Friday, January 22, 2016

Closing Statement to Cory

On the Picture-Text

Recall my initial complaint regarding the photograph that Angie posted. After you tagged me, I wrote:

“…I cannot understand how anyone trained in philosophy could see anything of interest in it.”

I gave two reasons.

Number one, I pointed out “that there is nothing provided by way of explanation or context (Who is the man? Is the image staged? Has it been "Photoshopped"? Etc.)…”. Now, I take it that most of what you have written has been an attempt – imaginative, I confess – on your part to provide the missing “explanation” and “context.” I will appraise your effort, momentarily.

But, number two, “I observe[d] that [the picture-text is] just comprised of an assertion (the sentence beginning with ‘This is not...’) and an ad hominen attack (the sentence starting with ‘This is a moron...’).”

Then I asked what was (and is) for me the key question, not only for this conversation but also for any topic that actually holds any philosophical interest.[1]

“What is the argument supposed to be?”

I ultimately put my hope this way: “I just wish you would admit that the picture-text’s ‘caption’ is rubbish.”

Although you initially seemed hesitant to concede that the picture-text is “rubbish,” I was happy to read that you have now reversed yourself.

In your most recent reply you seem to finally have come around to my original position. You now observe: “[I]t’s foolish to look for ‘sound argumentation’ from a meme on Facebook.”

Of course, this is what I have been saying from the first paragraph of my first comment on this thread.[2]

Given that something has philosophical interest only insofar as it is not “foolish” to look to it for “sound argumentation,” I concluded that there is nothing of philosophical interest inherent in this picture text. Now you are admitting the same thing. So much for that, then!

(I am relegating to a footnote my final rebuttal to your recent attempt to defend your slang use of the word “parody.”)[3]

In my opinion, the picture-text bears on no other element of our discussion. To put it differently, we could be having the same discussions about the “Civil War,” ethics, “gun control,” Lincoln and the Second Amendment that we are in fact having without either of us ever having laid eyes on this miserable, cross-dressing gun-toter.

Let me make a few concluding remarks about some of these topics. (Note: Other topics, which I have judged to be of lesser importance or interest, have been relegated to the footnote section.)

On the Second Amendment:

You now say: “The text from the picture quotes the second amendment, saying (in a sense) that we have deviated from it's [sic] original intent, therefore would it not be prudent to mention a certain interpretation of the second amendment, even if it's an interpretation of the second amendment you (or conservative supreme court judges) do not agree with? If you wish me to formulate it in the same way you did, it would go like this:”

“1) Reading the entire 2nd amendment as a single statement, we can conclude “right to posses [sic] firearms shall not be infringed” as being contingent upon “a well regulated militia.”

2) From that conclusion, we determine that the second amendment stipulates the rights of gun ownership are for forming militias, the intent of which are keep the government from becoming too powerful.”

Of course, the “way” I have been formulating my arguments involves a bit more than simply numbering the statements. I have been trying to articulate deductive arguments that are formally and informally valid and that employ premises that are more plausible than their negations.

One problem with your “argument,” here, is that it’s not at all obvious what the entailment relationships are supposed to be. This is certainly not a valid deductive argument, for instance.

It won’t do to simply make hand-waving remarks about how you are invoking or summarizing “a certain interpretation[4] of the second amendment”.

The reason for this is that I already gave, not just a rebuttal, but an actual refutation of one popular argument formulation of the interpretation you seem to be gesturing towards. Note well that my refutation was not just a series of numbered sentences, but a formal argument for which I (preemptively) specified clear entailment relationships.

Although you reproduced my text (which was itself a quotation from attorney Stephen Halbrook), you failed to grapple with it responsibly. Here is what I wrote.

“This interpretation appears to reduce the amendment to a conditional or hypothetical syllogism, with its first premise as follows: If a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state (p), then the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (q); that is, p implies q. Standing alone, p and q constitute, respectively, the second premise and the conclusion of the syllogism, which appears thus: [p ⊃ q; p; ∴ q] and is valid by reason of [the logical rule known as] modus ponens.

“Yet the denial of the antecedent, should it be expressed in the second premise, fails to imply the denial of the consequent in [an alternate] conclusion; that is, even if a militia is not necessary for the existence of a free state, [for all that the above reasoning shows] the people still have a right to keep and bear arms. The fallacy of denying the antecedent is committed in this form: [p ⊃ q; -p; ∴ -q.]”

Here you say simply that this reasoning strikes you as “word salad” because you “have never studied formal logic.”

I appreciate your admission,[5] but this text is so crucial for our discussion, and your failure to grasp its significance so problematic, that I am really faced with only two practical options. Either I need to bow out of the entire discussion until you get around to acquiring the requisite logical tools on your own, or I need to provide you with at least a quick-and-dirty set of tools myself.

As a courtesy, I will attempt the latter.

What I am going to start off by doing is to (try to) capture the sort of “contingency” (technically, it is not “contingency,” but material conditionality) that you seem to have had in mind when you wrote statement 1). My candidate is as follows, which I will label 4).[6]

4) If a person is a member of a well-regulated militia, then that person may keep and bear arms.

The question, here, becomes: Does premise 4) capture the sense of “contingent upon” (i.e., conditional upon) that you had in mind in your statement 1)?

Consider John Doe. Suppose that John Doe is a card-carrying member of some militia – whatever sort of militia you would recognize as being “kosher” in any sense that strikes you as relevant. For this example, the details do not matter. Make the militia as “well-regulated” as you like, in any way that you like.[7] And then make John Doe a member of that militia.

Given that John Doe is a member in good standing of your own brand of “well-regulated militia,” presumably, you would assent to the following proposition.

5) John Doe is a member of a well-regulated militia.

Hopefully, you can see that 4) and 5) together entail:

6) Therefore, John Doe may keep and bear arms.

So far so good?

Let me introduce a little terminology. The form (or shape) of the argument in 4)-6) is as follows.

The first premise expresses what is called a “conditional.” It says: If [some proposition], then [some other proposition]. It is conventional to call the proposition that follows the “if,” P,[8] and the proposition that follows the “then,” Q.[9] The conditional says that If P is true, then Q is true too.

The second premise says that, yes indeed, P is true. This is called “affirming the antecedent.”

However, if it is the case both that If P is true, then Q is true too, and P is true; then it follows deductively that Q is true too. This sort of argument (called modus ponens) is formally valid for any substitutions of P and Q.

Of course, an argument can be formally valid and still fail. Its premises may be untrue, for instance.[10]

Okay, let me preserve the form of the above argument, but switch out some of its content. Take the following set of propositions.

7) If it is raining outside, then the streets are wet.

8) It is raining outside.

9) Therefore, the streets are wet.

Again, the first premise, 7), expresses a conditional (If P, then Q). The second premise, 8), affirms the antecedent (P is true). Finally, the conclusion, 9), allows us to deduce (in the strict sense) the consequent (Therefore, Q is true).

Suppose we consider 7) again.

7) If it is raining outside, then the streets are wet.

Can I argue like this?

8’) It is not raining outside.

9’) Therefore, the streets are not wet?

8’) incorporates what is called a “negation.” This is expressed with the “not”-operator. Premise 8’) says that It is not the case that it is raining outside.

What follows from 7) and 8’)? Can we conclude 9’) on the basis of 7) and 8’)?

We cannot.[11]

The streets could be wet for some other reason.[12] A water main could have broken, for instance, or a lawn sprinkler might have been badly aimed.

It is important to understand that 7), 8’) and 9’) are fallacious because of their form. The argument’s invalidity can be illustrated with stories about water mains and sprinklers, but it is not in virtue of these stories that the entailment amongst 7)/8’) and 9’) fails. The entailment fails because If P, then Q; not-P, therefore not-Q, fails for any substitutions of P and Q. The argument is malformed.

