Argument Setup I Still Need a Title For

Edit: I’ve received some helpful feedback to this post stating that it was difficult to understand without examples and the point being more clearly defined. I will attempt to make these corrections soon. I had been avoiding examples since I had seen too many abundant ones in my head (most of which fail the politics mindkilling test). Finding good examples is hard, so I’ll work a bit more on that. 🙂

There’s a type of argument setup that I’ve seen before which I’m still trying to parse and become more comfortable agreeing or disagreeing with. It goes something like this:

Original Statement: “X is bad. I am informing you that X is bad, suggesting you avoid X, and telling you known ways to avoid the bad possible consequences of X.”

Rebuttal 1: “If X is bad, X should be annihilated or at least changed to become not-bad so that everyone is better off. X should not be left alone to exist as the status quo and suggestions to work around it are in bad taste.”

 

I can see how both sides of this argument are arguing rationally (to a degree) and I’m confident that both of them are discussing things in good faith. 

On the side of the Original Argument, there are practical ways of getting around the issue with low personal investment. The space has been explored, likely contains plenty of Chesterton Fences, and giving people additional information about pitfalls that can occur in the environment is a kind act that I would encourage others to follow. 

Over on the side of the Rebuttal 1, there is definitely a lot to be said for annihilating a problem once and for all. Big problems should be removed and massive problems that pose threats to people’s welfare/health/sanity/wealth/happiness/etc. are a problem for everyone. 

 

There are quite a few points to be wary about when approaching an argument setup like this one. The first is that there isn’t originally a direct disagreement. No one is actually saying “X is good” or “X is okay” (yet). The Original Statement is barely even an argument and only turns into an argument position once disagreed with. It may seem like the original statement is taking a position with understatements of “X is secretly okay and tolerable” or “X is unchangeable” or “I don’t care about the people hurt the worst by X”, but those slants to the argument only appear once Rebuttal 1 has been made.

The Original Statement is made in good faith as an attempt at making sure the person being given the information stay safe in the future and be fully aware of the dangers of the environment. Informing people of dangers and making suggestions is a low cost option, but it does have a cost and being aware of dangers in your own environment is categorically a good thing. I certainly hope people don’t neglect to tell me about dangers in my environment!

The Rebuttal 1 is a refusal to accept the status quo and an insistence on change. Change isn’t bad and changing bad situations isn’t bad, but changing them usually has a cost. Some people are going to want that cost to be paid in terms of the necessary money/time/effort/politicalcapital/etc. while others will be less interested in paying it. I can definitely see how if some people are impacted far more harshly by X (or people heavily sympathize with people who are impacted by X), then the insistence on X being annihilated will be much stronger. As a mirror, people not impacted by X (or people who have the people impacted by X as an outgroup) won’t care much about X and will then add the following rebuttal:

Rebuttal 2: “X is not a big deal. Group impacted by X has negative traits. Leave X alone as is. Also, everything Original Statement said.”

Once things get to this point, everyone who said the Original Statement gets reframed as being a person who is making Rebuttal 2. I’m fairly confident that this is a bad move and that the higher insistence on labeling people as ingroup or outgroup in a community the more trouble they’re going to run in to. 

It’s also worth noting that the people who say the Original Statement can easily be a much larger group than the people making Rebuttal 2. You may hate the Rebuttal 2 group as much as you like, but they aren’t the same as Original Statement. The Original Statement is practical in nature and is the same helping hand that is offered to anyone when they see a label of “Beware Sharks”, “Slippery Floor”,  or “Beware of Dog”. 

Warnings aren’t inherently bad, fixing problems likely changes depending on the problem and your position in regards to it, and most people don’t have enough resources to fix every problem they come across. But… there are still tons of stuff that really do need fixing, aren’t there? :-/

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