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Saturday, June 18, 2005

EJ Dionne: (insert uncharitable noun here)

I have something of a medical condition where I ought to take daily steps to prevent my blood pressure from falling too low: drink plenty of fluids, eat some heart healthy salty food, exercise regularly, etc. And on occasion read an EJ Dionne article. His latest on Terri Schiavo's autopsy fits the bill nicely, thank you.

This piece has an abundance of flawed reasoning and is one of the most fisk-worthy things I have seen in a long time. Here's a look at one paragraph:

[T]hose who supported an extraordinary use of federal power to force their own conclusion against the judgment of state courts knew that philosophical arguments would not be enough. Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband, Michael, to keep his wife alive if -- as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday -- she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.
First, dismissing the sufficiency of philosophical arguments betrays an ignorance of how politics are informed. Politics are the applied science of ethics, which answers the question of how we ought to live. If only we relied on rigorous philosophical arguments rather than the sophistry of Dionne and his ilk. We all accept and act on a set of principles, but how we choose to select them will determine how far we can go as individuals and as a society. Ayn Rand, in a commencement address at West Point, highlights the alternatives:

[T]he principles you accept (consciously or subconsciously) may clash with or contradict one another; they, too, have to be integrated. What integrates them? Philosophy. A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation--or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown.
We clearly ignore philosophy at our peril.

Second, Americans were not of a settled mind on this anyway. Yes, they were uneasy about forcing Michael to keep Terri alive, when it was put in those terms. A vast majority was also uneasy about letting him force her death when asked, "If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water?"

I could go on (and on), but with vacation on the horizon, I will stop there.

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