Difference between revisions of "Don't like it, don't do it"
Latest revision as of 13:28, 23 October 2020
Don't like it, don't do it is a form of argument used with the goal of dissuading people from trying to control an individual's autonomy. This argument is pithy, but it implies a longer argument which could be worded as, "you shouldn't try to prevent other people from doing a particular behavior just because you don't like it, but you're free to stop doing it yourself." Such an argument is employed for a wide variety of behaviors, and, while it can be a useful, it is frequently used inconsistently and fails to be persuasive.
Impact On Others
Because this argument is framed around individual rights, its merit is based on how much impact the behavior in question has on the rights of others. For those behaviors that have a minimal impact on others, this argument is rational, but, if the impact on others is severe, this argument fails.
If a fashion critic argues that people shouldn't be allowed to wear clogs, the critic is trying to control someone else's behavior, not because the clog-wearers are impacting the critic's autonomy, but merely because they are personally offended by them. In this case, responding with the argument, "don't like clogs, don't wear them," is rational. Banning behavior based on personal offense is not conducive to a society where all people have bodily autonomy.
Compare this to a behavior that has a severe impact on other people's autonomy: murder. If people want to ban murder, the argument, "don't like murder, don't murder people," is not rational because you cannot have a society where all people have bodily autonomy, and, at the same time, not ban murder. In such a society, murder must be a criminal act.
The impact a particular behavior has on others is often difficult to measure; consider the argument, "don't like cigarettes, don't smoke them." If people are to have bodily autonomy, those who want to ingest harmful chemicals must be allowed to do so, but, the flip side is, those who do not want to ingest harmful chemical must also be allowed to not do so. Smoking doesn't just affect the smoker, it also has a harmful impact on everyone around the smoker, and we now know that cancer and other diseases occur in much higher rates in those people who are frequently around smokers. Because of this, many people, even if they're okay with the idea of people smoking, still feel justified in banning smoking in public places or around children.
Most behaviors have at least some impact on other people, so, the question becomes, how much of an impact on others will a society allow before the behavior should be restricted or banned? Incandescent light bulbs use more energy than LED bulbs, so power plants have to burn more fuel, which generates more pollution, and pollution has a harmful impact on everyone's lives. But how much pollution is too much? Is the argument "don't like incandescent light bulbs, don't use them," rational? If researchers discovered the amount of pollution generated by incandescent light bulbs decreased the average lifespan by one day, are we justified in banning them? What about one month, or one year? Any place where a line is drawn will be arbitrary, but it's up to a society to make that determination.
Because it is often so difficult to measure the actual impact a behavior has on other people, people often perceive the impact differently. Those people who defend abortion with the argument, "if you don't like abortion, don't have one," have a much different perceived impact on others than the people who want abortion to be a crime. Someone who wants abortion to be legal perceives a developing fetus as part of a woman's own body; there is no impact on anyone else, or, if there is, it's negligible compared to the impact on the woman. To these people, the decision to have an abortion is closer to the decision have a mole on your skin removed, and the argument, "don't like the removal of moles, don't get yours removed," is perfectly rational.
However, someone who wants abortion to be illegal perceives a fetus as an independent human being with the same right to life as any other person. To them, abortion murders an innocent human being; the ultimate impact one person can have on another. When someone who thinks abortion is a crime hears this argument, they perceive it as, "don't like murder, don't murder anyone," which, as I described above, isn't rational at all.
Making This Argument Persuasive
The point of any argument is to try and persuade someone to agree with your position. In general, if you know they won't find an argument persuasive, it's best to either not use it, or first figure out which prerequisite arguments are needed to make it persuasive.
When it comes to the "don't like it, don't do it" argument, the other person will not find it persuasive if they disagree on where we should draw the line on a measurable impact, or if they don't share your perceived impact. Of course, it is unlikely you will know what their position is on these matters until you ask them.
If you discover that they don't agree with where you would draw the line on a measurable impact, or perceive the impact differently, you should first try to argue why the line should be drawn where you think it should be, or, why your perception of the impact is more accurate. Only after you can come to some form of agreement on these matter should you use this argument.