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Is Terrorism a Pure Form of Moral Evil?

charleslb
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5/8/2011 1:57:17 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Because of recent historical events (the "sanctioning" of Osama bin Laden with "extreme prejudice") I'm going to once more darken your doorstep here at Debate.org. Don't worry however, I have no intention of making a habit of it. I just wish to weigh in with some thoughts that go decidedly against the grain of all the public celebrations and the triumphalist moralizing we hear coming over the airwaves. I hope that we can tear ourselves away from the lemming herd gleefully singing, like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz, Ding dong the wicked terrorist is dead!, and chanting America über alles, to ponder in a meaningful way some deeper issues.

So, let me get to it straightaway by posing some timely ethical-philosophical questions that might seem to many to be regular no-brainers. Was Osama bin Laden utterly and definitively "evil"? Was the abominable atrocity of 9/11 an expression of "evil" beyond the moral pale for decent human beings? And is "terrorism" per se "evil"?

The simple answer to the above questions is of course yes. That is, the answer is yes in the simple sense that the violence, loss, and pain that bin Laden and other "terrorists" have inflicted on the lives of innocent people is heinously cruel and contrary to the supreme ethical axiom of the sacredness of life. So much for the questions above for now, I really just wanted to get them out of the way, I'll get back to them again later but I'd like to cut now to the chase of a more knotty ethical-philosophical problem.

Namely, I'd like to think critically about whether it's morally right-minded to pick out and stand pat with the kind of questions I've just posed and answered, the kind of questions many people right now are asking and reducing to simple moralistic answers.

Huh?! Well, since the assassination of bin Laden many of us have been asking the question Was he, and are those of his terrorist ilk, quite simply and categorically evil? And is it therefore morally justified to harbor hatred for them, and to expediently exterminate them when the opportunity presents, without any compunction and without due process or respect for their human rights? Which is to say that thanks to current events we've been provoked to think about the fundamental ethical question of the nature of "evil", and of how "good" people should respond to it.

Unfortunately, and predictably, however, many of us seem to be approaching these quite deep questions in a rather superficially and self-righteously selective fashion. What I mean to say is that we're not really exploring them in a critical and enlightenment-seeking way at all; rather, we're blatantly begging the question of evil. That is, we're framing our questions about evil with a black & white reductiveness that turns them into leading questions, leading questions that lead us right to the self-satisfying answers we desire.

We mechanically ask Was bin Laden evil? with a complacently one-sided simplicity that makes it a foregone conclusion that nice Western middle-class people are the preeminent paragons of moral goodness with the divine right to define our enemies as pure evil. For all sanctimonious intents and purposes we pare down the question of evil to the point that it's partisan, devoid of complexity, and virtually rhetorical. Indeed, we turn it into a mere shell of the heady, profound, and self-critical question it should be, because the sorry truth be told a great many of us are far more interested in self-validation than sincere philosophical reflection that might knock us off our moral high horse.

When someone does try to add some philosophical multi-dimensionality to the problem of evil, when one tries to look at it with an approach that isn't closed-mindedly holier-than-thou, the brickbat of "moral relativism" and the epithet of "situational ethics" start flying. Even worse, he who would inquire into the nature of good & evil too questioningly and thereby threaten to take away his neighbor's unexamined sense of entitlement to harshly judge his enemies is liable to libeled as a sympathizer with evil.

Well, I'll accept these risks and ask again the questions I led with, this time trying to tease out a bit more ethical complexity. Was Osama bin Laden purely evil in the broader context of the evils visited upon the Third World by globalization, aka the West's modern form of economic, political, and cultural imperialism? Was Osama more evil when he fought the West than when he fought the West's Cold War foe, the Soviet Union? That is, are we being morally relativistic when we deem him an evil terrorist for violently hating us, and a praiseworthy "freedom fighter" when he directed the same violent xenophobia at the commies? Are bin Laden's "terrorist" brethren all morally inferior to the men and women in our armed forces who often take part in wars (terrorism on a massive scale) that lack moral justification every bit as much as the attack on 9/11? In other words, is it really righteous of us to be piously black & white in our morality when we judge our enemies, and to make excuses for our own society and its military personnel when it comes to the terror and death we perpetrate? Doesn't our duplicitous double standard belie our definition of evil?

Come on here, aren't the hypocrisy and injustices of the self-proclaimed "good guys" usually more relevant than we'd like to admit to our understanding and assessment of the evil of the "bad guys"? Which is to say, isn't justice, or the lack thereof, a pivotal moral issue, one that frequently and fundamentally factors into the real-world nature of "evil"? I.e., doesn't the justice factor in many cases significantly change the face of evil? And doesn't it often transfigure what at a cursory glance appears to be pure and unilateral evil into a transpersonal bigger picture that we all have a hand in drawing together? Sure, this cosmically composite big picture of evil that we all co-create remains as ugly as ever, but not as clear-cut and not one that depicts us somewhere up on a saintly plane above reproach. By all rights it should force a soul-searching reevaluation of our basic concept of evil, and the convenient way we tend to morally pigeonhole our adversaries.

No, I'm not saying that there's only the morally commutual big picture, that there's no such thing as true evil and personal responsibility. There most certainly is such a thing as evil. What exactly is evil, evil qua evil? Evil is simply one's choice to reject, and to do something that opposes the creativity, beauty, and sacredness of existence. The view I'm expressing here, then, is not the amoralist view that evil is a mere illusion that doesn't exist; rather, the view I'm expressing is the critical view that pure evil is a simplistic and smug-making notion that seldom if ever really exists, that no one ever really makes a pure and unmitigated choice to reject and oppose the good. "No man is an island", the wrongful choice that individuals make to commit evil, the culpable choice that they make inwardly, in their own hearts and minds, is always shaped by external circumstances of some kind. Whether it's the home a "bad guy" grew up in, the socioeconomic environment he was born into, the waves of history he finds his life swept up in, or what have you, the choice for evil is never contextless.

