Sam Harris Awkwardly Debates with Noam Chomsky

Sam Harris, the New Atheist philosopher who, with his colleagues, managed to artfully package trendy atheism with old-school Islamophobic bigotry is now trying to publicly debate anarchist intellectual Noam Chomsky.

The topic at hand: is the United States as evil as Islamic terrorism? Harris, for his part, has previously criticized Chomsky’s argument that the United States is the world’s largest terrorist. Chomsky, for his part, is really not interested in a debate, because it would imply that Harris understands Chomsky’s argument in the first place.

On April 26 of this year, Harris reached out to Chomsky over some comments he had made referring to Harris as a “religious fanatic who worships the state.” Except, well, Chomsky didn’t directly call him that, he was speaking of New Atheists writ large, and arguably Christopher Hitchens specifically. Either way, Harris took to defending his comrades and reached out to Chomsky to clarify their respective positions in a public dialogue.

Harris, to his credit, maintained an impressive civility in the face of pure, unadulterated contempt from Chomsky.

In the initial email, Harris writes:

So I just wanted to clarify that, although I think we might disagree substantially about a few things, I am far more interested in exploring these disagreements, and clarifying any misunderstandings, than in having a conventional debate.

If you’d rather not have a public conversation with me, that’s fine. I can only say that we have many, many readers in common who would like to see us attempt to find some common ground. The fact that you have called me “a religious fanatic” who “worships the religion of the state” makes me think that there are a few misconceptions I could clear up. And many readers insist that I am similarly off-the-mark where your views are concerned.

Chomsky’s reply was curt:

Perhaps I have some misconceptions about you.  Most of what I’ve read of yours is material that has been sent to me about my alleged views, which is completely false.  I don’t see any point in a public debate about misreadings.  If there are things you’d like to explore privately, fine.  But with sources.

Harris argues that, despite the sheer amount of death the United States has produced, it’s different, because we’re, uh, special snowflakes? To Harris, intent matters: the United States may kill a few civilians here, upend a few democratic governments there, but at the end of the day, we really just want to do good. Radical Islam, on the other hand, threatens everything wholesome in the world.

Except this whole fixation on “intent” seems to beg some sort of ontological goodness of a state. For Harris, the genocide of the Natives or the enslavement of Africans is a mistake the United States has to atone for, rather than a foundational crime. Conversely, if you’re brown and kill a few hundred civilians, you’re permanently the bad guy.

The Harris-Chomsky “debate” boils down to Noam Chomsky’s comments after 9/11. Sure, the wanton murder of civilians is bad – but the acts of 9/11 pale in comparison to a slew of US atrocities.  Chomsky uses the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan under Clinton as an example – the resulting drug shortage in the country killed tens of thousands of civilians. Harris argues that it’s different, employing the Urkel Defense.

urkel defenseChomsky, points to his previous comments on the matter:

In this case, we can hardly doubt that the likely human consequences were understood by US planners. The acts can be excused, then, only on the Hegelian assumption that Africans are “mere things,” whose lives have “no value,” an attitude that accords with practice in ways that are not overlooked among the victims, who may draw their own conclusions about the “moral orthodoxy of the West.”

Harris continues to prod Chomsky about intent, replying “it still seems to me that everything you have written here ignores the moral significance of intention.”

Chomsky’s lengthy reply contains further proof that the road to hell is paved in good intentions, a litany of US atrocities, and a decent amount of shade thrown at Harris.

I am sorry you are unwilling to retract your false claim that I “ignore the moral significance of intentions.” Of course I did, as you know.  Also, I gave the appropriate answer, which applies accurately to you in the al-Shifa case, the very case in question.

If you had read further before launching your accusations, the usual procedure in work intended to be serious, you would have discovered that I also reviewed the substantial evidence about the very sincere intentions of Japanese fascists while they were devastating China, Hitler in the Sudetenland and Poland, etc.  There is at least as much reason to suppose that they were sincere as Clinton was when he bombed al-Shifa.  Much more so in fact.

Therefore, if you believe what you are saying, you should be justifying their actions as well.  I also reviewed other cases, pointing out that professing benign intentions is the norm for those who carry out atrocities and crimes, perhaps sincerely – and surely more plausibly than in this case.  And that only the most abject apologists justify the actions on the grounds that perpetrators are adopting the normal stance of criminals.

I am also sorry that you evade the fact that your charge of “moral equivalence” was flatly false, as you know.

And in particular, I am sorry to see your total refusal to respond to the question raised at the outset of the piece you quoted.  The scenario you describe here is, I’m afraid, so ludicrous as to be embarrassing.  It hasn’t even the remotest relation to Clinton’s decision to bomb al-Shifa – not because they had suddenly discovered anything remotely like what you fantasize here, or for that matter any credible evidence at all, and by sheer coincidence, immediately after the Embassy bombings for which it was retaliation, as widely acknowledged.  That is truly scandalous.

And of course they knew that there would be major casualties.  They are not imbeciles, but rather adopt a stance that is arguably even more immoral than purposeful killing, which at least recognizes the human status of the victims, not just killing ants while walking down the street, who cares?

In fact, as you would know if you deigned to read before launching accusations, they were informed at once by Kenneth Roth of HRW about the impending humanitarian catastrophe, already underway.  And of course they had far more information available than HRW did.

Your own moral stance is revealed even further by your complete lack of concern about the apparently huge casualties and the refusal even to investigate them.

As for Clinton and associates being “genuine humanitarians,” perhaps that explains why they were imposing sanctions on Iraq so murderous that both of the highly respected international diplomats who administered the “Oil for food” program resigned in protest because they regarded them as “genocidal,” condemning Clinton for blocking testimony at the UN Security Council.  Or why he poured arms into Turkey as it was carrying out a horrendous attack on its Kurdish population, one of the worst crimes of the ‘90s.  Or why he shifted Turkey from leading recipient of arms worldwide (Israel-Egypt excepted) to Colombia, as soon as the Turkish atrocities achieved their goal and while Colombia was leading the hemisphere by far in atrocious human rights violations.  Or why he authorized the Texaco Oil Company to provide oil to the murderous Haitian junta in violation of sanctions.  And on, and on, as you could learn if you bothered to read before launching accusations and professing to talk about “ethics” and “morality.”

I’ve seen apologetics for atrocities before, but rarely at this level – not to speak of the refusal to withdraw false charges, a minor fault in comparison.

Since you profess to be concerned about “God-intoxicated sociopaths,” perhaps you can refer me to your condemnation of the perpetrator of by far the worst crime of this millennium because God had instructed him that he must smite the enemy.

No point wasting time on your unwillingness to respond to my request that you “reciprocate by referring me to what I have written citing your published views.  If there is anything I’ve written that is remotely as erroneous as this – putting aside moral judgments – I’ll be happy to correct it.”

Plainly there is no point pretending to have a rational discussion.  But I do think you would do your readers a favor if you presented your tale about why Clinton bombed al-Shifa and his grand humanitarianism.  That is surely the least you can do, given your refusal to withdraw what you know to be completely false charges and a display of moral and ethical righteousness.

The rest of the exchange is rather lengthy. Harris suggests to Chomsky that he “clean up” his pettiness should he want to publish it (Chomsky doesn’t care) and suggests that Chomsky’s emotions have gotten the better of him (they haven’t).

Harris finally concludes by saying (before asking Noam if he can publish it on his site):

I’m sorry to say that I have now lost hope that we can communicate effectively in this medium. Rather than explore these issues with genuine interest and civility, you seem committed to litigating all points (both real and imagined) in the most plodding and accusatory way. And so, to my amazement, I find that the only conversation you and I are likely to ever have has grown too tedious to continue.

Read the entire exchange here on Sam Harris’ website.

  • Connor Syrewicz

    Fuck yeah Chomsky! Although I am not sure why he even wasted time on that sophist

  • RolloMartins

    I consider Sam Harris dutifully vanquished.

  • The topic at hand: is the United States as evil as Islamic terrorism?
    Oh my, how could they find common terminology, much less common ground? And by the likes of it, they could not find any common basis for dialogue. Harris has a Polyanna view of American exceptionalism that Chomsky finds adolescent at best. Chomsky talking to Harris is like a college professor talking to a bright kid in Junior High School. Harris wants Chomsky to accept Harris’ frame of reference otherwise he finds the conversation too tedious. LOL! Harris doesn’t even seem to be aware that they can’t talk because they can’t even agree on a frame of reference.

    • Harris’ argument for the so-called “moral significance of intention” reminds me of the spurious arguments about karma. Karma means “actions” with the necessarily implied specific connotation of intended actions. But then people turn it on its head to say that karma is the result of the actions, so if someone is suffering today, that is the moral significance of their previous intent, and if they have good intent then they will never suffer negative moral actions from that good intent. The fallacy in this is that the person is no judge of their own intent. A person like Harris believes that people can judge their own intent and say, “I’m a good person with good intentions, therefore by definition my actions are good even if they have negative ‘side effects’ or cause ‘collateral damage’.” This is so completely myopic and self-delusional that it is a wonder someone who graduated from college as Harris has can actually believe it.

      • Sai

        You totally missed the point of what karma means, and I’m pretty sure Harris doesn’t understand it either.

        • Sal, I totally get the point of karma, but for me to respond to what you think I don’t get, you will have to actually say what point you think I am missing. Otherwise I would just have to post a 5 page essay on karma to spell out all the points that can’t be put into one small paragraph on a blog comment.

          • Sai

            You DO realize that an entire BOOK was written about karma, right? It’s called the Bhagavad Gita.

          • I realize the Bhagavad Gita was written. So what? It is not an authority to me. It is mistaken about karma because it anthropomorphizes karma into a caste system of “duty” and does not accept the responsibility of personal actions. The Gita teaches a false view of karma that is used to perpetuate the social and political power structure of the caste system.

        • Cletus Jefferson Davis

          Your argument would have much more significance if you indulged everyone with your interpretation of karma.

          • Sai

            It’s not an inerpretation. See above.

        • Lehmann108

          Not at all. “Karma” means action and by implication action having consequences.

          • Sai

            Wrong. Karma isn’t just limited to Newton’s Law or the physical plane. Karmayoga is the physical aspect of “good karma” – where actions have consequences in the physical world (the whole “what goes around comes around” thing). But the concept of karma goes far beyond that. The goal of moksha/self-realization is to eliminate karma entirely, not just to accumulate good karma and no bad karma. To be IN this world, but no longer OF it. In that sense, karma is the sum total of everything you’ve ever done in all your present and past lives.

            Karma DOES NOT MEAN ACTION. For chrissake, people, stop taking concepts you have never studied and warping them beyond recognition.

          • Again wrong. Karma does mean action, but of course it means a certain kind of action, i.e., human intentional and self-identified actions. Karma means the actions of human agency. Karma does not mean the sum total of everything you have done, that is what the concepts of “seeds” or “waves” is for. Karma is the action in the moment. What creates the continuity is the wave or seed that the splashing of karma makes in the ocean of reality. There is no such thing as being “in” the word but not “of” the world. That is a childish fantasy. It would be better said that liberation is to be totally “of” the world in the sense of completely unified with the world, not “in” the world as if separated from the world.

      • Lehmann108

        Gregory says, “The fallacy in this is that the person is no judge of their own intent. A person like Harris believes that people can judge their own intent and say, “I’m a good person with good intentions, therefore by definition my actions are good even if they have negative ‘side effects’ or cause ‘collateral damage’.”

        I would argue a person can be the only judge of their intention. Only I know what I intend. My intention may be quite benign, but, of course the consequences of my action driven by my good intent might be horrible for the recipient of the consequences of that behavior.

        I think you are oversimplifying Sam’s position here regarding intent. He’s not dismissing consequences of intent as “good” as long as the original intent is “good.” That’s too simple. I do think Sam needs to talk about this more.

        • Todd

          I think Sam needs to as well, and I only say that for the reasons that Gregory hit on. Chomsky isn’t on TV for the same reason as it would be pointless for Gregory to type out his beliefs on karma. IMO Harris went a little straw man against a guy that generally doesn’t make those types of arguments…

      • orthotox

        Your representation of Karma is rather skewed. Harris is talking psychology while Karma is premised on teleology.

        • Unless you think that the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, or any of the laws of physics or nature are also premised on teleology, then no the law of karma is not premised on teleology.

      • p gupta

        Seems you do not understand concept of Karma at all…. Karma means actions with attachment, not just actions….. and attachment means your feeling of “I am the doer” and the desire for a successful result…… any action where you only deem/intend that effort is required but care not for result of that effort and consider the “doer” to be the nature/divine itself attaches no karma to you… such “detached” efforts can only be done for good intention… you simply cannot detach from result/doer-ship when your intentions are bad.. but intentions are derivative of attachment, the concept is of “attachment”… if you can somehow do something really bad and on lie detector can convince yourself you are not the doer and you didn’t feel there was any “bad” intention.. then you are not attached to this karma, even if you somehow killed millions…

        Also, only a person himself/herself is always the best judge of his/her involvement or “good” part of intention… in fact divine doesn’t tell you whether you are attached or not, your mind/your psychology tells and attaches the karma..
        Karma philosophy is very robust, it is almost advanced psychology of happiness even if the reincarnation part is ignored..

        • p gupta

          I am attached if i want you to accept my theory or if I wanted you to believe in what is not true… otherwise i just tried and free of this karma.. free is important, good or bad are derivative.. it is just that human psychology/mind won’t let you be free in case of bad intention..

        • Actions “with attachments” is just a fancy way of saying what I already said, “with intentions.” Intention is the attachment to self-identity. You are mistaken if you think that no fruit attaches to the action merely by thinking the “doer” is “the nature/divine itself,” because that very idea of “it is not my action” is a from of “self-identity” pretending to be “not-self.” Rationalizations like “it is not my action, but God’s/nature’s/the divine’s” action is as old as the mountains in trying to use the tricks of thinking to escape the consequences of our actions. The idea that a “lie detector” is going to absolve someone from the consequences of their actions is simply ludicrous rationalization and self-justification that reveals a very shallow understanding of karma.

    • craigvan

      No. That wasn’t the topic at hand. Harris wanted to start a discussion with Chomsky regarding the importance of intention in ethics.
      The discussion didn’t go anywhere of substance. They didn’t discuss the Al Shiffa Sudan bombing that happened 17 years ago. But nothing was clarified. Chomsky took Harris’ interest in him negatively.

      • Craigvan, that characterization was from the this blogger Eugene Wolters, not me. As a meta-description, I think it is as accurate of that part of the exchange as your meta-description characterization is. I don’t see Harris as starting the whole dialogue for the purpose of discussing the importance of intention in ethics, just that when Harris was confronted by Chomsky on the multiple points of results of American exceptionalism and imperial intervention, Harris became on the defensive and had to resort to “intention” to draw the distinction that, for Harris, puts people on one side or the other of being “the good guys” regardless of negative results.
        Harris began his email exchange saying that he was “far more interested in exploring these disagreements, and clarifying any misunderstandings.” However, his approach did not really show a desire to “explore” any more (or less) then Chomsky wanted to explore. What the dialogue shows is that each of them presented their view and the other rejected that view. Since my view is more in line with Chomsky, it looks to me like Harris was the one who was trying to change Chomsky’s perspective and failed. Harris appears to have been trying to change Chomsky’s mind, not to have a real dialogue. Chomsky appears that he couldn’t care less whether or not Harris changes his view.

        • glennwire

          >>>”had to resort to “intention” to draw the distinction that,”

          Exactly.

          Harris has obviously ZERO thinking or reading on the topic.

      • Kevin O

        Go back and read all of it. They did discuss it.

    • iridescentsquids

      “Harris has a Polyanna view of American exceptionalism that Chomsky finds adolescent at best”

      In the context of this conversation especially, but even when considering Harris’ broader writing, this statement is nonsense hyperbole at best.

      Nowhere in this exchange does Harris come close to espousing American exceptionalism. He’s assessing morality by valuing intent differently than Chomsky. Huge difference. And a very important difference.

      Assuming this is an error on the part of Harris (as Chomsky asserts it is) it could purport to an unjustified defense of the immorality of the state. But even if that were true, it doesn’t mean he espouses notions of American exceptionalism. No need to exaggerate like that. He would simply be wrong in a different (actual) way.

      Harris and many of those who share his views on morality (myself included) would very likely be inclined do change their minds in assessing the morality of various state behaviors assuming Chomsky was demonstrated to be correct in this key aspect of the moral argument.

      Which is why I find it so strange that Chomsky didn’t bother to explain how Harris’ assessment was wrong. We caught inklings of Harris’ position regarding morality and intent–and he does present a couple arguments. But Chomsky merely asserts that Harris is wrong without engaging him as to out how.

      I take it you have the luxury of having the elusive, broad understanding of both of their positions (both of their “frame of reference”, as you put it) to comprehend exactly what Chomsky’s unspoken yet valid argument is for why Harris is wrong to place so much importance on intent when assessing moral behavior?

      Mind enlightening me? Hopefully you’re not just adding bluster to this bluster-filled discussion of an important topic the guides so many people’s support (or lack thereof) of specific state behaviors. I have a genuine interest in hearing somebody, somewhere, actually explain why Harris is wrong without merely asserting that he’s a dunce. Thanks in advance.

      • glennwire

        >>>”Chomsky’s unspoken (…) argument”

        It should noted that the above was an extemporaneous email exchange which not originally intended for publication.

        And that Chomsky may quite reasonably have assumed that Harris was familiar with Chomsky’s work. Chomsky is a major intellectual and political figure.

        Chomsky is a anarcho-syndicalist left libertarian socialist democrat.

        Typically, Chomsky is highly suspicious of state power. And typically sees the interests of the power elite to be opposed to that of the ordinary demos. Instead state actions will serve the interests of the elite political strata.

        He would regard Harris as being very naive. Especially in Harris’ childlike, cool-aid faith in “good intentions”.
        The very fact that Clinton caused a great number of deaths without even meaning to is evidence that Clinton’s statist interests had nothing to do with the ordinary people of the demos of the nation which he ordered the bombing of.

        • iridescentsquids

          You have presented what appears to me to be a confused mess.

          Are you saying you dismiss intent outright when assessing morality? Is all discussion of intent when assessing morality “childlike, coolaid faith”?

          Or only discussion of intent that personally offends your anti-statism?

          It’s one thing to assert that intent is irrelevant to morality (I would like to hear to try to argue that!). It’s altogether different to assert that Harris’ assessment of intent in every particular instance relevant to terrorism and state behavior is incorrect. Different still to only say that he’s wrong in his assessment of the Clinton pharmaceutical bombing (although they’re disagreement seems to extend well beyond it). None of these assertions is self-evident.

          We don’t, unfortunately, get to hear much from either side in this exchange about how exactly they think the other’s argument is in error. It never got that far. Harris explains his position much more than Chomsky, but Chomsky seems to (almost very deliberately) avoid making an argument.

          The fact that he never explains why exactly he thinks Harris’ use of intent when assessing morality is wrong makes me think you don’t even know what you’re defending when you say Chomsky is right.

          Or maybe you do know, but you’re trying to be Chomsky-esqe by saying you’re above the need to justify your assertions.

          • glennwire

            >>>”Is all discussion of intent when assessing morality “childlike, coolaid faith”?”

            No.

            But Harris’ would seem to suffer from this in this case.

            >>>”intent is irrelevant to morality”

            Where do you get the idea that this is being argued from?

            The point is that bad, murderous effects are not *justified* by professions of virtuous intentions.

            Also that one would have to impossibly innocent to swallow all professions of virtuous intention at face value. And that these are the *only* intentions at play.

            The neo-con wars of recent years were about oil and regional hegemony. How often did one hear the principal instigators state this publicly? WTF did the illegal invasion have to do with some altruistic project of providing “liberty” etc.?

            It may have been genuinely consider a “war on terror”.

            But we never heard about
            1/The close complicity of the Western powers in both the origins and alliance of radical Islam.

            2/ That the “war on terror” has made radical Islam worse.

            I can only point you to Chomsky’s books for a more detailed account of Chomsky’s politics than can be provided here.

            Alternatively there’s e.g. Robert Barksy’s books “The Chomsky Effect” and “Chomsky: A Life of Dissent”.

            https://linguistlist.org/issues/8/8-673.html

            Most particularly, the point is that the *real* nature of the vast majority of state actions is the furtherance of the interests of the power elite.

            And this is very often inimical the interests of ordinary people. Who are regarded as dispensable.

          • iridescentsquids

            “But Harris’ would seem to suffer from this in this case.”

            That he might be naive and childish in his assessment of intent in specific instances, like the Sudan bombing? Yes. (although to be fair the exchange doesn’t involve Harris presenting much of an argument at all in the way of his assessment of state intent. He wants to go there but can’t get past a foundational argument with Chomsky).

            That he might be naive and childish in his assessment that intent matters when determining morality? Absolutely not. Not even close.

            Chomsky himself isn’t even outright disagreeing with this (just coyly refusing to agree). In fact Chomsky’s argument that the bombing was immoral is in fact an assessment of intent:

            Retaliation was the primary intent, combined with knowledge of civilian deaths and apathy as a secondary aspect of that intent. Practically speaking, I would argue, apathy is a subset of a range of considerations that fall under “intent” when making moral assessments. But even if you don’t agree with me on that point, apathy most certainly does not exclude intent as a factor as well, and does not erase Chomsky’s use of retaliatory intent in his own argument.

            Most of Harris’ efforts in the exchange center around trying to establish with Chomsky that intent matters so that intent might be discussed. But Chomsky refuses to create this foundation for discussion. It seems because he’s not all that interested in engaging Harris at all. Let’s not mistake his disinterest with a sound retort.

            “The point is that bad, murderous effects are not *justified* by professions of virtuous intentions.”

            It’s circular to start with a premise (that something is immoral) in your effort to make your argument (that the same thing is immoral). When we correct your statement it seems far-fetched “Behavior is not ‘justified’ by virtuous intentions”.

            Never? Do you mean to be so absolute, especially with regards to a difficult topic like morality? Ever heard of the legal term “justified homicide”. There are in fact a wide range of legal terms that fit various intent with regard to the same act: killing somebody.

            We differentiate for good reason.

            Primarily here I want to establish that there’s a world of difference between arguing that 1) intent matters, and 2) Harris is wrong in assessing intent of the state.

            Many people here, including you, seem to be mixing these things up and assuming Chomsky is saying intent doesn’t matter (I don’t think he is).

          • glennwire

            >>>”Harris is wrong in assessing intent of the state.”

            I take this to be Chomsky’s central position.

            For that one must be familiar with his work as a whole as it is not in the above exchange. But can nonetheless be assumed to inform Chomsky’s remarks in the above exchange.

            As other posters have pointed out, otherwise one’s moral viewpoint is one of consequentialism. Which is quite a powerful position to argue in favour of in my own opinion.

            I not sure that this is Chomsky’s political worldview if we regard his writings as a whole however.

          • iridescentsquids

            Yes, it does seem to be his central position even when Harris is talking about something else.

            For instance, when Harris presents two hypotheticals for consideration to demonstrate how intent changes morality of decisions relative to one another, despite the same outcome, Chomsky attacks one as an inadequate equivalent to the Clinton bombing situation, as if that’s the point. I can’t tell if he’s intentionally ignoring Harris’ point because he just doesn’t care, or he just missed it.

            There appears at first glance to be kind of consequentialism to Chomsky’s disregard for intent (in response to Harris). But the ferocity of his objection to Harris’ characterization of Clinton’s intent (even if that wasn’t Harris’ point) and his own assessment of retaliatory intent suggest very strongly that Chomsky is not a consequentialist.

          • Adam Black

            Chomskys argument is purely Consequentialist.

            He takes great pain to lay it out, and deny the alternatives.

            He says intent is meaningless, but But…

            (1) hes ignoring Intent, in the sense of Intent to Good and Evil, and doing a bait and switch of Purpose to Will. Hes hopes you wont notice that “Sincerity” to Evil, isnt the same as Intent to do Good.

            (2) Then in Contradistinction to his own Non-intent argument, he reads Intent retroactively into the Sudanese affair.

            (3) The State— of which, he does claim Harris is a believer in the religion of the State — the US Government and its leaders are the sole bearers of all moral responsibility.

            We are the great player. All else are meat-puppets we abuse. We alone can have responsibility.

            (4) Chomsky commits the very same fallacy he accuses of in Clinton. The Africans just dont matter to him. They arent mutual actors. They arent even people in the affair.

            They are ants cruelly murdered. They are only mindless victims. They arent capabale of any moral culpability for shielding terrorists They would have to be human for that. Chomsky isnt going to ever grant them full humanity, with the capability of having moral acts.

            There is a name for what Chomsky is doing,and he uses it many many times: “Apologetics” He ought to know. He is literally the KillingFields Denialist and its chief western propagandist

            If you want to see REAL “apologetics of atrocities” looks like, look no further than the Genocide-denial of one Noam Chomsky

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodian_genocide_denial#Chomsky_and_Herman

            “Veteran Cambodia correspondent Nate Thayer said of Chomsky and Herman’s Nation
            article that they “denied the credibility of information leaking out of
            Cambodia of a bloodbath underway and viciously attacked the authors of
            reportage suggesting many were suffering under the Khmer Rouge.”

            Journalist Andrew Anthony in the London Observer,
            said later that the Porter and Hildebrand’s book “cravenly rehashed the
            Khmer Rouge’s most outlandish lies to produce a picture of a kind of
            radical bucolic idyll.”[17]
            Chomsky, he said, questioned “refugee testimony” believing that “their
            stories were exaggerations or fabrications, designed for a western media
            involved in a ‘vast and unprecedented propaganda campaign’ against the
            Khmer Rouge government, ‘including systematic distortion of the truth.'”

            I am not going to excuse the flagrant misuse of state power that the US is responsible for. Nor would I assume any purely grand benevolent intent not thoroughly rooted in whats good for the US Power elites, and Corporations.

            But Chomsky has his own ( hidden ) thesis, and I dont believe hes ever made his the case it rests on. The US, Israel and the West behave worse and should be judged harder than all other governments. We are the abusive the parents and anything any cultures due to us or in a transaction , is always justified or less evil. ( and if you are revolutionary totalitarian communist you cant do any wrong. )

            His protege , Norman Finkelstein takes this one step further and Justifies preemptive war against the west.

            Despite all this i think Chomsky is often right ( American elite in general, US Policy towards Central America )

            and sometimes the voice of American conscience.

            But he gets there by a set of insane double standards.

            For example, he recently argued AGAINST the recent Iran Treaty.

            He claimed the entire negotiation was immoral, and preemptively excused Iran for Violating the origianal treaty, and the US negotiation itself was proof that we Violated the UN Charter.

            In His mind , that we are sincerely engaging in peace talks with a hostile power proves the US is a warmongering aggressor. He said this on Press TV.

            Yet Under the same standard he applies, Iran would be guilty of violating the UN treaty constantly at the same time. When the Supreme Leader publicly declares and leads public chants of “Death to America” to Chomsky this doesnt matter.

            But US negotiating a treaty constitutes a grave threat, and chomsky claims “Threats” violates the UN Charter.

            To Chomsky it counts WHO has the Intent.

          • iridescentsquids

            Thank you for all of your responses. I’ll have to take the time (when I have it) to review them in detail and consider your explanations. After a cursory reading, I have to say it’s nice to see somebody at least acknowledging what appear to me to be problems or limits to Chomsky’s positions. Most everybody I discuss this topic with seems intent on being the best echo of his position they can be, even to the degree of letting the fuzzy parts stay fuzzy.

          • Redfox1984

            Good day

            It appears that my previous youtube rebuttals proceeding and following your latest query are no longer visible to the public, or never were. So you’re general charges of evasiveness on my part is altogether understandable, if erroneous. In any case, I’ll try once more with a different account…

            “I didn’t assert that he was “deliberately avoiding a question put to him”. I asserted that the answers he gives do not address the general queries Harris seems to be inquiring about regarding consequentialism and intent.”

            I concord that you “didn’t assert that he was ‘deliberately avoiding a question put to him'” , but you have yet to cite circumstances where Chomsky is being vague or evasive with regards to Harris’s queries and accusations or which responses are unsatisfactory. Chomsky has, as far as I can see, addressed all of Harris’s inquires accordingly:

            Harris:

            “On the topic of there being a “moral equivalence” between al-Shifa and 9/11, I’m afraid that what you have written is hard to understand. Despite your insistence that you drew no moral equivalence whatsoever between the two cases, you call Clinton’s actions an “atrocity” the consequences of which were “vastly more severe” than if the same had been done to the U.S., and you say that any comparison with the consequences of 9/11 is, if anything, “an understatement.”

            Chomsky:

            “As you know (apologies for the accuracy), I described 9/11 as a “horrendous crime” committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty.” In the case of al-Shifa, I said nothing of the sort. I described it as an atrocity, as it clearly is, and merely stated the unquestionable facts.”

            Harris:

            “But I am reluctant to move forward before I understand how you view the significance of intention in cases where the difference between altruism (however inept), negligence, and malevolence is absolutely clear.”

            Chomsky :

            “To adopt your terms, the matter of “altruism (however inept), negligence, and malevolence is absolutely clear” in the case of the al-Shifa bombing. There wasn’t even a hint of altruism, inept or not, so we can dismiss that. There was clear negligence – the fate of probably tens of thousands of African victims did not matter. As to whether there is malevolence, that depends on the ethical question I raised, which you seem not to want to consider: to repeat, how do we rank murder (which treats the victim as a human) with quite consciously killing a great number of people, but not caring, because we treat them as we do ants when we walk down the street: the al-Shifa case?"

