Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf of The Cordoba initiative is a new age Sufi.

Unfortunately at some point sticking to principle can become counterproductive. Politics is messy, and those opposed to messiness on principle are opposed to politics. A reader writes to Brian Leiter
I thought you and your readership might find the video at the following link quite interesting. It's by the marginally sentient folks at and it might be the finest example of a genuine ad misericordiam fallacy presently in captivity (a rare species one would think). Warning: it might make you physically ill, if you've recently eaten.

I fear for the future not only of our country, but of intelligent discourse, and the human race.
Whatever else you can call it, a video of people who lost family members on 9-11 speaking in opposition to Cordoba House is no more founded on a logical fallacy than a video of holocaust survivors protesting a Catholic convent within the perimeter of Auschwitz. The question is whether the analogy between the two is strong enough to warrant the comparison. I think it isn't and that the entire episode was ginned up by the right, but at some point that's irrelevant.

Remember that Brian Leiter is in favor of regulating hate speech, and examples like the challenges to Cordoba are where such restrictions lead. The construction of the mosque is being called an insult, and who's to say it isn't for some people. Should we care? I assume Leiter would have argued against the Nazis' right to march in Skokie, but the ACLU defended them. The Nazis were trying to cause trouble and the backers of Cordoba House were not, but it found them.

In politics prudence is a valid principle, and the fact that other principles conflict with it does not invalidate it or them. Politics comes down to cases.

Both the letter writer and Brian Leiter ignore the most obvious example of the ad misericordiam fallacy in contemporary culture: the argument that European Jews, having suffered greatly at the hands of Europeans, had the right to expel non-Europeans from their lands.

"I fear for the future not only of our country, but of intelligent discourse, and the human race." You fear for the future while knowing nothing about the past.

Josh Marshall argues that the defense should also argue from strategy. But he doesn't argue the case with any force and in any event it's too late.

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