Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Free Speech for the Decidedly-Wrong

by Joe Miller

As many of you already know, the UNCP group Fusion Campus Ministry is presenting “Lies in the Textbooks” next week. The video presents a critique of evolution from what is purportedly an explicitly religious perspective. I have not actually seen the video in question, and given that its running length is said to be 3 hours and that it is being presented on a Monday evening and that my three year old isn’t exactly old enough to put himself to bed yet, it’s pretty unlikely that I will do so. Many of you were torn between annoyance that creationists still exist and eagerness to flaunt your argumentative skills debating them. I had chalked the whole incident up as simply another instance of the joys and challenges of teaching at a university in rural North Carolina. So I was rather surprised to receive an e-mail on Monday announcing that:

The Biology Department feels this program [Fusion’s airing of the video] questions our credibility in the classroom and voted unanimously to protest the showing of this video.

The message went on to invite the remained of the faculty to join the biologists’ protest. The announcement of a faculty protest provoked a hailstorm of replies, with some pointing out that among the other videos in the series is one with the charming title, “Why Satan Loves Evolution.” Others mentioned that as a university, we have a particular obligation to air all sides of a debate, or at the very least, that we have an obligation not to protest when someone decides to present the other side of a debate. And still others maintained that political protest is just as much protected speech as Fusion's video.

Now of course you know that there is no way that any self-respecting Mill scholar can possibly pass up on the opportunity to comment on a free speech discussion. I figure, though, that there is no need for cheap substitutes when one can have the original. So here is Mill, from chapter 2 of On Liberty:

There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation. Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.

This of course is not to say that I have much sympathy for creationism. Indeed, on the No-Chance-in-Hell-of-Being-True List, I’d say that creationists rank somewhere between flat earthers and phrenologists. Nor would I ever dream of claiming that, say, Professor Kelley ought to be required to discuss creationism (or it's bastard step-child, Intelligent Design) in Bio 422: Evolution. I do, however, join with a number of others on the faculty who think that protesting the airing of the video is the wrong thing to do.

The fact is that however vile the video itself may turn out to be, its mere existence raises at least two important philosophical questions: what is the nature of science? and what is the proper relationship between science and religion? Not coincidentally, the Philosophy & Religion Department at UNCP takes on both of those questions, the former in Jeffery Geller's philosophy of science course and the latter in David Nikkel's science and religion course. We can hardly hope to answer these questions if we deny those with alternate answers a chance to air their position.

Yes, I do agree with Pembroke's biologists that creationism threatens to undermine one of the key assumptions of their entire discipline. And yes I also agree that Fusion could have chosen a better way to make its case than to air a video that--at least implicitly--accuses members of the faculty of being in league with Satan in a secret plot to convert the world to communism, spread infanticide and genocide and eventually wipe out the human race (sadly, I'm not actually making this up). At best, Fusion's decision shows a stunning lack of tact and at worst a blatant contempt for a segment of the faculty. The folks at Fusion probably owe the biologists an apology, not for airing their views, but for airing their views in a manner that seems likely to be abusive and accusatory and not particularly likely to spark much in the way of reasoned discourse.

Still, all that said, I submit that protesting is the wrong answer here. Consider what it perhaps a less-heated analogy. I am, as I've mentioned before, a hyper-analytic philosopher. (I gather, by the way, that 'hyper-analytic' is supposed to be derogatory. I've always felt that being called hyper-analytic is just about as insulting as being told one looks like Brad Pitt or that one has a 175 IQ or that "my god that was the most incredible thing I've ever felt." No one has ever said any of those things to me, mind you, but if they did, I'm certain that I wouldn't take any offense.)

Anyway, one of the things that we hyper-analytic philosophers tend to accept is that there is such a thing as Truth (as opposed to contextual, relativized 'truths') and that reason is adequate to the task of ascertaining Truth. Many humanists reject that claim, adopting instead some variety of post-ism (postmodernism, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, etc.) that holds that humans can never really have access to Truth. Now if these folks were right (and let's face it, they've only slightly better odds than the creationists. Sorry, couldn't resist.), then it would completely undermine my discipline--or at least my version of my discipline. So what are we analytic philosophers to do? Well, we could try picketing the theory course in the English Department and protesting student theses on Derrida. But I think that it makes a lot more sense to show that the post-isms rest on mushy, non-rigorous arguments that, once stripped of their meaningless jargon, fail to hold up to rational scrutiny. The Nothing noths? WTF?

So to return to our topic, then, I would argue that while of course the biologists (and anyone else) have a complete right to protest whatever they like, doing so is the wrong course of action. Open debate is the only way to ensure the triumph of truth in the marketplace of ideas. Moreover, protesting speech that we don't like, especially when we turn around defend the rights of other academics to make equally outrageous claims (I'm looking at you Ward), merely cements the image of academics as liberal PC thugs who advocate free speech only for speech we like. Protesting actions we don't like is a great thing and highly encouraged. Protesting ideas we don't like, at a university...not so much.

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Realism as a Last Resort

by Jeremy Page

Last week in class it seemed that I was among the minority in thinking that the best approach to war was somewhere between “Just War Theory” and realism. It would seem that this makes it known that I think pacifism is laughable. Anyways, the rest of the class seemed to fall between pacifism and “Just War Theory,” and that approach is fine, just not my style.

It seems that we ironed out the definition of pacifism quite well, except that it took 3 hours. I suppose that it might be harder to define pacifism than it would be to define realism (as is pertains to war). Following the practice of pacifism dictates that “no one may employ non-consentual physical force (including lethal force) with the intention of causing pain (or death), even in self-defense or in the defense of others against aggression. One may use other forms of force and coercion to resist violence.” Going with this definition, pacifism hardly seems practical- in fact, it doesn’t matter what definition of pacifism you go with for it to be impractical.

I would suggest that realism is the way to go, but only after it is completely obvious convention related warfare has ceased to be practical. Clausewitz stated that “war therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.” War is not necessarily a human action, but a political one. Even so, war puts humanity at its worst, and in some sense that seems to justify realism. In any case, a defintion of realism as related to warfare is in order: anything goes. It’s as simple as that; the idea of inter arma silent leges (in time of war the law is silent) certainly seems to apply to warfare. As Walzer says, “what we conventionally call inhumanity is simple humanity under pressure. War strips away our civilized adornments and reveals our nakedness” (Walzer 4).

If a country is fighting for its survival, it seems pointless to follow “Just War Theory.” As long as a country/state seems to have a reasonable chance at successfully accomplishing its objectives it would seem prudent to follow “Just War Theory,” but once the country/state is at risk of losing a war it seems the proverbial gloves should come off. It is permissable to lose wars a country is fighting in other lands, as long as the country is able to cut its losses and run, but once a country’s sovereign land and liberty are being directly threatened the country should have every right to do whatever is necessary to procure its citizens’ safety: “men and women do what they must to save themselves and their communities, and morality and law have no place” in such circumstances (Walzer 3).

It seems to me that the information previously discussed brings up the issues with Walzer’s tale of the “Melian Dialogue.” The first problem that I see is that what really constitues a just war is fairly relative- each country sees exactly what it wants to see. And who should be the ultimate judge in deciding what endeavours are just or not? When the Athenians and Melians both see their causes as just, how can we really discern who is right? Walzer advances that both sides could appear to be right: “the Melians insist that their cause is just, they are saying only that they don’t want to be subject; and had the generals claimed that Athens deserved its empire, they would simply have been expressing the lust for conquest or the fear of overthrow” (Walzer 11).

The second problem requires us to say that the Athenians were just in their cause. In this case, Walzer questions the Athenians’ tactics, but never really arrives at a moral judgment (but much more of an observation): “The slaughter of the Melians is explained by reference to the circumstances of war and the necessity of nature; and again there is nothing to say. Or rather, one can say anything, call necessity cruel and war hellish; but while these statements may be true in their own terms, they do not touch the political realities of the case or help us understand the Athenian decision” (Walzer 8). It sounds like you may just have to bow to the idea of realism once in a while to get anything in war done.