In the case of "terrorists", the larger, extenuating context they must be viewed in is the imperialism, inequities, and injustice meted out to the disenfranchised masses of the modern world order. From the blighted boroughs of New York to the brutal slums of Bangkok, a sinful imbalance of economic and political clout is leading many onto the path of violence, in

The conclusion is located directly below
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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5/8/2011 1:58:22 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Conclusion

one form or another. Whether it's the domestic imperialism of the corporatocracy directed at the poor of our own inner cities, i.e. the increasingly appalling asymmetry of wealth and power in our own society, and the way it drives young people into criminal gangs and a life of predatory violence; or the neocolonialism and exploitation practiced overseas by the affluent nations, and the way it impels aggrieved campesinos and lumpenproletarians to take up arms and take on the role of guerrillas and terrorists, in either case the poverty and privation, inhumaneness and injustice endemic to the current world system breeds evils.

The world's evils are not merely the product of the sick and twisted minds of the likes of Osama bin Laden, they're underlyingly engendered by a cruel status quo that poisons people's character and degenerates their humanity – on both ends of the politico-economic food chain. ‘Tis the vicious circle of evil that the greedy behavior of the ruling class debases them into a predacious, parasitic pox upon the house of man, whose underprivileged habitants in turn are infected with a vexation of spirit that can turn them to the dark side. The ranks of al-Qaeda and Hamas are full of average Joes (or Yusefs) whose powerlessness, poverty-strickenness, disgruntlement, and rankling desire to retaliate is the direct result of the depraved indifference that's been shown for their human worth and dignity by the governmental and plutocratic powers that be.

Alas, being morally right-minded and righteous does not mean self-servingly glossing over this existential reality, and exclusively and judgmentally focusing on the badness of those whom you fear; it does not mean glibly dismissing the reasons for their actions as mere excuses; and it does not mean denying our assailants the same excuses we so generously give to our own leaders and warriors.

But, of course, we really do apply an ethically lame double standard. When our elected officials, who are more in service to the leisured fat cats than the laboring little guy, instigate a war that benefits the billionaire boy's club at the expense of some other country's "collateral damage"; when our troops, in robotlike fashion, go off to slaughter their fellow humans in a morally unjustifiable, mercenary invasion/occupation, do we hold them to the same unforgiving and stringent standard of personal responsibility? Hardly. We rationalize that soldiers have to follow orders, that they don't get to pick and choose the wars they fight, and that they have noble intentions, blah, blah, blah. And although we're a bit more cynical about our politicians nowadays, we still give them some slight benefit of the doubt as to their motives and stop short of condemning them as flat-out evil.

The way our casuistic moral reasoning works for us really is quite speciously hypocritical indeed. For instance, we don't wish to give a nanosecond of thought to the twistedly idealistic intentions of a bin Laden, but we maintain that the patriotic motivations of American air force pilots who bomb and incendiarize civilians absolves them of their crimes against life!

To sum up then, if we honestly believe that those who engage in murder and mayhem in our name, that "our" killers deserve to be handed moral alibis and cop-outs galore, then perhaps on closer and more fair-minded examination we would find that "terrorists", that "their" killers deserve similar moral alibis, that "terrorism" is by no means pure evil.

In truth, although it might be hard-to-swallow truth, terrorists are merely bringing back to us some of the pain we've wantonly wreaked on the Third World, merely bringing the fight for freedom from Western greed and exploitation home to us. And, if we don't consider the pilots of the Enola Gay to be fiendish evildoers for bringing the war home to Japan, incinerating and irradiating thousands of innocent children by dropping A-bombs on them, that is; if we don't regard the RAF and U.S. pilots who carpet bombed Dresden to be vile villains, etc., well, then "terrorists" have a right to the same easygoing verdict of not guilty, not guilty of being evil.

In their minds they too are fighting a just war, a war of self-defense. And no, they are not the least bit delusional about this. In the era of colonialism we, the wicked WASPs of the West, mighty and manifestly-destined whitey, openly dominated the populations of the LDCs (less developed countries), and today we continue to do so on the down-low. They, the "terrorists" do not simply do bad things because of their senseless and sinister inner badness, they have plenty of real provocation, if not justification.

Sure, some "terrorists" are out-and-out drooling fanatics, but this doesn't alter the fact that our bloodsucking corporate elite has incurred their wrath for us. When our minds reflect upon the evil of terrorism we need to include the globalizing upper crust of our own society in the equation. Being intellectually honest and moral people mandates this.

No doubt life would be easier and feel more cozily safe if the people of the Third World were all Uncle Toms, but they do have the moral right to be Nat Turners. When the rebellious slave Nat Turner rose up and killed whites who had been treating his people like animals, he was not evil incarnate, he was viewed as a terrifying evil incarnate by overseers, but he was just a human being pushed beyond the limits of decency. Likewise, so-called "terrorists" are merely the afflicted and abused fellaheen and peons under the boot heel of First World hegemony, lethally lashing out at the source of their grievances. I don't endorse or advocate their use of homicidal violence, but neither can I dismiss it as unreasonable and pure evil.

