Con-on-Con Crime

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Whatever your opinions of John Derbyshire or the modern National Review, the conservative writer's review of Ramesh Ponnuru's The Party of Death is a must read. If you expected one NRO scribe to give a colleague a gloves-on treatment, you were wrong. Not even Silas got flogged this bad.

[The Right to Life Movement] is, really, just another species of Political Correctness, just another manifestation of the intellectual pathology, the hypertrophied and academical egalitarianism, the victimological scab-picking, the gaseous sentimentality. that has afflicted our civilization this past forty years. We have lost our innocence, traded it in for a passel of theorems. The RTL-ers are just another bunch of schoolmarms trying to boss us around and to diminish our liberties. Is it wrong to have concern for fetuses and for the vegetative, incapable, or incurable? Not at all. Do we need to do some hard thinking about the notion of personhood in a society with fast-advancing biological capabilities? We surely do. (And I think Party of Death contributes useful things to that discussion.) Should we let a cult of theologians, monks, scolds, grad-school debaters, logic-choppers, and schoolmarms tell us what to do with our wombs, or when we may give up the ghost, or when we should part with our loved ones? Absolutely not! Give me liberty, and give me death!

There's more where that came from.

NEXT: Constituent Service, New London-Style: Let the Evictions Begin!

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  1. Derb is Derb. He is not one of the other robots on NRO; love him or hate him, he’s his own man. Sometimes I’m shocked they keep him on.

    Even when I’ve completely disagreed with him, I’ve always found him interesting.

  2. Derb is easily the best writer in the whole NR line-up. I’m suprised they haven’t shown him the door yet too.

  3. I hardly ever look at NR, I just feel that what passes for conservatism today is just plain-old bullshit. However,

    “The RTL-ers are just another bunch of schoolmarms trying to boss us around and to diminish our liberties.”

    In one eloquent sentence Mr. Derbyshire has captured my thoughts on the “new” right’s right-to-life B.S., gay-marriage B.S., drug war B.S, evangelicalism in govt. B.S., nation-building B.S., property-seizing B.S. …

  4. Give me liberty, and give me death!

    That’s great! Too many people act like death is by definition the worst thing that could happen to anyone and should be prevented at all costs. I’m especially mystified when that viewpoint comes from “religious conservatives” who claim to be more at ease than “secular liberals” about the idea of death, as in the right to die debate.

    As for “party of death,” didn’t Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) once quip that his various political stances were united by the promotion of death? Was he alluding to Ponnuru’s work?

  5. John Derbyshire; the most self-loathing homosexual on the planet.

  6. I thought that was Andrew Sullivan, Warren.

  7. When will Derb be getting the boot like Sobran did?

  8. That’s funny. Just a couple of weeks ago Jon Stewart embarrassed Ramesh Ponnuru using extremely soft kid gloves a couple of weeks ago on the Daily Show. He did so by merely pointing out that books like The Party of Death only further degrade the already pathetic state of political discourse in this country. Ponnuru sunk in his chair like a kid who’s been caught beating off by his grandmother. John Derbyshire can surely catch more formidable foes of liberty in his crosshairs.

  9. That’s funny. Jon Stewart embarrassed Ramesh Ponnuru using extremely soft kid gloves a couple of weeks ago on the Daily Show. He did so by merely pointing out that books like The Party of Death only further degrade the already pathetic state of political discourse in this country. Ponnuru sunk in his chair like a kid who’s been caught beating off by his grandmother. John Derbyshire can surely catch more formidable foes of liberty in his crosshairs.

  10. We likewise feel that an adult woman?s life, even a few months of it, is worth more than that of a hardly-formed fetus…The life of a newly-formed embryo, or of a brain-damaged patient who has shown no trace of consciousness for fifteen years, is worth just as much as the life of a healthy adult, Ponnuru insists. Well, most of us instinctively but emphatically disagree, and no amount of argumentative ingenuity is likely to change our minds.

    No doubt, Confederate slaveholders felt just as emphatically that a black person couldn’t possibly be equal to a white person. Yet we (rightly) classify their deeply-held feelings as vile bigotry.

    It is one thing to go through life unaware of one’s instinctive prejudices; it is quite another to recognize them for what they are, and still cling to them. When he states that he will not abandon his feelings even if they are shown to be irrational, Derbyshire takes his place among the latter.

  11. I consider Derb to be the most lucid writer at that asylum they call NRO. But, I’m disappointed he didn’t work in a reference to buggery in that review.

    Or does the Barry Manilow reference count?

  12. Point well made, crimethink.

  13. I haven’t read NR since Florence King stopped writing The Misanthrope’s Corner so I had to actually go Google up this Derbyshire guy.

    His review, coupled with articles about him just goes to point up that, in my mind, the Republican party has been split unevenly between the mercantilist, empire-building Neo-con set and their lapdog idiot children among the religious right.

