Rude drivers (was Re: tad williams (was Re: : fantasy monarchies))

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Sat Feb 8 19:23:10 EST 2003

On Sat, 8 Feb 2003 19:32:37 -0000, Charles Butler wrote:

>This suggests a rather binary notion of intention, I think - either on or
>off. And hence a rather univocal notion of consciousness, which is
>experienced (by me, anyway) much more as a competition between various
>sensations, fears, appetites, all of them shouting each other down.
>say something similar in a different way, you don't need to be paid-up
>Freudian to believe that obliviousness is often more than half a choice in

I don't see what this has to do with anything.  I'm not saying that oblivium
makes you not responsible, just that it doesn't have to be an aggressive
act.  That, to me, is what makes someone's actions rude: to know you're
doing harm, and not to care.  Something that's almost impossible to
determine when it comes to drivers on the road.  (This is a different
concept of "rude" than is expressed in etiquette, but never mind.)

The corollary to this is that because we can't usually tell whether bad
driving is intentional or not, we usually punish people based on the results
of their actions.  Someone who falls asleep at the wheel and causes a wreck
is as legally (and morally) culpable as someone who rear-ends another driver
who looked at him in a funny way.

>ALSO... whether one is oblivious or not depends on a whole history of moral
>choices, doesn't it? You don't need to be a paid-up follower of Thomas a
>Kempis either to believe that your habits are not just a dispensation of
>fate, but also reflect the way you've chosen to live your life up to this
>point, so that even if obliviousness (for instance) were not a matter of
>present intention it still might be considered the cumulative result of a
>series of past intentions, and hence culpable.

I see.  I wasn't talking about culpability at all before.  People who cause
damage and/or annoyance to others are culpable regardless of intent (however
you choose to define intent).  What I'm talking about *is* intent--that is,
the idea that *all* bad drivers intentionally see the people they're cutting
off and take joy in deliberately cutting them off.  Or whatever it is
they're doing wrong.  Having been guilty in the past myself of
unintentionally merging wrong, or making a bad turn, that seems like an
extreme reaction to me--not to mention the impossibility of knowing what's
in someone else's head.  And the alternative to "rude" is not "not
culpable."  As I said above, we don't determine punishments based on the
degree to which we can determine intent.

>In short, bad drivers are indeed rude. Very rude. And expensive too, if they
>don't stop when they've dented your fender but drive obliviously away, as
>happened to me not long ago (or perhaps you guessed that?).

Well, that *is* rude because the person knew they'd done it and didn't take
responsibility for it.  Are you saying that every time you do something
stupid on the road, you were being rude?  I once took a left-hand turn and
had to go VERY wide because some driver was in the wrong lane; she thought
she was in the turn lane, but had come in too wide and was square in the
middle of the lane I would normally have been driving in.  This is really
stupid behavior, and yes, very possibly dangerous.  But by my definition,
she wouldn't have been rude unless she was sitting proudly in the wrong lane
flipping off every other passing driver.  (She was old, Hallie, you can make
allowances for her.)

(If I had crashed into her, there would have been trouble.  Mostly for her.
I drive a full-size van and she would have been a wad of tinfoil.)

Melissa Proffitt

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