            As noted in previous replies, I pointed out that instead of rebutting, Harris circumvents Chomsky’s answers and the important ethical question pertaining to intent in the al-Shifa case, namely “how do we rank murder (which treats the victim as a human) with quite consciously killing a great number of people, but not caring”. If Harris was indeed interested in questions of moral evaluation and intent, he certainly didn’t attempt an argument, and merely rephrases his original query:

            Harris:

            “Here is my assumption about the al-Shifa case. I assume that Clinton believed that it was, in fact, a chemical weapons factory—because I seeno rational reason for him to have intentionally destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in retaliation for the embassy bombings. I take it that you consider this assumption terribly naive. Why so?”

            To which Chomsky properly responds again in the proceeding exchanges:

            Chomsky:

            “Why so? For exactly the reasons I mentioned.

            The bombing of al-Shifa was an immediate response to the Embassy bombings, which is why it is almost universally assumed to be retaliation. It is inconceivable that in that brief interim period evidence was found that it was a chemical weapons factory, and properly evaluated to justify a bombing. And of course no evidence was ever found. Plainly, if there had been evidence, the bombing would not have (just by accident) taken place immediately after the Embassy bombings (along with bombings in Afghanistan at the same time, also clearly retaliation).

            There’s no rational way to explain this except by assuming that he intentionally bombed what was known to be Sudan’s major pharmaceutical plant, and of course he and his advisers knew that under severe sanctions, this poor African country could not replenish them – so it is a much worse crime than if al-Qaeda had done the same in the US, or Israel, or any other country were people matter.

            I do not, again, claim that Clinton intentionally wanted to kill the thousands of victims. Rather, that was probably of no concern, raising the very serious ethical question that I have discussed, again repeatedly in this correspondence. And again, I have often discussed the ethical question about the significance of real or professed intentions, for about 50 years in fact, discussing real cases, where there are possible and meaningful answers. Something clearly worth doing, since the real ethical issues are interesting and important ones.”

            The pattern repeats itself for the remainder of the exchange.

            Harris:

            “With respect to al-Shifa, for instance, you draw some very confident (and, I suspect, unwarranted) inferences from the timing of events. (Is it really “inconceivable” that the government already believed it to be a chemical weapons factory?) Do I have to accept to all your assumptions in order to discuss the underlying ethics?

            And your ethical position is still unclear (to me). You say that you are NOT claiming that “Clinton intentionally wanted to kill thousands of victims.” Okay. But you seem to be suggesting that he had every reason to expect that he would be killing them by his actions (and just didn’t care). And you seem disinclined to distinguish the ethics of these cases.”

            Chomsky:

            “Let’s turn finally to your interpretation of al-Shifa: Clinton “did not want or intend to kill anyone at all, necessarily. He simply wanted to destroy what he believed to be a chemical weapons factory. But he did wind up killing innocent people, and we don’t really know how he felt about it.”

            I’m sure you are right that Clinton did not want or intend to kill anyone at all. That was exactly my point. Rather, assuming that he was minimally sane, he certainly knew that he would kill a great many people but he simply didn’t care: case (2) above, the one serious moral issue, which I had discussed (contrary to your charge) and you never have.

            As for the rest, you may, if you like, believe that when Clinton bombed Afghanistan and Sudan in immediate reaction to the Embassy bombings (and in retaliation, it is naturally assumed), he had credible information that he was bombing a chemical factory – which also was, as publicly known, the major pharmaceutical factory in Sudan (which, of course, could not replenish supplies), and he judged that the evidence was strong enough to overlook the human consequences. But, oddly, he was never able to produce a particle of credible evidence, as was widely reported. And when informed immediately (by HRW) that a humanitarian catastrophe was already beginning he ignored it, as he ignored the subsequent evidence about the scale of the casualties (as you incidentally did too).

            On your assumptions, he’s quite clearly a moral monster, and there’s no need to comment further on people

            who seek to justify these crimes – your crimes and mine, as citizens of a free society where we can influence policy.”

            I find it incontrovertible certitude that Chomsky, as he himself notes, addressed and refuted Harris’s concerns point by point. Conversely, Harris demonstrates an utter refusal to address the “basic questions” he charges Chomsky with, electing to accept the professed benevolent intentions of his own state with credulity and simply rephrasing his query. If Harris was indeed interested in establishing “first principles”, he observably prescinds from putting forth the argument, or indeed any argument whatsoever.

            Let us proceed to your charges that I failed to provide requisite sources and citations in the follow-up post:

            “What’s surprising is that you seem to think the quote I provided from Hegemony and Survival would be news to me, even though I posted it. Hubris. Where did you even post it? Refer to it, yes. But I don’t see your post. “

            As noted, my second response is not visible, but nevertheless I properly responded:

            “Let us elaborate on your Hegemony or Survival citation, which provides the useful contradistinction. Again, Chomsky is quite explicit:”

            “And what youtube post? I see none.” “Perhaps it was deleted? Sometimes posts with links in them get deleted.”

            The link was located in the latter of my two-part response, unfortunately not visible:

            “As for Chomsky situating moral judgments solely on “body counts”, as Harris disingenuously asserts, the following link should prove exculpatory, if somewhat facetious:”

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5sZI-H9KyM

            “Nice try again, but we are both fully aware of Harris mistakes.”

            Perhaps you should not have issued your challenge then. Let us review in full. It began with me asserting that:

            “Harris never so much as provided one molecule of evidence to substantiate his accusations of moral equivalence and a disregard for intentions. Chomsky was thus understandably curt and cantankerous in his responses.”

            Note that my primary contention is with Harris’s charges of “moral equivalence and a disregard for intentions.” In response you phrased in several paragraphs an inquiry into my opinion as to Chomsky’s position. However, the primary passage you included, and which I elected to respond to was:

            “I have to say, though, that it seems to me that it would be difficult to justify such confidence that Chomsky indeed trounced Harris in the exchange, as you have, without feeling confident in your understanding of Chomsky’s position on intent and consequentialism, so I’m looking forward to whatever insight you can provide.”

            The implication being that without said understanding I would struggle or be unable to demonstrate Harris's egregious misconduct or that Chomsky in any meaningful sense “trounced” Harris. In response I cited (in prodigious detail) instances of duplicity, evasion, equivocation, hypocrisy and (arguably) insincerity on Harris’s part, in contradistinction to Chomsky, who rebutted all of Harris’s queries and charges. And all this without explicating my view on Chomsky’s position, which I did address in the following post. You then responded with:

            ““My earlier point was that you can demonstrate many ways that Harris is wrong without understanding what Chomsky’s position is. All you need to do is demonstrate that Chomsky’s position is not what Harris says it is.”

            Perhaps you can elucidate then how your original point was illustrative of there being “many ways” to demonstrate that “Harris is wrong without understanding what Chomsky’s position is”, despite you insisting it would be “difficult” to do so?

            “I don’t consider merely pointing out his mistakes adequate to confidently call him “trounced” if you’re going to ignore the broader philosophical queries I keep pointing out.”

            And as I’ve established, both in my preceding posts and this one, Chomsky rebutted and replied to his accusations and queries accordingly. I also answered your initial query regarding Chomsky’s views, as you yourself noted. Incidentally, you prescind from offering any form of rebuttal or retort, instead electing to explicate vague dissatisfaction:

            “Yup. And if that’s all you have to say thanks but I’;m looking for a better understanding than you are sharing.”

            Also, I did not “ignore the broader philosophical queries” in my two-part response, you are just unable to view the answers:

            “Chomsky’s point is not that we should disregard intentions, but that queries regarding the possible or actual consequences of an action should take precedence over queries regarding the intentions of the actor. When making moral evaluations, one must, of course, factor in intent, but this does not mitigate the severity of the consequences or deflect moral disapprobation. And, of course, moral evaluation is contingent on the act in question, whether it’;s Khrushchev placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, North Korea’s Dear Leader providing missile technology to Pakistan or Clinton’s decision to bomb Al-Shifa.”

            “The above you have not responded to.”

            Then let me review here the “broader philosophical queries” you feel I neglected to adequately address. Again, I maintain that I did respond, but the posts are unfortunately invisible.

            “I’m aware that’s very different from saying that Chomsky is weighing consequences as the ultimate judge of the rightness or wrongness of an act. He does not appear to be doing that, in my opinion. I’m not 100% on that, so curios your take.”

            Chomsky was quite clear in the passage from Hegemony or Survival, the very passage you cited and which I elaborated on in my two-part reply:

            “On a highly controversial topic like the one we turn to now, perhaps it is a good idea to begin with a few simple truths. The first is that actions are evaluated in terms of the range of likely consequences. A second is the principle of universality; we apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others, if not more stringent ones.”

            “The first truism may merit a word of elaboration. The actual consequences of an action may be highly significant, but they do not bear on the moral evaluation of the action. No one celebrates Khrushchev’s success in placing nuclear missiles in Cuba because it did not lead to nuclear war, or condemns the fear-mongers who warned of the threat.”

            “An apologist for state violence who took such positions would be regarded as a moral monster or lunatic. That’s obvious, until it comes time to apply the same criteria to ourselves. Then the stance of the lunatic and moral monster is taken to be highly honorable, indeed obligatory, and adherence to the truisms is condemned with horror.”

            Evidently Chomsky does not use consequences as the sole or deciding metric to evaluate the precise moral stature of an action or conflict.

            “When he says there is nothing to say in general, he’s speaking of professions of benevolent intent, and not moral intent more broadly, correct?”

            Again, Chomsky was quite clear:

            “As I’ve discussed for many years, in fact decades, benign intentions are virtually always professed, even by the worst monsters, and hence carry no information, even in the technical sense of that term. That’s quite independent of their “sincerity,” however we determine that (pretty easy in the Japanese case, and the question doesn’t even arise in the al-Shifa case).”

            That’s a yes, in case you missed it.

            “He’s not saying that dependent on specific circumstances, we must sometimes base our moral judgements primarily on the consequences of an act, while at other times base our moral judgements on an assessment of the actor’s moral intent, correct?”

            Chomsky points out that moral evaluations of an action are entirely contingent on the variables of the specific case in question. Determining intent is imperative to moral evaluation, but sincerity does not mitigate moral condemnation or the severity of outcomes. There is nothing to say in general unless you cite specific cases, otherwise the question is hopelessly vague.

            “In other words, he never dismisses an evaluation of the moral intent of the actor outright, correct?”

            No, Chomsky dismisses professed benevolent intentions, which are the universal dictum among state actors. The only reason you would assume Chomsky dismisses intent, or is an actual consequentialist, is because Harris asserted it, “body count is all” and so on.

            “So in that sense, generally speaking, he might say (but does not explicitly) that his moral assessments ultimately do involve weighing moral intent more broadly, even if professions of benevolent intent can be dismissed. We might make that generalization.”

            Again, Chomsky does not ignore sincere benevolent intent, but professed benevolent intent when it comes to state actions, since they are ubiquitously invoked and hence can never be taken seriously at face value. How we empirically determine sincerity is another matter, verifiable by circumstance, foreseeable results, access to information such as internal documents and so forth.

            The point is not that one should disregard intentions, but queries regarding the possible or actual consequences of an action should take precedence over queries regarding the intentions of the actor. When making moral evaluations, one must, of course, factor in intent, but this does not mitigate the severity of the outcomes or deflect moral disapprobation. And, of course, proper moral evaluation is contingent on the act in question, whether it’s Khrushchev placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, North Korea’s Dear Leader providing missile technology to Pakistan or Clinton’s decision to bomb Al-Shifa. All this is indeed “rudimentary enough that I need not spell it out further”. So again:

            “..there is nothing at all to say in general. There is a lot to say about specific cases, like the al-Shifa bombing….”

            “As opposed to being an actual consequentialist some of the time depending on circumstances, which would give his comment about there being no general role of intent a very different meaning.”

            The last sentence seems to be merely conjecture on your part. Perhaps you can reciprocate by providing citations to support your suspicions of Chomsky being an actual consequentialist. As for Chomsky predicating moral judgments solely on “body counts”, as Harris fictitiously asserts, the following link should prove exculpatory, if somewhat facetious:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5sZI-H9KyM

            “I agree with a lot of what Redfox1984 says, but mostly because he’s an accurate echo of Chomsky. He’s vague precisely where Chomsky is, too.”

            As has been demonstrated, I have responded to all your queries accordingly. Perhaps in response you should attempt to cite, quote or specify passages or instances where I, or Chomsky, have been evasive, unsatisfactory or “vague”. And if these answers prove unsatisfactory, why not simply posit the question of consequentialism in an email to Chomsky himself, as I’ve suggested multiple times now. And again, the answer does not necessitate him to cite from his prodigious corpus, merely express his opinion, so I’m afraid you’ve run out of excuses at this point.

            “Maybe I’m just not getting it and you are.”

            Possibly, but at this point it’s of no fault on my part. I’ll skip the rest.

          • iridescentsquids

            It’s happened to me once. I guess posting outside links within a youtube exchange can result in the post disappearing with no notification, and never having been visible to anybody else.

            “Perhaps you can elucidate then how your original point was illustrative of there being “many ways” to demonstrate that “Harris is wrong without understanding what Chomsky’s position is”, despite you insisting it would be “difficult” to do so?”

            Difficult to assert he’s been trounced, not difficult to assert he’s wrong. Meaning, if we need to go there ( I don’t understand this obsession with declaring a winner but assuming we must) I would want to understand each person’s position relative to what we (or they each) perceive to be the important topics being debated. One important topic to Harris seems to have been philosophical positions on intent and consequentialism (and their application). Short of understanding Chomsky’s position on that, it doesn’t seem to me to be a good idea to declare his position a better one, assuming he has one.

            “Possibly, but at this point it’s of no fault on my part.”

            You are claiming certain knowledge. If you are wrong and unaware you can be at fault and unaware. Happens to everybody.

            I apologize I really don’t have the time to answer most your post as much as I would like. Many things prevent me from having the time, but my interest is sincere and I fully intend to continue this discussion.

          • Redfox1984

            “One important topic to Harris seems to have been philosophical positions on intent and consequentialism (and their application). ”

            I disagree. Harris is nothing more than a thoroughgoing tribal propagandist of the most brazen stripe. Harris’s main position, clearly demonstrated by even a cursory review of his oeuvre, is to construct a moral hierarchy through which we he can view and mitigate the actions of the United States abroad, not a discourse about intentions despite his professed protestations.

            Again, to be perfectly transparent, Chomsky did indeed “trounce” Harris, not by refuting that intentions are irrelevant to moral evaluation, but by exposing Harris’s hypocrisy and failure to earnestly attempt to astutely examine the respective moral characters of his elected leaders.

            Allow me to demonstrate; Harris never takes into astute consideration what the true intent of HIS GOVERNMENT might be, as clearly demonstrated in this exchange. Why else would would he evade Chomsky’s argument pertaining to al-shifa and then rephrase his query?
            And, of course, the complete irony of Harris’s preposterous charges against Chomsky was lucidly demonstrated in the discourse regarding Al-Shifa. To quote Harris (emphasis mine):

            “I ASSUME that Clinton believed that it was, in fact, a chemical weapons factory — because I see NO rational REASON for him to have intentionally destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in retaliation for the embassy bombings. I take it that you consider this assumption terribly naive. Why so?”

            Why would Harris ASSUME that? Because Bill Clinton said so. And because Harris’s arguments regarding intentions are entirely circular. Harris regards it as a truism and starts from the premise that the U.S is an imperfect, but nevertheless “well-intentioned giant” and is thus unwilling to critically analyze the atrocities committed by his own state. In short, Harris admonishes Chomsky for neglecting to “ask some very basic questions” regarding intentions which he himself neglects concerning and event he ostensibly knows next to nothing about, but was perfectly willing to invoke for the purposes of obfuscation and calumny.

            Now is Harris willing to apply the same standard when considering the professed intentions of U.S ANTAGONISTS? Consider the following passage from The End of Faith (emphasis mine):

            “To see that our problem is with Islam itself, and not merely with “terrorism,” we need only ask ourselves WHY Muslim terrorists do what they do. WHY would someone as conspicuously devoid of personal grievances or psychological dysfunction as Osama bin Laden— who is neither poor, uneducated, delusional, nor a prior victim of Western aggression—devote himself to cave-dwelling machinations with the INTENTION of killing innumerable men, women, and children he has never met? The answer to this question is OBVIOUS—if only because it has been patiently articulated AD NAUSEAM by bin Laden himself.”

            Notice how Harris never quotes Bin Laden ad nauseam? In fact, there is not one quotation in Harris’s book, or his entire corpus, from any of Bin Laden’s statements. Not a single word. The only explanation he offers, without citations unsurprisingly, is the following assertion (emphasis mine):

            “The answer is that men like bin Laden actually believe WHAT THEY SAY they believe.They believe in the literal truth of the Koran.”

            That’s truly ludicrous and embarrassing, the man cannot possibly believe what he is writing. In fact, in the very next passage, Harris makes the (completely ironic) observations (emphasis mine):

            “It is rare to find the behavior of human beings so FULLY and satisfactorily explained. Why have we been reluctant to accept this EXPLANATION? As we have seen, there is something that most Americans share with Osama bin Laden, the nineteen hijackers, and much of the Muslim world. WE, too, cherish the idea that certain fantastic PROPOSITIONS can be BELIEVED WITHOUT EVIDENCE.

            The concessions we have made to RELIGIOUS FAITH—to the idea that BELIEF can be sanctified by something other than EVIDENCE—have rendered us unable to name, much less address, one of the most pervasive causes of conflict in our world.”

            Based on Harris’s own words, we should confidently conclude that he is indeed a “religious fanatic” who worships at the altar of the state. But of course there is no limit to what his intransigently credulous menagerie of readers will ignore. Take, say another example when describing the benevolent intentions of George Bush:

            “How would George Bush have prosecuted the recent war in Iraq with perfect weapons? Would he have targeted the thousands of Iraqi civilians who were maimed or killed by our bombs? Would he have put out the eyes of little girls or torn the arms from their mothers? Whether or not you admire the man’s politics—or the man—there is no reason to think that he would have sanctioned the injury or death of even a single innocent person. ”

            I mean, never mind Bush DID in actual fact sanction the death of thousands of innocents through means that one would be crack-brained to considered unforeseeable or accidental.
            What’s more brazen, the phrase “there is no reason to think he would sanction”, intentionally imprecise though it is, nonetheless is clearly asserting (not arguing, nothing is argued) that Bush is not simply indifferent to innocent death. I mean, ignoring the dead and maimed Iraqi civilians, Bush would obviously avoid an unprovoked declaration of war were it in his power to do so.

            Why would anyone take this psychopath, in the technical sense of that term, seriously? But perhaps you can specify for me where Harris even approximates an earnest attempt to astutely examine the respective moral characters of the U.S or her antagonists abroad? Did Harris offer any counter-argument or position to Chomsky’s assessment? I certainly see none.

            In any case, this is why Chomsky, in my view, wins the argument. He at least demonstrates a willingness to determine true intent and consequences across the board.

          • iridescentsquids

            “Harris’s main position, clearly demonstrated by even a cursory review of his oeuvre, is to construct a moral hierarchy through which we he can view and mitigate the actions of the United States abroad, not a discourse about intentions despite his professed protestations.”

            Every system of morality is a hierarchy. I see no need to dismiss any position based on speculation about the motive of those who espouse it (that Harris is trying to mitigate actions of the United States. A “position” is not a motive, but a “position…to construct…” suggests motive). We still, I think you would agree, need to judge the soundness of the position not the motive or possible immoral use of the position. That’s my goal when I say Harris is raising philosophical questions about intent and consequentialism. You can’t meaningfully dismiss that simply because he’s a statist apologist.

            Whether his position is a means to another end or not, he’s clearing making some effort, repeatedly through most of the exchange, to discuss a position on intent and consequentialism.

          • iridescentsquids

            “My point was that there is no way to judge the moral actor unless we talk about specific cases.”

            Not sure that fixes it simply because speaking generally the logic is the same: whether we are 1) talking generally about intent, or 2) talking generally about the importance of intent as a variable when judging any moral actor.

            I think you mean to be differentiating between A) how the word “general” might apply to specific examples of intent (which can vary in relevance depending) vs. B) how the word “general” might apply to intent in the abstract, as a variable itself.

            A: nothing general to be said
            B: something general to be said

          • Redfox1984

            “I’ve argued with Chomsky supporters on this forum fairly extensively who interpreted Chomsky’s position exactly that way, as flouting any prescriptive, philosophical position on intent to the point of sometimes being an actual consequentialist (and sometimes not).”

            It goes without saying that any popular figure will have a following of deaf, dumb, and/or blind individuals. I can only write on my own behalf here.

            “Whether his position is a means to another end or not, he’s clearly making some effort, repeatedly through most of the exchange, to discuss a position on intent and consequentialism.”

            Yes, he posits vague and imprecise platitudes about the significance of intentions. But where does he actually get around to putting forth any semblance of an argument or proposition to Chomsky in discussing the al-shifa case? I honestly see non, please point it out if you do. He merely evades direct arguments and simply rephrases his query, while concomitantly affecting a disingenuous concern with tone and civility. How does this constitute an effort to engage in discussion?

            And again, this was the very case Harris raised.

            “1) always making an assessment of intent as part of the moral formula, and 2) valuing/devaluing intent based on how well it correlates with likely consequences. But I still wrestle with the comment about “nothing to say in general” because any model I try out is essentially a prescriptive and general philosophical position.”

            You obviate a crucial third factor- circumstance; the conditions under which one makes a conscious decision. And these can vary innumerably. As far as I’m aware Chomsky has always maintained that any prescriptive principle or value ( however legitimate it might be) should always be contingent, never an absolute under all conditions. There can be no general answer.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g003YbaxQ2g

            Perhaps Chomsky could have phrased it better in the discussion, and if this is the crux of your discontents, why not simply posit the question to Chomsky himself, as I’ve suggested multiple times now. And again, the answer does not necessitate him to cite from his prodigious corpus, merely elaborate his opinion, so I’m afraid you’ve run out of excuses at this point.

            I’ll skip the rest.

          • iridescentsquids

            “You obviate a crucial third factor- circumstance; the conditions under which one makes a conscious decision. And these can vary innumerably. As far as I’m aware Chomsky has always maintained that any prescriptive principle or value ( however legitimate it might be) should always be contingent, never an absolute under all conditions. ”

            Nothing obviated. An evaluation of how intent correlates with likely consequences can’t occur outside of circumstances. It’s impossible. We could address hypothetical circumstances, but we can’t talk about “likely” without circumstances. And if we use hypothetical we can see how easily our conclusions about the value of this or that intent would change as we tweak conditions. So no obviating of circumstances, or the great variety or complexity of circumstances that might complicate such assessments.

            As relates to the video where he talks of values (and how they may conflict in certain conditions): we might say the same of assessments of intent (and how well/poorly they correlate to likely consequences).

            I’m not married to this model to explain his position. Just clarifying your misunderstanding of my meaning.

          • Redfox1984

            Please see my latest reply and let me know if you have any further inquiry.

          • iridescentsquids

            “It goes without saying that any popular figure will have a following of deaf, dumb, and/or blind individuals. I can only write on my own behalf here.”

            Sure. I do agree.

            But it might (not sure) offer some degree of value to the question of whether Chomsky is really being as clear as he could be that so many outspoken defenders don’t, when pressed, understand or agree as to what he has said (or what he meant by what he said)

            I question the value of the chorus of people (on forums, blog posts, in the press) claiming his victory over Harris when there is such a wide array of interpretations of his core position when I ask about it.

            I am, by the way, interested in the cultural impact he has, too. Not just his true position.

          • Redfox1984

            “But it might (not sure) offer some degree of value to the question of whether Chomsky is really being as clear as he could be that so many outspoken defenders don’t, when pressed, understand or agree as to what he has said (or what he meant by what he said)”

            Perhaps. It could just as easily instantiate that most anonymous internet interlocutors are intransigently credulous and don’t have the first clue what their on about. There are as many interpretations as their are human beings. And a multitude of methods for determining “victory”, if that is how they choose to perceive this interchange/ non-interchange/ debate/ debacle/ disaster- whatever you will…
            In my own view I can’t deduce much obfuscation from Chomsky’s part concerning the substantive issues. The same cannot be said of Harris.

            “Perhaps there’s a situation in which an intent that has no or virtually no correlation to a likely consequence would be considered relevant to him?”

            I cannot, nor would I consider it desirable, to attempt answering hypothetical questions on Chomsky’s behalf. You’ll have to pose these questions to the man himself.

            As for my part, I’ve merely provided ( I assume) my perceptions of the interchange. And, on cursory review, I cannot ascertain any substantial objection or reproach on your part.

            And their is , of course, and extremely effective, if expedient, method to verify the verisimilitude of my interpretations – emailing Chomsky himself.

            “I am, by the way, interested in the cultural impact he has, too. Not just his true position.”

            If you are interested in works pertaining to Chomsky, I’d be happy to provide requisite sources. Just let me know.

            I’ll skip the rest.

          • iridescentsquids

            It’s interesting to me that you see my statement “An evaluation of how intent correlates with likely consequences can’t occur outside of circumstances. It’s impossible.”

            as almost an exact paraphrase of Chomsky:

            “As for intentions, there is nothing at all to say in general. There is a lot to say about SPECIFIC cases, like the al-Shifa bombing, or Japanese fascists in China…”

            Obviously it’s my point in creating a model to be as consistent with Chomsky’s statement’s as possible, and it looks like my model gets very close to your interpretation to the point that you don’t see any difference.

            I want to remind you, though, of how central his statement about there being “nothing at all to say in general” is to my uncertainty about his meaning. I’ve pointed out already other possible positions consistent with that statement of his. So where you see a near exact paraphrase I still see some uncertainty. We’ve been over this, and how this approach to addressing the questions raised in the exchange about role of intent causes confusion. But you and I seem to have different ideas about what questions are being raised…you seeing no questions about consequentialism being raised by Harris and I seeing that as his central challenge (and most significant error). I think that alters our perception of what Chomsky says (for me, as a response to that challenge).

            In the context of these discussions in particular it’s hard not to question Chomsky’s supposed clarity, professed by so many who disagree amongst themselves about what he was “clearly” saying. It’s hard for me to ignore that, especially given my own uncertainty. Unless there is some objective measure for ‘clarity’ I don’t know about I’ll defer to the results…guess I’ll be a consequentialist about it 🙂 Something you don’t have to worry about because you seem to be completely certain.

            The more I discuss this, read his work and listen to his lectures/interviews the more confident I am that my model is correct…although I have yet to see him address intent (broadly speaking) so specifically. It’s his emphasis on morality correlating with an actor’s assessment of likely consequences that I’ve seen him make very clear repeatedly. Just yesterday i saw this in an old video interview (youtube, Chomsky vs Phil Donahue). But, again, that’s not a full reconciliation with his views on intent and morality.

            I can repeat myself every time you remind me that I could email him directly: I’m unwilling to do so until I feel comfortable that I’ve researched his opinions well enough–not inconsistent with or so different from your very first appeal to sources in your first comment to me on Youtube. But in the context of their exchange I continue to believe he was not clear–certainly not as clear as you and many others credit him with being. Perhaps that perception is due to the fact that you are very familiar with his positions and naturally fill in the blanks that I, not being as familiar, can not as confidently–and that this justifies for you a certainty that he sees declaration of intent as imperative to moral assessments.

          • Redfox1984

            “But you and I seem to have different ideas about what questions are being raised…you seeing no questions about consequentialism being raised by Harris and I seeing that as his central challenge (and most significant error).”

            Yes, Harris assert Chomsky disregards intentions and relies solely on “body count” (in his cited passage).
            Yes, he posits platitudes about the significance of intentions (in his cited passage).

            But where does he actually get around to putting forth any semblance of an argument or proposition to Chomsky in discussing the al-shifa case, the very case he raised? I honestly see non, please provide the citations if you do. And again, where in the discussion does Harris pose the question of consequentialism to Chomsky?

            When Chomsky elaborates on Clinton’s intentions in the al-Shifa case, Harris evades the direct arguments and simply rephrases his query, concomitantly affecting a disingenuous concern with tone and civility. Evidently, Harris does not like the way his own position on intent and it’s conclusion applies to himself or his government. If so, that’s his problem.
            But this certainly does not constitute an earnest effort to engage in discussion or inquiry about “the ethical issues surrounding war, terrorism, the surveillance state, and so forth”.

            And now it appears that we have reached an impasse in the discussion. I don’t really see anything of substance left to address, since your philosophical model is in concordance (or at the very least in approximation) with my perceptions of the exchange.

          • iridescentsquids

            “Easy to see why Chomsky’s position on the essentially of of “declaration of intent” elludes you, since he directly unequivocally stated the exact opposite:”

            my bad in using the word “declaration” when I mean “determining”.

            I meant to suggest that he (and we should) declare intent as part of a moral assessment. He declares the intent of the actor after evaluation of it, professions of benevolent intent, etc.

            A better word is “determine”.

            Perhaps that helps you understand what I meant: “..and that this justifies for you a certainty that he sees DETERMINATION of intent as imperative to moral assessments (I have yet so see such an explicit statement from him.)”

            I do not see this (position you espouse to be perfectly clear) explicitly stated by him. You are certain he means it, though.

            Your idea of “substance” appears to be different from mine.

          • Redfox1984

            I’ll ignore the insinuation of your last comment, but let me re-examine your rewording:

            “Perhaps that perception is due to the fact that you are very familiar with his positions and naturally fill in the blanks that I, not being as familiar, can not as confidently–and that this justifies for you a certainty that he sees DETERMINATION of intent as imperative to moral assessments (I have yet to see such an explicit statement from him.)”

            It would do well to rephrase some of Harris’s initial charges at this point:

            “For him [Chomsky], intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.”

