"Do you prefer X or Y?
The question is irrelevant to me, because it's not a choice I have or am ever likely to have.
OK, but what if you could make this choice?
For instance, imagine you had a magic wand that you could wave either way, to achieve either X or Y?
You mean a device possessing a great power capable of achieving either X or Y?
Wow. Then, I'd try to find out the maker of the device, and consult with him so as to harness this power into making a lot of useful devices to solve all kinds of much more interesting issues.
Let's say the maker is long dead, somehow unavailable, or refuses to cooperate with you.
If that were so, I'd gather the best possible team to reverse-engineer the device, and find out by what mechanisms it can achieve without visible costs such powerful and precise effects as necessary to achieve either X and Y.
Suppose the device is beyond understanding. The best team can't reverse-engineer it.
If it's beyond understanding, how the hell do I know what it does and how it works?
You've been told by someone you trust.
You mean someone I trust gives me this magic wand and explains to me how it works?
Well, in this case, I nudge my friend, we have a hearty laugh, and I buy him a drink.
No, no. Suppose he's serious, and you believe him.
Oh. Then, I suppose we both ought to see a psycho-therapist, the sooner the better.
For Heaven's sake! Let's just suppose by any means you just know how it works.
How that? Was the device scientifically tested before?
Yes, anything you like!
This means it has got reproducible results, and can predictably achieve both effects for either X and Y, in a reversible way.
Great! So we can have it both ways of X and Y, and see scientifically which is better based on tested fact. (Conclusively.)
Yes... (Expecting more.)
(Silent, as if the discussion was ended.)
Well, which of X and Y is better?
How can I tell? I didn't do the scientific test.
But you must have an opinion! What is it?
The very idea of a scientific test is that what matters is the informed opinion after the test, not the prejudiced opinion before the test.
But considering the test won't really be done, what is your guess, your prediction?
Well, if the wand has reversible effects, then the test is possible, and I'll reserve my judgment for its aftermath; and whatever guess I may make beforehand is utterly irrelevant. Otherwise, we're back to my previous statements.
I'm trying to have you tell me which you think is better of X and Y, and you keep evading my question!
That's because your question is meaningless, and I'm trying to show you why.
Your question is meaningless because it doesn't correspond to any actual choice or adaptation of behavior in anyone's past, present or future. You're thinking in terms of magic, and I'm trying to show you how to think rationally instead.
How is it this question meaningless? A lot of people feel strongly about this question.
Then all these people have a mental problem, and the problem is not choosing between X and Y, but in people giving extraordinary importance to such an irrelevant question rather than to actually relevant questions.
But this question is not irrelevant! Surely, you are aware that wars have been waged and may still be waged because of this question!
This doesn't prove the question itself as being relevant. Instead, what it does prove is relevant is the mental problem we're discussing, since it is reaching the level of criminal psychopathy.
Are you saying that all these people are completely nuts?
All these people are crazy indeed -- though I reject completely as meaningless in this context. Now, if deaths are the consequences of their madness, then something better be done about it ASAP.
Are you proposing that all these people should be interned in a mental hospital, in a huge concentration camp?
Certainly not! What a sick idea you have. Forced internment has never cured any mental illness; as for concentration camps, they are the fruits and seeds of more and worse madness even! Actually, not only cannot coercion be a solution to this problem, but it is itself a major part of the problem.
So what do you propose?
I propose a cognitive therapy, based on rationally inducing healing emotions, instead of cultivating corrupted emotions.
And what if these people won't accept to be cured? What if they love their madness?
Then the disease will linger on. But since it's really a disease that leads to more suffering as it lingers, then the stronger the suffering, the greater the ultimate motive to be cured.
What if they just refuse to see the relationship between the suffering and the alleged disease? So there's nothing that can be done?
You're the one who's introducing such an hypothesis, and you're introducing it because the only action you deem worthy of your consideration is force. But there are many many things that can be considered to cure madness, and force is present in none of those things -- force has never convinced anyone of abandoning false beliefs.
What if none of those forceless methods can change anything?
Well, since forceful methods won't help either, then there's nothing to care about. Move on to another problem.
