Monday, September 01, 2008

The Philosopher and the Partisan

In the Phaedo, Socrates makes a distinction between his approach to argument as a philosopher and that of the partisan:

"For the partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions."

I ran across a nice illustration of this in The NY Post today, where I found one Kirsten Powers writing the following bit of piffle:

"What of the claim that McCain's pick [of Palin for VP] undermines his assertion that experience is what matters in a president?"

Her entirely partisan response:

"Hmm: Palin isn't running for president; she's running for vice president."

Sure. And what's the whole point of the position of vice president? Why, to be able to step in for the President should need arise, of course! So the exact same criteria for fitness apply to either office.

"Last time I checked, John McCain isn't dying."

Yes, and there are millions of other people who "aren't dying" right this minute but will die in the next four years. John McCain may turn out to be one of them.

"And if experience is your worry, there's plenty to worry about on the opposing ticket if, God forbid, something happens to Joe Biden."

Now she's chased her tail in a full circle. The argument "It's not good to have inexperienced people in high office" is now being offered as a refutation of itself!

Folks, thought and honesty have nothing to do with this "argument". This woman cares not a whit that there isn't an ounce of sense in what she's written -- that was never the point. The point was to feed McCain supporters some snappy comebacks they could use which, if one gave them very, very superficial attention, might seem to defuse the charge that McCain has undermined one of his own attacks on Obama.


  1. Right on, Gene. And thanks for that quote, it so simply captures something I've been trying to express. Probably a good idea to read the old master, huh?

  2. The argument "It's not good to have inexperienced people in high office" is not being offered as a refutation of itself!

    Is that "not" supposed to be a "now"? If not, I'm confused.

  3. Also, I don't get her line about Biden. Is she being funny, meaning that Biden will be running the show, like people say Cheney is really the president right now?

  4. Good catch, Bob -- fixed!

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