1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5646/the-justice-and-prudence-of-war-toward-a-libertarian-analysis/

The Justice and Prudence of War: Toward A Libertarian Analysis

September 20, 2006 by

Every time America goes off on one of its bombing or invading romps, resentment grows among the bombed and invaded. From this resentment sprout new threats to America’s security. To protect against these threats, America engages in further bombing and invading, which creates still more resentment, which breeds still new threats, prompting still more bombing and invading, and so on ad infinitum. Mises’s insight that interventions breed more interventions is as true in foreign policy as it is in domestic economy. And just as the logical endpoint of the cycle of economic interventions is complete socialism, so the logical endpoint of the cycle of military interventions is world conquest. FULL ARTICLE

{ 107 comments }

Roger M September 22, 2006 at 11:52 am

Roderick:”But what grounds have you for claiming Sartre was hypocritical?”

Camus claimed Sartre was hypocritical because both new that under atheism no morals are possible. It caused a major fight between them.

“Hence reason’s authority is axiomatic; one can’t deny it without implicitly presupposing it.”

Nonsense! Reason is just a tool and like any tool it can be misused.

“They recognised that they couldn’t coherently treat God as a final authority unless they identified God with reason. Thus they implicitly admitted reason’s necessary status as a final authority.”

You have it completely backwards. All prominent theologians, Catholic and Protestant, have viewed reason is an attribute of God; God is not an attribute of reason. Reason derives its authority from its association with God. Without God, reason has no authority whatsoever. It becomes just another tool we can choose to use or not.

I forgot to add Nietche to the list who great philosophers who denied the possibility of morals without God.

Brian Drum September 22, 2006 at 12:29 pm

Roger,

If no morality is possible w/o revelation then how are we to decide which diety’s revelation to go with?

Brian Drum September 22, 2006 at 12:36 pm

Roderick,

It seems that a very common objection to anarchy is that there must be someone/something handing down a set of norms that everyone must follow, and w/o such an entity society would collapse into barbarism. By citing your rule-following article I had hoped to bring into the discussion the idea that there can be no supra-societal entity that issues rules that are some how magically followed by everyone.

Roderick T. Long September 22, 2006 at 1:20 pm

To Roger M.: “Camus claimed Sartre was hypocritical because both new that under atheism no morals are possible.” Yes, I know what Camus said, but the question is whether he was right.

“Nonsense! Reason is just a tool and like any tool it can be misused.” Well, one can of course fail to reason correctly. But if one does, one’s results don’t have the authority of reason, because they weren’t actually reached by reason. But so long as one does reason correctly — where by “correctly” I mean not “in accordance with some standard external to reason” but rather “in accordance with the standards internal to reason itself” (e.g. the laws of logic) — one’s reasoning does have the authority of reason itself. In that sense, reason cannot be “misused.”

And once again, my argument for the claim that reason’s authority is internal to itself is that any argument for recognising some authority beyond or superior to human reason would itself be an argument, i.e., a piece of reasoning; thus no one could construct or understand or accept such an argument unless they already accepted the basic rules of logic, etc., and regarded them as authoritative. Hence one’s acceptance of the authority of reason is always presupposed by, and so must always be prior to, any argument for any other authority.

“You have it completely backwards. All prominent theologians, Catholic and Protestant, have viewed reason is an attribute of God; God is not an attribute of reason. Reason derives its authority from its association with God. Without God, reason has no authority whatsoever. It becomes just another tool we can choose to use or not.” The theologians I’m talking about, including Aquinas, in effect identified God with reason and being rather than making reason and being properties of God. Hence for Aquinas reason without God would be nonexistent rather than non-authoritative; reason can never be non-authoritative.

That is why the Gospel of John says “God was the Logos.” (“Logos” means “Reason,” not “Word”; the author is borrowing from the Greek philosophers, who likewise identified God with reason/logos.) That is why St. Paul says the Gentiles knew the law. That is why Aquinas rejected the view that God makes things right by willing them. That is why Grotius was able to say that natural law would still hold even if per impossibile God did not exist.

To Brian Drum: “It seems that a very common objection to anarchy is that there must be someone/something handing down a set of norms that everyone must follow, and w/o such an entity society would collapse into barbarism. By citing your rule-following article I had hoped to bring into the discussion the idea that there can be no supra-societal entity that issues rules that are some how magically followed by everyone.” Yes, I certainly agree with that. I was just grumping because I thought you were going beyond saying that to saying that it ruled out any universal principles of morality.

Roger M September 22, 2006 at 1:31 pm

Brian:”If no morality is possible w/o revelation then how are we to decide which diety’s revelation to go with?”

The idea is that morality without God is not possible, not that morality without revelation is impossbile. Revelation makes it easier to determine morality, but you’re correct in that the next question is “which revelation?”

Natural law theorists, who also believed that God was necessary, were attempting to derive morality through reason under the assumption that God is reasonable and gave us the ability to reason. So they used reason as a tool to understand God’s will, assuming that God’s will and what is best for mankind to prosper are the same things.

