In the combox to a prior post KF brought this article to my attention:
On the Nature of Debate, Denial and Refutation by Robert L. Kocher.
It could not have come at a better time. In the past few weeks I have noticed an increase in plain old irrationality from our opponents. You catch them in outright falsehoods; they do not acknowledge it. They just spew out another comment. You catch them in a contradiction; again, they ignore it and act as if there was no contradiction and you did not catch them. You state a self-evident fact. They deny it.
Quite honestly, they have begun to wear me down. It turns out I am not alone. Kocher writes:
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.
What if there is no such agreement?
The resolution of differing assertions, if there is to be one, will not be on the basis of intellectual reasoning or investigation, but on the basis of resolving a severe mental disorder. . . . If there is intractable disinclination, no resolution is possible.
I say the Holocaust is objectively evil. Learned Hand says that the Holocaust is not objectively evil and that the only thing he can say about it is that he does not prefer Holocausts and that he subjectively believes his preference in that regard is superior to the contrary Nazi preference (by which he means that he personally prefers his preference over the Nazi preference).
Learned Hand is saying that the red pen in my hand is a flower pot. We have a fundamental disagreement about basic reality. His view is literally insane. But I cannot hope to convince him of his insanity any more than I could hope to convince him that the red pen in my hand is a red pen and not a flower pot.
I have no stronger argument that the Holocaust was objectively evil independently of anyone’s subjective preference than the self-evident fact that murdering 18 million innocent men, women and children is objectively evil. LH either accepts that or he does not. And if he does not he is insane or evil or both. And the most I can hope for is to convince the lurkers.
At the end of the day Learned Hand is saying that evil does not exist. He is saying that some people prefer murder and other people do not, and the practical difference between the two groups is not whose preference is objectively superior (because he says there is no standard by which to measure which preference is objectively superior) but who is stronger. Might makes right.
Within the borderline psychotic liberalism of the past several decades, the various forms of irrefutability have come to have intellectual equivalence. Mental disorder and psychotic levels of denial have come to have a certified validity because of their irrefutability–even to the point of being misinterpreted as being a powerful form of intellectuality.
LH’s denial of the existence of objective evil is, in a sense, irrefutable. “Consider the Holocaust; consider torturing an infant for pleasure,” I plead. LH says he personally does not prefer either of those things, but he denies that either is objectively evil, because he says there is no such thing. “Borderline psychotic liberalism” is a good description of this attitude.
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.
It really is the case that I have no answer for the denial of the existence of objective evil other than to point to self-evidently evil acts. If denial persists, I have no answer any more than I would have an answer if LH were to say “You are holding a flower pot” other than to respond “My God man, look at it; it’s a red pen, not a flower pot.”
I have spent a large proportion of time in a state of near stammering rage arguing with people, especially leftists, who consider themselves intellectual powerhouses in vain attempts to obtain at least minor degree of acceptance or agreement on what constitutes basic reality.
I know the feeling all too well.
But, observable basic reality does not make a dent in countering the psychotic arguments underwriting the chaotic consequences which are occurring. No matter how airtight the refutation, the talk continues. No matter how inane the talk, the issue is still considered unresolved. Capacity to continue speaking has become looked upon as a form of refutation of absolute real-world evidence.
How many times when I’ve been arguing with Zachriel, Popperian, LH, eigenstate, or seversky have I caught them out in an obvious falsehood or contradiction, only to have them move on as if nothing happened? It really is the case, it seems, that they believe “valid argument” means the same thing as “the ability to keep typing.”
Not long ago I read a book review in Commentary magazine. While the reviewer seemed somewhat sympathetic to the points made in the book, he complained that the book author consistently referred to his adversaries as idiots. The reviewer criticized the book author on the basis that calling people nuts or idiots is not intellectual content or intellectual refutation. The reviewer was absolutely incorrect. It is profound intellectual content. It is shorthand for the valid and important observation that the content of certain positions is a form of mental disorder for which no intellectual refutation is possible.
I have used the word “idiot” several times in recent weeks. When someone denies that it is evil to chop little boys and girls into pieces and sell the pieces like meat, it is the kindest word I can think of.
What is a sane person to do when the whole world seems to be going mad? Kocher offers some advice:
. . . the individual in this situation must maintain confidence in reality and final confidence in himself in stating reality. In other words, there comes a point where the only and final argument is, “That’s the way the real world operates, and that’s the way it is.” Many of us who are graduates of diseased liberal educational systems have been brainwashed into accepting the undermining belief that if we don’t have a refutation that satisfies people holding an irrational position, then according to what we are told are the rules of liberal intellectuality we should be morally or ethically bound to adopt that irrational position or be labeled irrational or anti-intellectual. This leads to the inverted condition of feeling guilty or irrational for not adopting wholesale mental disorder. . . .
anyone representing sanity or seeking to hold on to their sanity today must possess emotional ruggedness. It means being subjected to constant temper tantrums. Agreement is not to be expected regardless of the correctness of your position. In many cases the only refutation to the opposing argument is to look at the world around you as evidence.
I will need to work on emotional ruggedness. I freely admitted last week, for example, that Zachriel’s insanity had worn me to a nub, and I needed a rest. But I am fairly well anchored on reality, and with Martin Luther I declare, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.”