Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Syllogism

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution discusses Iraq and consequentialism: what is the marginal product of war?

This is marginally to his point, but it is an ethical syllogism about wars in general, and Iraq in particular.

I should not start wars I cannot win.
I cannot win this war.
Therefore, I should not start this war.

Tyler would say my syllogism sounds selfish and defeatist when used as an ethical argument by itself.

There is of course the separate question of what is good for the U.S. and for other countries besides Iraq. If you think Iraq will go badly no matter what, those considerations may well be decisive. But it sounds selfish and defeatist to cite those arguments alone, so we are again left with anti-war cases which do not make complete sense.

No, it sounds selfish and realistic rather than defeatist.

There might be cases when the syllogism's major premise is false, but as a beginning rule of thumb it works well.

"Potential is nothing; performance is everything." Bud Wilkinson


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