Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Philosophy as trolling. Gerald Dworkin reviews Mearsheimer's Why Leaders Lie
Here is Mearsheimer’ definition. “Lying is when a person makes a statement that he knows or suspects to be false in the hopes that others will think it is true. ”(16) I think this is quite close to the definition that most ordinary people would give if we think that “in the hopes” is roughly equivalent to “intends.” But, as one might guess, each and every part of it has been challenged as either unclear or not necessary by philosophers who work on the definition of lying.

Making a statement? Was there lying involved [in] Operation Mincemeat, the scheme by the British to deceive the Nazis about the Normandy invasion, by planting a dead body with a fake letter in his pocket, off the coast of Spain. Planting a statement is not making one.
Does one "plant a statement" in "hope" or with "intention"? Pedantry: art for art's sake.
...What does Mearsheimer have to say about the morality or[sic] lying? After defining utilitarianism as the view that “lying sometimes makes sense, because it serves a useful purpose” in contrast to the “absolutist” who thinks lying never makes sense, i.e., is never justified, he goes to to state his view. ...

Matters are not helped by the fact that he is making a distinction between utilitarianism and the moral dimension of lying. The latter is beyond the scope of his book. But utilitarianism is almost always thought of as a particular type of moral theory. I think I understand what is going on here. For Mearsheimer, utilitarianism is just a way of thinking about things in terms of whether they produce certain useful results for the liar, or those whose interests he is promoting.
"I think I understand what is going on here." Playing dumb as rhetorical trope. He stays with it throughout.
...If he only used “makes good sense” as a way of saying “produces useful results” this would be fine. But in the first quote he says Kennedy was “right” to lie. This sounds like a moral claim; the ones he was going to avoid.
Playing word games.
I think it is fairest to Mearsheimer to think of making (good) sense as always meaning making good strategic sentence, i.e., likely to lead to benefits for the nation they lead.
As if the book were a manuscript found on a beach, words on paper by an unknown author. Dworkin wants to pretend there's no context, but it's too late; he's introduced Mearsheimer already as "a distinguished political scientist".
...Mearsheimer’s definition of a lie--making a knowingly false statement in the hopes others will think it true--makes the hope/intention of the liar to bring about a certain consequence in the mind of the hearer--a false belief--an essential component of a lie. So any explanation of the wrongness of the lie will have to rely exclusively on that intent to bring about a certain consequence of the lie. The wrongness of the intent is a function of the badness of what it tries to bring about--false belief. Why is false belief bad? Because we need true beliefs to promote our welfare and avoid harms. This is the explanation given by utilitarianism considered as a moral theory.

Now this theory may, in fact, be the correct explanation of the wrongness of lying. If so, the definition plays a proper role. But, if an alternative explanation is correct, one which gives no, or much less weight, to the intent to deceive, then the definition will have ruled out examination of an alternative explanation.

What might be such an alternative explanation? One which argues that lying is wrong independently of whether the lie is intended to change the content of the hearer’s mind. It is wrong because the speaker is inviting the listener to take the speaker as presenting the content of the speaker’s mind. He is being truthful. He is authorizing the listener to take his statement as an expression of his beliefs; not necessarily their truth-value. In fact, this authorization still holds even if, by some chance, what the speaker believes false turns out to be true.

...Such a theory is presented in an important new book by Seanna[sic] Shiffrin, Speech Matters.
Seana Shiffrin, Speech Matters, Princeton, 2015
Many philosophers start to craft moral exceptions to demands for sincerity and fidelity when they confront wrongdoers, the pressures of non-ideal circumstances, or the achievement of morally substantial ends. But Shiffrin consistently resists this sort of exceptionalism, arguing that maintaining a strong basis for trust and reliable communication through practices of sincerity, fidelity, and respecting free speech is an essential aspect of ensuring the conditions for moral progress, including our rehabilitation of and moral reconciliation with wrongdoers.
Moralizing pedantry and anti-politics. She argues that lying is not protected free speech. And of course "moral progress", and "rehabilitation of and moral reconciliation with wrongdoers" are goals, not truths in themselves, so we're back to some form of utility, the utilitarian value of honesty and truth.

"How do I look, dear?"
"Fat and depressed."

Somewhere on this page I have a youtube video of Jim Carrey in Liar Liar.

Like Brighouse, no sense that our relations to friends, family, and strangers, are different by default and by necessity. No sense from Leiter that Shiffrin's moralism relates to Beyerstein and thus to what Leiter links to here, to mock.
First, at the very beginning of their relationship, John placed J.C.’s hand on John’s (clothed) groin while they were watching a movie in a dormitory room. J.C. now contends that the sexual contact was unwanted. John denies that the contact was non-consensual, and contends that it was simply the first step in their sexual relationship. Among other things, he notes that the two of them had sexual relations for the first time the very next day, and that they continued to have such relations for most of the next two years. He also contends that J.C. afterward recounted the episode in a humorous manner to friends, although the university would not accept his evidence of that fact.
Otherworldly abstraction leads to pedantry and moralism. Not all pedants are moralists; that solves nothing.

Shriffrin refers also to "sincerity", (I quoted the blurb, but checked the book).
We're back to the distinction between law and lawyers.

No comments: