The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Thursday, September 08, 2005

On haruspicy

Divining the future is a cheap rhetorical trick used to ram forward nontrivial moral conclusions. Consider a few examples:
  • Marxists often foretell of a sweeping workers' revolution.
  • A neo-nazi idiot I heard on NPR a couple of years ago prophesized a full-blown race war.
  • Leftists often give assurances of an impending widespread progressive awakening.
The speakers in question all seem to want the outcomes they predict. Yet, these sorts of divinations seem to be employed in place of arguments justifying these outcomes. I suppose the normative conclusion they would derive is that you ought to accept the inevitable. Who could argue that you shouldn't accept the inevitable? And why bother to justify a particular state of affairs that must come to pass?

Divination also paves the way for strong criticism. Take the impending military draft. A renewed military draft would be an awful thing. Since it is inevitable, we can blame the parties who would be responsible for something that hasn't even happened yet.