During our discussion on pacifism, we discussed the status of non combatants. We concluded that non combatants are not to be killed, if they were to be killed, it would constitute a war crime. The only exception is the “double effect.” Double effect is a shoddy way of justifying the killing of non combatants. Those who fall in between pacifism and “Just War Theory” must consider it in this way, but those who tend to be in the realist camp will have to ask why non combatants cannot be killed. Even though non combatants do not directly help a country’s war effort, they are still part of the enemy camp. There is no point in singling out non combatants for slaughter, but if it helps bring about victory for you country why not do it?

Realism allows us to simply state that things are just the way they are; no amount of philosophical banter can help dull the brutality of war. All countries would like to keep up the appearance that they are completely interested in preventing inhumane actions during war- at least until they hit the bottom line: themselves. It does not seem rational to me to enter a contest such as war where you and your opponent both learn the rules and agree to abide by them, but you wind up in worse shape for playing by them while your opponent systematically breaks them. When it comes down to this, I believe that everyone is really lying to themselves when they believe that we should follow rules in a time of absolute terror and chaos that war actually is. Sure, it’s totally possible to follow rules when you are winning or when the war is so far removed from your sight that you couldn’t care less about it, but when you are involved in a struggle that is a direct threat to your own safety it seems fairly pointless to follow rules that are not completely enforceable. Walzer calls out this façade: “the truth is that one of the things most of us want, even in war, is to act or seem to act morally” (20).

It seems important that Walzer states that “the moral reality of war is not fixed by the actual activities of soldiers but by the opinions of mankind” (Walzer 15). This seems to make a case for realism in my mind; if what makes an action in war just or unjust is constantly under revision, why should we still bother adhering to moral principles? If actions in warfare are as subjective and situational as this, then why restrain ourselves with them? What really seems to make wars just or unjust is which side you’re on. It seems that mankind’s opinions on war have been evolving; war itself has been evolving as well, but the reality of war has remained the same.

I found Walzer’s conclusion to be interesting. He seems to think that if we were to all become realists, “we could simply tell one another, brutally and directly, what we wanted or have done” (Walzer 20). He seems to be correct, but it doesn’t seem like he takes into account that this is somewhat of a narrow conclusion. What about diplomacy? Surely if we were all realists we would not resort to immediately attack our foes whenever we had the slightest problem-it is simply inefficient to do. Being a realist during acts of war does not mean that you have to be ready to invade the next country that even thinks about stepping up to you. Being a realist does not mean that you meet every possible threat to your sovereignty with force, diplomatic or economic treachery might be preferrable in the long run.

It does not seem to be the case that people follow “Just War Theory” for the sake of mere morality. It seems to be the case that such opinions are tied directly to the idea that if “they” follow the rules, “we” will as well. The last time I heard anything akin to this thinking, was last semester in another class, where Dr. Miller labeled the majority of the class “suckers.” There is no real reason to be a sucker; it is wise to follow “Just War Theory” as long as it benefits you and your cause. “Just War Theory” is completely disposable once you become a sucker in practice, and not just ideaology. It seems that those countries who do follow some sort of moral code do so to keep up the appearance that they are on the moral high ground. They do this because it is has been fairly acceptable to use philosophical launguage to spin their stories, but what happens when this no longer works? I suggest, again, that those countries will eventually have to give up their spin stories and act in whatever way will further their cause. It would follow that pacifism is acceptable until it is no longer useful, at that point “Just War Theory” should replace it, once “Just War Theory” is no longer useful a country should be able to do whatever it needs to do to secures its objectives (realism). I suppose saying that each idea is acceptable as long as it is useful is what realism is in a nutshell.

I do not advocate strict realism; I approach it with the assumption that “Just War Theory” has actually been given a chance. Once a country has entered a defensive war, or in some cases initiated a pre-emptive strike, it is presumably fighting a just war. Only after an exhaustive attempt to follow the seven conditions listed by Joseph McKenna, may a country/state follow through with total war waged from the approach of a realist. It seems that this would still keep me between realism and “Just War Theory.” Well it seems that I have elaborated on my opinion when compared to Walzer's; hopefully you readers have been screaming "What the hell?!"

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Noncombatant Status and Convention Dependent Warfare

by Jamie McCall

When considering those who advocate moral distinctions in wars, that is, those who believe that it is morally justifiable to kill some types of people in war and morally unjustifiable to kill other types of people, a pattern seems to emerge. Among those philosophers who advocate this particular view of warfare, that there is a moral distinction stating who may be killed and who may not be, there seems to be a consistent agreement that those who are actively involved in war are justifiably targets and those who are not have immunity. They have termed these two groups of people combatants and noncombatants, and have given noncombatants immunity from murder during war. George Mavrodes establishes in his paper “Conventions and the Morality of War” a moral distinction problem when dealing with the combatant and noncombatant philosophy. After examining this problem Mavrodes concludes that the immunity system for noncombatants is based on a custom of warfare and should not always be followed. I support Mavrodes’ assertion that the problem with the combatant system ultimately means that nations should not act under the guide of a general moral law in warfare but instead should act in a manner that is most supportive for their goals.

Any attempt to assert that combatants are defined as guilty and that noncombatants are somehow innocent creates issues. The problem is that these terms and the rationale behind them are taken from the criminal justice system, a system which assumes that individuals act alone or in voluntary cooperation with larger units to achieve their goals. This type of system does not translate into warfare, where nations wage war not as individuals, but collectively (Mavrodes 124). People cannot wage war on an individual level - they act as members of nations. This group status means that it is often hard to delineate those who are acting “guilty” of their own accord and those who are forced to act “guilty” in order to avoid very deadly consequences. Beyond these problems, these notions of guilt and innocence are the result of moral judgments within the morality of our society – warfare provides no such morality.

It could be argued that combatants are allowed to be killed in warfare because they lose their right by attempting to kill someone else, but this severely limits combatant status in warfare. In this view, combatants can be killed not because they have a different moral distinction from noncombatants, but because they give up their right not to be killed when they attempt to kill someone else. The problem with this is that there are many things to be done in the waging of warfare that does not directly or even indirectly involve the attempt to kill the enemy. If we use this definition of combatant status, those who work in command centers, logistics, and support are all exempt from being killed. Using such a definition would thus prove to be highly problematic when waging conventional warfare.

Mavrodes conclusion is that those who support the noncombatant status really base their belief on a convention-dependent view of war that is different from what war really is. They view war as a battle between those who are innately wrong by virtue of their waging war, combatants. In other words, those who hold this convention-dependent view of war see the process of waging war as a battle between those who are wrong and deserving to be killed, combatants. Noncombatants, having done nothing “wrong”, cannot be killed in this view. Thus, the only moral way to act is to advocate for the murder of the guilty combatants, and forbid the murder of the innocent noncombatants.

The problem with using a convention-dependent view of warfare is that there is no incentive for nations to respect the laws of war. Warfare itself is a state of conflict that has moved beyond conventional understandings of morality and justice. When nations decide to go to war, they (theoretically) do so only as the end of a long result of diplomacy and other alternatives, because the cost of war is extremely high all around. When countries finally move toward warfare, they are mutually acknowledging that all other attempts to resolve the conflict within the normal realm of morality have failed. This is not to say that politics do not come into play. In the case of waging a war that one knows will result in a loss, there is definite political gain to proclaiming that the war being waged is wrong, illegal, etc. However, what is going on behind the political curtain is the silent acknowledgement that other ways of solving the issue at hand are not viable options.

In the realm of warfare, what is the incentive for following any laws or customs of war? What is it worth to a country to follow the “rules of war” and not blatantly slaughter “noncombatants”? There is no real incentive to follow a system of morality in a realm that does not include morality in its decision making. Once one country has broken a convention of warfare, everyone else immediately feels they are justified in doing the same (Mavrodes 129). Because it is always to your advantage to break a convention first (because you then hold the element of surprise), everyone at one point or another stretches the rules or breaks them. This is a rational move, but instead of playing to this delusion of the rules of war, it would be much more effective to simply ignore the customs of warfare all together.

