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Am I an Envious Marxist? I: Accusation of Envy

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Image Credit I am, on occasion, critical of certain aspects of capitalism. I am, on occasion, accused of being motivated in these criticisms by two defects of character. The first is being envious. The second is being a Marxist. Or if not red, at least pink. And if not pink, at least a fellow traveler. If these were attacks aimed only at me, they would be of little general interest. However, accusing critics of capitalism of being motivated by envy and/or Marxism is a common tactic and hence worthy of assessment. I will begin with the accusation of envy. One stock attack of those critical of capitalism is to accuse them of being motivated by envy. While this attack is generally not presented as a developed argument, the idea is to refute the criticism by attacking the critic’s motive. That is, their critical claims are false because they are envious of, one assumes, those who are winners under the existing version of capitalism. As should be obvious, this reasoning is fallacious and can be regarded as an ad homimen.  I have addressed this fallacy in the past and decided it was worth naming it. I ended up with Accusation of Envy or Refutation by Envy. This fallacious argument has the following form: Premise 1: Person P makes critical claim C about X. Premise 2: P is accused of envy (typically relating to X). Conclusion: Therefore, claim C is false. This is a fallacy because whether a person is envious or not has no bearing on the truth of the claims they make. Even if a person were entirely motivated by envy, it does not follow that the criticisms they make are thus in error. The following example should nicely illustrate that this “reasoning” is flawed: Sam: “When tyrants oppress their people and commit genocide, they are acting wrongly.” Sally: “Why you are just envious of tyrants. So, you are wrong. They are acting justly and morally.” Another, absurd example, involves math: Cool Joe: “2+2 = 7.” Mathematician Mary: “That is. . .

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