What of evil then? Evil is an aspect of life, after all, and life, to borrow an analogy from quantum physics, comes not merely in individual particles but in waves as well (it depends on the perception of the observer – you might call this moral complementarity). Of course we all know that evil pops up in the behavior of individuals, but it's also diffused throughout the waves of life and history, not isolatedly concentrated in the criminals and terrorists we love to hate. The upshot is that ethically speaking there are no lone gunmen in the universe. No, the evildoing of malevolent miscreants such as Osama bin Laden does not cut them off from humanity; rather, it's inseparable from the history we've all helped to create. Being a person of moral integrity means owning up to this, not merely damning bin Laden and his type to hell as absolute evil.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
OMGJustinBieber
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5/8/2011 3:18:56 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I agree with some of what you say, and there's no doubt that evil can be viewed in a broader context, but even if a pessimistic view about American involvement in the Middle East is taken, Osama still comes off poorly. I feel even if the US had been 10x worse to the Middle East than it had been prior to 9/11 - the killing of 3,000 American civilians would not have been close to justified. External conditions may have precipitated the action to some extent, along with Islam's own Wahhabist history - but in no way does it justify it. If a Jew had escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in 1944 and murdered 3,000 German civilians that Jew would not have been a hero.

Al-Qaeda would have been much easier to defend if it had targeted American soldiers. It's also important to remember that Osama came from wealth, he was not the the victim of some crushing American economic imperialism, and many of the al-Qaeda leaders are educated and wealthy. Why do the people of the third world have the right to be Nat Turners? Why did Nat Turner have the right to be Nat Turner? Turner killed men, women, and children. I guess my main point would be even if the worst has befallen you, it does not give you the moral right to indisciminately kill those who are in some loose way "guilty by association."
devinni01841
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5/9/2011 9:56:01 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/8/2011 5:36:36 PM, Thaddeus wrote:
Oh god its back. Too tired to read now. I'll read and mock tomorrow.

LOL
There is nothing more bad-@ss than being yourself.

I solemnly swear I am up to no good.

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An Armed society is a polite society.
charleslb
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5/9/2011 2:22:52 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/8/2011 3:18:56 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
I agree with some of what you say, and there's no doubt that evil can be viewed in a broader context, but even if a pessimistic view about American involvement in the Middle East is taken, Osama still comes off poorly. I feel even if the US had been 10x worse to the Middle East than it had been prior to 9/11 - the killing of 3,000 American civilians would not have been close to justified. External conditions may have precipitated the action to some extent, along with Islam's own Wahhabist history - but in no way does it justify it. If a Jew had escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in 1944 and murdered 3,000 German civilians that Jew would not have been a hero.

Al-Qaeda would have been much easier to defend if it had targeted American soldiers. It's also important to remember that Osama came from wealth, he was not the the victim of some crushing American economic imperialism, and many of the al-Qaeda leaders are educated and wealthy. Why do the people of the third world have the right to be Nat Turners? Why did Nat Turner have the right to be Nat Turner? Turner killed men, women, and children. I guess my main point would be even if the worst has befallen you, it does not give you the moral right to indisciminately kill those who are in some loose way "guilty by association."

You make some excellent and astute points. And I do agree that 9/11 was most certainly not a morally justified act of resistance to First World neocolonialism. Perhaps I give the impression that I find such murderous tactics morally excusable, however, I abhor them as much as you and most humane people do. What I posit in my post is not that bin Laden and his form of terrorism aren't evil, but rather that they aren't pure and absolute evil lacking extenuating circumstances or a cause with merit. And, conversely, the so-called "civilized" First World nations are not pure in their innocence and goodness, and not without an obligation to acknowledge their own contribution to the troubles of the planet that breed terrorism. And not without a moral duty to address and redress the economic and political injustice that gets glossed over when our focus is fixed upon stamping out terrorism.

But, of course, First World nations, such as the USA, don't nobly rise to meet their moral responsibility to do the right thing, instead they launch a hypocritical and sanctimonious "War on Terror", they paint those in the Third World who resort to violence as barbarians, whilst invading & occupying countries to secure their oil fields. This is what I critique and condemn, and this is why the leaders of the First World don't have the moral authority to tell revolutionaries and "terrorists" that they mustn't become Nat Turners, that they must be "law-abiding", nonmilitant, and mild-as-milk. Yes, no one has the right to engage in indiscriminate killing, but when American presidents, British prime ministers, etc. are authorizing terrorism on a massive scale (called war), then telling others that they can't be Nat Turners is nothing more than saying "Do as I say, not as I do". And condemning "terrorism" from a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do stance is just as ethcally lame and insupportable as the self-justifying rationalizations of a bin Laden.

At any rate, I don't think that we disagree in any fundamental way, and I thank you for your thoughtful reply.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Ore_Ele
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5/9/2011 2:26:08 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Welcome back (though you seem to say that you won't stay).

I have to agree with Cody, in that we all have different morals, and so to call something "Evil" is just to make it easier to be against something, it is nothing more than a "buzz word."

We love to think of the Nazi as evil, so much so that most people don't like to think about anything good that they did. How much science was learned by them and from them. That they first discovered the health risks of smoking.

We don't like the notion of our enemies as just people (not "good" or "evil" but just different people with different views). We like them to be the villians of the Earth, the 100% bad guys and we are the 100% good guys.

It justs makes it easier to sleep at night.
"Wanting Red Rhino Pill to have gender"
charleslb
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5/9/2011 2:39:14 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/8/2011 5:09:34 PM, Greyparrot wrote:
Calling war "Terrorism"

is the same a calling a murder a "Hate Crime"

It is just propaganda

When an act of murder is committed out of hate, it's also ipso facto a hate crime. And, likewise, when war takes the lives of innocent children and adults, either deliberately (as in instances in which villages known to be full of noncombatants are machine-gunned and civilian cities bombed), or with depraved indifference (as in instances in which "collateral damage" to the lives of blameless bystanders is deemed an acceptable "unintended consequence"), then war becomes nothing but grand-scale and glorified state-sponsored terrorism, and the troops who partake in it become no better, morally, than Mohamed Atta and Khalid al-Mihdhar. To deny this is just propaganda and applying an ethically lame double standard.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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5/9/2011 2:40:50 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 2:26:03 PM, InsertNameHere wrote:
A terrorist to one person may be a freedom fighter to another. The word "terrorist" is extremely subjective.

