Thursday, June 22, 2017

Leftward, Ever Leftward: From Same-Sex Marriage To Polygamy Edition

Remember how, during the discussion of legalizing same-sex marriage, it was bigoted and hateful to suggest that it would lead to legalizing polygamous marriage?
   I'm not going to argue against polygamous marriage. I don't have any in principle moral objections to polygamous relationships, though I suspect that polygamous marriage would be a social train wreck. But I don't really have settled opinions here. I really am just gesturing at a kind of limited meta-point: that we already have reason to believe that people who said that same-sex marriage was likely to lead to polygamous marriage were right. At least they were probably right about putting polygamous marriage up for serious discussion. I myself was certain for years that there was no link between SSM and PM, and only came to believe that I had been wrong very late in the game.
   Here's a more expansive meta-point: I've also come to think that, when the left pushes for something, it's important to recognize that it's commonly just the next step in a long march leftward. I'm not exactly sure what that means for our thinking about such proposals. One possibility is: slippery slope criticisms against proposals from the left are more valid than they tend to be in other contexts.
   I suppose I'm becoming more interested in--and perhaps even sympathetic to--a kind of conservative argument that, I suppose, must go something like: a whole lot of the time, our real choice is between keeping the imperfect practice we have or taking the first step on a slippery slope to crazy chaos. But I'm constitutionally averse to that idea.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing about slippery slope fallacies is it is really easy to mistake a genuine reductio ad absurdum for a slippery slope. This is also why slippery slope "fallacies" aren't really fallacies when applied to lefty politics, at least recently. The whole strategy of the left is to push for legal victories which establish binding precedent. These legal victories usually are based upon reasoning which assumes lefty principles, and so it is important to probe the implications of them. In SSM, that principle was more or less that two people loving each other is sufficient cause to be married. Well, since it is not only possible but a reality that there are persons A, B, C such that A and B love each other and A and C love each other, then that implies polygamy must be permissible.

Obviously we could just live with the contradiction. But as a philosopher, we shouldn't abuse the term fallacy when the argument is in fact one of the few cases of formally valid political reasoning.

Other meta point, it is difficult to recognize this when the cause is at risk, but painless when it is protected by SCOTUS decision. That is a problem.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

Um. Freddie Deboer isn't much of a leftist, and he speaks for almost no one. This is pure professional controarianism as far as I can tell.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

See also:

3:00 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yo, p-mack, your link's irrelevant...but is that site any good in general?

deBoer's *definitely* on the left, by his own admission--and, as I said, I think he's a Marxist. But he's not crazy about it,* and is definitely willing to criticize the left.

He's not the only one to make such arguments--but we needn't speculate...the hypothesis can be tested by watching what happens over the next 20 years or so. Personally, I wouldn't bet money on which way things will go.

* If 'non-crazy Marxist' makes sense...

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DeBoer is a very rare sort of leftist, a consistent one. But my impression is he fits in well with the nascent Jacobin magazine/Current Affairs segment of the left.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

DeBoer is a contrarian before anything else as far as politics go. It's his shtick. Is anyone else on the left making this argument? Is it getting published in journals? What's it polling?
There are plenty if left-of-center arguments against polygamy. DeBoer didn't address any of them.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I've probably read only ten-ish things by deBoer, but he doesn't seem like a contrarian to me. I'd agree more with Anon that he's consistent--and what's close to being the same thing: he doesn't toe the PC line.

But, again, I haven't read that many things by him.

8:17 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I'll give you that de Boer is not a good barometer of the left--you didn't put it that way, but I think we agree about it.

But I started seeing a lot of pro-PM chatter on the web (e.g. in comments section, on Reddit, etc.) before the ink was dry on Obergefell.

But I didn't say nor intend to say that it's already orthodoxy on the left. What I meant to do was: predict that there will be a significant push for it on the left in our lifetimes.

5:35 AM  

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