Thursday, March 25, 2010

George F. Will

likes to think of himself as a clear thinker. But, I was looking at the book-jacket blurb he wrote for Michael Sandel's Justice, the book that accompanies the course. Will wrote as follows.
Michael J. Sandel, political philosopher and public intellectual, is a liberal, but not the annoying sort. His aim is not to boss people around but to bring them around to the pleasures of thinking clearly about large questions of social policy.
Think about that. Will is saying that some liberal like to boss people around but that others, like Sandel, don't. So why did Will bother to mention his belief that some liberals like to boss people around? It certainly didn't add to his praise of Sandel's book. Will could just as well have written that Sandel doesn't like to boss people around, that he likes to bring them around to thinking clearly … .

But even that seems like a distraction. When praising someone one doesn't normally do it by mentioning a negative attribute the person doesn't have. If I wanted to write a sentence in praise of Will, I wouldn't write, "George F. Will is quite prolific—and he isn't one of those people who molest children."

Apparently Will is simply using the platform that Sandel's publisher gave him to take a gratuitous swipe at liberals. Not only that, he is doing it in a way that makes a response difficult. He isn't making a direct statement and then backing it up with an argument. He is burying his charge in another context, pretending to talk about Sandel while underhandedly attacking liberals. For a person who likes to present himself as a clear and forthright person, that's very intellectually dishonest.

But at least he isn't one of those conservatives who molests children—at least as far as I know.

And yes, I'm just as sure that some child molesters are conservative as I am that some bossy people are liberal.

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