I’m having a hard time putting into words a very common scenario in debates. So here’s an example:
Issue: Gay Marriage
Side 1: The sanctity of marriage must be protected. Gays must not be allowed to marry.
Side 2: Marriage is already falling apart as an institution. Might as well let gays marry.
Granted that’s not the entirety of the argument (the main thing is the relative morality of gayness), but I hear it a lot. The “might as well” defense. Here’s another example:
Issue: Further development along polluted river
Position 1: The river must be protected. No new development.
Position 2: There are already a lot of worse developments along the river. Might as well build another.
Is “defeatist” the proper term for Position 2? I guess the slope can get slippery where relative measurements enter into it – say if the river is 90% polluted and the new development will add 1% more pollution to it. But as a general principle, isn’t the “it’s already bad, so let it get worse” argument a bad way to go? Am I wrong? I guess it depends on how much of a stake you have in the issue. Personally, I find the sanctity of marriage to be largely irrelevant in contrast to river pollution, but that’s just me.