Whatever conventions we may observe in war, we are always ready to break them if we hear news that our enemy has done so. It becomes a pointless circle of copying what your enemy does, and it would be much more efficient to simply recognize the extra-moral state of warfare and proceed accordingly. War is to be observed as being situation dependent. That which is “correct action” in times of war is determined by the specific situation surrounding it and how you can best help your nations interest in that situation. What is intrinsically moral or immoral becomes irrelevant, because nations are acting outside the realm of morality. All of the laws of war are crafted around the idea of who we ought to kill and who we ought not to kill. Even on a most basic level, normative requirements on how we should treat prisoners basically boil down to not killing them. We shouldn’t torture them either, but why? Because we might end up killing them. From this premises, having established that we cannot distinguish from combatants and noncombatants, the most common custom of warfare, we have no way to define what is moral or immoral. Defining who can be killed and who cannot be killed is the most basic moral question of warfare, and our inability to define it means that warfare in general is beyond all morality.

In warfare there should be no designation of combatant or noncombatant status. All those who are of an enemy nation are subject to being targets. This view is commonly termed realism. However, it is important to note that realism does not necessarily advocate for the delightful slaughter of billions of what non-realists would claim to be “innocent” people. In a situation where “innocents” are involved, it is rational to assume that a nation doing only what is best in its national interest will leave the “innocents” alone unless they have some reason to believe they are helping the war effort. After all, missiles used to destroy residential neighborhoods would be much more effectively put to use on military targets. While realism does not forbid the killing of civilians, it does not condone it either. As previously stated, realists are acting in a realm that does not include morality, and those who are killed or injured during a war are those who pose the biggest threat to the warring state. Most of the time, this will not include a lot of civilians.

Mavrodes states later that it is important to consider abiding by convention-dependent views of war, if only because doing so might result in the betterment of each side. He notes, however, that cases of doing so are finite and very situation specific (130). By this point some would declare that Mavrodes entire paper has become circular because after establishing that combatant/noncombatant status is irrelevant and should not be taken seriously, we have then arrived at the conclusion that perhaps we should abide by it anyway. However, I think it is important to note that Mavrodes point is that we should not abide by conventions of warfare because they are morally correct or governed by some broad concept of justice, but instead because they sometimes provide instances where it is in our best interest to abide by the customs of war. This is termed nationalist egoism, that we should do what is for the greatest good in terms of our national self interest.

It is possible to argue here that if nations in warfare only did that which is the greatest good for their national interest, half of the planet would be bombed by now. Because of this problem, I argue that we must make a distinction between short-term national interests and long-term national interests. While there may be certain cases where completely annihilating a nation is in the best short- and long-term interest of a country, for the most part long-term interests would dictate that the loss of things such as trade benefits and resources mean that countries should not be annihilated.

To conclude, the immunity of noncombatants is based upon a custom of warfare that has no valid foundation in moral distinction. This moral distinction is a necessary requirement in order for the immunity system to be followed unconditionally by the nations. Because of the absence of this moral distinction, the immunity system is followed not because of any large concepts of justice or morality, but instead because it presents a general custom of warfare. While it is sometimes useful to follow this convention, nations should not be restrained by it and should recognize that in some instances this custom should be disregarded in the sake of pursuing the nation’s warfare goals. These instances are varied, but the most obvious instance when this custom can be disregarded is when the opponent chooses not to follow the immunity system. In instances where the opponent does, it can be said that the immunity system should be followed because it is often in the nations best interest to preserve noncombatants.

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Determining the Innocent

by Wesley Gibbs

During Mavrodes’s article, he tackles the problem of the noncombatant, and what makes it so that a noncombatant cannot be killed. I think that he is right when he attacks the immunity theorists on their support for the “guilty” versus “innocence” stance on what determines noncombatants. Some of the arguments made by the immunity theorists don’t really resolve the issue of the “innocence” question, and others are contradicted by later statements that the writer makes (I’m looking at you Anscombe). I do have a problem with Mavrodes’s argument as well because he also fails to really resolve the issue. He just points out that by the criminality standard Anscombe and Ramsey use, some noncombatants are “guilty” and that some combatants are “innocent.” One problem I see with his argument and that of the immunity theorists is that they look at “innocence” and “guilty” as two categories with nothing in between. Mavrodes at least points out that the “innocence” issue seems to be as vague as that of the noncombatant, but after this statement he just moves on to his next topic. The “innocence” issue isn’t one where clear-cut distinctions can be always made; it is instead an issue that is filled with gray areas.

When looking at the issue of “innocence” as a quality that an individual can have, it is apparent that some will be more innocent than others. It is also apparent that when one looks at “innocence” in regards to noncombatant status that some individuals involved in the actual fighting will look to qualify as “innocent” and therefore a noncombatant. Mavrodes gives a good example of this when he speaks of the soldier who is drafted and has limited mental ability. He is “innocent” because of the fact that he might not understand the war, was forced into service, and may want no part of the war. The question then arises of why it is okay to kill him and not others who might support the war but not be fighting on the frontlines. The reason I would propose is that the mentally limited soldier is on the frontlines, that is, he is directly involved in the violence of warfare. Actual involvement in the fighting, whether or not one wants to take part, is what strips him of his right not to be killed. His involvement in the violence of warfare acts as a nullifying agent that destroys his “innocence.” Thus it is morally acceptable to kill this soldier and maintain that “innocence” determines whether or not one is a noncombatant.

There is also Mavrodes’s other example which is that of the citizen who advocates the war, gives his voice and money to the war as well as voting for the war. Mavrodes says that this person would be thought of by most as a noncombatant since this individual takes no part in the actual violence of warfare. He then goes on to explain that this individual has pushed for the war and supported it all along, even when it was just a prospect. He infers that this makes the individual “guilty” since this individual was a driving force in the war being declared and maintained.

I agree with Mavrodes that this individual is “guilty.” When one looks at this individual, it is evident that this person is likely one with political power. An average citizen within a society doesn’t vote (and it matter) on whether or not their nation goes to war, only a politician has that power. I am therefore going to assume that this person is a politician. This is the reason that I agree with Mavrodes that this individual is “guilty,” but I differ with him in that I also consider this person a combatant due to their guilt. This politician has some responsibility for this war, and is accountable for the part he played in the war’s creation and continuation. Due to this responsibility, he is a valid target for the opposing army, and it would be morally acceptable for them to eliminate him. Even if a nation’s leaders only go to war in order to defend the people of their nation, they are still morally acceptable targets for the opposing. When these men and women seek to lead their nation, they gain power over the nation and the responsibility that comes with that power. So even though the war was a last resort for them, these leaders are still valid targets because they chose to seek a position of power. They should be aware of the choices that they might be called upon to make and realize that they are responsible for whatever choice they make.

Another individual that needs to be looked at in deciding “innocence” and the noncombatant status is the average citizen of a nation. This is where the gray area of “innocence” appears. A man cannot be considered “guilty” for supporting or not supporting a war. He is allowed to think what he wants, and in some countries say what he wants as well. The only time that “guilt” arises is when he starts to contribute in someway to the actual war. A farmer is not “guilty” just because he grows crops that will feed soldiers. In many cases, he does not know where his crops will end up when he originally starts to grow them. They might end up as food for soldiers in a war, or be food for a stockbroker in New York. Since the farmer can have no reasonable idea of where his crops will end up, he cannot be considered “guilty” and is therefore a noncombatant.

On the other hand, there are the citizens who work in factories that supply weapons, vehicles, and ammo to the troops at war. These individuals know what purpose the item they make serves, which makes them an active part of the war effort. However, they can only be considered part of the war effort while they are actively engaging in the acts that make them part of the war effort. When they are at home, they are not valid targets, and it would be morally unacceptable to kill them. The reason that they are “innocent” for a duration of their time and “guilty” for another is because it is not reasonable to assume that one could know their views about the war and how they support it. They might support the war and show that support by working in a plant that produces the guns the soldiers carry. Another citizen might oppose the war, but be forced to work in the same factory in order to support their family. Since it is improbable that an attacking nation could know the circumstances of another nation’s workers, it is only morally acceptable for them to attack the factory workers while they are working and adding to the war effort.

