(previous in thread, tom) : ~
~ ~ href=http://www.supersaturated.com/journal/mindgrope/2001_10_09:08:
26Open+Letter+to+Andrew+Sullivan.html target=\"main\"> (previous in thread, mindgrope) :
Tom's reply to my analogy is exasperatingly dense.
First, he seems to miss that I explicitly argued that the rapist, like the terrorists, were fully morally responsible for their actions and are properly condemned. Nothing the victim does is exculpatory.
Next, he fails entirely to comprehend the very simple way in which victims can be responsible, in a different sense, for what befalls them. Let's think about it more formally. If I wish circumstance C to obtain, and I know that if I perform act A, then there is a serious probability that C will not obtain, and then if I do A, I am irrational and thus blameworthy.
If I live in a high-crime neighborhood, and I wish to maintain posssesion of my bicycle, I am irrational if I leave my bicycle unlocked in my front yard. Being rational is my responsibility, and if I am irrational, I'm being irresponsible.
Tom's mad bluster about morally degenerate monsters just misses the point completely. The free will of other people is entirely irrelevant to this kind of responsibility. When choosing a course of action, we have to decide on the basis of our best evidence about the local regularities of the world. If nine in ten people in my neighborhood have their unlocked bikes stolen, then I should take it that there is a 90% chance my bike will be stolen if it is left unlocked. Even if I have every right not to have my bike stolen, that doesn't change the odds that it will be. So, if I value the continued possession of my bike more than I disvalue the bother of buying and using a good lock, or taking my bike inside, then I'm flat out irresponsible if I fail to take measures to prevent its theft.
In fact, my bike was stolen recently, and the cop scolded me for having a cheap chain. His blame was not misplaced. Yet, at the same time, this does not at all get the bike thief off the hook. If the policeman catches the guy, he's not going to let him off due to my carelessness. He's fully responsible for making an illegal and immoral choice.
If I build my house in a spot where there are even 30% odds that it will get badly flooded, then I'm being irresponsible. Now, if I do get flooded, the water cycle bears no blame, because the water cycle did not choose to flood my house. That's the difference between human and non-human cases.
If one followed Tom's reasoning to it's conclusion, then if the U.S. government presented a nuclear warhead, as a gift, to Saddam Hussein, say, and then Hussein exploded the warhead in the middle of New York City, the U.S. government would bear no kind of responsibility for the devastation, since Hussein, who is a fully developed volitional agent, is the one who freely chose to use the bomb. But that's just absurd. Indeed, I'm sure Tom would agree that we would be badly irresponsible if we did not jealously protect our nuclear technology, even though he does "not think it is too much to ask of men to respect the rights of others."
My point was that bin Laden and friends can bear full moral responsibility for their atrocious acts, while the U.S. govt. can at the same time bear a different kind of responsibility for needlessly creating conditions that made that sort of act more likely. This is a good point, and I stand by it.
Last, Tom should cool his jets and be more careful. When he says, "One might argue, rather, that it was a foreseeable consequence of letting Osama bin Laden, and those who have given him material support, live and go free. That is an oversight that will be remedied soon enough," he seems to forget that the U.S. government for a number of years gave bin Laden material support. But I assume that Tom does not promote the death or imprisonment of the U.S. government.