    Derbyshire’s disdain for Right To Life, Intelligent Design, and other Macguffins of the religious right strikes me as the sort of thing that most neo-cons believe, but don’t dare say, lest they alienate their set of slavishly religious, ballot-punching useful idiots.

  14. Cecil: In one eloquent sentence Mr. Derbyshire has captured my thoughts on the “new” right’s right-to-life B.S., gay-marriage B.S., drug war B.S, evangelicalism in govt. B.S., nation-building B.S., property-seizing B.S.

    Actually the property-seizing and drug war B.S. also infest the left’s agenda. Along with gun control, veganism, urban planning, Naderite protectionism, environmental terrorism, anti-tobacco/fast food/SUV/other “sins”, etc.

    A plague on both houses.

  15. No doubt, Confederate slaveholders felt just as emphatically that a black person couldn’t possibly be equal to a white person. Yet we (rightly) classify their deeply-held feelings as vile bigotry.

    Oh, don’t drag the whole Dredd Scott canard into this, please.

    The point that Derbyshire was making is that no matter what arguments are made by intellectuals, it is human feelings and perceptions that ultimately settle such matters. The capacity to personalize (and conversely depersonalize) other entities is not contingent on a complex set of objective criteria, and to pretend otherwise is an exercise in mental masturbation.

  16. Just when did “neo-con” cease to mean “someone who converted to conservatism”? Cause I don’t think The Derb was ever anything but a con.

    And why oh why do Reason’s servers continue to suck so mightily? Don’t those ads generate enough revenue to enable you to actually put up more than one comment in three that I send? (Please, no need to comment re desirability of same.)

  17. Even though he’s English, Derb is a classic New Hampshire style “don’t tread on me” conservative. He doesn’t put up with any nanny state bullshit, which is good, and he has a good nose for cant and false piety. On the down side he has the instinctive distrust of women, outsiders and weirdos which is also fairly typical of crusty New England libertarian style conservatives as well as “litle Englanders”, so he tends to be a little overheated on issues like immigration and gay marriage.

  18. The point that Derbyshire was making is that no matter what arguments are made by intellectuals, it is human feelings and perceptions that ultimately settle such matters. The capacity to personalize (and conversely depersonalize) other entities is not contingent on a complex set of objective criteria, and to pretend otherwise is an exercise in mental masturbation.

    I apprehended Derby’s point, and that’s one of the things I find so disturbing about his argument (which others have also made, many times).

    So, do you believe that whether you have human rights is dependent on your ability to evoke a favorable emotional response in me?

    If I care less about you than about people I know, people I can relate to more easily,* does that make you less human than they? Does this cause you to forfeit any human rights?

    Is this the way it should be? If not, shouldn’t people try to speak out against it?

    *Potentially this could mean, “People of a different race than my own,” if I’m a racist.

  19. Hey, crimethink! Think you could stop punching me for a minute? Or were you suggesting that day-old fetuses and black people are the same to a rational, disinterested observer?

  20. Good for Derbyshire.

    The of-course-we-favor-right-to-life rhetoric has been what has made NRO Online unreadable.

    That and, recently, that the site upgrade crashes Netscape 4.0, which makes the decision for you whether to read it.

  21. Ron Hardin,
    May I introduce you to Firefox 1.5. It may not make NRO more readable but it is a hell of a better browser.

  22. Personally, I regret every moment I’ve wasted reading about what Derbyshire thinks. I’ve found his writing to be matter of fact and without justification.

    …Help me understand, this blurb is supposed to be ingenious because of its subject matter?

    I think the people who support our “progressive” tax system are a bunch of shitheads. …Now where’s my Pulitzer?

  23. Hey, crimethink! Think you could stop punching me for a minute? Or were you suggesting that day-old fetuses and black people are the same to a rational, disinterested observer?

    If I may …

    The logical conclusions of a rational, disinterested observer don’t matter, it would seem. Their humanity is dependent upon the “feelings” they evoke in third parties. So Derbyshire argues. So AML points out.

  24. Straw Man,

    Stop hitting yourself. From Wikipedia:

    A straw man argument is a rhetorical technique based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “set up a straw man” or “set up a straw-man argument” is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent.

    What position did I attribute to Derbyshire? That he thinks his own instinctive, deeply-felt beliefs should trump any rational argument Ponnuru could offer.

    Well, most of us instinctively but emphatically disagree, and no amount of argumentative ingenuity is likely to change our minds.

    That is no straw-man. That is the real man.

  25. Stevo,

    You may. 🙂

    Also, Straw Man, who is this rational, disinterested observer? You? I’m sure that slave hunter considered himself rational, too.

    Fish don’t feel the water, and all of us walk through life carrying prejudices that we don’t even realize we have. Evolution (or ID if you prefer) produces reproducers, not reasoners.

