RE: Extremism

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Mon Jan 08 2001 - 11:31:33 MST

"Jerry Mitchell" <> wrote,
>Harvey wrote:
> >My take on "extremism" is that extremists try to go as far as possible in
>one direction or the other. I think the real answer is always somewhere in
>the middle.
>Maybe I have this wrong, but are we suggesting that the guiding principle
>for making decisions is to be its placement on the scale of popular beliefs?

No. My post may not have been clear enough, because you have totally
misunderstood my posting. You misread me as advocating a compromise
position in the middle to avoid being combative. You repeated this
many times in your post. This is wrong. I never took this position.
I actually agree with all your points and examples that you gave in
response to my post!

My claim is that a non-extremist is someone who takes ANY position.
Even a strong liberal position or a strong conservative position (for
example) is not extreme as long as one has limits on both sides.
"One position is too weak for me, whereas this other position is too
radical, so I choose this point right here." An extremist never
knows when they have gone too far, because their goal is a direction,
not a point. No matter how far they get, they keep going further.

>Why not base your decisions on your rational analysis of the facts? Yes you
>might come to a position that many people may not hold, but you will have
>been honest with yourself and not compromised your opinions for the sake of
>being "non-combative" i.e. You want to figure out whether the 2nd amendment
>is morally sound? Well read it, then read the federalist papers, then read
>anything about it written by the authors (and anyone else) about why it is
>there. Then come to a conclusion and stand by it.

This is exactly what I was advocating.

The point that you seem to have missed is that any rational position
must be delineated on all sides. I believe that anyone who has taken
a stand knows exactly where there position is. They can explain the
limits of "not enough" and "too much" according to their position.
The extremist believes that there can never be enough. No matter
what they get, they keep fighting for more. As long as a more
extreme position is available, they will take it. Such a person has
no position, but will keep moving their goals as public opinion

> >The fact of the matter is that any position can be taken to unreasonable
>I don't think the correct and "right" solution is to go to far. I cant
>imagine an engineer thinking like this when building a product. Like him
>saying "Steel is the hardest material we can build this bridge out of and
>Jell-O is the softest, lets find something in the middle to use". Just as
>the engineer building a product used the right material, a judge or lawyer
>should use the right law to build a correct objective moral system (the
>alternative is a system based on the whims of the masses).

I did not advocate the position you suggest. Your example matches
exactly what I am advocating.

I never advocated an engineer choosing something random in the
middle. I advocate an engineer calculate the stress, weights and
safety margins until an exact requirement is found. Then the bridge
is built to those requirements. This is the non-extremist position.
The extremist position would be that the bridge must be the
strongest, biggest, safest bridge in the world. The extremist would
demand that no bridge be built until it is indestructible, and that
no potholes can ever occur in any roadway or bridge. If any
accidents occur on any bridge, all bridges must be shutdown until
they can be made safe.

> >It confuses them when they push for their solution and suddenly
>they go too far.
>Who decides what is too far?

The non-extremist decides for themselves by reasonable analysis what
they consider too far. The extremist never considers how far is far
enough. They keep fighting for the cause to ridiculous extremes
because they really have not chosen a position. They have chosen a
cause, and will keep fighting for their cause forever.

> >As a self-test, I would argue that anybody who agrees with one side of an
>issue all the time is an extremist.
>I think the killing of innocent people is morally wrong 100% of the time
>(which is different then saying I wouldn't do it. i.e. WWII was brought to a
>quick ending in the Pacific with the use of the nuclear bomb. It was morally
>wrong to kill those people, but in the context of the war, more innocent
>people would have died if it wasn't done). So context is key here.

I think your words support my position. Although you started to give
an extreme example that is right 100% of the time, you already
pointed out the exceptions, considerations, reasons why you would
take a lessor position in some cases. Thus, you are not an
extremist. If you were, you would have argued that the bomb should
not have been used until we could guarantee that not a single
innocent person was harmed.

I think we seem to agree much more than your original reading of my
posting suggested. Where you disagreed, it was to a position that I
had not actually taken. Where you gave examples, I agreed with your
points. My original post may not have been clear enough, hence the
confusion. Your points seem agreeable to me.

Harvey Newstrom <>

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