This slide between being “guilty” and being “innocent” does not to apply to everyone who contributes to the war effort in a semi-direct way. Scientists who design bombs, rockets, guidance systems, etc. and those who work on chemical and biological weapons are always “guilty,” even when they are not actively working on something. I say this because a scientist does not just contribute to the war through his manual labor; he also contributes through his intellect and what his mind devises. A scientist who chooses to work in an area that relates to warfare is responsible for that decision. His mind will be put to creating or improving upon weaponry, and thus he is contributing to the war effort of a nation. Similar to the workers of the factory, it is not probable that an attacking nation could know a scientist’s views on the war, but it is also impossible for them to know what he is thinking about. Many scientists take their work home with them, and due to this possibility they make themselves targets even when they are at home.

The other problem is that the scientist is a walking storage device for the blueprints to a particular weapon. Even if an attacking country is able to destroy the place that the weapon was being created in, the scientist who thought up the weapon and designed it might still be alive. If he is alive, he would have the opportunity to continue his work. It thus becomes imperative for an attacking nation to destroy not just the weapon’s research facility, but also the researcher who designed the weapon.

Overall I think that Mavrodes had a good point about some individuals being “guilty” even though they aren’t directly on the frontlines. I think that his main flaw was saying that a combatant could be “innocent.” In a way it is true that some combatants are “innocent” due to their disapproval or lack of understanding of the war. He forgets that they are on the frontlines though, which makes them involved directly in the violence of warfare. Whether or not they wanted to be involved is no longer an issue the second that they pick up a weapon, start planting mines, or running a base’s communications. This active involvement nullifies their right to be considered an “innocent.”

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In Response to Mavrodes' "Conventions and the Morality of War"

by Wesley Frazier

Mavrodes' paper is divided into two distinct parts. The first half a critical examination of moral theorists who supports noncombatant immunity ( including Anscombe ) and the second part which is his attempt to solve the moral dilemma, which he claims Anscombe and other philosophers have failed to solve.

Mavrode states quite clearly that a war is only just when 1) it's cause is just and 2) that the deaths in a just war must be "proportionate" , with no further requirements. These requirements will define what I shall refer to as a "just war" for the scope of this paper. (117)

While he never explicitly defines the double effect outright in his paper one can gain a clear understanding of the definition he uses from these two passages :

This involves dividing the consequences of an act (at least as far as the foreseeable consequences) into two classes. Into the first class go those consequences which constitute the goal or purpose of the act, what the act is done for, and also those consequences which are means to those ends. Into the other class go those consequences which are neither the sought-after ends nor the means to the ends. (119)

It ["It" being non-intended non-combatant deaths] may be morally acceptable if the good end which it may be expected to attain is of sufficient weight to overbalance the evil of these non-combatant deaths. (119)

Mavrodes' claim is that the distinction made by the double effect towards non-combatants is arbitrary, and can only be held if there is a genuine moral difference between the loss of a combatants life and a non combatants life. He then states that the only genuine moral difference offered by Anscombe and others is the concept of innocence. He then argues that innocence is simply another word for noncombatant and therefore such a stance is circular. (122) He also questions wether or not the term innocent could not also apply to combatants and wether or noncombatants can be considered non-innocents. (122-123)

It seems likely that Mavrode is working with two definitions of the word innocent in the above critique. One which equates innocence with noncombatant and another which does not. It seems likely that the later definition armed with the "double effect" may be immune to his former criticism. However he does not seem to examine the consequences of this later definition and does not clearly differentiate between the two definitions.

It also seems that if we are to take this critique seriously then one must say it is morally equivalent (during a just war) to kill a combatant who is a primary cause of aggression and killing a non-combatant who is not a primary cause of aggression. As Mavrode holds that creating a distinction of moral weight between the two is arbitrary.

Mavrodes then proposes a moral system to account for non-combatants on the basis of conventions. Most of the moral claims made so far have been what I shall call tier-1 moral obligations. The idea that one ought not to kill one's neighbors without just cause. Is an example of a tier-1 moral obligation. However things such as, driving on the right side of the road, do not carry the same weight and are significantly less universal. While it may be considered wrong of me to suddenly start driving on the left side of the road here in America ( assuming everyone else continues to drive on the right side of the road) it of-course would not be considered wrong for someone in England to do likewise. This type of tier-2 moral obligation is what Mavrode calls convention-dependent morality or even more simply "convention". (126)

He also argues that there exists a gradient of conventions between maximum allowed violence in a just war and single consenting combatant vs consenting combatant war (assuming the word war is even applicable). However we have no obligation to execute warfare along any "better" convention. ( Better being equated with less death. ) Unlike the traffic analogy ( which Mavrode would claim we do have an obligation to implement a convention over no-rules driving ) there is no arbitrating social institution to generate and ensure the convention is used in practice. Therefore it would be dangerous to practice a convention when others were not doing so. (127)

This is not to say that Mavrodes is condoning a rape-pillage-and-salt-the-earth style of warfare in response to any aggressor. He does still hold that proportionality is a requirement for the just war. (128) However a rape-pillage-and-salt-the-earth style of warfare would be justified by his argument if it is the only way to stop an aggressor from raping pillaging and salting the earth ( or some equally morally negative offense(s) ) of the defending country. It also seems as if it may justify a war of moral dubious actions when one's opponent severely outclasses yourself.

Ultimately Mavrodes' convention-dependent morality cashes out thusly :

If one's cause is just and the slaying of noncombatants would advance it-if, in other words, one is not prevented by considerations of justice and proportionality-this is the crucial case. If one refrains unilaterally in this situation then he seems to choose the greater of two evils ( or the lesser of two goods). (129)

Mavrodes argument is largely consistent and compelling. However he makes a bold reversal from his first section which identifies the killing of a combatant and noncombatant as morally identical. He seems to indicate that there is a distinction between these two actions, or would be if there was an over-seeing social institution to allow us to make such changes. In fact he seems to indicate we have a moral imperative to do so if we have an over-seeing social institution.

It seems likely that a strong argument could be made that we have the imperative to make such conventions, but simply are hampered in out ability to do so without an over-riding social framework. If this is the case then it would have far reaching implications for Mavrodes and his theory.

He is likewise vague in his use of "advancement" ( a criticism is he is fond of using against his opponents ). One wonders how morally acceptable it is to sacrifice the lives noncombatants for a very small strategic advance, with out ordinary day to day moral perceptions, versus the concept that any advance at all may justify the killing of noncombatants.

Another concern is that without an obligation to adopt conventions Mavrodes has left us with a system in which our violence in warfare is only limited by the amount of destruction our opponent is ( or will ) cause. It does not take a stretch of the imagination to contemplate mutually assured destruction from such a limit. But then again Mavrodes may say that while such a thing is an unwelcoming outcome it is still justified. These concerns leave one hesitant to commit to his theory.

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Pacifism: Legitimate or Not

by James Moore

When thinking of pacifism, generally, your first thoughts are someone who is totally against violence in any sense. In the piece by Jan Narveson we will see that not all pacifists, if we can call them that, subscribe to this form of pacifism. There are many different ideologies surrounding this one moral principle. In this essay I will attempt to answer the question as to what a pacifist is. Then if they are legitimate in holding this position.

A pacifist is someone that is against violence. The individual that holds this position as principle and action is a pacifist. This meaning that someone not only believes this to be true, as simply a principle, but also physically acts on the principle. I think we all hold that it is somewhat honorable to renounce violence. We also probably wish that the world could be without violence, but the majority of us will not actively submit to violence. The point is that you can’t simply hold a pacifist principle you must act on it.

If we hold this form of pacifism that I have just defined then would it be rational to hold this position. It depends on if it works or not. It doesn’t seem rational to hold this position if we, as pacifist, continually get attacked and took over by outside forces. This especially doesn’t seem rational if we are continually getting killed. There has to be a way in which we can persuade the enemy without using violence.

