Sunday, November 23, 2008

A reply from Clive Hamilton - public intellectual.

Clive Hamilton has generously agreed to let me publish his reply in full on my blog. I would like to thank him for that for several reasons. First, it gives me an opportunity to apologise for the cheap shot I made about him confusing a statement by Hackett, for one by Malone. More importantly, though, it allows the debate to continue in a public forum. I will be responding to most of the points raised here separately.

Clive's reply in full.


From: "Clive Hamilton" 
To: "'Jon Seymour'" 
Subject: RE: With public intellectuals like this, 
who needs barbarian?
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 11:58:23 +1100

Jon

Increasingly I find it difficult to distinguish between "left-libertarians" and right-wing libertarians. In practical terms I can see virtually no difference.

I'd make three specific points about your article and one general one.

1. I did mistakenly attribute the quote to Michael Malone when it should have been attributed to Simon Hackett. I misread the quote as being from the person who was being quoted just beforehand, thinking it was running on and missing the reference to Hackett. I should have been more careful. Yet this simple error is the basis for you to accuse me of "contempt for principled, honest and logical intellectual debate". What an extraordinary over-reaction. Why on earth could it strengthen my argument to attribute the quote to the head of one ISP rather than another?

As for the accusation that I quoted "selectively", the words selected are not out of context. The rest of the quote only reinforces the point about unthinking moral relativism.

2. On the logic and morals question, logic is not just a disembodied cognitove process, like a computer whirring away. Every logic text will ask you first to set out your premises. So an argument always depends on the assumptions underpinning it, including the moral assumptions. Tech geeks are like neoclassical economists -- they think what they say is somehow "value free". This is a delusion entertained by people who lack an explicit philosophical perspective, and therefore remain captive to an implicit one. My replies to my critics have been an attempt to get them to be clear about their ethical positions. Because most are unaccustomed to thinking about morality and the role of the social they have great difficulty doing this.

3. On the accusation that I have attempted to constrain the debate in way that suits my argument, I only point out that your "one other choice" is precisely that one I offered second in my list of three.

I wonder whether you ever reflect one why you become so enraged about proposals to regulate the internet? Look at the words you have used to attack me -- "desperate", "wild claim", "contempt for principled, honest and logical intellectual debate", "intellectually dishonest", "an intellectual disgrace of the highest order, "intellectually shoddy", "dishonest and disgraceful", "should be ashamed of himself", "barbarian".

Really, Jon, one has to ask what on earth is going on with net liberatarians such as yourself.

Clive

8 comments:

Geordie Guy said...

It's unfortunate that Clive mistakes Jon's passionate response to his factually bankrupt stance with "overreacting". It's also rather amusing that he complains of any potential overreaction by Jon so bitterly and then finishes his response with "one has to wonder what's going on with net libertarians" and "words used to attack"! Clive cannot expect every person in every instance on each side of the debate to keep a flawlessly cool head. I assume it's under this reasoning that he attacks people who don't want the proposed filter of "moral relativism" - the 99% fat free version of Conroy's own accusations of supporting child abuse by opposing the filter while ignoring the fact it's technologically bankrupt and there is still a void where a public mandate should be.

lauredhel said...

"My replies to my critics have been an attempt to get them to be clear about their ethical positions. Because most are unaccustomed to thinking about morality and the role of the social they have great difficulty doing this."

Ah, yes. Tigtog and I, for example, who have blogged at length and repeatedly about censorship issues on our feminist blog, never ever look at morality, values, or the role of the social in everyday life. We're just semi-cognitively-impaired basement geeks with not the first clue about cultural studies or ethics.

Touché, Hamilton, touché.

Anonymous said...

Where do moral assumptions come into play in an odd universe where 1 + 1 != 2?

Anonymous said...

If he's so smart how come he can't spell "cognitove"?

But seriously, if there is a legitimate case for taking away everybody's personal freedom, it must be made comprehensible to the stupidest person. This is because a law that is to be abided by by everybody should have a natural origin, and therefore be perceptible to any human being.

As everyone knows, censorship is entirely abitry. It has no natural origin. In fact, it goes against nature. Censorship is a crime against natural law.

Anonymous said...

Seems that the content of the quote referred to in Hamilton's first point has got lost somewhere. Hamilton does not address it, chooosing a legalistic or polemical reading over a pragmatic, communication-oriented one. That point doesn't look to me like it really is about ALL positions, despite the unfortunate wording, but about conflicting moral positions that for one reason or another we cannot weigh as a matter of public policy. I am inclined to look at the example to try to understand what is being said: the quote refers to conflicting Moslem/Christian/Scientologist positions. It sounds like Hamilton thinks that he can choose between the Anglo-Saxon, Moslem and Scientologist moral positions, or is he attempting to run the same kind of "value-free" argument that he seems to be simultaneously claiming for himself and criticising in Jon?

Anonymous said...

Another morally superior econmomist... Logic IS a value-free process, its argument that is not, and its polemic that uses terms like deluded and questions the mental state of critics. Always important to get the wording exactly right...

The core problem with the effect that economics training has on people is that it trains them to ignore the messy, unexpected behaviour of the real world. A helping of the Law of unintended consequences anyone? He tries to deal with the points about scope creep and technical failure by addressing himself to the author's mental state, always a bad sign in an argument.

CloCkWeRX said...

"So an argument always depends on the assumptions underpinning it, including the moral assumptions.

"Tech geeks are like neoclassical economists -- they think what they say is somehow "value free". This is a delusion entertained by people who lack an explicit philosophical perspective, and therefore remain captive to an implicit one.

"My replies to my critics have been an attempt to get them to be clear about their ethical positions.


What drivel. I and many others are against the technological solution proposed because it will not work; not because we are unclear on our ethical position.

We see it as deliberate physical damage to an important communication tool, which is tightly geared to almost every facet of modern life - be it business, be it education or be it community online. All of these would be damaged; and for what?
An ineffective filter which fails to catch those who are committing acts of abuse against children.

We full well know our arguments are not value-free; we also have a good sense as to what is more important.
Crippling the masses for the sake of a few is rarely a good idea, let alone when crippling the masses doesn't actually protect the few.

It would be less than ethical for many individuals who work in the field to allow this gross waste of money and effort to proceed.

Robo said...

As for the accusation that I quoted "selectively", the words selected are not out of context. The rest of the quote only reinforces the point about unthinking moral relativism.

Is Prof Hamilton so out of touch with reality and the common man to think he somehow can reinterpret the whole quote to mean something that it obviously does not say.

It was rather obvious what the quote is saying and it would seem that Prof Hamilton knew what it mean, but had to redefine it so that his argument would fit.

Yes Prof Hamilton I have read your discussion papers and wonder why anyone would treat them as respected research papers. I guess that they use them to further their own agendas.

You imprint your desired outcomes into the both the questions asked and the responses. So of course you get the results you do, your surveys are designed to elicit the results you want. Even when the answers do not fit, you create a framework and then fit the answers in so that they say whatever you wish.

Those of us who do real research, can only shake our heads at the conclusions you come up with. No wonder you only write discussion papers and not actual research.

Shame Prof Hamilton does not listen to people and is only concerned in defending his creditability.