Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why Relativist Love Debate and Hate to Argue

September 30th's debate did clarify the difference between Bush and Kerry. This difference is the core conflict in America. Kerry is a Relativist, Bush believes in Truth. I have been asked to debate on election issues. The opponent I hoped to meet in a "clash of ideas" declined the invitation of the Teenage Democrats and Republicans. She says "She's not running for anything!" But she really just doesn't want to argue with me. I will meet the former Debate coach, who will defend Kerry's positions. A "Relatively" easy task for him since Kerry has many positions to choose from on any given subject. Anyone who has debated in competition will realize that Kerry has provided his supporters with a veritable "file box" of positions to choose from. All one needs is for an opponent to take a stand and one will have a "Kerry card" to deal with it.

Definitions: (Check your Webster's)

Argue comes from the Latin arguere - to make clear.

Debate is defined as contention by words or arguments.

I say:

Absolutists believe in the Truth and therefore argue to find it.

Relativist use arguments and words in a confusion of disconnected positions which become an appeal for points; allowing and even encouraging contradictions.

As an absolutist arguer, I say Kerry lost the debate on September 30th because he did not expose any truth about himself or the President. Relativist debaters will say Kerry won because he presented the best contentions. Let's examine both men's positions.

Note: I do not pretend to be quoting anyone directly - and many of these position statements will be drawn as much from campaign statements as from the debate, but as VP Cheney said, "ninety minutes of acting tough in a debate cannot undo 35 years of record." Unless you are a Relativist.

Kerry says, "I supported the war when I thought there were WMD threats. I now 'know' there were no WMDs so I no longer support the war, BUT I will still fight the war, I will fight it harder and win!" This is a Relativist stance. An absolutist would argue that if a war was justified by a lie it is unjust, and the thing to do is to say one is sorry and quit!" But Kerry does not say that. As a Relativist he can say we shouldn't be fighting the war and that we should win it in the very same sentence.

Kerry says, "The war is too expensive. It has cost $200 Billion that could have been used for education and health care, BUT if you elect me I will spend more money and send more troops because Bush did not send enough troops, and did not provide them with adequate equipment." An absolutist would argue that if the war costs more than it is worth, we should come home and quit spending money on it. But Kerry doesn't say that. As a Relativist he can say the war isn't worth the cost and he will spend more for it in the future.

Kerry says, "Those who allied themselves with the US were fools, a coalition of the coerced and the bribed. They have foolishly entered into reckless participation in a dangerous and unnecessary war, BUT elect me President and I will bring together all nations and France, Germany, and Russia will join in freeing Iraq." An absolutist would say, no intelligent leader or wise nation would enter a needless slaughter; so give me the power and we will get out. But Kerry, the Relativist, doesn't say that. He can say both that no nation can support the war in Iraq and that he will get lots of nations to do it.

Kerry's real motivation in his debate is not his moral compass or his core values; he has neither. He will present any position to get elected, and as a Relativist, supported by relativist in the media and the liberal elites, he can provide instant gratification to his "card grabbing" constituents by providing them with whatever sound bite they need to support him.

Now let's compare Bush's stance on these three postings. As an absolutist Bush's arguments must be logical and reasonable.

Bush says, "All wars in the defense of freedom and the safety of America are just and necessary. Saddam threatened the safety and freedom of America and the world, therefore war against him is just." This follows the form of the most famous syllogism in Logic: All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal. War is just if it defends freedom, this war defends freedom, therefore it is just. Kerry might argue that the war does not defend freedom or make America safer, but he does not. He supports the war and is against it at the same time.

Bush says, "Money spent on the war makes American safe. This is the reason we have a military; they need support so we must sacrifice the money to carry out the decisions made by the commanders in the field." Again, the same logical syllogism, wars for safety are worth the sacrifice, this war keeps us safe and makes the world safer, therefore it is worth the cost. Kerry could argue against this position by proving that this war has not made the world safer, but he says just the opposite, most of the time.

