Biased, Trump-Deranged and stupid is no way to be a philosopher, Sam.
Before last week I was happily unaware of the existence of inexplicably influential woke philosopher and “best-selling author” Sam Harris. Then, in rapid succession, he endorsed journalistic malpractice and “ends justify the means” tactics to manipulate a national election, declared that Osama bin Laden was the salt of the earth compared to Donald Trump, and now he’s unleashed the demented tweet above.
That might be the most outrageous of the three, which is saying something. What kind of logic is that? It’s super-projection on steroids, as far as I can determine. X does something offensive and unethical to attack Y, and the defense is, “Yeah, but what X did is what Y is really like! I just know it!”
It isn’t just making that crazy statement that is evidence of cognitive malfunction; it’s publishing it and assuming that people not similarly impaired won’t react by deciding the writer is a lunatic.
Harris is one of those pseudo celebrities who makes me wonder where I went wrong. Clearly, writing and saying trendy, woke-pandering nonsense is a better formula for success than honestly trying to do the hard work of clarifying and bolstering societal values.
9 thoughts on “Keep Talking And Tweeting, Sam: Eventually Almost Everybody Will Figure Out That You’re Ridiculous…Won’t They?”
As one of the tiny percentage of competent philosophers on this planet, I recommend that we start asking people to explain what fascism means to them–after putting them in a calm frame of mind, that is. It’s part of the deconstruction method: 1) make them comfortable; 2) make them think; 3) make them choose. In this case, we don’t have to make them choose. We can just gather information.
Step 1: Make them comfortable.
“I know why I reject fascism, and I know how I would recognize a fascist according to my understanding of the word.” (First make sure this is true; step 1 of the reconciliation method is to understand one’s own values.)
“However, sometimes people use the word ‘fascist’ in ways that confuse me. Although I may not like a person who is described as fascist, sometimes the use of the word to describe them differs from my understanding of what fascism is. There might be something I’m missing.”
Step 2: Make them think.
“Based on your understanding, what is it that a fascist person does that makes them fascist? Perhaps most importantly, what sorts of problems are you concerned that a fascist person would cause? For example, would they build popular support by rallying people against a common enemy who could very well be just an unpopular cultural group used as a scapegoat? Would they seize power and control and unilaterally implement policies that hurt people? Because those things definitely worry me, and I want to prevent them from happening. Could any of those problems also be caused by non-fascists?”
You can wait for the answer to each question before asking the next one; no need to overwhelm people with questions. There’s no need to make them choose at this point. This is just an example of how you might hold a conversation with someone by making them feel safe. It will help you complete step 2 of the reconciliation method: understand the other person’s values.
Once you understand the values in play, you can move to step 3: frame the situation constructively. You can figure out things to do that oppose fascism even if the two of you don’t agree on which politicians are fascist.
The neat thing about ideologies is that you can counteract their spread without having to even talk about who you think embodies them in modern politics. A policy doesn’t become a good idea or a bad idea based on who proposes it. (Who implements it is a different story, but that’s not necessarily an ideological problem.)
And when you make people think about the functional definitions of ideologies, and how to recognize them, instead of arguing over who represents what, we will take one step closer to a world where people don’t tweet about whether the color of the lighting behind a politician means they’re the next Hitler.
(“I mean, how does anyone even know what color Hitler’s backlights were? All those pictures and film clips were in black and white!” the philosopher wrote facetiously.)
EC, your argument style is excellent. I can see your interrogatee saying, “oh.” Interesting way to show their position is incorrect without saying it, but letting them reach their own conclusion.
I like your Socratic style. I would have liked someone to have replied to the WH spokesmodel who stated that the president believes democracy is threatened when rights are being taken away. She went on to characterize the Dobbs decision as an example of the Republicans taking away women’s rights. Why has no one ever countered with the fact that Biden wants to severely restrict the second amendment. Isn’t that taking away rights if allowing states to decide what limits on abortion are to be had is taking away rights. If they counter that guns take lives just look at them with a puzzled look and say only in self defense is taking a life a legitimate reason and we criminalize all others. I can list a number of mandates and restrictions on civil liberties promoted by progressives but not so much other than abortion from conservatives.
I know some people on the right make some outrageous demands. What I am speaking about is actual potential legislation.
“understand the other person’s values”
I would like to amplify this 100 times. 10 out of 20 disputes in my experience are driven by different opinions about values. When you see this you can discuss the values, rather than the actions, and be constructive (Of the rest, 9 out of 20 are driven by different knowledge, 1 out of 20 by bad faith arguers).
“I mean, how does anyone even know what color Hitler’s backlights were? All those pictures and film clips were in black and white!” the philosopher wrote facetiously.
Well, we know because Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” had marching black hammers with red stripes, and Pink Floyd knew things; therefore, . . .
Our Intrepid Ethicist wrote:
“Yeah, but what X did is what Y is really like! I just know it!”
I think it is more “Yeah, but what X did is not nearly as bad a what Y is really like and really wants to do because Y is so much worse! I just know it!”
This Harris guy lacks any credibility if he can write and defend that Trump is so much more eviler* than Bin Laden. Harris can’t really believe that. If he does, this philosophical mind is so twisted he make a legitimate decision and his thoughts aren’t worth reading. It borders on delusion.
*Ed. Note: writing the tortured grammar actually hurt me, even though it was intentional. Mr. Gavlinsky from high school sophomore Writing and Composition would weep in despair.
Sam Harris is known in Christian circles for being a vocal anti-religion atheist. He has a PhD in neuroscience, but fancies himself a philosopher and deep thinker. However his philosophical arguments are typically shallow and rhetorical. His popularity stems mostly from the anti-religion self-appointed “rational thinkers” echo chamber on the internet.
He’s the only one of the major atheist activists who doesn’t have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.
What a lame argument from Harris. “The hypothetical actions of your guy are much worse than the actual actions of my guy!” I guess Aristotle couldn’t hold a candle to Sam! I would bet Sam thinks he could be a great philosopher-king and keep the hoi polloi in their place.