that I am either pro-war or anti-SSM. I am anti-war and pro-SSM. I just don’t think we should come to those conclusions based on who believes what. Only on why they believe it, and whether those reasons are any good.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                1. I question Dick Cheney’s “support” for gay marriage. I don’t believe he’s ever seriously championed it. I don’t believe he ever cast a vote on it. And we know he repeatedly endorsed a strategy of demonizing gays if meant getting re-elected.

                2. Being a warmonger and supporting gay marriage are separate issues, aren’t they? Are we forced to account for the entirety of one’s behavior when making an argument? I’ve think that we have to be specific when we invoke one’s behavior in argument.

                3. I continue to be baffled by us giving the benefit of the doubt to individuals whose advocacy has resulted in bad (catastrophic?) outcomes.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                The thing for me is that when you personalize the counter-argument against the messenger, it falls apart with a different messenger.

                Discredit Gingrich (please!), you still have to deal with Sam Brownback. Or Rick Santorum. Or the host of other critics of SSM who have not (yet) been found to cheat on their wives or get a divorce.

                The substance of the case for intervention in Libya didn’t change when Howard Dean speak out for it, instead of Hillary Clinton.

                And also, as you point out, the whole thing is so subject to selective prosecution that it renders it moot. As someone (Jaybird, I think?) previously pointed out the last time this came up, is AGW discredited because Al Gore flies around on a private jet? If not, why not?Report

              • Avatar Kimsie in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Will,
                An effective tu quoque is saying that the entire anti-GW was paid for by Exxon (as exxonsecrets details).

                Arguments from Authority are most prone to being punctured by tu quoque.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Kimmi, you can discredit an individual, or a study, but you can only really discredit a movement or an idea if you can discredit virtually every proponent of it.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Will is right, and his two most recent comments speak for me, I think.Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Jason, I think you’re employing a bit of a strawman argument here yourself. You keep saying things that lead me to believe that you believe you’re arguing against a position that says, “Smith is an asshole, therefore everything he says is wrong.” Nobody here is saying that.

                Take Cheney for instance. He has a lesbian daughter and it’s well known that having a gay friend or relative is a powerful inducement to a change of heart wrt SSM. But that says nothing about his credibility wrt issues of security and war.

                And credibility is huge issue when a leader advocates going to war. You and I don’t sit in on National Security Staff meetings. We aren’t privy to CIA and State department intelligence. And we shouldn’t be either. But that means that when the leader says we’re in immanent danger and have to go to war, we have little to go on other than that leader’s credibility when evaluating the truth value of the proposition.

                We’re talking politics here; not some sterile academic debate.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Will Truman,

                But I’m not proposing that such arguments be invoked in every imaginable situation against every imaginable opponent. I’m saying though that there are certain situations against certain opponents when it is relevant to point out the individual hypocrisy. Any situation involving Newt Gingrich is one of those times. He should be required to explain why he is making any claim to what marriage should be when he’s been married three times, divorced twice, and repeatedly been shown to cheat on his wife. We’re doing him a favor when we pretend – for no good reason – that he’s some sort of saint who hasn’t indicated through action his own disbelief in what he’s claiming.

                Would I make the same argument sitting in front of a social conservative who has been faithfully married? No. But that would be specific to that social conservative.

                (As for AGW, which is something Global Warming I think, we could at least look at the fact that Al Gore champion policies which would presumably affect his own life. I would argue that the social conservative movement only proposes to regulate the lives of others, not of their own. It’s why they target gays, for example, instead of straights.)Report

              • Avatar Kimsie in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Will,
                Yes, and that’s what that particular research did. Discredited via showing that there wasn’t a reputable scientist (in the particular field) who wasn’t being paid by Exxon (sometimes indirectly).

                So, a GOOD tu quoque is really hard to pull off.

                A slightly easier argument to pull off is “Dude, you’re aiding and abetting these other people’s express desire to do Evil… therefore you ought to abandon your argument.” (which, the more I think about it, is “your idea will have bad consequences, that I can predict, because powerful people on your side want XYZ”)

                Hmm… in some way that seems to matter to me, the intentionality of the consequences is important here. I think it has something to do with the actual creation/manipulation of the policy… [rotten apple is the best analogy I can think of: you’re all talking about how great these apples are… but all I can see is that they’re all rotten.]Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Jason, I think you’re employing a bit of a strawman argument here yourself. You keep saying things that lead me to believe that you believe you’re arguing against a position that says, “Smith is an asshole, therefore everything he says is wrong.” Nobody here is saying that.

                That’s not what I’m arguing against. Truth be told, I’m not exactly certain what I’m arguing against, but I know that that’s not it.

                A person who employed tu quoque as a consistent method of reasoning would have no choice but to devalue same-sex marriage at least a little bit after learning that Barney Frank was involved in some shady dealings with a male prostitute.

                Absolutely no one does this. I find that really weird, because at least some people claim to defend tu quoque.

                But it’s not a binary proposition. It’s not “I agree” versus “I disagree.” If it’s do be done with any consistency, it has to be a matter of weighting different opiners’ characters, with regard to the issue at hand. I don’t observe that kind of weighting, and that leaves me with only one other conclusion — people are cherry-picking.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Jason,

                Why I would be required to oppose gay marriage just because Barney Frank (not married) had visited a male prostitute. How does one follow the other? When an elected official cheats on his wife and then proposes to care deeply about the institution of marriage, we have an example of behavior which would seem to undermine the claim. When an unmarried gay man visits a male prostitute, I do not see how that has any relationship to gay marriage.Report

              • Avatar Kimsie in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Sam,
                if they really were just out to regulate other people, there wouldn’t be so much talk about gay marriage destroying straight marriage.

                Many, many conservative folks are in the closet — and they can’t stand to have the thought that other people are enjoying themselves more than they are.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Sam, I honestly didn’t have a problem with your post way-back-when until you basically tried to argue that Dominici’s actions basically discredited the movement. Discrediting Dominici, or Gingrich, that’s fair ball. Unless one of them is running for president, though, I think it’s a waste of time because it ultimately tells us very little about their arguments. Because those same arguments are being made by Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum. They haven’t gone away.

                With regard to Gore, that he theoretically pays a price for his advocated policies is not remarkably convincing as it pertains to his personal situation. Why? Because Gore can afford it (almost as rich as Romney, I hear). He may be willing to sacrifice some, but he’s not sacrificing what he is demanding of others.

                Which does nothing to discredit what he is actually saying. It mostly makes him a poor messenger for what “we” need to do. Because he’ll just pay the carbon tax and continue to fly on his jet, thankyouverymuch.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Why I would be required to oppose gay marriage just because Barney Frank (not married) had visited a male prostitute. How does one follow the other?

                You’re not required to oppose gay marriage. That is, you’re not required to go from 100% down to 0 in your confidence level on the question.

                But, by the terms you have advanced, you are most certainly required to decrease the amount that you agree with gay marriage — to some degree. You must become less confident. That’s because you have insisted, in the case of Domenici, that you judge arguments in part by their messengers.

                If you’re going to judge message by the messengers, then consistency demands that you do so equally for both sides — the side you like as well as the side you don’t.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Jason,

                I reject this entirely. What does a gay man’s visit to a male prostitute have to say about gay marriage. If I found out that a single Newt Gingrich had visited prostitutes, I wouldn’t hold that against him in a discussion about marriage; I would hold everything else I know about his behavior in marriages against him. Can you please explain to me how Barney Frank’s behavior is supposed to influence my view of gay marriage?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                I was going to ask “what does having sex with someone who isn’t one’s life partner have to do with gay marriage?” but I erased the comment as being risable and strawmanny.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                What does a gay man’s visit to a male prostitute have to say about gay marriage.

                You tell me, because I asked first: What does a straight man’s infidelity have to say about gay marriage?

                Personally, I think neither of them have any bearing on the question. Neither one of them causes to update my conclusions, neither to move the for/against toggle, nor to change my confidence level in my conclusion.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                It has to say that this man’s claims to value marriage are questionable at best, and that perhaps there is another thing that’s motivating his opposition to gay marriage. It isn’t about the marriage part; it’s about the gay part.

                I think people are less likely to support those opposed to gay marriage if the understanding of that opposition’s driver changes.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Sam,

                Because Barney Frank had a long-time committed partner at that time, a guy that he has actually married. Despite a commitment to this man serious enough to lead to marriage, Frank fished some prostitutes. Clearly his commitment to marriage suffers the same flaws as Domenici’s. So if we think Domenici’s failures show he’s not truly concerned with the institution of marriage, and so we can discount his position, it’s going to take a dodge to avoid also thinking that Frank’s failures show he’s not truly concerned with the institution of marriage and so we can also discount his position.

                Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander. Of course we can always wiggle around and try to save our hypothesis with some creatively self-serving distinctions (“Frank wasn’t actually married at the time!” An argument that my now wife surely wouldn’t have thought held water at the time we were just living together.)Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                James,

                Respectfully, I’d argue that the distinction does matter, and that holding Frank’s behavior against him when he wasn’t married isn’t comparable to holding Domenici’s behavior (or Gingrich’s behavior, or Vitter’s behavior, or Ensign’s behavior, or Craig’s behavior, or…) against him when he was married. Again, we can’t say that the institution of marriage is this vastly important thing that must be defended from gays and then say, “Well, being married and not being married is the same thing.” You CERTAINLY can’t make that argument if you’re socially conservative.

                That said, Jason has also (repeatedly) mentioned Gavin Newsome. He did cheat on his wife and advocate gay marriage. However, the distinction between Newsome and Domenici (or whomever else) seems obvious enough: one was proposing to defend the institution by keeping interested participants out while the other was proposing that the institution who allow those participants in. As somebody else said in one of our three threads about this, there is a difference between advocating for inclusive policy and advocating for exclusive policy, especially when the grounds for that exclusive policy don’t seem to match personal behavior.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                It has to say that this man’s claims to value marriage are questionable at best,

                I’ve been particularly bothered by this claim, separately from the Tu Quoque issue. It assumes we know not just his actions but his motivations and his internal beliefs. And I think that’s not supportable.

                People don’t always do what they believe is right. Humans are weak. Many alcoholics who fall off the wagon know they shouldn’t drink, firmly believe that the right thing–not just pragmatically, but morally–is to not drink. And yet they sometimes fail to follow their own normative values.

                I think it’s absolutely wrong to yell at my children. I think it does no good and a good deal of harm. And yet sometimes I lose my temper and the volume rises. Would it be fair to claim that I don’t really believe it’s wrong to yell at my kids?

                Maybe Domenici just finds gays icky and truly–internally–thinks the whole sanctity of marriage thing is a joke. But maybe he truly–internally–believes in the sanctity of marriage and despises himself for his own inability to live up to the standards he believes in.

                Domenici is a real live person, not merely a convenient trope. We don’t have to have sympathy for him, necessarily, but intellectual integrity requires not standing on the rightness of using him as a mere troop.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                James,

                I’ve said repeatedly that I disagree with your position. I don’t believe that what people claim to believe is accurate; I think that what people do is accurate. We can disagree about this – obviously we do – but I went to great lengths to make this distinction clear within what I wrote in defense of the tu quoque. Domenici might tell us that he made a terrible mistake, that he regrets everything, that he knew it was wrong at the time, but when it came time for him to make a decision, he had sex with the 23-year-old daughter of his co-worker. I think that decision to have sex has more to say about what he believed AT THAT TIME than whatever he wants to say after the fact.

                (Your alcoholic example is particularly close to my heart. Because right up until the day that I fell of the wagon, I was certain that I wanted to be sober. I would have told you the same thing. But that particular Sunday overwhelmed my thinking in one direction and I went in the other. I chose to drink though; there’s no sense in being dishonest about that, no matter how difficult it might be.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                Sam,

                You have not swayed me from my considered belief that the distinction is convenient, not principled.

                For one thing, you haven’t taken conservatives’ views toward long-term committed relationships seriously at all. Most, in my experience, would see infidelity in such a relationship as being very nearly as bad as infidelity in marriage. I suggest you ask a few. “So, Joe and Lisa aren’t married, but they’ve been living together as a committed couple for several years, and although they’re not officially engaged, they do think they’ll get married sometime in the future. Joe boinked a prostitute. Compared to a married man boinking a prostitute, how bad is Joe’s action?”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                . I don’t believe that what people claim to believe is accurate; I think that what people do is accurate.

                Your error–and I won’t agree to disagree because this is an empirical issue–is thinking it’s wholly one or the other. You’re committed now to claiming I don’t truly believe yelling at my daughters is wrong. You were kind enough not to say so, which is nice of you, but you have no choice now except to accept that claim and completely discount my statements about it.

                You’re engaging in binary thinking, and binary thinking is always wrong!Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                James,

                If you believed that it was wrong as you phrased it, you wouldn’t do it. My guess is that you believe that jumping off of cliffs is wrong; you don’t jump off of cliffs (please ignore if you have either never made that claim or if you do jump off cliffs).

                My guess is that your actual belief is more subtle: that you believe that yelling at your daughters is wrong except when you’re very angry, and that in those cases, it is permissible, and afterward, regrettable. Asking me to believe that you absolutely believe that yelling at your daughters is wrong when you (apparently, by your own admission) continue to do so? I find that impossible to believe as it is phrased.