            The following is a link, and opening paragraph, to Chomsky’s essay Foreign Policy and the Intelligentsia, first published 1978. It should prove exculpatory enough to demonstrate Chomsky’s resolute stance on the essentiality of determining intent. It concludes with a short overview of some of the, in Chomsky’s view “horrifying”(quoting James Chace), human consequences to US policy. Note that this essay is more of an abstract exercise in demonstrating the importance of unearthing and analyzing true as apposed to professed objectives, rather than an emphasis on consequences.

            http://www.kropfpolisci.com/foreign.policy.chomsky2.pdf

            “If we hope to understand anything about the foreign policy of any state, it is a good idea to begin by investigating the domestic social structure: Who sets foreign policy? What interests do these people represent? What is the domestic source of their power? It is a reasonable surmise that the policy that evolves will reflect the special interests of those who design it. An honest study of history will reveal that this natural expectation is quite generally fulfilled.”

            Or take, say, this phrase from Towards a New Cold War: U.S. Foreign Policy from Vietnam to Reagan, p. 358–69:

            “Why should we devote attention to East Timor, a small and remote place that most Americans have never even heard of? There are two reasons, each more than sufficient. The first is that East Timor has been, and still is, the scene of enormous massacres and suffering. Many of the terrible things that happen in the world are out of our control. We may deplore them, but we cannot do very much about them. This case is quite different, hence far more important. What has happened and what lies ahead are very much under our control, so directly that the blood is on our hands. The second reason is that by considering what has happened in East Timor since 1975, we can learn some important things about ourselves, our society, and our institutions. If we do not like what we find when we look at the facts—and few will fail to be appalled if they take an honest look—we can work to bring about changes in the practices and structure of institutions that cause terrible suffering and slaughter.”

            The essay, The United States and East Timor, goes on to review US support (financially, diplomatically, militarily) for Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor and the bloodbath ensuing therefrom.

            But there is an even simpler answer to your question. We may simply observe Chomsky’s modus operandi.

            Would Chomsky, we may ask, spend half his professional life refuting state propaganda with piercing documentation of foreign policy objectives, and then proceed to condemn the actions and architects of such policy for their depraved indifference to the consequent human suffering, if he thought determining intentions were irrelevant to moral evaluation or predicting patterns of behavior?

            And now for the umpteenth time, where does Harris actually posit any semblance of an argument or proposition, vis-á-vis consequentialism, to Chomsky in discussing the al-shifa case, the very case Harris raised? You’ve sidestepped my request for citations quite a number of times now.

          • Redfox1984

            Emailed Chomsky yet?

          • iridescentsquids

            I’ll add, a lot of useful stuff in this post so thanks.

            “Determining intent is imperative to moral evaluation, but sincerity (moral intent) does not mitigate moral condemnation or the severity of outcomes. There is nothing to say in general unless you cite specific cases, otherwise the question is hopelessly vague.”

            Not “unless”, because citing specific cases would still not be speaking generally, right?

            Anyway, isn’t the “question” you say is hopelessly vague whether Chomsky takes moral positions based on consequences and not intent? To which a general answer like yours (“Determining intent is imperative to moral evaluation”), would be an incredibly useful and accurate answer? I’m not so sure he even clearly implied such a statement as yours in this exchange. His position might (and seems to) add up to that if we really dig in and unweave it (as I’m trying to do), but it takes some looking and interpreting to figure it out.

            Where did I get the idea that Chomsky’s statement about intent ‘in general’ might mean he sometimes does not value intent? You’re right. From Harris. Call it context. It’s the question being answered, so not unreasonable (required, in fact) to “get the idea” or have it in mind when listening to a reply.

          • Bobby B.

            Harris’ position is not simply that intention matters but that “intention is (nearly) the whole story”, meaning intention is what matters the most when assessing the morality of an action. As Chomsky points out in the exchange, it’s a position that justifies many of the worst atrocities in human history since they were done by people who likely believed they had noble intentions. Harris actually contradicts himself by condemning some of these atrocities in his book The End of Faith, like the genocide of Native Americans for example, whose perpetrators sincerely believed in the “noble” ideology of Manifest Destiny.

            Chomsky’s position regarding intention is that “there is nothing at all to say in general. There is a lot to say about specific cases” It’s a pretty clear position.

            As to whether or not Harris believes in American exceptionalism, it seems the only logical explanation to his irrational belief that his country is a “well-intentioned giant” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

          • Keith Mansur

            Intent does matter, but the intent is in the eyes of the beholder, so it is open to interpretation.

        • OtherTed

          ‘He would regard Harris as being very naive. Especially in Harris’ childlike, cool-aid faith in “good intentions”.’

          Seems like a good, straightforward, summary of Chomsky’s view of the conversation.

      • e-head

        Hey… I meant my above comment for you, but I don’t think I can move it now.

    • Gregg Braddoch

      Chomsky is an asshat linguist, and Sam Harris is a rationalist – of course they couldn’t find common ground.

      • LOL! I guess the post was edited between the time I got the notice and now look at it. But though the a**hat was removed, the point is still jingoist. Calling Chomsky a propagandist as if Harris is not one also, is really just an indication of the bias being presented. Both are educated men propagating their views, so both are on the level playing field as far as that goes, and ad hominem against Chomsky is just a logical fallacy which is just embarrassing and unbecoming of someone who claims to be in favor of ‘rationalists’.

        • Gregg Braddoch

          “Both are educated men propagating”

          lol, calling Chomsky educated when compared to Harris is a joke.

          “ad hominem against Chomsky ”

          Chomsky is not “educated” by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. His field of expertise is linguistics, which he also has demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge in.

          “just a logical fallacy which is just embarrassing ”

          You know what is embarrassing? Your false equivocation of calling Chomsky “educated” as if he’s on equal footing with a neuroscientist.

          • Robert Davidson

            You really don’t have much of an idea hey?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            You really don’t actually have anything of substance to say.

          • Robert Davidson

            I see you have more words than ideas.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I see you like to say “I see” to sound like you have an IQ above 60.

          • Robert Davidson

            I see that you have trouble seeing

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, back to your cave troll.

      • Robert Davidson

        Keep telling yourself that

        • Gregg Braddoch

          lol. Chomsky is shit, and you’re butthurt.

          • Robert Davidson

            I see you have no idea who Noam Chomsky is.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, Noam Chomsky is the blowhard linguist who was hyping universal grammar until the linguistic community decided it did not fit reality, and now functions as a left-wing rush limbaugh blaming all of the world’s problems on white people, america, and capitalism.

            If you think he’s intelligent, you might as well start following the pope.

          • Robert Davidson

            Nonsense – maybe you should learn the basics before holding forth in areas beyond your league, and being enamoured with lightweights like Harris. And of course I would follow the pope, to a certain extent – he’s a wise, decent chap. If you can’t handle him, I know where the problem lies. Maybe you’re blinded by your own country’s crazy obsession with itself.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “If you can’t handle him, I know where the problem lies.”

            If you think that a single man should be considered to speak for a deity to all of the people on earth, I’m pretty sure that’s where the problem lies. I don’t really care if one pope or another is a “he’s a wise, decent chap” – I take issue with the bullshit stance that he should dictate how everyone lives, because for some reason God cannot speak for himself.

            “maybe you should learn the basics before holding forth in areas beyond your league, and being enamoured with lightweights like Harris. ”

            You saying the areas are “beyond my league” doesn’t make them so. You are hardly an intellectual heavyweight yourself. Chomsky always has a biased, short-sighted viewpoint that hinges on blaming the US or capitalism for all of the world’s ills. He cannot conceive that religious belief, human nature, etc, etc, etc. could cause any problems whatsoever.

      • gc2

        “Rationalist” lol.
        Sam Harris is one of those guys that repeatedly generalizes a group of people(literally irrational) and calls in intellect.

        • Gregg Braddoch

          you’re an idiot. Harris is talking about a religion and an ideology that go hand in hand,and you call this ‘generalizing a group of people’. Might as well suggest that critiquing communism, socialism, democracy, progressivism, liberalism, libertarianism, etc and analyzing the results is “generalizing a group of people”

          Besides don’t you have some chomsky kool aid to drink?

          • gc2

            Harris is using specific and generalized Muslim beliefs to support a whole. A critique sure, a logical one no. He repeatedly does it. You call it results? What results are there exactly?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Criticizing values from the Koran isn’t generalizing, it is criticizing said Muslim values. This is no more generalization than saying “Christians believe that Jesus said to love your neighbor”.

          • gc2

            which is far from saying things like “all Muslims are deranged”

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I’m pretty sure that Harris doesn’t say this. If you are just going to invent strawmen so you can win the argument, then there really isn’t much of a point to talking to you.

          • Fe Ka

            this is for gc2, but I put it here in chronological order…
            every “scientific theory” (maybe except some math ones) has to be judged by experiments in “nature”. E.g. if you dare to say that not ALL nazi’s are bad, be my guest, but “experiments” (of WWII) showed that it is not totally true. Islam ideology (no idea why some wants to put the adjective political, because it is an ideology not really a religion indeed) is in a nutshell is this A. there is the “we” (fidels) far superior in every sense than the “them” (infidels) B. the fidels can basically do whatever they want with infidels including killing them C. spreading islam is an obligation and resistance in any way is met with violence. There some definition for nazi ideology where an equivalent of no.A-C are cornerstones, fidel = the highest race, spreading = expansionism. So now you could say that not ALL muslims are nazi’s but the ideology still is. And of course you can count shia/sunni problematic, but that just shows even more clearly the ideological problems…

      • hipsterbarbie

        “Chomsky isn’t even in the same realm of education or intelligence, and even failed at understanding his study of linguistics”

        Chomsky invented the study of linguistics you dumb fuck.

      • Charlie Desertly

        It’s difficult to imagine that the deleted side wasn’t winning this argument.

        • Gregg Braddoch

          It’s not difficult at all, considering that they probably realized they looked like an idiot, or they got banned for being a troll. I haven’t been to this thread in years.

    • Sally

      this was exactly my interpretation lol the second I read the first few emails in the exchange i thought to myself “gosh, Harris sounds like a first year philosophy student trying to school Socrates”.

  • libertyfreedompatriot

    “old-school Islamophobic bigotry”
    Have you read anything Harris has written or do you just parrot third-hand opinions you’ve read on AlterNet or Salon?
    Here’s a hint: critiquing a book (the Quran) or an ideology (Islam) is not the same as bigotry. It’s amazing to me that so many find that distinction hard to understand.

    • Chloe Sagal

      It’s amazing to me that so many don’t understand the difference between critiquing a belief system, and going beyond that to the point where you’re spouting racist bullshit about arab people. There’s also that part where he doesn’t give a fuck about arab lives.

      It’s literally at the point where he’s advocating the murder of these people being justifiable because of their beliefs.

      Sheesh, people like you are incredibly unaware of the world outside of your own.

      “Gee, I don’t know why these black communities are rioting. I mean, their friends and families are only disproportionately being murdered by the police without getting any sort of justice. Come on.”

      “By golly, I can’t for the life of me understand why these middle eastern countries hate the fuck out of America. I mean, we only bomb the shit out of their countries constantly. That seems like such a trivial reason to try and fight back. Also, they we’re all religious fanatics, so that makes it all okay.”

      • Dennis J

        Why do you even bother typing all that stuff? Have you ever even read something Harris wrote? Like a book or something not only visible on Glenn Greenwalds Twitter account? It would make it clear to you that all your assumptions are idiotic.

        • Chloe Sagal

          Oh yeah, because the only reason anyone would think that about Sam Harris is if no one’s read his stuff. I mean, even in this very exchange with Chomsky he’s straight up claiming that arab lives are not as important as US lives.

          It’s like arguing with a fundamentalist christian saying something like “No, you wouldn’t think that if you /actually/ read the bible”

          It’s also great to see that you have problems with being ableist too. Gee, didn’t see that one coming.

          white liberal atheism is the worst. It’s like, dealing with straight up bigots is one thing, but their bigotry is apparent. You, on the other hand are just, if not more oppressive. People fight back against people that make their bigotry known, but you all go unchecked, stepping on every single person below you, not listening to them, and pretending their concerns, their issues and things they need are not important.

          Jesus fuck, I mean, you’re literally defending the slaughter of innocent civilians because you’ve literally convinced yourself that these people are monsters and less than human.

          Maybe the day ignorant ‘enlightened’ know-it-all fucks shut the fuck up and stop trying to justify murder we can finally start working towards living in a fucking world where we all don’t fucking abuse the fuck out of each other.

          I’m sure if someone murdered your entire family, your friends, and left you homeless and no one was ever going to come to help you, you’d want to throw in with the people who are banding together to try and fight back against the people who murdered them.

          • Avadon

            You are one deluded moron. Just stop!

          • Chloe Sagal

            Go fuck yourself, you ableist pseudo-intellectual. Thank you for doing your part to justify mass murder.

          • Avadon

            Go back to your Islamic splinter cell. You’re lack of intellect is showing.

          • Chloe Sagal

            Oh yeah, I have to be a practitioner of Islam to stand up for muslims.

            “All u pepple who disagree with me are satanists”
            Tell me again how you’re different than a fundie christian?

          • Avadon

            Again, saw your name, didn’t even read your troll dung. Please go die somewhere in a corner. No one respects anything you have to say here.

          • Chloe Sagal

            “I read something about you on the internet at sometime, and I’m a shithead that believes everything I read on the internet because I haven’t ever bothered to develop any critical thinking skills.”

          • glennwire

            Funny.

            Taking the piss out of Harris’ acolytes is sadly very easy.

          • Jack Lewis

            Most of them being tweens.

          • Chloe Sagal

            “person disagrees with me, so they must be a troll”

          • Chloe Sagal

            I hope someone punches you in the face.

          • Chloe Sagal

            Go back to your, idk, everywhere where people are already willing to hear your trite and unenlightened opinions on your trendy atheist celebrities.

            Must be so nice to have a freedom of speech. Most of us don’t get that. But you, white dude, you’ve got plenty of places to go where people can hear you out and give you all kinds of thumbs up for having your super important opinion.

            I mean, unlike the people you’re stomping on. Sorry Muslims, the white liberal atheist community has determined that you deserve to die for having violent beliefs. And no, not a single one of them understands the irony of that.

          • craigvan

            What?
            There was no discussion of Arabs in the whole exchange.
            You just lying.

          • Chloe Sagal

            The issues with the white liberal atheist community on Islam is an arab issue.

            Sheesh, do you all live in some kind of vacuum or something? Gee, fuck me for understanding the subject outside of the conversation at hand.

        • troika

          In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (2004), Sam Harris argues that there’s no point trying to attribute political motives to terrorists; they ought to be taken on their presumed word as being crazy islamic fundamentalists. He’s gone on in shows like Bill Maher’s and openly declared that he thinks most muslims are fundamentally conservative, thanks to some pew poll he has access to, and that Islam is objectively a “worse religion” and proceeds to draw sweeping assumptions about a “Muslim world”. This is all slightly more than problematic because of the implications of his claim that they are so unreasonable, which is that we ought to just kill them.

          Here’s a quote from the aforesaid book:
          “There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be
          captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be
          justified in killing them in self-defense. That is what the United
          States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western
          powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and
          innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to
          spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”

          • Erick

            *whoosh!* That’s the sound of you missing Sam’s point.

          • Dennis J

            Your logic only seems right at the surface, but isn’t at a closer look. When saying: “conservative Islam is bad” und “many muslims profess conservative Islam”, of course there is a ‘personal’ problem. That’s inevitable. But that’s sooo far away from him saying anything against Arabs themselves! Don’t you understand that? As soon as anyone turns away from conservative, inhuman, medieval Islam, which is a free choice, Sam Harris won’t say anything against you – and you can be Arab all you want.

          • Bill Hackborn

            You seem thoughtful and careful to avoid “ad hominems”, unlike some others on this thread. And one thing I like about Harris is that, even though his ideas are imbued with American exceptionalism and illusions of its own goodness, he (unlike Chomsky) avoids direct ad hominems, But, still, you completely ignored the following quote from Harris included in troika’s post: “That is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.” Would you not agree that this quote from Harris takes a very naive view of U.S. foreign policy? Would you really agree with Harris’ view that American military efforts in Afghanistan are “at bottom, a war of ideas”, that the murder of Afghan civilians by U.S. drones are just an unfortunate and sacrificial cost that must be borne by “innocents abroad” in the same way as it is dutifully borne by “[U.S.] and other Western powers”, and that it has nothing to do with American exceptionalism and imperialism?

        • JBChicago

          He’s a dipshit, like you, that uses big words to justify bigotry. “Oh, it’s just a critique; nothing at all like a justification on bogus grounds wrapped up in a fancy language while protecting muh baby Heuy America!”

          • Dennis J

            Can’t manage to see any ground to base your chatter on. Try again.

        • Jack Lewis

          Off course he has, you’re the deluded one who seems completely unaware of Harris’ written output. Talk about embarrassing…

      • craigvan

        I suspect people that spout silly finger wagging kindergarten teacher crap like that have issues with themselves.
        I suppose one cannot critique Anglicans without hating British people, or something, it doesn’t matter because you don’t know how to think.

        • Chloe Sagal

          Yeah, you’re so much smarter than everyone.

          Guess what, no one fucking gives a shit.

          Just remember, being upset about the murder of innocent civilians is silly finger wagging kindergarten teacher crap.

          You know what? Every single one of you that continually defends the US killing the fuck out of people deserves to get woken up in the middle of the night, dragged outside and watched their entire family murdered. You know, the kind of thing you willingly subject other people to?

          Oh, yeah, I said that, and you’re going to get all “muh, ur evil or whatever”, because to ignorant douchebags unaware of their own privilege like yourself can’t seem to differentiate between wishing that by some random chance harm befalls you is somehow as horrendous as actually killing someone. Then you turn around and go accuse other people of ‘thought crime’ because they called you out on your problematic bullshit.

          But even if that were to happen to you, it wouldn’t matter, you’d still probably make it out to somehow seem that what happens to you was a tragedy, but this happening to these people in these countries is acceptable loss, and accident, a boo boo, an oopsie.

          Maybe instead of pretending to be smart and coming off like a pretentious toddler wearing a suit 10 sizes too big, you spend time to actually educate yourself and help remove toxic racist dogma from the atheist community?

          Your opinions are shit, line up with the ignorant masses, and you suck.

          • Peter Karlsson

            You obviously give a shit, you wouldn’t have commented on this otherwise.

          • Chloe Sagal

            Oh man, I bet you’ve been waiting for ages for someone to mutter the phrase ‘no one cares’ so you could bust out that super original joke that no one’s ever made before.

            Sadly, it doesn’t actually apply. Maybe next time try reading the entire thing before making a judgement call dude.

    • Kevin O

      The content of the criticism is what makes the bigotry… So the distinction is subjective.

      • Erick

        He’s criticizing an idea and the resulting actions. That’s not bigotry.

        • Kevin O

          Again, the content of the criticism means everything. I can make the case that he is a bigot, and you can disagree…

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “I can make the case that he is a bigot”

            God you are so full of useless assertions. You make no case whatsoever, all you say is “He’s a bigot” and make vague accusations. But I guess that is what happens when you’re a Chomskyite.

          • Kevin O

            The only assertions i’ve made that you’ve commented on are one’s were I take issue with the way someone has structured their argument. And with that you’ve you’ve classified me as a “Chomskite.” I’m done talking to you.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            You’ve said this before, lol. And are you denying you were vaunting Chomsky? I thought so, a hypocrite.

    • craigvan

      I suspect this site isn’t for anyone interested in serious analytic philosophy,
      i.e. someone just claimed that Harris doesn’t understand Karma.

    • Jack Lewis

      Saying millions of muslims are worst than Dick Cheney is crystal clear Islamophobia. Too bad Harris doesn’t have the integrity to own up to it.

      • Gregg Braddoch

        “Saying millions of muslims are worst than Dick Cheney is crystal clear Islamophobia.”

        OR considering that there roughly 23 million radicalized muslims on the planet (conservative estimate) it’s just common sense. I dunno about you, but 23 million people who believe in suicide bombing, rape, and killing homosexuals strikes me as a more less terrible than a guy who used to be vice president of the US and will soon be dead.

        • Jack Lewis

          Thank god Dick Cheney only “believed” in doing terrible things.
          What an idiot.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            yep, you know I’m sure the way ISIS only “believes” in throwing gay men to their death, raping women in sex jihad, etc. SMH.

          • Jack Lewis

            So Isis has 24 million members? What a dumbass.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Not what I said, but of course a chomskyite would have a problem actually reading.

          • Jack Lewis

            So “worst than Cheney” still is completely beyond your grasp.
            I’ll take chomskyite over cheneyit any day.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “So ‘worst than Cheney’ still is completely beyond your grasp.”

            You do realize that these people have killed more people than Cheney, right?

            “I’ll take chomskyite over cheneyit any day.”

            Only a fool would pick either.

          • Jack Lewis

            “You do realize that these people have killed more people than Cheney, right?”

            Got the numbers?

            “Only a fool would pick either.”

            Oh snap!

          • Gregg Braddoch
          • Jack Lewis

            So… who created Isis anyway? I’ll give you the initial D.C.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War

          • Gregg Braddoch

            You’re either a braindead millenial, only accounting for recent events, or you are disingenuously trying to narrow the timeline to win the argument – Iraq has had problems with violence since it was first established as a nation in the 1920s and the roots of the problem are tied to religious division going back to the middle ages:

            http://lostislamichistory.com/the-roots-of-iraqs-sectarian-division/
            http://www.newsweek.com/struggle-between-sunni-and-shia-muslims-explained-291419
            http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6572670
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_pre-Saddam_Iraq
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Saddam_Hussein%27s_Iraq
            http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/02/uk_human_rights_dossier_on_iraq/pdf/iraq_human_rights.pdf
            http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB129/part17-saddam-hr.pdf
            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/world/middleeast/sectarian-violence-appears-to-spread-to-streets-of-baghdad.html?_r=0

            All of these gross violations of human rights are either fueled or permitted by Islamic doctrine.

          • Jack Lewis

            I think more links would really convince me that the US didn’t f things up royally in the middle east. Keep posting them.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “I think more links would really convince me that the US didn’t f things up royally in the middle east. Keep posting them.”

            And that my friends is the sound of FACT, and what idiots say when they’ve just been bested by it.

          • Jack Lewis

            You do realize that the comment you just copied and pasted was already right there on top of your poor excuse for a response right? Keep losing your shit about Isis if you must, what’s it to me?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “Keep losing your shit about Isis”

            Keep pretending I’m only talking about ISIS, and not the 24 million – 91 million (the high estimate being from an Islamic leader) radical muslims in the world.

            “what’s it to me?”

            Dunno, that’s for you to know and share if you see fit. Til then have fun, and keep blathering about how great Chomsky is.

          • Jack Lewis

            I guess I was giving you too much credit, thanks for correcting me on that. Please wet your pants about the 24 – 91 million people out there out to get your sorry fearful ass.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Lol, You argue like Chomsky – With lots of strawmen and adhom, ignoring any actual specifics of the situation that are damning to your stance.

          • Jack Lewis

            Just when I think you’ve reached to bottom of the barrel you find a whole new lower level. You are amazing.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, does your “witty” sarcasm browbeating usually win you arguments? Because you still have yet to discredit a single thing I’ve said.

          • Jack Lewis

            Most flat earthers also seem to think they win every argument they take part of.
            Being impervious to reason is it’s own reward right?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “Being impervious to reason is it’s own reward right?”

            You tell me, you’ve provided no facts, only assertions that Chomsky is right and Harris wrong. I’ll note that yet again, you sling adhoms instead of answering any of the facts I have brought up.

          • Jack Lewis

            You have to stop begging for my approval, this is getting embarrassing. Go crawl back up the harris’ but hole, fan boy.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “You have to stop begging for my approval, this is getting embarrassing.”

            If I were begging for your approval I’d concede, which I refuse to do.

            “Go crawl back up the harris’ but hole, fan boy.”

            says the guy who has to stretch Chomsky’s sphincter to say anything.

    • Robert Davidson

      Islam isn’t an ideology

      • Gregg Braddoch

        Buddhism isn’t an ideology.
        Hindu beliefs aren’t ideology.
        Christianity isn’t an ideology.
        Islam isn’t an ideology.

        Nope, saying they aren’t doesn’t make them any less ideological than before. SMH. What crack are you smoking?

        • Robert Davidson

          I’m just loving reality – come on in, it’s fine. No fear. Islam is an art.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Islam is the sexist, bigoted, and dangerous religion on the planet today, an ideology espousing xenophobia, hatred, subjugation of women, and terrorism against non-believers.

          • Robert Davidson

            I see you have not understood what Islam is.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I see you’re a pathetic troll.

          • Robert Davidson

            No, not at all. Just someone who doesn’t misrepresent Islam, as you apparently have issues with.

          • Gregg Braddoch
          • Robert Davidson

            Yeah, get back into the bigot hole and stop spreading filthy bigotry, there’s a good lad.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Woah there dude – you might like bigot holes and talking about “filthy” things in bigot holes, but leave me out of it.

          • Robert Davidson

            Only you can get yourself out of it by stopping with the hate

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Are you a hologram? I only ask because you seem to be projecting quite a bit. LMFAO.

            Act like a bad joke, get bad jokes.

          • Robert Davidson

            No, I’m not projecting – I’m calling you on your bigotry. It’s not a joke at all, sadly.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, I wasn’t suggesting that you were joking, I was suggesting that you are a joke if you think opposition to a regressive ideology is “bigotry”.

          • Robert Davidson

            You are very, very confused about Islam. And it’s no joke. And no, your logic is very badly misinformed. “Regressive ideology” – it just shows how misled you are by bigots like Sam Harris, who has no clue about Islam. Perhaps if he bothered to actually spend some time in Islamic societies and get some education, he might begin to dig himself out of his terribly embarrassing hole of ignorance.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            And perhaps if you decided to visit Iraq you’d benefit from the learning experience.

          • Robert Davidson

            I’ve lived in several Islamic countries and loved the experience. And not little ones like Iraq.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, good for you. I guess you’re not gay, or a woman.

          • Robert Davidson

            Clearly you have no experience of Islamic cultures. I know many gay Muslim people in the world’s 2nd biggest Islamic country

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Does not change the fact that in a large number of major Islamic countries homosexuality has a death sentence. And it does not change the fact that the Koran is where this death sentence is prescribed, and “Normal Sunni Muslims” think this is a right and just punishment from Allah. You’re trying to say that “well not all Muslims” – Well not all Christians took part in the crusades, and not all Christians defended slavery in the south, but there sure as hell were plenty that did and they used their holy book to justify it.

          • Robert Davidson

            Don’t blame Islam for the hateful opinions of people who use any excuse for their hate.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Yeah, you know, it’s not like religion itself wasn’t dreamed up to excuse hate or anything… SMH.

          • Robert Davidson

            It wasn’t. Please stop misrepresenting faith communities for your own purposes.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Well that is your opinion, and mine is that religion was invented to soothe guilt and fear.

          • Robert Davidson

            You’re welcome to your opinion, but don’t pretend it’s a solid fact

          • Gregg Braddoch

            It’s certainly based in fact.

          • Robert Davidson

            But a very odd interpretation thereof

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Nope. Religion is a delusion designed to make people feel good about life, or give them purpose. And therefore it will be systematically used as an excuse for every bad action possible. It’s a pretty straightforward interpretation supported by the facts.

            What’s your interpretation of the facts?

          • Robert Davidson

            Religion is a set of expressions of experiences of the ineffable, as are the other arts (often).

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, tell that to the large groups of fundamentalists in both Christianity and Islam that want to institute their ideology as law.

          • Robert Davidson

            I have little patience for those fundamentalists, nor for atheist fundamentalists who say “I’m right, you’re all deluded”

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I dislike atheist fundamentalists as well, but this really has no bearing on whether or not radical fundamentalist Islam which is increasingly popular is a threat , which it is.

          • Robert Davidson

            It is, but that has little bearing on Islam as whole. Because there are maniacs who strap themselves onto Islam for political reasons, you don’t leap to the conclusion that therefore Islam is bad. Unless you are a very, very sloppy thinker, who thinks The Beatles are evil because Charles Manson.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “It is, but that has little bearing on Islam as whole.”

            ISIS, Rotherham, ‘Normal Sunni Muslims’ believing in Sharia law, Al Queda, Death penalty for homosexuality in Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on…. That’s a pretty hopeful viewpoint you have there.

          • Robert Davidson

            Why would you bury your head in the sand about politics, and not look for real causes of things? Is it too much to cope with accepting the role of the West in causing massive problems in the world, and you have to scapegoat religion instead?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Yeah, you know the west is totally to blame for Rotherham, Sharia law and the death penalty for homosexuals.

            ISIS I can give you is partly caused by western intervention, but it also has roots in religious ideological differences. To deny this would be to “bury your head in the sand” and deny reality.

          • Robert Davidson

            If you want to remove Western actions over the past century from the process of radicalisation and other political fallout and instead naively pretend it’s all about religion, I suggest Roy read more of real writers like Chomsktmsnd less of silly ognoramt people like Harris

          • Gregg Braddoch

            And If you want to blame “Western actions” for Rotherham, Sharia law, killing homosexuals, etc. I suggest you’ve read to much Chomsky. That dude can find any problem in the world and blame it on the west.

          • Robert Davidson

            Nonsense – if you can only think in terms of direct results rather than seeing how centuries of bullying colonialism results in destructive situations (eg. Aborigines having drug problems in modern Australia), then you definitely need to escape a fundamentalist mindset. It’s just incredibly naive to blame religion for political fallout.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “centuries of bullying colonialism”

            You’re retarded. The middle east has not had centuries of bullying colonialism.

