Thursday, February 25, 2010

NPR Undermines a Right-Wing Talking Point

The Unpublishable Spouse asked me yesterday: "Would you please take out the garbage?"

"Unprecedented," I said, "Nothing of this sort has ever been asked before! I cannot break with tradition in such an unprecedented, unheard-of, entirely new, completely different, altogether unique, decidedly distinct way, one unlike anything previously seen or experienced in the great wide world, and it would be irresponsible of me to attempt any such untried, untested, unproven, unconsidered, possibly ill-considered, reckless and intemperate action. We should stop, consider the consequences of this decision and act in a step-by-step, responsible, piecemeal fashion, rather than invoke the nuclear option, the fissile, fusile process of atomically exploding the civic and civil in pursuit of your ideological, and possibly scatological, agenda."

Spouse: "But I took out the garbage last week!"

Me: "Last week? I don't think so. What you did last week was nothing like what you are demanding I do now in this headlong rush to action, this precipitate departure from normal procedure whose dire consequences we dare not contemplate lest its very thought burn out our retinas and liquify our brains, leaving us mindless zombies wandering a post-apocalyptic hellscape of our worst imaginings or the US Senate!"

Spouse: "How is it different?"

Me: "Well, for one thing, that was last week and this is this week. By definition this is new and different, time-indexed and Cartesian-coordinated, uniquely described and identified by its location in the space-time continuum, a segment of the space-time worm, a time-slice of our individual existences, a particularity, a specific event with a haecceity, a primitive thisness, that renders it totally distinct from any other thing."

Spouse: "In what measurable, testable, perceivable way is it different, even with its thisness or thatness, its hereness or thereness, primitive, sophisticated or otherwise?"

Me: "Well, in this case, I would be taking out the garbage, and in that case, you took out the garbage. Even the unsophisticated and uninitiated must recognize that events are individuated by their space-time constituents."

Spouse: "I know no such thing, and anyway why should who did something matter to what it is they are doing? And don't start in on the rivers, and why no one can step in the same one twice, or I'll dump this glass of water over your head."

Me: "Even if I admit that token identity is not the only kind, that events can be type-identical, these are still different types."

Spouse: "Enough with your philosophical obfuscations, tell me how they're different!"

Me: "The garbage to be taken out now certainly consists of different garbage-parts, all atomically-garbagically-distinct at the micro-nano-pico-garbagico-level. How can the garbage be the same if its parts are all different, and how can my act of taking out that garbage be the same if the passionate-part, the thing acted upon, is different?"

Spouse: "Semantics! Types! Tokens! Your pragmatics better get pragmatic before your kneecaps all get brokens!"

Me: "A fallacious appeal to force, ad baculum, how could you-um? Who is it that takes refuge in violence?"

Spouse: "I'll ask one more time: how is your taking out the garbage now different from my taking it out last week?"

Me: "This time the garbage truck has already left, while we were arguing, and it would be a waste of time to take the garbage out now."

End dialog.

Inspired by the Republican objections to using budget reconciliation to pass health care reform and their, no doubt, pre-conceived distinctions without a difference used to question-beggingly distinguish everyone else's previous use of it from the current use of it, all while maintaining the same rhetorical stance. Republican slogan: "Ad astra per fallacia!"

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