This is where Narveson gives us two different kinds of persuasion. The first is attempted rational persuasion and the second being successful rational persuasion. These are simple to comprehend the attempted persuasion could fail; the successful is exactly what it says. I think these two questions are indifferent in time not in result. Before you can have success you have to attempt success. This means that the attempting persuasion happens before the successful persuasion. You, initially, have to attempt to persuade the enemy, but the enemy can go either way. Successful persuasion only comes as an end result of attempting to persuade. If you are attempting to persuade an enemy that is hell bent on destroying you city and all its occupants then it seem less likely for you to succeed in the persuasion. This is why I would, personally, add a new element to my philosophical position. It has been utilized by just about every civilization known to man, it is called lying. The pacifist should bluff the enemy to make them think that they will return violence. If I have understood this philosophy correctly then it shouldn’t be a moral crime to lie if it is going to prevent violence.

Then the question comes, what if the bluff fails? This is where I think the position of the pacifist should end. The pacifist would allow the enemy to steam roll over them. This ideology seems irrational because there has to be a point where you don’t allow people to take the civilization that you have tried so hard to create. It seems difficult to start a pacifistic society without some sort of violent beginning. Now, if you lived in a small secluded area it might be some what easier but if you tried this across a large area I don’t see it working. If it was in a small area then opposing countries wouldn’t see it as beneficial to take it over, but a large area would be under constant attack from outsiders. The reason is because the enemy knows that this is an easy victory and it would be advantageous to have more land.

Narveson brings up a good point that a society that is pacifistic lacks justice. This might not be a problem if everyone sticks to their pacifistic philosophy but if one person decides to break the code then the whole society falls apart. You have to have something that keeps everyone in check even if you think there is no need for it. This is just a security plan that ensures everyone follows the rules. You would assume that prison could be a choice because it is not violent this may be so. Narveson seems to think that the pacifist would be forced to set the criminals free. If this is so I don’t see how any pacifistic society could ever work.

If we look at the less strict forms of pacifism, we begin to see more and more problems. When we assume that we can’t defend ourselves but we can defend others. This sounds totally ridiculous to me because if you refuse to defend yourself then they can kill you and do what the will with the people you are suppose to be defending. Is it then your duty to defend yourself so you can defend the people that can’t defend themselves. It seems easy to fall into this circular cycle where if your not there to defend the women and children, then no one will defend them. It appears that it is your duty to prevent your own death in order to keep your family and others that can’t defend themselves. I just can see how you can justify saving some one else but not yourself.

I think it is easier just to hold the position as a strict pacifist because there is less consistency in the more liberal form of pacifism. It doesn’t make sense to make justification for violence and still consider yourself a pacifist. If you are a pacifist you are against violence, not against violence only in some situations. This just makes you normal besides the fact that you won’t defend yourself.

In any case of pacifism, the ideology fails. It is a wonder thought to hold onto. I think everyone would agree that renouncing violence is a great idea. I think that it is a theory that only can be used in a hypothetical sense. This may be an ideal that we can all espouse to possibly one day get to. It must stay as a theory though because the world we live in now self-defense is primary in survival and being able to maintain a certain culture. It seems a joke to say my culture is pacifistic and we will not combat violence with violence. This would give a free ticket to who ever wanted the particular area. It seems that a pacifist would expect everyone else to be a pacifist as well. They are only concerned with themselves. This is a problem because the only way a pacifist can be successful in his doctrine, without dying, is that everyone else must be a pacifist as well.

If everyone is not a pacifist then you have a great possibility of being taken advantage of. To take a Hobbesian position we have to assume that everyone is out to take advantage of us. This doesn’t mean that everyone actually is out to get us but that there is a possibility that someone can take advantage of us.

The only thing that a pacifist can do is hold his position in secret and avoid ever reavealing that he is a pacifist. Then they can utilize the suggestion that I made earlier in the paper, which is to lie. They can fool the enemy into thinking that if violence is brought upon then violence will be returned. If the enemy persists then there is no response that the pacifist can do. This creates a definite problem with the position that the pacifist holds. I have to agree with Narveson that the pacifist has a lot of explaining to do on their position. It will take a strong argument to persuade my view on this subject. The way the world is now it seems difficult to honestly hold this position. I have to rest firmly against pacifism because an enemy is out to destroy its opposition. This means unless you are willing to defend your area then it will be taken over unless you are depending on someone else to defend you. If that country or area ever changes its position then your country and your beliefs are gone.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Pacifism: the Recap

by Joe Miller

To all my students: welcome to the world of analytic philosophy. We spent the better part of three hours last night doing what analytic philosophers do best: smacking down other philosophers, defining terms and drawing distinctions. The work is sometimes frustrating, but it could be worse. Like, say, spending your Friday morning trying to figure out why FeedBurner won't validate your site feed. Anyway, I thought that it might be useful to have some sort of recap of the work that we did in class yesterday. I'll omit the details and focus mainly on the conclusions of our hard work.

We began with Jan Narveson's "Pacifism: A Philosophical Analysis" (subscription to JSTOR required). Narveson's definition of pacifism is pretty narrow. Okay, really narrow. Just next door to the the proverbial straw man. Indeed, Narveson slides from the fairly plausible view of pacifism as the claim that "violence is never permitted as a response to violence" to the absurd view of pacifism as the claim that "resistence to violence is never permitted." So we set out to find a more plausible definition of 'pacifism.' Our final definition (many P primes later):

P''''': No one may employ non-consentual physical force (including lethal force) with the intention of causing pain (or death), even in self-defense or in the defense of others against aggression. One may use other forms of force and coercion to resist violence.
And yes, I've reworded a little bit from the ungrammatical mess we had on the board last night. Our new definition of pacifism is logically consistent, if perhaps not easy or always-advantageous to follow.

We are left, then, with a central question: do we think that it is ever permissible to deliberately cause pain or death in the face of violent aggression? A 'no' answer puts us squarely in the pacifist camp while a 'yes' answer moves us in the direction of either realism or just war theory. The consensus view seemed to be something like the claim:

L: A loses A's right not to be killed when A violates or attempts to violate B's right not to be killed.
This is not to say that L is a sufficient condition for killing A. It could well be that some violations of L do not actually justify the use of lethal force against A. Rather, our claim was that L is a necessary condition for the use of lethal force. Any situation that cannot be characterized by L is not a candidate for the use of lethal force, but not all situations that are accurately characterized by L are candidates for lethal force. Accepting L means that we think that war can, at least in principle, be justified. Next week we will ask whether or not all wars are justified.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Theism and Philosophy

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, recently posted a brief take on atheism and philosophers, claiming that the greatest philosophers have all been theists and have largely tended to reject materialism. I challenged his assertion, and he followed up with his listing of what he takes to be the greatest philosophers. His list is certainly interesting and worth checking out. Regarding his methodology for assigning rankings, though, I have one rather serious objection. Here are Bill's criteria:

1. Truth of the philosopher's conclusions
2. Belief in reason's power to discover some of the ultimate truth
3. Rigor of argumentation
4. Appreciation of the limits of reason
5. Depth and centrality of the problems addressed
6. Breadth and systematicity of vision
7. Originality
8. Long-term influence
Bill goes on to say that condition (1) is defined as, effectively, "accords with my views." The problem is that if I happen to reject theism and materialism and then use that rejection as my first criterion for picking out good philosophers, then of course all the greatest philosophers will likewise reject theism and materialism. Similarly, one's own particular subfield of philosophy will be likely to affect one's working out of condition (5). After all, the problems that I as a political philosopher view as central are likely to be very different from the problems that Bill as a metaphysician would view as central. That said, here's my listing of the twenty greatest philosophers, using 2-8 as my criteria. And no, I didn't include myself. I'm actually 21st.

