Saturday, September 3, 2011

argument Ad Nauseum

I read Robert Manne's criticisms of The Australian newspaper in The Age newspaper.

Some of the criticism is Ad Hominem, playing the man and not the ball: is doubtful The Australian could survive without hidden financial subsidy from the global empire of its founding father, Rupert Murdoch...

and I really don't follow it. Some of the criticism is laughable

...citizens have a plethora of accessible sources of information on the internet...

but the big issue seems to be

The Australian has conducted a prolonged and intellectually incoherent campaign against action on climate change and undermined the hold in public life of the central values of the Enlightenment, Science and Reason.

The Australian not only waged a war on science but also threatened the always vulnerable place of reason in public life.

Robert Manne goes on to argue, if I may paraphrase, that only statements which are true are permissible, suggesting that what is true or not should be established by consensus.

Democracy relies on an understanding of the difference between those questions that involve the judgment of citizens and those where citizens have no alternative but to place their trust in those with expertise.

An Argumentum ad Verecundiam, or appeal to authority, or a consensus of authorities, is of course an adventure in rhetoric in the ancient styles of academic disputation and not even close to the overwhelmingly skeptical central values of the Enlightenment. And Robert Manne deploys as well the Argumentum ad Baculum beloved of early Renaissance polemicists like Savonarola in Quattrocento Florence.

In the discussion of climate change, the future of the Earth and of humanity are at stake.

Only the argument that the only permissible statements are true ones is connected with the Enlightenment and that belongs to the now discredited philosophy of Logical Positivism, which had as a central proposition only statements which are true are permissible. A proposition accepted by consensus that turned out impossible to logically prove.

Still typing with one hand so I'll keep it brief. In the discussion of climate change, the future of free speech is at stake. The worst aspect of the awful dispute over weather forecasts we call the climate change debate is the repeated attempts by both sides of the so called debate to try to silence the other. Bah. Humbug. And a pox on all your houses.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so 'over' the debate on 'climate change' - between listening to the various sides of the government & the conspiracy theorists and everyone having their point of view it's become a mash up in my mind. Throw into the mix, Qaddafi & the lead up to the anniversary of 9/11, hurricane Irene and the fact that the influenza virus is now causing children to get cramps so bad in their legs that they can't walk! Will the horrors never cease! It's spring and it would be nice just to be able to relax and enjoy the sun.