Thursday, July 21, 2016

Must we play by the rules?

I'm seeing some bad arguments in support of Trump. There's a difference between reputable arguments and disreputable arguments. You can disagree with a respectable argument. For instance, I've seen a vote for Trump justified as damage control, like the Trolley problem (a famous thought-experiment in ethics). In that case, you could disagree with the principle, or you could agree with the principle, but disagree with the application–but the argument itself is reputable. 

As I recently said, I don't have a big objection to people voting for Trump in the general election. I understand that's a tough call. I do object to how some people frame the choice. Trump has a tremendous capacity to make conservative Republicans radioactive by association. Many voters are ignorant and simple-minded. They will prejudge all Republicans by Trump. He will be their point of reference. That means he will discredit conservative Republicans, even though he himself is not remotely conservative. Now, you can still argue that Hillary would be even worse. There's a case to be made for that. My point is simply that we shouldn't downplay the horrific consequences of either candidate.

Now I'd like to comment on a recent remark by a Trump supporter:

Poor losers always hope for chaos! TRUMP won fair & square. Seems like a lot of whinny adults acting like children! Now you just look stupid! 
Is that what you tell your children? To act like a poor sport when they lose?

Two basic problems:

i) When it was unclear that Trump would be able to win a majority of delegates, remember Trump supporters demanding a rule change for their candidate?

ii) More importantly, this objection lacks a sense of moral priorities. For instance, all things being equal, everyone should play by the same rules. Cheating is normally dishonest. 

Mind you, when we're dealing with games and sports, the rules are arbitrary social conventions, not moral absolutes. It's not intrinsically wrong to break the rules in sports. 

Suppose a referee causes a team to lose by intentionally making bad calls. That's unfair. But suppose he does so because there's a credible death threat if that team wins. In that case, a higher duty overrides the rules. Protecting the lives of players supersedes fair-play (in this hypothetical). 

1 comment:

  1. Here's a trolley problem for you. Suppose there is a trolley on a track coming up on a three-way switch with three levers. One way will kill 50 people, one way will kill 10 people, and one way won't kill any people. There are about 500 bystanders standing around they all have to decide ahead of time which lever they are going to attempt to throw. The lever with the most people are able to overpower the others and activate their lever.

    Opinion polls before hand indicate that 49% of the people are going to choose the lever that kills 50 people, 49% are going to choose the lever that kills 10 people, and 2% are going to choose the lever that kills nobody.

    Which lever do you choose to run up to in a mad dash and try to throw with all your might? If you choose the lever that kills nobody and 50 people end up being killed, how many lives are you responsible for?