Logical Unintelligence

I receive a philosophical quote daily courtesy of The Philosophers’ Magazine Online (and so should you!), most of them being intelligent one-liners from famous philosophers about the nature of the universe, humans, science, God or some other lofty ideal. Today’s was a little bit different:

I would not live forever because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.

Miss Alabama
–Responding to a question in the 1994 Miss USA contest

This seemed like a laughable little piece that made no sense at all, compounded by the fact that it issued from a Miss Something from a Beauty Pageant from the United States of America, which is popular culture translates to Bimbo (a misconception, I’m sure, but I’ve watched enough teen-chick flicks to know you can’t argue with MTV stereotyping).

I think the guilt form not having started on my Philosophy of Language paper got me thinking about this. So I dug a little bit deeper, and found the original question:

“If you could live forever, would you and why?”

Google the answer and you’ll find mostly joke sites, mostly celebrating the stupidity of celebrities (such as this, this or this). The ridicule of this poor former Miss Alabama moved me to pity her somewhat, and my curiousity in her was much piqued. So I dug a bit deeper than before, and turned out a picture (courtesy of McNeeleyOnline.com):

Ms Amie Beth Dickinson, it turns out, suffered from protruding upper and lower teeth until she managed to get rid of them wearing braces. And then she went on to win Miss Shelby County in 1992 before being crowned Miss Alabama in 1994. Her parents must have been very happy with their investment in those braces – they funded a scholarship (ostensibly for other pageanteers) and named it after her. Ms Dickinson is now (as far as I can discern) a sex counsellor and inspirational speaker (it sounded ok in my head) who operates in the region of Taylor University. She has authored at least one book, entitled Who Moved the Line?: America’s Character Crisis, which I am unable to comment on, not being able to find any sample pages. An amusing article in the South Alabame Post describes her talking to children about sex.

My curiosity satisfied about the woman who had muttered the curious phrase 11 years ago at a beauty pageant, I then suffered the need to examine the statement more closely. After all, it was featured largely in philosophical sites as well as joke sites, a strange affair. So I drew a logic chain diagram.

If we were supposed to live forever we would live forever. We cannot live forever
We are not supposed to live forever.
Living forever is something we should not do. I would not do things I should not do.
I would not live forever.

Admittedly, the argument is a little unsightly, what with the misuse of the word “would”. But I think it’s easy to get the grasp of it, don’t you? Okay, let’s examine the sub-arguements… they all seem valid… and the premises… they all seem true, except for the rather ambiguous “I would not do things I should not do”, which is rather subjective, of course, because there are the obvious deviants out there. So that would appear to be the weakest point in this argument to attack.

Oh, but then here’s a tricky issue. We can’t really use that as our weakest point of attack in issues regarding morality, can we? Because laws are there to prevent you from doing the things you aren’t supposed to do, so if viewed from a strictly moralistic (or legal, given weak moral grounding) viewpoint, the argument seems sound.

Replace “live forever” with “live longer than I should” and you get a pretty conundrum for life-extension. Of course, astute readers will have spotted it’s a circular argument, but then you have to keep in mind it’s almost logically sound (I have doubts, but I’m too lazy to explore them).

It’s the same argument that’s being used for religous argumentation these days, which frustrates aetheists no end, I’m sure. It’s obvious something’s wrong with the argument here, but its flaws can be well concealed in the hands of a good speaker. Logic, that handmaiden of Science can turn out to be a two-faced bitch after all.

Oh, and in case you want to know some better arguments against living forever look at the Immortality Institute.

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