The warmongers like ‘just wars’


I came across this op-ed by Elbridge Colby (a fellow at the neoliberal Center for a New American Security and son of former CIA director William Colby) who is disturbed by the fact that pope Francis is reconsidering the ‘just war’ philosophy.

Recent events in Rome indicate that some influential figures in the Vatican want Pope Francis to use his next encyclical to jettison the “just war” theory as the way the church determines whether or not it is moral to go to war. In particular, they urge that the church replace this age-old model – which focuses on determining a fight’s justifiability by the degree to which it complies with criteria like necessity, likelihood of success, proportionality, and discrimination – with a “peace movement” approach that comes very close to ruling out war as a legitimate instrument in any circumstances, and thus to pacifism.

This idea that there are conditions under which it is moral to go to war has been thoroughly exploited by warmongers and the so-called ‘liberal interventionists’ that we find on among liberals and Democrats to justify all manner of ‘humanitarian wars’ that have turned out to be disastrous for the people whose plight was ostensibly invoked.

Why is Colby upset by this development? Because he thinks that it would give a freer hand to those who want to use power to achieve political ends.

More importantly, a serious narrowing of the legitimate uses of force – let alone an embrace of pacifism – by the kinds of countries most receptive to such a call by the pope would be an invitation to the unscrupulous, the ambitious, the reckless, the aggrieved, and the put-upon to press their claims, and press them hard. It would thus expose the world to more – not less – instability and ultimately war.

Coercion and aggression usually happen because one side thinks it can take something or compel submission and get away with it, or at least not suffer too much. Countries, especially hungry or revisionist ones, test limits. Saddam Hussein reckoned he could seize Kuwait and weather a mild storm. Kim Il-Sung thought he could invade South Korea and avoid U.S. intervention. And, more recently, the Kremlin judged it could attack Georgia and seize Crimea without incurring a sufficiently painful response.

But note his examples of possible bad effects. The US is completely missing from his list of countries that have used “coercion and aggression” because “one side thinks it can take something or compel submission and get away with it, or at least not suffer too much”. Colby completely ignores US “coercion and aggression” in Libya, Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East, not to mention Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and others, some of them more than once.

What Colby seems to be really worried about is not that the jettisoning of the ‘just war’ rationale will increase the risks of aggression by others but that it will limit the ability of the US to justify its own aggressions.

Comments

  1. says

    Warmongers like to rely on Augustine because his arguments could be easily turned to justify transcendent state power. But in terms of philosophy, we’ve, uh, moved past Augustine. Using “just war” theory is sort of like basing your medical system on Aristotle’s humors – it doesn’t hold up very well.

    The simplest refutation of just war theory is that war amounts to collective punishment and it is impossible to improve someone’s situation by warring on them. Remember, the premise of just war theory is that “this is for your own good!” That’s why neocons are so concerned about “failed states” – they can argue that since the state cannot protect its people it lacks legitimacy and therefore cannot legitimately wage war on behalf of its people. So, uh (handwaving) we need to kill a lot of people to rescue them from their government. Bullshit.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea in philosophy to say “the current state of thinking on this topic is…” but I am tempted. Because there’s a lot of stuff been done since Augustine. Kant and Rawls argued that democracies couldn’t go to war against eachother and – in theory – their arguments are good, but in practice I’m not so sure. If you ever hear someone trotting out that “democracies don’t war on democracies” you can encourage them to read the rest of Rawls’ Law Of Peoples in which he describes “outlaw states” that sound kind of like the USA. But, following Augustine’s lead, even the mighty Rawls became an apologist for power, and cooked up a line of bullshit that purports to justify “supreme emergency exemption” – when a democratic state might plausibly attack another country’s civilian population in order to prevent their ability to support an unjust war. I am pretty sure Sam Harris lifted some of his bad thinking from Rawls, with The Law Of Peoples open at his elbow as he wrote.

    A good book on this question is more rigorous: Cecile Fabre “The Morality of Defensive War” Fabre starts by dismissing offensive warfare entirely; it’s a crime. Period. Moving beyond that, they ask questions that had simply never occurred to me, which are very disturbing. For example, based on the premise that “nations” and governments are emergent properties of groups of people, can you fairly disambiguate which people in an nation are being aggressors? So, suppose Trump wins and causes the US to invade Canada again. Fabre asks whether, assuming Trump wins by 51% of the vote, it is moral for a Canadian to shoot at an American soldier because there’s a 49% chance they actually do not support the war. Even if our poor perplexed Canadian looks at the party demographics of the US Army, they can’t be sure that they are shooting at an American soldier defensively unless they shoot at them while they are in the act of being aggressive. And, even then, they may be conscripts or they may be being otherwise coerced. The notion of strategic bombing, defensively or offensively, is completely off the table, because you are presumably bombing a certain number of your own supporters, in the name of defending yourself against their leaders (or the emergent collective that we call a nation)

    Reading Fabre I concluded that probably the only moral way to fight wars is to personally assassinate the motivating leaders behind wars of aggression. For example, if Trump wins in 2016, the government of Mexico might have a legitimate self-defense argument to just send a hit team up and put a bullet through Trump’s brain, if they can hit that small a target. Of course I fear I may be engaged in motivated reasoning. As an anarchist, I have always thought that humanity should perform a built-in cull of the top 2% of the wealthy and powerful, on the basis that they are implicitly hostile to the collective; retaliating against their aggression, personally, may be moral defensive warfare. No, I’m not entirely serious. But it does seem to me that the powerful warmongers have long propagated an ideology of “kings do not kill kings” and that is strangely convenient for them, isn’t it?

