Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'Vertigo sucks!'

So said Megan McArdle upon reaching the front door of her apartment building Tuesday night, and she wasn't dissing the Hitchcock classic.

Miss McArdle suffers from a mysterious malady that causes her to suffer occasional spells of vertigo -- dizzy, head-spinning, impaired balance -- and Tuesday she had it pretty bad. She was able to make it through an America's Future Foundation panel discussion on the state of the economy (I reported on the discussion here) but she was clearly not feeling well.

Afterwards, Miss McArdle joined a group of AFF attendees for post-event refreshments at the nearby Townhouse Tavern. The group included Julian Sanchez of Reason, John Vaught LaBeaume of Election Dissection, Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center, and James Poulos of Postmodern Conservative, as well as the lovely Mrs. Poulos.

Despite the cold March night, this crowd esconced itself at the sidewalk table area outside Townhouse, mainly so the smokers could smoke. (At one point during the evening, when Miss McArdle needed a light for her Camel Menthol, I narrowly bested Sanchez for the honor, prompting him to coin the term "Bic-blocking.") A good bit of chatter was devoted to Miss McArdle's much-discussed blog arguments about prostitution.

Having ordered a plate of nachos, I retired inside to eat. When I returned outside after my meal, Mrs. Poulos solicited my assistance. Miss McArdle was about to walk home and was so dizzy from her vertigo spell that there was some concern for her safety. Would I be so kind, Mrs. Poulos asked, as to escort Miss McArdle four blocks to her home?

Indeed I was most happy to do so -- especially since this would allow me to continue the argument with Miss McArdle that I'd inaugurated on my blog. Miss McArdle did not seem to mind in the least, and readily defended her arguments, to wit:
I'd take some pretty strong convincing that prostitution is so inherently damaging to society that we should declare war on it.
Well, I don't know about declaring a "war on whores," as it were, but I am certainly willing to argue that prostitution is a bad thing that should be against the law. And so we debated the topic while walking those four blocks.

Finally, unable to make any point to which she did not offer a counter-argument, I tried this: Just because a belief can't be easily stated as a simple syllogism does not mean that belief is false. Our strong feeling against prostitution -- what decent person would want their daughter or sister to be a prostitute? -- is an argument in its own right. And there are many other things in human experience that cannot be reduced to pure logic. Being in love feels good, but that feeling is hard to explain logically.

Miss McArdle was still unpersuaded as we reached her apartment, thus ending the debate. I suggested that maybe her vertigo episode was caused by fatigue from blogging too much, advised her to get more rest, bid her adieu, and headed back to the Townhouse.

It was only an hour later, when I was driving home, that I thought of the perfect rebuttal to Miss McArdle's hyper-rationalism: Chivalry!

From the standpoint of pure reason, there is no logical incentive to gallant courtesy and deference, when we see how often success attends craven rudeness and self-seeking. Yet "the unbought grace of life," as Edmund Burke called it, adds immeasurable good to society.

If chivalry is an irrational good -- or at least a good that is not easily argued on a logical basis -- then can we not accept that the evil of prostitution is similarly irrational?

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