Ditto
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Ore_Ele
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5/9/2011 2:56:32 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 2:39:14 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 5/8/2011 5:09:34 PM, Greyparrot wrote:
Calling war "Terrorism"

is the same a calling a murder a "Hate Crime"

It is just propaganda

When an act of murder is committed out of hate, it's also ipso facto a hate crime. And, likewise, when war takes the lives of innocent children and adults, either deliberately (as in instances in which villages known to be full of noncombatants are machine-gunned and civilian cities bombed), or with depraved indifference (as in instances in which "collateral damage" to the lives of blameless bystanders is deemed an acceptable "unintended consequence"), then war becomes nothing but grand-scale and glorified state-sponsored terrorism, and the troops who partake in it become no better, morally, than Mohamed Atta and Khalid al-Mihdhar. To deny this is just propaganda and applying an ethically lame double standard.

First, "hate crime" is defined by the law as "•a criminal offense committed against a person or property that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, age or religion."

http://urespect.umich.edu...

It is not defined as a crime that has hate. It is a specific type of hate.

So a murder commited out of hate =/= a hate crime, unless that hate is derived from one of the above mentioned hate types. Otherwise, you face an etymological fallacy.

Same goes with terrorism. An act is not a terrorism act is terror is an unintended by-producted. To be terrorism, the intent of the violent act must be to cause terror (and so control through terror) to civilians.
"Wanting Red Rhino Pill to have gender"
Greyparrot
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5/9/2011 3:03:28 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
If terror is an unintended byproduct of our military when it engages in war operations, I suggest they make this clear by issuing Ronald MC Donald clown suits to all soldiers.

A military that produces no fear.
charleslb
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5/9/2011 3:50:00 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 2:26:08 PM, OreEle wrote:
Welcome back (though you seem to say that you won't stay).

I have to agree with Cody, in that we all have different morals, and so to call something "Evil" is just to make it easier to be against something, it is nothing more than a "buzz word."

We love to think of the Nazi as evil, so much so that most people don't like to think about anything good that they did. How much science was learned by them and from them. That they first discovered the health risks of smoking.

We don't like the notion of our enemies as just people (not "good" or "evil" but just different people with different views). We like them to be the villians of the Earth, the 100% bad guys and we are the 100% good guys.

It justs makes it easier to sleep at night.

Well, what you're saying is very much along the lines of the fundamental tenor of my post. However, although I endorse what I would call a more understanding and broad-minded perspective – a perspective that doesn't simplistically, Manicheanly, and hypocritically pigeonhole our enemies as pure evil so as to justify our own evil response to them – I do not endorse taking such a broad-minded perspective to an amoralist or relativistic extreme.

Which is to say that no, it's not simply and actually the case that we all just have different ethics, and there's no objective morality, no objective right & wrong. Existence and life are intrinsically sacred and good, this intuitive axiom can and does take different permutations in different cultures and belief systems; however, it is deontologically prima facie and concrete. And universal, i.e. hardwired.

Say what?! Well, evolutionary psychology is beginning to discover that our brains may be structured with a certain social-moral code by evolution. And no, this does not mean that our morality is just the accidental, adaptive programming of our human nature with pro-social behaviors that are conducive to survival. The mechanism of evolution, even to the extent of its haphazardness, is arguably geared for life and growth. Is "arguably" kind of a mealymouthed term? Okay, I'm just going to come out and be politically incorrect, from the point of view of evolutionary biologists. Evolution operates with, and therefore brings forth and promotes our respect for these innate-in-reality, a priori, transcendental values – primary values such as life and creativity. There is certainly randomness and natural selectivity going on, but, contrary to what materialists fancy believing, the cosmic and evolutionary dice are decidedly loaded, as it were, in favor of certain axiological, aesthetic, and ethical drives, aka values. Which is why evolution has the uncanny ability to transcend itself as a materialistic process, and produce creatures, such as ourselves, who form ethical and spiritual ideas, and who attempt to live for something more than mere survival and physical pleasure.

So, the upshot of what I'm saying is that our moral views are not all just moral fictions and culturally-specific mores; nor are they useful but random rubbish written into our genome by purposeless natural selection; rather, our moral views often capture, or seek to capture universal and ultimate ethical truths. And in the light of these truths some behaviors are right and good, and some behaviors are wrong and bad. The Nazis, for example, stood so much in the darkness that they didn't appreciate how evil their policies were, but, nonetheless, their policies of euthanizing the handicapped and of genocide were objectively and seriously wrong and evil. We can and ought to make such an ethical judgment. The thesis of my original post is not that there's no such thing as "evil", but rather that our judgments of other people's evil is often double standardy; and furthermore, although there is such a thing as evil, there's no such thing as stand-alone and pure evil, no one or thing is ever completely cut off from the goodness and sacredness of existence. Rather, it's our participation in the bigger picture of the universe that helps shape some of us into "evildoers", no one simply becomes evil in a vacuum and out of a totally self-originated twisted desire to be depraved. Ergo, we should always strive to be understanding and moderate in our judgments of other people's "evil" misconduct.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
OMGJustinBieber
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5/9/2011 3:54:51 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I can't spend too much time on this since I have a lot of work this week.

Is OBL pure evil? I don't know. In terms of getting the degrees of evil, I like looking to Michael Stone's "Evil Scale." It sounds a little funny at first, but it does weigh important factors like intent, the psychological state of the perpetrator, and the amount of pain incurred on the victim. I don't think committing 9/11, in and of itself, would get someone to the top of the scale. I do know that al-Qaeda has a history outside 9/11 that does target Muslims, and I'm sure that there are very sick individuals in al-Qaeda.

I also think that organizations and countries are morally different than individuals. It's important to look at intent and the actors behind the killings, and in this sense there is a huge moral gulf between al-Qaeda and the US. al-Qaeda seeks to impose a caliphate that would throw every woman essentially into slavery and impose Islam in a fanatical and bloody fashion. Does the US have commercial interests in mind? Of course. But is the US also a functioning western democracy envied by citizens of other nations for our standard of living and civil liberties?

Lastly, I just wanted to address those who were against calling something evil. I don't think this metaethical concern is really as profound as its being made out to be - just because "evil" may not exist on some higher level doesn't mean that it needs to be completely discarded. The idea that the Mona Lisa constitutes "good art" is not true on some higher level, yet the painting is universally appraised. Is the Mona Lisa equal to all other arts because there is no objectivity factor? Humans create so much not on the basis of what is true "objectively" but where our reason and faculties bring us.
charleslb
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5/9/2011 4:27:41 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 3:03:28 PM, Greyparrot wrote:
If terror is an unintended byproduct of our military when it engages in war operations, I suggest they make this clear by issuing Ronald MC Donald clown suits to all soldiers.

A military that produces no fear.

Well, you sardonically jest, but perhaps if soldiers had to wear clown costumes young men looking for a way to prove their machismo would be far less likely to enlist for that ulterior reason (and then hide behind the claim that they just feel a powerful patriotic impulse to risk their lives for the likes of a George W. Bush's "War on Terror"). And if young people were effectively discouraged from entering the military, this just might cut way down on the frequency and intensity of war. As the old saw goes, what if they gave a war and no one showed up to fight it?!

As for war being intrinsically terroristic, sure it is, and that's precisely why "civilized" nations are flaming hypocrites when they dysphemistically use buzzwords such as "terrorism" to denounce the behavior of enemies from a moral high horse they have no right to mount. This is one of the fundamental points of my original post after all, and unless one buys into the orthodoxy (fostered by the powers that be – since the advent of the modern "rational state", i.e. for about five hundred years now), that governments have the legitimate, godlike moral authority to use violence and take life, it's really quite hard to make a fair-minded ethical distinction between the legit murder & mayhem perpetrated by governments, aka war, and the murder & mayhem perpetrated by "insurgents" and "terrorists". To put what I'm saying perfectly bluntly, unless one is prepared to be thoroughly intellectually dishonest and facile, it's rather difficult to view a marine who chooses to be actively complicit in a corporate-greed motivated military action that takes a toll of 100,000 or a 1,000,000 lives as morally superior to a Mohammed Atta who participates in the killing of 2,996 people. But, if you insist, the best distinction one can make is to say that war and terrorism are not-quite-identical evils with a very pronounced family resemblance indeed. Which still returns us to the position of not being able to judge "terrorists" as harshly as we're wont to.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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5/9/2011 4:31:57 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 3:54:51 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:

just because "evil" may not exist on some higher level doesn't mean that it needs to be completely discarded.

I concur, and I hope I've made this clear in my original post.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
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5/9/2011 4:39:33 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I'd just like to add the following – Sure, much of the country this last week has been singing an exultant chorus of For He's a Jolly Good Fellow for the hero of the historic hour, Barak the terrorist slayer Obama. But let's not get so caught up in the gloating national groupthink about what a tremendous triumph this is for his Excellency the president that we forget that he's done nothing of substance, nothing to show good faith, nothing much at all in the direction of actualizing his campaign mantra of "Change".

Nope, not only has he done nothing to change the fundamental system that gave us another major recession, he's hired into official positions in his administration some of the exact same insiders and Wall Street players who actually helped create, or worked for investment banking firms that helped create the current global "economic crisis"!

Which of course demonstrates that, rather than being some kind of Marxist radical as the conservatives try to paint him, he's actually just what every president is, a puppety part of the business and political establishment that rules our supposedly democratic republic. In other words, Obama is no hero at all; rather, like Dubya and Bubba and Ronnie Reagan, et al, he's just another servant of power, of the moneyed masters of the modern capitalist world power structure.

Of course though, any Republican candidate in the next election will be more of the same, will be a servant of corporate special interests in spades, and certainly not a viable or desirable alternative. And no, the paleoconservative likes of a Ron Paul will not rescue the working-class taxpayer from the socioeconomic injustices of capitalism. Ron Paul and his ilk would only further deregulate and unfetter the destructive greed of the fat cats, resulting in an even greater and more painful mess for the millions of barely-making-it folks who can't afford any more of an economic downturn.

What the nation and the world needs today are leaders who are genuinely of good will toward the working poor who make up most of society; leaders who put the interests and well-being of human beings before the avaricious agenda of the corporate elite; leaders who reject the hackneyed and discredited ideology of the "free market", in favor of democratic public ownership of the economy, i.e. extending democracy from the political sphere into the economic sphere; and finally, leaders who advocate such a fundamental overthrow of the status quo not only here at home, but globally – in other words, transforming globalization from the metastasizing of First World greed into the outspreading of social justice.

Obama, and the usual suspects, the Republicans and wannabe populist conservatives such as Ron Paul, are not and show no potential of becoming such leaders. We the people need to look elsewhere – we need to begin looking more (OMG!) leftward.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Cody_Franklin
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5/9/2011 7:02:41 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 3:50:00 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 5/9/2011 2:26:08 PM, OreEle wrote:
Welcome back (though you seem to say that you won't stay).

I have to agree with Cody, in that we all have different morals, and so to call something "Evil" is just to make it easier to be against something, it is nothing more than a "buzz word."

We love to think of the Nazi as evil, so much so that most people don't like to think about anything good that they did. How much science was learned by them and from them. That they first discovered the health risks of smoking.

We don't like the notion of our enemies as just people (not "good" or "evil" but just different people with different views). We like them to be the villians of the Earth, the 100% bad guys and we are the 100% good guys.

