-2

There's a thread that asks whether the slogan "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is a valid argument. I'd like to have answered it, but couldn't because I don't have enough mojo here.

Yet it is a powerful question that deserves better discussion than I've ever seen it get anywhere. Generally people address it from very abstract or emotional positions, ignoring completely what we know from our life experiences (if we're adults) in the real world.

I expected a more thoughtful discussion here, but to my dismay and annoyance it appeared to be the same old same-old.

And so my question: how relevant is philosophy to real life? Or, for a smaller domain of discourse: how relevant is philosophy as practiced here to real life?

closed as unclear what you're asking by virmaior, user19563, John Am, Keelan Jan 8 '17 at 7:25

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    What have to do with the question the tags : psychology, political-phil ? – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 1 '17 at 20:57
  • It is perfectly possible to live ignoring philosopy at all, but philosophy had in some cases big impact on "real life" (assuming that we know what it means : real life) : Marxism : see 20th Century communism; Greek phil as the source for mathematics and science : see impact of science on "modern" world; Aristotle phil and its influence on Christian phil : see Reformation and European Wars of Religion. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 1 '17 at 21:01
  • Political-philosophy is relevant because some people in the US are opposed to the Second Amendment right to own weapons, particularly firearms. Psychology is relevant because the reasons people give for their positions on contentious issues are often not rational, or are received, or have never been explored by the position-holder to see where the position might have originated. – MMacD Jan 1 '17 at 21:03
  • To answer about "guns don't kill people...", I would say this is perhaps a perfect solution fallacy, in the sense that it's used to defend the right to own guns. They are saying "Well guns only cause death when used by a person with the intention to kill, so the problem is with the person not the gun." On a certain level, duh. But it's a perfect solution fallacy because it chooses to ignore the overwhelming evidence that the ease of killing guns provides increases the odds of someone dying over not having a gun. It's saying we shouldn't ban guns because it wouldn't eliminate all murders. – monster319 Jan 1 '17 at 21:54
  • 1
    Philosophical thinking is relevant to that which it is relevant, to the extent that it is relevant, so would need to be examined on a case by case basis. Generally speaking, though, I've always thought that there is something of a separation between idealistic and descriptive thought, and the powers which actually move the world. Often, people sit around writing academic books, read only by other academics, while geography, energy sources, charismatic leaders, and technical innovation actually impact human lives. – Canadian Coder Jan 1 '17 at 23:14
2

There's a thread that asks whether the slogan "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is a valid argument. I'd like to have answered it, but couldn't because I don't have enough mojo here.

Yet it is a powerful question that deserves better discussion than I've ever seen it get anywhere. Generally people address it from very abstract or emotional positions, ignoring completely what we know from our life experiences (if we're adults) in the real world.

I expected a more thoughtful discussion here, but to my dismay and annoyance it appeared to be the same old same-old.

The question was about one "argument", or rather, one slogan. I think that it is not fair to complain about the abstract reasoning in this case. This was not at all a question if gun-ownership is a good thing (this wouldn't fit the format of this site, anyway).

Let's say, for simplicity's sake, that anti-gun-control is a conservative position and pro-abortion (pro-choice) is a liberal position. Because I don't want to sound biased in my analysis. Now in those cases most conservatives and liberals use mind-blowingly stupid "arguments" (slogans).

If you defend your pro-choice position by

"I am pro-choice because a woman has the right to control her body."

this is, on the face of it, a mind-blowlingly stupid argument. If I am going to explain why, this gets pretty dry and abstract, like hinting that this is a petitio principii, the argument already assumes that the conclusion of the whole debate, namely that the fetus is just like any other body part of the woman, and so it should not be illegal for her to remove it.

Now, maybe a person who makes such an argument is just a bit clumsy to express himself/herself and tries to transport some important life experience or insights and we shouldn't shut him/her down with such a cold abstract reasoning.

Well, I am a bit too cynical to see it that way.

If we look at what Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf about propaganda:

"It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance.
The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out."

we see this disdainful attitude about the intelligence of our fellow citizens exactly mirrored in slogans like "guns don't kill people, people do" or "a woman has the right to control her body": Just keep shouting. If you shout your slogans long enough, they hopefully will stick in the end.

So, I disagree with you. The level of thoughtfulness from the answerers was more than fitting to the thoughtfulness (or rather the lack thereof) of the argument in question.

And again, I emphatically do not claim that being against gun-control or being pro-choice (in varying degree) is itself a stupid or immoral position! And, yes, thoughtful discussion about those issues are possible and exist, if you look for them.

And if you have something intelligent and thoughtful to say, try to say it, otherwise be quiet. Please don't come up with a slogan like "guns don't kill people, people do." Because it's one thing to interpret an argument charitably, but quite another thing for you to demand that I do the thinking for you.

I don't think there is even something wrong by just replying with a parody like:

"Rocket launchers don't kill people, people do."

I actually like this better, because it is simpler (though a parody never shows us why the argument fails, of course).

And so my question: how relevant is philosophy to real life? Or, for a smaller domain of discourse: how relevant is philosophy as practiced here to real life?

The example you give comes from political philosophy. But who can deny that political philosophy is relevant? Who can claim that Locke or Marx were not enormously influential? And they are surely examples of careful reasoning.

Historically, political philosophy mainly worked through convincing the elites, which in turn influenced the masses. Change coming from the masses itself rarely had something to do with political philosophy, it was caused by empirical data which had discredited the elites.

Now, if users on this site boringly demolish a mind-blowingly stupid slogan, I think that this is relevant to real life, because it is some tiny, tiny step to get get away from this disdainful view about the masses. It hopefully inoculated those 32K viewers against one of the most extreme examples of stupid thinking in the public discourse and in turn may raise the level of debate.

  • And yet, you nowhere touch on any of the important questions embedded in the slogan, such as: do we have the right to end our lives when we wish? Defend ourselves from would-be predators? How should conflicting belief systems in a community be resolved? If individuals are delusional, to what extent should other people be expected to treat their delusions as real? – MMacD Jan 3 '17 at 14:20
  • The difficulty with your complaint is that the slogans are really not "mind-blowingly stupid". They're succinct, which is rather different. – MMacD Jan 3 '17 at 14:26
  • @MMacD: I disagree. Though there is a tendency to understand arguments uncharitably, those two slogans aren't succinct, they really cannot be salvaged, they are that bad. But go ahead and prove me wrong, try to formulate "guns don't kill people, people do" or "a woman has the right to control her body" in a rigorous way. – wolf-revo-cats Jan 3 '17 at 14:56
  • @MMacD: The original question and also your question was about the slogan. I agree that there are interesting questions about gun control that deserve to be talked about, but how are they embedded (!?) in this slogan? How? – wolf-revo-cats Jan 3 '17 at 14:59
  • I'm stuck into some work now that I can't leave, but I will be back. Should we take this to chat, do you think? I wouldn't like to get beaten up for holding a conversation in comments. – MMacD Jan 3 '17 at 16:31

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.