    If people were actually concerned with “just war” the rank and file of the US Army would have immediately turned their weapons on their entire chain of command, on March 20, 2003.

    References:
    1) https://billsoderberg.com/bills-talks/john-rawls-on-just-war/
    A good clear piece summarizing Rawls’ views on just war.
    2) https://www.amazon.com/Morality-Defensive-Mind-Association-Occasional-ebook/dp/B00IF9QSMW/
    3) https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Psychological-Cost-Learning-Society/dp/0316040932
    Dave Grossman’s important “On Killing” illuminates the topic by discussing how militaries are constructed to make it easier for people to kill. Basically, by seeing what the military overcome in their teaching, you can see exactly what not to do.

  2. Kevin Terrell says

    One could argue (and an evolutionary naturalist should argue) that the only consideration for whether or not to go to war is the likelihood of it enhancing the Darwinian fitness of one’s self or kin.

  3. says

    @Kevin Terrell#4:
    Sure, moral nihilism is an option.
    When someone makes that argument, smash their teeth in and throw them out the window. Clearly they like that kind of thing.

  4. Kevin Terrell says

    Ahh Marcus, you have stumbled upon the only argument atheist have against the rejection of their moral opinions, violence.
    Thank you for illustrating so clearly the lack of foundation in reason or science of the secular lefts political worldview.

    By the way,before one pursues your suggested response,one should evaluate its fitness implications.

  5. says

    @Kevin Terrell#6:
    Thank you for illustrating so clearly the lack of foundation in reason or science of the secular lefts political worldview.

    You’re new a this, I can tell.

    First off, what made you assume I’m part of the “secular left”? Dumbass.
    Secondly, there actually is a perfectly solid philosophical foundation to my response. Since the moral nihilist is arguing that fitness is everything and there is no other consideration to govern one’s actions, you are simultaneously refuting that there is no other consideration, and demonstrating that they are not fit to be moral nihilists.

  6. Kevin Terrell says

    Whether you personally are part of the secular left is irrelevant. You have,apparently inadvertently, demonstrated that moral arguments cannot be resolved by debate but only by force.
    Because the axioms from which the debate begins are accepted on faith,and or neither logically necessary nor empirically verifiable.
    You probably didn’t realize this consciously through reason , but intuited it nonetheless. Good for you.

    From the POV of evolutionary naturalism fitness is ultimately everything.
    We can ignore it when making moral decisions,true, but to the extent that our decisions negatively impact fitness the genetic component in our moral decision making will be selected against,making those genes and the view derived in part from them less common in the future.
    Thus “human nature” is both shaped by and shapes moral beliefs through natural selection, but selection isn’t guided by reason or morality.
    This means there is no universal morality for all people everywhere, for all times.

  7. Trickster Goddess says

    Early Christianity was a strictly pacifist religion and soldiers who became Christians were expected to quit the army. However, after Constantine when it became a state sponsored religion this presented a problem, since emperors often need/want to go to war. So a conference of theologians was gathered to flesh out the concept of just war and the conditions under which the it was allowable. Having that settled, it left only the question of who should decide if all the conditions had been met to declare a was just?

    The logical choice, of course, was God’s appointed leader on Earth: the Emperor.

  8. Nick Gotts says

    From the POV of evolutionary naturalism fitness is ultimately everything. – Kevin Terrell@8

    Stone me, not this stupid crap again. Evolutionary naturalism is a theory of how certain aspects of the world came to be as they are. It has no implications whatsoever for what we ought, or ought not, to do.

    Nor, incidentally, does it predict what will happen in future (this does not affect my main point, just illustrates your risible lack of imagination). It is possible, for example, that our descendants will either systematically modify our genetic systems, or will be artificially augmented, or replaced by artificial intelligences. Natural selection will then cease to be an important factor in determining the future course of human or post-human events.

  9. Nick Gotts says

    To clarify #10, facts about the world, including how it came to be as it is, can of course be relevant to moral judgments; but they cannot determine them. Colloquially, you can’t get an “ought” from any “is”.

  10. doublereed says

    Who’s this Kevin dumbass?

    The POV of Evolutionary Naturalism is not that it is “ultimately everything.” That’s a random nonsensical statement that does not actually mean anything.

