A Motte and Bailey castle is a medieval system of defence in which a stone tower on a mound (the Motte) is surrounded by an area of land (the Bailey) which in turn is encompassed by some sort of a barrier such as a ditch. Being dark and dank, the Motte is not a habitation of choice. The only reason for its existence is the desirability of the Bailey, which the combination of the Motte and ditch makes relatively easy to retain despite attack by marauders. When only lightly pressed, the ditch makes small numbers of attackers easy to defeat as they struggle across it: when heavily pressed the ditch is not defensible and so neither is the Bailey. Rather one retreats to the insalubrious but defensible, perhaps impregnable, Motte. Eventually the marauders give up, when one is well placed to reoccupy desirable land.There's a great example in this piece by CounterPunch on FBI surveillance.
For my purposes the desirable but only lightly defensible territory of the Motte and Bailey castle, that is to say, the Bailey, represents a philosophical doctrine or position with similar properties: desirable to its proponent but only lightly defensible. The Motte is the defensible but undesired position to which one retreats when hard pressed. I think it is evident that Troll’s Truisms have the Motte and Bailey property, since the exciting falsehoods constitute the desired but indefensible region within the ditch whilst the trivial truth constitutes the defensible but dank Motte to which one may retreat when pressed.You see this everywhere.
We’re constantly told that “criminals” are the dregs of human history. Yet “criminal” is an ideological term. Only some forms of behavior of criminalized—and those doing that criminalizing, given the barriers to entry in such professional fields, tend to come from powerful, privileged parts of society who often do not engage or need to engage in such behavior. Structural forms of oppression shield powerful and privileged classes from the consequences of their ill actions.The motte claim here is that 'only some forms of behavior are crimialized, and those doing that... tend to come from powerful, privileged positions." It's obviously and absolutely true that not all forms of human behavior are criminal, and it's true by definition that those who write the laws and those who enforce them are in positions of power.
The bailey claim is that all laws are mere exercises in ideology. There are thus no objective standards for what ought to be a crime that we can arrive at through human reason. There is no natural law, there are no objective virtues, there is nothing but a pure exercise of power by the privileged to advance their own interests.
The latter claim is garbage, and would be easy to disprove. The motte claim can be defended forever, because it's true by definition.