Saturday, May 14, 2011

Agnotology & The Liars Paradox

I'm (slightly) involved in a discussion at Crooked Timber on agnotology. It is a topic I have discussed here in the past. For the moment, I want to focus on part of what I see is the issue before us - how to deal effectively with those whose ideological position is different from one's own on a basis of mutual respect, even if the disagreement becomes heated.

I recently noted, in a comment at Dan's blog, the following list from Mark (the person who gave this blog its subtitle). It appears in the right-hand side-bar:
Truths About Liberals
1. Always expect the worst from a liberal and you will never be surprised.

2. Never try to reason with a liberal. They disregard any evidence that conflicts with their beliefs.

3. You can always tell what liberals are up to by what they accuse you of doing.

4. Liberals don't debate, they argue.

5. The only standards liberals have are double standards.

6. Liberals feel, conservatives think.

7. Whenever you don't understand a liberal's motives, just look for the money.

8. Liberals cannot be embarrassed. They lack the gene to blush.

9. The Liberal creed is, "Do as I say, not as I do.

10. Liberals get older, but they never get smarter.

11. There are no honest liberals. If they were honest -- especially to themselves -- they would not be liberal.

12. A liberal's business is nobody's business, but everyone's business is a liberal's business.

13. Liberals have an inflated sense of self-worth. They are like house flies that criticize the air-worthiness of a Stealth fighter. (Sarah, Palin, George W. Bush, ad infinitum are morons.)

14. Liberals lack a sixth sense that is standard equipment in conservatives -- common sense.

15. Liberals never stop hating.

16. There are only two types of liberals -- the deceivers and the deceived.

17. Every time liberals get on their high horse, they get bucked off.

18. Liberal programs are so wonderful that they have to be forced on people.

19. Liberals always choke on their own medicine.

20. When given a moral choice, liberals always come down on the wrong side of the fence.

21. The only way liberals can build themselves up is by tearing others down.

22. Liberals not only refuse to admit their mistakes, they refuse to learn from them.

23. Liberals can dish it out, but they can't take it.

24. Liberals are incapable of attacking the message, so they always attack the messenger.

25. Liberal diversity is only skin deep.
I noted in the above-linked comment, that it would be difficult to function even in an ordinary capacity if one truly held these convictions. The reason is simple enough. Taken as a whole, they represent the classic "Liar's Paradox". In its simplest form, it runs like this:
Everything I say is a lie.
I am lying to you.
Essentially, the above list can be boiled down to this logical nonsense. Indeed, if one took it even slightly differently, one could argue that the list claims that liberals are, in fact, conservatives.

All the same, let us assume it is possible to hold these things in one's head and function. What is the result? I get comments such as Edwin Drood's, "Stop pretending to care about the troops . . ." on a post in which I had expressed . . . concern for American forces in Afghanistan. How is it possible for Edwin to make such a claim? Why, he adheres to Mark's idea that our words actually mean the opposite of their literal presentation. A post in support of the troops is in fact an attack upon them. A post criticizing Pres. Obama on this or that or other point - and I have written many over the past couple years - is evidence of blind support for everything Pres. Obama does. The repeated statement that I am a Christian is evidence that I am not a Christian. The list is endless.

In other words, what counts for "evidence" is actually discounted not because of any inherent flaw in the evidence itself. Rather, because I am a self-confessed person of the left, for some at least on the right this is a priori proof that everything that follows is either (a) wrong, or (b) deceitful. Based upon little more than a prior commitment to the belief that liberals are a bunch of immoral, lying scumbags who hate America and want to screw your daughter then force an abortion on her.

Under different circumstances, we should be able to say, "Wow, this is really weird," have a laugh, and talk about something else. Instead, with the Liar's Paradox fully in force, we are faced with the reality that this is impossible.

I think, at this point, we should stop talking about agnotology, and start talking about crazy.

Virtual Tin Cup

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