John C. Wright (johncwright) wrote,
John C. Wright

An Unexamined Life is Just Not Worth Thinking About

Whoo boy. I think I have heard the most simpleminded argument of all time. It was presented to me in all seriousness, however, so I will answer it seriously.

A commenter here says "Dr. Dalrypmle says that "Human affairs cannot be decided by an appeal to an infallible rule, expressible in a few words, whose simple application can decide all cases. . ." But such a rule is exactly what I'm arguing for. It would have a great advantage over the chaotic state in which we live and which Dr. Dalrymple agrees. It would lessen the burden of toil of man. Thought-work would be eased and we would be able to base all our thoughts on a fundament that need not be questioned. Some people get this through faith; I get it through convention. "

He concludes with these points:

"In short, I am a libertarian, and am unconvinced by these arguments for these reasons:
-The desires of individuals are my highest value
-The desire to shirk from complexity and work are almost universal and quite logical
-Therefore, a simple philosophy is warranted
-Libertarianism satisfies all these points.

I must ask him:  Sir, did you come by this conclusion by a simple and simple-minded deduction, or did you need to think deeply and thoroughly about it?

Because if you thought deeply and thoroughly about it, you contradict yourself, and betray the fact that you know darn well that a conclusion with no thorough thought behind it is flippant and unsound. If you did not, you have no assurance your conclusions are sound, and indeed you are indifferent to whether your conclusions are sound. In either case, your conclusion, by its own terms, defeats itself.

Let me point out that the desire to avoid the work of thinking can find a far better work-reward ratio by resting on good authority and tradition. The authority has done all the work. Tradition contains the distilled mental effort and experience of countless generations, most of them smarter and tougher than yours. Even better, tradition polishes and crystallizes its findings into custom, written law, and simple maxims.

On the other hand, a simpleminded philosophy or simpleminded law cannot cover all the cases. The main reason why laws are complicated and subtle is because general laws always lead to absurdities and injustices when applied to exceptional cases. 

Your simpleminded philosophy has not been time-tested, and therefore this would require additional thought work on your part, and on the part of those who might seek to implement it.

On the other hand, my philosophy, which I have worked out in excruciating details with loving diligence, is firmly rooted in generations of thought by the most brilliant minds of all the centuries of history. It is time-tested.

-The desires of individuals are mere appetite
-The desire to shirk from complexity and work is sloth, and shirking from brainwork is stupidity.
-Therefore, a simple philosophy is stupid and leads to stupid conclusions
-Libertarianism satisfies all these points.

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