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March 01, 2005



Hmm I got the 13% (two sets of inconsistencies), one of which was also the environment/car. Like they say, the problem there is the word "unnecessary".

And then there was the Kierkegaard in me, for which I knew I'd be punished.


I got 7% as well, for agreeing with:

"So long as they do not harm others, individuals should be free to pursue their own ends"

but disagreeing with:

"The possession of drugs for personal use should be decriminalised"

Although I think it is only a contradiction if you believe that drugs 'do not harm others' which I don't.

Abiola Lapite

But how does smoking marijuana harm anyone else other than the person who smokes it (and perhaps not even him/her)? How does sniffing cocaine or shooting heroin harm anyone else, for that matter?

The big problem with even the "hard" drugs isn't so much their effect on those who use them, but that their illegality and consequent high cost drives addicts to crime to sustain their habit. Morphine and heroin usage were once rampant in America, without any devastating consequences in terms of crime - morphine was the mother's little helper of the 19th century - and cocaine usage was once so widespread that it could be found in Coke (yes, that "Coca" in Coca-Cola once referred to actual cocaine).

Even the public health dangers of meth abusers to others are exaggerated: people who go on binges of unprotected sex while on meth had every intention of doing so from the start, which is why they choose to use the drug to begin with; it's all too convenient for them to blame meth for behavior they had every intention of engaging in, as if it just came along and forced itself into their bloodstreams. This is why I have such a problem with Andrew Sullivan blaming meth for the emergence of drug-resistant, aggressive HIV, as it's like blaming a knife for the fact that a psychopath picked it up and used it to butcher a stranger.

Just about the only class of drugs I can see a rational excuse for restricting the average person's purchase of are those which are antibacterial or antiviral, as with these there is a genuine externality involved because of the dangers of drug resistance due to indiscriminate usage.


"The big problem with even the "hard" drugs isn't so much their effect on those who use them, but that their illegality and consequent high cost drives addicts to crime to sustain their habit."

Alchohol is legal and has none of the associated problems with theft by users and organised crime by suppliers*. However in the UK, alchohol is a major factor in public and domestic violence and driving accidents. It seems to me that certain currently banned drugs would have a similar effect if they became more widely available. I'm not saying I oppose any legalisation of any drugs, but I would sceptical about just legalising the lot.

Abiola Lapite

Your point about alcohol is well taken, but the thing is, the choice isn't between a world in which alcohol is imbibed and one in which it isn't, but one in which it is imbibed legally and another in which it is obtained via bathtub distilleries and trigger-happy smugglers. America already tried the latter alternative in the 1920s with unhappy results, and I'm fairly certain that the cost in violence and loss of life from the drug wars is far greater than any additional damage that drug-users might cause under a more liberal regime.


Slightly off topic but the question did ask about 'decriminalisation' of drug possession, which is the worst of all worlds. Supply would remain illegal, and would still be carried out by organised criminal gangs at a very high cost. However with a disincentive not to buy drugs removed more people are likely to take them. You get the problems of both Criminalisation and legalisation.

Abiola Lapite

I assumed that "decriminalization" meant legalization, but I do agree that what is popularly called "decriminalization" is a rotten idea, borne of political cowardice more than rational thinking; if drug possession isn't so terrible that it deserves a prison term, why not just come out and make it legal? I think much the same holds for "decriminalization" of prostitution, by the way.


"choice isn't between a world in which alcohol is imbibed and one in which it isn't"

Yes, my argument does assume that drugs have not become so mainstream that curtailing their use is impossible. It might be best if they are legalised (not decriminalised), but I would rather another country volunteers to be the guinea pig so we can observe the effects.

Abiola Lapite

"It might be best if they are legalised (not decriminalised), but I would rather another country volunteers to be the guinea pig so we can observe the effects."

Your position here is inconsistent: you know for a fact that decriminalization of some drugs has occurred both in the UK and elsewhere, and you yourself state that legalization is better than decriminalization, yet you fail to draw the logical conclusion from these two premises. How can you be against a state of affairs you think would be better than the status quo?

Phil Hunt

Regarding the environment questions where you were found to have tension in your beliefs, I was also found to have the same tension. But I disagree, because I interpreted the statements in a different way to how the survey did: I interpreted "The environment should not be damaged unnecessarily in the pursuit of human ends" to mean "the environment should not be damaged except as far as damage is necessary to pursue human ends".

The survey also reported other "tensions" in my beliefs, but all of them were caused by me interpreting the sentences differently from how they did.


