When you’re a sure kind of nerd who follows a sure kind of weblog, you are most likely accustomed to Scott Alexander’s writings on the motte and the bailey fallacy. It’s a shut cousin of the basic equivocation fallacy, the place the identical phrase is used to imply various things in the middle of an argument. The fallacy of equivocation, in its most blatant type, appears to be like like this:
Taxes are a headache. Tylenol eliminates complications. Due to this fact, Tylenol eliminates taxes.
Do you see the error? In fact you do. What we imply by “headache” after we use that time period to explain taxes just isn’t what we imply by the identical phrase after we discuss in regards to the results of painkillers, so clearly the statements about painkillers do not apply not taxes. The motte-and-bailey fallacy, as Scott Alexander describes it, is extra of an underhanded argumentative tactic than a logical fallacy – he additionally suggests the much less clumsy time period “strategic equivocation” to explain it. In his phrases:
So the motte and bailey doctrine is if you make a daring and controversial assertion. Then when somebody challenges you, you fall again on an apparent, uncontroversial assertion, and say that is what you meant all alongside, so that you’re clearly proper, and so they’re silly to problem you. Then, when the argument is over, you return to creating the daring and controversial assertion.
I’ve seen one thing like a clod-and-bailey that is occurred over the previous few years with the thought of tolerance. Tolerance, we’re advised, is a advantage, and to be publicly labeled as an illiberal individual is to stroll round with a scarlet letter “I” for the remainder of your life. However what tolerance means, and what it requires, appears to be altering. Initially, tolerance was understood in a reasonably literal approach. Being tolerant of one thing was, properly, simply that. It simply meant that you just tolerated it – you set up with it. You would possibly dislike it, growl at it, overtly disapprove of it, and keep away from it, however so long as you set up with it, you had fulfilled your obligation to tolerate.
As of late, nevertheless, the aim publish has modified. Tolerance is not a name to easily tolerate one thing. It now means one thing extra like lively approval and affirmation. When you to disapprove of of X, or if you don’t actively help and affirm X, then you definitely at the moment are illiberal by X. However… that is nonsense, is not it? In fact, everyone knows that it’s attainable to disapprove of one thing whereas tolerating it, proper? That is the place the motte-and-bailey is available in. It appears quite common for folks to demand ‘tolerance as constructive acceptance’ on the one hand, however later insist that they solely search ‘tolerance as being tolerated’, nevertheless barely in a rush.
Classical tolerance does not imply approval, it does not imply affirmation, it does not imply acceptance – it simply means to tolerate one thing. Wanting same-sex marriage to be made unlawful is intolerance to same-sex marriage. Attempting to push by a burqa ban is equally illiberal. However you possibly can disapprove of homosexual marriage or burkas and nonetheless tolerate them.
I consider in classical tolerance. To insist in your proper to be tolerated, nevertheless you outline it, can also be to impose an obligation on others. Classical tolerance, the type of factor tolerance initially meant, imposes a justifiable obligation on others. This doesn’t require their approval. Certainly, I clearly bear in mind how those that insisted on tolerance in many years previous made it clear that approval was not required and even essentially desired. The angle was, “It would not matter whether or not you approve of me or not – your acceptance just isn’t what I am in search of. Simply go away me free to stay my life as I see match and pursue happiness as I want, and you’ll stew in disapproval of it as you please, for no matter issues to me.
Tolerance as acceptance, nevertheless, locations a a lot higher demand on folks. He says: “It isn’t sufficient that you just go away me to stay my life in peace. You have to additionally approve of the way in which I stay my life. I’ve the proper to demand that your private ideas, emotions and beliefs be favorably disposed in the direction of me – if they aren’t, you will have failed in your obligations to me. It is an excessive amount of. Folks do not have the proper to cease you from residing the way in which you need, however they’ve the proper to be mistaken.
Kevin Corcoran is a Marine Corps veteran and well being economics and analytics guide. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from George Mason College.