          • Robert Davidson

            Learn some history mate

          • Robert Davidson

            You might want to start here and stop embarrassing yourself with your ridiculous name calling: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/book/islam-9780195107999/islam-9780195107999-chapter-13

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “You might want to start here and stop embarrassing yourself ”

            Or you could stop embarrassing yourself with your own links:

            “This is not to say that ethnic affiliations and national identities were absent in the Muslim world before the advent of colonialism. Such sentiments were always strong. For instance, Iranians from early on viewed themselves as distinct from Arabs and Turks, and Shiism in Iran in many ways became a mark of its national identity, separating Iranians from the Sunni Turks, Arabs, and Türkmen around it. Similar distinctions between Arabs and Berbers, Arabs and Turks, or Malays and Javanese have also been prominent.”

            Meaning, as I was saying before, this infighting has been going on since before the west was even involved. You know, it’s not like Islam always had an imperialistic bent to it or anything:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Muslim_empires_and_dynasties

          • Robert Davidson

            Of course it was – why do you try to make everything into a simplistic black and white view of things? Too much Sam Harris clearly.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “why do you try to make everything into a simplistic black and white view of things”

            Says the guy trying to pin violence from Islam on colonialism instead of the actual foundations of the religion which were there centuries before colonialism.

          • Robert Davidson

            No, I’m not doing that – perhaps work on your comprehension skills?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “perhaps work on your comprehension skills?”

            Perhaps work on your sophistry / bullshitting skills – You said:

            “seeing how centuries of bullying colonialism results in destructive situations”

            Meanwhile rejecting the idea that the violent dogma that started Islam has any influence whatsoever. The difference between you and me is that I accept both Western interventions and radical Islam as reasons the middle east is screwed up. I just place higher importance on the factor that has been around several centuries longer.

            So you very well are doing what you accuse me of, which is oversimplifying things.

          • Robert Davidson

            You are very confused.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            No, you’re just doing too many drugs.

          • Robert Davidson

            Hint – there can be many causes for phenomena. Do you also struggle with climate science, thinking that because there can be diverse causes for climate change that the current warming can’t be human induced? Same logic mate.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “Same logic mate.”

            Again, as if you are to lecture me: “seeing how centuries of bullying colonialism results in destructive situations” while saying centuries of following an imperialist religious doctrine has no effect.

          • Robert Davidson

            You are very confused – I was not saying it has no effect (how on earth did you conclude that?), but it’s incredibly naive to put that effect anywhere near the influence of political aspects.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I find it incredibly naive that you would consider the doctrines held in Islam to be something other than a part of politics, and the same with Christianity, and so on. There is definitely a reason why millions of Muslims are fundamentalists, and you’d be hard pressed to find a fundamentalist Buddhist or Taoist movement the same size or even the same percentage of the whole of each respective religion.

          • Robert Davidson

            To blame religion for Rotherham is also misguided – rather like assuming all Italians are probably in the Mafia. You have so much to learn about the basics of what religion actually means – you’re still stuck in the weird idea that religions are ideologies.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “you’re still stuck in the weird idea that religions are ideologies.”

            LOL! Just to clear this up for you:

            Ideology:

            1.the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

            2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some politicaland social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting itinto operation.
            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ideology?s=t

            Religion:

            1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conductof human affairs.

            2.a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion?s=t

            So as we can see, the definition of ideology includes religious belief & morality, therefore, a religion is an ideology.

          • Robert Davidson

            If you base your understanding of religion on dictionary definitions, no wonder you’re struggling to keep up.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            A. Non-Sequitur. Using the dictionary definition of religion and ideology does not imply my entire understanding of religion (or ideology for that matter) is limited to the dictionary definition. It was meant to show that your argument is fundamentally flawed because a religion is an ideology BY DEFINITION.

            B. How about you explain why ideology and religions are mutually exclusive concepts then. If you can’t do so, then I concede the point.

          • Robert Davidson

            I disagree strongly that a religion is an ideology. That is an opinion, but one shared widely in the scholarly discussion of religion. In my opinion, religion has very little to do with belief, and everything to do with spiritual practice – it’s an art, not a series of thoughts. It’s more like being a musician than being a musicologist.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “That is an opinion, but one shared widely in the scholarly discussion of religion. ”

            No, no it’s not. Almost any scholar which studies religion will admit that it falls under the category of ideology by definition.

            “In my opinion, religion has very little to do with belief, and everything to do with spiritual practice – it’s an art, not a series of thoughts.”

            So I’m wrong because my definition of religion doesn’t fit your opinion of it? LOL. Great talk.

          • Robert Davidson

            Well, perhaps you should allow your opinion to be informed by scholarship instead of bitter ignorant rants by people like Sam Harris

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Perhaps, but I’m certain my opinion should also not be informed by the sophistry of a know it all linguist who is way out of his depth.

          • Robert Davidson

            You are looking in the mirror clearly.

          • Robert Davidson

            Not sure why you would think I’m a linguist, but anyway. Is it possible that you’re so attached to the idea of dogma being the basis of religion because you’re wrapped up in dogma yourself (eg. Harris)?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I was referring to Chomsky as you are agreeing with his stance.

            And as for harris, I heard of him the same day I commented here. I’ve thought Chomsky and idiot for years before that.

          • Robert Davidson

            You might want to demonstrate that.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Says the guy who demonstrates nothing, and then later admits everything he was just saying was his opinion.

          • Robert Davidson

            Aaargh, you are impossible. You just have no interest in actual discussion, but only in Sam Harris style preaching and ranting. Fine, stay stuck in those easy pieties – meanwhile, reality awaits you.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            ” You just have no interest in actual discussion, but only in Sam Harris style preaching and ranting.”

            Code words for: You won’t agree with my bullshit, waaah!

          • Robert Davidson

            As if having an opinion was something bad that needs to be “admitted” – this is what arises from Snow’s identified “two cultures” problem.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, you missed the point. You are acting like your position is based in fact, and when you got confronted with factual definitions, you said “well yeah, it’s my opinion” which is an admission that you are talking out of your ass.

          • Robert Davidson

            Clearly missed the two cultures point and stick in rationalist fundamentalism

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “rationalist fundamentalism” lolololol. Ironic considering you are pretty much defending religious fundamentalism. Given the choice, I’d pick rationalism over fairy tales any day, fundamentalist or not.

          • Robert Davidson

            Actually I’m decrying fundamentalism whether rationalist or pre-rationalist – both are immature and dysfunctional

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, funny I’ve seen you making excuses for Muslim fundamentalism for this entire conversation, and the only time fundamentalism showed up in your vocabulary was when you wanted to take a cheap shot at rationalists.

          • Robert Davidson

            What nonsense – I don’t think you read well. I have not once made excuses for fundamentalism, and I’ve several times criticised it, including in Harris and yourself. Rationalism is all well and good, but it needs to be grown beyond, as does pre-rationalism. It’s a stage of development.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            ” I don’t think you read well.”…”I have not once made excuses for fundamentalism”

            That’s not what I said, so apparently you can’t read. I said you make excuses for Muslim/Islamic fundamentalism.

            ” Rationalism is all well and good, but it needs to be grown beyond, as does pre-rationalism. It’s a stage of development.”

            And this is yet another opinion, meaning you are just blowing hot air again.

          • Robert Davidson

            I have never made excuses for Islamic fundamentalism. And no, my opinions are not “hot air”. But you can’t cope with them, so that’s your loss matey.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, I can cope with your opinions just fine, they are just contradicted by the facts.

          • Robert Davidson

            rrrrrrrrright

          • Gregg Braddoch

            whhhhhhhhhat?

          • Robert Davidson

            Oh, and the shot was by no means cheap. It’s based in all-too-serious facts, as Chomsky is good at making plain. The biggest opponents of Islamic radicalism (which is of course political, not religious) are Muslims, as you would know if you bothered to spend any time in Islamic countries as I do.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            ” It’s based in all-too-serious facts, as Chomsky is good at making plain. ”

            You mean to say opinions, which Chomsky has many of. Sure they are based on his interpretation of the facts, but it does not make them facts – for example, you say:

            “The biggest opponents of Islamic radicalism (which is of course political, not religious) are Muslims”

            Problem one, is that Islamic radicalism is not entirely political or religious, it is a dangerous mix of both. Problem two is that of course most Muslims will give lip service to being against radicalism, then espouse similar opinions to radicals (for example, agreement that Sharia law is a good and just form of law), and then do nothing to stop said radicals.

            So my opinion based on the facts is that Chomsky’s view is incredibly biased. He will take Muslims at their word when they say “we’re against Islamic radicalism” and then turn around and suggest that the west has ulterior motives when anyone says “we’re against Islamic radicalism” – The truth is somewhere in-between. Both groups have ulterior motives, and nobody is a plain aggressor/victim, or villain/hero in the situation. The issue I have is that blowhards like Chomsky have way more of a voice than anyone with an opposing viewpoint because people like yourself are so quick to blame your own country, society, or culture for problems in the world.

          • Robert Davidson

            The idea that Muslims are one unified group is really very unhinged

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Which is why I never said they were. Good invention though, excellent strawman.

          • Robert Davidson

            “Both groups have ulterior motives” is what you said, which, yes, fair enough doesn’t exactly say they’re a unified group, but still. And to call Chomsky a “blowhard” just means you’re being very, very silly and naughty. Go to bed without any supper.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            ” but still.”

            But still? But still you pretended that I said that? Not sure what you are trying to say here, but it really isn’t working well.

            “And to call Chomsky a ‘blowhard’ just means you’re being very, very silly and naughty.”

            Yes, because he’s not at all a cantankerous old man who has strong opinions and criticizes people over them continuously while ignoring his main field of study… oh wait.

            ” Go to bed without any supper.”

            I don’t eat supper, I eat dinner. I also don’t make wee-wee in the potty, I take a piss in the toilet.

          • Robert Davidson

            If you keep talking like a petulant child and ignoring the facts (as you have consistently), don’t be surprised to be treated like a child. Fundamentalism is basically childishness, as is ridiculous, baseless dismissal of a major thinker like Chomsky, who you simply can’t cope with.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “If you keep talking like a petulant child”

            Says the guy who needs to resort to namecalling in most of his comments. It seems to you “petulant child” means someone who disagrees with your viewpoints.

            ” ignoring the facts (as you have consistently)”

            Praytell which facts you’ve supplied that I’ve been ignoring?

            “don’t be surprised to be treated like a child”

            I’m not surprised you want to call names, because put very plainly, your opinion isn’t defensible and you’d rather engage in name-calling (much the same way Chomsky does when he’s critiqued).

            “Fundamentalism is basically childishness”

            That’s a great oversimplification. There is much more nuance to fundamentalism than you give it credit for.

            “as is ridiculous, baseless dismissal of a major thinker like Chomsky”

            Major thinker… Right. This guy is a regular Socrates, and bonafide John Locke or Nietzche. Chomsky is in no way organized enough in his thoughts to be considered a Thinker. At best he’s a propagandist, at worst he’s a left-wing Rush Limbaugh.

          • Robert Davidson

            Oh and stop saying I pretended anything – I haven’t done anything of the sort.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “The idea that Muslims are one unified group is really very unhinged”

            So you are saying that instead of pretending you were just flat out trying to misrepresent what I was saying and then backpedaled when you were called out:

            “which, yes, fair enough doesn’t exactly say they’re a unified group”

            So yeah, keep playing word games.

          • Robert Davidson

            No you didn’t “call me out” and I never backpedaled. You are the one doing the misrepresenting, be honest with yourself. Oh deary me, your writings are certainly not worth responding to further – sorry my lad.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “No you didn’t ‘call me out’ and I never backpedaled. ”
            Says the guy who deliberately misrepresented my statements for and then later admitted he responded to something I did not say.

            “You are the one doing the misrepresenting, be honest with yourself. ”

            lol, I love how you keep making these statements as if just you saying it will make it fact. The reality is that you are just making excuses because you have no substance to your arguments.

            “Oh deary me, your writings are certainly not worth responding to further – sorry my lad.”

            Yeah, more excuses. Figures. Basically a cover for you giving up.

          • Robert Davidson

            Keep telling yourself that – bye

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “Keep telling yourself that – bye”

            Keep making vague, unspecified statements and then abdicating yourself from discussions.

          • Robert Davidson

            I haven’t started doing that, so it’s a bit tricky to “keep” doing what is new

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I think you meant to say “so it’s a bit tricky to “keep” doing what I have not done” – But the sad truth is, you may not realize that you have done this.

            Ah well, not all people can be intelligent.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Demonstrate your claim first. You’re arguing against the definitions of religion and ideology, not me.

          • Robert Davidson

            “The definitions” as if there is such a thing.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            There are. Hell, we can go look the words up in multiple dictionaries and encyclopedias if you’d like, but I can guarantee in the vast majority of those that are out there, the definitions overlap. So lazy cop-out: “These words only mean what I say they mean, because dictionaries are for people who are stupid”

          • Robert Davidson

            Sorry for typos – weird phone

          • Robert Davidson

            To call everyone except you few enlightened ones “deluded” is simply nincompoopery.

          • Robert Davidson

            It’s completely irresponsible and silly of you to blame Islam for the problems in Iraq. Do try and grow up.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            I’m guessing you’re not a fan of history. The problems come down to a religious divide in the middle ages.

          • Robert Davidson

            No I’m not a fan of distortion and dehumanising

          • Gregg Braddoch

            It’s not dehumanizing to criticize IDEAS. Why don’t you explain why criticizing Islam’s treatment of homosexuals, women, and ‘infidels’ is dehumanizing.

          • Robert Davidson

            Why on earth would you think Islam is ideas?

          • Gregg Braddoch

            Why would you think a religion is anything else?

          • Robert Davidson

            Because I’m not deluded

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, ok.

          • Robert Davidson

            Your delusions are not funny.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            No perhaps not, but yours certainly are.

          • Robert Davidson

            No, I just don’t take bigoted crap lying down. You don’t get to be anti-Islamic without rational response from sane people.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            You cannot be bigoted against an ideology, it’s just ideas. It’ not bigoted for me to say that insisting the world is flat is backwards and regressive. Nor is is bigoted for me to say that Islam is backwards and regressive for the multitude of atrocities that have been committed in its name.

          • Robert Davidson

            Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

    • comment

      No, but bigotry and racism are natural by-products of sweeping generalizations of entire people. Harris generalizes because it is easy (a hallmark of pure ideology), fortunately for those debating him philosophically, his “stances” (because that is all he has) are easily torn down because they lack any context (either historical or modern) or rigor. Claiming a high moral position based on self referential justifications or rationalizations (i.e. enlightenment ideals, scientific principles, etc.) is an absurd way to claim a superior moral position following post-modernism. It may have worked with Aquinas but not anymore. The irony is, Harris makes the same mistake as the mythical “Islamic extremists” he is critiquing in his short-circuit logic.

  • Shann Bridges

    The only thing that surprises me from this exchange is that Noam Chomsky stuck with it this long.

    But on the Sam Harris side, Same Old Same Old. It’s extraordinarily irritating to me that anybody takes Sam Harris seriously (my brother, who I love dearly, does, grrrrrrrrrrrrrr). He’s like the Dr. Oz of philosophy /slash/ skepticism /slash/ atheism and underscoring again for emphasis, again like Dr. Oz, an abomination to empiricism.

    His “celebrity” is based on nothing but his receptivity to and embodiment of stump stupidly vapid, yet warm-blooded and still breathing anti-religion feelings (especially anti-Islamic religion). He’s *not* a deep thinker, and curiously ANYONE and EVERYONE who doesn’t side with him, according to him, is “disappointing” him in some way “etiquette”. His inappropriate tone policing of Chomsky here is so typical of Sam Harris, CLASSIC, it’s extraordinarily irritating to me that he’s still getting away with that bs game play to any degree whatsoever.

    • Erick

      You must admit that Chomsky’s tone was quite rude. That was unnecessary for someone so intelligent.

      • Adam Black

        No, I didnt notice. He seemed to stay ontopic.

        He expressed very strong opinions, which I didnt agree with.
        But he had an interesting and unusual argument that Sam Harris refused to engage with at all. While accusing Chomsky of non-engagement.

        Harris , multiple times launches passive=-aggressive attacks and ad-hominems. he engages in Concern-trolling, projection, and make the discussion equally about Chomsky, instead of just sticking to the main discussion.

        Chomsky to his credit just lets all this roll of his back.
        Sam Harris was way out of his league. It was only Sams arrogance that allowed him to think he could possibly debate a topic he is not an expert on .

        When Chomsky got into particulars about Sudan, Harris ought to have realized Chomsky moved the field of debate. That should have been Sams point to interrogate Chomsky how he knows what he knows , and point out what is merely Chomskys assumptions.

        Sam could have won this, but he was so arrogant that he followed Chomsky into the cave and made presumptions ( like Chonkys did ) about Clintons morality. Then Chomsky Just ate him for breakfast!

        By the end, Yes, I did want Harris to confront Chomsky on Chomsky’s thought-experiment. Harris refuses to engage after it has been tediously explained to him over and over.

        Chomsky had the burden of proof to show this was a sociopathic disregard for civilian lives. Chomsky beat Harris with a thought experiment, one where he had the burden of proof , and didnt prove anything.,
        Yet, he still won!

      • glennwire

        Chomsky was angry. And rightly so.

        Morally piss-offed at Harris’ nihilism and apologetics.

        And by Harris’ obtuse refusal to demonstrate that he understood his interlocutor’s position.

        Why did Harris write to Chomsky at all if he is going to be this dense and morally deficient.

        • iridescentsquids

          “And by Harris’ obtuse refusal to demonstrate that he understood his interlocutor’s position”

          Are you so sure Chomsky explained his position? He seemed to be avoiding engagement/debate from the start, which is his right–pointing out (“merely asserting” would be a better phrase) that Harris is wrong without explaining how.

          He’s got a special nonchalance about him that people sometimes mistake for clarity–as if he’s so obviously right he shouldn’t have to explain it. Heck, by the end of this exchange I can’t even tell if he meant to characterize Sam a religious fanatic or not in the previous public statement. Can you?

          “Why did Harris write to Chomsky at all if he was going to be this dense and morally deficient?”

          Where is the moral deficiency? His argument that intent factors into moral assessment of behavior? Does holding such a position really amount to moral deficiency? If so, I take it you disagree and believe that intent doesn’t factor into moral assessments?

          • glennwire

            >>>”Are you so sure Chomsky explained his position?”

            I, at least, am fairly satisfied that he did. But then I’ve read most of Chomsky’s books and so am quite familiar with his position.

            I’ve tried to briefly describe Chomsky’s position in my other posts to you.

            >>>” morally deficient?””

            I take this position due to Harris’ reluctance to condemn American actions when it would seem that these actions were both wrong catastrophic. I am not at all impressed by attempts to apologize for these bad effects by pointing to professions of good intentions.

            >>>” Sam a religious fanatic”

            Chomsky’s view is that Harris “worships” state power.

            One might compare Carl Schmidt’s view of state sovereignty in the modern period as retaining the theological nature of previous ages.

          • iridescentsquids

            “I take this position due to Harris’ reluctance to condemn American actions when it would seem that these actions were both wrong catastrophic.”

            That makes sense if you take this exchange to be about the pharmaceutical bombing specifically, or the whole of specific state anti terror efforts in general.

            Harris makes it perfectly clear that he wants to discuss that, but he also makes it clear that he doesn’t see the exchange getting that far–he’s stuck on trying to establish a basic premise that Chomsky refuses to concede to him (even though he doesn’t disagree), which is that intent matters.

            “Chomsky’s view is that Harris “worships” state power.”

            Where does he say that in this email exchange? Read what Chomsky says in this exchange about it. He suggests (without saying outright) that in that particular public statement he was referring to Hitch not Harris. Not only does he avoid clarifying when Harris asks, he makes things more convoluted.

          • glennwire

            >>>”Where does he say that in this email exchange?”

            Not in the above exchange but in this talk that he gave here.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt9QCAUPPeY

            Chomsky tends to lump these neo-con “new atheist” warriors on terror together in one group.

            Possibly underlying Chomsky’s opposition to them is not only Chomsky’s own left critical anti-statism.

            Admittedly this my own impression, but I think that Chomsky is also possibly pissed off at Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins et al. for perverting the rationalist Enlightenment tradition that Chomsky is also a part of.

            However, the Enlightenment reason that Harris et al. employ is the cold, calculating instrumentalist reason that was critiqued by e.g The Frankfurt School.

            And by critiqued by Chomsky himself whose version of Reason – at least as expressed idealistically – is one of democratic humanism and natural law human rights universalism.

            In contrast Harris and Hitchens’ version is a bellicose, manichean division of a (literal) war between the enlightened elect and the less than fully human irrational.

            It may be noted that the original Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and Diderot were political dissidents.

            And not apologists and boosters for the Establishment power elite as Hitchens and Harris are.

            Harris’ position on torture is wrong in two ways.

            1/ Torture simply doesn’t work. It does not yield any useful intelligence.

            And yet far too many continue to believe that it does. If it did, surely some of the perpetrators of torture would have leaked something concrete into the public domain by now.

            2/ Harris dehumanizes the “enemy”. Having constructed a demonized figure of “the muslim” or “terrorist” then one can perpetuate any variety of atrocity or form of violent abuse upon them and still sleep soundly at night.

            Though this never really happens.

            Google “effect of torture on torturers” for the traumatic and deleterious effects on the torturers themselves.

          • glennwire

            This is Ben Norton’s account of Marx rather than Chomsky but nonetheless conveys a sense of what “atheism” used to mean. As opposed to how it is employed by the self-described “new atheists” of today.

            Who Norton describes as “The reactionary, jingoist, imperialist self-professed “Four [White] Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse”

            Norton quotes two relevant passages (which give come closer to giving an accurate portrait of what Marx really thought):

            “religion should be criticised in the framework of criticism of political
            conditions rather than that political conditions should be criticised
            in the framework of religion, since this is more in accord with the
            nature of a newspaper and the educational level of the reading public;
            for religion in itself is without content, it owes its being not to
            heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of
            which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself. Finally, I desired
            that, if there is to be talk about philosophy, there should be
            less trifling with the label “atheism” (which reminds one of children,
            assuring everyone who is ready to listen to them that they are not
            afraid of the bogy man), and that instead the content of philosophy
            should be brought to the people. Voilà tout.”

            “In 1844, in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, Marx insisted that atheism is irrelevant to socialism:

            “Since the real existence of man and nature has become evident in
            practice, through sense experience, because man has thus become evident
            for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man,
            the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man – a
            question which implies admission of the unreality of nature and of man –
            has become impossible in practice. Atheism, as a negation of
            God, has no longer any meaning, and postulates the existence of man
            through this negation; but socialism as socialism no longer stands in
            any need of such a mediation.”

      • Jack Lewis

        Alert: Tone Troll!

  • Kevin O

    So basically what I took from this is Chomsky answered everything Harris offered specifically, and Harris responded with ‘You’re a bully!’ in a different fashion each time.

    • Jack Lewis

      Harris always resorts to tone trolling when people disagree with him and defeat him on the substance of the argument. It is quite pathetic.

      • iridescentsquids

        One of (if not the only significant) pivot points in this exchange is Harris’ attempt to argue that intent changes the moral nature of actions.

        1) Is it clear to you that Chomsky disagrees?

        2) If so, where does Chomsky present the argument for why Harris is wrong to factor in intent when assessing morality? I must have missed it.

        • steveriederer

          Did you read it? How could you miss it? He explains it over and over. He explains it clearly. Like 10 times. Harris couldn’t comprehend it either which I don’t get. Chomsky says in the 2nd 4/27 mail: “As for intentions, there is nothing at all to say in general. … There can be no general answer. Accordingly, you give none. Nor do I.”

          He explains why a number of times! Is Harris smoking bowls do you think? It doesn’t makes sense that he can’t grasp Chomky’s simple explanations. Chomsky is saying there can be a lack of evil intentions replaced with an apathy and says it’s “arguably worse”. It’s all there in black and white homie. How could you miss it? I can cut and paste the specifics if you like but it’s all there. Why are people missing it? It’ weird. Have a good one.

          • iridescentsquids

            If that’s the argument for Harris being wrong (I sure hope that’s not really all there is to it), I’m afraid it’s a woefully inadequate response. I think you’re wrong. I don’t think Chomsky would make the mistake you just outlined.

            The fact that OTHER things like apathy factor into moral questions has zippo, nadda nothing to do with the fact that intention ALSO factors into morality. It’s like answering the question “aren’t spark plugs essential for the operation of combustion engines?” with “no, pistons are.”

            And if you want to assert that apathy is a kind of subset of intent, which is actually a useful and probably accurate assertion, well…then Chomsky and Harris would be in agreement that intent DOES factor heavily into moral questions, even if they differ about how to assess the specific instance of the pharmaceutical bombing.

            I highly doubt Chomsky is actually trying to say that intent is always irrelevant, only that sometimes it’s not very relevant. Which also would not contradict Harris’ assertion that intent can and often does play a dramatic role in moral questions.

            The issue is (I hope) that Chomsky is playing coy and avoiding a direct debate. I sure hope he’s not making the mistake you just made suggesting that apathy and intent are somehow mutually exclusive properties of morality.

          • glennwire

            “Apathy” – or cold clinical calculation accompanied by a dehumanized mindset – is certainly a very morally deficient mental state.

            One can either *intentionally* set out to commit massive violence military actions. With the express intent to kill and destroy a great deal.

            Or arguable worse. One can be so inhuman as to not even regard the victims as humans worthy of thought at all.

            Simply dehumanized “collateral damage” that can dismissed out of mind in the solipsistic pursuit of one’s one self-interested ends.

            Mexican drug cartels don’t give a shit about the deaths they cause.

            How is this attitude of dehumanization and objectification “better” than a explicit intent to murder?

            A central tenet of criminal justice is that the guilty should be able to display responsibility and remorse. A complete psychopath is incapable of either.

            Henry Kissinger didn’t give a shit about Pinochet’s many victims. So long as Chile was open to American business, then who gives a shit?

          • iridescentsquids

            I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written here. Only how it’s being used to assess Harris’ failings in this particular exchange.

            Harris and Chomsky aren’t outright disagreeing that intent matters, especially if we consider apathy as a subset of intent, which would not be inconsistent with Chomsky’s arguments (retaliation being the primary intent in the pharmaceutical bombing. Apathy a secondary but hugely important quality of that intent because Clinton had knowledge of the repercussions).

            Many Chomsky supporters here misunderstand Chomsky as saying intent doesn’t matter (ironically claiming all the while that Chomsky is being clear).

            An even more common mistake I’m seeing in these comments by Chomsky supporters is mistaking Harris’ general argument that intent matters with his (different) general assessment that state anti terror failing can at least sometimes be justified by state intent.

            Harris never really gets far in arguing for this second generalization in this exchange. The huge majority of his effort is simply trying to come to common ground with Chomsky about the first generalization–that intent matters.

          • steveriederer

            It may be true that intent can and often play a dramatic role in moral questions but Chomsky says he thinks “there is nothing to say in general” about intention. Rightly or wrongly, accurately or otherwise, he is not saying Harris is wrong as much as saying he is pondering the wrong question or a question that doesn’t interest him. He speaks about specific cases. It’s good that you “highly doubt Chomsky is actually trying to say that intent is always irrelevant” because he says clearly “there is nothing to say in general” about intent. I don’t think Chomsky is playing coy and avoiding a direct debate as much as he is saying that there is nothing to say in general about the debate. His position seems clear. If you reread what I wrote you’ll see I’m not suggesting or asserting anything. I’m just trying to explain what he said and what you and Harris seem to have misread. To be fair, what I wrote wasn’t very clear. When I said “Chomsky is saying there can be a lack of evil intentions replaced with an apathy and says it’s “arguably worse”, he was speaking about a specific case. In general he said there is nothing to say about intention. I’m more interested in reading comprehension. As far as the specific case of the bombing they discussed Chomsky said “Others point out that the killings were unintended … the acts can be excused, then, only on the Hegelian assumption that Africans are “mere things,” whose lives have “no value,” an attitude that accords with practice in ways that are not overlooked among the victims, who may draw their own conclusions about the “moral orthodoxy of the West.” Isn’t that a clear take on the morality of intentions in that instance? (You may disagree of course). Then Harris said “It still seems to me that everything you have written here ignores the moral significance of intention.” Isn’t that strange of him to say that? What Chomsky believes, he states clearly. I don’t get the lack of understanding. It may be true that intent can and often play a dramatic role in moral questions. But the dead in Iraq are dead and we are guilty of killing them. They will always be dead and we will always be guilty. If we killed them in a more moral way, it doesn’t change our guilt or how dead they are and always will be. Your take about the the morality of intention may be right. But it’s not important to all people. This is a kind of nut quote from Chomsky that may help you:

            There are two important questions about these: (1) how seriously do we take them? (2) on moral grounds, how do we rank (a) intention to kill as compared with (b) knowledge that of course you will kill but you don’t care, like stepping on ants when you walk.

            But I have to say – read the damn thing. You’re a smart guy. What the hell? You’ll never get him to have a philsophical argument about intention. Duh.

          • glennwire

            >>>”knowledge that of course you will kill but you don’t care,”

            It is not contained in the above exchange, but of prime importance to Chomsky is the *real* intentions of the power elite.

            And of how it are these that override or render utterly unimportant any concern with the death and destruction that they cause.

            At the moment, ordinary Iranians are suffering from reduced standards of living due to economic sanctions.

            Have we heard about this at all from our power elites?

          • iridescentsquids

            “I don’t think Chomsky is playing coy and avoiding a direct debate as much as he is saying that there is nothing to say in general about the debate.”

            I think these are one and the same. There’s nothing to say about the debate, but let me tell you over and over again that you’re wrong.

            “In general he said there is nothing to say about intention.”

            In other words, he doesn’t want to concede the generalization Harris is making that intent matters when assessing moral questions? He could say “intent sometimes matters”, or “intent can matter” without being wrong.

            Even in the pharmaceutical case he concedes that intent matters. It’s part of his argument for it being immoral (primarily that the intent was retaliation).

            Now… he may well be saying that the generalization that intent matters is not useful even though the things we label as “intent” do typically matter. But that sure seems like an odd thing to say. He has the right to withhold clarification, but I’m not going to credit him with being “clear” on that topic like you so generously are!

            “Isn’t that a clear take on the morality of intentions in that instance?”

            It is perhaps his most clear hint at a broader understanding of “intent” in morality. But no, that is absolutely not clear, especially when we try to reconcile Chomsky’s own argument for the immorality of the same act that actively employs retaliatory intent combined with foreknowledge and apathy. And it assumes that Harris would be unwilling to calculate apathy along side said retaliatory intent exactly as Chomsky himself does. Chomsky is just avoiding a direct debate. And very unclearly at that.

            “It still seems to me that everything you have written here ignores the moral significance of intention.” Isn’t that strange of him to say that?”

            Yes and no. “everything” meant literally is an exaggeration. But to be fair to Harris, Chomsky does keep asserting that apathy makes the example they are discussing worse than harmful intent as if intent is not a valid factor…and as you pointed out says there is nothing to say about intent. Which does very much sound as if he’s saying that intent doesn’t matter, even though he’s not. Many Chomsky supporters posting in this discussion area make the exact same mistake Harris is making. Ironic considering they are defending Chomsky as being “clear”.

            I believe Harris is striving for clarity and engagement, and Chomsky is reiterating that he’s not all that interested in engaging him. We shouldn’t mistake that for Chomsky presenting his ideas clearly any more than we should fault Harris for prodding Chomsky where he appears unclear. “it seems to me” is, after all, a kind of invitation for retort. Just one Chomsky isn’t all that interested in giving.

          • steveriederer

            Chomsky doesn’t care about intent as a general matter and he said over and over again that it wasn’t worth discussing. He doesn’t seem to care about philosophy as much as real world situations. Harris is more of the philosopher type. He doesn’t like to muddy up his thought experiments with murky, real-world examples. It’s fine to have Harris ponder intent in a non-real world, philosophical way but it’s not for everyone’s cup of tea. I think Chomsky disrespects it. After all, there is no well meaning altruism in the death and destruction Chomsky writes about and described to Harris. For Harris to have used those words may have offended Chomsky. The real world is not black and white. The real-world is complicated, murky and hard to categorize neatly. Especially the world of war and corruption Chomsky described. It’s no place for philosophers that’s for sure. It’s like Jack Nicholson in The Departed. When you’re looking down the barrel of a gun, what’s the difference? Or when Mike Tyson says a plan is a plan until someone punches you in the face. Harris can sort out the morality of our murders versus their murders and claim our team to be more morally advanced than theirs but it doesn’t change political realities much if at all. It’s kind of boring. These guys are like two different species. Hopefully Harris’s thought experiments will benefit someone somewhere. He’s lucky to be able to conduct them. Meanwhile though the slaughter continues unabated.

          • Jack Lewis

            “Harris is more of the philosopher type.”

            What have philosophers done to you to be so poorly treated ;)?

            Harris is a pseudo intellectual bigoted wanker.

            His “thought” experiments are juvenile and easily deconstructed. The guy still believes that torture provides good intel… The guy who wrote the moral landscape loves his guns. We’re talking about the same guy who said there were millions of muslims worst than Cheney. Off course Chomsky doesn’t give a rat’s butt what Harris thinks of anything. The question is why does any one? They saw him kick Chopra’s behind in a debate? Who couldn’t manage that any time, any day?

          • glennwire

            Agree with what you’ve written here.

            I get the feeling that the various people replying to “iridescentsquids” here are saying much the same thing in different ways.

          • iridescentsquids

            Thanks for this description. It’s the best response to my queries so far.

            “It’s fine to have Harris ponder intent in a non-real world, philosophical way but it’s not for everyone’s cup of tea.”

            Yea, not Chomsky’s cup of tea. But take note that when he says there is not much to say about it (generally) it’s not the same as saying it doesn’t matter or it’s not important. It may not be his cup of tea to consider hypotheticals or abstract application, but that makes it all the more interesting to me (and strange) when Chomsky presents an argument for immorality–a real world case (Clinton’s bombing)– that hinges so much upon describing Clinton’s intent.

            Apathetic foreknowledge as part of his decision-making is important to his argument, as is retaliatory motive (if not only to make the point that it was not based on intent to stop an imminent threat). This is a discussion about intent and consequences if there ever was. Not just, but certainly intent is a significant consideration in this instance in Chomsky’s conclusion that Clinton behaved reprehensibly.

            “After all, there is no well meaning altruism in the death and destruction Chomsky writes about”

            I agree that largely there is no actual well-meaning altruism in so much of these events (faux well-meaning, yes). But it seems to me we need to make this assessment before we can judge the morality of the acts. As Chomsky does all the time, even in his real world example.

            In as much as we want to judge the morality of an action we need to assess the mind of the decision maker as relevant to the decision, which might be summarized as intent–even if just to determine their rationalizations are woefully inadequate. That’s a prerequisite for a moral assessment, not irrelevant to real world application at all (I would say required, in fact).

            Maybe it’s uninteresting to Chomsky because he rarely if ever sees adequate intent in state action? That would make perfect sense to me. But ignoring a topic because it’s boring purports in this case to ignoring a topic that is the source of obvious misunderstanding by the person you are talking with. Not sure that’s going to improve your conversation. And it has resulting in a lot of Chomsky supporters here a little unclear about whether Chomsky thinks intent is important or just boring.

            It appears to me to be the latter, not the former. Huge difference that even you might be getting wrong. Staring down the barrel of a gun the moral question itself doesn’t matter. But in as much as you have the capacity to assess the morality of somebody taking your life or a loved one’s life (I agree you may easily not care, but let’s assume you did) understanding why they are doing it is still necessary.

          • glennwire

            I’ll take the liberty of repeating here what I have stated elsewhere in this thread.

            Chomsky does seem in the above exchange to be adopting a consequentialist position on morality.

            I disagree with the posters that seem to think that this is Chomsky’s position in toto.

            The reason that professions of virtuous intention are useless as a form of the type of apologetics that Harris is engaging in is because they are very often manipulative falsehoods or half-truths deployed in order to smokescreen the *real* self-serving intentions of the power elite.

            One of the ideas that Chomsky is most famous, for example, is his “propaganda model” of the news media.

          • iridescentsquids

            “The reason that professions of virtuous intention are useless as a form of the type of apologetics that Harris is engaging in is because they are very often manipulative falsehoods or half-truths deployed in order to smokescreen the *real* self-serving intentions of the power elite.”

            Sure. That makes a great deal of sense.

            But it does not appear to me that when Harris says “intent” he is excluding other aspects of decision-making than professed virtue or benevolence.

            For one, it seems reasonable that he may not buy into the professed benevolence and still see compelling evidence for some degree of genuine benevolence. Chalk that up to naivety if you want, but it isn’t altogether unreasonable to say that politics can hide the good in people, too. Even assessing that no benevolence exists requires that we make some kind of assessment of it’s absence, which in itself is an assessment of intent. To which the meaningful reply to Harris would be “yes intent matters when assessing morality. You are simply mistaken to believe it’s benevolent. Here’s why…”

            Second, we still can assess intent that is in no way benevolent when determining morality. It seems reasonable to me to say that self-interest, for instance, is not always immoral, although it can be. Or Chomsky’s accusation of retaliation as intent (I’m not sure if that can justification ever. Maybe. Regardless, it’s an intent that is not benevolent that we can assess.)

          • glennwire

            >>>” “yes intent matters when assessing morality. You are simply mistaken to belief that it’s benevolent. Here’s why…””

            I think that’s the sort of thing that Chomsky should have said in the above exchange. It’s actually Chomsky’s political position in general.

            One should be prepared to make allowances for his failure to make a full statement as it was in reply to an email that came out of the blue. The exchange was never intended for publication. And Chomsky’s full position can be found throughout his writings. I think that it’s quite reasonable to assert that Harris should have familiarized himself with Chomsky’s thought if he was going to try to enter into a discussion with him.

          • iridescentsquids

            Well, sure. Harris might have been better prepared. But it doesn’t appear as if Chomsky’s position on intent and morality is going to boil to the surface even after studying a lot of his work. It seems to be an impressionistic understanding even for you who are familiar with his work.

            So starting a conversation with Chomsky with that premise in order to see what his response might be doesn’t see like a dumb idea–or inherently offensive. To me, anyway. I like disagreements because they afford opportunity. Chomsky not so much.

          • glennwire

            >>>”It seems reasonable to me to say that self-interest, for instance, is not always immoral, although it can be.”

            In and of itself, this statement is … ok. But still very vague and general.

            The leftist tradition of political dissent that Chomsky is a part typically views the interests of the power elite as their opponents.

            I guess there’s no point trying to disguise the fact that I am also generally of this point of view.

            The point then is not be monolithic, manichean or demiurgical about the varieties of state power and the nature of differing state regimes.

          • iridescentsquids

            “But still very vague and general.”

            Yes. Definitely. But if we allow inquiry on that level we can apply it to specific situations and maybe get different results. That doesn’t seem far fetched, even when studying the behaviors of states.

            The particulars of power elites can differ dramatically. I suppose if after years of picking them apart a “typical” prescribed pattern of interest can emerge –maybe one so consistent that it makes the subject of intent tedious and boring.

            I’m extremely skeptical of “typical” interpretations, particularly when discussing political ideologies. Assumptions, in my opinion, are less interesting and more worrisome than being uncertain.

            I wonder Chomsky’s position on situational ethics. If he’s bored with intent he’s probably bored by that subject as well.

          • glennwire

            >>>”I’m extremely skeptical of “typical” interpretations,”

            I plead the limits of time and space.

            Chomsky’s position is a more nuanced one than can be properly described here. Again I would refer you to such accounts as given by Robert Barsky if you want a good secondary work.

            Summarily, he is a neo-Cartesian rationalist; a natural law human rights universalist; a anarcho-syndicalist left libertarian democratic socialist.

            And a universalist when assessing the actions of global actors and nations. In opposition to the manicheanism that characterizes much of geo-political ideology.

          • glennwire

            BTW no-one seems to have picked up on any of the stuff I posted about the history of atheism and its originally political *dissident* nature.

            Is that because it’s wrong or just kinda boring?

            “Proto-atheists” like Spinoza are also very interesting in this regard.

            See e.g. Antonio Negri’s book on Spinoza “The Savage Anomaly

            The Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics”

            https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/the-savage-anamoly

          • iridescentsquids

            I’m interested! I just have to monitor my time replying. My replies suddenly skyrocketed from 3 to 19 in this thread, and I if I don’t pace myself I’ll never get other work done.

          • glennwire

            :))

            Oh ok. Good to know.

            I also have a habit of spending a lot of time posting on Disqus.

          • steveriederer

            Boring was the word I used. It may not fit. Does Chomsky not think intent changes the moral nature of actions? I would say no. I didn’t see him say so. Harris in his original passage said he ignored the role of human intentions all together. Chomsky claimed he has addressed it for years. The way I read it, Chomsky addressed intention in the very passage Harris claimed he ignored it while also claiming he was wayward and morally blind about it as well. To me, Chomsky quickly made it obvious that he had addressed intention and that Harris’ claims were poorly researched, hyberbolic and a little bit mean. I don’t think Chomsky was interested in clearing up Harris’ misunderstandings or improving the conversation. I don’t think he wanted to ever have the conversation. I don’t think he respected Harris much after what he wrote and why should he? I would describe what he wrote in the passage and the way he behaved in the email exchange as meatheaded. I was kind of shocked at how meatheaded. He sounds like a smart guy. When he launched his ‘God-intoxicated sociopath thought experiment’, I thought “my God, he doesn’t think Chomsky understands his premise. Is this guy a meathead or what is his deal?.” I think now he was just jonesing to drop the phrase “God-intoxicated sociopaths” in a polemic way. It’s as simple a premise as the sky is blue. No duh. Intent changes the moral nature of actions. But where do go from there? Or put another way – what do we do with that? ISIS is taking over the Middle East as we speak. We created them illegally and immorally. They are stealing billions from us and they are coming to take us down. And we’re navel gazing about our intentions as being more moral than theirs? Oy vey. That is laughable. I didn’t mean to say Chomsky doesn’t think intent changes the moral nature of actions. I think he does. I think he also thinks it’s not important. It’s taking ones eyes off the ball. It’s a small part of a big puzzle. Harris interviewed a security expert about profiling Mulims. The expert he debated answered a few times by saying this: “What you are saying is true but who cares?”. Maybe that applies here as well. Like the Departed – “What the difference?”. We are staring down the barrel of a gun. Shouldn’t we be alert and adaptable and not get hung up on dogma that states the obvious at best and at worst is wrongly apologetic for our crimes? Chomsky seems like he had bigger fish to fry than the one Harris threw in his pan.

          • iridescentsquids

            Are you saying that morality itself doesn’t matter (so why care about debating the importance of intent, even) when discussing these topics of war and state power? In other words, this is an amoral discipline?

            Or are you saying that part of this discipline of analyzing state power involves moral judgement about rightness and wrongness, but intent falls by the wayside as unimportant relative to consequence?

          • steveriederer

            I don’t know. Those questions don’t really interest me. I would say action trumps contemplation and virtuous actions are what makes a fulfilling life. That’s all one needs to know.

          • iridescentsquids

            Thanks for responding, more or less, to questions that don’t really interest you.

            “I would say action trumps contemplation”

            I would think that a prescription for improving action would (typically) involve no small degree of contemplation…assuming you even believe that a contemplative decision-making process has influence on the virtuousness of people’s actions.

            In as much as a contemplative decision-making process does influence actions I would think it would be of interest.

            Or maybe you honestly don’t believe that it does have much influence.

          • iridescentsquids

            (second response)

            Perhaps a better way to think about it (thanks for enduring as I work through this):

            In as much as contemplation influences the virtue of behavior it’s of interest. But the moment contemplating morality doesn’t have influence on actual decisions it’s not relevant or of interest.

            Harris’ hypotheticals, while reinforcing sound logic, are not convincingly relevant to a discussion of what forces are influencing the virtue of the behaviors that is the broader topic.

            Similarly, Chomsky might make a logical but rather peripheral assessment of Clinton’s retaliatory intent, while his primary judgement of the virtue of the act comes from Clinton’s apathy, which is a way of saying there’s an end to Clinton’s contemplative efforts, and the true decision making influences fall outside the topic of intent.

            This matches the seeming distinction Chomsky makes between intent and apathy. I was having trouble understanding why he would present his argument as if apathy, still part of how he assesses the overall decision-making process that I was seeing as related to the topic of intent, was distinct from his description of retaliatory intent.

            The distinction is that apathy is not an influencing force. He’s only interested in intent as a subject when it actually influences the act.

            So in a way he is a consequentialist. He just recognizes that intent is part of what might influence action. And in as much as it doesn’t it’s not important. Interesting.

          • steveriederer

            Chomsky doesn’t trust intent enough to put stock in it like Harris does.

          • iridescentsquids

            You may not find this helpful, but ultimately my goal is to try to understand Chomsky’s position. Other defenders of Chomsky here are defining what might be very different views than yours about Chomsky’s position, so I want to compare them all. Of course I’m researching his writings on the matter for better clarity, but these discussions are actually proving very fruitful in my opinion.

            1) When you said Chomsky “can’t trust intent” did you mean he can’t trust that he really understands intent?

            2) Or do you mean that he can’t trust professed intent, but can trust his own assessment of true intent enough to pass moral judgement? In other words, he can trust his own assessment of Clinton’s intent and he uses that to assess the rightness or wrongness of actions, but he won’t trust Clinton’s professed intent?

            3) Or do you mean that he can’t trust intent to have a significant role in affecting people’s behavior for it to be relevant to an equation that ultimate comes down to consequence? In other words, that he can’t trust that intent is even relevant to moral questions.

            4) Or is it multiples of the above depending on the situation? (God I hope not. It’s complicated enough as it is)

            I have to say, even as I read Chomsky’s various takes on morality (a lot more reading ahead of me) this subject is still not altogether clear. Certainly not as obvious as Chomsky’s defenders seem to think it is.

          • glennwire

            >>>”Or do you mean that he can’t trust professed intent, but can trust his
            own assessment of true intent enough to pass moral judgement? In other
            words, he can trust his own assessment of Clinton’s intent and he uses
            that to assess the rightness or wrongness of actions, but he won’t trust
            Clinton’s professed intent?”

            I take this to be essentially Chomsky’s position.

            Where I take issue with your formulation is your use of the subjective personal pronoun “his”.

            As if it were purely a matter of competing personal interpretations.

            The word “trust” is problematic for similar reasons. Again, it has a subjective tone to it.

            The point of course is *objective* analysis. Based upon an understanding of state power. And the self-interested motivations of the power elites.

            (Incidentally I have used “power elite” a few times thus far. I’m referring to C Wright Mills.)

          • iridescentsquids

            Thanks. Yes, your view of Chomsky’s position is very different from Jack Lewis, who interprets him to be a pure consequentialist. (even to the point of saying that Clinton’s foreknowledge was irrelevant to the rightness or wrongness of the act–that he was merely entertaining Harris’ premise of benevolent intent even though it was entirely irrelevant to his own assessment of rightness and wrongness).

            When I say “his” I refer to Chomsky’s efforts at formulating and assessing objective analysis. We can also talk about it as process: Chomksy’s effort at objective analysis.

            He makes an effort, after all. He’s not omniscient and he can be wrong.

            The fact that the thing, an objective analysis, can’t be wrong simply because it would no longer be a true objective analysis doesn’t mean there isn’t a degree of uncertainty in a person’s effort to make a objective analysis, or assess whether an analysis is objectively true or not.

            So when I say “his” I do mean Chomsky making his own effort to make an objective, not subjective, analysis.

            And when I say “trust” I mean a reasonable (but never entirely certain) expectation based on evidence that the analysis is in fact objective. I don’t mean by trust that he has faith.

          • steveriederer

            I don’t know. To state the obvious, I don’t speak for Chomsky. You should email him and ask him if you must know. He may dress you down as he did Harris. I wouldn’t waste any more time on it if I were you. It’s a bit of a … I’m sorry to say it’s a bit of a dumb question. There is nothing to say in general. “There can be no general answer”. He is only interested in specific cases as he said. You may have something if you can prove virtuous intent on the part of Clinton in the pharm plant or any other specific case on the current world stage but you can’t – so there is no point in discussing it as he said over and over. Basta.

            Remember the discussion was to clear up misconceptions not to debate intent as Harris described in his mess of a book. The misconception was that Harris accused Chomsky of not asking basic questions about intent. It turns out he did ask basic question about intent in the very passage Harris cited! For whatever reason, Harris couldn’t see it in their exchange which doesn’t say much for his critical thinking or reading comprehension skills. As you know, Harris later admitted he was wrong about this pious and pretentiously presented assertion.

            Now, on to you. You are wasting your life on this garbage. First Sam Harris. I regret to inform you that though he speaks well and sounds smart, he’s not. He appears to be to intellectual thought what chimichangas are to a balanced diet. The Perfect Weapon? Good God. Was that meant for fifth graders or fourth graders or ducks? Second, here’s what you need to do. Starting tomorrow, cease research on all topics and take three months excavating exclusively the Mahabharata. But only do this 48 minutes a day, 52 max! The rest of your time must be spent on performing virtuous action in selfless service of others!! There is no other way. Do this and everything will fall your way and all your questions will be answered. Check back with me here after three months and I will give you further instruction but for now go start your new life and don’t bother me anymore until you have done what I have said or risk a (continued?) life of great pain.

          • iridescentsquids

            ” I’m sorry to say it’s a bit of a dumb question.”

            Just say it’s boring or irrelevant. Saying a question is “dumb” that you can’t answer doesn’t seem like a promising tactic.

            I prefer relevance/irrelevance myself. Determining how to distinguish rightness or wrongness is not irrelevant because it informs our actions, and you seem to have great concern about actions. Allow me to quote Chomsky on this exact same subject, morality and contemplation:

            “It’s better to have a conscious understanding of what’s guiding you, to the extent you can, than just to react intuitively, without understanding.” -from an interview ith Tor Wennerberg.

            It’s not dumb, in my opinion, if even like-minded people are going have discourse about specific real-world decisions. You and Jack Lewis, for instance, will eventually disagree about the morality of some political issue or decision precisely because he says intent doesn’t ever matter and you say it sometimes does. That’s not navel-gazing. That’s trying to make ethical decisions and coming up with different answers because what’s guiding your answers are different from one another.

            Personally, I find myself drawn to the questions that stump me the most. Even seemingly trivial ones. It’s hard to know the significance of a question I can’t answer just like it’s hard to know the importance of something you don’t yet know.

            “The misconception was that Harris accused Chomsky of not asking basic questions about intent.”

            Yes and no. An even mildly generous reading of Harris’ position paints a picture of a non consequentialist looking at Chomsky’s assessment of state action and coming to the conclusion that Chomsky’s a consequentialist. I wish the exchange was more substantial, but it seems to me that Harris thinks that’s what he’s up against. Half of the Chomsky defenders here believe that “misconception”, too, or are a hare’s breath away.

            “Harris later admitted he was wrong about this pious and pretentiously presented assertion.”

            Yea, sometimes people are pious and pretentious. That interests me far less than actual arguments. Personalities are always going to be a distraction. Even our own desire to “win” gets in the way of trying to understand a topic better.

            “First Sam Harris. I regret to inform you that though he speaks well and sounds smart, he’s not.”

            I’m actually not a fan of Sam Harris. I just happen to take a non consequentialist position on morality even when it comes to state decisions, and found the exchange with Chomsky interesting because it puzzled me. I’m far more interested in Chomsky. My research into Chomsky is what brought me to this discussion board, and has since prompted me to research him in other ways. By the time I’m done I may well have a far better understanding of Chomsky’s morality than you do because I’m at least showing an interest in the ambiguities and apparent contradictions that you think are too dumb to think about.

          • steveriederer

            OK. Good luck with everything. No hard feelings.

          • glennwire

            Yes. I would strongly recommend that you read Chomsky. Chomsky a is very important – quite possibly world historical – figure.

            There’s been a number of documentaries made about him.

            http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0159008/

            The classic one is “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media”

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104810/

            Links to all of the above can be found here:

            http://www.chomsky.info/

            Am I correct in the impression that I have formed of you that you come from an Analytical Philosophy background? That would seem the “style” of argumentation.

            If so, Chomsky’s neo-Cartesian rationalism should appeal to you. Chomsky has a big poster of Bertrand Russell on the door to his office.

            Chomsky himself studiously disavows any connection between the rationalism that informs both his linguistic theories and philosophy and his political anarcho-syndicalism. But many others have made the connection.

            Chomsky’s is not a *moral* philosopher as such. But a *political* thinker and activist. If you see the possible differences.

            He is a natural law human rights universalist and essentialist. And a radical democrat. With a very strong critical and politically dissident temperament.

          • iridescentsquids

            I am in the process of reading interviews and short essays to try to get an immediate (but still elusive) clarification on his morality, but am considering starting on Cartesian Linquistics probably followed by Manufacturing Consent.

            I value analytical philosophy for a lot of reasons, perhaps primarily because when applied correctly it helps keep us all from getting too comfortable with our own bullshit. Some bullshit is innocuous, but as you probably agree some can be dangerous.

            Contrary to the impression I seem to have been making here, I’m not a fan of Sam Harris and not interested in his writing as yet. I am interested in challenging the notion, however, that in this exchange he’s so obviously wrong-headed and Chomsky is so obviously right precisely because I’m seeing a void of complete and sound reasoning both within the exchange and in discussions about it. I wouldn’t characterize it as obvious to anybody here or myself by analytic standards who is right and who is wrong, and that both peaks my curiosity and motivates me to point that out.

            Coincidentally (I hope) my first effort to understand and research a couple of public statements and essays by Chomsky revealed what I believe to be not unimportant evidentiary inaccuracies on his part. The topic was Greenspan’s 1999 speech to a press association in which Chomsky seemed to very clearly misrepresent Greenspan’s take on the economic role of the military industrial complex. This possible coincidence (we all make mistakes, after all) put me in the position of being more skeptical of Chomsky’s views right off the bat.

            Further reading and discussion put me in touch with a number of Anarchists who very much believe there’s an objective basis for their own contrarian views and who show tremendous deference to Chomksy as an intellectual authority. I don’t trust intellectual deference. And that objective basis they see Chomsky providing is very often either assumed to be there without being understood or based on a misunderstanding of Chomksy’s position. This in turn made me more skeptical that the intellectual impact his writing was having was truth-oriented as opposed to ideological. And so I became interested in the subject of Chomsky as a cultural phenomena as well.

            To clarify, I try to maintain a healthy skepticism on every topic. But when I encounter a topic where healthy skepticism seems lacking I do tend to get interested and want to investigate more.

          • glennwire

            Once again the two books on Chomsky by Robert Barsky will give a useful overview of his works. And of Chomsky’s oeuvre as a whole.

            >>>”I don’t trust intellectual deference.”

            Fair enough and good point. Idolatry is dangerous.

            But the if these people were Chomskyite anarchists, then it would be strange to expect much disagreement.

          • iridescentsquids

            “But if these people were Chomskyite type anarchists then it would be strange to expect much disagreement with Chomsky’s views. ”

            What’s behind the label, would be my question. It’s certainly easier not to disagree when you accept what you think is the “gist” of somebody’s position rather actually trying to verifying that you understand it. In the experience I described there were contradictions between each of their views and Chomsky’s that they didn’t perceive and weren’t interested in examining. They had their ideas, and their ideas about Chomsky–felt kinship and were allergic (it seemed to me) to uncertainty.

          • glennwire

            >>>”What’s behind the label, would be my question.”

            Read and study comrade.

            :)) best of luck with it.

          • iridescentsquids

            “Read and study comrade.”

            I think you missed my point. First, isn’t it obvious that’s precisely what I’m doing? Second, and more to the point, there is disagreement among Chomskyite type anarchists, both amongst themselves and with Chomsky (without them even being aware, apparently). So in answer to my question “what’s behind the label (“chomskyite type anarchist)” the answer seems to be “to a certain degree, misunderstanding Chomksy”.

          • glennwire

            As you may have guessed my own orientation is primarily political.

            I’ll take the liberty of posting a quick list of links to the tendency of which I am sympathetic.

            “Post Capitalist Critical Left Futurist”. As above all a *analytical* and empirical claim based upon the historical analysis and account given by Immanuel Wallerstein and his school of World Systems Analysis. The 500 year-old Capitalist world system is currently in terminal historical crisis.

            And all significant political praxis concerns the battle for the nature of the post-Capitalist world system or systems.

            (Your very careful analytical mind is probably going crazy right now. I realize that the above involves a lot of huge calls. Please examine links and associated works carefully.)

            World Social Forum.

            Charter of Principles.

            http://www2.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/fsm2013_ing/default.php?p_secao=5

            Immanuel Wallerstein and his School of World Systems Analysis.

            http://iwallerstein.com/intellectual-itinerary/

            http://iwallerstein.com/utopistics-or-historical-choices-of-the-twenty-first-century/

            http://monthlyreview.org/2011/03/01/structural-crisis-in-the-world-system/

            http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/wallerstein121109.html

            Illya Progogine.

            http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/5352

            Roberto Unger.

            http://www.robertounger.com/

            Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

            http://www.ieet.org/index.php/IEET/about

            The Next System Project.

            http://thenextsystem.org/#about

          • glennwire

            Actually I think that “Gregory Wonderwheel” above put it correctly when discussing the exchange as a whole.

            “just that when Harris was confronted by Chomsky on the multiple points
            of results of American exceptionalism and imperial intervention, Harris
            became on the defensive and had to resort to “intention” to draw the
            distinction that, for Harris, puts people on one side or the other of
            being “the good guys” regardless of negative results”

            In other words, I don’t think Harris has spent much time or effort thinking about intent at all.

            Certainly not as much time as our fellow participant “iridescentsquids” has!

            I think for tactical reasons, Chomsky decided “fuck it, I’ll just be a pure consequentialist today”.

            Which is not what Chomsky actually is.

          • iridescentsquids

            “I think for tactical reasons, Chomsky decided “fuck it, I’ll just be a pure consequentialist today”.

            Which is not what Chomsky actually is.”

            Lol. I like that. I’m not sure it’s exactly right but it’s funny.

            “In other words, I don’t think Harris has spent much time or effort thinking about intent at all.”

            I don’t think we can fairly determine that from this exchange. And I haven’t read enough of Harris to make that judgement. He’s not an idiot to assert that intent matters. And in my opinion he’s not an idiot to misread Chomsky’s position (how many of us here are struggling to understand if he’s really a consequentialist or not?)

            The consensus criticism of Harris here seems to be that he has a terribly naive view of the intentions of states not that he’s wrong about intent philosophically. I wish in leveling that criticism people cared to look at the specific arguments Harris makes regarding specific cases and take them apart. That would probably require instances from his writings and speeches because in this exchange he barely gets out of the gate in terms of complete arguments and cases. He’s almost entirely focused on trying to establish a basic premise most people here agree wasn’t even wrong.

            Regarding Gregory Wonderwheel above quoted assessment, I would only point out that Harris is not “resorting” to intent. It’s one of two topics he says he wants to discuss in his opening email, and essential to his defense of (some) state action. To what extent he thinks it justifies state action specifically we never hear him say. But even the consensus view here is not that intent is an irrelevant consideration, even to the (I presume by Gregory’s standards) the true “good guys”.