To put it slightly differently, nothing follows deductively from premises 7) and 8’).

To reiterate: This holds for any substitutions for P and Q. The form of the argument is bad, irrespective of its content. This sort of argument failure is termed a “formal fallacy.” We never get to the point of even evaluating the premises or conclusion for content. The argument failure occurs at the formal level. Such is argument is structurally malformed.

In the present case, 7) and 8’) together are labeled the “fallacy of denying the antecedent.”[13]

Now we can go back to premise 4).

4) If a person is a member of a well-regulated militia, then that person may keep and bear arms.

Let’s deny the antecedent.

5’) Jane Doe is not a member of a well-regulated militia.

Can we conclude from 4) and 5’) together that:

6’) Jane Doe may not keep and bear arms?

Again, we cannot.[14] This sort of argument is formally fallacious. The meaning of such terms as “arms,” “bear,” “keep,” “militia” and “well-regulated” does not even enter into this judgment.

The argument denies the antecedent and any argument with this form is simply formally invalid. Any argument of this sort is malformed – for any substitutions of P and Q.

Here is the bottom line.

If 4), 5’) and 6’) together capture your favored interpretation of the Second Amendment, then your favored interpretation of the Second Amendment, when spelled out deductively, commits the formal fallacy known as denying the antecedent.

I would therefore argue like this:

10) If an interpretation of the Second Amendment is formally fallacious, then that interpretation is not a plausible candidate for being the correct interpretation.[15]

11) An interpretation (like, I am presuming, yours) that is expressible in ways relevantly similar to 4), 5’) and 6’) is formally fallacious.

12) Therefore, an interpretation (like, I am presuming, yours) that is expressible in ways relevantly similar to 4), 5’) and 6’) is not a plausible candidate for being the correct interpretation.

Now you proceed to say that there are all sorts of practical impediments to what you perceive as “my interpretation” of the Second Amendment.

So, if I say that the “militia” is “all able-bodied men in the nation”; “well-regulated” means “well trained in the use of firearms”; “the right to keep and bear arms …shall not be infringed” implies a right that it not conditional upon militia membership; rather, militia membership presupposes, as a necessary condition, an armed population of citizens; and so on; you respond by saying:

“You don't need to employ formal logic to understand that you're going to need more than firearms to overthrow the United States government [should it become totalitarian] So should “every citizen of the state” have access to tanks, rocket launchers, chemical/biological weapons, missiles and bombers? If you're going to propose that the militia fights tyranny and that it needs guns to do so, why not propose that the militia also needs all those other weapons as well? After all, how well regulated can it be, if it only has access to small arms?”

But, look, this is just changing the subject.

On the one hand, there are questions like: What is the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment? And: What is the nature of the right to “keep and bear arms”?

Presumably, these questions are answered by investigating the development of the Bill of Rights, the historical context, the jurisprudential context, the underlying logic and so on.

In making these investigations, if it turns out that the correct interpretation is (close to) what I have been maintaining all along that it is, you cannot defeat this by saying, “Well, that’s not going to ‘work’ in 2016.” For where, pray tell, do you find a “sunset clause” in the Second Amendment?

Questions about “workability,” interesting and important as they are, are secondary to the question of the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment.[16] In any case, practical questions regarding the feasibility or practicability of the relevant interpretation are quite separate questions from those regarding its truth.

Even if you have succeeded in showing that “my” (really, the historic) interpretation of the Second Amendment is “unworkable” in 2016 – which, mark you, I have not conceded – this does not suffice to show that “my” interpretation is false.

I have argued for the truth (workability is another, secondary matter) of an interpretation of the Second Amendment whereby the right to keep and bear arms is not conditional upon militia membership. [17]

Number one, I said that the citizens’ “militia” was, during the Founding era, understood to include all able-bodied free men, not a subset of them. I quoted Thomas Jefferson to the effect that “…’the militia of the State …’ is …’ every man in it able to bear arms” and the Supreme Court to the effect that “…[T]he Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”[18] You did have never contested these factual points.

Number two, I argued that the interpretation of the Second Amendment that you seem to be endorsing, whereby keeping and bearing arms is materially conditioned upon militia membership, does not rule out non-militia members keeping and bearing arms. To conclude from “If you’re in a militia, then you can keep and bear arms” and “you’re not in a militia” that, therefore, “you cannot keep and bear arms” commits the formal fallacy of denying the antecedent.[19]

If you still cannot see this after my attempted explanation, above, then I invite you to obtain any introductory book of logic and study the examples given for “denying the antecedent” until one of them resonates with you.

I conclude, therefore, that “my” interpretation of the Second Amendment is the only one that has been shown, in this exchange, to be both non-fallacious and supported by historical facts.

On the “Civil War”:

I had written: “I can defend the ‘South,’ broadly construed, because (I believe that) the ‘South’s’ actions in the ‘Civil War’ were not primarily aimed at protecting slavery; they were aimed at protecting the spirit of the Constitutional agreement that the individual States had entered into during the late 18th century.”

Here you say: “This is wrong, and we need only look at the words of the leaders of the confederacy to see how”.

I would like to get a bit clearer on what you think you are doing, here. Perhaps I am wrong, but you seem to impute to me the proposition that the “Civil War” had nothing whatever to do with slavery. This is absurd. I never made any such claim.

Of course, this has not stopped you from trying to saddle me with contradictory positions, such as the Orwellian slogan “Freedom is slavery.”

After warning you not to interpret my remarks as a “defense of the institution of slavery,”[20] I made the claim that protection of slavery was not the South’s primary motivation.

I almost hesitate to bring the dictionary back into our discussion, since my previous lexical observations have seemingly worked you into something of a tizzy, but “primary” variously means “most important,” “most basic or essential” and “happening or coming first.”[21]

Something’s being a “primary” aim or motivation does not entail that it is the only aim or motivation. The fact that red, yellow and blue are the primary colors, for instance, does not mean that they are the only colors.[22]

My claim is perfectly compatible with protection of slavery having been a secondary, tertiary, quaternary, n-ary motivation of the South.[23]

You then introduce carefully-tailored excerpts from several of the seceding states’ “Declarations of Cause.” You begin with South Carolina.

Keeping in mind my actual claim – “the ‘South’s’ actions …were …primarily …aimed at protecting the spirit of the Constitution” – I observe the following.

South Carolina starts its enumeration of causal declarations by stating: “The people of the State of South Carolina …declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union…”.[24]

Oops. It looks like, among the causes of secession listed by South Carolina, the first – that is, primary one – was “frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States by the Federal Government.” That is exactly what I have been saying.

Even in the portion of South Carolina’s declaration that you yourself reproduced, we read that South Carolina was concerned about slavery insofar as that institution’s subversion was being orchestrated “for the submersion of the Constitution”.[25]

Still, if one desires greater clarity, Alabama’s resolution of secession is easily consulted. In it, we read:

“An ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of Alabama and the other States united under the compact styled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America.’ …[M]any and dangerous infractions of the constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the Northern sectionis a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security…”.[26]

Even if these express statements, which I have provided to remedy the contextual deficits of the excerpts that you provided,[27] had been absent from the causal declarations and secession ordinances, it is apparent that the idea of the South having sought, as a primary aim (just as I maintained), extrication from a dysfunctional “Union,” is in no wise incompatible with the truth that the South was also defending its institutions.

Why was the institution of slavery being attacked?

You have assumed, but have not remotely argued, that the “North” really believed in the equality of Africans with Europeans and that the “Civil War” was conducted as a moral crusade.