If you read some atheists like Richard Dawkins, you’ll find that many of them even question the validity of reason. Reason assumes that man’s mind is independent of nature, that is, that we have a free will capable of analyzing the world around us. But as evolutionists point out, what we think of as reason and free will are nothing but the outcome of millions of chemical reactions. Therefore, we’re not independent of nature and don’t have a free will. Those chemical reactions have been predetermined by millions of years of evolution. While we think we are reasoning, what we call reason may be just a survival mechanism that may no longer be valid. Also, they question whether we should trust these chemical reactions. They may be deceiving us.

Early science, on the other hand, was developed by devout believers, such as Newton, who believed that the operations of the physical world could be discerned with reason because they believed reason is an attribute of God. Other religions, such as Islam and Hindu/Buddhism, don’t see the world or God as rational, but arbitrary, which is why they lagged behind in modern science for so long.

Reactionary September 22, 2006 at 1:48 pm

Roderick,

I don’t see how you get reason to lift itself by its own bootstraps. If logical reasoning compels the conclusion it would be immoral to steal a car, I can simply disregard it. And when you say (correctly) that even then I am engaged in reasoning, you simply demonstrate reason’s complete relativity, which is why reason is the process, not the substance.

Would not reason per se compel the conclusion that there is nothing inherently immoral about homosexuality, polygamy, working on the Sabbath, etc.?

Roderick T. Long September 22, 2006 at 1:51 pm

To Roger M.: The problem with Richard Dawkins’ view is not that he’s an atheist, but that he’s making a mistake that both theists and atheists can make. He thinks the authority of reason derives from something superior to reason; but he thinks this superior authority is natural selection rather than God. But the atheistic version of this mistake is just as much a confusion as the theistic version; whether the external authority is natural or divine doesn’t change the nature of the problem. Because Dawkins’ argument for this conclusion is itself a piece of reasoning, and so couldn’t undermine our trust in reason without undermining our trust in the argument itself (and thereby removing our reason for undermining our trust in reason).

David White September 22, 2006 at 2:19 pm

Roderick Long:

1.a. War’s primary definition is explicitly statist, so along with its practical reality war can be examined theoretically as a purely statist phenomenon — i.e., as a form of conflict unique to states.

1.b. Police action is not military action, being community-based not state-based. And while I would not hesitate to use the police if needed, I would only use the state for strategic purposes if, say, a government grant would further my business endeavors (like the one my company got to turn incinerator ash into building materials). That is, I will take whatever the state gives me (e.g., patent protection) but only because it takes so much from me elsewhere, first and foremost being the wars that it endlessly engages in in the name of “national defense” — http://mises.org/daily/1358

2. My reputation is not only my property; it is my most important property. And if others try to damage it, this is no less an act of aggression than physical violence. To believe otherwise — i.e., that one’s reputation is the property of other people’s minds and that one therefore has no right ot defend it– is sheer nonsense.

Roger M September 22, 2006 at 2:21 pm

Roderick:”He thinks the authority of reason derives from something superior to reason…”

From where does reason derive its authority, then? Reason doesn’t exist as an entity separate from man; it’s part of us.

Without God, reason has its origins in man. No man enjoys authority over another man in the matter of morals, so it seems logical that reason has no authority over another man either. By placing moral authority in reason, you haven’t solved the millenia old problem, you’ve only muddied the waters.

Reason is simply a tool that man uses, along with experience, to determine the truth. Essentially, you’re asking us to elevate a tool of our own creation to the position of a god. That smacks of what the Bible calls idolatry.

Brian Drum September 22, 2006 at 2:31 pm

David White,

There is no way for ‘your’ reputation or anyone’s reputation to be property. Where is it? Is it a thing? When you say reputation you mean the mental image that other’s hold of you. It is a mental construct. You have no direct control over it. You may do your best to convince people that you are great guy, but ultimately their perception of you is completely up to them. How can something that you can’t touch and have no ultimate control over be regarded as your property (or anyone else’s)?

Reactionary September 22, 2006 at 2:46 pm

Brian,

It is something more easily demonstrated in the breach than the observance. For example, I may falsely claim that a company’s product causes brain damage, or that a day care employee is a child molester. This is why the common law allowed recovery for defamation. For policy reasons, this protection is not extended to matters of opinion or simple insults.

Also, the law allows recovery for damage to your feelings in certain instances, in the recognition that emotional injury can be as real and debilitating as a physical injury. Again though, we do not allow this for picayune matters but the distinction is purely a matter of policy, not because we don’t recognize a person’s right to their peace of mind.

Jesse McDonald September 22, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Reactionary: Rationality is part of the definition of “human”, as the term is used in praxaeology, economics, and (libertarian) natural law. Natural law deals with interactions between humans; if a conflict exists between two irrational entities, or between a rational and an irrational entity, human natural law does not apply. Incidently, this is the basis for ethical self-defense and retribution: the presence of aggression implies that the other entity does not consider itself bound by human natural law, and thus the rules that would govern behavior between two humans do not apply (at least to the extent of the aggression).

