The thin blue line

On 1 January, a local sheriff’s deputy was gunned down during a shootout at a local trailer park. The event is a tragedy in any case, but especially when one considers the fact that she left behind two young children.

As a tribute, a friend of mine posted the following explanation of “the thin blue line” on Facebook:

Blue represents the officer and the courage they find deep inside when faced with insurmountable odds.

Black background was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers.

The Line, the line is what cops protect, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness.

Together they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share, a brotherhood like none other.

As with most such statements, and especially because of my own history in the military, I tend to agree with such sentiments. Yet, I could not help but wonder about one of the central premises of this particular one:

The Line, the line is what cops protect, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness.

If that thought is true, it means that most of you reading this post will degenerate into wanton lawlessness in the absence of police to keep you in check. Yet, I suspect that many, if not most, people will see no problem with the idea that it is the police that keep them safe and protected, even from themselves.

I think that the idea that the police, in essence, protect us from our own animal selves is one of the things that helps debase our society. From my point of view, the law (which the police theoretically enforce) is a social contract that we all have agreed to because it is the best way to live, not a restraint to prevent us from doing what we would do without the law. To claim that it is only the police who stand between chaos and order is to claim that chaos is the normal state of affairs.

In my view, then, the police serve to enforce that social contract, but that enforcement only applies to those who break it. The police have no authority over anyone who follow the contract, nor should they, because the contract only exists at all because of those who follow it. Because of that latter fact, it is not the police who stand between order and chaos, but those who agree to abide by the contract.

I am not saying we do not need the police; indeed, their service is indispensable because there will always be some who refuse to obey the social contract that is the law. I am saying, however, that the police are not what makes us follow the law; most of us do that on our own.


Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum

I doubt, therefore I think; I think therefore I am. —Rene Descartes.

Philosophy: my pursuit of truth through reason along with faith and empiricism.

Yes, I consider myself a philosopher. Perhaps that is a conceited self-title, but matters of truth, reason, intellect, faith, and science have consumed my thinking for as long as I can remember thinking.

From my point of view, a philosopher is not someone who pursues a degree or has been awarded that title as a result of long study, but is someone who dedicates himself to understanding the reality we inhabit as well as he is able within the confines of his own mind, observations, and experiences. I do that thing, and so I consider myself a philosopher.

Perhaps more correctly, I consider myself a logician, and that is the specific kind of philosophy I have formally studied, particularly deductive logic and a little bit of ethics. My greatest preoccupation is with the idea of internally consistent reasoning, and I spend a lot of time with that subject.

I believe that philosophy is part of a trifecta of thinking that also includes faith (or religion if you prefer) and science (empiricism or the scientific method) and that together make a person’s worldview complete.

My goal in writing about philosophy, however, is not simply to espouse my own observations. Certainly, I will do some of that, but more importantly, I hope to encourage anyone reading this weblog to think in detail and with thoroughness. It is my hope that, with such depth of thought shared among even a few people, the pressing problems of our age will seem less daunting and may even be, if such a thing is possible, solved.