Thursday, September 19, 2013

Argumentum ad Baculum

I imagine that practically every philosophy department in the English-speaking world has been joking about this recent news item.

(Reuters) - An argument over the theories of 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant ended in a man being shot in a grocery store in southern Russia.

RIA news agency quoted police in the city of Rostov-on-Don as saying a fight broke out between two men as they argued over Kant, the German author of "Critique of Pure Reason", without giving details of their debate.

"In the course of the fight, the suspect took out a pistol firing rubber bullets and fired several shots at his opponent," it said, adding that one man was detained and the victim was taken to hospital. His life was not in danger.

Kant lived in Koenigsberg, which is now the Russian city of Kaliningrad, and is a central figure of modern philosophy. Many Russians love to discuss philosophy and history, often over a drink, but such discussions rarely end in shootings.

The dispute was apparently over which one was a better fan of Kant, so I take it that shooting the other person with an air gun and rubber bullets, not being universalizable and thus not consistent with the categorical imperative, was a concession of the argument to the person who was shot.

On the other side, I find it somewhat amusing that everyone is reporting this as an oddity, as if it were particularly surprising that people might shoot someone (and non-fatally with an air gun, to boot) over Kant, given that over here in America people shoot each other with even more dangerous guns over ten dollars, beer spilled in a car, a cellphone, or a sports event; honestly, it's not difficult to find people shooting other people over much worse things.

That said, I do like the quietly understated touch of that last clause in the Reuters report.

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