We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Philosophy today

In an article called “The greens and the fascists” Bishop Hill linked to this paper by Trygve Lavik, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bergen:

“Climate change denial, freedom of speech and global justice”.

Bishop Hill did not use the word “fascist” inappropriately when he described Professor Lavik’s views as “unmistakably fascist”. Here is the abstract of the paper (emphasis added):

In this paper I claim that there are moral reasons for making climate denialism illegal. First I define climate denialism, and then I discuss its impact on society and its reception in the media. I build my philosophical arguments mainly on John Stuart Mill and Thomas M. Scanlon. According to Mill’s utilitarian justification of free speech, even untrue opinions are valuable in society’s pursuit of more truth. Consequently one might think that Mill’s philosophy would justify climate denialists’ right to free speech. A major section of the paper argues against that view. The main arguments are: Climate denialism is not beneficial because its main goal is to produce doubt, and not truth. Climate denialism is not sincerely meant, which is a necessary condition for Mill to accept utterances. Climate denialists bring harm, by blocking necessary action on climate change. Primarily they harm future generations and people in developing countries. Hence the case can be made in terms of global justice: Would future generations and people in developing countries support my claim? I think so, or so I argue. My argument from global justice is built on Scanlon’s distinction between the interests of participants, the interests of audiences, and the interests of bystanders. The climate denialists have participant interests “in being able to call something to the attention of a wide audience”. Audience interests consist of “having access to expressions that we wish to hear or read, and even in being exposed to some degree to expressions we have not chosen”. Future generations and people in poor countries are bystanders to the climate debate. If the debate postpones necessary actions, it is the bystanders who must pay the price. I argue that bystanders’ costs outweigh participants’ and audiences’ interests, and that this is an argument for a statutory ban on climate denialism.

Keywords: climate change denial, freedom of speech, global justice, utilitarianism, harm principle

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

25 comments to Philosophy today

  • qet

    Jeez, if this is all the intellect that is required to be a university professor of philosophy, I missed my calling.

  • Frank S

    The climate-drama is proving quite a few juicy parts for sundry junk scientists, bloviating psychologists, and pop philosophers, not to mention economists-for-hire. They strut and fret their tiresome hours upon the stage, and have been making a huge nuisance of themselves ever since some nasties like the late Maurice Strong and other Club of Rome types saw huge political potential in the baby-subject of climate dynamics. They have ushered in the new geological era known as the Idiocene (http://www.climatechangedispatch.com/welcome-to-a-new-geologic-era-the-idiocene.html).

  • Frank S

    ‘providing’ was my intention, not ‘proving’

  • The ‘late’ Maurice Strong. Did I miss something ?

  • The ‘late’ Maurice Strong. Did I miss something?

    He kicked it last month.

  • Incunabulum

    Climate denialism is not beneficial because its main goal is to produce doubt, and not truth. Climate denialism is not sincerely meant . . .

    You know, there’s an old ‘conservative’ meme stating that, to the left, its opponents aren’t merely wrong – they’re actively evil.

    This guy is just coming out and openly stating this idea.

  • Edward Henning

    He is clearly not a linguistic philosopher. The phrase “climate denialism” seems quite absurd, even though it is hurled quite often. I have on several occasions been a target. Those who point out that the physical evidence does not support the theory of AGW, basically assert that the changes in climate are mainly driven by natural processes. How on earth can that be taken as denying climate? I can deny an event took place, but an abstract noun like climate? It is a kind of category error, that a philosophy professor (really?) should never make. Incidentally, the recent writing by Mike van Biezen on this subject is well worth catching.

  • Perhaps the chair of philosophy at Bergen should be renamed the Vidkun Quisling Chair, after the well-known mathematician.

  • TimR

    A good example of “testiculating”, which according to Viz magazine involves lots of arm waving whilst talking bollocks.

  • Chip

    it’s remarkable how many pontificators on climate really believe that skeptics insist climate doesn’t change.

    There was an insightful forum in Australia a year or so ago at which David Suzuki, perhaps Canada’s most prominent climate activist, admitted that he didn’t know what RSS and HADCRUT referred to. They’re two of the main temperature records.

    This belief system is underpinned by a powerful mix of ignorance, mood affiliation and virtue signalling.

  • Paul Marks

    For many years (indeed decades) I have noted the weakness of the “harm” principle – so much weaker than the nonaggression principle of the Common Law (or of old Roman Law before later Imperial perversions). Of course Ayn Rand was harsher on “On Liberty” (with its absurd claims, for example that commercial interactions are not under the same principle of liberty that intellectual interactions are – as if the freedom of, say, a baker is just an economic matter, not a MORAL matter like the freedom of a writer) than I am.

