On the Moral Obligation to Stop Shit-Stirring | Psyche Ideas

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

While it can be a tempting strategy, it’s doesn’t work in the long-term. Like energy drinks, It does work in the short term though and can provide some junk energy and encourage your opponent to get emotional and start using ad hominem attacks.


Professor Agar’s apparent stance of “this upsets me, so it must be seen as deliberate provocation” strikes me as misplaced. > So why not replace a bland permission with a provocative obligation, as Earp and Savulescu together with Anders Sandberg do in a paper from 2012, where they argue that, if a couple has dependent children and decides to abstain from love drugs, supposing they are safe and effective, they actually fail in their parental duties by needlessly exposing their children to the proven harms of marital strife or divorce. Not taking love drugs thus becomes a form of child abuse by omission. For obvious reasons, this line of argument is much more aggravating than gently offering moral permission to take love drugs. I think that if I were going to make an accusation of intentional shit-stirring over something like this, I would go with the idea that adults are morally obligated to remain in unhappy relationships (drugs or none) in order to spare their children from their divorce. *If one presumes that a child’s biological parents have an obligation to said child that supersedes any desires that they may have for their own happiness* then I’m not clear on why “you should take a pill rather than suffer needlessly” should be considered shit-stirring. I understand that we don’t generally consider people as having an obligation to avoid their own pain (after all, in much of the Western world, self-medicating away one’s hurts is often considered somewhere between weak and actively criminal), but obligations to make it easier to help others aren’t particularly controversial (in the sense that it’s commonly frowned upon for people to deliberately structure their lives in such a way that makes it more difficult to help others in need). Likewise, I disagree with the idea that demonstrating how something that people find repulsive may be morally permissible by some or another set of rules counts as shit-stirring. A pretty good amount of change has come from the fact that people challenged standing moral rules. Christian ethicists tend to distance themselves from the idea that men who have sex with men should be executed and held accountable for their own deaths (despite this being a Biblical imperative), presumably because at some point, someone challenged the idea. Now, even stridently anti-LGBT conservatives are unwilling to make the case that sodomy should be a capital offense. Should putting forth the idea in other places, without immediate advocating that laws be changed, be considered shit-stirring? If so, a *lot* of international human-rights advocacy may be considered shit-stirring.


It seems less like shit-stirring, and more like pointing out holes in the philosophy system. Ideas about personhood, for instance, don’t have a complete definition that doesn’t leave out some group that common sense and empathy would include. I’d almost consider the publications referenced to be a sort of satire. Though I haven’t read them or have a full context of them. But ya know, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.


It sounds like it was written by an idealist who just wants people to stop criticizing their fantastical notions and do what they’re told, but the author hadn’t even bothered to solve the is/ought problem and establish a meaningful morality before appealing to it, so I don’t see why anyone should listen to them.


In partial defense of the author, I didn’t read that they are suggesting that one never ask provocative questions or take ideas to provocative conclusions in order to stir debate. Rather, I read their piece as a criticism of a kind of “bad-faith” approach, which does not actually seek greater clarity or useful discourse, but rather seeks to provoke as a reflex, and then mitigates the provocation with a lot of special pleading to avoid any real counter-criticism. Is that a common phenomenon? I feel like I’ve read some weak papers (here and elsewhere) that fall into that category, but of course as many commenters here have already pointed out, shit-stirring is also an important function of philosophy and we wouldn’t want to live in a world where it never happened. And I feel like even weak or bad-faith arguments can be useful in that they can sometimes point out underlying weaknesses in utilitarian assumptions, such as the “suffering” fixation. So… I guess I am somewhere in the middle on this one.