Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Not to Answer a Question

A couple of weeks ago somebody posted a . . . “meme” we think it’s called? on our FaceBook page.  That doesn’t sound right, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s not the point.  The little poster showed Superman having a cup of joe and asking Batman, “How can you start the day without coffee?” to which Batman, of course, replies, “I’m Batman.” You can see it for yourself, here.

Be that as it may, the Cowled One didn’t answer the question.  So, just one moment, Caped Crusader. Let us ask you again: "How can you start the day without coffee?"

An acceptable answer would have been “cocoa,” but that’s not where we’re going with this.  This is where hanging around lawyers and dealing with both socialists and capitalists comes in really handy.  You start to recognize "answers" that don't actually answer anything.

Despite the reputation of the institution, this was one of the most important instructions issued to officials of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages: learn how to ask the right questions, and how to discern honest answers — as opposed to those answers that are half-truths, or lies in the form of truth.

This is especially bad when dealing with socialists who claim not to be socialists, e.g., neo-distributists, neo-solidaristists, Professional Chestertonians, social crediters (their spelling), and georgists . . . .  Sidebar: it's very strange when georgists claim not to be socialists, for Henry George made no bones about it.  Dealing with capitalists is difficult in a different way.

Now, just as Medieval heretics believed themselves to be in the right and that orthodox Catholics were the "real" heretics, many socialists today deny being socialists.  This is usually on the grounds that they have changed the definition of socialism, making those who disagree with them the real enemies of God.  They may honestly believe they are right in believing what they believe, but they are not being honest in what they believe, if you see the difference and it makes sense.  They are basing their position on faith instead of reason.

The real problem, then, is not the specific point of fact or doctrine or anything else being argued, but the orientation of the disputants.  Are they proceeding on the basis of reason (lex ratio) or on faith, which boils down to a personal opinion when it violates reason (lex voluntas)?

Once we settle that, of course, we can get down to what’s really important: What does Batman have to get started in the morning?  We don’t think it’s miso soup.



Baseball Billy said...

Don't you think it's more likely that at least some of the people you have on trial for heresy (such trials not being a bad thing), just don't have a firm grasp of the principles or history involved? Maybe they sound like heretics when, actually, they would retract their erroneous statements if given an explanation that they can thoroughly understand. Bill Baltar

Michael D. Greaney said...

Possibly — but on countless occasions when we've attempted to explain basic principles or even verifiable facts, we get a pitying look or exasperated sigh, along with the comment that WE are the REAL heretics, and we just don't understand or "get it." And that's when we get a response, which is rare.

My personal favorite was a brief note in response to a 7-page exposition of what I was talking about, citing sources and giving arguments, to which the recipient replied, "You clearly don't understand me or [the usual authorities]. Consequently it would be useless to discuss such controversial issues with you."

That's an exact quote. I have the letter right here. Even better, however, are the reactions of the late Milton Friedman to every question or challenge from CESJ president Dr. Norman G. Kurland: Friedman turned tail and ran, once getting up from the table and walking out of the room rather than answering. Dr. Kurland has a curt letter from Friedman that Dr. Kurland says should be grounds for revoking Friedman's Nobel Prize, such is the intellectual dishonesty it displays.

So, maybe some of them do not understand — but, at the same time, they have, in many instances, openly rejected attempts to help them understand or simply ignored it.