          • Adam Black

            There is vast dissconnect to how the US State dept operates, what American power does, who and what its used for and why, and the stated altruistic goals and ambitions of the US Policy.

            Frequently they are diametrically opposed if not mismatched.

            As a democratic society with one concentrated capital and ownership the press, how our country operates is less clear in many ways than a straight up dictatorship.

            This lack of clarity IS NOT mostly due to being a republic. The Republic -itself is used as a smokescreen for state power.
            This s feature not a bug of the Power elites

            These are statements not so much about Intent ; as actions propaganda and their use in national narratives

            Chomskys work is strip off the special-snowflake veneer of the US consensus power elites, to show what is actually happening under the hood. In this way his despite being a famed theoretical Philosopher Of Mind, in politics hes very ruthlessly pragmatic .

            The US ran a death squades Junta-Terrorist training school for decades called “the School for the Americas” . right in the good ole USA

            Graduates would leave and instantly start stacking up piles of civilian corpses in their home countries .

            We have troops on the ground in nearly every country of Africa.
            Weve been in secret wars in Columbia that the public is ignorant of .

            To Chomsky this is all deadly real.
            What he does abstracts about are , State Powers abusing the functions of language .for hegemony, deception and popular consent .
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_Noam_Chomsky_and_the_Media

            .Faced with this mass disconnect of intended democratic values , and a worldwide war-machine undermining our values, ( stealing land, killing unions who work for Coca-Cola or fruit companies ) Chomsky is utterly cynical

            Chomsky knows there is there is this vast disconnect between popular knowledge and Americans values; and the reality of what our govt is actually doing in the real word.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent

          • Adam Black

            I think overall you are right, but give to much credit to Harris.

            Chomsky is a consequentialist and reads character or intent backwards into actions. Then he makes Prosecutural accusations over it.

            To a consequentialist, Intent or character is what you did.

            If you are third-world dictatorship, or Revolutionary Islamist por communist country you are totally innocent of bad intent or actions until absolute proof is provided. And Chomsky will demand that absolute proof.

            ( And your own overt statements of bad intent dont count. )

            if you are revolutionary leftwing communist dictatorship with “Democratic” in the title, Chomsky cares a LOT about Intent.

            He cares about the Intent to discredit your supposed good works, by western powers.

            If you think his views are inconsistent, i think you are correct.

          • Jack Lewis

            It does make sense, Harris is just too full of himself. He actually seems to believe that Chomsky cares about his views. He is so full of himself that he actually posted this embarrassing exchange on his web site where he routinely makes the case for racial profiling, torture, gun ownership, Israel’s PR problems with Gaza, etc.

            Even if he did get that Chomsky was right and he was wrong, he would NEVER admit it (that’s why he starts complaining about tone instead of the substance when he is being defeated). He can’t ADMIT to being wrong. It’s beyond is ego to admit having ever been wrong about anything.
            That also explains the lack of a comment area at his web site. He likes to state his views and not have to deal with any criticism.

        • Jack Lewis

          I am of the opinion (like Chomsky) that one can only presume the intent of others.
          Only very young children or incredibly gullible fools will take professed intent on faith value. But the faith of Sam Harris in the perfect benevolence of US leaders knows no end (laughably so).

          The people who have done the worst deeds in history have always claimed good intent.

          The reality of any action’s consequences can be measured in actual reality and suffering. How someone manages to lie to themselves about these actions to sleep better at night should be of no interest to anyone but said person.

          Did you really miss these things that were spelled out repeatedly? I doubt it, then again maybe my own faith in your intelligence is misplaced?

          • iridescentsquids

            I don’t care if assessing intention poses difficulties for you. What kind of argument is that? An argument for convenience? Who is being childish or foolish?

            The fact that you find it difficult has absolutely no bearing on whether it’s important in assessing morality or not.

            Juries are asked to assess intent all the time, to measure the type and extent of a crime. Manslaughter. Premeditated murder. So-called “justified homicide”. You would have us believe these legal terms are erroneous because the “actual reality and suffering” are the same?

            What utter drivel. I don’t believe even Chomsky is saying that here.

            And this bizarro notion you have that Sam, or you, or I need perfect knowledge to make informed decisions is also, I might add, a childish notion. Knowledge is never perfect, whether it be with regards to intent or the nature of the actions themselves.

            Actual reality includes suffering, includes consequences…and whether you like it or not includes intent, too. You’ve got to have a better reason to ignore it than “it’s hard to figure out”.

            I will say that assessing the intent of certain state decisions may be near well impossible given the convoluted and deceptive nature of state processes. That’s unfortunate but we still need to try.

            Interestingly enough, I believe that’s exactly what Chomsky’s trying to do when he points out that Clinton had knowledge of the impact the Sudan bombing would have, and argues that the motivation was retaliatory. His argument is the best picture he can muster, given evidence, of Clinton’s intent: Retaliate despite the cost in human lives. THAT, my friend, is an argument based on intent. If he knew, he (even if through apathy) INTENDED those deaths as an ancillary outcome. Chomsky’s actually not disagreeing with Harris that intent is important, in my opinion. He’s simply viewing evidence of intent very differently, and skeptically. Which is how we should view the murky process of decision making employed by state powers.

          • Jack Lewis

            “I don’t care if assessing intention poses difficulties for you. What kind of argument is that?”

            I agree that the argument you just wrote there is terribly embarrassing.

            “it’s hard to figure out”.

            LOL. You surely are aware that quotation marks are not meant to be used to fabricate statements that were never uttered right?

            I never mentioned that assessing intention was hard (feel free to look in a dictionary for what ‘presume’ means).

            It’s actually pretty easy to assess your intent: You are in no way interested in getting to the truth but are just trolling. There you go.

            “Who is being childish or foolish?”

            The teen that is completely infatuated with Harris to the point of fabricating false statements and can’t understand the most simple of arguments, duh.

            “whether it’s important in assessing morality or not.”

            Assessing the morality of an act is about measuring it’s actual consequences first and foremost. No, intent does not matter very much (ever heard of degrees?). I couldn’t care less what Hitler’s intent was (can’t make it simpler than that), not sure why you would care about those. I am convinced he thought himself a fine fellow though and that’s good enough for you?

            “And this bizarro notion that Sam, or you, or I need perfect knowledge to make informed decisions is also, I might add, a childish notion.”

            Yes, that notion you just made up whole cloth is pretty childish.

            My faith was entirely misplaced, my bad.

          • iridescentsquids

            You are right. I misread your position regarding presuming or taking professed intent at face value. Reading too quickly and my bad. My apologies.

            “You are in no way interested in getting to the truth but are just trolling”

            I’m embarrassed to admit I think you’re actually fairly justified on jumping to this conclusion given my last misreading of your post, even though your conclusion that I’m trolling is inaccurate. I’ll just correct my error and respond to those you made which I misinterpreted initially. Do with this what you will.

            I’m curious if you are personally willing to say that US leaders might at times be imperfectly benevolent? Or willing to assert any generalization about their degree of benevolence? Or is their benevolence, whether genuine or phony, simply too irrelevant to care about at all?

            “No, intent does not matter very much (ever heard of degrees?)”

            Always or just sometimes? In Harris’ hypotheticals I would say it very much matters when assessing morality.

            Since we’re talking degrees: “Manslaughter. Premeditated murder. So-called “justified homicide”. Same action, very very different moral assessments–based largely on…ta da..intent. There are also dimensions of intent in criminal justice like accident and criminal neglect that are useful to consider. The outcome could be exactly the same for all 5 of these categories and the moral distinctions between them are huge.

            Do you disagree?

            If you don’t, then how can you say intent doesn’t matter very much?

            “I couldn’t care less what Hitler’s intent was”

            Can you pick a lower fruit? There is practically no way to interpret his intent realistically and in a good light. Try that with a more nuanced moral question, like justified homicide, criminal neglect.

            “I am convinced he thought himself a fine fellow though and that’s good enough for you?”

            Maybe he considered himself a fine fellow, but that doesn’t mean his intentions weren’t morally depraved, irrational, or any number of other things. You’d be misunderstanding the role of intent in assessing morality if you think it comes down to mere moral self-assessment. “Intent” doesn’t mean “I mean to do good by my own standards” or “I mean to do evil”. It includes what you mean when you say you mean to do good or evil, and of course specific intended effects like “I meant for that person to die/I didn’t mean for that person to die”, or “I knew my actions would kill them/I didn’t know my actions would kill them”

            The latter distinction is actually central to Chomsky’s moral assessment of Clinton’s pharmaceutical bombing, by the way.

          • Jack Lewis

            “I’m curious if you are personally willing to say that US leaders might at times be imperfectly benevolent?’

            Are you kidding me? I’m willing to say a lot more than that. US leaders are by definition highly ambitious politicians who are willing to be bought and payed for during their campaigns (where they put all their efforts) for the sole ego maniacal purpose of claiming themselves leaders of the free world (the world ain’t free and leaders they are not, following the orders of those who bought their ticket to that position).

            US leaders have no special claim to benevolence in comparison to any other state and probably a lot less (who else has used nuclear bombs or even drones?). What is so shocking about such trivial truisms?

            “Or is their benevolence, whether genuine or phony, simply too irrelevant to care about at all?”

            Of course it is irrelevant, if your actions contribute to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians that would have lived meaningful lives otherwise when your own country was in no jeopardy whatsoever, no possible claims of benevolence can be entertained by any sensible human being. Come on!

            “Can you pick a lower fruit? There is practically no way to interpret his intent realistically and in a good light.”

            A low hanging fruit is still a perfectly valid fruit. A tediously made far fetched argument has no intrinsic superiority to a simple obvious one. This should not need to be explained at all. Clinton’s actions can not be claimed as benevolent either by anyone who suffered because of them, this is patently obvious.

            “Maybe he considered himself a fine fellow, but that doesn’t mean his intentions weren’t morally depraved,”

            I guess you see his depravity more clearly because he just happens to not have been a US citizen (what would have been you’r opinion of him as a German back then?).

            If you applied the same moral scrutiny to your own tribe we might have avoided this entire discussion. Off course it is easier to complain about the speck in other country’s eyes than take out the beam in one’s own. That’s Harris’ entire pointless speaking career. Like the middle east will ever listen to a sanctimonious navel gazer who can’t criticize the only government that he could potentially affect in any way.

            “The latter distinction is actually central to Chomsky’s moral assessment of Clinton’s pharmaceutical bombing, by the way.”

            Not sure where you are going there? Do you believe Clinton to not have understood that is actions would kill tons of innocents? Than you’d be defending idiocy. If he did understand that and simply didn’t care (they weren’t americans so they were not truly human after all), why do you feel the need to defend such lunacy?

            Clinton had the benefit of having millions of dollars shoved where you know to manage to have such a depraved sense of morality, why would we need to share in that?

          • iridescentsquids

            “What is so shocking about such trivial truisms?”

            Nothing. Just wanted to know if you believe that US leaders are at times imperfectly benevolent or not, and compare that to whether you believe that’s even relevant or not.

            Obviously there’s a difference between saying a decision is evil in part because it’s not motivated by actual benevolence and saying it’s evil regardless of any degree of actual benevolence.

            “no possible claims of benevolence can be entertained by any sensible human being. Come on!”

            You mean entertained as adequate justification given the circumstances, and assuming you are right in your previous premises about there being no threat? Yea..I would agree. Especially when we narrow “intent” to the topic of benevolence. Then I especially agree. Claims for benevolence on a state level are usually charades for other motives.

            But since you brought up threats as a criteria for moral questions, I wouldn’t say states never perceive a genuine threat when deciding whether thousands should die by their actions. I include within “intent” all kinds of assessments of relative value of lives, self interest, protection of people vs. state power etc. not just professed good will that “benevolence” implies. Note that I’m talking generally here, not about the Clinton bombing.

            My point is simply that the moral question hinges upon intent broadly speaking (not mere benevolent intent). Think of it more broadly in terms of the whole decision-making process. When we consider intent broadly speaking, even the determination that a person’s intended outcome was woefully inadequate to justify the act (as in the case of the Clinton bombing) we are still making our moral judgement based on an assessment of intent.

            Which is why Chomsky himself bases his moral judgement of Clinton on an assessment of intent (not just apathetic foreknowledge, but the inadequacy of retaliation as an excuse).

            Harris is indeed wrong when he says that Chomsky is ignoring intent, but it’s hard to blame the misunderstanding on him, in my opinion. Most people commenting on the exchange, even Chomsky defenders, still seem to think in large numbers that Chomsky is saying intent doesn’t matter when assessing morality. If I understand you correctly even you are saying that. Chomsky never said that. He’s simply said there’s nothing to say about intent generally (that interests him, anyway). But he certainly made an assessment of Clinton’s intent central to his judgement of his immorality, so even in his own argument intent is important.

            “Not sure where you are going there? Do you believe Clinton to not have understood that is actions would kill tons of innocents?

            I think it’s possible but very unlikely that he didn’t know. For that reason I agree with Chomsky’s assessment that Clinton’s decision was reprehensible.

            But I agree with Harris that intent matters, even if I disagree with his assessment of Clinton’s intent in that instance. And would point out to you again that Chomsky isn’t outright saying Harris is wrong in this assertion. The best we can say (if we even can) is that he’s not interested in any kind of discussion about the general importance of intent in making moral assessments.

            It gets convoluted at times when Chomsky argues about apathy being worse than good intentions as if apathy and intent are different things (I think we can safely consider apathetic foreknowledge to be part of his assessment of Clinton’s decision-making and intent), but even if I got this wrong, we can still say with confidence that he considers “retaliation” to be an intent worth considering (even if just to determine that he has no adequate intention as an excuse).

          • Jack Lewis

            “Obviously there’s a difference between saying a decision is evil in part because it’s not motivated by actual benevolence and saying it’s evil regardless of any degree of actual benevolence.”

            It’s evil when thousands of innocents die unnecessarily. Not sure what your definition of benevolence is but by definition acts that do such damage shouldn’t even remotely be considered as such.

            “I wouldn’t say states never perceive a genuine threat when deciding whether thousands should die by their actions.”

            Hard to disagree with that given the ‘never’, but is it something that occurs more often than not? That’s another story. States do like to prop up threats and inflate them to keep their citizens afraid, limit their rights and control them more effectively.

            “Which is why Chomsky himself bases his moral judgement of Clinton on an assessment of intent”

            Chomsky went there only to show that even by using the intent barometer (which as you know Chomsky doesn’t give a damn about but Harris couldn’t let go of), Clinton’s action could not be justified.
            That’s all it was.

            “that Chomsky is saying intent doesn’t matter when assessing morality”

            That is exactly what he is saying. The worst deeds can be wrapped in “benevolent” intent, especially (only) benevolent to your own tribe/side. If the US can claim benevolence dropping two atomic bombs, invading countries, droning civilians… at what point can we just realize that claims of benevolence are meaningless and worthless and stop bothering with them. Looking at the actual numbers, casualties etc… That’s just a more factual and less spinnable way to ascertain the morality of actions.

          • iridescentsquids

            We seem to be asking (or at least I am) whether Chomsky is a consequentialist or non consequentialist.

            This was more or less what I was getting at in the first distinction you responded to, but every time we apply a narrower view of intent to mean benevolence (or lack thereof) the waters get muddy for me. Which is why I tried to make clear that my understanding of intent, and my perceptions of Harris’ use of intent, is that it includes the entire (often complex) array of motives during the decision making process, from motives of self-interest to benevolence, etc.

            Part of Chomksy’s assessment of Clinton’s intent, which you say is irrelevant to his judgement of the rightness or wrongness of Clinton’s bombing, was that he demonstrated apathy and foreknowledge.

            It would be helpful for me to know if, when you say Chomksy doesn’t give a damn about intent as a barometer, you are also saying that Chomsky doesn’t give a damn about whether Clinton had foreknowledge or not–not just whether he was employing a rationalizing intention of benevolence. In other words, are you saying that for Chomsky all of this, the apathetic response to foreknowledge included, is just a peripheral discussion meant to refute Harris’ apparent claim of benevolent intent which is ultimately not even relevant anyways to the rightness or wrongness of the act that killed so many thousands of innocent people?

          • Jack Lewis

            Yes!

          • iridescentsquids

            Thanks.

            Are you aware of any place specifically in Chomsky’s writing where he makes this point explicit? I have not found anything explicit, and I think that would be helpful.

            I would be surprised if he didn’t from time to time directly address this topic given that so many westerners arrive at morally from a non consequentialist perspective, and making sense of his value system would require coming to terms a very different moralizing process than they are accustomed to. Hell, there are even Chomsky defenders here claiming that it’s as obvious as the sky is blue (literally) that intent is important in making moral assessments. Not just obvious to themselves, but obvious to Chomsky, too.

            Maybe I just don’t understand yet how that kind of pronouncement doesn’t contradict Chomsky’s ultimate opinion on the matter.

            I’m not doubting that you’re right–just looking for more from Chomsky on the subject.

          • Jack Lewis

            Hard to point to a specific instance, I’d suggest you read his many articles which are quite easy to locate on the internet (or watch interviews or speeches on youtube). The guy’s views are clear and he typically states them very precisely. The short of it: Google is your friend 🙂

          • iridescentsquids

            That’s what I’ve been doing. Lots to read and I have not found a whole lot of clarity in favor of your interpretation.

            I have found a number of things he’s written to suggest your interpretation is not accurate– that he’s not a consequentialist. At this point I’m leaning toward saying you’re wrong about that, but there’s so much more to read I can’t say for sure.

            I just thought that people (you included) who claim to understand his position because they are familiar with his work might remember where they got their understanding from–that this isn’t just an impressionistic inference on your part but something more substantial (especially when you keep saying he’s so clear and precise and suggest this understanding should be obvious if only we read his work)

          • Jack Lewis

            “I have found a number of things he’s written to suggest your interpretation is not accurate– that he’s not a consequentialist.”

            Care to be more precise about these number of things?

            Things obvious to some are sometimes not obvious to others, such is life. It is a bit strange that you would try to claim an inability to understand a guy who is always pretty straightforward in his arguments and statements. In essence this entire thread was pointless, he wrote what he wrote and meant every word of it, and none of it was hieroglyphics.

          • iridescentsquids

            “Care to be more precise about these number of things?”

            Sure, but let me clarify that I’m still working on a level of inference, and I only have time to present one specific example (unless you want to wait a week). Which might drive you crazy but I have no choice. Although I’ve found plenty of “clear” and “straightforward” comments by Chomsky, I have yet to find one that clearly and straightforwardly articulates the kind of consequentialism (I think more precisely the term would be “actual consequentialism”? ) that you are describing. Again, if you are basing your opinion of his position on something clear and straightforward (that you are not also left to infer) it would save me time if you could provide.

            1) I’ll start by saying that nearly all the comments I find directly addressing morally have to do with moral universalism–and he’s explicit on that subject. I won’t include quotes because they’re easy to find and as far as I’m aware not relevant. His statements I’ve found on universalism do not preclude either consequentialism or non consequentialism. He may be formulating his judgements in a sort of universal consequentialist way, but…obvious still trying to figure that out.

            2) In a speech about the impacts of free market, US policy, and Latin America he goes into great detail describing policy maker’s intention to irradiate what US policy makers called a “virus” or “domino” effect, and to do so deliberately with murderous ends (at 18:20 link below, through “murderous, terrorist states, like national security states”). That speech can be found here:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un3v-5bsxeY

            So we have a means to an end discussion. A motive and foreknowledge of consequences, not dissimilar from the Sudan bombing. At 20:50 he says perhaps more explicitly “exactly what was done in SE Asia as in Latin America, and for the same reasons” (“reasons” refers to goal of prohibiting the so-called domino effect).

            You claimed Chomsky brought up intent in the Sudan case with Harris simply because Harris prompted him, and would otherwise not give a damn–even about Clinton’s foreknowledge. But here we have him making similar assessments of motive and foreknowledge without anybody else prompting him to, and in a manner that appears tremendously important to him. He devotes a great deal of his talk to stripping away the false, rationalizing interpretations of intent by those who profess and defend it and revealing the true immoral nature of this intent that often includes complete foreknowledge and rationalization of the death and suffering these policies will cause. That’s not to say that Chomsky thinks the perpetrators believe or have knowledge that their intent is evil and are lying. He doesn’t say that. He seems to be saying that their professed intent, and the professed moral superiority of this intent, is a mere smokescreen either for other intentions or for the moral inferiority of their intent. Not once in his assessment of intent in this speech do I find him suggesting that intent is amoral or irrelevant to rightness or wrongness –not even close.

            Then again, he does not say explicitly why he’s talking so much about actual vs professed intent at all. It’s technically possible that he’s only doing it to describe the mechanisms of the system. But to say he is not simultaneously pointing out the evils of the system seems far-fetched to me, which suggests to me that his assessment of the evilness is tied to his assessment of the motives.

            I infer (I think safely) from his in-depth analysis that he finds description of intent relevant provided we are able to dispel the false notions of intent propagated by the system to rationalize it’s actions. So false intent = not relevant to morality, and true intent as per his analysis = relevant to morality. That’s my rough take, anyways.

            There’s plenty of other similar instances I’ve come across in which he spends a great deal of time elucidating the “true” motives of policy makers as what appears to be part of his simultaneous description of immorality.

            A possible counter argument (mentioned briefly already): That his lengthy descriptions of intent are not meant to be interpreted as part of moral equation–merely an amoral description of a system that produces measurably immoral results. I leave room for this possibility, but by no means am I willing to say this is explicitly clear. You think otherwise, please cite where. That’s what I’m looking for.

          • Jack Lewis

            “, is a mere smokescreen”

            Calling something a smokescreen kind of implies a less than high degree of relevance.

            “That’s not to say that Chomsky thinks the perpetrators believe or have knowledge that their intent is evil and are lying.”

            It might help to realize that he is not a psychologist and doesn’t feel the need to analyze their internal mental states which no one can claim to know but themselves and which are once again of no consequence to the world as it exists outside of said minds. And so the loop starts from the beginning once more…

          • iridescentsquids

            “Calling something a smokescreen kind of implies a less than high degree of relevance.”

            Yes and no by my interpretation. Morally a smokescreen would be mirage of sorts to hide true intent. But that’s not to say that true intent is not there and is not relevant.

            “doesn’t feel the need to analyze their internal mental states”

            In as much as foreknowledge, retaliation, greed for power and to maintain elite status are mental states (and motives) he take a great deal of interest. I’m not sure I follow your meaning.

            Doesn’t he analyze the motivation of the elite all the time? Isn’t he often pointing out the hidden motives behind the publicly expressed motives? Or the spin put on straight forward greed self interest to make it seem like it has other benefits, or cloaking it in other goals (often by painting it as a national security issue, or by claiming that wealth trickles down)?

            I don’t see the circle you see.

            And I definitely don’t see him being definitive in favor of your view. Based on the research I’ve done so far, not by a long shot.

          • Jack Lewis

            “What do you mean he doesn’t analyze mental state? In as much as foreknowledge, retaliation, greed for power and intent to maintain elite status are mental states (and motives) he take a great deal of interest. ”

            I’m talking about the mental states that someone uses to rationalize their true motives (such as greed, retaliation, ego, etc…) and make them seem morally righteous to themselves. The most “evil” people will rarely see themselves as evil. Hitler believed his cause to be just, doesn’t mean I have to give a care that he did when judging his actions.

            “Doesn’t he analyze the motivation of the elite all the time?”

            Sure but that’s not the same as the high minded intent they might be deluding themselves into believing they have (progress of mankind, a more secure world, bla bla bla…).

            “And I definitely don’t see him being definitive in favor of your view. Based on the research I’ve done so far, not by a long shot.”

            I’m sure your convoluted version of my view is something I would not be in favor of too.

          • iridescentsquids

            “I’m talking about the mental states that someone uses to rationalize their true motives (such as greed, retaliation, ego, etc…) and make them seem morally righteous to themselves.”

            I think you’ve contradicted yourself. We agree that he analyzes people’s mental states, and takes great interest in that. But you said in the previous post he “doesn’t feel the need to analyze their internal mental states which no one can claim to know”.

            He does claim to know them, was my point. And now you agree? Did I miss something?

            “that’s not the same as the high minded intent they might be deluding themselves into believing they have”

            Does he analyze intent or not? Yes. Even (we might even say especially) so called “high minded” intent that rationalizes immoral behavior. You just agreed he does analyze that in your previous statement.

            “I’m sure your convoluted version of my view is something I would not be in favor of too.”

            Well, that’s good to hear, because you appear to be contradicting yourself.

          • iridescentsquids

            For what it’s worth, a couple useful statements I have found on Chomsky’s morality:

            “…actions are evaluated in terms of the range of likely consequences…. The actual consequences of an action may be highly significant, but they do not bear on the moral evaluation of the action”.

            p 187 Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance

            I think we can safely say that’s a nail in the coffin re: the notion that consequence of action is all that matters to him in judging it, and intended consequence doesn’t.

            That’s not to say that intended consequence always matters as part of his moral equation. It depends at least on the degree to which the intended consequence falls within the range of likely consequences. Otherwise his discussion of intent becomes less about morality and more about mechanisms of rationalization.

            For example, if somebody intended to save their child from hell by taking their child’s life before they can sin that would be immoral by his standards despite the murderer’s internal logic or self-proclaimed benevolence. Why? Because the absurd premises of that inner logic make the intention fall far short of “likely”.

            State leaders can, however, can be judged for their intentions provided those intentions meet Chomsky’s criteria for “likely”. As in the case of the Clinton pharmaceutical factory bombing, in which case he definitely does judge Clinton’s simultaneous understanding of the likely outcome and disregard for it.

            One person’s likely outcome for positive effect might be somebody else’s likely outcome for negative effect, which is where his moral universalism comes into play. It doesn’t meet his criteria for morally acceptable behavior if it’s not morally acceptable for everybody by these same standards.

          • Adam Black

            “Chomsky went there only to show that even by using the intent barometer
            (which as you know Chomsky doesn’t give a damn about but Harris couldn’t
            let go of), Clinton’s action could not be justified.
            That’s all it was.’

            Are you sure? I thought it was key to his whole argument. despite being contradictory to Chomskys claims that intent is meaningless.

          • Jack Lewis

            I’ve written even more than I cared about this Harris propagandist tool. He can try to troll Chomsky as much as he needs to enhance is limited profile, it hardly matters in the end.

          • Adam Black

            “In Harris’ hypotheticals I would say it very much matters when assessing morality.”
            Yes , but the problem is that these Hypotheticals dont extend to Harris own practical moral reasoning.

            Harris, like Chomsky is a utilitarian consequentialist . I get that from Harris book on Morality.

            The problem is Harris wields these hypotheticals merely as weapons of justified state propaganda. Thats why Chomsky doesnt play along.

            Chomsky is doing the same propagandist tactic , with this particular case. Hes turned Sudan Affair from a real life situation into a thought experiment , where he can pretend he understands the full intent of all involved.

            Its not a difference in substance, its only one of style. But Chomsky is engaging in obscurantist polemicist tactics to hide that hes also making propaganda. Hes much better at it. He makes radical claims of the meaningless of intent , while building an argument that depends on it.

            Hes really just invoking Hannah Arendnts “Banality of evil” to dismiss Harris discussion of intent as inherently juvenile. But that was always a highly controversial philosophical claim that was widely derided as not based on facts ( but on absolving of intent) .
            http://www.iep.utm.edu/arendt/#H6

            http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_spectator/2009/10/the_evil_of_banality.single.html

          • Adam Black

            “I couldn’t care less what Hitler’s intent was (can’t make it simpler than that)”

            Some of think Intent to Multiple Genocide matters.

            Then there is you here, or Chomsky denying such intent and states of affairs In Cambodia.

            “Assessing the morality of an act is about measuring it’s actual consequences first and foremost”. if you are Utilitarian Consequentialist. Ironically Sam Harris is one too.
            Thats “the ends justifies the means” morality

            The problem is that Consequentialism presumes absolute knowledge of the future, with correct understanding of intent of actors. That cant really tell you what is right.
            We are not Gods.

            Consequentialism only allows you to be a backseat quarterback. Thats what Chomsky is doing. Reading Intent into all consequences retroactively

          • Jack Lewis

            “Some of us think , ‘Intent to Multiple Genocide’ matters.”

            But that’s ridiculous, if Hitler had never done his genocide you would care about his intent? The actions are all that matters, not the rationalizations that these heads of state ALL MAKE to believe they did it for the good of their own nations. You think that people who commit genocides think they are doing evil? I don’t care what they think, I’d have to be a paid psychiatrist and even then I would probably be pretending to care.

          • Adam Black

            “Interestingly enough, I believe that’s exactly what Chomsky’s trying to
            do when he points out that Clinton had knowledge of the impact the Sudan
            bombing would have, and argues that the motivation was retaliatory.”

            YES! Chomsky is making an argument based in Intent while denying this makes sense. Utter of lack of self-awareness. Its pure sophistry to distract.

            “His
            argument is the best picture he can muster, given evidence, of
            Clinton’s intent: Retaliate despite the cost in human lives. THAT, my
            friend, is an argument based on intent.”
            YES!

            ” If he knew, he (even if through
            apathy) INTENDED those deaths as an ancillary outcome. Chomsky’s
            actually not disagreeing with Harris that intent is important, in my
            opinion”
            No, you are wrong there. He is disagreeing, hes just being a hypocrite while doing it.

          • glennwire

            >>>”But the faith of Sam Harris in the perfect benevolence of US leaders knows no end (laughably so).”

            This is one of the central points of the exchange.

            Chomsky throughout his life has always been a critical, cynical realist about the power elite and their actions.