1. Aristotle
2. Immanuel Kant
3. Plato
4. David Hume
5. Thomas Hobbes
6. John Locke
7. John Stuart Mill
8. Rene Descartes
9. Karl Marx
10. Socrates
11. Thomas Aquinas
12. Adam Smith
13. Bertrand Russell
14. Ludwig Wittgenstein
15. Willard V.O. Quine
16. John Rawls
17. Niccolo Machiavelli
18. Friedrich Nietzsche
19. Karl Popper
20. Richard Rorty

For the record, I think that there is a dramatic drop-off in importance between 1-3 and 4 on this list. I ranked Plato below Aristotle and Kant, which might strike some as odd. My reasoning, however, is that while there would be no Aristotle without Plato, almost no one has ever actually been a Platonist.

Some subsequent ideosyncratic choices: Hume makes the list as the greatest of the empiricists and as the spark for Kant's critical period. Locke ranks as highly as he does for his influence on Jefferson and Madison and thus indirectly on most of 20th C liberalism. Mill wins his place not just for his moral and political philosophy, but also for his work in logic and economics, which were standard texts for better than a century. Adam Smith is not always thought of as a philosopher, but Wealth of Nations is, I think, pretty clearly an important work of political philosophy, one with rather a lot of influence.

UPDATE: John makes a nice point in the comments that my list doesn't include any Eastern philosophers. Similarly, other than Nietzsche and Marx, there are no Contintental philosophers included. My defense here is that, frankly, I don't know the Eastern or Continental traditions enough to even begin to rank the importance of thinkers in those traditions. I'm firmly in the analytic tradition, trained in a program that some might call hyper-analytic. My listing, then, is a ranking of philosophers important mainly in the analytic tradition.

UPDATE 2: Yes, it's true. My post started out being about philosophy and theism and then I failed to get back to the initial question of whether most important philosophers have been theists. Partly that will depend on what we mean by 'theists'. Does it mean that one believes in something like the traditional Western monotheistic YHWH/God/Allah? Or does it simply mean that one believes in the existence of some sort of supernatural entity? I think that at least the spirit of Professor Vallicella's original point was to say that the best philosophers have been theists in the traditional Western sense. That would rule out all the pagan Greeks by definition. But in the spirit of generosity, I'll include everyone who believes in God or gods.

Theists from my list would then include Kant, Plato (sort of), Locke, Descartes, Socrates (sort of), Aquinas, and Smith. That's seven out of the twenty. OTOH, it's also seven of the first twelve names on the list. If one takes Bill's original point that the greatest philosophers have rejected both atheism and materialism, then the list shortens as that standard excludes both Locke and Smith.

I think that it is interesting to note that, from my list at least, Kant is the last important philosopher to be a theist. Plato and Socrates are pre-Christian, Aquinas is 13th C, Descartes and Locke are 17th C, and Kant late 18th C. At least in the analytic tradition, then, the trend in philosophy is decidedly away from theism and immaterialism. But again, that observation simply begs the question, as analytic philosophy just is Anglo-American empiricism. It strikes me as pretty obvious that the more emphasis one places on the observable, the less credence one will give to the existence of non-empirical phenomenon, be they noumenal selves, minds that aren't brains, or supernatural divinities.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

War, the Constitution and the U.N.

by Joe Miller

In a thread at Catallarchy, Sean Lynch asks readers for euphamisms for what "we call it when one nation-state engages in a legally declared armed conflict with another nation-state". I suggested that we call it "World War II," since that was the last time that the United States actually engaged in a legally-declared armed conflict with another nation-state. I meant the comment to be a joke, but it turns out to have sparked a couple of objections, one from Brian Doss and the other from Tom Anger. Brian is a Catallarch, and writes rather a lot about topics related to just war. I've learned a great deal from his posts. Tom resides at Liberty Corner. He and I collaborated briefly on an article on aggression before we discovered two things: we agree on almost nothing, and academics work at a far slower pace than bloggers. Tom posted his half of the project at Liberty Corner. I have a fisking of his article that I'll post just as soon as I get off my lazy ass and edit it. My half of the project is still in development hell, though if I can convince the University to give me some money, I'll be finishing it up at Swansea this summer. Hey, we can hope.

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, in responding to my post, Brian offers the following:

Granted I’m not a lawyer, but from every article I’ve read on the subject of “authorizations of force", the people involved all agree that they are the functional equivalent of a declaration of war.

If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, most folk call it a duck, but in the case of “authorizations of force” people say “nope, not a duck, because it has a white head instead of a green head, and ducks have green heads like in the Duck Head logo.”

Also, after the United Nations treaty, technically speaking isn’t using the words “declare war” formally illegal?

First a minor point. I don't think that the Charter actually forbids declarations of war. Rather, what the Charter forbids are aggressive wars. Article 51, however, explicitly grants the right of nations to wage defensive wars. A Congressional declaration of war would not, as far as I can tell, actually in and of itself violate the Charter. Otherwise, point taken. An AUMF is, legally identical to a declaration of war. The words are not the same, but the spirit certainly is. The intent behind Article I, Section 8 is that Congress approve sending the nation to war. Whether that is called a "declaration of war" or an "authorization for the use of military force" strikes me as pretty much irrelevant.

Tom then responds to Brian (and indirectly to me as well) with the following:

I think Joe knows that an AUMF is the legal equivalent of a declaration of war. I’m guessing that Joe is trying to make this point:

1. Presidents (e.g., Truman in Korea) have acted without the consent of Congress (even if under cover of the UN), or

2. Congress has illegally authorized the use of force because it hasn’t first received the approval of the UN.

It’s sort of a Catch-22 isn’t it? But let’s ignore point 1 for the moment and ask why (regardless of our “obligation” under the UN Charter) the sovereignty of the U.S. should ever have been placed in the hands of the UN? As I said here:

It seems unlikely that a court (the U.S. Supreme Court, in particular) would find that the constitutional grant of power to declare war, which is so fundamental to America’s sovereignty and to the protection of Americans’ interests, can be ceded by treaty to an international body that cannot be relied upon to protect our sovereignty and our interests.
If push were to come to shove, I expect the Supreme Court would nullify U.S. membership in the UN on the ground that that membership amounts to an unconstitutional cessation of sovereign power.
And Brian again:

The UN Treaty is law in the US (per the constitution), but all law in the US is subordinate to the US Constitution (i.e., where there is conflict between the law and the constitution, the constitution wins). Therefore, if I understand correctly, regardless of the UN treaty the US (legally) retains the right to go to war (meaning my Q to Joe was indeed ultimately rhetorical/moot) since (a) the US did not transfer sovereignty to the UN/throw away the constitution upon signing the treaty, and (b) the constitution explicitly enshrines warmaking capacity within the US Congress.

Now as some of you may know (and the rest of you--my students anyway--will know later in the semester), I have argued about this point in print. And I think that the Catch-22 that Tom presents misses the point of what I have argued there. The short version: The UN Charter is a treaty and as such, according to the Supremacy Clause, is part of the supreme law of the land. The Charter, however, makes waging war in any case other than self-defense illegal, unless the nation in question receives Security Council approval.

Tom's objection here is that that reading of the Charter is unconstitutional. After all, the Constitution continues to be the supreme law of the land. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that a treaty that requires the violation of some portion of the Constitution is void. Tom's argument, then, is that the Charter conflicts with Congress' explicit power in Article I, Section 8 to declare war.

I think, however, that this reading is too quick. Now if the Charter said that the U.S. must wage war when and only when the Security Council so directs, then I would be first in line to agree with Tom; that clearly would be unconstitutional. But the Charter doesn't require that at all. Rather, what the Charter says is that in any case other than immediate self-defense, the U.S. may declare war only with Security Council approval. The Charter, then, does not usurp Congress' role in declaring war. Rather, the Charter adds an additional requirement. For certain kinds of wars, Congress agrees to declare war only if the Security Council approves. On my reading, Congressional approval to wage war is still a necessary condition for a war's legality. It is not, however, always a sufficient condition for a war to count as legal.