7% and I refused to answer at least 2 because I disliked the wording.

a high tension score doesn't necessarily mean a contridicting belief system. And as the test said, I wouldn't take it too seriously.

"The PHC report below lists pairs of beliefs which are identified as being 'in tension'. What this means is either that: (1) There is a contradiction between the two beliefs or (2) Some sophisticated reasoning is required to enable both beliefs to be held consistently. In terms of action, this means in each case you should either (1) Give up one of the two beliefs or (2) Find some rationally coherent way of reconciling them."

Julian Elson

I got a tension of 20%, on the basis of three tensions: the universal "car/environment" one, one in which I disagreed with "It is quite reasonable to believe in the existence of a thing without even the possibility of evidence for its existence" and agreed with "atheism is a faith." Well... but, but, the statement was "It is quite reasonable to believe in the existence of a thing without even the possibility of evidence," not "Reason demands we not believe in the possiblity of a thing without the possibility of evidence." My belief that there are no invisible anthropomorphized wombats walking around my room wearing Abercrombie & Fitch baseball caps is a matter of faith, damnit! (BTW, as an example of an unfalsifiable hypothesis, I prefer "I am a brain in a vat being fed sensory input" to "God exists," because it seems so comprehensible and I don't have to worry about rocks too big to lift and such) Also got the "Judgements of art are purely matters taste" and "Michaelangelo was a great artist." Well, I have a taste, and I expressed it. So?

I'm not a mess of contradictions! I'm... nuanced thoughtful. Yeah, that's the ticket.


7% (same "tension"!), but I wish it was much higher. As with everything associated with the godawful "Philosophers' Magazine", it is entirely based on the assumption that all the difficult questions are based on plain-man, common-sense, I-know-it-when-I-see-it meanings of very deep, complex and contested evaluative words. Ludwig Wittgenstein would have been hauled over the coals by that lot, and probably called an "enemy of the Enlightenment" to boot.

The reason why they trip you up on the car thing is that in context of personal activity, "Necessary" has a connotation of "reasonable in the society in which you actually live", but when you're invited to consider grand plans of humanity as a whole, that standard isn't available. There were whole rafts of questions that I ought to have refused to answer because they were meaningless.


Having gotten 33% and thus beaten everybody else, I can't quite figure out whether that's good or bad. Bad, I suppose. Frankly, my dears, I don't give a continental.

João da Costa

Interesting stuff!
So, now "tension" is a another name for "contradiction"!?
I feel that this test could have been better with more nuanced possibilites for answers because oft people's opinions aren't so "digitally sharp" as only "0" or "1" but assume in between degrees.
Reading the questions I felt sometimes that I know "what the right question should be" in view of the declared intention of measuring freedom of contradiction in one's Weltanschauung, but my honest answer should be a different one.
So my final score could have been artificially boosted at cost of more honesty.
So I didn't pursued the test...

Note -
Abiola, in view of your visible enchantmet with this test, I would like to ask you if you think this to be a "objective" test (in its specific purpose) compared with the IQ test-variants (in their specific purposes) you have already seen,'s only for "play".

Michael Stastny

Tension Quotient = 13%

ad environment/car example: This is short-run thinking. Due to the strong demand for cars ever more people are thinking about ways to produce eco-friendly cars (so pollution doesn't increase in tandem with the number of car-owners... it can even decrease). And there are lots of spill-over effects since the technologies can be used by other sectors as well.

The oops-example:

You agreed that:
There are no objective moral standards; moral judgements are merely an expression of the values of particular cultures.

And also that:
Acts of genocide stand as a testament to man's ability to do great evil

Sebastian Holsclaw

I had the car tension and the problem of evil tension. Since the problem of evil has plagued philosophers for thousands of years, I don't feel too bad about it.

As for legalization, I suspect there are a limited number of people who want to dramatically alter their mental states through drug use. A very large number of them use alcohol now. I suspect that a wider legalization of drugs would cause the distribution of drug use to change between alcohol, weed, cocaine, and whatever opiate is legalized without dramatically increasing the total number of people using one of those drugs.

I wouldn't agree to the legalization of meth, because the violence associated with meth use is of a much higher frequency and a much more vicious intensity than the other drugs mentioned. I understand that one of the main lures of meth is that is an upper which tends to be much cheaper than cocaine (it doesn't need to be smuggled as often because it can be made in the bathtub.) Considering meth's vicious physical effects, I suspect many people who wanted that kind of high would go for cocaine if it was much easier to get.

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