It justs makes it easier to sleep at night.

Well, what you're saying is very much along the lines of the fundamental tenor of my post. However, although I endorse what I would call a more understanding and broad-minded perspective – a perspective that doesn't simplistically, Manicheanly, and hypocritically pigeonhole our enemies as pure evil so as to justify our own evil response to them – I do not endorse taking such a broad-minded perspective to an amoralist or relativistic extreme.

Which is to say that no, it's not simply and actually the case that we all just have different ethics, and there's no objective morality, no objective right & wrong. Existence and life are intrinsically sacred and good, this intuitive axiom can and does take different permutations in different cultures and belief systems; however, it is deontologically prima facie and concrete. And universal, i.e. hardwired.

First of all, my nihilistic position isn't based on the descriptive fact of pluralism. Arguing solely on that basis, it's easy to respond that, despite many people having many ethical codes, one could be objectively true, and the rest could simply be misguided. Rather, mine rests on two prongs: the first is normative contingency. All of our moral theories necessarily rely on arbitrary first principles (e.g. life is valuable, divine command, etc.), none of which can be demonstrated to have objective moral weight--merely subjective meaning which can perhaps be demonstrated to be held by a large number of people (such as the proposition that human life is valuable). The second is a presupposition problem. In addition to the problem of arbitrary first principles, people assume that objective morality is metaphysically necessary, and thereby presuppose the existence of moral facts which cannot be demonstrated to exist.

Second of all, there's no warrant, either empirical or logical, which suggests that anything has intrinsic value--even "existence and life". At best, the only reason we have for believing your proposition is A) because you say so, and B) because a general respect for life materializes in a large number of cultures. However, the first obviously holds no weight in itself and the second lends itself to two criticisms: first, in the same way that many people having many different moral codes does not demonstrate the nonexistence of moral facts, so too does many people sharing the same values demonstrate their objectivity. Second, value doesn't exist inherent to anything. "Value" describes a subjective judgment by an individual agent (subjective theory of value in play here). To argue that there is some value inherent to a quality or a state of being totally ignores that value is a judgment of agents--not a metaphysical property of objects.

Say what?! Well, evolutionary psychology is beginning to discover that our brains may be structured with a certain social-moral code by evolution. And no, this does not mean that our morality is just the accidental, adaptive programming of our human nature with pro-social behaviors that are conducive to survival. The mechanism of evolution, even to the extent of its haphazardness, is arguably geared for life and growth. Is "arguably" kind of a mealymouthed term? Okay, I'm just going to come out and be politically incorrect, from the point of view of evolutionary biologists. Evolution operates with, and therefore brings forth and promotes our respect for these innate-in-reality, a priori, transcendental values – primary values such as life and creativity. There is certainly randomness and natural selectivity going on, but, contrary to what materialists fancy believing, the cosmic and evolutionary dice are decidedly loaded, as it were, in favor of certain axiological, aesthetic, and ethical drives, aka values. Which is why evolution has the uncanny ability to transcend itself as a materialistic process, and produce creatures, such as ourselves, who form ethical and spiritual ideas, and who attempt to live for something more than mere survival and physical pleasure.

Nope. Value judgments are definitely subjective. Our natural conditions may structure the kinds of values that we choose for ourselves, such as the case of hunger structuring our judgment of nourishment as a value, but we could just as easily act so as to starve ourselves. It isn't necessary that we eat unless we choose to value our own survival. Values refer to chosen judgments--not to uncontrollable impulses.

Even if we accept your thesis about evolutionarily-determined values, though, it doesn't follow that we must therefore accept your ethical thesis. You're trying to derive moral weight from the pure descriptive fact of biological imperatives, which doesn't work, because a sense of moral obligation (or even a loose "ought") does not automatically follow from the non-moral facts. Recall my objection from earlier: that you have to presuppose the existence of moral facts to even begin arguing about how to determine what those facts are.

So, the upshot of what I'm saying is that our moral views are not all just moral fictions and culturally-specific mores; nor are they useful but random rubbish written into our genome by purposeless natural selection; rather, our moral views often capture, or seek to capture universal and ultimate ethical truths. And in the light of these truths some behaviors are right and good, and some behaviors are wrong and bad. The Nazis, for example, stood so much in the darkness that they didn't appreciate how evil their policies were, but, nonetheless, their policies of euthanizing the handicapped and of genocide were objectively and seriously wrong and evil. We can and ought to make such an ethical judgment. The thesis of my original post is not that there's no such thing as "evil", but rather that our judgments of other people's evil is often double standardy; and furthermore, although there is such a thing as evil, there's no such thing as stand-alone and pure evil, no one or thing is ever completely cut off from the goodness and sacredness of existence. Rather, it's our participation in the bigger picture of the universe that helps shape some of us into "evildoers", no one simply becomes evil in a vacuum and out of a totally self-originated twisted desire to be depraved. Ergo, we should always strive to be understanding and moderate in our judgments of other people's "evil" misconduct.

The unanswered question is not only how you justify the proposition that moral facts exist in the first place, but also, on top of that, how you justify proposing that the fundamental principle that we derive subsequent moral statements from is the notion of life and existence--or anything, really--having inherent value.
Cody_Franklin
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5/9/2011 7:05:33 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 7:02:41 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Second of all, there's no warrant, either empirical or logical, which suggests that anything has intrinsic value--even "existence and life". At best, the only reason we have for believing your proposition is A) because you say so, and B) because a general respect for life materializes in a large number of cultures. However, the first obviously holds no weight in itself and the second lends itself to two criticisms: first, in the same way that many people having many different moral codes does not demonstrate the nonexistence of moral facts, so too does many people sharing the same values fail to demonstrate their objectivity. Second, value doesn't exist inherent to anything. "Value" describes a subjective judgment by an individual agent (subjective theory of value in play here). To argue that there is some value inherent to a quality or a state of being totally ignores that value is a judgment of agents--not a metaphysical property of objects.
OMGJustinBieber
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5/9/2011 7:37:43 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Cody, I don't know if you saw my point on moral nihilism. I'd be interested in your input.