Bush says, "We get every ally we can, and show them respect and gratitude, but we do not wait for a "Global Pass" from other nations who are not interested in American success or the spread of freedom." This argument flows with elegant logic. Allies are those who support each other, we support those who support us, therefore we have allies. But America will not turn its safety over to the discretion of those who want the US to fail. We will not seek their permission, "the Global Pass." This final statement is an example of another basic logical form, the negative mode, Modus Tollens. If it is raining outside then the sidewalks are wet. The sidewalks are not wet, therefore it is not raining outside. If Nations support us then they are our allies, France does not support American therefore they are not our ally. Remember that France's stance in this war has nothing to do with what is good for Iraq or for the word, but only what France perceives to be good for France. Many point out that the French do not like Bush. Of course they don't because the French don't like America to be strong. When we had a weak President, Bill Clinton, they were very happy. If another weak President were to be elected they would be very pleased.

For a week Kerry's supporters have been reading his "cards" and saying he won the debate. Bush cannot be all things to all people because he must act in the real world. Bush operates in the world of truth. Kerry can say anything he wants because what he says has no real world effect, it does not need to be true. Kerry can be judged the better debater by relativist, for contention is the province of the Relativist, but his arguments are not winners to those who seek to make the Truth clear.


Dan Simpson said...

This is Dan Simpson by the way.

This was great. I have been the only one I know, with the exception of my wife, who has stated consistently that Bush won this debate. It amazes me still that with the inconsistency Kerry showed within the debate, let alone before and after, that people can say that Kerry came off better.

This was a great post highlighting some of the most asinine portions of Kerry's talking points.

Bryan Hickman said...

This is Bryan Hickman by the way (live from DC).

I agree whole heartedly with the post, which is why I'm supporting Bush in this election even if, for the most part, I'm not a big fan of his.

I thought that Kerry performed better in the debate because, as Delose put it, it was a "debate." It was a show of sophistry in front of the American people and Bush didn't, in my opinion, get his points of truth across very elequantly. Kerry threw him a bunch of softballs and Bush failed to connect on most of them.

That doesn't mean Kerry was right on the issues. You saw, as Delose described, him mincing words, equivocating and playing both sides of every issue. Bush, for the most part, failed to capitalize on this.

Silver Lining said...

DannyBoy, Many people feel Bush won that debate, but it is hard to hear through the blaring declarations of the main stream media. The media is also already setting Bush up for a "devastating loss" Friday due to the new WMD report. Let us not forget that Bush referred to Iraq as a grave and gathering threat (the basic conclusion of the new report) and stated to the American people that we needed to deal with Iraq before the threat was imminent. He has not misled us. It was, in fact, John Edwards who called Sadam Hussein an imminent threat. It is so interesting to me that now Kerry and Edwards were never wrong and yet the President, in their eyes, is not only wrong, he is dishonest.

This goes back somewhat to Lysis' relativist arguement. Kerry and Edwards can say Bush is a liar and make it so, because they don't really care for the truth, they care for soundbytes. How sad and distasteful that is.

One point from the first debate coupled with this new report that I would like to add (As I belive it will go largely unnoticed) is that Kerry claimed that we should have let sanctions go longer, that they would have worked. This new WMD report indicates clearly that companies in France and Russia were actively aiding in dismantling the sanctions against Iraq. These are the people Kerry claims to be able to now bring to the table. Oh by the way, not only would sanctions have failed and help from France is ludicrous, the report states that Hussein was waiting for the dismantling of sanctions to get WMDs underway again. Looks like Bush succeeded in making sure his threat did not become imminent. Think Kerry will admit he was wrong as he pushes the President to? Me either.

RealFruitBeverage said...

In order to assist the search for truth I’d like to chime in on a couple of things that a strongly conservative readership might not consider. That is, I believe that a lopsided argument does little good in exploring issues and clarifying the truth. First I agree that people who try to purposefully confuse issues are not on the side of seeking truth. Second I think your absolutist characterization was a bit simplified. All because one is an absolutist doesn’t mean one does a service to the cause of truth. Anytime somebody oversimplifies a complex issue and sticks with that side of the issue ignoring all the nuances can create an environment of non-discussion that effectively stops the search for truth. Third I’ll turn my attention to your characterization of some of the Kerry positions.

