Saturday, September 18, 2004

Response for Greg


As far as the election is concerned, I suppose I more or less agree with you, although I see very little complexity in the whole sha-bang, and there was a time when it made sense for candidates to travel around the country in the same train and debate each other before assembled audiences in various cities. On the other hand, the tendency to universalize one's sentiments is, I think, a contrary process to that of picking a brand-name shoe. The latter process is in form of joining a social formation, while the former is an act of declaring one. Moreover, the latter is, in some sense, possible to do--you can indeed "join" the in-crowd. You cannot read other people's thoughts. I think the question remains open.

Still unjustifiable:

I have never had the chance to read this Orwell piece on Ghandi, so I hope you can provide it to me. I wonder, however, if drawing a distinction between one's morality and one's "humanity" is actually reasonable; almost, certainly this distinction is not constructive, except in case you propose that moral behavior is equivalent to adherence to a certain body of rules. Without this proposition, I think this divide is simply an invitation to obfuscate in questions of moral (or humane, if you prefer) behavior. Certainly, a particular rule can turn out to run counter to warm-blooded concerns, but it seems to me, that in order to make this distinction one, in fact, shifts the usual (canonical?) sense of "morality" onto the word "humanity" and then makes an equivalence of "morality" with "law." I can't see how this shifting process is useful. (As far as Ghandi is concerned, I have some difficulty believing that a man who valued Life so much that he would allow his own children to suffer for its sake would then prescribe mass killing of any kind. Like I said, I would like to see the article. A more relevant form of resistance, I think, would have been non-cooperation with Nazi "resettlement" policies: what do you do to 10,000 people, in a peace-time urban setting, when they don't show up when and where they're told to? If you kill 10,000 people in their urban homes, how do you dispose of the bodies in a sanitized fashion?)

All of this, I believe, rather misses my point however. To illustrate, let's return to the World War, Act II, example. If the war was strictly inevitable, then the moral question I posed is not at issue--I think, at base, your position requires that the World War, Act II, was inevitable, more or less, from Hitler's acquisition of power. You will have to decide independently whether it is morally acceptable to kill people, like Germans, who are fighting for the Dark in hopes of preserving your own people or, more tenuously, your own way of life. (I hold that it is not.) Supposing the war is unavoidable, the moral questions lay only in the fighting of it.

I do not suppose this. I reject this. In the example, my hope was to show that even the "good war" was not inevitable, in the sense that means were available to avoid it in the early 1930s. Now, if you are in a position to eliminate the occurrence of a period of "violence and strife," it is obviously incumbent upon you to do so. Moreover, I can't think of a modern war off the top of my head for which there were no signs of the impending conflict at least several years preceding, and it is here that the philosophical justification of the war should be considered. Taken together, we can say that if a war is philosophically justified, it most also justify the (strictly) needless murder of all of its victims--where "needless" is considered relative to a time of peace, rather than in the balance of horrors that is seen in "inevitable war." I can not imagine such a justification--short of, say, extermination by alien invaders from a distant galaxy.

So back to you on this one, Greg.