Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Drum: Calling Someone Crazy Is Not An Insult To The Mentally Ill

I've been hoping that Drum would kinda start calling BS on PC BS...

  To be honest, though, I'm not completely sure I agree with him with respect to the details. I think there's some unclarity with respect to 'x is an insult.' If I call Smith crazy, and Jones has a mental illness, I'm not insulting Jones in the sense of launching an intentional insult at him. OTOH, I may be saying something which objectively insulting to Jones. That is: it's not merely that Jones takes offense, but, rather, that...what? Most reasonable people in Jones's position would take offense? I.e. find my utterance insulting? Anyway, though I think I agree with Drum, I'm not completely certain that calling a nutty person crazy isn't objectively offensive (whatever that means) to people with mental illnesses. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.
   Thing is, I'm inclined to think: even in a case of objective offensiveness (whatever that means) in which a reasonable person is likely to take offense, often you just need to get the hell over it. The quick and dirty version of the thought here is something like...there are two possible positions:
1. A lot of the stuff the PCs deem offensive is not actually/objectively offensive
2. Some of the things the PCs deem offensive actually are offensive. But that doesn't mean it's a big deal to say them. Small offenses are no big deal, and we're all obligated to not be fucking babies about every little hurt feeling.
   Drum wants to go the first way with 'crazy'-talk. I'm inclined toward a combination of the two thoughts. We have something like an imperfect duty not to needlessly hurt people's feelings with such things. That means, roughly: we all ought to try not to be assholes who have no regard for the feelings of others...but this means roughly reducing the number of cases in which we're saying things likely to hurt feelings. It does NOT mean that we have a perfect duty to avoid hurt feelings in every case. It does not mean that each individual hurting of feelings is some big-ass deal. Also: we all have a complementary duty not to be fucking babies all the time.
   The PCs go wrong with respect to this stuff largely by pretending that every case in which there is anything even possibly sub-optimal about your utterance is a case of incalculable moral guilt. Use last week's euphemism, you are literally Hitler. That's the kind of thing that's made liberalism stupid.
   Ah, that's all a mess.


Blogger The Mystic said...

I've been thinking; if we hold ourselves to strict (though reasonable) moral standards, it's probably not permissible to insult people at all. It's certainly not necessary in any case I can conceive, and even practically, it likely does little good. It's hard for me to accept that one is justified in responding to someone's irrationality, even aggressive and angry irrationality, with an insult. It seems certainly the case that it's superior to omit the insult, and it's also certainly the case that it's not obligatory to insult people, so really, all that's left is to determine if it's permissible.

In my estimation, it's a run-of-the-mill, minor moral failure which is readily dismissed in a world full of imperfect beings.

So if, in general, insults are immoral, we can simply point that out when dealing with castigations of others for being X (where X, in this case, is "crazy") and make the point that the insult is inappropriate while omitting reference to "offense." It's inappropriate because it's wrong to insult people, and not simply because someone might be offended.

As you kinda point out, the term is troublesome to understand in a useful way in this sort of discussion. And I might add: that's probably because feeling "offended" is roughly equivalent with feeling "insulted." And if that's right, then if an insult carries its weight by employing a term which is applicable to more people than just the target of your insult, then sure, all those people to whom the term is applicable will feel equally offended/insulted since the term's applicability is the entire force of the insult.


All of that said, I agree that we're obligated not to be babies about everything. In fact, it's probably the case that we're obligated not to allow our feelings of being offended or insulted determine our behavior in any serious way (e.g. from a public policy perspective). If one is threatened, that's one thing, but insulted? Get over it.

Rather often I think this Neo-PC garbage is a flailing, incompetent attempt at complaining as a result of oversensitivity to trivial immorality. It seems to me the immorality is often real enough, but the oversensitivity and associated fighting back with a confused theory set (e.g. the immorality of an assertion is determined by the offense taken by another party) obscures that fact and generates its own, worse issue to be addressed.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Lewis Carroll said...


AFAIC, the real problem with PC is not that some of the stuff they complain about isn't actually offensive. It often is.

The problem is their tendency to enlist some authority, like government, university administration etc, to police offensive stuff. It's the coercive curtailing of speech, stupid.

This is where a genuine *liberal* parts ways with PC IMO. LIke it or not, people have a right to say offensive things. Just as long as it doesn't infringe on someone's rights. (e.g. slander, libel, incitement to riot etc.) I'm pretty strongly with JS Mill on this one.

It is the attempt to shut down discussion that is the most odious aspect. That is, even if what's being said *is* offensive (and that's often debatable), it is the stifling of dissent that is PC's most insidious threat.

In the WORST cases, things that are deemed 'offensive' are off-limits. Even if they happen to be true.

Just my opinion. YMMV

2:28 PM  
Anonymous John Plato said...

There is no such thing as a sentence which is "objectively insulting".

I am reminded of Dr. Viktor Frankl, who wrote: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

1:16 AM  

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