    But when you catch a glimpse of an unreasonable prejudice in the midst of a rational argument, you break its neck like a rat, or you take your ball and go home.

  26. “…The point that Derbyshire was making is that no matter what arguments are made by intellectuals, it is human feelings and perceptions that ultimately settle such matters.” – AML

    I am consistantly amazed that so many libertarians can so readily accept such an argument that debases human rights in general so badly without considering the logical consequences of it, simply because it supports a position they like. Do you people think about what stuff means before you write it?

    Warren: Derbyshire is not homosexual. He’s English. There is a difference.

  27. Budgie, I saw that Ramesh Ponnuru interview. In fact, my wife made me watch it because she insisted I see what a nebbish he was. I was amazed, and it’s not just his size and fine soprano voice. The man had no force of personality whatsoever. If I didn’t know he had children I would suspect him not of being gay, but of being a eunuch. In his own best interest I would advise him to stick to print media.

  28. crimethink writes: “No doubt, Confederate slaveholders felt just as emphatically that a black person couldn’t possibly be equal to a white person. Yet we (rightly) classify their deeply-held feelings as vile bigotry.”

    So how high are you willing to raise taxes to pay for the high-tech bio-warehouses needed to keep all the comatose people alive for decades?

    Or do you think only accountants have the moral authority to make such decisions, while caring family members can go pound sand?

  29. On the down side he has the instinctive distrust of women, outsiders and weirdos which is also fairly typical of crusty New England libertarian style conservatives as well as “litle Englanders”, so he tends to be a little overheated on issues like immigration and gay marriage.

    I think I remember seeing Derb make a “what’s the big deal?” defense of Michael Jackson last year in a debate with Jonah Goldberg, and you can’t get a whole lot weirder than Jacko. My two cents is that old age is making Derb shift from being a paleocon mouth-breather to a Fred Reed-type paleocon curmudgeon who may still be a social conservative in principle, but can’t get worked up over them when compared with the nanny state issues that actually affect his life. Which, combined with a Mencken-like distrust of the crusading mindset that so many self-described social conservatives now possess, puts him at odds with the religious right.

  30. property-seizing B.S. …

    What part of the country is that going on in???

    last i checked in the west it is the conservatives who are pushing for property rights…they have alot of BS but i don’t think that is one of them.

  31. I am consistantly amazed that so many libertarians can so readily accept such an argument that debases human rights in general so badly without considering the logical consequences of it, simply because it supports a position they like.

    It’s not the situation I created or chose. It’s the situation that IS. When you recognize your wife (or husband or significant other, what have you), you don’t look at the individual and say “Hmm, blue-grey eyes, 8 cm apart, brown hair with blonde highlights, black plastic glasses…etc, etc. and then deduce: Hey! That’s my wife.

    You see, and you recognize. No concious effort, no deduction. We do the same thing when it comes to recognizing personhood. We look at another entity, and either recognize it as a person, or we do not. And we don’t always agree, and not just over fetuses. Some people look at their dogs and see persons, whereas you or I might just see a dog. A soldier in the field might look at a fellow human being, and then shoot him without a thought. Even pro-life supporters, while claiming the personhood of embryos, don’t act in ways that show they viscerally acknowledge the personhood of a gastrula.

    I used to like playing playing intellectual games defining personhood when I was back in undergrad. Subsequently, it’s become clear to me that there are simply too many grey areas for a strict line to be drawn. In fact, I now consider such strict lines dangerous, since they will inevitably “depersonalize” entitities falling in the grey area as much as they will “personalize” others.

  32. “In fact, I now consider such strict lines dangerous, since they will inevitably “depersonalize” entitities falling in the grey area as much as they will “personalize” others.”- AML

    Strict lines are required in the law and the concept of rights They do not function properly without bright lines, lest the “grey areas” encompass all and dehumanize all.

    “We look at another entity, and either recognize it as a person, or we do not. And we don’t always agree, and not just over fetuses.”

    Fine, people can disagree on these matters. Still, the law must have a standard. The question is: Whose standard prevails, and why? Make no mistake, a standard must prevail. Such a standard can only be justly arrived at by the application of reason and logic, not feelings. Human rights can have no real meaning when based on subjective whims.

  33. “Still, the law must have a standard. The question is: Whose standard prevails, and why? Make no mistake, a standard must prevail. Such a standard can only be justly arrived at by the application of reason and logic, not feelings. Human rights can have no real meaning when based on subjective whims. ”

    It makes a mockery of human rights when a person’s loved ones cannot make life and death decisions about them, but an insurance company’s accountants can.

    For all the pro-life rhetoric, the only line that is sacrosanct is the bottom line.

  34. “Also, Straw Man, who is this rational, disinterested observer? You? I’m sure that slave hunter considered himself rational, too.”

