Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Difference between being coherent and being right

Is something that a lot of Republicans seem to not understand. Just look at the titles of a few books that have come out, "If Democrats had any brains they'd be Republicans" by Ann Coulter and "Liberalism is a mental disorder" by Michael Savage. What titles of books like these indicate is a confusion between having an argument supported by facts that you disagree with and having an argument that you disagree with be fatally flawed in an obvious way.

The assumption there is that if your mind isn't clouded by stupidity or by a mental disorder that looking at the bare facts you'll just see that the Republican point of view is inherently right. No need to ask "why?", no need to formulate reasons and arguments for those reasons. This is a classic philosophical fallacy, where what's true is assumed to be what's honest, where you assume that your point of view is right and that if someone else disagrees with you that they've made some sort of egregious error somewhere along the line. If they hadn't made that error they would naturally agree with you. This discounts the possibility that someone can disagree with you based on a logical thought out argument based on facts. In that case there would be no fundamental error in argument and you'd still have two competing versions of the truth, forcing your opponent to justify his or her position. That's what real dialogue and discussion is about.

Kind of like "We hold these truths to be self evident". Really? That mid 18th century Enlightenment philosophy is so right that it's rightness if self evident to unprejudiced eyes? That it just pops out at you?

All of this is an evasion from having to justify points, because if you put things in a perspective where all disagreement with you is based on stupidity, mental illness, or in some cases severe character flaws---like is often the case with the Right's portrayal of Hollywood liberals---you don't have to prove yourself. If you interview ten mental patients that happen to be liberal in some way and act like there aren't any liberals outside of an asylum it becomes very easy to say that all sane people are non liberals.

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