Friday, 9 October 2009

The Reason Being

I would like to pose an argument.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same.

In response, you may want to know the reasons why they are not the same.

As a reply, I could offer any number of relatively informed arguments. I could say that the two are outcomes of the interplay of altogether different endogenous and exogenous historical forces. I could also locate the difference in their political programmes, either in the competing ultimate outcomes they wish to achieve or in the appropriate means through which these goals can be justifiably met. I could make an argument on the level of cultural difference – ethnic, religious, linguistic – that would ultimately impede any enduring collaboration between the two.

As a reasonable person, you may agree with the initial statement, but disagree with the reasons posed and instead offer a plethora of counter-reasons. Eventually, our dialogue would end with the two of us more or less agreeing that the two are not the same, albeit for different reasons.

Socrates would applaud us. But no one would be satisfied.

Of course, if we were discussing this in the stark whiteness of the transcendental void, we may take pleasure in our faculties of abstraction and our ability to comply with the universal injunctions of pure reason. We would most certainly revel in our access to the objective truth of logic.

Yet as human beings inserted unwittingly in the empirical realm, satisfaction is impossible unless we take into account the hypothetical situation from which the argument sprung and the reason behind making the claim in the first place.

If on the first of the month I am invited to a neighbour’s house and upon being served the last portion of spaghetti (food) for the entire month, I choose not to eat based on my deduction down from the claim that spaghetti and linguine are not the same and therefore I should be consuming linguine, I would be acting rationally. And although I would technically be making the correct decision, I would most likely be accused of being a sociopath.

This is the bizarre starting point of political reasoning. When confronted with the problematic of war in Afghanistan, the argument is made post facto. Instead of leaving the rational diagnostic open regarding the a priori circumstances behind an act (in this case invasion), rationality is only employed procedurally. In this case, the argument takes on a sociopathic air: the current American administration poses the argument Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same. Though this at first seems to undermine the afore given justifications of prosecuting a war in Afghanistan, on second glance, it is the mark of a cadre of rational sociopaths.

Spaghetti and linguingi are not the same. Instead of eating the Taliban, we should be devouring Al Qaeda. Who's hungry?

War vs Terror?