Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Couple of Pet Peeves: "We" and "Allow"


I see both terms misused, a lot. Sometimes I even fall into error with respect to the first one ("we") myself. I've been working hard to correct that. I suppose it's possible that I've also abused the term "allowed," but if so it's been awhile and I don't recall doing so.

It helps to have a specific instance of misuse to point to, and I do. But an advance disclaimer: I'm not using this example out of any special desire to pick on Bleeding Heart Libertarians. I do have some problems with some material I've seen on that site, but please don't take this piece as a general critique. It's a critique of a couple of specific usages in one article:


I suspect some of you will immediately grok the problems in that article title (and in the article content). For those who don't:

Both usages beg important questions (if you think "beg" and "raise" are the same thing with respect to questions, well, that's another one of my pet peeves and you're wrong; click that link to learn the difference).

In short, the title assumes the existence and composition a "we" with the legitimate authority to "allow" or "not allow" kidney sales.

In my opinion, such a "we" does exist, but it's not the "we" the article assumes the existence of. 

The article seems to be using "we" to assume the existence of "society" or some other large aggregate of individuals (begging the question of the existence of, to the affirmative) , assuming that said aggregate enjoys a "collective" authority to run the lives of those it claims "belong" to it (begging the question of whether it enjoys said authority, to the affirmative).

My counterclaim is that absent any actual argument, evidence or proof for the existence or authority of that alleged "we," the reasonable assumption is that the only "we" which has any legitimate say in the matter of a particular kidney sale comprises the person interested in selling a kidney, the person interested in buying that kidney, and such persons as might allow themselves to be hired to facilitate the transaction (e.g. a transplant surgeon).

But of course, I've actually stated my counterclaim, and should be prepared to defend it if challenged. The original claim was hidden as a set of two begged questions in Jason Brennan's headline.

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