    He’s a troll, or at least enough of a dumbass to think “evolutionary naturalism” implies moral nihilism (such an absurd statement at this point it really doesn’t need any refutation other than a link to Secular Humanism). I would say that this demonstrates his clear lack of fitness, but realistically he’s probably just been socialized with this moronic idiocy and his genes are fine.

  11. Kevin Terrell says

    @10,11,12
    The point is: THERE IS NO “OUGHT” .
    There is no objective ought existing independently of what people believe,if the Darwinian worldview is true.
    This makes morality a matter of opinion not of fact.
    Thus a liberal democracy, a religious theocracy, a herrenvolk democracy,etc.
    Are all equally “good” or “bad” depending on one’s point of view,because there is no standard by which to judge.
    Natural selection will weed out individuals and societies that embrace an ethic that is detrimental to fitness.

  12. says

    Kevin Terrell@#8:
    Whether you personally are part of the secular left is irrelevant. You have,apparently inadvertently, demonstrated that moral arguments cannot be resolved by debate but only by force.

    Oh, I see. But then you fail to establish the connection between what I said and to secular humanism. More interestingly, you’ll notice that I didn’t actually offer a moral argument at all – I simply described (in the abstract) one form of response to certain forms of annoying moral nihilists. So you’ve got a long slog ahead of you if you’re going to try to argue that I demonstrate what you claim to demonstrate. Especially since you appear to be trying to argue that my response ‘demonstrates’ that “moral arguments cannot be resolved by debate but only by force” How do you get there, grasshopper?

    I wasn’t trying to demonstrate anything, I was simply offering a wiseass rejoinder to a dumbass position. You cannot plausibly support a ridiculous claim like “ moral arguments cannot be resolved by debate but only by force.” based on that. If you have an actual argument that leads us to believe that “ moral arguments cannot be resolved by debate but only by force” I am prepared to hear it but in the mean time, that snickering sound you hear is me snickering.

    It’s particularly amusing when (from my perspective) the dialogue sounds like:
    Moral nihilist: (says something stupid)
    Other moral nihilist: “Hey, you’re stupid. Moral nihilists who say stupid shit like that – curb stomp them.”
    Moral nihilist: “Waaaa!! See what you’ve just demonstrated about the secular left!!!!!!”
    Other moral nihilist: “Fuck my eyeballs, you are uncommonly stupid, even for a moral nihilist.”

    Because the axioms from which the debate begins are accepted on faith

    Uh, what? Are you a presuppositionalist, now?
    Hey, squirrel, if you presuppose your axioms when the debate starts, why don’t you just presuppose that there are constructable objective moral systems?

    You probably didn’t realize this consciously through reason , but intuited it nonetheless.

    In other words: “That argument you didn’t make, I made it for you. Therefore I wiiiiiiiin!”

    Like I said back at the beginning, you haven’t been at this very long, have you?

    The point is: THERE IS NO “OUGHT”

    Holy shit! Did you just figure that out!? Congratulations.
    You haven’t just attacked a straw man, you’ve built an entire row of straw windmills, recruited a Sancho Panza on some skeevy dating website, and charged down on them with your armor rattling.

    It’s really easy to win an argument when the people you claim to be arguing against aren’t defending that position, and – in fact – agree with you. This makes morality a matter of opinion not of fact I have argued the same thing many times, only – I hope – better.

    Natural selection will weed out individuals and societies that embrace an ethic that is detrimental to fitness.

    Now, THAT is a testable assertion. Upon what do you base that fewmet of knowledge? A casual observer of human history would note that natural selection has not done any sort of thing, yet, because “fitness” is a vague concept and “fitness” appears to change circumstantially.

    Further, if what you say is true (I withhold judgement) then you’ve got an objective morality, right there: “fitness” (whatever that is) So there’s your work done for you.

  13. says

    PS –
    THERE IS NO “OUGHT”

    Just quoting blobs of David Hume at people doesn’t make you a philosopher, woodchuck. Especially since Hume said it better.

  14. doublereed says

    There is no objective ought existing independently of what people believe,if the Darwinian worldview is true.

    This is no more or less true with God and Creationism. God’s point of view is only “objective” because he has infinite power. No one voted for him. God’s just the guy with the biggest stick so you have to do what he says.

    So why should I do what God says (other than because he has the biggest stick)? He has the power to stop injustices and chooses not to. That’s not moral. He’s a capricious tyrant and nothing more.

  15. Kevin Terrell says

    Marcus it’s true that you didn’t say you were a secular leftist.
    However it can be inferred from your comments at @2.
    What you say and what you don’t say.
    You said:
    “As an anarchist, I have always thought that humanity should perform a built-in cull of the top 2% of the wealthy and powerful, on the basis that they are implicitly hostile to the collective”

    First you self identify as an anarchist. I don’t believe that tells us much more than you believe coercion by the state/ gov’t/ society is unjustified and
    your political orientation remains a mystery.
    However you speak of” the collective ” (in spite of the fact that logically anarchist should be arch-individualist)and the collective which concerns you is humanity and not some portion thereof (a race,nation, ethnic group etc.) ,so you’re a universalist.
    That is a defining trait of leftist which distinguishes them from the secular right and puts them in the same camp as the religious right they abhor.
    The people whom you speak of culling (tongue in cheek you’d have us believe) are defined by socioeconomic criteria,( like landlords, capitalist, and bourgeois,for certain others of your ilk) and not religious belief, race,or ethnic identity,this is, again a trait of the left.

