Saturday, May 28, 2016

Both Pans of the Balance Scale

It is easy enough to win most arguments in one's own mind by focusing on one side of the balance pan.

A) Home schooling is better because they always win the Geography Bees and a disproportionate percentage of kids with SAT's over 1400 were home-schooled.
B) Home-schooling is worse because it allows deeply pathological parents to ruin their children without interferenc.

Both are true, after a fashion, though much more could be said about either.  That's the point.  Much more could be said.

Sometimes it is not quite so obvious that an argument has distracted our attention from the other pan in the scales of justice, like an illusionist making a curtain to change color by getting us to look another way.*

Theodore Dalrymple has an interesting observation about charity over at Liberty Law. Key phrase: Charity given as of right, for that is what the welfare state does, favours the undeserving more than the deserving. He makes a good case for this, founded on the ideas that the undeserving can increase their need, while the deserving cannot easily increase their desert; also, when we give to all regardless of desert, we remove the compassion toward the especially deserving. We give to all who are paralysed.  Have we nothing extra to give to one who became paralysed rescuing another? Christians give to the undeserving poor.  Is this because all are undeserving, all are deserving, or because it doesn't matter? Incidentally, I seldom give to beggars, but Dalrymple's essay may convince me to begin again. (Via David Thompson)

Over at Moonbattery, we have an article denouncing the phrase "start a family" as loathsome, because it means only adding a child, and thus excludes people who are childless by choice or have voluntary families of friends. Not merely insensitive or hurtful, but loathsome. There is a fair point to be made that feelings are hurt, and care should be taken, but what then happens in the other balance pan?  What do we then call the decision to expand the family beyond two so that it becomes larger - for that is clearly a new thing, different from companionship?

*My favorite example:


Sam L. said...

I have to say that I see "starting a family" as a man and woman formally agreeing to be a couple (marrying) and then having a child, or adopting one. A couple is a couple; a family is more. YMMV.

Texan99 said...

I haven't any objection to using the phrase "starting a family" to include creating an affectionate group of people who make a lifetime mutual commitment. People rarely do this, though, or at least not as thoroughly as new parents typically do with their children.

On the other hand, I still have a vivid and unpleasant memory of a client's casual remark, after he learned I was childless despite our desire to have children, referring to the possibility that someday I might want to achieve, or might actually achieve, a "full life" along those lines. It's not something one ought to say, however true it might be. No need to corrupt the language if people can simply show a little tact and compassion.