My Intellectual Laziness

 Posted by on 19 February 2003 at 11:48 am  Uncategorized
Feb 192003

While feeding the beasts, I had some meta-thoughts about my present debate with Julian Sanchez over the interpretation of the Susan Lee’s article on libertarianism.

In my original post, I claimed that Lee’s arguments for libertarianism were all of the “subjectivist variety” and offered three quotes to support that interpretation. And then I quickly noted that moral relativism is an “illusory foundation for libertarianism.”

Now I do think that a reasonable argument can be made for a more charitable interpretation of Lee’s article, as Sanchez has done. However, as I have argued, I don’t think that such an interpretation is well-supported by the text. In particular, it requires the acceptance of an implicit context that seems at odds with Lee’s explicit claims.

Now, whether my interpretation of Lee’s argument is right or wrong in the end, it is clearly not unreasonable. In particular, I have supported my argument with direct quotes from the article from the outset. It’s not as if I interpreted the article as claiming that libertarians support the welfare state, as an argument that grasshoppers are dangerous creatures, or as a coded message that the apocalypse is coming. But Sanchez’s response skewered me as if my interpretation was precisely that absurd. My original post was a “knee-jerk reaction” and “obtuse.” According to him, I didn’t bother to inquire whether Lee was really advocating moral relativism. In comments, Sanchez later defends such comments as “mild snark” justified by what he sees as my intellectual laziness.

But how exactly was I intellectually lazy? How was my reaction of the knee-jerk variety? I read the article. I offered a reasonable interpretation. I provided quotes to support that interpretation. I’ve now read the article about five more times — and I still see exactly the same moral relativism I noted on the first read. Am I still being intellectually lazy? How is it that my disagreement with Julian’s claims of implicit context warrants such sniping at my intellectual character?

So basically, I’m annoyed. I’m perfectly willing to agree to disagree about Lee’s article, given that Julian and I have each made our cases. Uncharitable and false inferences about my mental processes are a whole different story. I’m not looking for any more arguments with Julian. He’s a Cato guy, and as a former Cato intern, I’m predisposed to like and respect the folks at Cato. But still, I’m annoyed.

Update: My view of libertarianism has change substantially since I wrote this post. For my reasons why, see the second half of my blog post Stinky Garbage on Islam and my husband’s essay The Fable of the Cardiac Surgeon and the Organization of Health Practitioners or Why I Don’t Support Libertarian Organizations.

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