    Secondly,your comments at 2
    are chock full of moral arguments mostly implicit, but that seem to rest on the view that an objective morality exists,by which we can judge and praise,condemn,or even cull, others !
    You don’t speak of God or quote any scriptures, so I infer that you believe this morality is self- evident , discoverable by reason,or empirically demonstrable.
    This is a trait of secularist.
    Combined your beliefs suggests very strongly that you’re in the same camp as Secular Leftist.
    I realize all secular leftist don’t agree on everything. But there is a core of shared beliefs.
    Your comments suggests you share those beliefs.

    And as they say “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… ” well you know the rest.

  16. says

    Kevin Terrell@#17:
    Marcus it’s true that you didn’t say you were a secular leftist.
    However it can be inferred from your comments at @2.

    Wait, you think all anarchists are leftists? And based on my saying – even facetiously – that culling the top 2% of the wealthy and powerful might be a good idea – you interpret that as the writings of a secular humanist?!? I didn’t think it was possible for my opinion of you to sink any lower, but it just swooped like a hawk stooping on a rabbit.

    I don’t believe that tells us much more than you believe coercion by the state/ gov’t/ society is unjustified

    Bzzzzt!!!! I reject the legitimacy of the state.
    But… Please – stop trying to make this about me. You’ve been trying to make sweeping (and wrong) overgeneralizations about liberal secularist blah blah buzzword buzzword and you’ve been trying to make inferences about me. You fail at both, but you’re probably going to fail softer if you just focus on strawmanning leftist secularist blah blah buzzwords.

    Since you have now become amusing to me, let me give you a couple power-up codes: rhetorically, you should avoid publicly making inferences about your opponent’s position. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of marching on Moscow in October: you’re toast, because your opponent simply has to brush you off by saying, “no, you’re wrong..” and you look like an idiot. In this case I’m actually being honest which just makes your missed assumption even more comedic. So: don’t do that. A better rhetorical strategy if you’re going to attack someone – or attack a group of ideas through someone – is to make sure that someone is on your side or that you actually have fixed their position before you try to hammer on it. You’re welcome.

    your comments at 2 are chock full of moral arguments mostly implicit, but that seem to rest on the view that an objective morality exists

    Fail. I was, actually, speaking casually. One does not have to believe objective morality is non-illusory to still use moral language. I simply don’t want to have to back-haul pyrrhonian skeptical disclaimers into every sentence I write, and I’m comfortable using moral language based on a decision I made a number of years ago, which is that I’m lazy and I can use moral language if I want, whether I believe other people understand me or not. I defended that decision at the time with the observation that that’s pretty much what everyone does anyway. If it makes you feel better, whenever I say “is” you can substitute in “appears to be” and whenever I say “wrong” you can substitute in “Marcus’ aesthetics lead him to call that “wrong””

    Now you’re probably thinking “that’s damn unfair! Marcus, you’re saying you want me to use your language?!” Yeah. Sorry. That’s breaks.

    It’s still really funny that you took the position that anything I said illustrates some imagined secular leftist attitude. Don’t think I didn’t notice you quietly abandon that trench under the smokescreen. You got out of that position without taking fire because I let you.

    And as they say “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… ” well you know the rest.

    I’ve never encountered argumentum ad anatidae before. Are you serious?

    You are now telling me I am something I’m not because you think I am because you leapt to conclusions based on something I wrote. And, because they are your conclusions, they are correct.

    You really are new at this.

  17. says

    PS – I reject the left/right divide because it’s simplistic, but I’ll occasionally use it when I’m speaking sloppily. Anyhow, I’ve encountered anarchists I’d place all over the political spectrum. Your bunker-dwelling survivalist anarchist looks more like a “right wing” tribal fascist, to me, than a typical “leftist”. Typical leftists don’t throw bombs to attempt to overthrow the political system or monarchy, as many anarchists did in the 1900s/1920s – so what were those anarchists? (hint: “right wing” if they planned to destroy the political system in order to replace it) If you’ve studied anything about anarchism you’ll know there’s a fair number that stop at the point of rejecting the state’s legitimacy and then go for lunch. Isaiah Berlin and Paul Wolff being just two good examples. You also have your epicureans, among whom I number, who reject the legitimacy of the state and just want to ignore it as much as possible…

  18. says

    @#2 I wrote:
    probably the only moral way to fight wars is to personally assassinate the motivating leaders behind wars of aggression

    Kevin Terrell: You’re right. I sound like such a secular lefty.