                There are shades of gray that disappear when polarized statements are made. Politicians don’t say, “I believe we must defend marriage in regard to gay people but not in regard to the things that straight people do. Those things, while regrettable, are ultimately tolerable in a way that two men committing to one another is not.” Without that sort of subtlety in their comments – which they’ll never make because they’re politicians – we’re only left with the things that they HAVE said to pivot from.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                My guess is that your actual belief is more subtle: that you believe that yelling at your daughters is wrong except when you’re very angry, and that in those cases, it is permissible, and afterward, regrettable.

                I appreciate your honesty. But, knowing myself better than you, I have to say that is an astonishingly mind-boggling claim. Not just about me (and I’m not offended), but about humans in general.

                I’m sure philosophers or psychologists could say something more sophisticated about it than I can, but it really seems to me like you’ve not really pondered humans as a species very much. I’m not sure you’re actually describing homo sapiens as much as imposing a simplifying framework so you don’t have to bother trying to understand their maddening complexities.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s funny James, as I’d say the exact same thing about your position regarding actions versus words. I recognize that this is a difference between people. I recognize that there are those that believe that words tell us more than actions. I happen to disagree. But I’ve even gone so far as to say that the tu quoque fallacy accusation makes more sense to me when it comes from people who preference words to actions.

                As for judging what thought I’ve put into humanity, all I do is shrug. I believe that I’ve put my fair share into it; I recognize that you believe differently. World keeps turning either way.

                I can add, as I have elsewhere, that I also believe that human beings are rational creatures, but that we cannot understand their rationales. Does that make me even more frustrating?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s funny James, as I’d say the exact same thing about your position

                I’m not sure you have any choice-to say differently would, apparently, be to prove that you don’t actually hold these beliefs.

                I can add, as I have elsewhere, that I also believe that human beings are rational creatures, but that we cannot understand their rationales. Does that make me even more frustrating?

                I’d substitute puzzling for frustrating. And honestly, Sam, I don’t think anything you add could make you any more puzzling to me. I’m pretty sure our brains are wired really really differently.

                (As a student I noticed that some professors were very easy for me to follow, but some of my fellow-students couldn’t understand them. Other professors completely baffled me, but those same fellow-students understood them very well. I see the same thing among students now that I’m a teacher. Those fellow students and the teachers they liked have, I should note, been conclusively shown to be alien species.)Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                James,

                Pursuing this brain wiring issue: can you balance chemical equations? Because I can’t do that at all. And I believe that we have once argued about meatballs versus sausage in spaghetti?

                If it helps though, I am willing to acknowledge that we’re all wired very differently.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                I probably could balance chemical equations, if I took the time to study some chemistry. I have pretty good math ability (not great, and I had bad math education). I also hang out more with the natural/physical science folks at my college, than the humanities folks, because my thought processes mesh with the former better than with the latter.

                I have friends in the other camp, but I think they need to be (figuratively) encaged. For example we had a meeting last week about a negotiated change in our contract, and some who disliked it insisted that we needed to reject it and demand more. My argument that we could not possibly get more because we were not willing to either offer the administration something in return, nor willing to impose costs on them by doing action X.* They had a very hard time grokking this. Others there grokked it instantly.

                _____________________________
                *I don’t think it would be right to reveal what this is, since it was a closed discussion, but it was an action that we could take with absolute legitimacy, and that the administration has a very good reason for not wanting us to take.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m pretty sure we agreed on the spaghetti, though. Didn’t we say both beef and sausage? (And then discard the spaghetti.)Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson
                Ignored
                says:

                I prefer sausage, then meatballs. Also, I like mushrooms in there. As for beef in the sauce? I don’t go in that direction.

                And I love the pasta. Give me all of it.

                Now I’m hungry.Report

  14. Avatar Shazbot5
    Ignored
    says:

    What’s this about a two wookie argument.

    I knew about the Chewbacca defense, but not the two wookie argument.Report

  15. Avatar Shazbot5
    Ignored
    says:

    The named fallacies are just names for commonly occuring types of invalid argument.

    The issue should never be is the argument ad hominem or tu quoque or red herring. The issue should be whether the argument is valid or invalid.

    An argument is deductively invalid if you can imagine the premise(s) to be true and the conclusion to be false without logical contradiction. The argument is inductively invalid (inductively weak) if you can imagine at least one plausible (reasonably possible) situation where the premise(s) to be true and the conclusion to be false.