            And, just as importantly, has always maintained the strong potential contained in ordinary people for rational thought capable of questioning power and holding it to account. And for self-governing democratic actions and arrangements.

    • Gregg Braddoch

      “So basically what I took from this is Chomsky answered everything Harris offered specifically”

      you mean to say Chomsky answered with Sophistry.

      • Kevin O

        No, I don’t.

        • Gregg Braddoch

          Well you should have meant to say that, because Chomsky is nothing but a sophist.

          • Kevin O

            Or I just don’t like people telling me what to think while handing out subjectives they don’t feel the need to explain

          • Gregg Braddoch

            lol, funny how nothing was “subjective” and you imply it was. It is objective that Noam’s statements on this topic were dismissive non-answers, all of them.

          • Kevin O

            Or I just don’t like when people telling me “what I should have meant” while offer a subjective with no explanation

          • Gregg Braddoch

            blah blah blah… Chomsky = good is pretty much all you said to begin with, so you are not one to talk about “no explanation”

          • Kevin O

            I offered a specific criticism. That being Sam failed to retort claims made by noam and deflected with tone monitoring. Simple statement but understood. You could disagree and explain. And then I’d elaborate. All you’ve done is tell me you think he’s full of it and offer nothing relevant towards what I said.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “I offered a specific criticism. That being Sam failed to retort claims made by noam and deflected with tone monitoring. ”

            No specifics whatsoever in those statements.

            “All you’ve done is tell me you think he’s full of it and offer nothing relevant towards what I said.”

            The same thing you did with your original post.

          • Kevin O

            Topic – email exchange.
            Comment – Sam Harris deflects via tone monitoring.
            Which is specific to the damn thread your reading.

            Get your last word in. This is a pointless coversation.

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “Sam Harris deflects via tone monitoring. ”

            No specific example whatsoever. Asserting a generalized opinion.

            “Get your last word in. This is a pointless coversation.”

            As was your comment in the first place.

  • Avadon

    Read the actual emails instead of letting this retarded page guide you through them.

    • Chloe Sagal

      “Sam Harris is my hero, even though he’s accomplished nothing but making a name for himself. I can’t stand it when people suggest he’s less than perfect. I worship him. So, I have to assume all the rest of you just don’t know him as well as I do, because, obviously, I have the inside scoop, I have the real answer, I know the real truth. I’m different than a fundamentalist christian, I swear! I mean, I have no religious reason to be a horrible person to disabled people, but I still like to use ableist slurs because it just makes me seem like a cool laid back edgy intellectual.”

      White dudes are always incredibly lacking in self awareness. Fuck your idols. Sam Harris is a oppressive douche, and no one fucking cares that you’d die for him.

      • Avadon

        TLDR. Just saw your name. No point in reading your drivel.

        • Chloe Sagal

          Oh yeah, such a hard hitting intellectual you are. Really shows off how super sciencey you are when you can simply just write off every thing a person says.

          • Avadon

            Three comments i didn’t even read. Suck a dick.

          • Chloe Sagal

            Yeah, because reading is so hard for you.

          • Avadon

            You have to double and tripple reply after I already told I’m not reading anything you write. Desperate for attention much. Like I said, go suck a dick. You won’t get any attention here, I’m not reading your comments.

          • Chloe Sagal

            “Hmm, I never bothered to read or understand anything this person said. Challenging opinions aren’t part of science.”

        • Chloe Sagal

          What’s it like being an actual piece of shit?

          • Richard Hewitt

            Usually internet exchanges like this just sort of cause my eyes to glaze over, but for some reason this specific comment made my day.

        • Chloe Sagal

          “Pardon me, I don’t need to actually try to comprehend anyone else’s arguments, because I’m an atheist, I already know more than everyone else”. – armchair skeptic

      • Erick

        “White dudes are always incredibly lacking in self awareness.”

        Probably not the smartest thing to say if you’re trying to be taken seriously.

      • Mark Wallace

        “White dudes are always incredibly lacking in self awareness.”

        If anybody needed a reason why to not take anything you have to say seriously ever, look no further than this. And then I googled you and found you to be a lying, scamming con-artist. How sad.

    • Gregg Braddoch

      Agreed. More than half of this bullshit is Chomsky being an asshole and saying nothing of substance.

  • Dglas Raeat

    Sam Harris made it a point to claim than non-experts should not have a voice in discussions of morality or science. Folks, Sam Harris has a Baccalaureate from Stanford in philosophy. That is his qualification for speaking with someone like Chomsky and just a baccalaureate makes him a non-expert. By his own words, Sam Harris has told us that Chomsky is treating him quite rightly by refusing Harris a soapbox to snark (and that’s what he does) out his Stanford baccalaureate nonsense.

    Frankly, Chomsky is doing Harris a kindness to even exchange letters with him.

    • Erick

      how long does it take you to shine Chomsky’s shoes each morning?

      • Adam Black

        Chomsky had Sam for breakfast.
        Im not a fanboy of either.

        Im disappointed in Sam because Chomoksy has been making ridiculous statements about the “Ontology of goodness” of Hamas, I would like Sam to challenge him on this.

      • Dglas Raeat

        You tell me. I don’t shine shoes.

      • Jack Lewis

        Lowering the discourse to match audience: Probably less than you take sucking Harris’ dick?

    • Hrafn

      Frankly, neither of these clowns should be considered qualified to have a voice on this topic. But while Chomsky can certainly be regarded as a genius in the field of linguistics (and equally certainly nowhere else), Harris has yet to demonstrated his ability to breathe and count to ten at the same time.

      • Gregg Braddoch

        “But while Chomsky can certainly be regarded as a genius in the field of linguistics””

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *whew* that was too funny. Chomsky is as much a failure at linguistics as he is at writing about politics:

        http://www.jstor.org/stable/413109?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

        http://www.salon.com/2013/09/21/how_to_understand_the_deep_structures_of_language_partner/

        http://www.mpi.nl/news/news-archive/the-myth-of-language-universals

        http://www.philol.msu.ru/~ccs/files/Haspelmath2012.pdf

        Chomsky is all hype and bullshit.

        • Hrafn

          I am quite familiar with criticisms of Chomsky, and the newer models that are now beginning to replace his. Many of his harsher critics equally tend towards hype and make promises they can’t fulfill (for example, whenever you see an article with a title along the lines of “Universal Grammar is dead!!”, etc.). They certainly do not devalue the achievement that universal grammar was at the time; Chomsky’s contributions outweigh his shortcomings (in the linguistics field only).

          • Gregg Braddoch

            “They certainly do not devalue the achievement that universal grammar was at the time”

            Yeah they kinda do. I’m pretty sure those who disproved Spontaneous Generation devalued said theory. Plus, Chomsky never actually proved universal grammar, it was all just something he was hyping to try and gain prominence and of course, now that it’s no big deal, he talks like a blowhard bigshot in politics, kinda like a left-wing rush limbaugh.

  • Brett Taylor

    This was uninteresting because Chomsky was willing to talk past Harris. When Harris tried to bring the conversation to a basic starting point Chomsky refused. I am not sure why Chomsky didn’t just refuse to engage him to begin with if that was going to be his approach.

    • glennwire

      Harris refused to see Chomsky’s point.

      Chomsky rejected Harris’ “basic starting point” as false and immoral.

      • Gregg Braddoch

        “Chomsky rejected Harris’ ‘basic starting point’ as false and immoral.”

        With only his own assertion. This is not really how an intellectual discourse is supposed to go, but that’s typical Chomsky: “You’re wrong! Now Shaddap and let me tell you how bad capitalism, the USA, and white people are.”

  • suppertime

    Managed to read the whole thing. Chomsky spent most of his e-mails being prickly and rude but he did manage in the few moments of coherence to address the actual issue: Chomsky is not engaging in moral equivalence, he carefully considered the ethics and morality of US’s and al Queda’s actions, and the US’s actions (as illustrated by the Sudan factory bombing) are morally worse; intentions are not very useful guide for making ethical judgments.
    Maybe he’s right, but Chomsky fans: Is this guy always this petulant and incoherent?

    • Jack Lewis

      He’s not very laid back about murders, blows your mind?
      Adults sometimes take off the “kid” gloves.

      • suppertime

        Glad to hear he’s petulant and incoherent only sometimes. I read the exchange cringing with embarrassment for Chomsky. Harris didn’t seem think he’d allow the e-mails to be published, offered him chance to edit his e-mails so he doesn’t come off as such a huge d-bag, but Chomsky just didn’t give a f, told him, do whatever the f you want. That was pretty cool.

        • Jack Lewis

          You should read some books from Chomsky (“Understanding Power” is very accessible), he is never incoherent. If by petulant you mean he has little patience for idiocy, then yes that is true.
          Chomsky believes that one should look at their own government’s actions (the ones they can actually influence) before casting judgment about others.
          To be honest I am amazed that Harris published such an exchange that makes him look like a complete US gov tool (appearance are not always deceiving).

          • suppertime

            Harris lists a bunch of atrocities by the U.S. (I guess to dispel the notion that he reflexively supports all US state actions). But he didn’t call them “foundational crimes” so that was clearly racist. That was a nice catch.

    • Johannes B

      Incoherent? Chomsky was, unlike Harris, on topic, and structured his arguments so precisely and logically with facts that Harris was completely blown away. If you want to witness a masterclas on incoherent thought experiments, try reading some of Harris’ books.

    • iridescentsquids

      I agree that Chomsky is being petulant and incoherent. Even his fans here are having trouble replicating his so-called arguments, and when pressed they are less than precise.

      Intentions may in fact not play as large a part in some situations as others when assessing morality of behavior, but I don’t think Chomsky is clearly saying that at all.

      Consider: When Harris presents the 2 hypothetical bombings by al Qaeda of US pharmaceuticals, note that he does not disagree that intent would change the moral nature of each, despite the results being the same. He only objects the the positive-spin version being an equivalent to the Clinton pharmaceutical bombing, which Harris points out it was not intended to be.

      I see Harris’ point in setting up these hypotheticals. The point is to compare them each to the other, not to the bombing in Sudan.

      Now, if Chomsky replied by saying “yes, intent matters in these hypotheticals, but in the situation in Sudan the supposed intention is a smokescreen for something you are not factoring in: apathy. So while you are right that intent CAN matter, it can also sometimes be an irrelevant distraction” THAT would be a meaningful retort, to which Harris could then reply.

      Harris can’t reply, of course, because Chomsky is simply asserting over and over that Harris is wrong without clearly saying why, leaving Harris guessing.

      To be fair, Chomsky expressed that he wasn’t interested in getting into any of this in the beginning. But his supporters seem to think he wasn’t just being petulant, but somehow wiping the floor with him with meaningful retorts. A kind description would be “coy and evasive”, but I prefer your “petulant and incoherent”.

  • shrbri

    Chomsky: High intellectual intelligence, low emotional intelligence. While I find myself leaning to the content of Chomsky’s arguments, this exchange with Harris confirms something I’ve long suspected about Chomsky: While he can robotically rattle off the inhumanities of various governments and corporations, his ability to engage in actual civil, human debate is very limited. Chomsky tries to remove emotion from his critiques, but the repressed rage seeps through in his tone and in his nasty, condescending insults. How does this ugly arrogance bring together people who want to work for meaningful change? What was that MLK book title? The Strength to Love? Mr. Chomsky clearly needs to read it.

    • glennwire

      Chomsky was angry. And rightly so.

      Morally piss-offed at Harris’ nihilism and apologetics.

      And by Harris’ obtuse refusal to demonstrate that he understood his interlocutor’s position.

      Why did Harris write to Chomsky at all if he was going to be this dense and morally deficient?

      Harris, for all his bourgeois breeding and manners, advocates for mass killing, warfare and torture.

      Harris being “polite” and smiling whilst doing so only makes him all the more disturbing and morally distant and reptilian.

    • glennwire

      Anyway, if you look through the footage of Chomsky’s public and academic appearances, there plenty of material that shows him being civil and “nice”.

  • Jack Lewis

    Harris the gun lover gets owned by Chomsky. what else is new?
    Harris lacks the ability to self analyze and realize how completely ridiculous he comes off avoiding all the arguments and becoming a tone troll (as he always does) at the end. Has Harris ever in his entire life realized that he was wrong about anything? Sean Faircloth argued with him to no avail on his pro gun stance (yes the author of the “Moral Landscape is pro-gun). Harris is not even able to own up his Islamophobia, It’s one thing to debate this thing but for Harris to claim he is not one, is just laughable. The guy has zero credibility.

    I know that Harris can make a fool of people like Chopra, (does Chopra even believe the non sense he spouts for cash?) but honestly, who can’t?
    Why anyone is impressed by this deluded fool is a question for the ages.

  • Jason Patrick Schoenecker

    So many emotional responses to this. Chomsky and Harris are both educated intellectual people of privilege. If you’ve never actively viewed any of their talks, debates, lectures etc, or read any of their work, you have no educated foundation for an opinion on this email exchange. Both of them have been slandered and misrepresented in equal measure and neither of them are always right, but to dismiss either of them entirely is just infantile and the epitome of ignorance.

    • Jack Lewis

      Ok then, how about dismissing one a bit more than the other?
      Having viewed and read a lot by both, it has become ever more clearer with the years which one had actually insight to provide (it’s not even close).
      Harris has grown in renown because of his ability to debate snake oil salesmen with gusto and humor, apparently unaware that snake oil salesmen do not believe in snake oil. Making a fool of a religious figure or a “spiritual” guru a la Chopra is easy and fun but requires very little in intellectual prowess.
      Unfortunately Harris completely lacks the ability to analyze his own incredibly naive beliefs, such as the notion that the US (or any country for that matter) is run by humanists with humanist goals. How old were you the last time you even entertained such a silly notion?
      Harris is a proponent of torture using the usual republican mythical doomsday scenario to motivate it while completely ignoring the basic fact that information provided during torture is usually worthless. In the gun debate with Sean Faircloth, he played the part of Chopra in one of his own debates being impervious to reason and evidence.
      The charge of Islamaphobia in his case is perfectly valid, Glen Greenwald sadly had to document all of Harris’ own writings to make the obvious case. I have never understood why Harris would not simply own up to that one and embrace it, it is extremely disingenuous on his part to pretend otherwise. The fact that he could lie to himself about his own positions made it clear that I could no longer take him seriously at all.

  • James Dean

    Well this article isn’t biased at all , Sam Harris that darned Islamaphobe , personally I think both of them came off with scars here .Philosopher Helga Freinacht did a brilliant analysis on this debate where some of this debate weighed very much Intention v consequence ..

    http://metamoderna.org/oh-harris-oh-chomsky?lang=en

    • Gregg Braddoch

      Yeah, it’s not like, you know half of the article is written by Chomsky or anything, lol.

  • James Dean

    The comments seem to echo the debate , emotive and angry while drawing no real conclusions .

  • Gurudev

    It is only worth having this debate if they tweak the topic a little to: is the state as evil as Islamic terrorism? Otherwise we continue to wallow in the fallacy of American exceptionalism. Now we can talk about the “moral significance of intention” without sounding ridiculous.

  • Brendan Deiz

    I can’t fit everything I wanna say about this here. Basically, I think Sam Harris is more ignorant and dumber than Osama bin Laden https://wavesandmeans.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/sam-harris-is-dumber-than-bin-laden-chomsky-was-right-not-to-waste-his-breath/

  • Eudaimon

    The only problem I have with this article is that Harris is referred to as a philosopher. He isn’t. He’s a writer (and a sophist to boot). Philosophers tend to be professionals who get published in peer reviewed journals and actually contribute to the field. Harris (apparently) just bugs legit experts via email so he can act like he is taken seriously on his blog.

  • When I read crap like this, I realize that the Critical Theory web site is only critical in theory.

  • “Except, well, Chomsky didn’t directly call him that, he was speaking of
    New Atheists writ large, and arguably Christopher Hitchens specifically.”

    WRONG. No he wasn’t. Chompers was specifically attributed his statement about how “they” are “religious fantatics” to both Hitchens and Harris (hint Brainiac: in a question posed to him about the opinions of Hitchens and Sam Harris, he used the term “both”, as opposed to ALL. As in “So they, BOTH of them, happened to be defenders of the state religion).

    Now this is a very simple thing to confirm, anyone can hear this in the YouTube video (around the 3min mark). Yet both you AND Noam “Get Off My Lawn You Punks!” Chompsky denied this was true. That makes the BOTH of you either; idiots or intellectual liars.

    I’ll leave it up to your respective readers to decide which.

    • Gregg Braddoch

      Intellectual liars. Chomsky is an over hyped failed linguist. He thinks somehow that creating a largely irrelevant and useless linguistic theory makes him qualified to tell everyone how the world should be run.

    • Intolerantcentrist

      Hey Forrest,

      Wondering if you would like to join fellow Huffugees in a December 10 – Huffington Post Purge Anniversary celebration. Canuk, a former HP poster has put up a site (http://dev.canukistan.org/) for the event. Canuk is planning on going live at around noon on the 10th. Come on by. I’m sure you’ll recognize a few Huffugees. We’d love to hear from you !

  • Philippe Samouilhan

    Really … like an old and wise professor talking to a self satisfied high school kid …

  • Baloney Buster

    Harris seems unable to grasp an elementary point: I am responsible for the predictable consequences of my deliberate actions.
    Given his virtual silence on US support for the medieval religious fundamentalist regime of the Saudi monarchy, it is quite clear that he is apologist for the religion of US Statism and its fundamental dogma that it always acts with noble intentions. This is a dogma completely discredited by the massive record of the predictable horrendous consequences of US state foreign policy and criminal interventions in other countries.

  • Al_de_Baran

    I know that when I want to read astute and expert political and socio-historical commentary, the first place I turn is to a professor of linguistics and person with a Ph.D. in neuroscience.

  • Hobbes Brundige

    noam has always been wrong on this issue and has been called out on it before just not in this direct of a manner. he will say things like this country is bad because they did this and this is why they did it even though they claim another reason as if he can tell the true intentions of presidents and world leaders because he is so much smarter than everyone because he works at mit and blah blah blah. i actually like noam a lot but this is THE problem with his worldview. noams never publicly admitted he was ever wrong in the past so i dont see why he would start now if he doesnt want to harm his legacy. and this article is so ridiculous as if noam chomsky is some advanced intellectual sam harris isnt worthy to debate. noam says he doesnt do debates becuase people dont ask him, like they are intimidated, well sam harris is asking and noams just emailing…

  • Lol Harris had no answer

  • Anna Nicole Smith & Wesson

    It just wouldn’t be Chomsky without his token shot at Hegel

    • comment

      Another reason Chomsky, despite his best intentions, irritates me. Yes, please ignore that fact that literally all European philosophy post Hegel was influenced by Hegel and constantly refer to Hegel’s bigotry, as if it were any different for any other philosophers at the time (historical context is key). Seems more envy than anything else

      • Anna Nicole Smith & Wesson

        definitely a completely different tradition. Russell and the analytic gang were mostly rabid anti-Hegelians, as I’m sure you know, which might explain Chomsky’s ill-temper. It’s interesting, as well, that Chomsky rarely cites Kant. I think perhaps he’s content with Humean empiricism and all that entails.

        • glennwire

          See Robert Barksy’s book on Chomsky – “The Chomsky Effect”.

          Below is quote from a review.

          “The huge influence Zellig Harris had on Chomsky
          has been the accepted for many years now. Barsky adds a new dimension to
          our picture of Harris’ influence on Chomsky by presenting the political
          ideas that were part of student life at the time, particularly groups
          like Avukah and Hashomer Hatzair and the role that Harris played in
          them. Harris not only influenced Chomsky but also many other students at
          the time and not just in the political realm. Hilary Putnam reports in
          his preface to “The Form of Information in Science” that “the powerful
          intellect and personality of Zellig Harris drew me like a lodestone”
          (quoted on p.58 of Barsky). The picture that emerges of the political
          milieu that Chomsky was exposed to in University is one of a strongly
          libertarian tradition that rejected any hardline Stalinist, Trotskyist
          or Marxist approach but instead allowed for a more open-minded
          exploration of left-wing ideas including those of Rocker and Pannekoek.”

          “The philosophical background to much of Chomsky’s work is to be found in
          the work of Humboldt and Descartes. Barsky devotes an entire chapter to
          tracing the effects of Humboldt and Descartes on Chomsky.”

          https://linguistlist.org/issues/8/8-673.html

  • comment

    Don’t really understand the relevance of Chomsky anymore, and Harris never was relevant (he is a Classic Greek example of an idiot). Chomsky’s got to quit fighting the pure analytical battle, he’ll never win against ideology.

  • Charles

    Harris would’ve made a very fine and upstanding Nazi, right until the end, as he attempted to justify his way out of jail: “But we were benevolent, and our intentions were only for the good.”

  • Charles

    The recent news about Sam Harris finding falafal threatening to Western values is not suprising. Who could doubt that the American hamburger has unquestionably been a major advancment for humankind. (It’s true, however, that Mr. Harris discounts the cow in his argument, stating that collateral damage is usually a necessary element to any war). In Mr. Harris humble opinion, ‘falafels are simply medieval at best,’ and one needs only to observe how fast the hamburger, with its assorted toppings, has spread throughout the world, while at the same time advancing American values and Western taste with it. Only an extremeist or worse yet, a moderate, would insist upon the fruitless falafel for sustenance or flavor. And Harris goes on to mention that some foods are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for eating them, and that the ‘falafel, smothered with tahini dressing,’ tops his list. Upon further questioning if Mr.Harris himself would personally do the killing, he answered: ‘Well, not really. Not myself, no. I now regularly meditate. And let me state for the record here, that the way I meditate, cannot in any way be likened to any form of prayer, not even mystical catholic prayer, or quietism, or anything like that. In any case, literally washing death from one’s hands would make for difficult meditation, to say the least. I think that professional soldiers – at a great distance from my meditation pillow – who can simply follow orders without question, would suffice just fine. And remember, with technology we can now see falafels from a great distance, so there’s no reason why drones couldn’t be used, while honing in on falafel stands should be a priority. Ultimately, all I am really saying is that now it’s time for those we call the ‘other,’ to join the ‘us,’ and get out of the dark. Why continue to be barbarians at the gate? I’d go so far as to say it’s because they just can’t have honest conversation about the logical connection between ideas and behavior.’

    • iridescentsquids

      Maybe we should fear all food preparation equally–no food is safe, let alone more safe vs less safe. Is that your point? Or maybe Sam has an inkling of a point, that we can at least embark on an effort to assess different foods differently, even if everybody hates a food critic.

      • Charles

        Ha! I didn’t think this went through. To be honest, I read the Chomsky/Harris e-mail exchange, viewpoints on it back and forth, got confused, and simply ended up here where this came out. But since I have you here, I’ll take you up on your “assessment” point above. Perhaps you can explain something to me. I read your discussion below, and some problems arise around the same sticking point elsewhere. My question is, does Chomsky respond properly to Harris’ intent argument satisfactorily for you? And, I apologize coming into this so late. See, I thought I read Chomsky saying we cannot often know, or even recognize intent, and cannot believe what we’re told by those in power, whose primary purpose is to maintain that power, and this will be done by often masking intent in order to maintain popular consent. You know, like the NSA dragnet surveillance wiretapping, for example. Deny it right until the end until Snowden blows it open. So I thought Chomsky was saying that we merely need to look at the long term damage done to the pharmaceutical plant we bombed, compared to 911, which he surmised was more damaging in the in the long run and our intent here can be surmised by our actions and outcome, despite what were the stated reasons. He also mentioned that he had gone into intent plenty over the years in his books, on many more examples, as well, some of which I’ve read, so I may be putting some words in Chomsky’s mouth. I have also read some of Harris’ work, by the way. So was the ‘intent’ problem answered for you?
        Thanks,
        Charles

        • iridescentsquids

          “My question is, does Chomsky respond properly to Harris’ intent argument satisfactorily for you?”

          Depends on what you mean by “properly”. Nobody is required to answer questions put to them, so if Chomsky wants to be snarky and evasive I suppose that’s perfectly “proper” by some standards.

          But if you mean to ask “did he offer a clear and complete rebuttal?” I would say not even close. And that doesn’t seem to have been his intent.

          Somehow all the Chomsky fans here have this notion that Chomsky eviscerated the very idea that intent should be factored into our calculation of the rightness or wrongness of state behavior– That it’s painfully naive for anybody (in this case Harris) to even try to evaluate the intention of state leaders because they use professions of intent merely to rationalize or mask immorality.

          I’m baffled by this. So many people are Chomsky cheerleading without bothering to think through the actual arguments, or even do a quick self-assessment to see if they understand both positions clearly enough to pass judgement.

          At no point in this discussion does Chomsky say that intent isn’t something we can, or should, assess when making moral calculations!

          Isn’t this made especially obvious by his own arguments for Clinton’s retaliatory intent combined with apathy? He obviously takes great interest when it’s his own assessment of intent. There goes your idea that the damage is all that matters to him. Read what he wrote more carefully. Isn’t his whole point that intent absolutely should be factored in, but Harris’ assessment of intent is simply very wrong?

          The clearest, most direct response he gives to the abstract challenge Harris floated was something along the lines “there’s nothing to say” about intent in general. – you can look up the exact quote while you re read the exchange. I’m too lazy right now.

          But even his meaning in that statement falls short of clear when we try to reconcile it with his obvious interest in analyzing his idea of the “true” intent of state leaders to preserve power, serve self interest at the expense of others, etc.

          • Charles

            Good for you being lazy on a Friday evening. You do come off a little arrogant, however. Where exactly did I say Chomsky didn’t feel intent was important, as you suggest. I said that to the best of Chomsky’s surmising the intent was pretty obvious in the case of the pharmecuetical company bombing, especially because of its timing, and with no proof of weapons manufacture given. And if they had proof, why wouldn’t they offer it. As I said, the intent here can be surmised by our actions and outcome. I also stated that Chomsky has taken intent into account in his work many times throughout the decades, so why wouldn’t he think intent is important?

          • iridescentsquids

            “Where exactly did I say Chomsky didn’t feel intent was important, as you suggest.”

            You said he believes that some intent was not important in the moral equation, not all. Professed benevolent intent = not important. “True” intent surmised by Chomsky’s assessment of consequences = important.

            (I would interject that he’s not basing his evaluation of intent just on assessing consequences, but evidence much the same way Harris is. Both make evidentiary arguments about what “true” intent is, just different arguments.)

            My conversations here which you alluded to and said you read involve 4 other people, all of whom have slightly different takes on the degree and kind of consequentialist Chomsky might be, without agreement or details, or sometimes even on broad generalities. All four claim that Chomsky being perfectly clear. You don’t find that interesting a little?

            There are some who characterize Chomsky as smacking-down Harris for even trying to value intent at all, writing off Harris’ basic premise that intent matters as wrong-headed philosophical navel-gazing. Which is interesting because in order to understand Chomsky’s supposedly clear position on intent we too have to ask ourselves that very question: how and in what ways does intent factor into our ability to determine the rightness or wrongness of state action.

            In summery, my claim is simply that 1) Despite the claims by many Chomsky cheerleaders here, Chomsky does not make his position regarding intent clear in this discussion, and that was probably intentional on his part. We have to look elsewhere in his writings for clarity, and 2) Chomsky is not an “actual consequentialist” as some here claim (not you), and 3) despite Chomsky’s statement that not much can be said on the subject, the question about how to factor in intent is important to his arguments. That it’s not, as some in these discussion have claimed, a dumb or irrelevant question no matter how much you dislike the fact that it’s Harris asking it.

          • iridescentsquids

            “Where exactly did I say Chomsky didn’t feel intent was important, as you have handily created out of thin air?”

            Did I say you said that? Where? It wasn’t my intention.

            The discussions elsewhere here you allude to include such claims. Similarly, I challenge the general notion that in this exchange Chomsky clearly articulates the role he believes intent plays in a moral assessment. (do I need to clarify that I’m not saying that’s your position, too?)

            “First of all, I believe you mean to say: ‘is,’ and not “isn’t.””

            No, it’s “isn’t”. At no point does he say intent isn’t. We should all be honest about our shortcomings 🙂 and not take them so personally. We all make mistakes, even misreading what people write, or misunderstanding their intentions.

            “So to me, it’s quite clear you’re simply another Harris groupie” Well that’s an unfortunate error on your part. I make it clear elsewhere here I’m no fan of Harris. I’m not a Chomsky cheerleader, either.

            ” but even more imaginatively ignore the words right before your eyes”

            What words would those be? Could you be specific?

          • Charles

            First of all, I must say, you come across as all over the place. Yes, I had read some of your responses below and am quite aware that your views on Harris fluctuate. Of course, if you bounce around enough, you’re never in one place. And by, the way, I have also defended Harris in the past, as well.

            So using words like “Chomsky cheerleading,” or “Chomsky fans,” or even “painfully naïve,” paint you coming across as stereotyping, arrogant, and condescending. Of course, this is just my perception.

            Receiving straight A’s in every English class I ever took, I must say, your writing for me is the most convoluted I’ve come across in a long time. If it’s not clear for the reader, I’ll bet it isn’t clear for you.

            In an attempt to keep relatively on track here, I’ll simply quote what you said: “The clearest, most direct response he (that is Chomsky) gives to the abstract challenge Harris floated was something along the lines “there’s nothing to say” about intent in general.”

            So let me simply ask you, when Chomsky states in the e-mail exchange, over and over again, that he has written about intent for many decades, and with regards to Al Shifa, the intent is quite obvious, does this not contradict for you the paraphrase/quote you have above that “there’s nothing to say” about intent in general.’? Has he not spent a lifetime writing about it? Please, I am looking to be enlightened, not confused.

          • iridescentsquids

            “am quite aware that your views on Harris fluctuate”

            Examples? What are you talking about exactly?

