Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comments Are Blog

Sorry for the slow pace of blogging as of late. School and life obligations for all three of us have reduced blogging time to a minimum. Still, I do always make time to note what's going on at other blogs, and leave comments there as I deem appropriate. And it just occurred to me that many of the snarky, or weighty and insightful comments that I carefully craft, could serve just as easily as actual blog posts here (if short ones.) So for the sake of our readers, I will try to comment less on other people's blogs, and blog more on my own. In that vein, here's a comment I left over at Balloon Juice regarding right-wing blogger Patterico's artfully constructed hypothetical that forces you to agree that torture is permissible:

Many dishonest hacks know that you can construct a hypothetical that makes critical assumptions that force readers to agree with the rhetorical answer that’s quite evident from the question itself. If they refuse your assumptions, you then accuse of them of refusing to answer your question. Of course, it’s also possible that Patterico is just stupid and doesn’t know that over-constructing a hypothetical will get you the answer you want, but it seems unfair to assume that he’s stupid.

Here’s my hypothetical for Patterico: if you know that by waterboarding President Bush until he died, you would definitely save the lives of thousands more Americans who would otherwise die wastefully in an Iraq war that will only get worse no matter what we do, would the waterboarding session be worth it?

Hint: there’s only one correct answer, and it’s the answer I want you to give. Any other answer is “obfuscation and evasion.”

In other words, anybody can construct a hypothetical that forces people to answer the way they want them to. Hypotheticals can be useful, but only when you don't make critical assumptions that undermine the purpose of a thoughtful hypothetical.


adam said...


Nat-Wu said...

Yeah, if your question provides the answer, it's worthless, as any college professor designing a test will tell you.