You can choose not to conform to natural law, but must realize that the alternative is “might makes right.” Those who do not follow natural law do not receive protection from the mutual recognition of its precepts. People are perfectly free to abandon reason, but will thereafter be treated as one would treat an animal or a machine, not as one would treat a fellow human being — not because they are evil, unethical, or immoral (they can’t be; those ideas only apply to humans) but because reason is a prerequisite for human social interaction and thus for existance as a human being. To attempt to argue against that is self-defeating, since the detractor would simply be providing additional evidence for the necessity of reason. (Prove me wrong: demonstrate that my argument is invalid without employing reason!)

Roger M: I think you’re partially right here; I wouldn’t have called it the “authority of reason” myself. Whether reason has its origin in man or a basis in a higher being, it is the fact the humans can agree on rational arguments (or at least on the fact that they disagree) which allows them to use reason to resolve interpersonal conflicts. If two people are willing to accept a common rational derivation of natural law — or the opinion of a third party applying their version of the same — they can resolve their conflicts peaceably within the confines of that system of natural law. If not, the only “resolution” available is the result of a raw, animal-like power struggle, with serious costs for both sides — the loser, for the obvious reasons, but also the winner, who no longer has the benefit of the social division of labour or the law of comparative advantage.

Roderick T. Long September 22, 2006 at 3:19 pm

To Reactionary: “If logical reasoning compels the conclusion it would be immoral to steal a car, I can simply disregard it.”

True. But likewise if God orders you no to steal a car, you can disregard him too. You can always disregard any authority; that doesn’t show that what you’ve disregarded isn’t an authority.

“And when you say (correctly) that even then I am engaged in reasoning, you simply demonstrate reason’s complete relativity” – But that’s not what I say. If it’s really true that “logical reasoning compels the conclusion it would be immoral to steal a car,” then any process that gets you to disregarding that conclusion is not logical reasoning (and so lacks reason’s authority).

“which is why reason is the process, not the substance.” It sounds like you agree with Hume’s view that reason can only evaluate means, not ends. But I agree with the majority of philosophers and theologians prior to the 18th century that reason can evaluate ends also. For some of my reasons, see my aforementioned Yeager review.

“Would not reason per se compel the conclusion that there is nothing inherently immoral about homosexuality, polygamy, working on the Sabbath, etc.?” Yes, I agree; there is nothing inherently immoral about homosexuality, polygamy, working on the Sabbath, etc. Obviously I disagree with Aquinas about this. But Aquinas disagrees not because he thinks God makes these things wrong by forbidding them — for that would mean that before God decided to forbid them there was nothing wrong with them, which in turn would imply, blasphemously in Aquinas’ views, that God issues commands capriciously and for no good reason — but because Aquinas thinks (while I don’t) that there is something immoral about these things independently of God’s will.

To David White: “War’s primary definition is explicitly statist” – But why treat this as the primary definition? I prefer John Locke’s account.

“To believe otherwise — i.e., that one’s reputation is the property of other people’s minds and that one therefore has no right ot defend it– is sheer nonsense.” Where does your reputation exist, if not in other people’s minds? So how is it possible to claim ownership over your reputation without thereby claiming jurisdiction over other people’s minds? If you reject the conclusion as “nonsense,” the burden falls upon you of showing which premise is wrong and/or which inference is invalid.

To Roger M.: “Reason doesn’t exist as an entity separate from man; it’s part of us. Without God, reason has its origins in man.” Our capacity to reason is dependent of us, but the content of reason is not. 2 + 2 would still equal 4 whether we existed or not. X’s being Y and Z would still entail X’s being Z whether we exited or not. Our capacity to reason is our capacity to follow out these necessary relations, but we don’t create those relations. Neither does God create them; If there’s a God, he couldn’t make 2 + 2 = 4, and he couldn’t make atheism true. In this he’s restricted not by an external force but by his own nature as being/reason/truth/goodness personified.

Roderick T. Long September 22, 2006 at 3:22 pm

I wrote above that God couldn’t make 2 + 2 = 4. While in fact I think that’s true too, what I meant to write was that God couldn’t make 2 + 2 = 5.

David White September 22, 2006 at 3:37 pm

Brian Drum:

My reputation is mine (no italics), not because I have control over what other people think of me but because I have control over the actions that are all that other people have to base my reputation on. If I have never beaten my wife, but someone says that I have, then there is a clear disconnect between my actions and the perception thereof. Insofar as what that someone has said does not come with any proof (innocent until proven guilty), then my accuser is essentially robbing me of that which is vital to my life in society — i.e., to my very identity.

After all, all the Talmud says,

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am for myself alone, who am I?

David White September 22, 2006 at 3:43 pm

Roderick Long:

My reply above to Brian Drum is also my reply to you.

Roderick T. Long September 22, 2006 at 4:04 pm

It doesn’t answer my question, though. Which premise(s) and or inference(s) of my argument do you challenge?

