Saturday, May 29, 2010


Julian Baggini has enumerated "ten of the greatest philosophical principles of all time," one of which invites special application to current events -- that "ought implies can":

How often do people insist that 'Something should be done' even though they've no idea what that something is? But unless you have an idea what should be done, how do you even know that it's possible to do anything at all? It makes no sense to say something should be unless it actually can be. Kant is usually credited with formulating this principle: 'Since reason commands that such actions should take place,' he wrote, 'it must be possible for them to take place.' In other words, if a prescription is truly rational, then it must be possible. Which means if it looks rational, but isn't possible, it isn't rational at all, like expecting a system to run on debt indefinitely.
As the BP-Halliburton-TransOcean alliance continues its carnival of fecklessness, it's odd to see people beseeching the Obama administration to step in, seize control, and resolve without providing any idea of what "fixing it" would resemble.

The truth is manifest: no one has a clear plan of action when an oil well a mile under the sea breaks open. No one knows what to do. That is not countenanced in any serious planning, nor, evidently, in any substantial research and development, unless "wait until the well is completely tapped and hope for the best" counts as serious.

In a saner world, this would imply an automatic "no" to all requests for new drilling in deep-sea conditions. Sadly, we are swimming through the world as it is.

1 comment:

Sheldon said...

You would have thought at the very least they would or should have had a contingency plan for addressing this disaster before they allowed drilling. But no, wait until it happens and then try to figure it out.