This is arguably false, at least in regards to the “Great Emancipator.” Lincoln pithily – if privately – summarized his opinion with the memorable quip: “Negro equality, Fudge!![28]

No, the sorry truth seems to have been that the Northern powerbrokers found the abolitionist cause a convenient cudgel with which to beat their Southern competitors.

Further along you complain that, when I summoned Lincoln’s own words to Horace Greeley, I was “cherry picking …a single reconciliatory quote” and basically “character assassinati[ng]” poor Honest Abe all over again. For, you assert, Lincoln spent “his entire political career campaigning against the expansion of slavery, an institution he deemed immoral.”

Let no one say that I have denied the shrewdness of Lincoln and his coterie. Championing abolition was a major public relations victory on Lincoln’s part. By obfuscating his tyranny with talk of “equality,” he managed to secure defenders over 150 years later. Never mind that he himself did not seem to believe his own press releases.

If we care more about historical accuracy than we do about polishing our busts of Lincoln, then we would be well advised to consult Lincoln’s own explanation of his crusade. Here is the reason that Lincoln himself gave for his career-long “campaign against the expansion of slavery”:

There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation.” – Abraham Lincoln.[29]

Whoa, Nelly! When Lincoln wanted to justify his opposition to slavery, what reason did he give? He said that he opposed slavery because he opposed race mixing. You won’t find that quote on the wall of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

You then quote Lincoln to the following effect:

“The doctrine of self government is right – absolutely and eternally right – but it has no just application, as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government – that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal’; and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.” Abraham Lincoln, Peoria, Illinois October 16, 1854

Here Lincoln does indeed appear to endorse black self-determination. But notice four things.

Firstly, I never denied that Lincoln believed in black self-determination. (Where do you think that I denied this?)

Here is what I actually wrote.

“The United States as a corporate entity was formed when the individual States agreed to the terms and conditions of the federal government as set forth in the Constitution. …The ‘North’ …violated the terms of the Constitutional agreement. The Confederacy basically responded by saying that if the Constitution was no longer to be followed, then it (the Confederacy) would no longer recognize the union that the Constitution had brought into being. The North, via Lincoln, countered by declaring that ‘preserving the union’ was of ‘paramount’ concern. Lincoln famously wrote:

“‘I would save the Union. ...My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.’”

What I wrote was that Lincoln’s stated motivation for going to war was the “preservation of the Union.”

So, secondly, notice that this is the clearest statement that either of us has marshalled with respect to Lincoln’s express motivation for prosecuting a war against the “South.”

How is it “cherry picking” to take the most direct answer to the question asked? Good grief!

For a reminder, the question I was answering was: Why did Lincoln go to war?

The answer, whether you can bring yourself to admit it or whether you prefer, risibly, to dismiss Lincoln’s unequivocal answer as a “single reconciliatory quote,”[30] from Lincoln’s own pen, is: to “preserve the Union.”

Thirdly, your quotation merely establishes that Lincoln believed in black self-determination.

So what? That Lincoln went to war to “preserve the Union” hardly entails that he denied black self-determination. Why should this cause trouble for me?

It is likely that Lincoln believed lots of things. Supposing that I could locate a quotation in which Lincoln states clearly that he believed that “2 + 2 =4,” would it follow that he went to war over that belief, too – even if it could be shown that the “South” denied it? Of course not.

Did Lincoln believe in black self-determination? Yes.

Was black self-determination his primary motivation for fighting the “Civil War”? Not according to the Chief Executive of the United States.

According to Lincoln, his primary motivation was to preserve the Union.”

Fourthly and finally, pay careful attention to two things: number one, the argument that Lincoln gave for black self-determination; and, number two, the meaning of self-determination.

In the text that you reproduced, Lincoln basically argued as follows.

13) If blacks are men, then blacks should be self-determined.

14) Blacks are men.

15) Therefore, blacks should be self-determined.

Should we assume that Lincoln would have denied that there ought to be, mutatis mutandis, white self-determination? I see no reason to think so. White self-determination, as you are likely springing from your seat to shout at me, was a fact-on-the-ground. Therefore, we can assume Lincoln would have endorsed this parallel argument.

16) If whites are men, then whites should be self-determined.

17) Whites are men.

18) Therefore, whites should be self-determined.

However, I need to stop for a moment and ask: What does self-determination mean?

Like so many of the other words we have been arguing about, it is actually ambiguous – that is, it is susceptible to more than one definition. Let’s look at two possibilities.[31]

On the one hand, self-determination could designate (something like) the right of blacks to govern blacks and the right of whites to govern whites. On the other hand, it could signify the right of an integrated (forget truly amalgamated – no one at the time wanted that) black and white country to govern itself with input from both blacks and whites.

It is apparent that many people today endorse the latter. Probably, many Lincoln boosters assume that he endorsed the latter also. But what did Lincoln really believe?

For Lincoln, the endpoint of black self-determination was black repatriation. Where that was infeasible, Lincoln favored shipping blacks off the U.S. mainland to found South American colonies.

“Abraham Lincoln wanted to ship freed black slaves away from the US to British colonies in the Caribbean even in the final months of his life, it has emerged. …[H]e went on supporting the highly controversial policy of colonisation. It was favoured by US politicians who did not believe free black people should live among white Americans, and had been backed by prominent abolitionists like Henry Clay as far back as 1816. Mr Lincoln also favoured the idea. But he was believed to have denounced it after signing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed of most of America’s four million slaves, in January 1863. The notion that he came to regard it as unacceptable contributed to the legend of the 16th president, who is frequently voted America’s greatest, and is held by some to have left an impeccable record. Yet Phillip Magness and Sebastian Page, the authors of Colonisation After Emancipation, discovered documents in the National Archives in Kew and in the US that will significantly alter his legacy.

“They found an order from Mr Lincoln in June 1863 authorising a British colonial agent, John Hodge, to recruit freed slaves to be sent to colonies in what are now the countries of Guyana and Belize. ‘Hodge reported back to a British minister that Lincoln said it was his ‘honest desire’ that this emigration went ahead,’ said Mr Page, a historian at Oxford University. …’ Mr Lincoln also considered sending freed slaves to what is now Panama, to construct a canal — decades before work began on the modern canal there in 1904. …’ [A]s late as …’autumn [1864], a letter sent to the president by his attorney-general showed he was still actively exploring whether the policy could be implemented, Mr Page said. ‘It says ‘further to your question, yes, I think you can still pursue this policy of colonisation even though the money has been taken away’,’ he said.”[32]

This is yet another point that you have not adequately integrated.

Yes, Lincoln believed in black self-determination and white self-determination. But, unlike numerous contemporary “liberals,” Lincoln neither desired nor envisioned an integrated (let alone amalgamated), black-white-hybrid “Union.”

How did he reconcile these positions?

He advocated black repatriation and black colonization. He wished to see blacks given their own land, somewhere south of the United States, whereon they could exercise self-determination.

This would have left whites to be self-determined in the United States. This is apparently what Lincoln believed. It also provides some missing context to some of the other quotations that trouble you.

For instance, you quoted one John Sharp Williams: “Local self-government temporarily destroyed may be recovered and ultimately retained. The other thing for which we fought is so complex in its composition, so delicate in its breath, so incomparable in its symmetry, that, being once destroyed, it is forever destroyed. This other thing for which we fought was the supremacy of the white man’s civilization in the country which he proudly claimed his own; ‘in the land which the Lord his God had given him;’ founded upon the white man’s code of ethics, in sympathy with the white man’s tra­ditions and ideals.”

Of course, Williams was six years old when the “Civil War” began and, therefore, was hardly in a position to be counted as a credible observer. But let this pass.

What Williams seems to be saying – some four decades after the end of the “Civil War” – is that white self-determination was destroyed in the name of black self-determination. In the end, neither blacks nor whites were “self-determined” in the first sense sketched earlier. Rather, both blacks and whites were thrown together and are, even to this day, presided over by money elites (you know, the group you lambaste for being “fascist”).

This, Williams seems to note, is the legacy of the “Civil War.”[33]

In any case, Williams says nothing whatever about slavery or about what I earlier stressed was the primary motive of the “South” in fighting the “Civil War” – protesting the violation, by the “North,” of the U.S. Constitution.

Notice that Williams calls white self-determination the “other thing for which we fought” (emphasis supplied).

Another interesting point is that you have not remotely argued that Williams’s – or anyone else’s – view of white self-determination on U.S. soil implied black degradation. Oh, to be sure, you have everywhere assumed this. But you have nowhere argued for it.

Curiously, you have even provided evidence against this view.

You quote the “Confederate Veterans” to the following effect: “The kindliest relation that ever existed between the two races in this country, or that ever will, was the ante-bellum relation of master and slave – a relation of confidence and responsibility on the part of the master and of dependence and fidelity on the part of the slave.”

Again, this is a fairly late quotation. However, veterans of the “Civil War” would have been at least better-situated as observers than the above-quoted Williams. Taken at face value, though, this quotation seems to evidence the idea that Southern whites did not seek the degradation of blacks.

Given this, I cannot imagine how you thought that the reproduction of this quotation would advance your anti-Southern polemics. (Of course, the quote says not one word about slavery being a motivation for the “Civil War.”)[34]

In fact, as I have shown, Lincoln himself can be summoned as a politician who believed in white self-determination without believing in black degradation. It did turn out however, on Lincoln’s view, that both could only be achieved through the separation of the races.

No, all things considered, my point stands. When the Southern declarations are read in context and in their entirety, one is left with the unmistakable impression that the Southern States seceded because they believed that the North had betrayed the Constitution.

The South was not out to degrade blacks any more than Lincoln was when he advocated sending them all off to Central and South American colonies. Lincoln believed that blacks were suited to regions that resembled their native climates and that they could not thrive outside of those areas. Sending them “back” was, to Lincoln and other supporters of repatriation, doing blacks a good turn.

In contravention of the Constitution, Northern policymakers decided to use abolition as a means of one-upping their Southern counterparts.

This does not imply that the politicians of the South were angels. But the entire “Civil War” enterprise was fraught with moral problems.

To give you a flavor for what I mean, let me give me my “two mobsters” illustration.

Suppose that two mobsters decide to split “rackets” between them. One mobster (representing the North) takes gambling; the other (the South) takes prostitution. Suppose that the former gangster then decides to champion the cause of making prostitution illegal. My point is that we would be foolish to take this at face value and assume that the former mobster has, to quote from the movie Heat, “reformed his wayward ways and become a born-again good citizen.” It is plausible to believe that the head of the gambling racket merely used the anti-Prostitution crusade to rid himself of his competition.

That Lincoln did not advocate racial amalgamation (to say nothing about miscegenation) is abundantly clear from the man’s own words. (More dramatically, his “fudge” comment belies the current belief that he believed in absolute black-white “equality.”)

It is therefore reasonable to hold that Lincoln’s championing of abolition was plausibly adopted for mercenary reasons.

In any case, I conclude that you have not remotely shown that the “Civil War” was a just war.

Number one, as I stated previously, to show that a war is just requires more than merely showing that one’s opponent is engaged in immoral practices. It requires that one show that no peaceful alternative to war is available. You have not shown anything of the sort. You have not even tried.

As I put it already: “[T]he moral justification for waging war is not decided exclusively by recourse to the question: Is the opponent engaged in a moral evil?”[35]

Here you merely say:

“Who attacked first? The South did.”

You are just reciting a tenet of your statement of faith.

Even if the highly suspicious “attack” on Fort Sumter is accepted as the “official” start of the “Civil War” – and I am not conceding this – the “fort” was well inside of Southern territory. It is no more reasonable to call the South’s defense of its own territory an act of “aggression” than it would be to call my neighbor the aggressor for popping me in the nose if I were to stand menacingly right in front of his face on his doorstep.

Number two, I have twice raised the point (and you have twice ignored it) that Britain freed its slaves without a “Civil War.”

This shows that it would have been possible for Northern abolitionists to secure the freedom of the slaves by peaceful means, had they been interested in a peaceful alternative.[36] That the North showed no interest in a peaceful, monetary solution suggests that it was not simply Lincoln who prosecuted the “Civil War” for mercenary reasons.

You said it yourself, however: “One way or the other, slavery was out the door.” (Some speculate that southern slavery would not have lasted several decades in the South.) But this admission bodes ill for any case that the “Civil War” was necessary or just.

By the end of the war, the South moved to end slavery on its own, but this was not undertaken as a conciliatory act. It suggests that the South valued independence from the Constitution-trampling North more than it valued slavery – despite all of the money that the South had invested in that system.

Concerning the South’s justification for secession, I provided an argument. Let me rehearse that argument and see how it has held up. I noted, firstly:

13) The Tenth Amendment provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The Tenth Amendment clearly indicates that the Federal government is limited in its powers to what were explicitly assigned to it in the Constitution. However, it is simply a fact that:

14) At the time of the “Civil War,” the United States federal government had not been delegated any powers by the Constitution with respect to the issue of slavery.

It therefore follows straightforwardly that:

15) Therefore, powers with respect to the issue of slavery were, at the time of the “Civil War,” reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Here you say:

“[T]he slave-holder's argument, regarding the 10th amendment …[is] null and void, when you take into consideration the supremacy clause of the constitution, (article VI, paragraph 2) which states that federal law trumps state law…”.

The “Supremacy Clause” reads as follows:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

What relevance is this supposed to have? The Supremacy Clause merely lays it down that “federal law trumps state law” wherever the two conflict. However, on the eve of the “Civil War,” the two did not conflict because federal law contained not one contradictory word on the subject of slave-owning.

On the eve of the “Civil War,” there was no Constitutional provision against slavery and was there was no federal law against it.

What there was, however, was the Tenth Amendment that, according to the Supremacy Clause, should have “trumped” any State-led effort to impose a pet activist initiative upon other States.

But you complain that:

“[I]f the federal legislature under the leadership of Lincoln wanted to make a federal law regarding abolition of slavery, that federal law would trump state law.”

Later, you expand this, stating: “Your entire argument for the confederate casus belli seems to lie in an incompleteness within the constitution, or the way it was interpreted. It was not settled at the time whether slavery was a state issue or a federal issue. But if the confederate states really believed in the constitution, they would've believed in the supremacy clause, which stipulated that should the federal government make slavery a federal issue, and establish a federal law or amendment outlawing slavery, the federal law would trump state law.”

This is an astounding inversion (some would even call it a perversion) of the function of the federal government. The function of “the federal legislature” is to enact laws that reflect the will of the people.

Phrases like “should the federal government make slavery a federal issue” make it appear as though the States are supposed to be waiting in anticipation while their federal overlords plan their futures for them.

The federal government was, in Jefferson’s words, supposed to be composed of men who were “[bound] …down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”[37]

As you are hopefully aware, even a proposal for a Constitutional Amendment must be endorsed by two-thirds of congressmen – which men are acting as representatives of their constituency, and not acting as tools of activist movements.

To pass an amendment requires ratification by three-fourths of the States. On the eve of the “Civil War,” there were fifteen slave-holding states and seventeen free-states. Had the South not seceded it is difficult to imagine how any anti-slavery Constitutional Amendment could ever have achieved the requisite three-quarters-level of support.[38]

Of course, the North did not leave things to chance and hastily created several new states – Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and West Virginia – to pad their voting bloc. Additionally, the federal Congress recognized “representatives” from States that had seceded – not on the basis of said “representatives” clear commitment to the will of their seceding constituents, but merely on the basis of sworn, personal loyalty oaths to abolitionism.[39]

You then continue your track record of bizarre – but appreciated – concessions to me. Now you say: “[A] federal law was necessary, because northern states were violating the Fugitive Slave act of 1950, under the justification that (what do ya know!?) slavery wasn't a federal issue, and in their states had outlawed slavery, so they had no reason to capture and return slaves. …[T]heir claim that their states rights have been violated, by northern states who would not return fugitive slaves.”

Of course, if the northern justification for violating federal law is accepted, then the South’s case is already made. But either way, the South was in the right.

Either the North was violating Southern States’ rights and slavery was not a federal issue, or slavery was a federal issue and the North was violating federal law that expressly underwrote the Southern slave system.

I conclude, then, that:

None of my main points regarding the South’s primary justification for secession has been overturned – if the Fugitive Slave Laws were legally valid, then the North flagrantly violated federal law; if, on the other hand, federal law was truly impotent to regulate slavery – and, indeed, the Constitution was silent on the issue – then the South was within its rights to secede when it tried to do so.[40]

None of your quotations overturn my contention that Lincoln’s primary war-aim was “preservation of the Union” – for Lincoln’s endorsement of black self-determination must be evaluated in light of both the presumption of white self-determination and Lincoln’s express opposition to racial amalgamation as well as his plans for black colonization.[41]



P.S. The footnotes contain my replies to what I take to be subordinate issues. Be sure to examine them, however, before you conclude that I have ignored something.

[1] I admit that there was some ambiguity in my initial protest. After all, it is not necessarily the case that “philosophers” be construed so as to be interested in all and only philosophy. A bona fide philosopher could have many non-philosophical interests. What I meant to say was that, I was shocked to think that philosophers would find anything of philosophical interest in this picture-text.

[2] Just so that I would not be accused of expecting too much from a “Facebook meme,” I remind you that I even gave what seemed to me to be amongst the only possible arguments one could possibly give, when limiting oneself to the resources provided by the picture’s text itself.

“(1) Cross-dressers are morons. (2) Morons cannot be trained in the use of firearms. (3) Therefore, cross-dressers cannot be trained in the use of firearms.”

Remarkably, you now have also given (an informal version of) this argument yourself.

“3) Someone who cross-dresses in confederate attire and takes a selfie posing with an assault rifle is NOT representative of the original spirit of forming into “well regulated” militias to combat governmental tyranny.”

However, this “argument” is multiply deficient.

Number one, it’s not an argument at all in the formal sense of a set of premises that, together, logically entail a conclusion. (Notice that the sample argument that I gave is formally valid.) It’s merely an assertion.

It’s not that arguments have to be put in “standard form,” as it were. But all sound arguments will be such that they could be expressed formally. When the entailment relationships between premises, or between premises and conclusions, are unclear, then specifying the argument formally assists evaluators in the task of assessing the argument for validity and soundness.

As I have argued elsewhere, “well-regulated militia” is designates a group of citizens, trained in the use of their firearms, who self-assemble into a force for the purposes of fighting and practicing. Let me put it more strongly, for the sake of discussion. At least two essential conditions for a citizens’ militia are these: (a.) having at least two citizens who are (b.) each trained, or who each could be trained, in the use of firearms.

As morally objectionable as I think cross-dressing is, it is not at all clear to me how the act of “cross-dressing” or how objects like confederate-flag bikinis have any bearing whatsoever on these essential elements, as specified in the aforementioned definition.

I am a little unclear as to whether you think that the problematic feature is the cross-dressing itself, or the cross-dresser’s confederate attire. So is it your position that cross-dressers should be disqualified from being a part of a citizen fighting force? Or are you saying that cross-dressers somehow obviously lack the ability to be technically proficient with firearms? (I, and I would think other “progressive,” “LGBT” supporters [like perhaps Angie], would be interested to know why. I am not saying that I disagree! I just think it’s a bit odd for someone who otherwise comes across as having liberal tendencies.)

Or is it your position that it’s not cross-dressing per se that disqualifies a person from being a part of a citizens’ militia, rather, it’s his or her style sense? Would it have been okay for the cross-dressing gun-toter to have sported a rainbow bikini, for instance? Is there some forced march from clothing selection to firearm proficiency or to availability for service in a citizens’ militia? (I suppose that it would have reduced your subsequent responses roughly in half, since without the confederate-patterned bikini you would have had little reason to bring in “slavery” and “racism.”)

Or is it your opinion that it’s fine, from the point-of-view of militia-membership, to be a confederate-cross-dressing gun-toter, so long as you don’t take “selfies” while cross-dressing and gun-toting? What connection do you perceive between the taking of a “selfie” and the demonstration of firearm proficiency? Or would you simply lay it down as a citizen’s militia membership rule that “selfie-takers need not apply”?

These questions, and more besides, surround your “cross-dresser argument.” This is what I mean when I typed: “Prima facie, the text is a mess.” Nothing you have said clears up in the least the myriad interpretive problems attending this “Facebook meme.”

Number two, your argument employs at least one ambiguous phrase. You do not explain what you mean by “representative of” as it occurs in the clause “representative of the original spirit of forming into ‘well-regulated’ militias”.

You merely assert: “The person in question is instead representative of lack of discipline, slavery, racism …and gun fetishism.” Before I can evaluate this statement for a truth value, I would need to know something about the truth conditions for this peculiar predicate “representative of.”

Ultimately, you have nothing more sophisticated than an exclamation that “This is not the sort of person I want to have a gun.”

Well, maybe it’s not the sort of person I want to have a gun, either. But, I refuse to be stampeded into jettisoning the Bill of Rights merely because someone looks a particular way.

I’m curious: Who would you appoint to decide, for you, whether you yourself are the sort of guy who looks like he should be able to have a gun?

I wouldn’t presume to speak for you on this, but, for me, I can say that I would not trust anyone to do so. I am personally glad that the founders recognized a Creator-given “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” that “shall not be infringed.”

[3] Nothing that you have written impels me to overturn the verdict that I passed earlier: You are simply not using the word “parody” according to the basic definition.

You now write that “words have multiple meanings” and accuse me of engaging in “a dishonest attempt to show [that you] didn't know what [you] was talking about.” I ask that you refrain from mud-slinging of this sort. I was neither being dishonest nor insinuating that you didn’t know what you were talking about. Apparently, you are using the word “parody” in line with Internet slang. That is fine with me, as I said. You could stipulate whatever word you want to use to cover over cases that interest you. But I do deny that this slang usage of “parody” is basic – according to the dictionary.

Citing the URL: <>, you write that “one of the definitions is ‘2: a feeble or ridiculous imitation’…” – which is true.

You go on to assert that this definition “is exactly the context with which I used the word, as evidenced by my further saying ‘a guy wearing confederate women's underwear waving a powerful assault weapon doesn't seem to get the joke.’”

I will try one last time to make this point. This is not “the [sense in] which [you] used the word.” Since my earliest replies, I have been maintaining (what is plain from the basic definition of “parody”) that a parody is the intentional use of exaggeration for comedic effect.

The definition you have now fixed upon turns on the meaning of the word imitation. Of course, when one looks up this word, one gets definitions such as the following: “imitation” is defined as “a thing intended to simulate or copy something else.”

(From Google, “Define: Imitation.” On the basic definition, it is simply ruled out, analytically, that a person doing a parody “doesn’t seem to get” his own joke. Of course, you keep flip-flopping between the assertion that the subject of the photograph is doing a “parody” and the assertion that the author of the meme is doing a “parody.” But the subject, since he is presumably oblivious, cannot be doing a “parody” since, on the basic definition, a parody is something done intentionally. The author of the “meme” seems more promising, for your purposes. But, as I said, directors of parodies hire actors who are “in on the joke.” The “meme” author is clearly mocking the subject of the picture. But mockery is not ipso facto “parody.”)

You are simply in error, then, when you write: “You went with the very first definition, in when I used the word parody.”

It doesn’t matter whether you pick definition 1 or definition 2. Intentionality is baked into both.

[4] Since we have had so much word trouble, I should explicitly stat that I am assuming “a certain interpretation” means .a particular interpretation and not an indubitable one.

[5] I share your appreciation for philosophy. One definition of “philosophy” that I am fond of is this: “thinking hard about some topic.” But there is a distinction between thinking hard and thinking well. If there is a rough-and-ready definition for “logic,” it might be “thinking well about some topic.”

[6] Incidentally, I label it 4) because 1), 2) and 3) already belong, in this discussion to statements of yours. Numbering each premise uniquely allows us to refer back to premises by their number designation alone.

[7] Of course, I am presuming that you would not set the bar so high for being “well-regulated” that no militia could ever attain to that height.

[8] The “If P” clause is called the “antecedent.”

[9] The “Then Q” clause is called the “consequent.”

[10] For example, suppose that, pointing to a random painting, I utter: “If that’s a painting, then that is a Picasso. That is a painting. Therefore, that is a Picasso.” This argument, although formally valid, is nevertheless unsound. Since not all paintings are Picassos, the first premise is untrue. A formally valid argument can also commit informal fallacies. For instance, “If the Pope says that ‘climate change’ is true, then ‘climate change’ is true. The Pope does say that ‘climate change’ is true. Therefore, ‘climate change’ is true,” commits, in its first premise, the informal fallacy known as “inappropriate appeal authority” (or, if you like, “appeal to inappropriate authority,” argumentum ad verecundiam.)

[11] We cannot do so deductively. There may some probability to 9’, that is, it may have some inductive strength. But it is not a valid deductive argument.

[12] A deductive argument is one in which, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.

[13] Just to round things out, If P, then Q; not-Q; therefore not-P is valid. Consider the rain illustration, again. “If it is raining, then the streets are wet; the streets are not wet; therefore it is not raining” is a deductively valid inference. On the other hand, If P, then Q; Q; therefore P is invalid, “If it is raining, then the streets are wet; the streets are wet; therefore it is raining,” is not deductively valid. Again, the streets could be wet for some other reason. As an aside, a deductively invalid argument might yet have some inductive or probabilistic plausibility. But this is another matter.

[14] Here’ another illustration. If Bob eats oranges, then he gets vitamin c. But what if Bob does not eat any oranges? From Bob does not eat oranges, can we conclude that Bob does not get vitamin c? No, because Bob could have obtained vitamin c from another source. He could have eaten strawberries, for instance, or taken a vitamin supplement. The only way we could conclude that Bob does not get vitamin c if he does not eat oranges is if oranges are the only source of vitamin c. But, the expressed premise “If Bob eats oranges, then he gets vitamin c” does not make any claim about oranges being the sole source of vitamin c. Therefore, the argument, as it stands, is invalid.

[15] As far as justifying premise 10), I would simply say that the framers were highly educated and would unlikely to have baked a formal fallacy into so important a document as the Bill of Rights.

[16] You seem to want to limit the pool of live interpretive options to those that are “workable” (whatever that means) in 2016, given the U.S.’s standing army as a fact-on-the-ground. I would say, on the contrary, that we should interpret the Second Amendment according to the intentions of the Founding Fathers and, if it turns out that this interpretation is hindered in its application by some factor (say a standing army), then We the People should aim to eliminate the problematic factor (e.g., by cutting military spending, etc.).

[17] The Second Amendment only precludes non-militia members from “keeping and bearing arms” in case “keeping and bearing arms were the exclusive province of militia members, which the Second Amendment does not state. Even if militia members were a subset of the free citizenry, which was simply factually false during the founding era, the logical structure of the Second Amendment does not permit us to conclude anything about non-militia-members' rights.

[18] Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811 and U.S. v. Miller, 307 US 174, 179 [1939]; both quoted by Matthew Bell, “Towards a Jeffersonian Appraisal of the SCOTUS ‘D.C. Gun Ban’ Decision,” Liberty Bell [weblog], Jun. 30, 2008, <>.

[19] So that it may not be said that I have failed at due diligence, let me consider running the conditional the other direction. If you keep and bear arms, then you are in a militia. This fares even worse it seems, since this premise, conjoined with, “You do not keep and bear arms” cannot even show that “You are not in a militia.” One could say: If you keep and bears arms, then you are in a militia; you are not in a militia; therefore, you do not keep and bear arms. However, firstly, I have already showed that the operative conception of “militia” was all able-bodied men. Therefore, “you are not in a militia” is arguably true just case a person is not able-bodied. But suppose that a person is both able-bodied and not in a militia. What follows? The initial conditional provides the formula for a non-militia member to become a militia member, namely, acquiring arms. Here is the reasoning: If you keep and bears arms, then you are in a militia; you do keep and bear arms; therefore, you are in a militia.

The only other avenue open would be to argue that the Second Amendment expresses a bi-conditional: You keep and bear arms if and only if you are in a militia. One problem, here, is that this would rule out military men, police officers and security personnel keeping and bearing arms. The fact that we do presently have numerous classes of armed individuals shows that no one now believes that the Second Amendment expresses a bi-conditional.

[20] You evidently missed this caveat. Either that or you were grandstanding when you exclaimed: “And I would furthermore like to stress that in the interest of our continued friendship that you admit that the southern position _on slavery_ was at the very least misguided and inhumane.”

[21] “Primary,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online at <>.

[22] There are secondary colors – orange, green and purple – made by mixing the primary ones. I am ignoring such niceties as that there is a technical distinction between the primary additive and primary subtractive colors.

[23] A similar point can be made with respect to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln declared that his primary motivation for prosecuting the “Civil War” was to “preserve the Union.” Of course, he and his cohorts could have had – and did have – numerous ancillary motivations and goals.

[24] “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”; copied by Justin Sanders from J. A. May and J. R. Faunt, South Carolina Secedes, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1960, pp. 76-81; reproduced by Rick A. Swanson, “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States,” Univ. of Louisiana, Lafayette, n.d., <>.]

[25] Or again, less selective attention to Louisiana’s declaration turns up these relevant bits of information.

“She [i.e., Louisiana] believes the federal agent had betrayed her trust, had become the facile instrument of a hostile people, and was usurping despotic powers. …The people of Louisiana were unwilling to endanger their liberties and property by submission to the despotism of a single tyrant, or the canting tyranny of pharisaical majorities. Insulted by the denial of her constitutional equality…, and convinced that she was illustrating the capacity of her people for self-government by withdrawing from a union that had failed …to accomplish its purposes, she declared herself a free and independent State…”. “George Williamson (1829-82), Louisiana Secession Commissioner, ‘Letter to President and Gentlemen of the Convention of the People of Texas,’ February 11, 1861,” James W. Loewen and Edward H. Sebesta, eds., The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”, Jackson, Miss.: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2011, p. 146; archived online at <>.

You might think that you do better with Mississippi, since its causal declarations include the strong statement: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery”. Still, as I said, I nowhere denied that the South’s position practically involved a defense of slavery; rather, I claimed that the South’s primary motivation lay in resisting the North’s attempt to ignore the Constitution. And this comes through clearly when Mississippi’s declaration is read in its entirety. The declaration concludes: “It [that is, a particular faction of social activists] has recently obtained control of the Government …and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood. Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England. …We follow their footsteps.” “Mississippi”; copied by Justin Sanders from Journal of the State Convention, Jackson, Miss.: E. Barksdale, 1861, pp. 86-88; reproduced by Swanson, loc. cit.

Regarding Alabama, Stephen F. Hale’s comments are, I think, sufficiently clear on the subject of the Northern derailment of the Constitution in virtue of “the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government”. And on and on.

[26] “Ordinances of Secession of the 13 Confederate States of America: Alabama,” Civil War Home Page, <>.

[27] I know that you are familiar with the phrase “cherry-picking.”

[28] Abraham Lincoln, marginalia on fragments of his speech notes, n.d., but ca. 1859; quoted by Roy P. Basler, ed., et al., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1953-1955, vol. 3, p. 399.

[29] Abraham Lincoln, speech, Springfield, Ill., Jun. 26, 1857; quoted in Basler, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 405, 408, 409. By the way, let’s examine your statement that Lincoln spent his “entire political career campaigning against the expansion of slavery.” In this quotation, one can see that, yes indeed, slavery was “an institution he [Lincoln] deemed immoral.” But, whatever you would like to believe, he did not deem it “immoral” because he believed in “racial equality.” I elsewhere documented Lincoln’s low opinion of that idea, which he dismissed as “so low a piece of demagogueism [sic].

Rather, Lincoln opposed slavery because he thought it was immoral to mix the races together. Thus, in the quotation partially reproduced above, Lincoln goes on to explain: “[A]s an immediate separation [of the races] is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas.” (Ibid.) His solution was to repatriate the blacks: “[I]t is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be.” (Ibid.)

[30] How many direct answers would he have to give before you believe him?

[31] There could be others.

[32] Jon Swaine, “Abraham Lincoln ‘Wanted to Deport Slaves’ to New Colonies,” Telegraph, Feb., 11, 2011, <>.

[33] Interestingly, given his endorsement of black colonization and repatriation schemes, it was seemingly not Lincoln’s stated desire that “the white man’s civilization in the country which he proudly claimed his own” should come to an end. However, in the wake the Civil War’s decimation of the Southern economy, the Northern troops of invading carpetbaggers and, later, of Lincoln’s assassination, this is exactly what occurred.

[34] Duncan Fletcher, who was also six years old at the outset of the war, says much the same things as Williams.

[35] In a footnote, I added: “Or else, how would you block George W. Bush from waging ‘just war’ against Saddam Hussein, given that Hussein was clearly guilty of killing and torturing his own people?” Unbelievably, it seems to be the case that you agree with George W. Bush and the neoconservative architects of the “war” against Iraq! After sketching your own interpretation of the preamble to the Declaration of Independent (DOI), you say that your “reading of the DOI actually justifies the people of the north to wage war on the south and destroy its government.” It’s a simple enough exercise to substitute “the United States” for “people of the north” and “Iraq” for “the south.” Doing so reveals that your reading of the DOI actually justifies the United States waging war on Iraq and destroying its government – just in case someone in the U.S. claims that Iraq isn’t sufficiently respectful of the “Life, Liberty and Happiness Pursuits” of the Iraqis.

Of course, the DOI licenses no such thing – for Iraq or for the North. There is no license in the preamble of the DOI for one people to overthrow the government of another people! The only license granted to northerners would have been a license to overthrow the government of the North in the event that the Northern government failed to service the interests of Northerners.

After secession, the only people who would have been licensed by the DOI to overthrow the government of the South were Southerners.

Elsewhere, you admitted this in a backhanded way when you wrote: “I wish there had been more Nat Turner rebellions, for is there nothing more poetic and just than the oppressed turning on their oppressors? Jefferson would've been proud.” Of course, if Southern slaves had organized an overthrow of the South this would have been an altogether different situation than the one that actually obtained. In the real world, well, I already said it. The cost of eradicating black slavery was paid for with the blood “of 600,000 dead Americans, most of whom were our European-American cousins and relations.”

[36] The slaves could have been freed by Northerners purchasing their freedom. This would have compensated the South for its massive financial loss and enabled it to reconstitute itself around another economic base.

[37] “Resolutions Adopted by the Kentucky General Assembly,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3, Jan. 1, 1798-Jan. 31, 1799, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003, pp. 550-556; reproduced online at <>.

[38] According to historian Graham Peck, if Illinois can be taken as representative, the number of abolitionists in the North hovered at most around 5-6% of the Northern populace by 1852. The Republican Party certainly had an abolitionist wing, but it was far from endorsing “abolitionism” outright. Yes, Lincoln’s abolitionist-friendly rhetoric helped him to leverage a political victory over Stephen A. Douglas. But even Lincoln was – as his quotations show – not an integrationist.

[39] But you say that it was the South that did not “believe in democracy.” Oh, brother. Besides being out-of-step with the facts about the federal legislative process, such a claim also ignores the true classification of the original United States government. It was formed as a republic, not as a “democracy.”

[40] Among the questions you have dodged is the question of how the Fugitive Slave Laws were passed in the first place. Which side is it that hates “democracy” when the laws on the books favor the South and the North simply refuses to follow them?

[41] I regret that I haven’t time enough to try to discern which of the definitions of the ambiguous word “racism” you have in mind in your several uses of that abusive term. And I cannot get into your seeming curious inference that a small genetic difference between blacks and whites somehow contradicts the proposition that there are real racial differences. (For one thing, as a first-pass, it is plausible to think that the genetic difference between males and females is a single, sex-determining chromosome out of 46. On this construal, the genetic difference between men and women is only a 2.2% difference. Yet that small difference seems extremely important and, in any case, does not tempt me to the view that there are no real sex differences.)

Nor do I have time, presently, to explore the many trails that we could investigate in ethics. But I will say, as a coda, that you have also misconstrued the point of my argument: If God does not exist, then absolute values do not exist; absolute values do exist; therefore, God exists.

The point was not that a person must believe in God in order to live a moral life. Nor was the point that a normative ethical system – like Kantian and Utilitarian ethics are – need make specific mention of God. Coherent normative ethical systems can certainly be constructed without mention of God.

My point was regarding the metaphysical status of supposed moral facts. Kantianism and Utilitarianism only get off the ground once a person makes the crucial assumption that human beings have value.

For a person who denies that human beings have value “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has no force. If “I have no value” or “I don’t love myself” are true, then what sense is there to “I will love my neighbor equally”? (One attendant question is: Is there an objective reason that a person should adopt the moral point of view?)

Truthfully however, metaethical questions, like that of the objective ground (if any) for moral facts and that of the objectivity of the moral point of view, are more subtle than the issues regarding logic that have already held up our discussion. They should be reserved, therefore, for a much later time.

[42] I was going to add a subsection “On Tone,” but I will limit myself to addressing this as a sort of post script.

You have complained that you were “insulted” by my challenges of your use of “parody.” Two preliminary points. Firstly, you partially based this upon an uncharitable gloss of my words in which you alleged that I said you “didn’t understand the word parody” – which I nowhere said. But secondly, arguing over words is a large part of what analytic philosophy is about.

I am not a Wittgensteinian by any means, but Ludwig Wittgenstein had a point when he sketched his conception of philosophy-as-therapy. What sort of “therapy”? Word therapy. He said: “Our investigation is a grammatical one. Such an investigation sheds light on our problem by clearing misunderstandings away. Misunderstandings concerning the use of words, caused, among other things, by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions of language.” Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §90; quoted by Duncan J. Richter, “Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951),” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, <>.

However, and this is my main point, whereas you imagined that I had slighted you, you think nothing of peppering your text with phrases such as that my sincere lexical concerns embodied “a dishonest attempt” to bamboozle you, or that my genuine concern with the Constitution and abuses of federal power (both past and present) are “[u]sually” the expressions of “closet racists.” You then flippantly – and ambiguously, since you have not defined “racism” – ask: “Are you some kind of crypto racist…?” Then you simply forego even soliciting a reply from me and assert: “You've been arguing for racism this entire time…”. (As far as I can tell, no thinker has at any time labeled her own view “racism.” That word is always and everywhere a dismissive term of derision.)

It is difficult for me to construe these remarks as anything other than bullying. Are there some opinions that you think I am not permitted to express? Who gets to decide what opinions are verboten? As Jewish-atheist Christopher Hitchens once asked (I am paraphrasing): “Is there someone that you would feel comfortable appointing to decide, for you, what you may permissibly hear and think?” For me, nobody comes to mind.

As for me, I pursue truth. I believe that truth is helpfully discerned in the crucible of free and open debate – on any subject. I welcome candid criticism. You need not pull any punches with me, logically – provided that you are charitable. But I will not be stampeded into or bullied from the expression of an opinion out of fear of being branded with some smear word.

You earlier referenced George Orwell. It was Orwell who envisioned a nightmarish world in which some thoughts were labeled “Crimethink” and were placed outside the pale of respectability (and legality). If what I argue is false, then refute it – as I have done with your invalid misconstrual of the Second Amendment ;-) Just don’t address me with loaded questions of the sort that might be posed by any twisted thought cop in the service of misguided Utopian (really dystopian) tyranny. And, in return, I promise not to do so to you. You know. The Golden Rule and all that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

An Epistemic Question for ‘Climate Change’ Believers

Full disclosure: I consider myself to be an “agnostic” about “climate change” (formerly termed “global warming”). I realize that this is tantamount to heresy in the modern world.[1]

But I have sincere doubts. What can I do?

Oh, I see the press releases plainly enough. I just lack the faith. From time to time, my doubts blossom into questions.

For instance, left-leaning communications mogul Ted Turner’s Cable News Network (CNN) just published the article “2015 is Warmest Year on Record, NOAA and NASA Say.”[2]

Journalist Brandon Miller states:

“Last year was the Earth’s warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA said Wednesday. …2015 [saw an] average temperature across the entire planet 1.62˚F (0.90˚C) above the 20th century average, more than 20% higher than the previous highest departure from average.”[3]

One of the things that struck me was the phrase “since record-keeping began in 1880.”

Pondering this, I formulated what you might call an epistemic question for “climate change” believers.

It is reasonable to think that what climatologists think that they know about “climate change” arises from scientific data. Moreover, it is plausible to believe that at least a good portion of this scientific data is meteorological data. However, detailed meteorological data only goes back 135 years.

Given this, it seems to me that climatologists might be on firm ground when they speak about meteorological fluctuations within this 135-year period. However, things are a bit dicier when it comes to extrapolations about past-epochs for which we do not have detailed meteorological records.

To put it slightly differently, it might well be that 2015 is the hottest year on record from 1880 to 2015. But I fail to see why I should get worked up about this – even if it is a fact. So what if 2015 is the hottest year in the past 135 years?

To get worked up, I would have to believe (something like) that 2015 is the hottest year on record for hundreds or even thousands of years. And, although I could be mistaken, it sometimes seems as if this is pretty much what “climate change” believers really think.

My epistemic question is this, then. Why should I think that patterns emerging from 135 years of detailed meteorological data are representative of trends that would be alarming on a world-historic scale?[4]

Let me try to be a bit more precise.

If, as mainstream geologists claim, the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old, then 135 years represents three millionths of one percent of the age of the earth. (135 divided by 4.5 billion is 3.0 x 10-8; that is, 135 / 4,500,000,000 = 0.00000003. The decimal 0.00000003 is .000003%.)

To put it another way, if we had detailed meteorological data for the entire history of the earth, we would have 4.5 billion years’ worth of data to use for climatological theorizing. But we actually only have 135 years’ worth.

Now it just seems problematic to me to have only 135 bits of data from a set that has no fewer than 4.5 billion members and yet claim dogmatically – as many “climate change” alarmists do – that we have sufficient data to draw hard and fast conclusions.

In what other area of human inquiry is it permissible to shame “unbelievers” for their lack of faith in conclusions based upon three millionths of one-percent of all of the relevant data?

“Wait a minute!” someone might shout. “We’re not concerned with the entire history of the earth. We’re only concerned with the time period that humans have inhabited it.”

If we take this worry seriously, then we should perhaps alter our calculations. Humans have been on the earth for about 200,000 years, according to the current, received opinion.

This does make the difficulty that I am raising somewhat less intractable.

135 years out of 200,000 is 0.000675. On this way of reckoning, we have detailed meteorological information for 6.75 hundredths of one-percent of the relevant data set.

Admittedly, this is a much higher percentage. In fact, if my math is correct, it is 22,500 times better – an improvement gotten simply by considering 22,500 times less time than 4.5 billion years.

Even so, I have to ask: Is this sufficient data with which to draw climatological conclusions that cannot be permissibly or rationally doubted?

If we had detailed meteorological data for the entire period of human inhabitation of the earth, we would have 200,000 years’ worth of data to use for climatological theorizing. But we actually only have 135 years’ worth.

I apologize to true believers, but it still appears to me to be unreasonable to dogmatize from 135 bits out of a 200,000-piece data. It would be like guessing what a 200,000-piece puzzle pictures after examining only 135 pieces.[5]

Maybe some scientists are astounding guessers. Maybe the alarmist guesses are correct. But what I want to know is: is it irrational for me to doubt them? [6]

[1] Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that skepticism may be permissibly applied to every contemporary opinion. Our culture has its dogmas just as surely as did Medieval Europe during the height of Christendom. It’s respectable to be as skeptical as you like with the tenets of Christianity, for instance. But when it comes to “climate change,” unbelievers are derided for their blasphemy of Scientism.

[2] Brandon Miller, CNN, Jan. 20, 2016, <>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Of course, I am ignoring analyses of earth core samples, ice samples, tree-ring samples and whatever else from which meteorological data might be adduced. I think that this is justified, firstly, because the article to which I am reacting makes no mention of these things. Secondly, I take it that such adductions are not indubitable. In fact, my quick-and-dirty researches suggest to me that such inferences are controversial. Thirdly, and finally, I am not sure that if one counted them it would boost the data set percentages high enough to be compelling.

[5] Perhaps “climate change” apologists should embrace young-earth creationism. If one takes seriously the speculations of 16th-17th-century Irish Bishop James Ussher, and sets the date for the beginning of the earth at 4004 B.C., then it turns out that the earth is only around 6,019 years old. 135 years is 2.2% of 6,019 years. (135 / 6,019 = 0.02242897491. )

[6] The most persuasive argument that I have ever read in favor of implementing measures to ward off “climate change” proceeded something along the following lines. It may be prudent to take action to guard against high-impact, low-probability risks. For instance, many people think it wise to carry flood or earthquake insurance, not because they deem these risks to be likely but because, despite their unlikelihood, they would be devastating if, against the odds, they actually occurred. Similarly, or so one might hold, even if “climate change” – in the sense of catastrophic global warming – is extremely improbable, it may still be prudent to hedge against it because it would be devastating if, against the odds, it did occur.

I have some sympathy for this line of argument. I might even say that I agree with it. But what I have no sympathy for is the sort of bullying that takes place when extrapolations from less (possibly far less) than one percent of the relevant data are trumpeted as undoubtable or incorrigible. (See David Roberts, “The Arguments That Convinced a Libertarian to Support Aggressive Action on Climate,” Vox, May 12-13, 2015, <>.)