    It would help if Sam would put his argument in premise/conclusion format. If he does, I am pretty sure it will turn out to be not an inductively (nor deductively, obviously) valid argument.

    This is all there is to say on this issue.

    List the premises and conclusion. Check to see if you can plausibly imagine the premises true and the conclusion false. If you can do that, it is invalid amd it doesn’t matter what the criteria for tu quoque should be or whether there are valid tu quoque arguments.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Shazbot5
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree that this would do much to clarify.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, we need to see exactly what the argument is before we evaluate it. I suspect the argument will be invalid when stated as precisely as possible, but we need to see the argument’s exact conclusion and premise to be sure.

        Sam, can you state the premises and conclusion of your argument from the prior OP in as simple a form as possible?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5
          Ignored
          says:

          1. Arguing against the content of a claim rather than ridiculing the person who made it requires according that person the benefit of the doubt.

          2. In some cases, a consideration of some people’s past actions and words demonstrate that they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt on particular topics.

          3. Therefore, some people do not deserve to have the content of their claim rebutted but instead deserve to mercilessly ridiculed.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            Don’t we have to refer to Domenici in particular to reconstruct the argument from that OP?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5
              Ignored
              says:

              I thought Sam’s argument in that post was fully general and only specifically applied to Domenici. That is: Dom. engaged in prior behaviors (words and actions) that deprived him of benefit of the doubt wrt to current claims re: the marriage and etc.

              Sam of course is encouraged to correct me if I’m wrong.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5
              Ignored
              says:

              Or this:

              4. Pete Domenici engaged in past behaviors which deprive him of the benefit of the doubt wrt his current claims wrt marriage.

              5. Therefor, Pete Domenici can be mercilessly ridiculed.

              Actually, Sam didn’t say anything about ridiculing people. (I don’t think, anyway.) I threw that in to make this argument extra spicy.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Still,

                This passage seems to imply that the target of the original OP was to conclude something negative about social conservativism as an ideology based on the premise that there is something hyocritical about Domenici.

                “Still, one wonders what exactly it would take to devastate social conservatism. If the non-stop parade of hypocritical sinners hasn’t yet done the trick – and there are just so many of them – what exactly would it take to thoroughly discredit this utterly debased political philosophy?”

                It seems implicit that somehow the actions of Domenici (and others like him) are supposed to have “debased” (a bit of a weasel word here) an ideology that Domenici (and others like him) hold.

                I don’t know what debased means, but if it means annything like discredited or disproven, then that’s a clear tu quoque, and a clearly invalid argument.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot5
                Ignored
                says:

                That might be right. I don’t know, of course, since I am not Sam. I took as my point of reference the effort he put into clarifying the clarifying (on his view, mind) the relationship between benefit of the doubt and to quoque. In his view, it seems to me, the lack of benefit of the doubt is essential for the to quoque claim to have merit. Given that, I think he’s trying to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate instances of not giving a person the benefit of the doubt.

                None of that undermines lots of the exceptional comments people have made to rebut Sam’s argument. Many of those comments are spot on, in my view. But I think Sam was trying to argue something much narrower, and much more psychologically oriented, than people other people do. Personally, I think he’s right (if I’m right!) in thinking that there is a limit at which we just disregard people’s current views based on their past words and actions. They’re hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Wow. That comment’s a masterpiece of bad spelling and poor grammar. Sorry about that. Too much playoff hockey.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                ¥ou keep getting hit in the head by the puck?

                /Report

              • Avatar Sam in reply to Shazbot5
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m on a phone and can’t easily reply, but I’ll quickly say that the movement’s refusal to propose anything that punishes its own sinners in the way that preventing gay marriage punishes gays should be all the evidence we need that it isn’t a movement concerned with defending marriage; it is a movement concerned only with hurting gays legally.

                That said, I don’t want to be seen as ducking legitimate questions, but I’ll be away from easy response for a few days. Please don’t take that as being aloof, being disinterested, or anything other than an absence.

                Enjoy the weekend.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Sam
                Ignored
                says:

                Do you mean the political movement, i.e. groups like the Family Research council and NOM, or the ideology behind it?

                There is no doubt that there is a valid argument that many people in the gay marriage movement are hypocrites. So, it might be valid (if you had more than anecdote) to say the members of the movement are bad or hypocrites or something.

                But are you criticizing the ideology behind social conservativism and/or the claim that gay marriage is wrong?Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Shazbot3
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t see how the political movement can be disconnected from the ideas. The ideas don’t exist in a vacuum; without champions for them, they’d disappear into the depths of space.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            The argumentative form may be valid, but both 1 and 2 are disputable.