    Ah, so because it’s possible to think yourself reasonable and be wrong, we should toss reason out the window and leap into the flames of a burning fertility clinic to save zygotes.

    Sorry, no dice. Comparing slaves to unfeeling, unthinking cells is deeply insulting. To try and use the suffering of someone to try inspire bizarre treatment of something that is incapable of suffering is the height of unreason.

  35. Derbyshire is not homosexual. He’s English. There is a difference.
    MJ,
    Are you sure?
    I thought that the Small Faces & Paul Weller were the only certain exceptions to that rule?

  36. Stevo Darkly,

    So, do you believe that whether you have human rights is dependent on your ability to evoke a favorable emotional response in me?

    Absolutely. Indeed, in a way, that is much of what Enlightenment thinkers concluded, for example, Adam Smith.

    crimethink,

    But when you catch a glimpse of an unreasonable prejudice in the midst of a rational argument, you break its neck like a rat, or you take your ball and go home.

    Given your numerous statements today regarging biases, etc., how could you possibily conclude that it is an “unreasonable prejudice?”

    As to the effort to equate a fetus with a human slave (why you focus on slavery in the American South is beyond me), it begs the question: is a fetus comparable to a birthed baby, adult human, etc.? IMHO, given what you have written about biases (and your nasty attacks on those who view evolution as a truthful narrative of how life developed on Earth) you cannot answer that question objectively.

  37. “Actually the property-seizing and drug war B.S. also infest the left’s agenda. Along with gun control, veganism, urban planning, Naderite protectionism, environmental terrorism, anti-tobacco/fast food/SUV/other “sins”, etc.”

    Veganism? You could have a *libertarian* agenda and still be a vegan. You could also prefer cycling or driving small cars, or avoiding fast foods. It’s only when these became legal issues are they part of the Left’s agenda, but so far I haven’t seen any push to make veganism the law of the land (admittedly though the push to sue fast food makers is a worrisome p.c. development on the Left…definitely don’t want the state to tell us what to put in our bodies…oops, I guess they already do).

  38. crimethink,

    Whose standard prevails, and why?

    That of the society. Because that is the standard which evolved.

    Ask yourself a question. Why was it that for most of human history slavery as an institution was not even a blip on the moral radar of most of people,* and certainly not on the radar of either religious thinkers or philosophers?* Because there is no “objective” moral standard in the sense that you wish to exist (one from God), that’s why. Now, if there were an “objective” moral standard in the sense that you wish there to be, well, wouldn’t your Christ have been preaching against slavery as an institution on the Sea of Galilee? Indeed, wouldn’t your Church have been in the forefront against slavery as an institution from its start in the 4th century CE?

    Where do human rights come from? They come from humans and human-made standards based on experience. What we have that is “objective” about such things is our experience and our thinking about such things; just as our experience and our thinking about quasars is “objective.”

    *David Brion Davis has conclusively demonstrated this point.

  39. Well, there’s an ethical strand that runs through all (or most) of the world’s religions – don’t steal, don’t commit violence, etc. So, there’s something approaching an objective moral standard that human beings are given (or that possibly involved some trial and error experimentation). The problem for most of history was applying these standards to the other, to other tribes, to expanding the circle of what exactly humans are. Since many tribes did not think of other tribes as being fully human, these fairly objective (at least ubiquitous) standards took a long time to get applied universally to all groups.

    Having said that, it isn’t necessarily an accurate analogy, or moral progress, to suggest that because we now consider all races to be equally human with rights to personhood, then it follows that fetuses should be granted these same rights as well. It’s like saying that sexism and racism are exactly the same when there are some limited circumstances that might make sense to allow discrimination against women (not being allowed into a male lockeroom) that wouldn’t apply in the case of race.

  40. You guys are pretty impressive.
    Let’s see:

    Ramesh Ponnuru: “If I didn’t know he had children I would suspect him not of being gay, but of being a eunuch.”

    Derb: Gay/english

    Way to take this stuff seriously

    Seriously. This bewilderment with right to life stuff actually points out some of the more serious flaws of “pure” libertarianism.

    One of the reasons that a lot of people think that libertarians are wild-eyed nuts is that libertarian principles are great for full-grown, healthy, sane people, but, for those without the autonomy we all prefer, there seem to be some problems. One of Derb’s colleagues described it thus: “I’m not libertarian because I care what happens to other people’s children”
    Granted, he’ll be the first to admit that “for the children” is the first refuge of the tyrant, but libertarianism does have a problem when explaining how to deal with people that are unable, for whatever reason, to rationally look after their own interests.
    I don’t really subscribe the full RTL argument, but they make a point that an aborted fetus at one point had a pretty good chance of being a full “rights-bearing” person, and it’s fairly difficult to determine when the best point to begin protecting those rights is.
    Libertarians need to address this to be taken seriously, as we’ll always have:
    Fetuses
    Infants
    Toddlers
    Children
    The insane
    criminals
    the severely brain-damaged
    the senile
    and the decrepit
    The liberty and rights of all of these depend in some way on the rest of us, and in most cases are curtailed to some extent. So far I have yet to see anything terribly coherent from libertarians about this.