  19. Kevin Terrell says

    Marcus at@ 18:
    “Wait, you think all anarchists are leftists? And based on my saying – even facetiously – that culling the top 2% of the wealthy and powerful might be a good idea – you interpret that as the writings of a secular humanist?!?

    I thought the answer to those questions would be clear.
    The first is answered by my saying: ” I don’t believe that (your being an anarchist) tells us much more than you believe coercion by the state/ gov’t/ society is unjustified and
    your political orientation remains a mystery.”

    The answer to the second can be inferred from my calling you a “secular leftist” not a secular humanist.
    These are distinctive concepts.
    While arguably all secular leftist are humanist,not
    all secular humanist are leftist.

    Continuing, you say,
    “Bzzzzt!!!! I reject the legitimacy of the state.”
    Now anarchist don’t reject a particular state,(Iran,France) or type of state,(theocracy, republic) but the state as a way of ordering society.
    Anarchist don’t reject society obviously, they reject the coercive element of the state.
    Presumably for an anarchist,
    any type of society not based on voluntary association is illegitimate.
    However since even a classless,purely democratic society could not forgo coercion against recalcitrant individuals,anarchism is a pipe dream.

    You said,”…you should avoid publicly making inferences about your opponent’s position. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of marching on Moscow in October: you’re toast, because your opponent simply has to brush you off by saying, “no, you’re wrong..” and you look like an idiot.”
    Show me where my inferences from what you said are unreasonable or idiotic.
    Remember I can’t read your mind. I only know what you think from what you’ve said.
    Looking only at what you’ve said in this post, show me where my inferences were not reasonable.

    You continue, ” I was, actually, speaking casually. One does not have to believe objective morality is non-illusory to still use moral language. I simply don’t want to have to back-haul pyrrhonian skeptical disclaimers into every sentence I write, and I’m comfortable using moral language based on a decision I made a number of years ago, which is that I’m lazy and I can use moral language if I want, whether I believe other people understand me or not. I defended that decision at the time with the observation that that’s pretty much what everyone does anyway. If it makes you feel better, whenever I say “is” you can substitute in “appears to be” and whenever I say “wrong” you can substitute in “Marcus’ aesthetics lead him to call that “wrong”””

    I take as a confession you don’t say what you mean.
    That makes you look like a liar.

    You go on,” Typical leftists don’t throw bombs to attempt to overthrow the political system or monarchy, as many anarchists did in the 1900s/1920s – so what were those anarchists? (hint: “right wing” if they planned to destroy the political system in order to replace it)”
    Don’t those leftist who want to destroy the state, desire to replace it,with something.A new type of society which would have to be imposed on many if not most of the population. Typical leftists don’t throw bombs to attempt to overthrow the political system or monarchy, as many anarchists did in the 1900s/1920s – so what were those anarchists? (hint: “right wing” if they planned to destroy the political system in order to replace it)as any Leftist regime came to power that didn’t attempt to control the entire population in the territory of the regime it replaced?

    Earlier in response to my saying, “Natural selection will weed out individuals and societies that embrace an ethic that is detrimental to fitness.”
    you said:
    “Now, THAT is a testable assertion. Upon what do you base that fewmet of knowledge? A casual observer of human history would note that natural selection has not done any sort of thing, yet, because “fitness” is a vague concept and “fitness” appears to change circumstantially.”

    I offer as one peace of evidence the fact that the “state” hNatural selection will weed out individuals and societies that embrace an ethic that is detrimental to fitness.
    Now, THAT is a testable assertion. Upon what do you base that fewmet of knowledge? A casual observer of human history would note that natural selection has not done any sort of thing, yet, because “fitness” is a vague concept and “fitness” appears to change circumstantially.”

    Have you ever wondered why the state type of society has become dominant over the whole world?
    Replacing or subjecting other ways of organizing society tribes, bands,chiefdoms?

    It’s because the state is a superior way of enhancing the fitness of a society relative to others.
    Any society organized in another way, was/ would be vulnerable to conquest.
    Your anarchist dreams are doomed to failure.
    Even if every existing state were to collapse and we found ourselves starting over from a new stone age, in time the state would emerge as the dominant political order once again.

  20. doublereed says

    Wow you guys got rather distracted with all the labeling disputes. Just use whatever labels you agree on, refuse the others, and move on with the actual disagreement. Sheesh.

    Although tbf it may have been because Kevin didn’t want to address anything substantive.

  21. Kevin Terrell says

    Comment submitted:
    My butchered paragraphs should say: “You go on,” Typical leftists don’t throw bombs to attempt to overthrow the political system or monarchy, as many anarchists did in the 1900s/1920s – so what were those anarchists? (hint: “right wing” if they planned to destroy the political system in order to replace it)” Don’t those leftist who want to destroy the state, desire to replace it,with something.A new type of society which would have to be imposed on many if not most of the population. Has any Leftist regime came to power that didn’t attempt to control the entire population in the territory of the regime it replaced?”
    And:
    Earlier in response to my saying, “Natural selection will weed out individuals and societies that embrace an ethic that is detrimental to fitness.” you said: “Now, THAT is a testable assertion. Upon what do you base that fewmet of knowledge? A casual observer of human history would note that natural selection has not done any sort of thing, yet, because “fitness” is a vague concept and “fitness” appears to change circumstantially.”

