Friday, February 13, 2004

OK, Spell Sesquipedalian

Skepticism doesn’t appeal to me as a general philosophical stance, but as a practical matter I’m highly skeptical when it comes to the investigation of particular facts and circumstances. It isn’t just that a good defense attorney can muddy any case. The smoke and mirrors wouldn’t work if establishing what happened in particular instances were not next to impossible. One by one, things are eternally obscure; but that doesn’t imply that reliable general conclusions are impossible. That the Bush and Blair administrations promoted the war with Iraq by fraud is perfectly obvious, for example, even though it will always be possible to obfuscate the issues by pretending they have something to do with whether or not somebody uttered the word “imminent” on February 2, 2002 at 10:02 in the morning. It is likewise clear that the President received special treatment in the National Guard because of his political connections. Whether or not he got his teeth cleaned in Alabama is beside the point.

I’m not suggesting that the political foolery of the present day can be chalked up to a fault of logic. If otherwise competent people go through the charade of naming blue-ribbon commissions to determine if lead floats and fire burns, it’s because they are too complicit, too cowardly, or simply too weak to take direct political action against stupid and immoral policies. This weaseling evasion exploits a well-nigh universal folk epistemology, however, and could hardly succeed if people of normal intelligence weren’t feeble minded.

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