            “paint you coming across as stereotyping”

            You mean generalizing. Yes, I’m generalizing, and I hope my comments aren’t taken to be anything more than that, including all the potential shortcomings that generalizations have. I use the term “Chomsky cheerleaders” in reference to people who slam Harris and praise Chomsky without getting into specifics of the arguments. I think the term is apt in that respect.

            The term “painfully naive” is what I attribute to these commenters –that is to say, characterizations THEY have made, not me. Which isn’t an exaggeration at all. Go ahead an look at what they’ve written about Harris. “painfully naive” is tame in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is some naivety to Harris in this exchange. But that characterization you’re attributing to me should actually be attributed to others.

            “the most convoluted I’ve come across in a long time.”

            Put your money where your mouth is. Show me an example of convoluted writing and offer your improvements, or point out the lack of clarity. This kind of discussion of ethics and philosophy might just not be your thing.

            ” Please, I am looking to be enlightened, not confused.”

            Why, if Chomsky is clear, are you confused by his statements and see them as contradictions? I can’t help you with your own confusion. But I can try to offer an analysis of Chomsky’s position if that’s what you’re asking for.

            Let’s start with the specifics, though. You’re scant on specifics yet again. Quote me the passage where he says there’s not much to say and the passages where he talks about discussing it for years and we can try to figure it out together.

          • iridescentsquids

            Rather than edit my post I’ll post an addendum of sorts specifically regarding the generalizing/stereotyping point.

            You may have indeed meant “stereotype”. I apologize if I presumed your meaning to be different.

            Let me restate by saying that if you indeed meant “stereotype” you are likely wrong. I can’t confirm until you clarify further.

            I believe that the act of stereotyping involves application of characteristics to an existent group as opposed to creation of an existent group. I’m not using the term “chomsky cheerleader” to mean any and all Chomsky defenders who are or will contribute to discussions here, and then applying characteristics to that group.

            That would be stereotyping.

            Generalizing, in contrast, simply means taking a widespread practice and lumping into a common descriptor.

            My term “Chomksy cheerleader” is only meant to apply to those who defend chomsky in this exchange without basing their exuberance on the specifics of the arguments. Some Chomsky supporters do more than others, but there’s certainly a phenomena here of cheering Chomsky on, putting down Harris, without being able to explain the arguments clearly. Wouldn’t you call that cheerleader? Much the way sports engender loyalty for the sake of loyalty?

          • iridescentsquids

            oops…correction. I see one specific instance in which I did stereotype in a sloppy way. It’s not in the term “Chomksy cheerleaders” but where I say “Somehow all the Chomsky fans here have this notion…”

            That was unnecessarily hyperbolic of me. To clarify, I don’t believe that literally all Chomsky supporters here have the same faulty notion, just some who I’ve been talking with.

          • Charles

            I get it now. If you spew enough words, you can obfuscate the issue, and not have to answer any question directly. This leads me to believe what I suspected, that you really have no answer. I have tried to keep it as simple for you as I could. And the last, simple question I asked you was based upon your own erroneous paraphrase:

            “So let me simply ask you, when Chomsky states in the e-mail exchange, over and over again, that he has written about intent for many decades, and with regards to Al Shifa, that the intent is quite obvious, does this not contradict for you the paraphrase/quote you have above that “there’s nothing to say” about intent in general.’? Has he not spent a lifetime writing about it? Please, I am looking to be enlightened, not confused.”

            It’s apparent you can’t answer because you have no answer, and instead offer a lot of mumbo-jumbo. So I guess In one way, this has been enlightening.

          • iridescentsquids

            “If you spew enough words, you can obfuscate the issue”

            Have I ever once claimed to have an answer? You’re confused. You seem to think I’m obfuscating simply because I admit that I don’t understand Chomsky’s remarks. I never claimed to. On the contrary, I’ve said from the get-go that he’s far from clear.

            “Far from clear” means I can’t tell you if he’s contradicting himself or not. I might say that it appears to be a contradiction at first glance, but that’s not saying much.

            I’ll invite you again to provide the specific point he makes and we can discuss them. That is, if you really care to. I get the feeling this is more personal for you–something you have against me– than about improving your awareness of either of their positions.

          • Charles

            This is not personal. Do not take it as such. I do enjoy watching you run around. You asked for something of yours, something that you’ve said, and I gave it. And now I’ll give to you for the third time. I don’t expect any answer to this paraphrase at this point, or any clarification. I am glad to see you getting clearer. And by the way, this is some interesting “philosophy,” as you call it, nothing like I studied. But here’s your paraphrase anyway:

            You say: Chomsky has “nothing to say” about intent in general.’

            And I say (Do you see how this works?) that’s ludicrous.

            And I say that because he states in the e-mail exchange, over and over again, that he has written about intent for many decades, and with regards to Al Shifa, the intent is quite obvious.

            So that says to me your statement is bullshit. And you’ve done nothing to clarify, or explain it.

            P.S. I don’t how Chomsky could’ve made that any more clearer for you, within the given format, without hitting you over the head with one of his many books.

          • iridescentsquids

            “You say: Chomsky has ‘ “nothing to say” about intent in general.'”

            No I didn’t. I said that he said that there is nothing to say.

            You seem to think the issue is with what I have said. The issue you’re having is with what he has said.

            ” he states in the e-mail exchange”

            The phrase that there is nothing to say about intent is something he said in the email exchange, yes.

            “your statement is bullshit”

            His statement. You’re saying HIS statement was bullshit. The specific quote by Chomsky was this: “As for intentions, there is nothing at all to say in general”

            That’s fine if you feel that way, just don’t make the mistake of saying it’s my statement. I was simply referring to something Chomsky himself said.

            If you’re confused by that, or think it’s bullshit or whatever, fine. But get the basic facts right before you start passing judgement.

          • Charles

            My originally question to you was if Chomsky answered Harris’ question of intent for you. Your answer was, no way. And you gave me the quote above as your answer.

            My argument has been that lifting that paraphrase and surmising it to mean Chomsky doesn’t consider intent at all, ever, was mistaken on your part, and I have attempted to show you why I believe this is so.

            (My frustration is that it’s been a continuous circle jerk after miring through the ranting and rambling. Yet, now, at least, we’re back to the original question and point.)

            So again I’ll say, if C. has spent a lifetime doing just the opposite of what you’re suggesting with your paraphrase/quote, writing about intent and its many nuances in regards to circumstances from S. America, to Africa, to Asia, to Europe, perhaps hundreds of situations in all, how that conflates in your mind that C. doesn’t consider intent, is still a mystery to me.

            Again, another misread is that my problem has been with Chomsky and your erroneous quote, which I don’t have a problem with, because I am familiar with the C.’s ideas, and read what else he said in the e-mail exchange. My problem has all along been with your generalization of that quote. And I don’t know how I could have made that any clearer. I’ve simply been restating this simple problem over and over again. Like I suggested earlier, perhaps a vacation may be in order and a little play time away from the screen.

            As you said to me, you don’t have to agree with me. This, of course, is a given. (-I feel like I’m constantly having to reinvent the wheel with you here-). And this has never been the point. The question has been did you generalize? And, for me, you haven’t proven to me you haven’t.

            The reason is because as Chomsky said to Harris, if Harris had taken the time to read any of his work, he’d see it’s filled with nothing but questions of intent. And I say the same to you. So I think your spurious use of this paraphrase/quote, Harris would rightly call “quote mining.”

            Ah, the “facts,” as you call them, yes, they are so easily claimed as our own.
            .

          • iridescentsquids

            “A bit more than a snippet of a quote, half of it paraphrased, ”

            I quoted his exact words. It’s not quote mining, especially when I’m not claiming to know what he means when he says it. Quote mining is when somebody takes a quote out of context to make sound like something is being said that’s not. I’m not trying to make it sound like he’s saying anything in particular. I’m simply saying I’m not sure what his position is given that’s what he said. It’s one of the many things he said in this exchange that adds nuance to his position without explicitly describing what that position is.

            You might my effort to nail down his position “bullshit”, but my interest is sincere. I’m actually respecting his statements and admitting the limits of my understanding—the very opposite of quote mining.

            Out of curiosity, how could my quoting Chomsky be “erroneous” unless I misquote him? Perhaps my characterization of his position could be called erroneous, but unless I misquote him the quote itself is not erroneous. Your straight A’s are not serving you well in this discussion I’m afraid.

            I made myself perfectly clear to you that I don’t believe he is contradicting himself. I believe he means what he says when he states “As for intentions, there is nothing at all to say in general”. I also simultaneously believe that he thinks we should analyze intent when making moral judgements.

            What I am not claiming is that he clearly explains how these statements can be reconciled, and what this means about his overall position regarding passing moral judgements, or the significance of intent as a variable.

            Since all of this is so perfectly clear to you, why don’t you enlighten me. Tell me what his perfectly clear position is.

            Specifically, what kind of consequentialist would you say he is, if he is at all? As you know (I assume) Harris is not a consequentialist. And I believe that Chomsky is some sort of consequentialist that I can’t nail down. Yet they both factor intent as a variable in the moral equation. What is his position regarding intent that you think is made so obvious in this email exchange?

          • Charles

            Sure you quote his “exact” words, as you say, all three of them, ‘nothing to say,’ and then astoundingly, mysteriously fail to quote anything else said that completely contradicts these. Where did the rest of the conversation go? And what was said to the contrary was far more weighty and clear than these three words out of context.

            So I can only ask myself at this point, albeit a little late: Why are you cherry picking?

            Of course I won’t waste my time endlessly repeating Chomsky’s position to you, read every response I’ve sent you so far. I keep repeating over and over what he said, which is his position, but you’re blinders are on. It’s quite apparent you don’t want to, or can’t hear it.

          • iridescentsquids

            “Sure you quote his “exact” words, as you say, all three of them, ‘nothing to say,’ and then astoundingly, mysteriously fail to quote anything else said that completely contradicts these.”

            False. On every front you’re wrong.

            1) I quoted the complete sentence, all 11 words.

            2) I pointed out repeatedly to you, before you ever brought it up, that Chomsky delves into intent when making his own assessment.

            You’re flapping in the wind here with your sheer nonsense. The only mystery here is how you don’t realize your pants are down when you say all these falsehoods. Read more carefully, please. I’m not trying to be hard on you, but c’mon. You can do better than this.

            I explain many different things Chomsky says and you pick one and say I’m cherry picking. Really? Dude…I can’t help you understand what I’m saying any more than I have.

            I’m interested in discussions, not whatever this junk is you’re perpetuating. Absolutely nothing you wrote about me in your last post was remotely true.

          • Charles

            “2) I pointed out repeatedly to you, before you ever brought it up, that Chomsky delves into intent when making his own assessment.”

            Really, then why was your response from the very beginning that C. had, ‘ nothing to say,’ on the matter? Because that was your response to my original question.

            Yes, of course you quoted all eleven words. This is not my problem. As I have been endlessly repeating, where’s everything else (in the whole e-mail exchange) that he states otherwise to this quote.
            But we’ve gone on too long here anyway.

            Cheers mate.

            P.S.

            Please, don’t take it personal. I surely haven’t. I suspect it’s very possible we’ve been ‘intellectual ships in the night’ here, perhaps not understanding each other from the very beginning, and its very possible these differences could’ve been sorted out simply during the course of one soda, and not ending frustrated after a couple days worth of e-mails.

          • iridescentsquids

            “why mention at all that C. had, ‘ nothing to say,’ on the matter at all?”

            Is this really going over your head or are you just pulling my leg? I hope you are not trolling because I’m genuinely interested in the subject. The whole reason I mention that quote was because Chomsky himself was making a point relative to the very topic. I hope you don’t think the best way to understand somebody’s position is to ignore the some of the things they say we don’t understand. I presume he said it for a reason. I think he’s giving hints as to his consequentialist nature without being explicit about it.

            Take a deep breath, put aside your obvious animus for me for a moment, and consider this as objectively as you can:

            Saying that we have thought about something in great detail does not explain what we have concluded about that thing. Let’s say my car is acting wonky, sometimes starting and sometimes not. I could think and investigate long and hard about the role spark plugs may or may not play along with many other aspects of the engine and car as a whole. And I could come to all kinds of very well-considered, evidentially-based, conclusions. On one end of the spectrum I could conclude spark plugs have nothing to do with it. On the other hand I could conclude that spark plugs are indeed the sole cause of the problem. And, obviously, I could come to all kinds of other conclusions in between.

            Similarly, the fact that we know that Chomsky has spent decades considering intent does not tell us what he has concluded about the role intent plays as a variable in the moral equation.

            Let’s consider the philosophy of morality in a very general way: Consequentialists and non consequentialists BOTH presumably have studied intent in great detail and have come to radically different conclusions about how it should factor into our moral judgements. A “real consequentialist” (a category of strict consequentialist) would be somebody who has considered the role of intent and entirely rejected it. So let’s not make the mistake of assuming that just because Chomsky says many times that he has considered intent that he believes it’s important in the moral equation. He may, but it does not follow logically from that premise.

            My point has NEVER been that Chomsky dismisses intent because he said that generally there’s nothing to say about it. Although that has been the conclusion of some defenders of Chomsky on this forum, I (and you) disagree with that characterization. You seem to be trying to shoe-horn that characterization into my comments when it was never there, not even a little bit.

            The question about clarity is not with regard to whether intent has been well considered by Chomsky or not, but with regards to his conclusions.

            I see the exchange between Harris and Chomsky, broadly speaking, to be an exchange between a non-consequetialist(Harris) and some kind of consequentialist (Chomsky). The question that I don’t see clearly answered is exactly what role Chomsky thinks intent should play.

            We seem to be circling around a general answer that has to do with “true” vs. “professed” intent, but this is certainly not something Chomsky makes explicitly clear in this exchange. After researching his writing I have yet to find an explicit explanation from him yet, which might be due to the fact that he believes no general rule about the role of intent can be made. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what he means when he says we can’t say anything about intent in general.

            Is any of this making sense to you?

            If you believe Chomsky is so perfectly clear, why can’t you enlighten me and tell me what YOU think Chomsky is saying about intent.

            I would love to see you actually delve into the actual topic instead of trying of play “gotcha” based on misreadings of my comments.

          • Charles

            ” I hope you don’t think the best way to understand somebody’s position is to ignore some of the things they say that don’t seem to fit with our own ideas.”

            Don’t you see, I say you’re doing the same exact thing. I find you simply ignoring the things he C. actually did say that contradict what you think he meant by that statement.

            Besides all that, Chomsky said to Harris, pick a real life situation and lets talk about the possible intent. Then they went into Al Shifa. Harris wanted to turn it into a ‘philosophical what if,’ and came out with that famous “ludicrous” hypothetical. Chomsky basically said, let’s look at an actual event and then we can surmise intent from the actual repercussions and results. Forget about the bullshit the govt. tells you.

            And then with regard to Al Shifa, Chomsky agreed that the intent mattered, and went on to say it wasn’t very good. Harris didn’t agree. So now the question becomes, can someone have bad intent and yet still be concerned with what’s right and wrong? Sure, it’s very easy Chomsky says, what one person (nation, group) thinks is right, another may believe is wrong. So the binary of consequentialism, as most categories in life, as shown here, is not so clear. One persons good intent is another’s bad intent. And that’s what C. has been writing about over the years with regard to American exceptionalism.

          • iridescentsquids

            “I find you simply ignoring the things he C. actually did say that contradict what you think he meant by that statement.”

            How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t see them as necessarily contradictory statements and that I am not saying he meant any particular thing by it? Because I don’t claim to understand his meaning. How many? Have I not told you this explicitly about half a dozen times? The irony of course being that you have to ignore that I say this to accuse me of ignoring what Chomsky says, and quote-mine me in order to accuse me of quote-mining.

            I think there’s a good chance you’re just trolling. Ah well…we all take risks when discussing things online. I’m still interested in the subject in general.

            “Chomsky basically said, let’s look at the actual event and then we can surmise intent from the actual repercussions and results. Forget about the bullshit the govt. tells you.”

            Are you saying that Harris and Chomsky are in agreement about valuing intent when posed with moral questions, but that they differ in the conclusions they come to about what that “true” or relevant intent is?

            So in answer to the question “does intent matter?”, Chomsky would answer “absolutely it does, provided you assess it properly”. (note that saying he has studied intent for years doesn’t mean he’s saying he values intent as a moral variable! You can’t equate those things. To do so would be to put words in Chomksy’s mouth.)

            And when he says that nothing can be said of intent in general he means…what? That because there are false professions of intent we can’t say that all intent matters “in general”, only intent that we have assessed to be relevant through a more skeptical inquiry into actual consequences after the fact?

            That works, but I feel it’s not complete.

            It is, however, a plausible explanation that fits with all statements, and in this sense I think circles close to a good summary of, or a good starting point for understanding, Chomsky’s morality. I think you’ll see, however, that this is not far at all from my starting point! The only exception being that I was (and still am to a degree) unwilling to say his statement about “intent in general” is clear. We still have to come up with our own way of reconciling that statement with his obvious interest in intent elsewhere, which the above summary does quite well even if he never comes close to explaining it that way (I’m weary of over interpreting him). Please, stop interpreting this to mean I think Chomsky is saying that intent doesn’t matter. For the 7th…8th time.. That is not what I’m saying.

            Maybe to you this was his obvious meaning all along, but not to me or other (even Chomsky fans) on the forum–some of whom actually misunderstood him to mean the opposite: that intent was irrelevant to our assessment of the consequences themselves.

            Part of me still wonders if Chomsky is more a consequentialist than the above explanation credits him for being. I’m not willing to say he’s being crystal clear by a long shot. The more I try to clarify the more I have to look at his other writing well beyond this exchange, and even then he doesn’t explicitly discuss this subject.

            So if the question is does Chomsky make this clear in this exchange, I would still say absolutely not, and that wasn’t his intention. Again: that WASN’T his intention. He acts pissed that Harris would approach him with a naive view of his work and he’s not interested in correcting the nature of Harris’ errors explicitly, only letting Harris know how wrong he is before showing him the door.

          • Charles

            As I said originally, you bounce around so much you’re not in any one place. And I’ll ask you to do the same, take a deep breath.

            I can’t vouch for who got the quote or not. Harris is pretty straightforward, I’ll give you that, as he apparently can’t comprehend the complexities inherent in any discussion of consequentialism.

            When asked directly if intent mattered to Chomsky, he said, yes. Again, I think that’s pretty clear.

            So since you can’t come to your own conclusion about the statement/quote, for whatever reason, which I thought C. answered pretty straightforward throughout the exchange, I’ll put it in the simplest language I can for you.

            To me, C. meant each situation needs to be looked at individually, right and wrong are not dethatched philosophical mind play. Real life is messy and filled with lies, blind spots, and ethnocentrism. Intent matters, but there’s not much to say about it (philosophically speaking) beyond looking at each specific situation because everyone claims their intentions are good. So does that make any sense to you considering what he said in the e-mail exchange?

            Chomsky became frustrated with Harris for his naive black and white view of the world, his lack of knowledge of Chomsky’s lifetime work dealing with issues of intent, and H.’s unquestioning of U.S. govt. news releases as legitamate.

          • iridescentsquids

            Yea…it’s going to look like i’m “bouncing around” when you keep misreading what I write. Of course.

            “I can’t vouch for who got C.’s quote or not.”

            What does that even mean, Mr straight A’s in English? Chomsky said something you aren’t even trying to explain. Go figure.

            “When asked directly if intent mattered to Chomsky, he said, yes. Again, I think that’s pretty clear.”

            Saying he had considered it isn’t the same as saying he values it as a variable in moral equations. But whatever, dude. You’re not one go grasp subtleties let alone something so significant.

            “right and wrong are not dethatched philosophical mind play”

            Who is saying it is? Who is saying we shouldn’t look at right and wrong situationally? You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you? Neither of them is espousing non situational ethics.

            “Chomsky became frustrated with Harris for his naive black and white view of the world”

            Saying intent matters is not saying morality is black and white. It’s a component of situational ethics that even Chomsky buys into to a certain degree. Let’s see if you can get one more thing wrong before I get through you last post. One more sentence to go…

            “H.’s divorced from reality hypothetical”

            All hypotheticals are necessarily by definition abstractions of reality. I guess you think Harris is lying when he says his hypotheticals were intended to make principled points as opposed to be accurate parallels to real situations.

            And that about wraps it up. Another one of your stellar displays.

          • Charles

            I thought you might take those statements about Harris personally.

            Man, you’ve showed your colors since the beginning.

            You started our whole “discussion” throwing your shit against the wall, I guess there’s no reason for you not to end it that way.

          • iridescentsquids

            lol…every single point I made in that last post was about specific errors you made, not Harris or Chomsky.

            Good luck, man. You’ll need it with that chip on your shoulder.

          • Charles

            Nowhere have I mentioned that Chomsky ignores intent. To the contrary, I mentioned that Chomsky mentions to Harris that he has gone into intent in his writing over the decades. Chomsky also says, in the e-mails, that we can surmise intent with regards to Shifa by its outcome, for which no proof was even offered for weapons manufacture, let alone knowing plainly what the outcome of our actions would be. Despite your rant, you offer me: “At no point in this discussion does Chomsky say that intent isn’t something we can, or should, assess when making moral calculations.”
            Again, Chomsky keeps telling Harris that he’s gone into intent over the decades in his writing, and as far as Al Shifa is concerned, intent is obvious. Are you a Harris followers who can’t hear this?

  • fyyff

    if chomsky knew right from the start that these e-mails were going to be published publicly, like harris knew, I think he would’ve spoken softer and more carefully…just like harris.

    it’s weird how he uses chomsky’s attitude to pull himself out of the debate. chomsky had been in worse situations than this and he didn’t care. he just continued on making his points without trying to make anything personal.

  • Andrew B

    Does the author of this piece actually consider this to be objective in any way? A meme along with blanket statements? Genuinely curious if Eugene is aware of their own bias or simply delusional.

  • e-head

    @iridescentsquids,

    I just read the full email exchange and can definitely sympathize with you. Noam’s arrogance and bluster was unnecessary and immature. As for his actual thoughts, I’m kind of left feeling like Sam in that I’m not entirely certain of his stance, but at the risk of sounding pretentious I may take a stab at it. Noam must normally have a grad student a couple of editors go over his writing, because while I found Sam’s clear and easy to understand Noam’s was a mess. But, let me try and behave myself better than Noam did and not take pot shots here!

    One could interpret Chomsky as saying that intent is completely irrelevant, at least on the state actor level. Another interpretation is that determining intent just runs into so many epistemological issues that we should only concern ourselves with consequences. A more subtle reading though, might be that Chomsky has (to borrow some academic speak) a “thick” notion of intent and Sam has a “thin” notion of intent. There is a lot smuggled into our everyday notion of intent that we usually don’t think about, though I’m sure it comes up in courts of law. It’s not just enough to “intend” a particular outcome, but one must also have done the hard work of considering all possible side effects, and all possible ways in which things could go wrong when trying to bring about ones intentions. When doing all of this hard work it’s also important that we consider the well being of everyone who might possibly become involved (either purposefully or unintentionally) as being of equal value. Only when all of these measures have been met given the abilities of the actors involved (presumably the US government has enormous capabilities, though sometimes I doubt it) can we then arrive at a moral evaluation of the action and it’s consequences. I’m assuming the Chomsky doesn’t think the US government met this bar.

    Of course, I may be entirely wrong. Unlike many of you I can’t say I’ve read all of the Great Chomsky’s books, nor am I likely to after getting this insight into his arrogance and contemptuousness.

    • iridescentsquids

      Thanks for the thoughts.

      The concept of intent as it applies to morality is a complicated enough topic that it might be contributing to some of the confusion. Although so many people get the strong opinion Chomsky is entirely devaluing intent as a variable in assessing the morality of states, I don’t think that’s what he meant.

      Clearly he devalues state professions of benevolent intent, not just because they aren’t always genuine, but because they can (and often do according to him) produce immoral acts even when they are genuine. (I’m not confident this is the right way to look at it, but I think that’s what he’s saying)

      But we see in this conversation a shifting of the concept of intent from intended benevolence to intended consequences and even to “unintended” but known likely consequences (foreknowledge) to achieve an “intended” outcome. Personally I have some trouble with the notion of an “unintended” being truly unintended if it was foreseen. It’s just a different definition of “intent” than I’m used to.

      Anyway, Chomsky to my knowledge is not dismissing those latter forms of intent. And technically not even saying a profession of benevolent intent is necessarily irrelevant to morality (I would guess if it correlates with likely known consequences and doesn’t involve a disproportionate degree of “unintended” consequences that would make it immoral despite intent. Being extremely skeptical of professions of benevolent intent doesn’t mean it can’t sometimes be valued).

      On the most general, philosophical level, I do believe Chomsky takes the position that intent is necessary for a moral evaluation. I consider this an important generalization (or philosophical position or whatever you want to call it). I base this not on the fact that he has said so explicitly, but because description of intent takes up so much of his discussion of the immorality of state that it seems very important to his evaluation. He’s not just putting non consequentialist notions of intent in their proper place to devalue them. He seems to value intent very much (Clinton’s retaliatory intent mixed with foreknowledge for instance). I wish there was explicit evidence/statements but that’s my best evidence so far–and it’s pretty good evidence.

      • Redfox1984

        iridescentsquids

        Have you had a chance to review my latest response, it was posted about a week ago.

  • Harris has made the distinction between he and Chomsky more clear with his recent comment that he prefers Ben Carson’s “understanding” of the Mid-East problems over Chomsky’s analysis. Between Harris and Carson on the one hand and Chomsky on the other, I know which hand I would trust to shake. http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/sam-harris-thinks-ben-carson-understands-middle-east-better-noam-chomsky#.VlUONbl9i6s.facebook

  • Cletus Jefferson Davis

    Harris posters are plastered all over my trailer walls. His brand of bigotry speaks to my soul.

  • Fe Ka

    quite funny to deny that intention in any case doesn’t matter… at least in the system of law things like intention is recognized as a crucial factor in judging a crime, like premeditated murder or accidental one, or somebody dropped a stub and the house was burnt down versus arson, etc. The problem is rather disclosure and time
    1. disclosure – people can express good intentions but they had another one (e.g. a bad one)
    2. time – moral “standards” were different in different times (and varied by geo). E.g. what the Japanese were doing with the Chinese was maybe in their (Japanese) best intention, but the Chinese had not much to say in that.
    in principle, saying that if somebody wants to do harm to you, and it is in his moral teaching to do so is equivalent to somebody else’s who tries not to do harm and this is in his moral teachings but he does, is plain stupid. Harris is coming from this premises while Chomsky is pressing that it’s basically nothing, and we can judge ourselves based on how many ants we kill. According to Chomsky if someone’s moral teaching is violent and teaches to do harm to others is OK, as long as they either don’t do it, or their victims are less numerous then others’ who purposefully judging themselves by not harming others. I guess, Chomsky is against the sanctions on Iran, because the sanctions made far more damage to civilians than Iran has ever done, and he would basically be OK with an Iran having the bomb, even if Iran’s moral teaching contains wiping out entire countries.

  • orthotox

    What a joke to listen to Harris, who has written a book questioning the idea of free will, invoke the sanctity of moral intent. The man is shallow.

    • orthotox

      Not that I think Chomsky isn’t, too. His deep grammar may be impressive but the depth of his political premises, his moral ground, that is, has never been explored. Like most on the left, he trades off a pseudo-universal “understood” moral framework which, in act, does not exist. It’s simply a secularized sanitized take on Christianity. But Chomsky is Jewish!

  • quinnjin

    Okay, get it together Harrisites, this wasn’t even close to a fair fight, Chomsky took Harris back to school, thoroughly pummelled his ridiculous apologism, and irrelevant fantasies, with superior ethical logic, and good old fashioned real world data.
    Sam Harris was obviously trying to put himself in the same league as Chomsky, which he is not.
    After his drubbing, he then petulantly stormed off whining that Chomsky wouldn’t play his little thought experiment game.
    Harris likes his simplistic little thought experiments, where in he gets to set the rules to his own advantage, and which virtually nothing to do with the real world.
    Chomsky has been at the coal face for decades, since before Harris was in nappies. His little followers who follow their hero, whose philosophical credentials include bumming around in india and taking 5 years to get a BA , before penning an apologia for bigotry, torture and US foreign policy, in which was included another fantasy thought experiment in which he argued that an Islamic state with nuclear weapons could be reasonably pre-emptively nuked.
    As well as that people could be reasonable executed for their beliefs.
    He at best offers a set of training wheels to those un familiar with rational thought and arguments around ethics. A school for the the latest generation nascent intellectuals, ie nooobs, and those who have been exposed to religious indoctrination before they developed the ability to think for themselves. He should be left behind in intellectual maturity, much like Ayn Rand. Much like her he appeals his acolytes egos and innate selfishness and bias, providing intellectual cover for their distasteful, and puddle deep and utterly dysfunctional, on any pragmatic level, world views.
    But then, what do you expect form somebody who prefers thought experiments to reality, fantasies to real world data, and seems to have cut his teeth on entirely on 2000 year old Jello, that is, the literal interpretation of 200 year old religious texts.

  • Santiagoraga

    It’s odd seeing Chomsky act so petulant this late in life. This could possibly be onset of dementia manifesting itself in the form of him being unable to articulate his thoughts without losing control. Poor old coot.

  • NoiseMachine

    Islamophobia is not a thing. That’s like saying NaziPhobic. Yeah, we should be concerned about oppressive ideologies.

  • threadbarebridge

    Chomsky knows what he is talking. Harris is a total dangerous prick. Neither however is relevant at this time in America.

  • Joseph O’Neill

    Thank God for moderate Jews like Chomsky, in contrast to nasty islamophobes like Harris.

  • DANL

    SH does TED talks and writes NYT bestsellers.