  41. midbrow- Sex segregated locker/changing rooms are just another product of the repressive patriarchy, man!

    So much for seriousness!

  42. Derb is a modern day eugenicist who has no place in today’s conservative movement.

    One thing I know for sure, I’d rather live in a society governed by the principles respected by Ponnuru than have those like Derbyshire deciding when my life had lost its worth.

  43. Fine, people can disagree on these matters. Still, the law must have a standard. The question is: Whose standard prevails, and why? Make no mistake, a standard must prevail. Such a standard can only be justly arrived at by the application of reason and logic, not feelings. Human rights can have no real meaning when based on subjective whims.

    So you would argue that bureaucracy is a better arbiter of what is a person and what is not? This would be the bureaucracy that enshrined slavery for millenia, killed millions of German and Polish Jews, and now, in my own country, wants to write bigotry against homosexuals into the highest law of the land?

    If you want objective standards, the law is not the place to go. I would argue that, as I discovered, there is no place to go. You would hope, perhaps, for the existance of some wise Philsopher King with a direct conduit to God to make perfect laws, but we’ve been down that road, and know where it goes.

    Perhaps I haven’t been clear before, so I’ll try saying things simply. NO ONE DERIVED HUMAN RIGHTS FROM OBJECTIVE PRINCIPLES. It’s there in the US declaration of independance – “we hold these truths to be _self evident_.” There’s not ojbective proof that happiness is better than sadness, pleasure better than pain. These may be treated as first principles from which deductions are made, but they are, themselves, unprovable. A priori. Subjective perceptions – but shared ones.

    Likewise, when it comes to percieving the personhood of others. Like recognizing your wife, it’s evident without deduction or reasoning. Eichmann (in the news again), when he took the stand, never said “Hey, I didn’t know that the Jews I ‘transported’ were were PERSONS.” If he had, such a claim would have been treated as a spurious insult to the court. You think that things would disintegrate without a standard, but we haven’t needed on yet. Any sucessful murder defenses that you know of where the defendent argued that the victim was not a person? We have a subjective – but shared – perception of the personhood of others. It serves us well 99.9999% of the time, but sometimes, we disagree.

    I am uncomfortable with laws drawing firm lines through these grey areas, because when you become dependent on the law to arbitrate who is and who is not a person, you open yourself up to atrocity, as has happened many times in the past. Nature has given us an awareness, imperfect, but damned close to it. And, as Nietzsche said, “What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.”

  44. AML
    “I am uncomfortable with laws drawing firm lines through these grey areas, because when you become dependent on the law to arbitrate who is and who is not a person, you open yourself up to atrocity,…”

    Fair enough mon frere.

    But what is so grey about a clump of cells stuck in a uterous?

    Is the line ‘unborn’ and ‘born’ so problematic in reality?

    i think the person with the clump of cells IN them has first say on the matter in any case.

    Ignoring derb’s argument… is the idea of abortion one you actually find ‘problematic’ or not? Leave the armchair philospher thing aside for the time being.

    and FWIW, what do you mean by ‘firm’ lines? these lines have been changing since they were ever drawn…usually as a consequnce of better science and better common understanding.

    JG

  45. Say,

    What about aborted slaves? Doesn’t anybody care about them?

    Any way I thought it was the mother who did the labor. The mother is the slave. Shouldn’t slavery at least be voluntary?

  46. The “slavery” of pregnancy is voluntary, unless the woman was raped.

    How about we draw the line at complex brain wave activity? We use it as a marker for the end of life. Why not use it for the beginning?

  47. Bill — higher brain function seems a reasonable standard. I’m not sure how easy it would be to measure on a fetus that’s inside someone else. Also though, eveb if that standard could be useful for deciding on personhood at a given time, it doesn’t get rid of the dilemma over potential personhood being denied to a potential person.

    As for whether conservatives would accept it, I don’t even think the discussion would get to the question of potentiality. The lack of higher brain function in Terri Schaivo didn’t stop plenty of people from trying to keep her heart beating. After all, anyone who says “life”* begins at conception certainly knows that higher brain function isn’t going on at that point, and even people with less extreme stances on personhood are unlikely to feel tied down by that standard when determining personhood.

    * “Life begins at conception” is an odd statement in that the egg and sperm were already alive before they united.

  48. Kwix,
    May I introduce you to Firefox 1.5. It may not make NRO more readable but it is a hell of a better browser.

    Not likely to work on my win95 machine. State of the art in 1995.

    It has, however, a real Korn shell that makes it incredibly useful to keep.

