Marx and Freud did. Just bear with me a second here. You can’t argue with a Marxist. (You can’t even find a Marxist any more. Berkeley and the Politburo were the last places to look, and now there’s only Berkeley.) The reason you can’t argue with a Marxist is that Marxist doctrine disallows it. Any argument against Marxism is necessarily the product of bourgeois class-consciousness. (If a proletarian happens to make one, then he has been deceived by bourgeois class-consciousness.) It is therefore wrong, prima facie, no refutation necessary. This is very fortunate for Marxists.

But no one reads Marx, I hear you say. No one has to; this stuff gets into the air, like smog, and any new excuse not to think is bound to grow popular in a hurry. A small instance of vulgar Marxism? Glad you asked. I used to smoke. I also used to rail against anti-smoking ordinances as violations of property rights. When I would make this argument to my ex-boss, a pleasant jogger type who never cracked Kapital but was sure he was entitled to breathe free at whatever restaurant he chose, he would tell me, “You just say that because you smoke.” Right. I’m the prisoner of my cigarette-smoker class-consciousness. Some people quit smoking for their health; some people quit smoking to whiten their teeth; I quit smoking to liberate myself from my smoker class-consciousness. Somehow I still oppose anti-smoking ordinances. It’s a funny thing.

Still, this form of argument wasn’t quite respectable until Freud came along. Marx refers all thought to class; Freud, to personality. (Freud himself, to be fair, didn’t really subscribe to this view, but it is the inevitable product of the apotheosis of psychology. Marxism was born vulgar; Freudianism required vulgarization.) It follows readily that any deviance or dissent from the norm, which remains undefined, is maladjustment, a sort of mental illness. A small instance of vulgar Freudianism? Glad you asked. My uncle worked for a Jewish relief organization. I considered then, and consider now, Jewish or ethnic identity of any sort, a pox and told him so in strenuous terms. He replied, “I hear so much anger there.” What I should have said, but of course didn’t think of until afterwards, was “You hear anger, I hear error.” I was being obnoxious, but the point is that my uncle, who I’m sure never read Freud, thought it was perfectly all right to answer an argument with a diagnosis.

So now you know why I believe all this crazy stuff. I’m sick. I need help.

Aaron Haspel | Posted July 2, 2002 @ 11:11 PM | General

9 Responses to “Who Killed Argument?”

  1. 1 1. Norman Kabir

    I’m not so certain that it was Marx or Freud that killed argument. People believe what they want to believe and will do *anything* to keep their belief system intact.

    My Jerry Springer influenced comments aside, I am constantly amazed how readily people will *deny* reasoned, logical argument in favor of pre-existing beliefs.

    I recently sent out the puzzle below. It’s a tricky one but nevertheless, one that lends itself to a fairly elegant inductive solution. I was amazed by how many people "decided" that the solution could not be correct. Not supported with any reasoned argument or proof–but rather with intense emotion. "The solution is just plain false. It just is!"

    It seems that we are so eager to claim that we have figured everything out that any challenge to our knowledge is considered an insult. Mind you, we tend to have "figured it out" in areas where logic, objectivism and proofs don’t seem to apply–where we can indulge our "feelings" or vague precedent to support our claims.

    There is an island upon which a tribe resides. The residents either have blue eyes or brown eyes. Yet, it is taboo to talk about eye color in any way. Thus, one resident can see the eye colors of all other residents but has no way of discovering his own (there are no reflective surfaces). If a resident does discover his own eye color, then he must commit ritual suicide at 12 noon the following day in the village square for all to witness. Note: Everyone on the island is PERFECTLY LOGICAL. On this island there are 100 blue eyed people and an unknown number of brown eyed people. One day (day 0), a traveller comes to the island and says aloud for all residents to hear; "on this island, there is at least one person with blue eyes." having said that, he departs. on day 100, all 100 blue eyed people commit suicide simultaneously. Explain the logic behind these suicides. Corollary: why is the traveller important?


  2. 2 2. Aaron's father

    Your uncle (actually he was your great-uncle) read Freud. And don’t be too sure he wasn’t just trying to get a–trivially easy–rise out of you.


  3. 3 3. Aaron Haspel

    Get a rise out of a placid type like me? I don’t know what you’re talking about.


  4. 4 4. bri

    Whats the solution?


  5. 5 5. Aaron Haspel

    The solution? I have enough trouble figuring out the problem.


  6. 6 6. Patrick

    I have some thoughts about this puzzle with a little puzzle at the end. The puzzle lends itself to several questions…first, what new information does the traveler give the ilanders? Surely everyone on the island, assuming it is a small one, has seen at least some of the 100 blue-eyed people. So this can not be a revelation to anyone. This, I don’t think is what makes the traveler important.

    Maybe what makes him important, or at least unique is that without breaking the taboo, he is the only one on the island that can make the statement he did.

    One interesting thing though, how do children learn about the taboo? Their parents can’t say "you can’t talk about eye color in any way", because in doing so, they break the taboo.

    Not pertanent to the puzzle…it was just something that came to mind in trying to solve it.

    Another thing I am wondering is why does it take 99 days for the 100 blue-eyed people to come to realize that they have blue eyes? Wait, I think I just figured it out!

    Blue eyed people can count 99 people on the island with blue eyes. Brown eyed people can count 100 people with blue eyes.

    The 99 people counted by a blue eyed person must corolate with the 99 days it takes to find out that the blue eyed people have blue eyes.

    I know I’m close, can someone else help me out and take it the next step?

    Let’s say that I am one of the blue eyed people. How do I know on the 99th day that I have blue eyes? Can I rule out that I don’t have brown eyes?

    I think I’m close…can someone help?

    Here is my puzzle. How is it possible for there to be a perfectly straight line where both ends are higher than the middle?


  7. 7 7. Abhishek

    Consider a blue-eyed person – On the 100th day he/she came to know for sure that he/she was blue-eyed as the traveller said that there was one blue-eyed person and till the 100th day no one had committed suicide in the village square. Therfore he/she killed himself/herself on the 100th day as nobody else committed suicide till then.

    Every other blue-eyed person did the same thing.


  8. 8 8. Abhishek

    Consider a blue-eyed person – On the 100th day he/she came to know for sure that he/she was blue-eyed as the traveller said that there was one blue-eyed person and till the 100th day no one had committed suicide in the village square. Therfore he/she killed himself/herself on the 100th day as nobody else committed suicide till then.

    Every other blue-eyed person did the same thing.


  9. 9 9. M

    the next day, do all the remaining brown-eyed people commit suicide?


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