JIMB September 22, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Roderick – i.e. can there ever be a situation in which reason isn’t the primary trusted authority?

Yes and No. Consider: If reason points to greater perfected reason (i.e. if reason is an essential nature of God), it is not violating it’s first authority. Also, if reason points to external observed criteria that validates that perfected authority of reason (my perhaps inaccurately stated argument), it also isn’t an “external authority”

Roger M September 22, 2006 at 4:21 pm

Roderick:”God couldn’t make 2 + 2 = 5.”

Couldn’t He? Ask a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. My understanding of the orthodox version of these is that God can act, and often does, in an arbitrary manner, so that sometimes 2+2=5.

“we don’t create those relations. Neither does God create them…”

So I guess you’re saying that the laws of physics are eternal and uncreated. That’s typical materialism. I happen to believe that God created them. But are you saying that the laws of physics somehow gave birth to concepts of right and wrong? It seems to me that you can’t say that some act is right or wrong in a materialist universe; everything just “is”.

“Our capacity to reason is our capacity to follow out these necessary relations…”

So? Reason is still a part of man, as you wrote, it’s OUR capacity. You give the impression that ethics are a matter of discovering the rules of the universe much as we have discovered the laws of physics. How wonderful it would be if it were that simple! Not much debate goes on today about the law of gravity, but a lot of debate takes place on ethics, even among libertarians.

You should ask yourself why we even have ideas about morality. Can we attribute any concept of morals to animals? Do we call it murder when a lion kills another lion? Or when a lion kills a man? Again, with a materialist view, no act is good or evil. Survival alone is the measure of how animals act, and according to the materialist worldview, it’s how we humans came into existence. If a more powerful animal can kill a weaker one and take his food, so much the better for the survival of the species. Try to develop a morality of property from that!

Jesse:”If two people are willing to accept a common rational derivation of natural law …they can resolve their conflicts peaceably within the confines of that system of natural law.”

Exactly! Reason allows us to form communities and get along. But, as I wrote earlier, that doesn’t confer authority on the code developed. It’s nothing more than a housing covenant. A person has to agree to follow the covenant or he can be banished from the community. But such a covenant doesn’t give members of the covenant the right to punish non-members, or punish members in any way beyond banishment.

For example, if I’m not a member of your covenant and I steal something from one of your members, your covenant doesn’t give you the right to arrest and jail me, because your covenant doesn’t apply to me. Outside the covenant, or between differing covenants, the strong rule. According to evolution, the rule of the strongest is best for survival of the species.

But even within the covenant, should I murder another covenant member, nothing gives the other covenant members the right to punish me by any means other than banishment because the covenant is just a means to get along. The covenant has no authority beyond enforcing membership. That is the problem with reason-based ethics without God.

Roger M September 22, 2006 at 4:24 pm

PS, Why do we form societies to reduce violence and aggression? It’s the rule in nature. Why shouldn’t it rule with humans? Why is aggression wrong, based on a totally materialistic view of man?

Jesse McDonald September 22, 2006 at 5:13 pm

Roger M: I think I agree with your wording, but probably not your full meaning. I agree that the covenant (assuming you mean natural law) doesn’t grant any rights with regard to punishing non-members, and that the covenant has no inherent authority — it’s just a mutual agreement between two or more individuals to promote peaceable interaction. However, I would say that nothing prohibits the infliction of any sort of punishment on non-members, either — only the covenant prevented that, and non-members are not bound by or protected by the covenant. As you said (I think), “Outside the covenant, or between [members of?] differing covenants, the strong rule.” (Covenants aren’t capable of action, so I assume you were refering to the members.) Violating the covenant by murdering another member would (typically) place you beyond its protection; the covenant grants them no right to punish you, nor does it need to; they already have that right by virtue of your status as an outsider and their own strength as an organized entity.

Of course, one can agree as part of a covenant not to aggress against outsiders as a condition of membership, but then the agreement is with other members of the covenant, not the outsiders themselves. It doesn’t really affect my position.

Brian Dum September 22, 2006 at 5:58 pm

RogerM,

2+2=4 is not a law of physics. It is not some hypothetical empirical statement about reality. We can know that 1+1=2, 2+1=3, ….. simply by our knowledge of what it means to ‘do something then do it again’ or the act of repetition. It is not possible to undo this fact of reality. If ‘God’ were to ‘say’ that 2+2=5 then the ‘+’ would no longer be what you assume it to be, that being the ordinary arithmetic operation of addition. (Another plug for Prof. Long: Wittgenstein, Austrian Economics, and the Logic of Action)

You say ask a Hindu, Buddihst or a Moslem about what God can do. Well which one is right??? How are we to decide. Which God do we choose, or is it simply enough to claim that some God somewhere said so?

averros September 22, 2006 at 10:55 pm

Please, enough of that theist nonsense that without God there cannot be morality.

I do not believe in God, never believed, and most likely never will – unless someone provides a good proof of His existence. But I do have morals, and I can reason. And I can empathise with feelings of believers (my girlfriend is).