You stated:
This is a Relativist stance. An absolutist would argue that if a war was justified by a lie it is unjust, and the thing to do is to say one is sorry and quit!" But Kerry does not say that. As a Relativist he can say we shouldn't be fighting the war and that we should win it in the very same sentence.

I think this was the most oversimplified analysis of all your comments. An absolutist can still hold that the war was justified by a lie and still want to fight the war. Consider this, one can conclude that one acted based on a lie and unjust reasons; but one can also conclude that because of the actions based on a lie the individual caused a situation that one needs to take responsibility for and fix. Better yet one should do more than fix; one should leave the situation better than before. Thus it is perfectly consistent to say hey we entered the war for unjust reasons, but we caused a mess, it’s our responsibility to fix it and make the place even better than before.

Next you stated:
An absolutist would argue that if the war costs more than it is worth, we should come home and quit spending money on it. But Kerry doesn't say that. As a Relativist he can say the war isn't worth the cost and he will spend more for it in the future.

First I think you might be taking this one out of context. The issue is now that we have taken on new obligations because of the lies and misinformation, this is what we have to spend, in order to get things done right.

Next you stated:
An absolutist would say, no intelligent leader or wise nation would enter a needless slaughter; so give me the power and we will get out. But Kerry, the Relativist, doesn't say that. He can say both that no nation can support the war in Iraq and that he will get lots of nations to do it.

I think you have to read between the lines on this one. The statement isn’t no country will go to war in Iraq; no country will go to war with George Bush. True? I don’t know. Inconsistent? No.

You also mentioned some generic statement about Kerry being nothing more than an ambitious politician. I think such an attack deflects deep introspection into the weakness’ of the Bush plan. I’m not arguing that the Kerry plan is better. I think it is just better to look at arguments.

Anonymous said...

specifically regarding RealFruitBeverage. You are right that all sides should be looked at to come to the truth of an argument. It is the free marketplace of ideas = truth argument that Jefferson gave for freedom of the press. However, Lysis is only summing up the truth he has found after examining both sides.

You make some very good points. I would like to profer you two questions. First, you say that even based on a mistake, couldn't an absolutist still argue that we should fix the situation and make it better. You are absolutely correct. Isn't it possible though that many think Bush is the better individual to accomplish this? The second is, we know that being an absolutist doesn't guarantee one will help in discovering the truth. It takes a lot of work. However, if one believes in relative truth, can he or she ever find the Truth? Just a thought. Would be interested in your answer.

RealFruitBeverage said...

Regarding the questions anonymous posted:

The first question, “Isn't it possible though that many think Bush is the better individual to accomplish this?”

Sure I think it’s possible. More than that I think the majority of people actually do think Bush is the better individual to accomplish the goal of converting Iraq into a democratic state. (Depending on what polls you prescribe to.) I think this question misses the important point though. It’s not a matter of who you think is better, it’s a matter of why you think they are better. If the same answers to the why questions apply to the other individual then it’s time to start reevaluating things. Another perspective; in my view truth has never been a popularity contest. Granted there are instances where public opinion does matter in establishing the truth of a statement. For instance RealFruitBeverage is the most attractive man alive. Once you get past the deductive hurdle of proving RealFruitBeverage is a man you can prove the truth of the statement by finding out how much everyone is attracted to the RealFruitBeverage. Whether Johnny or Georgey is the better individual to get “the job” done I think is one of those matters that is independent of opinion.

Question two, “However, if one believes in relative truth, can he or she ever find the Truth?”

