Well, this is what you get when you’re a blowhard with no sound foundation. O’Reilly, sometimes entertaining as host of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, is shallow in terms of political philosophy. And that came out in spades during last night’s interview with Michael Moore. He deserved to be embarrassed as he should be after that performance. Bill: when someone confronts you with a moral argument, the thing to do is examine the moral being appealed to and deal with that. You don’t counter it with an even stupider moral argument.
I saw only the last bit of the interview last night, but it was enough to see that O’Reilly was ill equipped. It was jaw dropping (close quotes):
Moore: So, Bill, would you send your neighbor’s children to secure Fallujah?
O’Reilly: No, I’d send myself instead.
Here is Moore making a fallacious moral argument, but a “good sounding” one to people inept at thinking in principles, but who think they can nonetheless.
1. They aren’t Bill’s “children” to send.
2. We don’t enlist the service of children in the U.S. armed forces. Those who enlist or accept a commission do so of their own volition (which, incidentally, I did myself from 1982 – 1992).
3. Those who volunteer to serve don’t get to second guess every operation and decide whether they wish to participate, or should participate, or not. This is a “metaphysical” aspect of military service; it’s the nature of the thing. You’re supposed to consider this before you sign up.
But, on the surface, Moore’s argument sure sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds nice and “individualist” and all. Why should we sacrifice the good life of anyone for the sake of Fallujah and its miserable ilk? Unfortunately, it ignores the moral principle of an individual’s freedom to do as he pleases with his life, such as join the military. Moreover, it presumes to substitute any particular individual’s value hierarchy with that of Michael Moore’s. Finally, it fails to abstract the larger ideal represented by liberating Fallujah.
And how does O’Reilly respond? He resorts to the tired old rhetoric of self-sacrifice, designed to make everyone just go all weak at the knees in awe. ‘Oh, Bill would give his life in place of his neighbor’s child.’ Well, maybe he would and maybe he wouldn’t—and his virtue could be debated. Either way, it doesn’t answer the question.
Now, I’m not the only one out there capable of reasoning through this sort of issue. Here are a couple of others I dug up:
Michele at A Small Victory (via Beck)
John Derbyshire, who gives an historical-philosophical perspective that’s dead on. It includes gems like this:
The Left has never departed in any significant way from Leninist collectivism. Human beings are not autonomous spiritual beings, possessed of free will. They are mechanical units who need to be directed, governed, shoveled around like so many truckloads of concrete, socially engineered. Or they are “children,” to be scolded and directed and constantly supervised.