Sam Harris makes Chomsky look silly, continued

Continuing the discussion from How Sam Harris Became Sam Harris (plus, many a thought on terrorism and AI risk):

Or you can compare what they say their intentions are with their actual actions, if what happens is what they say is going to happen you have a pretty good indication you can trust their intentions, as I’ve already said.

Which brings us back to Chomsky’s point, and which again shows he understands Harris’ argument better than Harris does. It makes no sense to use a state’s justifications as some sort of rule to assert that state’s actions are any more or less immoral

Utter nonsense. As explained already, and again for the third time, it’s not the justifications that determine the moral facts, it’s the actions, “vetted” intentions are simply used to predict future behavior. This is the simple point you’re not getting, and Chomsky didn’t event attempt to understand or engage with.

First, you’re once again skipping how Harris misquoted Chomsky, had Chomsky bring this up specifically with proof he was misquoted, and how Harris then refused to even acknowledge this.

Moving on, you say:

However that might work out, that is simply not the argument that Harris is making.

Harris is literally saying that because the US had different intentions - which can once again only mean stated intentions, since we are not mind-readers - the deaths we caused are automatically less bad.

Go here and read Harris’ own words:


"Did the Clinton administration intend to bring about the deaths of thousands of Sudanese children? No. Was our goal to kill as many Sudanese as we could? No. Were we trying to kill anyone at all? Not unless we thought members of Al Qaeda would be at the Al-Shifa facility in the middle of the night. Asking these questions about Osama bin Laden and the nineteen hijackers puts us in a different moral universe entirely. "

It’s hard for what Harris is actually saying to be more clear.

Note that there are a number of things inaccurate about Harris’ statement that Chomsky also points out - that the effects of the Clinton administration’s actions were obvious, and much more likely to be a reflexive and punitive bombing as cheap retaliation against innocents for an embassy bombing that the US experienced.

But Chomsky even goes beyond this to treat Harris’ statement as if it were true, and dealing with the general principle that Harris is putting forth, Chomsky shows how this does not work as a principle when other nations and their actions are plugged into the same formula.

That’s pretty much that.


I can’t think of anyone capable of making Chomsky look silly… that’s pretty much the inverse of Chomsky’s relationship with the world.

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