Friday, October 08, 2004

No Dittos from me

I heard a bit of Rush Limbaugh today, in which he made some, well, ridiculous claims.

Talking about making mistakes and admitting that we've done so, Rush opined that we never recognize that a particular course of action was erroneous until some amount of time has passed. Now, I'd tend to agree with that.

But Rush went on to argue that because we don't know that a particular course of action is erroneous at the time is was done, you really can't say that it was a mistake. Rush holds that because you (presumably) thought it was the right thing to do at the time, you shouldn't say that you made a mistake.

I think Rush is making two mistakes: failing to distinguish a wrong action from culpability, and then applying "mistake" to the latter exclusively. A mistake is simply a wrong course of action; to say that you made a mistake does not mean that you are (necessarily) at fault for it... that's the separate issue of culpability. Rather, it's simpy acknowledging that what you did was wrong. Because Rush erred in this way, he's forced to take the ridiculous position that nobody ever makes mistakes, because when people act, they (presumably) think what they are doing is the right thing. (NB: I'm not using "right" and "wrong" in moral terms alone; "appropriate" and "inappropriate" are the proper synonyms for my point.)

Rush compounded his failure when he proceeded to discuss the question of hindsight. Specifically, he said that you never know "now" what you know later. That's ridiculous. I know what Rush probably meant to say: that oftentimes, we don't know all of the relevant factors leading up to a decision on how to act. But that doesn't mean that such is always the case.

Rush needs to be a little more precise when making these arguments.

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