    I offer as one piece of evidence the fact that the “state” has become the dominant method of organizing society.

  22. Kevin Terrell says

    doublereed at@ 23
    “Although tbf it may have been because Kevin didn’t want to address anything substantive.”

    I have to take objection to that.
    Marcus opened at @ 2 with what he expected to be a monologue. He lays out a long argument against the just war doctrine.
    It’s pretty clear he doesn’t believe there is ever any justification for wars against societies ,only wrong (wrong in his opinion) thinking individuals.
    This isn’t because he’s a pacifist his belligerent tone with me is evidence of that.
    As soon as I offer an alternative rationale for war, he goes ballistic.
    I tried not to stoop to name calling, but I did attempt to slight him and I wasn’t too oblique about it.
    Perhaps this is the problem with political discourse, people become identified with their opinion,and attacks on the opinion are taken personally.
    Tempers flare,feelings are hurt and the search for common ground is delayed.
    Even if that common ground is let’s agree to disagree, or let’s go our separate ways.

  23. Dunc says

    Whilst I don’t really want to get involved in this little spat here, there is one thing I’d like to back up and interrogate a little…

    From #8:

    From the POV of evolutionary naturalism fitness is ultimately everything.
    We can ignore it when making moral decisions,true, but to the extent that our decisions negatively impact fitness the genetic component in our moral decision making will be selected against,making those genes and the view derived in part from them less common in the future.

    Are you arguing here that there is a heritable genetic component to specific moral views?

  24. Kevin Terrell says

    Dunc@ 26
    Yes with some qualification.
    Morality is rooted in our emotions. Our emotions are a product of our brains. Our brains a product of our genes.
    This isn’t to ignore the role our environment plays in shaping our brains or our emotional responses.
    However we have been hard wired to be moral animals.
    Moral disputes don’t usually involve COMPLETELY different moral views, but differences in
    how values are prioritized, or what is or isn’t valued.
    These differences can produce very different societies.

    The point I originally intended to make, is that the secular left like the religious right, acts as if there is an objective morality and it’s theirs,and being the one universal morality, all humans can be held to it, by force if necessary.
    This moral universalism is the basis of the” just war” doctrine.
    A leftist administration used it in the Balkans in the 90’s
    and a right leaning administration in Iraq in 03

    It’s logically incoherent for those who accept evolutionary naturalism, which secular leftist by and large do,to hold to a universal morality.
    While all normal humans may be much alike in their moral sentiments, that these sentiments exist and what they are is the result of natural selection acting without reason or morality.

    If the left would accept and live with moral differences, let moral relativism be it’s guiding principle in its interactions with adherents to other moral views, then its actions would not only be logically consistent with its basic worldview, but perhaps make a more peaceful world.

    As for the religious right?
    That’s a different animal.
    Their views are logically coherent.
    Convincing them that their metaphysical views are wrong or at least their theology is,would have to be achieved first.
    However metaphysical opinions generally lie beyond proving or disproving.

  25. Dunc says

    Yes with some qualification.
    Morality is rooted in our emotions. Our emotions are a product of our brains. Our brains a product of our genes.
    This isn’t to ignore the role our environment plays in shaping our brains or our emotional responses.
    However we have been hard wired to be moral animals.

    I see. And yet you look at that chain and think you can link specific moral attitudes to genes? Do you have any actually evidence for that belief? For example, studies of people with very similar genes who were raised in radically different moral environments, but nevertheless ended up with similar moral attitudes?

    I have to say, I find the idea absurd. Morality changes far more rapidly than genes do. Sure, our underlying cognitive capabilities are shaped by genetics and lead us to develop some form of morality, just as our genetics primes us to acquire language, but the idea that there are genes for specific moral attitudes is about as reasonable as the idea that there are genes for specific languages.

  26. Kevin Terrell says

    Dunc@ 29

    “I see. And yet you look at that chain and think you can link specific moral attitudes to genes? ”

    Link” specific moral attitudes”
    to genes? No.
    Link the emotional responses, that are the basis of morals, to particular brain structures and those brain structures to specific genes/ gene interactions? Yes.
    After all what else is there besides genes and the environment.

    Specific moral attitudes are the result of interactions between the brain and the environment.
    For instance, while adultery is generally considered a moral wrong in all societies, how they are to be dealt with varies
    from mild disapproval to stoning.

  27. doublereed says

    As for the religious right?
    That’s a different animal.
    Their views are logically coherent.

    hahahahahahahahaha

    Oh my god. Are you serious? They’re the most poppycock contradictory BS you’ll ever see. It’s all bizarre post-hoc rationalizations of current moral values somehow coming from bronze age mythology. They argue that the bible suggests that abortion is murder when the bible specifically says that it isn’t.

