Don't like it, don't do it

From TheAlmightyGuru
Jump to: navigation, search
Examples of the argument; some are more rational than others.

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 a pithy form of a longer argument which could be worded as, "if you don't like a particular behavior, just stop doing it, you shouldn't try to prevent others from doing it." Such an argument is employed for a wide variety of behaviors, and, although it can be a useful argument, it is frequently used so 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-wearer's footwear is impacting the critic's autonomy, but because of a personal preference. In this case, responding with the argument, "don't like clogs, don't wear them," is rational. Banning behavior based on personal preference 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. Murder is not conducive to a society where all people have bodily autonomy, instead, it must be a criminal act.

Measured Impact

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 be allowed to not do so. Of course, smoking doesn't just affect the smoker, it also creates a negative impact on everyone around the smoker, and we now know that cancer and other diseases occur in much higher rates in those people who live around smokers. Because of this many people now feel justified in banning smoking in public places, while still allowing it when individuals are by themselves.

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 negative impact on people'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 incandescent light bulbs generate decreased the average lifespan by one day, are we justified in banning them? What about one month, or one year? Where do we draw the line?

Perceived Impact

Regardless of how easily the impact on others is measured, some people 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. To these people, the decision to have an abortion is similar to the decision have a mole removed from your skin, 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 figure out a way to change their mind on it.

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, so you'll first have to 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 to can come to some form of agreement on these matter should you use this argument.