Over at The Skeptical Zone Learned Hand (who goes by “Colin” there) has been psychoanalyzing me. I’m a wall builder don’t you know:
I think one major motivator of the “you’re a liar!” style of debate they’ve adopted is community identification. I’ve been thinking of this as building a wall. The point of the conversation is largely, not entirely, to show that “we think like this:” and “they think like that:”, or more pointedly, “look how stupid and ugly they are.” It makes it very easy to avoid questioning beliefs, because we cling particularly to those notions that separate us from them. It identifies and strengthens the community of us by redefining it in opposition to the ugliness and stupidity of them. And once that wall is built, it’s extremely hard to dismantle. Why on earth would you stop and seriously consider something a stupid and dishonest person says? And what would it say about you if you agreed with them? The wall exists to separate.
LH has been drinking deeply from the postmodern Kool-Aid, and it has led him to say some staggeringly stupid things. Remember, this is the guy who says he does not believe that the law of identity (A=A) is infallibly true. I pointed out to him that such a claim is absurd, self-defeating and incoherent and only an idiot or a liar would assert it. Instead of withdrawing his idiotic claim, he doubles down and asserts that the only reason I refuse to countenance it is because I want to build a wall to insulate myself from the those who don’t think like me so that I can “cling” to the notion that A always and without exception in all possible universes equals A.
It beggars belief. I will not bother to defend the self-evident truth of the law of identity. Why? Robert L. Kocher tells us why:
It is a fact of life that you cannot win an argument with someone who is not sane. Sane bystanders may come to agree with your presentation, but you have no way of convincing someone who is not sane of anything. . . suppose that I say that the red pen I happen to have in my hand at this moment is a red pen. Further suppose that someone else says it is not a red pen, but is instead a flower pot, or a suitcase or a TV set. As a practical matter, I am unable to refute the assertion that what I am holding in my hand is not a flower pot. That does not mean that I’m incorrect when I say that it is a red pen. Nor does it mean that I am intellectually weaker than the other person who is arguing that it is not a red pen. Nor does it mean that his assertion that it is not a red pen is correct.
It means that I have no stronger argument than the red pen being in my hand. There is no stronger argument possible than the simple fact of the red pen being in my hand. No stronger refutation of the other person’s arguments is possible. At some point there must be agreement on what constitutes basic reality.
Similarly to Kocher’s red pen, I have no greater argument that A=A than the self-evident fact that A=A.
No, the purpose of this post is not to refute Learned Hand, because to any reasonable observer Learned Hand’s insanity is self-refuting. Instead, I want to consider why anyone would say such an idiotic thing. He must know he is making a fool of himself, right? No actually; exactly the opposite is true. Kocher again:
It has become common for people who routinely engage in chronic psychotic levels of denial to consider themselves as being mental powerhouses, and to be considered by others as being mental powerhouses, because no one can break through their irrationality. This is often supported by a self-referencing congratulatory inner voice which says, “(guffaw) He REALLY didn’t have an answer for that one!” And they are correct. He didn’t have an answer.
Far from acknowledging the manifest folly of his statements, LH revels in it. Only wall building rubes like Barry believe that A=A is infallibly, necessarily true; hyper-sophisticated intellectuals like myself are not so narrow minded.
So why do people like LH make such staggeringly stupid, borderline psychotic claims? Well, LH feels free to psychoanalyze me, and I will now return the favor. LH rejects the concept of absolute and infallible truth, because absolute and infallible truth acts as a check on his autonomous will. If A always equals A, then maybe, just maybe, it is also always evil to kill little boys and girls, chop them into pieces and sell the pieces. I assure you that it is no coincidence that LH rejects both assertions. Because the rejection of any potential limit on LH’s autonomous will drives the nihilistic antinomianism at the core of his worldview.