"Lastly, I just wanted to address those who were against calling something evil. I don't think this metaethical concern is really as profound as its being made out to be - just because "evil" may not exist on some higher level doesn't mean that it needs to be completely discarded. The idea that the Mona Lisa constitutes "good art" is not true on some higher level, yet the painting is universally appraised. Is the Mona Lisa equal to all other arts because there is no objectivity factor? Humans create so much not on the basis of what is true "objectively" but where our reason and faculties bring us."
Extremely-Far-Right
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5/9/2011 7:51:37 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/8/2011 1:57:17 PM, charleslb wrote:
Because of recent historical events (the "sanctioning" of Osama bin Laden with "extreme prejudice") I'm going to once more darken your doorstep here at Debate.org. Don't worry however, I have no intention of making a habit of it. I just wish to weigh in with some thoughts that go decidedly against the grain of all the public celebrations and the triumphalist moralizing we hear coming over the airwaves. I hope that we can tear ourselves away from the lemming herd gleefully singing, like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz, Ding dong the wicked terrorist is dead!, and chanting America über alles, to ponder in a meaningful way some deeper issues.

So, let me get to it straightaway by posing some timely ethical-philosophical questions that might seem to many to be regular no-brainers. Was Osama bin Laden utterly and definitively "evil"? Was the abominable atrocity of 9/11 an expression of "evil" beyond the moral pale for decent human beings? And is "terrorism" per se "evil"?

The simple answer to the above questions is of course yes. That is, the answer is yes in the simple sense that the violence, loss, and pain that bin Laden and other "terrorists" have inflicted on the lives of innocent people is heinously cruel and contrary to the supreme ethical axiom of the sacredness of life. So much for the questions above for now, I really just wanted to get them out of the way, I'll get back to them again later but I'd like to cut now to the chase of a more knotty ethical-philosophical problem.

Namely, I'd like to think critically about whether it's morally right-minded to pick out and stand pat with the kind of questions I've just posed and answered, the kind of questions many people right now are asking and reducing to simple moralistic answers.

Huh?! Well, since the assassination of bin Laden many of us have been asking the question Was he, and are those of his terrorist ilk, quite simply and categorically evil? And is it therefore morally justified to harbor hatred for them, and to expediently exterminate them when the opportunity presents, without any compunction and without due process or respect for their human rights? Which is to say that thanks to current events we've been provoked to think about the fundamental ethical question of the nature of "evil", and of how "good" people should respond to it.

Unfortunately, and predictably, however, many of us seem to be approaching these quite deep questions in a rather superficially and self-righteously selective fashion. What I mean to say is that we're not really exploring them in a critical and enlightenment-seeking way at all; rather, we're blatantly begging the question of evil. That is, we're framing our questions about evil with a black & white reductiveness that turns them into leading questions, leading questions that lead us right to the self-satisfying answers we desire.

We mechanically ask Was bin Laden evil? with a complacently one-sided simplicity that makes it a foregone conclusion that nice Western middle-class people are the preeminent paragons of moral goodness with the divine right to define our enemies as pure evil. For all sanctimonious intents and purposes we pare down the question of evil to the point that it's partisan, devoid of complexity, and virtually rhetorical. Indeed, we turn it into a mere shell of the heady, profound, and self-critical question it should be, because the sorry truth be told a great many of us are far more interested in self-validation than sincere philosophical reflection that might knock us off our moral high horse.

When someone does try to add some philosophical multi-dimensionality to the problem of evil, when one tries to look at it with an approach that isn't closed-mindedly holier-than-thou, the brickbat of "moral relativism" and the epithet of "situational ethics" start flying. Even worse, he who would inquire into the nature of good & evil too questioningly and thereby threaten to take away his neighbor's unexamined sense of entitlement to harshly judge his enemies is liable to libeled as a sympathizer with evil.

Well, I'll accept these risks and ask again the questions I led with, this time trying to tease out a bit more ethical complexity. Was Osama bin Laden purely evil in the broader context of the evils visited upon the Third World by globalization, aka the West's modern form of economic, political, and cultural imperialism? Was Osama more evil when he fought the West than when he fought the West's Cold War foe, the Soviet Union? That is, are we being morally relativistic when we deem him an evil terrorist for violently hating us, and a praiseworthy "freedom fighter" when he directed the same violent xenophobia at the commies? Are bin Laden's "terrorist" brethren all morally inferior to the men and women in our armed forces who often take part in wars (terrorism on a massive scale) that lack moral justification every bit as much as the attack on 9/11? In other words, is it really righteous of us to be piously black & white in our morality when we judge our enemies, and to make excuses for our own society and its military personnel when it comes to the terror and death we perpetrate? Doesn't our duplicitous double standard belie our definition of evil?

Come on here, aren't the hypocrisy and injustices of the self-proclaimed "good guys" usually more relevant than we'd like to admit to our understanding and assessment of the evil of the "bad guys"? Which is to say, isn't justice, or the lack thereof, a pivotal moral issue, one that frequently and fundamentally factors into the real-world nature of "evil"? I.e., doesn't the justice factor in many cases significantly change the face of evil? And doesn't it often transfigure what at a cursory glance appears to be pure and unilateral evil into a transpersonal bigger picture that we all have a hand in drawing together? Sure, this cosmically composite big picture of evil that we all co-create remains as ugly as ever, but not as clear-cut and not one that depicts us somewhere up on a saintly plane above reproach. By all rights it should force a soul-searching reevaluation of our basic concept of evil, and the convenient way we tend to morally pigeonhole our adversaries.

