Second Debate Tonight at Washington University in St. Louis

As some clever individuals with too much time on their hands have noted, it may be the case that I have some connection with Washington University in St. Louis. Good for them. It also happens to be the case that the second Presidential debate is occuring there tonight, and I may just put aside the generally more pressing issues of Newton's thoughts on occult qualities to check out the festivities.

What's going on so far? Some CNN and MSNB shows being filmed on campus, which I've done my best to avoid. People selling and wearing some significantly awful pink-colored "Give Bush the Pink Slip" t-shirts, along with the somewhat more clever shirts reading "White House" with the 'W' crossed out - the idea being "Get 'W' out of the White House."

Ah, politics. The subject seems to make even relatively intelligent people stupid with surprising frequency. Politics may, I think, be even more dogmatic than religion for the masses. Few people seem to be able to step back from the "issues" long enough to realize that there is very little legitimate debate going on. I don't plan on seeing any tonight, though I didn't watch the first debate and will be willing to change my opinion if I see anything more than the melange of rhetoric I'm expecting.

Examples - the abortion issue. Pro-choicers yelling "My body, my choice!" and Pro-lifers yelling "It's a baby, not a choice!" and the like. The first seem oblivious to the fact that the debate is (largely) dependent on when a fetus should be counted as a person, which is incredibly complicated by our total lack of any solid metaphysical criteria of personhood. There are theories out there of course - some good ones even. But not theories that people are aware of or really think about. And even if they were well known, it is unlikely that one would be convincing enough above the others to gain widespread acceptance. The other side, Pro-lifers, tend to not recognize that the question of whether or not a fetus counts as a person is up for debate, and their reasoning generally doesn't extend to considerations of why exactly they do count fetuses as persons.

That was somewhat of a digression, but the same holds for most any other political issue you can think of. People stick to slogans, to rhetoric, instead of thought. Not a new observation of course, but one that bears repeating many, many times. But more later, after the circus.

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