  49. “If it is ridiculous to attack first principles, it is more ridiculous to defend them against these same attacks.” –Lautreamont

  50. The “bright line” unfortunately is ordinary usage, which provides insight that’s quickly abstracted away, as if it couldn’t matter compared to a theory of everything.

    Very hard to tease out what words mean, but worth the effort, if you’re of a certain philosophical mindset, say that of a Wittgenstein or Stanley Cavell or even Derrida (the latter being superficially, at least, hostile to the former two, owing to philosophical traditions).

    Short result : the soul has to do with making a connection between people, where it operates in reaction to the idea “has a body,” the body being what isolates people. The soul fills a grammatical gap. (Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p., oh, say, 411.)

    So do not look at the fetus to find a human soul, but rather at, say, parents, at that point.

    A nice bright line is the birth event, since it’s arbitrary, but also the point when complete strangers think cuteness is obvious and a relation to the child is produced all over the place.

    I myself think you don’t actually get a full human until about age 35.

  51. “So you would argue that bureaucracy is a better arbiter of what is a person and what is not?” – AML

    Also from the Declaration: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” I’m arguing it’s what we have, not that it is perfect. No human institution is perfect, and to argue against the functioning of a necessary institution because of it’s inherent human imperfections is childish at best. Frankly, I’m also arguing that the atrocities of the past happened because so many human beings fell into “grey areas” in the past. That spread of a universal concept of the rights of man is a result of the shrinkage of the “grey areas”, not their maintenance. This shrinkage has largely occurred because of the application of reason and logic to the moral question of what constitutes a person whose rights must be defended.

    “Any sucessful murder defenses that you know of where the defendent argued that the victim was not a person?”

    No. I am not sure what your point is here though. Any attempt to make such an argument would be laughed out of court as the law does have a standard, and it is not arguable.

    I find that people who argue for “grey areas” in such matters generally are trying to put blinders on themselves and society, because they wish to ignore a truth which inconviences them.

    “Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal.”
    -Leo Tolstoy

  52. plunge,

    I’m hardly throwing reason out the window; indeed, I’m defending rational argument against Derbyshire’s insistence that his feelings are more important than reason.

    PL,

    Dude, you’re (again) arguing with the crimethink in your head. I believe evolution occurred. True, I have at times criticized those who hold it as a dogma that cannot be questioned (ie, Cathy Young last week condemning a magazine for daring to question evolution).

  53. Also, PL, saying that my argument is wrong because I attacked evolutionists is an ad hominem.

  54. To rephrase my analogy, the prosecutors of Galileo no doubt deeply felt that the heavenly bodies moved, not the earth. Does that give them an excuse for refusing to consider the possibility that their feelings were wrong?

  55. Hak should change to Philologische Gesellschaft or maybe back to Hak.

    I keep reading responses to his comments and thinking that Pro Libertate has gone round the bend.

    Crimethink, I am not sure we have really interacted, but I am liking your comments on this thread. Like Sobran likes to say, the fashion of your times is always invisible. Like I kike to say: know and respect what you don’t know.

  56. Hak should change to Philologische Gesellschaft or maybe back to Hak.

    I keep reading responses to his comments and thinking that Pro Libertate has gone round the bend.

    Crimethink, I am not sure we have really interacted, but I am liking your comments on this thread. Like Sobran likes to say, the fashion of your times is always invisible. Like I like to say: know and respect what you don’t know.

  57. crimethink,

    I believe evolution occurred.

    And that doesn’t really matter.

    Also, PL, saying that my argument is wrong because I attacked evolutionists is an ad hominem.

    That isn’t my argument at all. My argument is that you claim bias in all things except your own thoughts. Again, how could you possibly make any sort of moral claim about the status of a fetus or an embryo given your statements on the biases of others? You can’t. Your attack on the biases of evolutionists is merely an example of how you undermine your own arguments.

    Dave W.,

    Go suck on some corn syrup.

  58. crimethink,

    In other words, you cannot possibly say with any justification what you wrote; that is that someone has an “unreasonable prejudice.” Unreasonable in comparison to what?

  59. crimethink,

    To rephrase my analogy, the prosecutors of Galileo no doubt deeply felt that the heavenly bodies moved, not the earth. Does that give them an excuse for refusing to consider the possibility that their feelings were wrong?

    To your Church it does (see the various defenses of its actions even to this day). Of course a better question would have been to ask about your Church’s copious defenses of slavery (given the kick you’ve been on about slavery). And note, I really didn’t debate this position either way. I have contested your attack on the biases of others and how it fits with your power or ability to determine whether someone has an “unreasonable prejudice.”

  60. “One of the reasons that a lot of people think that libertarians are wild-eyed nuts is that libertarian principles are great for full-grown, healthy, sane people, but, for those without the autonomy we all prefer, there seem to be some problems.”

