Sunday, April 17, 2016

Drugs are illegal

I saw a character in a TV show chastise another character for having hash oil in her purse by saying, "Drugs are still illegal."

Of course, not all drugs are illegal! Alcohol is not, tobacco is not, and aspirin is not.

If the character speaking had wanted to be precise, she would have said, "Illegal drugs are illegal." But then we have a mere pleonasm! And that formulation might lead us to question why some drugs are legal, and others are not.

A similar situation occurs when someone asserts that a Christian bakery should not be able to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because "discrimination is wrong." Of course, such people are perfectly happy to discriminate among many other possible sorts of weddings, e.g., brother-sister weddings, and child weddings, and polygamous weddings. What they are really claiming is that wrongful discrimination is wrong: which is, of course, true by definition.

But by phrasing this as they do, they are begging the question, because, of course, the Christian bakers do not think that discriminating between opposite-sex and same-sex weddings is not discrimination, they think it is not wrongful discrimination: they think it is a perfectly legitimate form of discrimination, just as their opponents think discriminating between non-brother-sister and brother-sister weddings is not wrong. To simply declare that "discrimination is wrong" as a way to condemn the Christian bakers is an attempt to shut off discussion by illegitimately conflating "wrongful discrimination is wrong" with "any discrimination is wrong," the latter of which they themselves do not believe.


  1. The Christian bakers have an alternative, join a commune with the like minded, but fearing their failure of persuading sufficient to join them, instead claim it is their freedom of religion to force others to obey theirs. Exchange may be voluntary, but it is still a matter of law under which circumstances.

    1. Huh? How is someone who has to go to a different baker for their cake being "forced" to "obey" the Christian bakers?

  2. Gene, off-topic but your banner currently has an oft-repeated mistranslation of a verse from the Rig Veda. The actual verse says "What in truth is one, the sages call by many names", not "truth is one." Here's the full verse: "They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān. To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan." Garutman is a reference to Vishnu's bird Garuda, if you've heard of him.

    What the verse is saying is that even though different hymns of the Vedas seem to be addressed to different gods, in reality these are just different names of Brahman. Now it is true that we believe that Brahman is connected to Truth (its essential nature is Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss) but this particular verse does not assert that.

    1. Keshav, this is good to know.

      If I were attributing the quote to the Rig Veda, I would change that. But since I offer no attribution, and I happen to think the quote as stands is TRUE, I think I will leave it alone.

      By the way, it was a scholar of Hinduism who reads Sanskrit whom I first heard the quote from. I will have to ask her about this!

    2. I see the Vedanta Society translates the quote much as above.

    3. Further finding: I discover that translating the Rig Veda is extremely difficult, as it is the oldest Indo-Aryan text, and so there are no other contemporary texts to work with.

      So: how are you sure the translation you suggest is the correct one, and not the mistranslation? (I'm not being a wiseguy: I'm asking this sincerely.)


On my tour of Hell...

I saw a man being continually beaten with a carpenter's hammer, blow after merciless blow. "How can this be just?" I asked ...