If you don’t believe in my existence, you’re welcome to the loony bin. Otherwise, I’m the proof by existence that God (and/or belief in God) is not the source of morality.

JIMB September 23, 2006 at 8:03 am

Averros – If the source of creation, order, reason, beauty, and morality are from God’s essential nature as expressed in the universe and in man, then it is a valid argument to say that it is belief that makes one moral.

It seems to me that good things can exist independently of evil, but that evil cannot exist independently of good: evil (being destructive of itself) must rely on the constructive power of good.

If there could be any evidence for God which we could in our fallen and ignorant state still observe, those observations seem to be a good start.

RogerM September 23, 2006 at 9:33 am

Jesse:”I agree that the covenant (assuming you mean natural law) doesn’t grant any rights with regard to punishing non-members, and that the covenant has no inherent authority…”

I wasn’t relating the covenant to natural law. Natural law in my mind refers to the effort to discern God’s will for mankind by means of reasoning about what is best for man based on man’s nature. Natural law philosophers assumed that God created man and wanted him to prosper, so we could learn about God’s will, to some degree, by studying man’s nature and what caused man to “flourish.” Natural law had authority because God was assumed as the author; the theorists weren’t creating law, just discovering God’s law via reasoning.

The covenant example I gave was meant to portray the attempt to arrive at morals through reasoning without God. It can work to a limited degree, but it carries none of the authority of natural law.

Averros:”Please, enough of that theist nonsense that without God there cannot be morality.”

No one has argued that, least of all me. This discussion is about deriving moral principles through reason. The question is whether or not without God we can logically derive standards of behavior that apply to all people. The great philosophers have concluded no, you can’t, because morals imply authority and no man has authority over another man. All you can say about reason-based, atheistic morals is that a violator is unreasonable, not immoral.

You bring up a completely different issue: Why do atheists behave morally when they are being inconsistent with there atheistic beliefs? For some reason, man can’t live without morals. so atheists are forced to live divided lives, affirming morality on one hand and denying their possibility on the other. That was Sartre’s problem and why Camus and he fell out. Camus tried to live a life consistent with atheism and without morals and he tried to demonstrate such a life in his literature. Sartre couldn’t live like Camus. So he chose to live a divided life, rational about atheism, irrational about morals.

One of the great mysteries about mankind is why we have notions of morality at all. Survival of the fittest, according to evolution, served the species well for millions of years. Why suddenly abandon it when we could walk upright? Where did such ideas come from?

Brian:”You say ask a Hindu, Buddihst or a Moslem about what God can do. Well which one is right???”

The question isn’t quite as hard as it might seem. Natural law philosophers pointed the way: Study human nature; then decide which religion fits best and allows us to live whole lives, not divided lives as atheists must live. Some good guides are the writings of Francis Schaeffer and Ravi Zacharias. In my personal journey, I chose Christianity because it is most consistent with human nature. We can live by its principles without living divided lives.

With such a short summary I’ll do injustice to Hinduism/Buddhism and Islam, but here’s why I rejected them: Orthodox Hinduism/Buddhism, not the popular variety, assert that our existence is not real, but a dream. As a result, morality and reason are figments of our imagination. Does that mean Hindus and Buddhists are immoral people. Not at all! Like Averros, they choose to live divided lives, saying one thing is true while living as if it’s not true.

In Islam the world is real, but morality doesn’t issue from God’s character. Morality consists of arbitrary commands from God. In orthodox Islam, Allah is so sovereign that he isn’t bound by his own laws and he regularly violates them in order to prove his sovereignty. Also, no free will exists in Islam. Every act, every word spoken, Allah had already written them down before the creation of the world. (Makes you wonder why Muslims don’t question why Allah has blessed the West with wealth and power while cursing and punishing them for over three centuries). Allah even punishes moral people and rewards evil ones in order to demonstrate his sovereignty. Popular Islam teaches that good people will enter Paradise and evil people Hell, but orthodox Islam teaches that Allah will send many good people to Hell and evil people to Paradise just to prove his sovereignty.

With Christiantiy, I can not only fulfill my desire to act morally, but I have a logical reason for possessing moral notions and I can live consistently with my philosophical beliefs.

David White September 23, 2006 at 9:59 am

Roderick Long:

The notion that because one cannot control the thoughts of others, one’s reputation is not one’s own is nonsensical. One might as well argue that one’s house is not one’s own because an arson could burn it down or that one’s car is not one’s own because it could be stolen.

This is why libel and slander constitute aggression, as they constitute a form of theft — specifically, theft of one’s identity.

David White September 23, 2006 at 10:04 am

And to return to your main argument, since Randolph Bourne was correct when he argued that “War Is the Health of the State,” and since the state is inherently immoral (being by nature an aggressor), it follows that all of its wars (hot or cold) are immoral as well.

So again, there is no such thing as a just war; there is just war.

