Zero Squared #87: Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky

Oct 13th, 2016 | By | Category: Articles, Zero Squared

zerosquared87C Derick Varn is the guest this week. Varn is a reader at Zero Books, poet, and teacher currently living in Cairo, and my co-host on the now defunct Pop the Left podcast. In this episode of Zero Squared we discuss last year’s online debate between Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky as well as our tendency on the left to avoid difficult arguments. The Motte and Bailey doctrine is mentioned and utilitarian and deontological/Kantian ethics are discussed.

Here’s a description of the Motte and Bailey doctrine from “Rational Wiki”:

Motte and Bailey is a snarl word purporting to describe a particular form of equivocation wherein one protects a desirable but difficult to defend belief or proposal by swapping it with a more defensible, perhaps trivially true interpretation when the former comes under scrutiny. The trivial version is only temporarily proposed to ward off critics and not actually held. The "difficult" (bailey) version always remains the desired belief, but is never actually defended. This gives the belief an air of being counter-intuitive yet somehow true.

In this episode you’ll hear clip from the online course “Law and Justice,” the song Telestar by the Tornados, a clip from the Waking Up podcast with Sam Harris, and a short clip from the film “Fight Club.” Right now you’re listening to Nmesh : Nu.wav Hallucinations, but in just a moment you’ll hear C Derick Varn and I discuss Sam Harris and Chomsky.

If you enjoy the Zero Books podcast consider listening to the Inside Zero books podcast on Patreon!
Tags: , , , , , , ,

One Comment to “Zero Squared #87: Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky”

  1. Andrew Feist says:

    What Chomsky said was worse was simply not caring that people were killed. O’sama bin Laden presumably understood people would die but “made the calculus”; it’s unknown whether he cared or not that people were killed.

    Bill Clinton didn’t even bother to find out if people would be killed.

    also Harris is explicitly not a utilitarian, in the terms of calculus. He refers to intent a lot.

    Chomsky is a pseudo or neo Kantian in the sense of applying the moral standards we put on other onto ourself: hense the whole comparison.

    He says in the original interview, of course what other people do, ie 911, is wrong. But there is no shortage of criticisms of the, ‘what honest people do is apply those criticism to themselves’.

    He has no interest in comparing tragedies except to draw attention to those which are neglected (those of the powerful).

    Y’all are probably correct he refuses to enter his own views, probably because he knows how unpalatable to most people they would be, but he is trying to use other people’s standards against themselves.

    The whole idea that he doesn’t care about intentions is so confused by Harris. Chomskian believes that the exposed intentions of powerful are almost always lies, so they don’t matter.

Leave a Comment