    Perhaps. I think “a lot of” people think that libertarians are wild-eyed nuts because to some extent that’s what they want to believe about people that disagree with them. After all, a lot of liberals think that conservatives are wild-eyed nuts and a lot of conservatives think the same thing about liberals. In each group there are enough prominent nuts for confirmation bias to yield the result that reinforces the observer’s belief that he is sane, rational and caring and people who disagree with him aren’t.

    Confirmation bias is tricky, especially when you add people’s propensity to trust the judgment of their friends, even though friendship itself may be correlated with particular biases. Furthermore, when friends disagree, they may do so less forcefully, since disagreement is often conflated with antagonism.

    If you want to see libertarians who recognize that some issues are inherently difficult-if not impossible-to resolve purely by libertarian principles, open your eyes. OTOH, if you want to see libertarians who believe that their viewpoint is the only true libertarian one even for some of the tricky issues, they’re probably easier to find.

  61. To your Church it does (see the various defenses of its actions even to this day).

    ad hominem

    Of course a better question would have been to ask about your Church’s copious defenses of slavery (given the kick you’ve been on about slavery).

    red herring

  62. My argument is that you claim bias in all things except your own thoughts. Again, how could you possibly make any sort of moral claim about the status of a fetus or an embryo given your statements on the biases of others?

    I never claimed to be an unbiased observer. None of us are, and the best any of us can do is to think rationally as best as we can, and root out any prejudice that we discover in our reasoning.

    My problem with Derbyshire is that he states that he will cling to his instinctive feeling that fetuses are not persons, even if it is shown to be irrational.

  63. Dave W,

    Thank you for the admiration. Actually, we did interact a bit in one of the 9/11 conspiracy theory threads. I’m still a fan of the remote control one…

  64. “So, do you believe that whether you have human rights is dependent on your ability to evoke a favorable emotional response in me?”

    Absolutely. Indeed, in a way, that is much of what Enlightenment thinkers concluded, for example, Adam Smith.

    That kind of argument from authority doesn’t usually convince me. All kinds of very smart people have been wrong about something.

    Having human rights is an intrinsic property of being human. Otherwise, the very concept of “human rights” is meaningless.

    An intrinsic property is not dependent upon the perceptions and feelings of other external entities. It’s not like I look at you and say, “You are a human being with human rights” and that this somehow infuses you with a humanity that you lacked before. It’s just that I recognized it.

    You may be speaking of the recognition of human rights, which does depend on others around you. But having human rights, and having them recognized, are two different things. A black slave in 1860 was human, and had rights, whether or not the society around him recognized this.

    Derbyshire argues that whether or not you can logically argue that certain beings have rights, he will, because of his emotional predisposition, refuse to recognize them. That’s fucking ridiculous. Nay, fucking evil.

  65. crimethink,

    I never claimed to be an unbiased observer.

    Even if that is the case, that still doesn’t lend heft to your cause.

    fallacybot,

    …ad hominem…

    It isn’t an ad hominem if the point is to attack the very basis upon which crimethink, well, thinks.

    …red herring…

    Not so either. crimethink has been discussing slavery, and more to the point, it is again a way to attack the basis upon which crimethink thinks.

  66. Stevo Darkly,

    Having human rights is an intrinsic property of being human. Otherwise, the very concept of “human rights” is meaningless.

    That is circular reasoning.

    It’s just that I recognized it.

    You only recognize it because our culture has come to recognize such things. I mean, there is a reason why people had to argue in favor of the abolition of slavery.

  67. Stevo Darkly,

    An intrinsic property is not dependent upon the perceptions and feelings of other external entities.

    This begs the question: is it an intrinsic property? Can you demonstrate that it is intrinsic? How are you going to do that? Or are you simply going to shift the locus of debate and state that it comes from God (which is really no answer)?

  68. PL,

    Here’s a good test for identifying ad hominems: would you have been able to launch that attack if I had posted under a different name?

  69. crimethink,

    Given that sort of argument, any statement which speaks directly to a person’s positions is an ad hominem attack. That is known as the fallacy of overinclusive definition.

  70. For those of you who are intersted I’ve linked the conversation here about human rights to a new topic at David’s joint: http://grylliade.org/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=921

  71. “Having human rights is an intrinsic property of being human. Otherwise, the very concept of “human rights” is meaningless.”

    That is circular reasoning.

    No, it’s basic logic. What else can “human rights” be, except the rights that human have? If human beings have rights that dogs, cats and other non-human entities don’t have, what would you call those rights?

    It’s just that I recognized it.

    You only recognize it [an entity’s humanity, or possession of human rights] because our culture has come to recognize such things.

    Maybe, but you are still talking about an external party recognizing a quality in an entity rather than that entity possessing the quality. What are you fixated on that distraction? Having a quality is primary; other people’s recognition of that quality is secondary.