Sergio Méndez September 23, 2006 at 2:42 pm

I have a couple of questions for Mr Roger:

1- Who said that the “great philosophers” have concluded we cannot derive morality from reason alone? Which Great philosophers?

2- Even if it was true that ALL “the great philosophers” have concluded that you cannot derive morality from reason alone, that means it is true?

3- Where do you get that Camus criticicez Sartre for attemping to found morals on pure secular bases? Actually Camus did the same in his philosophical work. The struggle between the two was related in a completly different topic, namely the support for stalinism in Rusia and the algerian liberation movement…

4- Since you claim that morality is “derived from authority”, how do we know -granting that God exists for the sake of the argument- that God´s authority is moral on itself? How do you know -without falling in a falacious circular argument- that God is a moraly perfect being, or even, MORAL at all?

Peter September 23, 2006 at 10:10 pm

Roger: it’s nonsense like that “divided life” rubbish that makes me think you are actually, clinically, insane. Get some help, man!

RogerM September 23, 2006 at 10:13 pm

Sergio,
1. I should have said the great philosophers of the late 19th and 20th centuries, particularly Nietzsche, Camus and Sartre. I included Dostoevsky as a philosopher because his novels are about the impossibility of morals without God.

2. You’re right. It doesn’t make it true. As Roderick wrote above, most modern philosophers of ethics don’t believe it’s true. Does that make it not true? The reason it’s true is that no man has moral authority over another man. Only someone greater than man to whom man is responsible can have that authority. So if a man derives some rules for behavior through reason, he may legitimately call a violator of those rules unreasonable, but he can’t call him immoral. Neither man nor a man’s reasoning has authority over other men.

3. I got it from a book by Francis Schaeffer, who was well-accounted with both Camus and Sartre. Yes, the dispute between them had to do with Stalinism and Algerian liberation. Do you know what the dispute was about? Sartre was trying to inject morality into the discussion and Camus argued that Sartre was being a hypocrite about his atheism.

4. That’s a very good question. If He’s the God of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, we don’t know that He’s moral. In fact, He often acts in an evil way in Islam. Only the Judeo-Christian God claims to be moral.

The next question you should ask, and you may have been thinking it, is if the Judeo-Christian God is so moral, why does so much evil exist in the world?

My first response to that question would be that without God, the only ethic we can derive from a materialist universe is survival of the fittest, in which case all that we call evil is no longer evil unless it hinders the survival of our species.

The second answer is that philosophers trying to reason from a materialistic universe have not been able to explain why we think some things are evil and other not, let alone why so many people are evil.

Finally, the answer from the Bible is that God allows evil as punishment for our rebellion against Him and His moral code. God created mankind and gave us a free will. We used that gift to rebel against Him, so He distanced Himself from us and has let us have our way. Our punishment was letting us do what we want to do. Some people choose to commit very evil acts.

Peter September 24, 2006 at 12:10 am

we don’t know that He’s moral. In fact, He often acts in an evil way in Islam. Only the Judeo-Christian God claims to be moral.

Strange; the Judeo-Christian god is the Muslim god!

Brian Drum September 24, 2006 at 11:02 am

“Neither man nor a man’s reasoning has authority over other men.”

Roger, if you really believe this then why are you not an anarchist?? Don’t you know that Jesus was? :)

JIMB September 24, 2006 at 11:31 am

Peter – Why do you say that? I see Muhammed and Jesus representing shocking opposites in morality.

Peter September 24, 2006 at 7:08 pm

I can’t help what you see, but learn a bit about Islam. They believe God will send four great prophets to carry his message to mankind – the first was Ibrahim (Abraham); the second was Ise (Jesus); the third was Muhammed, and the fourth is yet to come (presaging the end of the world). Their god is the same god as yours. [Oh, and by the way, he acts in evil ways in the Jewish and Christian religions, too!]

David White September 24, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Peter:

Not that I believe in either one, but how can the Christian god be the same as the Muslim god if the latter had no son?

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/introduction/wasiti/taimiyah_5.html

And why the endless murden and mayhem over gods whose existence cannot be proven and who steadfastly refuse to show themselves?

But of course where assumptions cannot be questioned, reason is on a fool’s errand.

RogerM September 24, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Brian:”why are you not an anarchist??”

I’m pretty close to one. I see anarchy as having a great deal of potential, but still theoretical, which is why I think we should proceed with caution. But anarchy is just a further step towards individual freedom, not a moral code. That’s why I have to part ways with anarchists who scream that all governments are illegal and immoral and so taxation is theft and war is murder. They can’t support those conclusions with their logic. As I have written, all they have the right to say is that government is unreasonable.

Peter September 24, 2006 at 8:43 pm

David: Christians recognize their god as being identical with the Jewish god, and Jews don’t say their god had any son, either. [There have also been Christians who didn't believe Jesus was god/son of god, too; e.g., the Arians]

greg September 24, 2006 at 10:32 pm

RTL> To Manuel: “My objection was really only about there being restitution only, as opposed to retribution. These are just convenient names for general punishment. A victim, for example, should be allowed to possibly replace the value or item stolen with a punch or a beating.”
Okay, we do disagree then. To go beyond restitution to retribution is to use force above and beyond what is required to protect/restore your rights. The use of force above and beyond what is required to protect/restore your rights is aggression. Calling it a form of restitution seems rather Orwellian. It may be true that nothing would subjectively restore the victim as well as beating the aggressor would. But it might equally be true nothing would subjectively restore the victim of a pickpocketing as well as beating the aggressor to death would. So the mere fact that X would subjectively restore the victim does not entail that X counts as restitution.

Restitution, if it means to simply replace/repair/recover what was “taken” is simply too weak a treatment. After all, if a criminal only had to worry about when he/she got caught, then there would be no reason to not be a career criminal since the worst that can happen is to have the victim recover the goods. Because after all, a criminal doesn’t always get caught and will end up making a fine living aside from the few cases of getting caught and only giving the goodies back occasionally. So there must be a going past of simple replace/repair/recover. It is true that the punishment must be commensurate. If one steals a loaf of bread, then a recovery plus another loaf of bread, and covering at least a bit the recovery costs seem reasonable to me. Rothbard covered this in The Ethics of Liberty, and for my part his take seemed reasonable.

JIMB September 25, 2006 at 12:11 am

Peter – The way I see it, the three propositions you’ve listed are false. According to Christianity, we have two sources of information about God: general revelation: we can see the difference between good (power of creation) and evil (parasitic and destructive) because we were created in God’s image even though we are fallen, and specific revelation (contrary to Islam): Jesus Christ.

Conrary to Islamic beliefs, Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Joh 14:6). Jesus specifically denied any other savior – and he claimed he was God: “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Joh 14:9).

There is a straight line from the Old Testament (God setting up the pieces so that he could send his son Jesus as the incarnation of his spirit), and ultimately the appearance of Jesus and the sacrifice of Jesus as the payment for man’s sin. There is also an entirely different ethic for salvation as compared to Islam: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16)

I.e. there was NO way for man to become saved by his own works because God’s standard is too high (however real conversions do cause good works — if they don’t it is likely the conversion wasn’t real).

The line is bifurcated at Muhammed — a separate religion, which contradicts Christianity at nearly every turn. It literally cannot be the same religion. The appearance of the “perfect man” is more likely the appearance of the Anti-Christ, not the appearance of a man from God (Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Mat 24:23-24)).

As far as God doing evil – it is man that is at fault for the evils of the world. God is acting according to his nature by submitting to his own standards (order, reason, justice, free will, mercy). We reject those standards (seen in natural law morality), and introduce disorder, irrationality, injustice, coercion for evil, and cruelty. As a result, part of the judgement of God is to limit our power by changing natural laws (“the wages of sin is death…” Rom 6:23).

Original sin is a compelling explanation of the condition of mankind — Essentially all great philosophies try to perfect man (they are all aware something is wrong with him) – but none say man cannot self-perfect — In my experience, no other religion adequately addresses the root sin of man: his pride.

JIMB September 25, 2006 at 12:20 am

David White – All thinking is presuppositional — i.e. ALL thinking starts with an ultimate assumption. In fact, all worldview philosophies can be boiled down to three main factors (1) what is the ultimate reality (2) What went wrong (3) How to fix it.

Example: Marxism: ultimate reality is material (the dialectic: thesis, antithesis, synthesis), what went wrong is private ownership, how to fix it is to eradicate private property and let the state “fade away”.

Christianity: ultimate reality is God, what went wrong is sin (especially pride: the original sin of the Devil and of man), how to fix it: believe Jesus as the son of God paying the price for sin.

Humanism: Ultimate reality is nature / matter, what went wrong is unreason, how to fix it is through reason (man self-perfects).

etc.

Peter September 25, 2006 at 12:56 am

The appearance of the “perfect man” is more likely the appearance of the Anti-Christ, not the appearance of a man from God

Eh? I must be missing something here – this “perfect man” thing is a Christian, not an Islamic belief.

As far as God doing evil – it is man that is at fault for the evils of the world. God is acting according to his nature by submitting to his own standards

Man is at fault for god ordering the merciless execution of masses of innocent people, child abuse, plunder, slavery, etc., etc.?

“And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil” (1 Chr. 21) – there, it clearly says (a) god did evil, and then (b) he repented.

Here’s a good one: “And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” (2 Kings 2) – Your god apparently thinks it’s a good idea to tear little children to bits for calling someone “bald head”!

Mark Brabson September 25, 2006 at 2:13 am

This would probably be a good time as any to bring up the fact that Mohammed was a pedophile. Betrothed a girl at six years old and was documented to have had sex with her at nine years of age. Little wonder why Islam treats women like garbage to this very day.

Nope, this is not a defense of Christianity or Judaism, both of which are indefensible. Islam is equally indefensible.

I will only accept arguments from reason, not from God, god, goddess, Allah, Kami, Zeus, etc.