But isn't that a worrisome problem still?
If nothing can be done, it's not a problem.
But still the results are awful!
If nothing can be done, then it can be neither evil, nor can it be good -- it is a reality that you better accept, for it is going to be there whether you accept it or not. Accept it. Breathe deeply. Now it's over. -- So move your focus and intelligence to some topic where it can actually serve instead of wasting this most precious resource of yours where it's useless.
So you're going to do nothing about it?
Listen, is doing anything going to change the outcome? Well, if it does, or even if it might, then the outcome is not a fact, and it's an altogether different problem, where we are to reject the hypothesis that nothing can be done, that you were making a few seconds ago.
OK. So do you think there is anything at all that can be done, and if so what?
As you might have noticed, since the beginning of this discussion, I've been explaining why your initial question was a false dichotomy, and why it was a mental illness to base decisions upon false dichotomies. That choice you considered was not a relevant choice ever to be made by anyone, and is being used as a cover up to pick evil alternatives in actual decisions that are actually being made; it is a lure used by frauds and their accomplice victims to disguise real issues under a veil of deception. What I have been doing is verily the rational therapy that I've been talking about: making people realize about this mental illness, so they can begin to do something about it and reform their emotions.
So you think that your rational arguments are actually going to cure people?
I'm not saying they will be sufficient. But I'm saying they are necessary. I'm saying the first thing in a therapy is to diagnose the disease.
And then what?
And then those who want to be cured will have to exercise a lot, until they can grow out of their false beliefs and crooked emotions.
What if some won't?
Then they will remain uncured.
What if they do evil things based on that illness?
Well, then, there will be more suffering on earth.
What if they rob, kill or otherwise harm other people?
Then the potential victims better learn to avoid these criminals. And if enough force can be gathered, the criminals might even be stopped, which might involve killing them if needed.
So after all, you're just one of those totalitarians who propose force should be used against those you dub crazy because they think differently?
Once again, you've got a very sick mind to interpret things this way. It tells more about your own thought patterns than mine. No, I do not propose force against those people I think are crazy, and conspicuously not because I or anyone think they are crazy. Force should be used against criminals, and because they are criminals. Force cannot cure the mentally ill, it can only prevent the criminals, whatever their motives, from doing harm. This is totally unrelated to their crazy beliefs, and completely and directly related to the criminal behaviour that you yourself took as a hypothesis (so don't you "crime is subjective" me).
OK. But then, shouldn't those who kill because of mental illness be treated specially?
Certainly not. Craziness is a subjective criterion that cannot be used to justify force; its inclusion in matters of penal justice is a terrible mistake, that actually introduces the notion of crimethought against either those considered sane or insane by judges: according to what you think, you're considered criminal or not. That's exactly what I'm standing against. It shouldn't matter to justice what the intents of an action were, only what that action was. Intents are not crimes, lack thereof is not an excuse. Read Thomas Szazs about The Myth of Mental Illness.
You don't believe in mental illness? You think it's wrong that doctors should declare someone crazy?
Not only do I believe that mental illness exists (though it mightn't be what you believe), but my whole point since the very beginning has been my denouncing the quite real crazinesses of my fellow humans. Now, what is wrong is not in declaring someone crazy, but in using force or refraining from using force, based on this criterion. Force is to back justice in stopping criminals, crazy or not, and never to be used against innocents, crazy or not. Nothing more, nothing less.
I give up.
It's a pity -- for you. But I hope my words will percolate through your brain. A therapy doesn't have to cause immediate remission after only one session. You've already made significant progress: at first you only considered a false choice between X and Y, and now, you're considering that maybe that choice is irrelevant, and maybe it's a mental illness to posit this choice, and maybe something can be done about it, and maybe that something doesn't fit your prejudices about how to deal with mental illness.
Don't you patronize me! I'm not listening anymore.
(Silence, for there's nothing more to say to someone who isn't listening.)
(Expecting some kind of salutation, and sneering at what is considered as lack of respect.)
(Has already focused mind on to the next problem, since nothing more could be done about the previous one.)
(Goes away, upset and self-righteous.)
(Dwelves deeper into that interesting new intellectual challenge...)"