    I mean, there is a reason why people had to argue in favor of the abolition of slavery.

    Actually, that example demonstrates that an entity’s humanity is independent of whether a culture recognizes it or not. When the consensus of the culture failed to recognize that slavery violated a human being’s rights, nevertheless some individuals were still capable of perceiving the humanity of a slave.

    Where did the insight of those first anti-slavery individuals come from? It couldn’t have come from their culture, which in general did not see slaves as having human rights. The anti-slavery folks must have been able to perceive a quality in the slaves that most of the rest of their culture didn’t. They were able to perceive that quality because it intrinsically existed in the slaves, even before anybody perceived it.

    “An intrinsic property is not dependent upon the perceptions and feelings of other external entities.”

    This begs the question: is it an intrinsic property? Can you demonstrate that it is intrinsic? How are you going to do that? Or are you simply going to shift the locus of debate and state that it comes from God (which is really no answer)?

    I never have “reasoned” that way — “state that it comes from God” — and I’m not going to start now.

    I am not talking about specific intrinsic properties. I am talking about what an intrinsic property in general is. It is a property that an entity would possess, regardless of whether other entities exist. This is basic definitions stuff. I feel like we’re arguing about the definitions of “a,” “the,” and “is.” These are the basic assumptions from which logic proceeds.

  72. PhiLip, I apologize if the tone of some of the previous note was a little, er, petulant. I’m just a little frustrated. Not at you really. But defining the basic terms that usually precede definitions is very difficult. And it’s getting to be a busy day.

  73. Stevo Darkly,

    No, it’s basic logic. What else can “human rights” be, except the rights that human have?

    But this makes the leap that rights must be intrinsic; and thus the circular logic. You are basically telling me that rights are intrinsic because rights are intrinsic.

    Maybe, but you are still talking about an external party recognizing a quality in an entity rather than that entity possessing the quality.

    You know, until that external party recognizes such, it doesn’t really matter whether they are intrinsic or not. Since you cannot possibly prove that they are intrinsic, yours is the real distraction.

    When the consensus of the culture failed to recognize that slavery violated a human being’s rights, nevertheless some individuals were still capable of perceiving the humanity of a slave.

    This is some rather odd reasoning and doesn’t demonstrate your point any more than a claim by me that invisible cows exist. If I fought long and hard and made a majority of people believe that invisible cows exist, would that really mean that they exist? And would the fact that I had to fight long and hard and held an opinion contrary to that of society, would that mean that invisible cows exist? No.

    Where did the insight of those first anti-slavery individuals come from?

    From murder, death, warfare, persecution, etc. In other words, experience.

    It couldn’t have come from their culture, which in general did not see slaves as having human rights.

    It came directly from the culture actually.

  74. Stevo Darkly,

    I am not talking about specific intrinsic properties.

    You were before.

    It is a property that an entity would possess, regardless of whether other entities exist.

    So? I’m really not having an argument with you about what the definition of “intrinsic” is. I am asking you to defend a specific claim about humans having this quality that you claim that they have.

  75. Stevo Darkly,

    Or let me put it in a different frame of reference: I do not believe that such a thing as natural human sociability exists (not in the Pufendorf sense at least). Human sociability is created via “contract” (in this case, the human societies that we create). Since that is the case, why should one (as a pragmatic matter) even be concerned about claims concerning intrinsic human rights when they can’t be demonstrated?

  76. Real Bill,

    You are conflating voluntary sex with voluntary pregnancy.

    There is a connection (most of the time) but, they are not the same.

  77. Reason is less than 10% of human thought and experience. Reason is an overlay not a fundamental.

    I say this as a person who makes his living with reason. ( Computers/software/hardware etc. )

    When a politician wants to win an election does he resort to reason or emotion?

    I think there is a clue here as to why Libs are mostly unelectable.

    As a Mathematician Derb is great in saying that for some questions reason is not the proper tool.

  78. Given that sort of argument, any statement which speaks directly to a person’s positions is an ad hominem attack. That is known as the fallacy of overinclusive definition.

    And that is known as bullshit. So, if Joe Blow had posted my arguments, you would have nothing to say against them — but because you know about my religion, you can sidestep my argument and attack my faith instead?

  79. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    If rights are not intrinsic, then they must be extrinsic – that is, applied to an individual by an external power or authority. If this authority can apply rights to an individual, then it stands to reason that this same authority could un-apply them.

    But this is absurd. In what sense can something be called a “right” if it can be stripped away by some authority? Such is not a “right”, but a “privilege.”

    Therefore, we should say that all rights are necessarily intrinsic. If they were extrinsic, then they would not be rights at all, but priveleges.

    Stevo Darkly was therefore correct to say that human rights are intrinsic rights. (Although the formulation is redundant. “Rights” are necessarily intrinsic, so there is no need to specify that fact.)

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