    Logically coherent? You must be joking.

    It’s all window-dressing on Just-World Hypothesis mixed with bizarre apologetics of the Problem of Evil, mixed with whatever bigotries they happen to carry at the time.

  28. doublereed says

    @Kevin

    By “environment” you’re also including society. So you’re just saying something totally banal and pretending it’s profound. How boring.

  29. Kevin Terrell says

    doublereed@31

    “Logically coherent? You must be joking.”

    I don’t believe ALL the beliefs of the religious right are logically coherent.
    Only that their belief in a universal morality follows logically from their belief in a God who created a human nature.
    In their view humans are to act in accordance with the idea of the ideal human held by God.
    This is an objective standard which exist independently of human opinions.

    Since values do not exist independently of a mind or minds there can be no values greater than those the supreme mind considers values.
    So the notion that there can exist a set of values which are
    “just there” independent of all minds or superior to those held by God (assuming a God exist) is incoherent.

    doublereed@32

    “By “environment” you’re also including society. So you’re just saying something totally banal and pretending it’s profound. How boring”

    To the contrary, it’s very profound.( Though by no means original with me if you’re thinking that is what I believe).
    It’s profound because our social environment in part shapes the values people hold,(I’m speaking as a Darwinian now. )
    and some values or more adaptive than others.That is some values enhance fitness while others have the opposite effect.
    The cumulative effects of selection on the consequences of the behavior
    of millions of people, (choosing to have children or not. If so, how many?)determines the fate of societies and their worldviews.
    Which flourish, which disappear.
    This is obvious,but profound.

  30. John Morales says

    Kevin Terrell:

    I don’t believe ALL the beliefs of the religious right are logically coherent.
    Only that their belief in a universal morality follows logically from their belief in a God who created a human nature.
    In their view humans are to act in accordance with the idea of the ideal human held by God.
    This is an objective standard which exist independently of human opinions.

    Your reasoning is flawed, not just because it relies on a hidden premise which is independent of the premise that a God who created a human nature (you refer to what is known as “divine command theory”), but because an opinion held by some God is still a subjective opinion, not a brute fact of nature.

    Since values do not exist independently of a mind or minds there can be no values greater than those the supreme mind considers values.

    That you don’t realise that you’ve just claimed a contradiction rather than a tautology is indicative of your acumen.

  31. Kevin Terrell says

    John Morales@34
    “Your reasoning is flawed, not just because it relies on a hidden premise which is independent of the premise that a God who created a human nature…”

    I take it the hidden premise
    your speaking of is,
    “Humans ought to act according to their nature.”
    Of course there could be more than one hidden premise.
    Suffice it to say Theists would assume the truth of all the premises necessary to make that argument true.
    My argument is that IF we accept those premises the conclusion that their is a universal morality follows logically.

    @34
    “That you don’t realise that you’ve just claimed a contradiction rather than a tautology is indicative of your acumen.”

    Mr.Morales,
    you’re a very careful reader,I suspect your a teacher,
    I believe you’re correct,the way I worded it ,it is a contradiction.
    Since what I said implies values might exist independently of minds,just none superior to those held by God.
    What I should have said is:
    ” Since values do not exist independently of a mind or minds there can be no values (held by other minds) greater (more true) than those held by the supreme mind.”

  32. John Morales says

    Kevin Terrell:

    My argument is that IF we accept those premises the conclusion that their is a universal morality follows logically.

    But that’s vacuous; any given conclusion follows logically given appropriate premises, which is why the soundness of its premises are as important to an argument as its validity.

    ” Since values do not exist independently of a mind or minds there can be no values (held by other minds) greater (more true) than those held by the supreme mind.”

    How truer?

    (de gustibus non est disputandum)

  33. Kevin Terrell says

    John Morales@ 36
    “… any given conclusion follows logically given appropriate premises, which is why the soundness of its premises are as important to an argument as its validity.”

    I agree. However some of the premises are metaphysical and not amenable to proof.
    So the validity of the arguments are accepted on faith by theists.
    But belief in an objective,universal morality for all people follows logically from those premises.

    As far my statement,

    ” Since values do not exist independently of a mind or minds there can be no values (held by other minds) greater (more true) than those held by the supreme mind.”

    I see no contradiction.

  34. John Morales says

    Kevin Terrell:

    How truer?

    I see no contradiction.

    The question was: in what sense is it truer?

    You can’t mean it’s analytic (since then it would either be true or not without degrees) and you can’t use correspondence with objective reality as a metric, since you refer to something which does not exist outside a mind.

    So, how truer?

  35. John Morales says

    PS

    So the validity of the arguments are accepted on faith by theists.

    Really? Whence then the entire field of religious apologetics, or the purported proofs of God’s existence, which hold that the premises to the arguments to which you refer are actually corollaries, rather than axioms?

    (Not all theists are presuppositionalists)

  36. doublereed says

    I don’t believe ALL the beliefs of the religious right are logically coherent.
    Only that their belief in a universal morality follows logically from their belief in a God who created a human nature.
    In their view humans are to act in accordance with the idea of the ideal human held by God.
    This is an objective standard which exist independently of human opinions.

    My cat is also independent of human minds. Is that all that is needed for morality? There is no reason to assume that God is more moral than people. If anything, there is less, because of the lack of accountability and restrictions on power. It’s no wonder that God demands constant worship like all capricious, narcissistic dictators. It’s like saying Kim Jung Il is more moral by fiat.

    It’s not profound to say “it’s either not genetic or genetic.” Environmental includes plenty of nonsocial things as well. It’s entirely banal. You’re just vaguely categorizing things with no particular point.

    The fact you think this is profound is a tribute to your simplemindedness.

  37. doublereed says

    It’s also a little bizarre to say it’s independent of human minds when the books themselves are written and interpreted by people and human language.

    I mean when you have all these splintering sects all talking about how their God is the right one kind of throws a wrench in the idea that God is “objective.” Clearly it varies quite a bit.

    Not to mention that God doesn’t even exist so to use it as your “objective” source is blatant post-hoc reasoning. It’s just trying to come up with justifications after-the-fact for what you want to do.

  38. Kevin Terrell says

    Dunc@38
    “Does it? Have you ever heard of the Euthyphro dilemma?”
    Yes it does, regardless of which side one takes in the Euthyphro dilemma,
    a universal morality must exist,and God is the source of either morality or knowledge of that morality for humans.
    1)Either what is valued is so because of its intrinsic properties
    or
    2)What is valued is so solely because of the judgment of a mind,
    or
    3)What is valued is so because of both its intrinsic properties and the judgment of a mind.
    If 1),then goodness is not dependent for it’s existence on God, but only God can have knowledge of the intrinsic properties of everything. Thus God’s knowledge of goodness would be perfect and complete.
    Because no individual human can ever acquire such knowledge in a lifetime, nor in practice is the species ever likely to have complete and perfect knowledge of the intrinsic properties of everything, God is the only source for knowledge of values for humans.
    If 2)then God is the source not only of perfect knowledge of goodness but of the good, and yes good is what God knows it is.
    If 3)then ,like 1)God is the source of knowledge of goodness for humans, but not of goodness itself.
    So the Theist can, consistently with their metaphysical views, claim there is a universal morality for all people.

  39. Kevin Terrell says

    John Morales@ 39

    “The question was: in what sense is it truer?”

    You can deduce the answer to that from my comments at 43.

  40. Kevin Terrell says

    doublereed@ 41&42

    doublereed are you paying attention?Your comments and questions suggest you’re not.
    I’m not arguing for the existence of a God, or for the truth of some religion.
    I’m agnostic.
    I’ve been arguing if we assume there is a God like theists believe then, a universal morality which justifies war in some cases does in fact exist.
    Stop taking your anger with God out on me.

    What I find profound is the evolution of human societies through the action of natural selection on human behavior.
    This is ultimately what is guiding what we call history.
    I find that profound.If you don’t you’re simple minded.
    Speaking of which, I at least can be called a “Dumbass”(you at 12)without the Stupid Donkeys of America being offended by the comparison.

  41. doublereed says

    Obviously you were not paying attention. Your initial statement about genetic and environmental effects is precisely what I describe. It is not just referring to evolutionary processes. It is suggesting that there are some of those and some that aren’t. Which is not profound. Constantly changing your statement after the fact is boring. This is what you said:

    Specific moral attitudes are the result of interactions between the brain and the environment.
    For instance, while adultery is generally considered a moral wrong in all societies, how they are to be dealt with varies
    from mild disapproval to stoning.

    A statement without point. My point is your statement is like “morality comes from genes and the environment” is banal. That’s all there is.

    I don’t care if you’re agnostic. Obvious non sequitur. You state that theist views are logically coherent, I presented several points which demonstates that such a statement is bullshit. When pushed to try to defend such a statement, you can’t do it. You just repeated your claim again without any defense and tried to make all personal. Unimpressive.

  42. doublereed says

    To clarify: by “that’s all there is” refers to genes and the environment. There’s nothing else in existence. So it is not an interesting fact that this creates morality, because you’re literally referring to everything.

    Saying that everything is a possible cause of something is a literally trivial statement.

  43. doublereed says

    And my point with theism is that even with theism you do not get universal morality. Which I think I’ve been pretty damn clear on so I don’t see how you could have missed that.

  44. John Morales says

    Kevin @44:

    John Morales@ 39

    “The question was: in what sense is it truer?”

    You can deduce the answer to that from my comments at 43.

    Well, yes, I can… but then you’re claiming all theists subscribe to divine command theory, which is an over-generalisation.

  45. Kevin Terrell says

    John at 49

    “…but then you’re claiming all theists subscribe to divine command theory, which is an over-generalisation.”

    That I concede.I should have limited my argument to theist which accept divine command theory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *