Monday, December 06, 2004

concluding remarks

Before I schlep off to bed, a few final thoughts.

Cosmic Wisdom

The Tao Te Ching tells us, "Soft conquers hard; weakness overcomes strength." We can add to that the following: Gillette conquers Nivea. I ran out of Gillette Clear Gel a few days ago-- I'd had a supply with me since January. In desperation, I went searching around Kangnam for deodorant, a product Koreans don't seem to use much. I'd heard a rumor from one of my expat colleagues that some pharmacies (!!) sell deodorant, but the two pharmacies I checked had nothing. A Korean co-worker suggested that I visit the beauty shops in Kangnam station; they sell all sorts of perfumes, and they might have deodorant.

That's where I found the Nivea. I paid a ridiculous W8000 for a bottle of the stuff (the shopkeeper did me a favor by knocking off W1000), and it sucks. Gillette is far better for funk like mine. By the end of eight hours on Saturday, my armpits had thoroughly kicked the Nivea's ass. There was nothing left. When I took a tricorder reading of my armpits, the reading was sulfur and ammonia, off the scale. My pits were miniature versions of the Miller-Urey experiment, generating the foul building blocks of life.

I need Gillette Clear Gel, goddammit.

A Question for the Philosophers

Are all slippery slope arguments consequentialist?

1. They always (as far as I know) apply to things in the real world.

2. Further, they almost always apply to human behavior.

3. I take this to mean that, to the extent they apply to human behavior, they always have an ethical dimension.

Philobloggers like KBJ have written on the distinction between deontology and consequentialism. KBJ is a deontologist, which is to say he evaluates human action through the lens of duty and principle, as opposed to evaluating human action in terms of its consequences. KBJ has also associated consequentialism with the Left and with totalitarianism (see here, for example).

The problem is that, while KBJ himself might not do this, plenty of conservatives rely on slippery slope arguments to make their cases, especially with regard to social issues (e.g., "You can bet they'll be euthanizing healthy newborns in Holland next!"). A quick trip through the right end of the blogosphere will confirm this in spades.

If slippery slope arguments are by nature consequentialist (and I think they are), and if it's documentably true that many conservatives resort to slippery slope arguments, is KBJ on solid ground to associate consequentialism so closely with leftism and totalitarianism? Might it not be the case that both left and right, taken as wholes, resort to consequentialist arguments?

Just wondering.

UPDATE: Hold your horses. A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that the contrast between consequentialism and deontology might be nothing more than a false dichotomy. Here's a snippet:

Consequentialism is often contrasted with deontology. However, this may be mistaken. Many forms of consequentialism at bottom are deontological, demanding that we simply have a duty to produce a certain kind of consequence, whether or not that kind of consequence personally moves us. And even paradigmatic deontological theories, such as Kant's, do not disregard consequences entirely. For instance, one might argue that for Kant, the more expression of rational nature, or the good will, the better. It is difficult to find a theory that posits an intrinsic good (such as the good will in Kant) in which it is not better to have more of the intrinsic good. A more fundamental distinction is between theories that demand that agents act for ends in which they have some personal interest and motivation (actually or counterfactually) and theories that demand that agents act for ends perhaps disconnected from their interests and drives.

Wikipedia's a true "people's reference" in that any old schmo can write these articles. How much do you trust Wikipedia?


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