Yes, this is a subtle difference. And yes, many of you might well find it treading close to surrendering U.S. sovereignty to an international body. That's clearly Tom's position. I don't, however, think that it is actually unconstitutional. After all, isn't this just what treaties are supposed to do? Treaties are voluntary agreements to refrain from certain acts that would, in the absence of a treaty, be perfectly within a nation's right to carry out. So, for example, a treaty that bans the production of new nuclear weapons places certain limits on Congress. Specifically, it acts as a limitation on Congress' power to "raise and support armies." An action that Congress would have been free to do is now illegal. Still, it's hard to see why that would be unconstitutional. All treaties limit the power of the state. That is, all treaties take away the right to do certain things that the state otherwise would have had the Constitutional power to do. Tom's reading of the Constitutionality would, I think, simply have the effect of making all treaties unconstitutional. That reading, however, would pretty clearly run counter to the intent of the Framers.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let the Mayhem Begin

by Joe Miller

As you'll no doubt notice when you scroll down, the first three papers from my co-bloggers (i.e., the students enrolled in War and Morality) are now up. Those of you in the class, don't forget that you are required each week to make substantive comments on at least three papers before class on Thursday night. I'm sure that those of you in the class will remember to be civil. After all, your paper will be up at some point. If you're not in my class, then try to remember to show everyone the same respect that you show me. Oh, wait. Okay, try to show everyone the same respect that you would show to Dr. Geller. Or some professor you like. Surely there is one somewhere.

Constructive comments from all are welcome. My students may tire of hearing me say this, but I am very much of the belief that philosophy is an ongoing conversation, a dialogue that has been going on both in-print and face-to-face for 2500 years. The 'net lets us bring together both of those elements in an interesting and (potentially) very productive way. So please join in our conversation.

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Time and Its Effect on “The Just War”

by Kim Morrison

Philosophy is not an easy topic to wrap one’s mind around, at least not for me. However, when I chose to read the article by Wells I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to follow his philosophy on “The Just War” despite all the philosophy terminology and conspicuous use of words not used in everyday conversation. Although I suspect some of you probably do know the meaning of casuistry, I actually had to look it up in the dictionary. (By the way it is defined as “specious or overly subtle reasoning intended to rationalize or mislead.) The reason I could follow his philosophy, when he was speaking English of course, is due to his comparison between medieval and modern warfare. I’m not a history major but I am fascinated with the history of the British monarchy. I have read several books written by a very talented woman named Alison Weir. The time and effort she takes in doing her research is astounding and the bibliographies of her books can be seven or more pages in length. What was pertinent to my understanding while reading Wells’ article are Weir’s vivid descriptions of battles fought during the period of which she is writing. With my amateur knowledge of British history, current awareness of modern warfare, and the rather ambiguous conditions of the “just war” doctrine I will examine the affects of time on the “just war.”

As we learned in class last week there are seven conditions a war must meet for it to be called “just.” The list provided by Joseph McKenna is as follows: “(1) the war must be declared by the duly constituted authority; (2) the seriousness of the injury inflicted on the enemy must be proportional to the damage suffered by the virtuous; (3) the injury to the aggressor must be real and immediate; (4) there must be a reasonable chance of winning the war; (5) the use of war must be a last resort; (6) the participants must have right intentions; and (7) the means used must be moral.” As the reader can see there is a difference between McKenna’s list and the one we used in class. McKenna’s list has conditions three and seven while our list in class had “just cause” and “noncombatant immunity.” The differences are slight but possibly significant and may have grounds for further investigation. For the purpose of this paper, however, I will refer to McKenna’s list and examine the two conditions that time seems to have had the most significant affect upon.

Condition 1: the war must be declared by the duly constituted authority. In medieval England the “duly constituted authority” was of course the monarch. The sovereign could declare war whenever it was necessary to defend the realm or, on several occasions, his or her reign. The reigning monarch was advised by a council on matters of state. If their sovereign wanted to wage a war, the council could make appeals to him, or her, based on the advantages and disadvantages of waging that war. However, the monarch made the decision whether or not to wage war, and in some instances, did so against the advice of the council. With no organized military force, the men of the realm were at the monarch’s disposal to use in waging a war. Just picture a little boy playing with a bucket of those little green toy soldiers.

Unfortunately, that same image can be applied to modern warfare, the only difference now is that those little green soldiers are part of an organized military. Today’s modern war is still decided by the “duly constituted authority” only there is, most often, more than one person involved in making the decision. The president of the United States can only declare war if it is okayed by Congress first. And yet that image of a little boy playing with toy soldiers still persists because the American public has no real control in whether or not the troops are sent to war, how long they will be there, how many times they will have to go back, or numerous other heartbreaking scenarios. Protests against a war may receive attention but are hardly effective in bringing about any changes in this respect.

In both instances it is ignorant for a country’s citizens to believe that their leader (or leaders) is completely competent when making important decisions or that they really have the country’s best interest at heart. It is interesting to note however, that more often that not, a king (or a representative of the reigning queen) would command a group of soldiers himself, which could lend more strength to his cause. When has a president of the United States ever commanded a battalion of troops during wartime? Only thing I have seen in my lifetime is a president’s ability to serve Thanksgiving dinner.

Condition 6: the participants must have right intentions. This condition seems to be the most ambiguous of the seven and Wells incorporates the immunity of noncombatants into this condition making it an even more loaded condition. First of all, who can say with unquestioned authority that one country has the right intentions while another country does not? Apparently no one can be that unbiased to begin with and those who are unbiased do not usually have that type of authority. In the 16th century, Spain’s attempted invasions of England may have had the right intentions to Spain but certainly not to England. As for an unbiased judge in the situation it definitely could not have been France. They were waiting for the outcome and making preparations for offering loyalty to the winner. In modern times Switzerland was, and has been, neutral through several wars. The country tends to be unbiased but obviously did not have the authority to decide which country had the right intentions in the wars fought around it.

Even with the dispute over who had the right intentions, in medieval times it was generally accepted that deaths of noncombatants were to be avoided at all costs. Chivalry, a dying art. Battles were usually fought in large fields or meadows that were away from areas with a significant population of noncombatants. In battles fought between Englishmen on opposing sides, an army’s commander would order his soldiers that only the nobles of the opposing side were to be killed. This may seem odd but it was a brilliant strategy. The title of the dead noble could be stripped from his family and given to another on the winning side and the soldiers whose lives were spared were generally absorbed into the army of the winner. People in power with the same goals and a larger army improved odds of winning an entire war more likely, whether or not that side had the right intentions upon entering the war. In some cases these orders may not have been heard by all before a conflict began or they were even ignored. When this happened the results could be devastating. An entire enemy army could be nearly annihilated in the course of a battle. But no matter the devastation to the enemy’s army or one’s own, the civilian population was to be left unharmed. Accidental deaths did occur on some occasions and sometimes they were hardly accidental. Some commanders would allow their army to sack an enemy town or city with few limits on what they were and were not allowed to do. Stealing, raping women and girls, and generally terrorizing the citizens were among the exploits of an invading army. Many commanders forbade their soldiers to sack a town or city they intended to occupy but sometimes those orders were not followed. Even with the occasional rape and pillage of a town, deaths of civilians were to be avoided. This was also rather easily accomplished because of the limitations of the weapons used at the time. You couldn’t aim at a target that you couldn’t see, much less make an accurate hit. That is until now.

In modern wars chivalry seems to have gone out the window. Wells states that “[m]odern war is total at least in the sense that there are no innocents,” (p. 826). How else would the United States have been able to drop bombs on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima? If the government had believed that there were innocent people in those cities the bombs could never have dropped. This calls into question how responsible a nation is for the decisions of its leaders. Were the Japanese civilians really responsible for their leaders’ decision to bomb Pearl Harbor? Are the civilians of the Middle East responsible for 9/11? In a modern war it is apparently hard to tell where the line between the guilty and the innocent is to drawn or if should even be drawn at all. Another problem that adds to this dilemma is the fact that those that should be innocent, are not as much as they should be. A young Iraqi boy is harmless enough until he is given an automatic machine gun and learns how to plant roadside bombs. I don’t know about you but I would like to know how the present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been handled in 1942. Would the United States have bombed Baghdad and Kabul without batting an eyelash? Also, the United States was not accused of trying to cleanse the world of the Hindus or Buddhists by bombing Japan and was considered a proportional response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor but now it seems any similar bombing attempt would be regarded as the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and, in all likelihood, be regarded as a crime against humanity. Is the increasing concern with being politically correct inhibiting the ability of a country to wage a “just war”? This is where the different interpretations of the conditions of a “just war” come into play. In my opinion, time has definitely taken its toll on how those conditions are interpreted, how they are applied to different situations, and the impact different beliefs of the world have on them.