This is a tough one. I don’t think that there is adequate space to write a full response on this one. So like Indigo in the Princess Bride I will sum up. When you use the phrase “believes in relative truth” I don’t know what you mean exactly. There are a lot of different flavors of relativism. I’m going to make two distinctions (even though there are a lot more) one school of thought is what I will call complete relativism, and the other I’ll call perceptual relativism. The complete relativist believes there is no objective truth. I don’t think I know of a serious philosopher that prescribes to this line of thinking. Let me paraphrase Aristotle; there must be a point by which an agreement must be made or no understandable discourse can happen. For example if you make the statement that there is no truth, I can reply, you know what I agree 100% you’re absolutely wrong. A cornerstone of all thinking is the law of excluded middle. A cannot be not A. If someone is rejecting that then the answer to your question is she or he will never find truth.
Well what about those darn pesky perceptional relativist? Well what is it to be a perceptional relativist? These are the people that say yeah there is such and such truth but it is beyond the capacity for human knowledge. Now please bear with me as I oversimplify a lot of ideas. An example might be David Hume’s assertion that future events are beyond the scope of human knowledge. You think you know the sun will rise but you really don’t. You just feel that it will and that feeling is based on habituations. Hume in this instance (please again forgive my oversimplification) isn’t worried about what we know but how do we deal with what we don’t know and are our lives ok? Another example is the line of thinking that it is impossible to know if God exists. The inquiry then shifts not to the proof or lack of proof of God, but rather how do we live our lives when we cannot prove or disprove this truth? I think there is plenty of room in the perceptional relativist thinking to find truth. Especially since the core question of every perceptional relativist is what is the scope of human knowledge/reason? To some extent even Socrates was a perceptual relativist. All that I know is that I know nothing. But I think that would be a stretch that even my heavy oversimplifications can’t carry. All legitimate relativist have to at one point admit the existence of some objective truth, and they freely admit it. So long as there is an admittance of some objective truth, I think the relativist can definitely progress towards a deeper understanding of truth.

Aeneas said...

Why I’m an absolutist:

"Logic, logic...logic is only the beginning of wisdom." Spock.

In a world where we cannot know the truth, we must live by reason and faith. It is the combination of reason and faith that I “believe” will ultimately lead to wisdom and virtue. A person employs reason to find that which “seems” true and then lives accordingly “believing” that the new found value will produce virtue. By trial and error, mankind has derived values that seem to be true principles of a virtuous life, such as honor, respect, and devotion to duty. The Founding Fathers concluded that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were true values worth dying to preserve. Only by living these values can one obtain a feel for their veracity and a society test the fruits of such values. It is my opinion that people and societies that lead lives centered on values based on reason and faith will produce the fruits of virtue. An absolutist is willing to take a leap of faith and live as though he or she knows the truth even though he or she does not know the truth. Only by living a value/moral can one benefit from its effects. Only by living a virtuous life can one prosper and a nation flourish.

One reason I am voting for George W. Bush: Moral clarity!

“Axis of Evil” comment vindicated.

When President Bush first made his famous/infamous statement labeling North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as the “Axis of Evil,” the liberal left scoffed at him. However, in the last three debates, including the Vice Presidential debate, one of the biggest talking points of the Kerry/Edwards team was the fact that North Korea and Iran either have or soon will have WMD’s. Kerry and Edwards have now publicly acknowledged the threat that North Korea and Iran pose to the world. Based on what we now know about Sadam’s torture chambers and intentions to reconstitute his WMD program by thwarting UN sanctions, and No. Korea’s and Iran’s WMD programs, it would appear that the President was correct in calling a spade a spade back when it was unpopular to do so. That’s what I call moral clarity!

Layton Lancer said...

As a debater, not a very good one but one that knows the rules of debate and how to judge, I see how Kerry's arguements are flawed in many ways. I also see what the terrorists and those who don't like the United States like about what's happening in America. They, like the post has stated, like how America is very close to choosing ANOTHER stupid idiot into office. And I also see how they like the fact that the United Public is so torn, the polls show 50-46. Since the American public seem to be spilt right down the middle in morals and issues, it appears that it'll weaken the country. Little does the terrorists know, us America people will not be cowed, at least not the American public I know about. For all we know, that could be changed when a person who doesn't believe in the American cause is elected as President of the nation. Let's pray that Kerry either comes to his senses IF he's elected, or, miracle of miracles, Bush ends up being the one elected!

About Health Blog said...

As a Relativist he can say we shouldn't be fighting the war and that we should win it in the very same sentence.