Mark Brabson September 25, 2006 at 2:27 am

Speaking of pedophiles, let’s see what our dear departed buddy, the Ayatollah Khomeini had to say on the subject:

“A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby. However he should not penetrate, sodomising the child is OK. If the man penetrates and damages the child then he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life. This girl, however does not count as one of his four permanent wives. The man will not be eligible to marry the girls sister.”

That little gem is from one of the dear Ayatollah’s books. Neat little religion, Islam.

At least in Judeo-Christianity, they were just engaging in father/daughter incest.

Sigh. Religion is not just the opiate of the masses. It’s the pot, LSD and valium of the masses as well.

David White September 25, 2006 at 7:29 am

Peter:

“Christians recognize their god as being identical with the Jewish god, and Jews don’t say their god had any son, either. ”

My point exactly.

And by the way, this is precisely why pledging allegiance to “one nation, under God” is so absurd (never mind the equally absurd “indivisible” part), as it serves religion only insofar as it serves the state. And since the state sees ITSELF as God, aligning it with some amorphous, undefined notion of the divine suits its purposes to a T.

TGGP September 25, 2006 at 8:29 am

The difference between Islam relation to Christianity and Judaism and the relationship of Christianity to Judaism is that Islam posits a sort of “Bible conspiracy” in which in the original, Islamic, religion that god had his prophets deliver has been distorted. For example: the Koran states that Jesus was never crucified, the Jews merely claimed they had done this to make themselves look powerful and duped Christians into following along. The Christian bible contains many books from the Hebrews in the Old Testament, but the Koran scatters bits and pieces selected from its predecessors. It is assumed that readers are already familiar with many biblical stories, so they are not repeated, but there are denials that certain things occurred, often in the form of quotations from Jesus that he never claimed to be God. The reason for this difference is that Christianity emerged as a Jewish sect but was then made gentile-friendly by Paul and his followers. Islam arose from a pagan area and had fewer connections to those other religions.

JIMB September 25, 2006 at 8:47 am

Peter – I don’t want to be rude, but I’ll have to ask you to be more complete in your analysis. For example, the closing prayer of Ahmadinejad: “…O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace.”

Since Islam rules by violence, this is a call for a one world government united under Islam and under one man.

My response to evil is twofold:
(1) The nature of evil destroys innocence, it is arbitrary, capricious, unjust, chaotic, destructive. It is that force which we introduce daily by wrong thoughts, which affect wrong attitudes and wrong actions. We ask that God remove the effects of sin and call for God to sit under judgment. But sin affects innocent people – that is the nature of it.

(2) If we could see the future of a person’s present sin, we might judge very harshly for it: for instance, if we could see the end of Stalin’s great pride (30 million dead) we might seem to outsiders to unjust. God sees the end of sin. He has at times chosen to act contrary to what we see as justice.

God limits much of his own action to our choices. So first we must lose our own pride and second we must spend our energy combatting evil (a positive duty to others).

The verses you give are unfortunately a testament to lack of context. Here’s the context of the first:

And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” And the LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you …. So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel, and 70,000 men of Israel fell. And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he relented from the calamity ….”
(1Ch 21:8-15)

Note that “evil” is better translated “calamity” in the context. Here are the notes:
H7451; From H7489; bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: – adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil ([-favouredness], man, thing), + exceedingly, X great, grief (-vous), harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured), + mark, mischief, (-vous), misery, naught (-ty), noisome, + not please, sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. [Including feminine ra'ah; as adjective or noun.]

JIMB September 25, 2006 at 9:01 am

Mark (and Peter)- The Death of Kevin Carter …

http://www.mukto-mona.com/Articles/kevin_carter/sudan_child.htm

Belief in oneself as a moral actor (pride) and thus in one’s reasoning as pure, can be an even greater opiate, don’t you think? After all, one’s morality profoundly affects what one accepts as truth: i.e. to a anti-Semite, a self-consistent belief system like Naziism can be very logical.

Mark Brabson September 25, 2006 at 2:41 pm

If one is a moral person, than that is certainly a plausible situation. That is why I am a Deist and take an amoral worldview. That is, what doesn’t harm another is perfectly fine. I don’t have a moral worldview, so my perception of truth is untainted.

Which goes to show, that ridding ones self of religion is not enough. You must at the same time rid yourself of all personal morality, which is nothing but “your” perception of how other people should behave. Take an amoral viewpoint, live and let live.

David White September 25, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Mark Brabson:

Being akin to the non-aggression principle and thus to libertarianism, “live and let live” is a moral viewpoint, albeit a somewhat hazy one.

Roger M September 25, 2006 at 3:18 pm

Mark:”Take an amoral viewpoint, live and let live.”

That’s not really amoral. Amoral means without a moral code at all. That’s what Camus was trying to do. In an amoral system, I can help the old lady across the street, or I can push her in front of the bus and both are equal in the sense that neither is good and or bad, since categories of good and bad don’t exist. But no one can live a truely amoral life because everyone prefers existence to non-existence and sees existence as good and non-existence as bad.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: