Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Straw-Man 'Libertarianism'

Presumably in its attempt to be comical, this picture-text misrepresents (intentionally or unintentionally) philosophical libertarianism.

On one minimalist construal, philosophical libertarianism is simply a theory of justice which advances the idea that what is “just” is that “persons” (whatever those are) do not “interfere” (whatever that cashes out to be) with one another.[1]

A person barreling through intersections ignoring stop signs interferes with the liberty of whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the way. Hence, (a plausible articulation of) philosophical libertarianism does not license the behavior that the author envisions.

The version of “libertarianism” being attacked is neither the strongest version available nor the version that is typically defended in the relevant political-philosophy literature. However humorous it may be, then, the post commits the straw-man fallacy (in the language of informal logic).

Without affirming or denying philosophical libertarianism, one may - and should - condemn such fallacious polemics.

See also:

Noam Chomsky Reminds: Clintons Are Republicans

Let’s Throw Our Brains and Our Guns Into the Toilet at the Same Time (Parody)

ISIS: The US-CIA Connection

A Few Words on the Second Amendment's Historical Meaning

[1] For more information on this sort of libertarianism, see the discussion of “Spencerian Libertarianism” here: Peter Vallentyne and Bas van der Vossen, “Libertarianism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2014 Ed., Edward N. Zalta, ed., <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/libertarianism/>.


apsterian said...

Father Deserves Credit As Child Was Surely Impressed For Perspective Given To Pertinent Idea, Liberty

I've always thought liberty, libertarianism, and law, etc., followed fm reason as liberty, liberalism, etc., were most in accord w. reason. So one can do anything long as it doesn't harm another, etc., these being most in accord w. reason, liberty, and thus humanity. So then, how do we look and discern as to what constitutes "harm," for example? Thus we consider the use, place, and value of such liberty.

I don't follow the "straw-man" problem, however, as alleged by blog-author. It rather seems the author of the picture-text wants to use an example and he draws an analogy for his 4 yr old which caused the 4 yr old to be more thoughtful. That analogy was quite effective for the 4 yr old regarding the example taken fm the traffic situation, the 4 yr old seeing the utility of not risking an accident and then weighing the two, "liberty," and possible injury and damage to property, etc.

Thus the 4 yr old was (presumably) brought to considering utility, premises, and circumstances for the virtue of liberty by the father's commentary upon and treatment of the idea, liberty, now in regard to traffic rules and considerations.

I would rather observe the father was fairly clever and adept for his presentation of the idea of liberty for the child, the father being able to give a useful perspective for the child to thinking about.

apsterian said...

Ahem, but I believe the world breathlessly awaits Mr. Bell to defend his contention regarding "straw-man" and the righteous condemnation which is due.

Liberty Bell said...

Dear apsterian,

Thank you for the attention; sorry for the delayed reply.

Of course, a "straw-man attack" is an informal "fallacy that occurs when [an] arguer misrepresents an opponent's position for the purpose of more easily attacking it..." (Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, 6th ed., Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth, 1997, p. 653.)

Now, the picture-text may present us with (at leas) two interpretation options.

One option would be for us to take Keith Lowell Jensen as reporting something about how he encouraged his daughter to - as you put it - "to be more thoughtful." On this interpretation, his analogy was an accommodation to his daughter's puerility and ignorance. I would not hesitate to felicitate him were it not for the fact that he glosses this exercise as "how [he] talked [his] 4 year old out of being a libertarian." Of course, if it were merely an accommodating analogy, then what he really did was to motivate his daughter to examine her own past, unthinking delinquency.

But is (philosophical) libertarianism responsibly characterized as "unthinking delinquency"? No. Or is a philosophical libertarian committed to the principle that drivers need not be bound to observe traffic laws? No. Thus, if interpretation #1 is meant to be advanced as the correct interpretation, then one must either interpret the word "libertarian" in an analogous and accommodating way (and therefore admit that it has nothing to do with serious philosophical libertarianism) or one must remove the reference altogether.

On another interpretation, the picture text irresponsibly alleges that (philosophical) libertarianism is on an intellectual and moral par with blazing through a stop sign. However, if this is the intention, then it is a textbook illustration of the straw-man fallacy, since it purports to deliver a knockout punch to serious "libertarianism" in virtue of an anecdote about a father delivering a life lesson to a misbehaving four-year-old girl.

If it's intended seriously - and I responded as if it was so intended (because the person who drew my attention to it understood it that way) - then it is a frivolous, straw-man attack on serious libertarianism.

apsterian said...

Libertarianism: Virtuous Over-Thinking

Ok: but methinks u might be accused of "over-thinking"--but not that this is bad thing. I took the very last statement of the dad, "and that's how I talked my 4 yr old out of being a libertarian," as rather a joke or humorous way of simplifying for his little kiddo. For when u get down to it, the intellect defends and justifies that basic emotional urge for freedom, for which the dad seems to be cautioning the kiddo.

"Philosophic libertarianism"?--or "serious libertarianism"?--what's wrong w. simply libertarianism, period?--how really, does "philosophic" or "serious" change it or make it different, or do anything terribly much for it?

Anyone, including the father in question, would agree w. u "unthinking delinquency" is anti-human, but it's fair that it be put to the kiddo--who seems to have taken the pt. After all, if the freeway doesn't belong to the driver, then driver is obligated to consider the condition for being allowed onto the freeway. Surely, the dad was mostly joking for his last statement--in due respect to libertarians who are typically known for virtuous willingness to "think"--even at risk of "over-thinking."

Talk about "over-thinking," look what happened to Libertarian party and the candidates it got for national office--reductio-ad-absurdum. It will be interesting to see how many votes those two get.