            Against 1:

            What is being doubted here? A persons’ sincerity vis a vis the claim? or some other X. What is it about the benefit of the doubt that makes it a necessary condition to engage with the content of the claim? Sincerity seems to have no relation to the strength of an argument. Sincerity may have something to do with whether we take that person to be an authority on a subject, but people rarely actually do that nowadays. But, if we are relying on the authority of someone we already have abandoned a critical examination of the content of the claim.

            Against 2:
            This relates what a benefit of the doubt is again. What are the things in virtue of which people deserve the benefit of the doubt? How do we know those are the bases of deserving such a benefit? In particular, does Domenici satisfy those requirements?Report

    • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Shazbot5
      Ignored
      says:

      Check to see if you can plausibly imagine the premises true and the conclusion false.

      America is the land of the free and the home of the brave

      :

      Report

  16. Avatar Rod Engelsman
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree with this, Jason. But I think the more interesting question is why does this type of argument seem more valid in certain instances than it actually is?

    I would posit that the reason is because it is being deployed against an argument that is itself invalid. The core argument being put forward by people like the Senator are that SSM somehow destroys the “sanctity” of marriage. Well what does that even mean exactly? And is that even an argument at all? Isn’t it really just a bald assertion of some vague species of harm? I have yet to see that “argument” advanced with evidence and reasoning without quite a lot of question-begging.

    Since the argument is advanced without any real evidence or logical development, it really just collapses to argument from authority. Mine. Cuz I said so; isn’t it obvious?

    In a case like that, there’s so little to stand on that a charge of hypocrisy is quite powerful. After all, he’s asking you to accept his authority for a statement when it isn’t even clear that he actually believes or embraces it himself.

    While it’s true that it would certainly be preferable to defeat the actual statement, when the statement itself is just an assertion, that’s very difficult. You’re put in the position of having to devise an essay-length response to a bumper-sticker slogan. It’s really the core of the problem liberals have debating conservatives; they’ve become quite adept at constructing simple, short slogans that are wrong but sound sorta right until you deconstruct them. But that deconstruction takes a lot of effort. It’s like deploying ABM tech.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Rod Engelsman
      Ignored
      says:

      +1Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Rod Engelsman
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s a good point, Rod. I also think that ssm is an argument about values as much as it is about what is true, although truth is a value. Perhaps debates over what or how we value something prove more susceptible to ad hominem argumentation. I still think it’s a bit of a sticky wicket, but I think I can understand the sentiment.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Rod Engelsman
      Ignored
      says:

      “Since the argument is advanced without any real evidence or logical development, it really just collapses to argument from authority. Mine. Cuz I said so; isn’t it obvious?

      In a case like that, there’s so little to stand on that a charge of hypocrisy is quite powerful. After all, he’s asking you to accept his authority for a statement when it isn’t even clear that he actually believes or embraces it himself.”

      I like this framing.Report

  17. Avatar ktward
    Ignored
    says:

    Newsom, of course, is a noted supporter of same-sex marriage. If you [Sam] are being consistent, then Newsom’s [hetero marriage] misconduct will incline you at least a little away from supporting same-sex marriage.

    Huh?

    There are plenty of hetero folks, including those with flawed marriages, who support SSM. Crikey, other than the delusional right-wing folks, I can’t imagine there are many hetero folks–married hetero folks–who hold any illusions about the “sanctity” of marriage vows as a literal, eternal thing. Shit sometimes happens, you deal with it as best you can.

    Heh. Clintons are still married, they support SSM rights, so there ya go.

    In terms of legislative/public policy advocacy, the veracity of said advocates matters. Hypocrisy matters because it is seriously discrediting. Is this really such a slippery concept to grasp?

    To my [admittedly feeble] mind, the Tu Quoque card works only when hypocrisy is demonstrably not a side-specific piece of the argument. Best immediate example I can think of is political corruption: Liberals/Dems are up in arms about VA’s current Guv McDonnell and wannabe Guv Cuccinelli (dudes’ve got 99 problems, no question), but there’s plenty of documented corruption among Dems too. (I’m a Chicago gal- I hold no illusions.)Report

  18. Avatar Rogue Economist
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve tried four times to accept Jaybird’s apology above and each time the reponse simply vanishes. I’m not even given notice that it is waiting moderation.

    Would someone kindly figure out what is wrong with the site that it rejects a post with the wording “Apology accepted” and fix it?Report

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