NOTE: This is an updating of a 2011 blog post about the Libyan bombing campaign and a philosophical attempt to justify it. What follows is a lightly edited version of the original, along with extended follow-up.
You can slice and dice logical arguments to support all sorts of claims. That includes what evidence you include as warrants vs. what countervailing empirical evidence you exclude from discussion.
Especially in real-world informal logic, how you frame the parameters of the argument is another way of slicing and dicing an issue to an already-held conclusion.
Take Massimo Pigliucci's argument for bombing Libya.
Sure, in a vacuum of Libya and no other foreign policy worries, might be great. But, why Libya and not Yemen? Or, why not Cote d'Ivoire a year ago?
Massimo goes on, in what is nearly 100 posts down the list, in response to me, to say he has non-humanitarian reasons, as well, to support intervention in Libya. I've asked what they are, because I don't see any that aren't either directly or indirectly related to oil. Terrorism? Since we intercepted the ship with nuclear supplies headed to Libya several years ago, Gadhafi had become "our guy," so scratch that, even if Massimo makes that claim.
Massimo also limits the parameters of the argument by saying his support for air strikes doesn't mean support for intervention. But, given criticism of the Obama Administration, that it doesn't have an exit policy, and that our British and French allies have pushed going beyond air strikes, if necessary, that "restriction" might work in formal logic, but, in a real-world political situation, doesn't.
Massimo also, basically, tried to claim in his last comment to me that I didn't know what I was talking about on just war. Actually, I do. But, since he apparently cares not to read Walter Kaufmann's "Without Guilt and Justice," which I highly, highly recommend, he doesn't really understand where I'm coming from. (Should Massimo see this, I'll leave it to his personal judgment as to whether or not he was trying that hard to understand, wanted that much to understand, or wanted to try that hard to understand.
That said, I'm going to further deconstruct, or just plain refute, some of his claims.
The idea that the air campaign was supported by the UN is tenuous at best, per Wiki's piece on the intervention in Libya. That "at best" would be seeing the air strikes as one interpretation of how to support the no-fly zone the UN called for.
I visit, and comment on new posts, at Massimo's blog regularly, and have totally agreed with his take on people like Sam Harris and Jonathan Haidt.
But here? Being logical isn't the same as being right.
At the least, without engaging in serious multi-valued logic, with answers that would include things like "maybe" and "maybe not." With that in mind, I wouldn't say Massimo is wrong on his support for Libyan air strikes. I would say that, to use the old Scottish jury verdict, he's only reached the "not proven" state.
And, I wouldn't say I, or others, are "right" to argue against air strikes.
At bottom line?
Not only is being logical not the same as being right, the use of bipolar western logic to try to "prove rightness" is often wrong.
Arguably, such situations are even a good example of Hume's famous dictum: "Reason must be the slave of the passions."
Again, there's not necessarily a "right" or a "wrong" involved. But, in this particular case, since Massimo is claiming non-humanitarian reasons for Libyan intervention, and I doubt he can name a good non-oil-related one, I think, on the passions, he's wrong. (That said, some Humeans forget that he still called on reason to take a role in guiding the passions.
I should note that I've hinted before that Massimo practices "philosophism," the hyper-philosophic parallel to scientism. And, I think it sticks here. I don't know if Massimo would go as far as Dan Kaufmann in admitting that philosophy doesn't have final answers for many of the questions it addresses. But, maybe that would help. At a minimum, non-classical Western philosophies reject such certainty.
I mean, per the above, I probably could invent a multidisciplinary, intersectionality-driven new discipline called "the philosophy of political science" or something, but why? It wouldn't add anything significant to the academic study of political science as currently constituted.
Or, per that piece linked above, and again here, on refuting his claim on just war, maybe he needs to expand his Weltanschaaung to include non-Western philosophies.
Per Iranian philosopher Idries Shah's famous dictum (he himself being non-Western, of course):
“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.”