No, I'm not saying that there's only the morally commutual big picture, that there's no such thing as true evil and personal responsibility. There most certainly is such a thing as evil. What exactly is evil, evil qua evil? Evil is simply one's choice to reject, and to do something that opposes the creativity, beauty, and sacredness of existence. The view I'm expressing here, then, is not the amoralist view that evil is a mere illusion that doesn't exist; rather, the view I'm expressing is the critical view that pure evil is a simplistic and smug-making notion that seldom if ever really exists, that no one ever really makes a pure and unmitigated choice to reject and oppose the good. "No man is an island", the wrongful choice that individuals make to commit evil, the culpable choice that they make inwardly, in their own hearts and minds, is always shaped by external circumstances of some kind. Whether it's the home a "bad guy" grew up in, the socioeconomic environment he was born into, the waves of history he finds his life swept up in, or what have you, the choice for evil is never contextless.

In the case of "terrorists", the larger, extenuating context they must be viewed in is the imperialism, inequities, and injustice meted out to the disenfranchised masses of the modern world order. From the blighted boroughs of New York to the brutal slums of Bangkok, a sinful imbalance of economic and political clout is leading many onto the path of violence, in

The conclusion is located directly below

According to your profile, I disagree with you 100%.
Cody_Franklin
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5/9/2011 9:38:43 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 7:37:43 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
Cody, I don't know if you saw my point on moral nihilism. I'd be interested in your input.

"Lastly, I just wanted to address those who were against calling something evil. I don't think this metaethical concern is really as profound as its being made out to be - just because "evil" may not exist on some higher level doesn't mean that it needs to be completely discarded.

So, what? We pretend that something is true when we know, quite clearly, that it's false? Morality is merely an unnecessary middleman to addressing the practical concerns of coexistence and of finding a method of social organization most conducive to the pursuit of our interest. Nowadays, morality just does what politics can't: it functions as a regulatory mechanism which governs the lives of those who submit themselves to it. In all reality, we could easily achieve the same sorts of goals--vegetarianism, abstinence before marriage, refraining from aggression-without trying to assign those things the lofty sanction of moral righteousness.

Some can be achieved in the political realm, such as with setting up defensive organizations to deter and respond to aggression. Others can be done in the personal realm, chalked up solely to subjective value judgments, like not wanting to eat meat or screw before getting hitched.

The idea that the Mona Lisa constitutes "good art" is not true on some higher level, yet the painting is universally appraised. Is the Mona Lisa equal to all other arts because there is no objectivity factor? Humans create so much not on the basis of what is true "objectively" but where our reason and faculties bring us."

It's still the case that, in the realm of truth, collective subjectivity isn't equivalent to objectivity. For things that are trivially subjective, like flavors of ice cream, we don't really have to do anything about that. Let people go eat ice cream. For things which are nearly universally subjective, suh as the value people place on their own continued survival, people generally aren't content to provide for themselves as they are in getting ice cream, and are perfectly willing to band together with other individuals, if only through contribution of financial resources, to provide for the defense of all people who subscribe to a defensive agency, even if their interest is only their own protection.
Cliff.Stamp
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5/9/2011 10:01:59 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/9/2011 2:26:03 PM, InsertNameHere wrote:
A terrorist to one person may be a freedom fighter to another. The word "terrorist" is extremely subjective.

No it isn't, it is perfectly absolute. If you lose you are a terrorist. If you win you are a freedom fighter.
OMGJustinBieber
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5/9/2011 10:04:58 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
"So, what? We pretend that something is true when we know, quite clearly, that it's false? Morality is merely an unnecessary middleman to addressing the practical concerns of coexistence and of finding a method of social organization most conducive to the pursuit of our interest. Nowadays, morality just does what politics can't: it functions as a regulatory mechanism which governs the lives of those who submit themselves to it. In all reality, we could easily achieve the same sorts of goals--vegetarianism, abstinence before marriage, refraining from aggression-without trying to assign those things the lofty sanction of moral righteousness.

Some can be achieved in the political realm, such as with setting up defensive organizations to deter and respond to aggression. Others can be done in the personal realm, chalked up solely to subjective value judgments, like not wanting to eat meat or screw before getting hitched."

Morality serves a very important social function. While we both have our doubts, I would hardly call it "unnecessary." Religion and morality have both played enormous social roles, I don't know how you can dismiss those, what would you replace them? Moral nihilism is no foundation for a civilization.


"It's still the case that, in the realm of truth, collective subjectivity isn't equivalent to objectivity. For things that are trivially subjective, like flavors of ice cream, we don't really have to do anything about that. Let people go eat ice cream. For things which are nearly universally subjective, suh as the value people place on their own continued survival, people generally aren't content to provide for themselves as they are in getting ice cream, and are perfectly willing to band together with other individuals, if only through contribution of financial resources, to provide for the defense of all people who subscribe to a defensive agency, even if their interest is only their own protection."

Perhaps there are different levels of truths, but in order to see this you need to remove the fixation on objectivity. Statements like "red is better than blue" can be chalked down to purely subjective preference, but these subjective things like art that have near universal appeal are different than red vs. blue. It's not objectivity, I know, and objectively they may be "equal" although you realize that's saying very little. Moral nihilism crushed my normative ethics for a long time, I kept telling myself that moral judgments were just "expressions of attitudes" that did not relate to "moral facts." In the end, there was some change, some shift of focus, that got me away from meta-ethics and re-iterating to myself what I already knew, to the need to move on. Sure, my own utilitarianism may be just preference and reflecting my own biases, but it sure is my own preference to mold this world in a way that makes sense to me and my rejection of moral facts on an abstract, higher is not going to stop that. Humans need to invent morality for their own good.