I just got alerted to the fact that about a week ago, David Neiwert linked
to my unpacking
of Michelle Malkin's protestations of innocence on the charge of justifying the potential internment of Muslims. That certainly helps explain the spike in my traffic last week.
I'll take this opportunity to clarify my argument a bit further and respond to some of the comments I've gotten both on the comments threads and via e-mail.
First of all, the people who raise hyper-numerate objections to the proportionality arguments in the B propositions are pushing on an open door. The absolute quantifications of risk posed by the Japanese in the 1940s and Muslims today aren't terribly interesting or important; the fact that the risk quantifications are the same relative to each other across possible worlds is what's doing the theoretical work in getting me to the lemma of the B propositions.
There also seems to be a suggestion (if I may take the liberty of formalizing some of the objections) that in order to reach my conclusion, one has to attribute necessity to certain propositions that are obviously contingent. Anything that is a matter of fact (i.e., "the cat is on the mat," not "2+2=4") is, if true, contingently true. In other words, there are possible worlds in which the negation obtains of any true matter-of-fact proposition in the actual world.
However, as Saul Kripke
fairly decisively proved in Naming and Necessity
, there are propositions that are necessarily true yet only knowable a posteriori: "Hesperus is Phosphorus (the morning star is the evening star)," "water is H20," etc. The following subjunctive conditional, which fairly thoroughly encapsulates my argument, is just such a necessary a posteriori truth: If the internment of the Japanese was morally justified, then the potential internment of Muslims would also be morally justified. I.e., there is no possible world in which the antecedent of that conditional is true and the conclusion is false.
Formal logic alone doesn't rule out the possibility of that conditional proving false in some possible world; but formal logic fails to rule out a lot of things, like circular reasoning or, say, the proposition that "not all bachelors are unmarried." Formal logic alone, and likewise, the weaker attribute of conceivability, are not sufficient conditions for possibility. Rather, it's the semantic content of "not all bachelors are unmarried" that makes it necessarily false, and of "Hesperus is Phosphorus" and my subjunctive conditional that makes them true.
So the challenge I offer anyone who disagrees with me is to describe the possible world in which my conditional is false. I think you'll find that it can't be done. And please note that the necessary truth of the conditional itself has no logical or
material relationship to the truth values of either of its constituent propositions.
Next, let me address the critics who think I got hung up on this whole issue of "moral justification." There was one comment to the effect that I perpretated a misleading elision in moving from A3 to A4. Those premises, to refresh your memory, were:
A3: The nation's wartime leaders, with access to credible intelligence concerning the nature of R1, concluded that R1 was sufficiently high to necessitate extraordinary security measures being taken against Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent as well.
A4: The particular measure taken, the internment of the Japanese population of the west coast of the United States, was morally justified on national security grounds.
The suggestion (I think) is that I'm doing something underhanded in referencing a pragmatic justification in A3 and a moral justification in A4. To be blunt, that's not true. The only theoretical work A3 does is to establish that the people who crafted the internment policy did so with a rationale, and not on a whim. A4, the explicit conclusion of Malkin's book, is what moves us towards the conclusion. It doesn't matter whether the justification used by the policymakers was moral or pragmatic in nature, only that the policy itself was morally justified.
Apropos, the other countertheoretical charge against me is coming from people who argue, in effect, that pragmatic justification is
moral justification. Funny. Pragmatics is its own discipline in philosophy, although it bleeds into a lot of other fields, and in all cases but one, even first-year undergrads are expected not to confuse pragmatics with semantics, or pragmatic rationality with epistemic rationality, etc. The big exception is ethics, which is of course the area of philosophy in which everybody has an opinion, no matter how ill-conceived or unscrutinized. So allow me to explain by way of analogy to epistemology, the examination (broadly speaking) of the justification of belief and knowledge. Epistemology, like ethics, is a study of normativity. Pragmatic values are non-normative, and they cross-cut normative principles according to no deducible laws.
Suppose I were to offer $1 billion dollars to anyone who believes that the moon is made of green cheese. To collect the prize, it's not sufficient to tell me that you believe the moon is made of green cheese; you have to actually believe it
. Can you do it? I'm guessing that you can't. You have about as strong a pragmatic rationality
as it's possible to have, and still you're unable to attain the belief-state you need to be in to receive the money. And the reason is that you not only have no epistemic rationality
for believing the moon is made of green cheese, but in fact all your epistemic intuitions (I hope) are aligned against believing that.
Likewise, the claim that interning an entire population disposed towards subversion and terrorism would be an efficacious solution to a problem (assuming it's true rather than offensively false and racist) creates a pragmatic justification for doing so. The pragmatic justification, however, bears absolutely no material relationship with the moral status of the action. So what is the moral status of internment? Malkin can tell me. As I demonstrate explicitly in the original post
on the subject, the potential internment of Muslims is bound necessarily to having the same moral justificatory status as the internment of the Japanese. The retreat into pragmatics, if not a consequence of theoretical sloppiness, is a dishonest evasion.
The cleverest objection to my argument by a wide margin is A. Rickey's suggestion in the comments thread:
How's this for a moral premise:
It's wrong to intern someone on the basis of their religious beliefs. It [sic] very definitely a moral premise that would differentiate between the two sets of data.
I'm not sure it's necessary, but I'll go ahead and explain why this is is an illegitimate, ad hoc premise. First of all, I really want to hear the non-circular moral theory on which the internment of an ethnic subgroup is justifiable but the internment of a religious subgroup isn't. Secondly, as long as we're fabricating premises, how about:
P1) The internment of the Japanese was morally justified.
P2) The internment of Muslims would not be justified.
C) Therefore the internment of Muslims would not be justified.
Valid argument! (Yes, it is, I swear, trust me.) Here's another:
P1) The internment of Muslims would not be justified or I had spaghetti for dinner last night.
P2) I didn't have spaghetti for dinner last night.
C) Therefore the internment of Muslims would not be justified.
Valid argument! This kind of stuff can be added at will to any formal argument:
P1) If the legs of right triangle T measure 3 and 4 in length, then the hypotenuse of T is 5.
P2) The internment of Muslims would not be justified or I had spaghetti for dinner last night.
P3) I didn't have spaghetti for dinner last night.
P4) The legs of T are 3 and 4.
C) Therefore the hypotenuse of T is 5 and the internment of Muslims would not be justified.
Valid argument! A valid argument is merely one in which the conclusion is true if all the premises are true. In short, there are infinitely many logically valid escape hatches available to Malkin, all of which rest on ludicrous ad hoc or circular arguments. I think it's just a bedrock principle of good reasoning that we reject such arguments as unsound. As I said above, formal logic alone doesn't restrict the range of cases under consideration nearly enough.
Finally, I want to address the most philosophically acute question I received: aren't I relying on implicit meta-ethical/metaphysical premises about the nature of normativity? Yes, I am. I'm restricting my analysis to the possible worlds that have normative features. I happen to think that the actual world is one of those possible worlds. Why? Because I'm pretty sure murder and rape are normatively wrong, and I'm a lot surer of that than I am of any skeptical argument against the existence of normative values. When I say that my transcendental deduction of Malkin's views, if you'll pardon the term, is neutral to the normative system in play, I mean just that, but I don't mean that it's neutral to whether or not any
normative system obtains. That normativity exists is my only brute pre-supposition, and if you want to undermine my argument by attacking that pre-supposition, go right ahead. The entailments of such a rejection, I think, will be difficult to stomach.