Good Grief

by John Holbo on August 21, 2017

The Federalist has gotten weirder. If you feel this way about Charlie Brown, just think what you would think if you ever met that Ur-Lucy, Socrates. Perhaps Cornford said it best:

Since the stone-axe fell into disuse at the close of the neolithic age, two other arguments of universal application have been added to the rhetorical armoury by the ingenuity of mankind. They are closely akin; and, like the stone-axe, they are addressed to the Political Motive. They are called the Wedge and the Dangerous Precedent. Though they are very familiar, the principles, or rules of inaction, involved in them are seldom stated in full. They are as follows.

The Principle of the Wedge is that you should not act justly now for fear of raising expectations that you may act still more justly in the future – expectations which you are afraid you will not have the courage to satisfy. A little reflection will make it evident that the Wedge argument implies the admission that the persons who use it cannot prove that the action is not just. If they could, that would be the sole and sufficient reason for not doing it, and this argument would be superfluous.

The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent is that you should not now do an admittedly right action for fear you, or your equally timid successors, should not have the courage to do right in some future case, which, ex hypothesi, is essentially different, but superficially resembles the present one …

It will be seen that both the Political Arguments are addressed to the Bugbear of Giving yourself away



BruceJ 08.21.17 at 3:03 pm

Perhaps Hans would like to have some quiet reminiscing with his fellow Religious Right conservatives about just exactly WHY they embraced Politics so fiercely as the “New Religious Faith”…

Perhaps he might want to consider ur-Conservative William F. Buckley’s thoughts on the matter.

Like Lady Macbeth, they’re finding that some stains just don’t wash out even with repeated applications of Lava, OxyClean and the Memory Hole.

To mash in another hand-washing reference “You’re soaking in it!”.


Pavel A 08.21.17 at 5:40 pm

The Federalist spent most of the time after C’ville trying to reuse the “calling white people racists made them racists and because of this liberals are the real racists” argument, just with a lot more verbal salad. They’re Nazi sympathizers and we all know that.


William Timberman 08.21.17 at 8:01 pm

The tenderness of one’s soul as an excuse for avoiding condemnation of an obvious atrocity? From blowhard religious conservatives? Should we laugh or cry? Satan would no doubt be more impressed. I understand that he has a particular fondness for precisely this kind of tender soul.


Tamara Piety 08.21.17 at 8:12 pm

I would hesitate to say that a man who said this, “Females act by mere instinctive intuition; but men have the gift of reflection.” said anything “best.” Are there no better examples? I must say when I clicked on that link I was rather disconcerted.


John Holbo 08.21.17 at 11:10 pm

“I would hesitate to say that a man who said this, “Females act by mere instinctive intuition; but men have the gift of reflection.” said anything “best.”

And then in the next line he says that Hamlet is the classic ‘man of action’. But Hamlet is proverbially indecisive! It’s a puzzle.


John Quiggin 08.22.17 at 12:18 am

The mention of whataboutism prompts me to note a piece not worth a post, but maybe a comment. Having taken the trouble trawl through National Review Online, I found a truly classic piece of whataboutism from Andrew McCarthy.
His headline case of left wing support for violence is that of an obscure member of the Weather Underground, whose sentence, imposed in the early 1980s, was commuted by Bill Clinton in 2001. This is, I suppose, marginally better than those (including someone in comments here not long ago) banging on about the fact that the late Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK in the 1940s, but it’s still pretty desperate stuff.


Belle Waring 08.22.17 at 1:13 am

It will literally be 2054 and my grandchildren will be hearing about Robert Byrd. Not about Strom Thurmond for some reason except from me. Fucking Strom Thurmond.


Ed 08.22.17 at 1:45 pm

You read too much highbrow and upper middlebrow stuff making idiotic arguments.

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