It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Patrick Chan was not, in fact, satirizing the triabloguers. So then what was he really up to? Well in response to my article he said he was satirizing me:
Sorry, Randy! I know I took a great risk satirizing you like I did.
Initially I took that statement at face value. And you can guess that for a few minutes my cheeks were as red as the Heinz ketchup I use to douse my scrambled eggs.
But then I read through the rest of Pat’s comment and the follow-up comment in which he talked excessively about beef and cow manure. Strange. What’s with the manure obsession? What was Pat really up to?
As I mused on this question I returned to another. If Pat was in fact satirizing me, they why would he call me an ethical subjectivist? After all, as I noted in my article:
Obviously Pat knows I am a hard-nosed ethical objectivist if ever there was one. Consider, for instance, my rather uncompromising critique of traditional notions of biblical genocide based on our intuitions of absolute moral axioms.
And then a spasm of pain rolled through my body causing me to drop the fork in the eggs. If Pat was satirizing me then does that mean he was lying about my ethical views? Was he trying to get people to believe something false about me?
No. It couldn’t be.
And then I realized that there was another option. As I have noted in the past, philosopher Harry Frankfurt has analyzed the concept of bullshit as manifesting a lack of concern for what is true. In other words, while the deceiver sets out to mislead you as to the truth, the bullshitter makes statements without caring whether they are true or not.
Those Sophists of ancient Greece were classic bullshitters. They didn’t care about whether what they were arguing was true or not. All they cared about was winning arguments and training others to do so as well (for a fee of course). And for that they earned the eternal enmity of the Greek philosophers. And salespeople and laywers do the same thing as I noted in a previous post.
So there was another option. Maybe by saying false things about me Pat was demonstrating not that he was a liar but rather that he was a bullshitter. Perhaps the lesson was that he will say whatever is necessary — whether it is true or not — to marginalize an opponent.
With this piece of the puzzle in hand, I turned back to those strange comments Pat posted on my blog where he was obsessing about cow manure. And suddenly it all clicked into one consilient whole. Pat had in fact been shovelling baloney in his original “satire”, saying whatever he could come up with to show I am a “liberal”. And now with his new found obsession for cow manure in my comment thread he was acknowledging his own failing to the world. In short, Pat was simultaneously engaging in confession and self parody over his penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth for ideological ends.
Not only is Pat an incredibly subtle fellow, but he is also bold and courageous in his self-introspection. And that ain’t no bull.