    Still I doubt that J.S. Mill (for all his fondest for the Strong State of the British Raj in India) would have supported this vile statism – misguided he may have been, evil he was not.

    And this stuff is evil – make no mistake about that.

    The term “Global Justice” gives the game away.

    Like “Social Justice” and “Racial Justice” it is collectivist – it is evil.

    Also the academic (as one would expect of a bastard child of Plato – which is what modern academics mostly are) is a liar.

    The Professsor states that Climate “denialism” is not sincere – when it is sincere.

    One can have no peace with those who support some sort of Hobbesian State.

    With people who wish to crush, by force, all dissent.

    In the end we can only fight such Hobbesians.

    Not as “rebels against the law” – but as DEFENDERS of the law.

    The real law.

    The fundamental law is NOT the will of the state. Or of those court intellectuals who advice the state.

    Francis “The New Atlantis” Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, Sir William Plan Ireland Petty, Jeremy 13 Departments of State Bentham, and (yes) those followers of Bentham such as James and John Stuart Mill who hold there are no fudemental rights AGAINST the state, are mistaken.

    The law is not just calculations of utility (of pleasure and pain) – sometimes doing the right thing is very painful (not pleasureable) and there are many dark pleasures (that involve aggressing against others – their bodies or their possessions).

    The law is the non aggression principle (natural justice – see Bastiat “The Law”) – and that includes Freedom of Speech (that even the Emperor Marcus Aureliius understood – see the first pages of his “Meditations”).

    If the Professor wishes to contest that – so be it.

    Let battle be joined.

    I certainly have no great desire to cling to life.

    As for the Professor – he may find the eternal flames of Hell rather warmer than his “globel warming”.

    But whether there is war is entirely up to the Professor and his “Globel Warming” Comrades.

    I will start no killing – but I will not keep silent either, nor submit to some violence against me.

    If the Professor wishes to silence people using their own property to dissent – then let him try killing people with his own hands.

    Not hide behind his friends “the state” – to do his killing for him.

    The Professor wills the end – people slaughtered for expressing dissent on their own property.

    Let him try and do the means (the actual killing) himself.

    As for the Globel Warming by C02 theory.

    If the Professor believes in the theory he will support the fundemenetal deregulation of nuclear power. As even James Lovelock, “The Gaia Man”, freely admitted that a massive expansion of nuclear power was the only real way to really reduce world wide C02 emissions.

    If the Professor is sincere in his belief in the human emissions of C02 are bad theory, then he will support the massive expansion of nuclear power. And this can only come if it is deregulated – and contrary to what is taught, the regulations do NOT improve safety.

  • Ellen

    Argumentum ad baculum: “Do as I say, or I will hit you with this stick.” Or, perhaps, with this Law.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I do not understand how anyone with an IQ over 50 could write such tripe.

    I had occasion lately to take a swipe at Well-Known Intellectuals who are fawned over despite some immensely stupid, ignorant, and uneducated pontifications. (That’s not to say they are necessarily insincere or dishonest, by the way. Just stupid, and not necessarily about all issues, but only the one in question.)

    But the people who elevate such folks to the status of Professor when they are so obviously rankly stupid, or malicious to the point of viciousness, or both, prove themselves incompetent to hold the power to do so.

    The paragraph quoted is vicious, whether it comes from malice or from stupidity or from, perhaps, the mere desire to be One of the Gang, one of the in-crowd.

    But if anybody cares, my stomach is roiling the way it roiled after I watched, on UT, a performance by Bill McKibben. Whuff! what a person.

    Anyway, what everybody else has said. (And, yes, “climate denialist” indeed! I don’t for a second deny climate! And anyway, it’s not my function to deny or indulge Climate. Only God can give Climate whatever He thinks it deserves, or simply to grant its wishes because He feels like it. One thing I’m sure of: The Lord may giveth climate, but He ain’t going to taketh it away.)

  • Laird

    Basically, every declarative statement in that abstract is incorrect. Indeed, I would argue that each is completely contrary to the truth. It’s not worth my time to refute every one, but I find especially objectionable the all-too-common assertion that failing to enact the proffered climate change “remediations” would be harmful to future generations. Condemning our descendants to perpetual penury in the chimerical hope of arresting climate change is the ultimate harm to them.