In choosing Wells' article as my paper topic I never realized I would end up having so many questions about the way modern wars have been conducted. The conditions laid out by McKenna are obviously not all adhered to and those that are adhered to are left to the interpretations of those using them. Wells observed that applying these conditions to modern war isn't as easy as it may seem. After examining the effect that the passage of time has had on these conditions and the ways in which they are applied to justify a war, I agree with him. It would seem that the condtions of a "just war" need another revision.

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Pacifism: An Inconsistent Doctrine

by Jamie McCall

Pacifism is an ideology held by all those who are wholly against waging warfare. Beyond mere opposition to warfare in general, pacifism asserts that even the action of repelling force with force is immoral, regardless of circumstance or reason. This contemporary view of pacifism seems to be opposite to more antiquated varieties, where pacifism was presented as an idea which did not renounce physical force when used in “the interest of moral government” (Buckham 89). In Jan Narveson’s article “Pacifism: A Philosophical Analysis,” the philosophical validity of contemporary pacifism in its many forms is examined and shown to have significant problems that threaten the doctrine’s legitimacy. I support Narveson’s assertion that only one type of pacifism is logically consistent. However, as Narveson shows, even this brand of pacifism contains core problems which make the theory hard to sustain regardless of attempts by others to redefine the doctrine.

The only logical form of pacifism is the moral principle which asserts all people have a moral duty to not repel force with force, unconditionally. Under such a sweeping theory, people have no right to self defense and our entire criminal justice system has to be dismantled, as all murderers, rapists, and robbers are to be set free. Anticipating the objection to this claim, Narveson asserts that the pacifist will then say that he has no right to defend himself, but may legitimately fight to defend others (Narveson 264). The key issue becomes what is it about other people that gives us to the right to defend them when we cannot defend our own person? This would require some characteristic which uniquely distinguishes every single person from everyone else, but is also a characteristic which everyone else has that I do not (because I can defend everyone else). Such a characteristic is internally inconsistent. There is certainly a property everyone else has that I do not: they are not me, but such a characteristic has no moral value and is not a valid reason to explain why they may defend me. Simply because everyone else is not me does not give them a moral reason as to why they can or should defend me against violence. The characteristic required here would have to have an intrinsic value unique to everyone but me, and yet still be such that I had some version of it so that I could defend others. Such a characteristic containing moral distinction does not appear to exist.

The next step for the pacifist is to assert that only the defenseless should be defended. But then we have a logical problem of people defending the defenseless, who will end up defending themselves as part of defending. In the end, those who cannot defend themselves are helpless, and those who can defend ought not to because in the process they will defend themselves as well (Narveson 437). This of course will be refuted by the pacifist as the double effect – even though the defense of the defenseless may result in the foreseen consequence of defending myself, my intent was not to do such and so the action is still morally justifiable. However, the principle of the double effect contains a logical problem. Mainly, the double effect assumes that as long as the end result is good, actions taken to achieve this good are justifiable even if they are evil and are foreseen. In the context of a philosophy based on non-violence, the problem occurs in those situations where the defense of myself while defending others could result in much greater evils being perpetrated. The most obvious cause of this happening is when my defense of others drives me to do extremely violent things out of necessity, but other problems could also arise.. For example, if I am morally obligated to defend the defenseless around me, but I have something the enemy wants, I am to defend them even though defending myself will result in much greater evils long term. I could simply surrender myself, but that could also cause the slaughter of innocents in many war-time situations.

Beyond such logical problems, we are faced with a more fundamental issue: if it is fundamentally evil to resist violence, why should the defenseless be defended at all? If that defense of the helpless involves violence, no matter how legitimate, it would seem as though it is wrong for the pacifist to defend them, especially considering the ongoing problem of defending oneself in the process. This is one of the fundamental problems of pacifism.

In general, mankind characterizes its opposition to any given issue by the length that he is willing to go to stop it from happening. A pacifist is set completely against violence, and yet will not use violence to stop violence from happening. The pacifist will claim that there are other non-violent ways to defend their rights. However, there are forseeable instances when all non-violent attempts to defend my rights fail and I am faced with the option of doing nothing or using violence. In this instance the pacifist will claim that we are to do nothing to retaliate. However, we should have a right to defend ourselves and our rights when all other means have failed. What if the thing we are defending affects not only us, but those around us? By virtue of the pacifist principle we are to do nothing because we are the ones being directly threatened with violence, but what about the consequences of that violence which may in the long term result in the suffering and death of others? Such situations are easy to imagine in cases of war, where failure to defend yourself and others will result in the death and torture of everyone else.

In response to these arguments, many advocates of pacifism insist on creating “newer” form of the doctrine to satisfy the above objections. In the 20th and 21st century, the evolution of the pacifist doctrine has attempted to move it away from an individual context and into the realm of generalities and institutions. This new pacifism is an ethical model that stresses social organizations over indidivudal contact. Thus, the individual must no longer act as though peace is a realizable idea in all situations:

The newer pacifism does not say that war, and still less force generally, is the greatest evil, overshadowing all practical cocnerns, even justice, so that men are obliged unconditionally to abstain from it; rather it says that war is an evil – an assertation seldom seriously contradicted – an evil sufficiently serious under present conditions to warrant effort and reasonable sacrafice of group interests in order to establish a stable international order (Stevenson 445).

There is one main area of concern with this definition – evil. What is evil? This is a question that has been debated since man began thinking. There have been countless answers throughout the ages, and many have been agreed on and many have been dissmissed. The pacifist may say to this objection that while there may be disagreement, in most instances what is truly evil can be asertained and thus the problem of defining the concept poses no real problem. However, there are instances where what is evil when dealing with groups and insitutitons are not so obvious. When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, it is clear that atleast the premesis for the war was that Japan had iniatied evil actions first. But was the dropping of the bomb a equal or greater evil? If it was, would pacifists agree that we should have done nothing and taken the chance that the War would have ended differently? If the Japense had been able to shoot down the airplane, should they have done it? After all, in this instance merely running couldn’t save an entire city of people – the only way to truly save everyone would be to use violence against the plane carrying the bomb before it arrived at the target. The essential problem with the “new” pacifism is that it is impossible to truly categorize evil in all situations which leads to inevitable situations where it becomes impossible to tell which side is really being the “greater evil.”

To conclude, the doctrine of pacifism presents a perspective that, upon examination, proves to be literred with internal inconsistantices and logical problems. As pacifism continues to grow as a popular doctrine and as a movement (Kirkendall 223), it has proven to be highly interesting to examine exactly what pacifism means and what its applications are. In general, the pacifist movement has moved in three stages, the second and third which are examined here. Moving from the antiquated version of “pacifism is advocated in all instances except when the state has just cause” to “pacifism means not resisting to all forms of violence,” Jan Narveson examines the contemporary meanings of pacifism and nulifies each version until coming to the only version of the doctrine which truly operates as a moral theory.

From this premis, Narveson then shows how the very concept of pacifism is internally inconsistent because it requires some intrinsic moral value unique to everyone and between individuals. Even accepting this, pacifism requires that we defend everyne else without defending ourselves. While such might be technically possible, what happens if our death (by not defending ourselves) results in the death of our group, since it is almost always the case that the death of the defender results in very bad things for those being defended? New approaches to the pacifist doctrine present a different perspective but continue to have many similar problems. While the "new pacifism" now allows for warfare, its definition requires a concrete understanding and categorization of evil, a term which has eluded man since time began. Even though many situations can be understood as being obviously evil, there are still many instances when what is evil and what is not proves to be elusive.

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