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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

I Hung My Head

The discussion at Salon about Chomsky v. Harris turns, in part (as does Harris' argument with Chomsky) on the question of intent.

The Sting song, performed by Johnny Cash, describes the problem of intent quite nicely.  The narrator aims his rifle at a figure in the distance.  The gun "goes off," the rider is dead, the narrator ends his tale at the gallows.  He had no intent; but he's still culpable for what he did.

Surely, according to Sam Harris' argument, the young boy should be excused for his actions.  He had no intention of killing anyone.  He just aimed a gun.  Our news today is replete with stories of guns "going off," and no one is to blame; well, when the offender is of the "right" color.

Or maybe Harris would argue this is different, since there's a difference between pointing a gun at a lone figure, and aiming a missile at a point across the globe.

Legally, frankly, the narrator of this tune might not be guilty of a crime leading to his execution.  Morally?  He's as guilty as the song says he is.


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