    Anyway, the assertion that speech he finds objectionable is properly subject to forcible suppression by state action opens the door to the forcible suppression of other speech which he might not find objectionable but others do. Such as the fraudulent claims of CAGW activists. And once that door is opened it is a small step toward advocating assassination. Which, in Lavik’s case, might not be inappropriate. He needs to be careful what he asks for

  • gongcult

    Activities which violate the natural right and liberties of the human are deemed as criminal based upon a (criminal) code of law. If you can’t prove this it is merely an unhappy instance of the force of ideas resonating thru the ideal of free speech. If you don’t understand this, you have no knowledge of semantics, let alone the Western tradition of of Liberalism . Basically anyone like that is a jag-off(to use a popular Chicago idiom), a wanker and most definitely , not a philosopher!

  • Basically, the good professor is saying that people who disagree with him must be punished. As Laird and others have said, there is no logic or reason to his arguments. They could be used to call for the prohibition of socialist ideas just as easily. But the good professor has clearly not paid attention to his post-modernist colleagues, as he obfuscates poorly and makes his intentions far too obvious.

  • If you ask me the fundamental issue is the war on doubt which seems utterly antagonistic to what academia ought to be.

  • Alisa

    As Laird and others have said, there is no logic or reason to his arguments.

    Sorry, but anyone looking for logic or reason – or arguments – in that piece is missing the point: it is a threat, not even thinly veiled – nothing else.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Here is a revised abstract:

    In this paper I claim that there are moral reasons for making climate alarmism illegal. First I define climate alarmism, and then I discuss its impact on society and its reception in the media. I build my philosophical arguments mainly on John Stuart Mill and Thomas M. Scanlon. According to Mill’s utilitarian justification of free speech, even untrue opinions are valuable in society’s pursuit of more truth. Consequently one might think that Mill’s philosophy would justify climate alarmists’ right to free speech. A major section of the paper argues against that view. The main arguments are: Climate alarmism is not beneficial because its main goal is to produce ruling-class propaganda, and not truth. Climate alarmism is not sincerely meant, which is a necessary condition for Mill to accept utterances. Climate alarmists bring harm, by blocking economic development necessary for poorer countries to catch up with the countries that produce climate alarmism. Primarily they harm future generations and people in developing countries. Hence the case can be made in terms of global justice: Would future generations and people in developing countries support my claim? I think so, or so I argue.
    My argument from global justice is built on Scanlon’s distinction between the interests of participants, the interests of audiences, and the interests of bystanders. The climate alarmists have participant interests “in being able to call something to the attention of a wide audience”. Audience interests consist of “having access to expressions that we wish to hear or read, and even in being exposed to some degree to expressions we have not chosen”. Future generations and people in poor countries are bystanders to the climate debate. If the debate prevents necessary actions, it is the bystanders who must pay the price. I argue that bystanders’ costs outweigh participants’ and audiences’ interests, and that this is an argument for a statutory ban on climate alarmism.

    I trust it is not necessary to explain what point i am trying to make.

  • […] Libertarians are now the optimists about the human future, and collectivists are the pessimists. Libertarians know how to make the world better for humans and are doing this, by resisting and (wherever possible) rolling back collectivism. Collectivists never did know how to make the world better for humans, but now not even they believe that they know how to do this. All they can now do is fabricate catastrophe and demand that keeping human progress going be made into a crime. […]

  • Johan

    To Qet: Remember, we are dealing with highly de-educated people these days. Example: He talks about “untrue opinions” in the abstract. The qualification “untrue” would apply to misstating facts. Facts and opinions are distinct realms.

  • Jonathan Pearce

    This academic just asserts that climate change sceptics aren’t sincere. no one should now doubt just how fanatical such people are.

    He talks about Mill. What he ignores is that the costs of restricting freedom of expression go very far. One cost is that it breeds dangerous complacency and flabbiness. Argument is like weight training: if you ignore the need to keep strong your physical strength suffers.

  • Johan

    I was addressing Trygve Lavik, not John Stuart Mill.

  • Ofay Cat

    If it took the entire global population to bring about the mythical global warming phenomenon, then it stands that it would require the entire global population to bring about an extremely painful reversal.

    We know that only a handful of dupes in the western world can or will bother to pony up the bribe money and where it goes is anyone’s guess. It is not buying off the sun or the ocean currents or shutting down China’s coal smog …

    The dumping in the oceans and local pollutions are something that can be affected, but you can’t institute global governance and enslavement/reduction of the world population with small stuff like that.

  • […] nut of a comment from the ever succinct Alisa here, which links to a post at Bishop Hill that discusses the “clear parallels between fascism and […]