I have, of late, been examining root causes of beliefs. It seems to me that there exists a decidely observable cleave in fundamental belief systems which drive societal, civil and political thought. This cleave centers around the fundamental question of man's nature. Is man inherently good and driven to evil by his environment or is man inherently evil and is his baser impulses civilized? Without god are all things permissable or are bad influence eliminated?This question continues to bounce to the forefront of my thoughts most recently as I thought about London. The good-man theory may seek to blame poverty, oppression and as Ken Livingston does "misguidance" for the attack. A few have gone as far as to blame Bush and Blair for decisions concerning Iraq for the attacks. The evil man-theorists, less nuanced to be sure, simply blame terrorists and the lack of moral and civil boundaries which failed to check their baser desires.Taken to a more philosophical extreme is the Utopic vs anarchic viewpoints. Do armies create war or do lack of armies create opportunities for those who have them? I am an unabashed "man is evil" sort of guy. Hardwired into my brain I believe are all the anarchic functions; Jealousy, competitiveness, covetousness etc. Only civilization, social mores, religion (for others) keep my home town from becoming thunderdome. I have acquaintances who are "man is good" proponents. Poverty and the "Ism"s (racism, sexism etc... ) generally turn the lamb into the hyena. Social mores are bad. Social conventions presupposes that which is good and that which is bad. This leads to judgement and exclusion and an "ism." The police and the oppression of others by those behaving contrary to their nature cause crime. The New York Times once had a headline "Record numbers in prison despite drop in crime rate." At the meta level in the man is good world, criminals don't commit crimes of their own volition. If the crime rate drops it is because social conditions have changed eliminating the need for crime. Therefore record prison populations is a reflection of an oppressive judicial system and not as I may believe what would be expected given a crime rate decrease.Consequently the attacks of 9-11, 3-11, 7-7 must drive us to one of two viewpoints. Viewpoint one asserts that we must understand the terroists and create a non-judgemental environment where they are no longer oppressed or victimized, thus eliminating the need for terrorism. America is not hated, as is falsely asserted by the right, but is, as the home of the greatest exploiter of all global capitalism, responsible. Viewpoint two asserts that the evil doers are themselves responsible and must be destroyed and that the institutions of civilization must be created in the Islamic world so suicide and other bombings, honor killings and other abuse of women, will be wiped clean by the power of social convention.It goes deeper, Theodore Dalrymple, asserts that the breakdown of civil society is caused by utopian social programs removing the onus of responsibility and the accompanying societal demands of accountability from the individual. The left champions the non-judgemental approach and by eliminating the poverty and isms former victims will be free to do as they please which is, according to theory, to lead happy productive lives. Usually I hunker down in the middle. It seems though this is an either/or belief system. Perhaps a good litmus test is your response to Bush's "Your either with us or against us."Just a thought while working late....Beer me please, Gwen. My head hurts.
So many questions, so little time.....Do armies create war or do lack of armies create opportunities for those who have them?In the beginning, what would become the US had no army. There were no real occupying forces and lots of available space for anyone who wanted to live a utopian life in a new world. Within a matter of time the utopian society decided it could do better and then formed the army to repel their oppressors. It can be argued whether or not they acheived the better society or not. But, point being, in the absence of an army, one was formed. Once it was formed, it never went away. I think a better way to look at it is armies don't grow on trees. They are made up of individual people who know exactly what an army is and more often than not the consequences of being in army. In Iraq, although being in the military was mandatory by the government, once push came to shove, quite a few chose not to fight at all. In that case, for the most part, there really was no army. So, bottom line, armies are totally incapable of creating war. Only people can do that.I am an unabashed "man is evil" sort of guy. Hardwired into my brain I believe are all the anarchic functions; Jealousy, competitiveness, covetousness etc. Only civilization, social mores, religion (for others) keep my home town from becoming thunderdome.Whether or not you take the discussion to the level of "good vs evil" or not, man is at the bottom of his core, competitive. Whether it's sports or ideological, each man is going to prove his point beyond a doubt. Some know when to fold their cards, some don't.Only civilization, social mores, religion (for others) keep my home town from becoming thunderdome.Civilization would still exist in Thunderdome, just differently. The social mores only determine the type of civilization, not whether it exists or not. Most of the Middle East looks like Thunderdome to me. I bet if I went there, most of them would be just as uncomfortable with the mores of rural Kentucky.I have acquaintances who are "man is good" proponents. Poverty and the "Ism"s (racism, sexism etc... ) generally turn the lamb into the hyena. Social mores are bad. Social conventions presupposes that which is good and that which is bad. This leads to judgement and exclusion and an "ism." The police and the oppression of others by those behaving contrary to their nature cause crime.I would argue all night with your acquaintances. Man is not good or bad, man is a mix. I have pondered deeply on this topic, http://moonagewebdream.blogs.com/moonage_spacedream/2004/09/the_history_of_.html check it out if you like. Basic synopsis, man is not that far removed from his primative ancestors who had to rely on instincts to survive. Those different instincts all served a purpose, the hunters and farmers. Today there is no need for the hunters and their instincts drive them differently than what today's mores expect. They can kill without blinking an eye or feeling the least bit guilty about it ( Joseph Duncan III is just the latest example ). These people don't walk around doing bad things all the time, but at any given moment, they might do things that shock the farmers.The New York Times once had a headline "Record numbers in prison despite drop in crime rate." At the meta level in the man is good world, criminals don't commit crimes of their own volition. If the crime rate drops it is because social conditions have changed eliminating the need for crime. Therefore record prison populations is a reflection of an oppressive judicial system and not as I may believe what would be expected given a crime rate decrease.The judicial system, after being burned with many headlines of rapists and murderers being freed only to commit more rapes and murders, have started giving out much longer sentences. The problem is that fills the prisons pretty quick. Even if the crime rate is going down, the prisons are still full. We just need to build more prisons.Consequently the attacks of 9-11, 3-11, 7-7 must drive us to one of two viewpoints. Viewpoint one asserts that we must understand the terroists and create a non-judgemental environment where they are no longer oppressed or victimized, thus eliminating the need for terrorism. America is not hated, as is falsely asserted by the right, but is, as the home of the greatest exploiter of all global capitalism, responsible.That is the pacifist viewpoint, that we must pacify those we have upset. I really am not aware of how they can come to that conclusion. They say they are jealous of our wealth, but, the person who coordinated the attack has a lot more wealth than anyone on this board using that argument. I heard that a lot immediately following 9/11, but, the conflict with Iraq squelched that argument for the "we were lied to" argument and the "they are mad because we invaded" argument. Regardless, none of the above was the reason given for attacking us in the first place, so I can't really explain it that well.Viewpoint two asserts that the evil doers are themselves responsible and must be destroyed and that the institutions of civilization must be created in the Islamic world so suicide and other bombings, honor killings and other abuse of women, will be wiped clean by the power of social convention.The problem here is that the evildoers are usually college educated and some are incredibly wealthy. They made a ideological decision years, if not decades, before 9/11 to follow the path they have chosen. It wasn't some spur of the moment decision to hate the US, most have for a long, long time.It goes deeper, Theodore Dalrymple, asserts that the breakdown of civil society is caused by utopian social programs removing the onus of responsibility and the accompanying societal demands of accountability from the individual. The left champions the non-judgemental approach and by eliminating the poverty and isms former victims will be free to do as they please which is, according to theory, to lead happy productive lives.Dalrymple never apparently worked for a mental health system. If he did, he would have seen that kids that led the near utopian youth of being able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, with no parental involvement or oversite, were more likely to wind up as one of our clients than the middle class kid who had fairly strict parents telling them to clean their rooms, what clothes to wear, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Poor kids, if they had responsible parents, were even less likely to wind up in our system because they could not afford strong drugs. So, I don't agree with Dalrymple that removing challenges and barriers will make people happy and productive. The usual experience is the opposite, without challenges and barriers, there is no struggle. No struggle, nothing to be gained, no reason to be productive.Usually I hunker down in the middle. It seems though this is an either/or belief system. Perhaps a good litmus test is your response to Bush's "Your either with us or against us."I'm much more in the middle in that I don't think there's any way to say man is "good or evil". I'm more inclined to follow early Freud theories in that every man is a psychosis. If it were not for myriad of psychosis, there would be no personality. The only thing that seperates each person is which psychosis drives them.I really expect a beer for having to type all that.Moon
DoctorBombay ended the first (long) post in this thread with:"Just a thought while working late ...Beer me please, Gwen. My head hurts."Moonage1962 ended the second (long) post in this thread with:"I really expect a beer for having to type all that."After reading both posts, I've decided it's too late for a beer, but a brandy might help me sleep.Mostly lurking thanks,Ratio
"...The judicial system, after being burned with many headlines of rapists and murderers being freed only to commit more rapes and murders, have started giving out much longer sentences. The problem is that fills the prisons pretty quick. Even if the crime rate is going down, the prisons are still full. We just need to build more prisons..."------------I branched this point off to bring it up again. Commonly termed the Judicial system, feeding the Penal or Corrections system... but what of society addressing the root causes or the foundational basis as in DB's original rethorical opening..?Businesses have been termed as in any one of several stages... innovation/initial entrepreneural, structuring/building, bureaucratic non-productive layering, end of innovational/opportunity pursuing, declining/failure mode... if.......there is no continual or renewed sense of the innovative/entrepreneurship as in the formative inital level.With no quality control processes in mind as any business or government entity proceeds, over time the big picture is pretty much lost and the focus is on the bureaucracy, not the 'finished product' and beyond that, the root elimination of the entire need for the Penal/Corrections process in the first place.That we have no root focus on our processes or control mechanisms developed and implemented I think speaks to a point directly tangental to the original thoughts.My 2 cents anyway...
"...After reading both posts, I've decided it's too late for a beer, but a brandy might help me sleep.Mostly lurking thanks", Ratio -------------------Well, as you probably know then, regulars get to run a tab but lurkers are strickly cash.(Looking around)... I don't see anyone here right now that bites... so it's safe to be in here.Welcome to the Pub and I'm sure there's a stool open here somewhere..
After reading both posts, I've decided it's too late for a beer, but a brandy might help me sleep.Mostly lurking thanks,Ratio OF course I don't read that until first thing in the morning. Dennis is sitting on top of us here, a hot toddie and I'm back in bed for the duration.Moon
Is man inherently good and driven to evil by his environment or is man inherently evil and is his baser impulses civilized?Define "good."Define "evil."Define "is." (never mind, I never could do a decent Clinton.)If the desired equilibrium is a strong species capable of repelling attack and with great survival prospects, then cold-hearted warriors rule. If it's a sublime understanding of the universe and communion between consciousnesses that you're after (try saying that after a mongo martini), then peace and understanding are your sustenance.Define your terms, draw your lines, and anything is possible.Richard
TJ,I think asking whether man is fundamentally evil or fundamentally good is pursuing the wrong question, and is fundamentally circular since "good" and "evil" are constructions of man influenced by social mores of the civilization he has formed. In short, if you travelled around the world you would find places where acts we consider completely evil (e.g cannibalism, infanticide), are the normal course of business. We are all human and so it stands to reason if we have such widely divergent views of what constitutes evil, that our definitions of "evil" and "good" are socially based and not fundamental to us.More to the point, I think the nature of man is a game theory problem. Certain behaviors result in stable societies, certain behaviors do not. Those behaviors that result in the most stable societies for a given environment prosper over time through a process akin to natural selection. The end result is a complex system of social mores. Over time, we come to accept those behaviors with which we are familiar as the "correct" behaviors and form our conception of good and evil accordingly.The bottom line is that man is an animal. An animal with high brain function and self awareness, but an animal nonetheless. We are guided by our instincts and embedded cultural memories of what behavior has helped us survive and prosper in the past. The evil man-theorists, less nuanced to be sure, simply blame terrorists and the lack of moral and civil boundaries which failed to check their baser desires.I have no sympathy for the terrorists we are fighting today. That said, I think dismissing them as evil is a dangerous oversimplification. In their own minds they are not psychopaths killing for the sheer joy of it. They are religious fundamentalists doing what they believe is the work of their God in driving the crusaders from the Holy Land and in attacking the fabric of the infidel society.Are their methods evil? From my perspective they certainly are. However, the idea of evil is not a simple thing.Was giving Indians blankets infected with smallpox evil?Were slave owners in the 1820s evil?Was dropping a nuclear weapon on a Japanese city evil?Were the Irish resorting to terrorism to throw off the yoke of Britain evil?I think you could make a case that each of these was evil if you were of a mind to, and yet none of the people who committed these acts would have considered themselves a bad man or consider what they were doing to be truly evil in any meaningful sense of the word.Rather than look for simple answers in the concepts of good and evil, I think the way to approach terrorism is to consider what they truly want. What are their aims? If those aims are anathema to our interests, then it doesn't matter why they are fighting. All that matters is that they be destroyed. If their aims are not in direct opposition to our real long term interests, then we should be willing to seek an accomodation.For my own part, I think the terrorist organizations we are fighting against have aims much larger than forcing the US out of the Middle East. I think even if they succeeded in driving us out, they would need to continue to mount attacks to prevent their organizations from dissolving. I think they continue to represent a threat to Western civilization even if we left them alone in the Middle East. The only answer, therefore, is to destroy them and to reform or destroy the culture that creates them. They don't need to be "evil" for me to want to destroy them, they only need to be a continuing threat to our way of life.Do armies create war or do lack of armies create opportunities for those who have them? I think it is quite clear that a lack of armies creates opportunities for war. The allocation of scarce resources is never equal. There will always be haves and have nots. If the potential economic cost for the have nots to take from the haves is too low, then they will take. The result is civil disorder internally (high crime) and war externally.The purpose of an army (and of a police force for internal matters) is to raise the economic cost of "taking" to the point that most people decide there are better ways to get the stuff they need. It seems though this is an either/or belief systemI think it is a false dilemma. As I said before, deciding whether man is fundamentally good or fundamentally evil is a pointless exercise since there is no absolute measure of good or evil. There is only man and the 100,000 years of societal development that have brought us to where we are today.Lay aside the need to define man as good and evil, and think instead in terms of ingrained behavorial preferences and perceived interests and I think the problem, and the solution, becomes more clear.Perhaps a good litmus test is your response to Bush's "Your either with us or against us."This particular phrase has always rankled me. I put it up there with the "Axis of Evil". It is this sort of simplistic thinking that leads to intractable problems. After all, only a fool negotiates with Evil, leaving, or course, force as the only option.That brings the "with us or a'gin us" mentality into much sharper relief because what it really says is "You're either in favor of prolonged campaign of violence or you're with the terrorists". It is a false choice and a very dangerous way to think.Steve
Moon, Steve, everyone....Thanks! Let me do some heavy lifting on these replies and get back. I would like to follow this down the rabbit hole.A point of clarification, Theodore Dalrymple is a British Psychiatrist who works with criminals in prison and the poor. You can google up some quality essays. I lumped him into a paragraph with both viewpoints. I found his essay recently and it put me at a tipping point on this issue philosophic.For your consideration...http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_oh_to_be.htmlAgain thanks. The Fool has proven over time to be a great place to ask a foolish question and get a Socratic answer. Allow me to reflect and later reengage.TJ
Thx for the piece....DW is a social worker in Petersburg, with a caseload of 14 most of whom are on parole and out of hospital, some recently. This is excellent for her practice use.For your consideration...http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_oh_to_be.htmlAgain thanks. The Fool has proven over time to be a great place to ask a foolish question and get a Socratic answer. Allow me to reflect and later reengage.TJI'll let you know what she says about it....KBM ( with a life "other then fixed incomes" investing)
A point of clarification, Theodore Dalrymple is a British Psychiatrist who works with criminals in prison and the poor. You can google up some quality essays. I lumped him into a paragraph with both viewpoints. I found his essay recently and it put me at a tipping point on this issue philosophic.For your consideration...I am familiar with Dalrymple. He's been quite famous in the psychiatric community for quite a long time. He exemplifies IMO the shift from the Freudian theories that dominated until about the 1980's or so to the social model that took over afterwords. With Freud everything was internal, with the social model everything became either physical or external ( society ). My personal experience that I remember most was "mentoring" kids that had been taken over by the state. Most of these kids were quite sharp, extremely manipulative, and a couple were quite charming. All of them had committed murder before the age of 15. Were they evil? Not at all. They were mostly the victim of circumstance most usually being an abusive environment. Once removed from the environment, they seemed to adjust quite well. I was not allowed to follow their progress into society. They could all have truly been evil and gone back to prison. They just as easily could be regular posters on The Fool. I would not have been surprised by either result. I don't believe in the simplicity of Dalrymple's theory. Nothing is that simple. I don't believe in the neurotic concepts of Freud, not everything is determined by our childhoods or trauma. I believe in a mix. That mix being the fundamental concept Freud started with and should have stopped with. That being that each and every mind is a complex mix of a thousand different neurosis. Only when one or two of those neurosis dominant a personality does it not function as it should. When that happens, we then give that situation the very simple description of "evil".Moon
I'd like to take this from another direction. Agreed, there's a belief structure in to kill or not kill yet what is the benefit structure in either? All beliefs are supported by a benefit structure that, in turn, continues the belief.Sidebar one: all proposed actions have a positive and negative result. If the positive is stronger the action is taken; if the negative is stronger the action isn't taken.What is contentious is that what is negative strategy to one is positive to another. I would not beat a person yet another may believe beating is an answer and a solution. The mind set that precipitates action cannot be universalized but is specific to the individual belief system.Sidebar two: if you're hated then even if you walk on water you're still hated since hate is blind to any other than a negative: you walk on water because you're lousy at swimming, you jerk.Are we hard-wired to war or are we hard-wired to social memes? The question is: how could the KKK recruit members when, from the present perspective, they were nutty kooks? Point is, at the time, it made sense to some because that was a social meme.Sidebar three: The only good Indian is a dead Indian; the only good Ugarian is a dead Ugarian. Right now, the only good Muslim fundamentalist is a dead Muslim fundamentalist. Learned across the years is that diplomacy is secondary to war but primary in the avoidance of war. Yet how do you negotiate with those to whom negotiation is an aspect of their defeat? So we come back to belief systems and the benefit structures behind them.If we look at war as a blanket what we miss is the underlying structure of that particular war. Why the War of the Roses when in dispassionate observance we see the parameters it was waged have so little relevance to either our view or our logic? Yet, to those at the time it made absolute sense.Sidebar four: One man's sense is another man's idiocy and this can be carried to extremes. What separated Lilliputian society was from which end does one eat an egg? Absurd and having nothing to do with the real world as it is? Ask a radical fundamentalist about tank tops.The other is, do we fight wars because we are at a crux of systems? No system goes silently into the night but fights tooth and claw to remain. Example: the Luddites. Example: communism versus capitalism. Example: western lifestyles versus Islamic fundamentalism. We can argue that we move toward a freer, democratic, open society and history proves this (since all those societies that are not free, undemocratic and closed have either failed are in the process of failing) yet the transition is more often than not bloody. Is this a function of change that when transiting we wage war?One last: charity. Why do we support? To me charity is the opposite of war. Not that charity replaces war but that charity supports a belief: I can, through my choice, help another and my reward is that I and whom I support live better. When the tide rises all boats rise. Yet, I fully know some will see charity as a sop to assuaging guilt. That I cannot control so I live with it.I don't believe war is a physiological imperative but a result of systemic, societal, thinking supported by belief structure. Change the results of the belief structure and the thinking changes. The essence of propaganda is in changing the results of a belief and that means changing the aspect of that which supports a belief.MichaelR
Another source on this can be Hobbes (1500s, Leviathan) and Rousseau. Those two are a big part of the foundation of modern (western) civilization. Hobbes was the life is "nasty, brutish and short" guy who believed (in part) that the need for government was to protect people from human nature's own worst instincts (evil), but generally leave people alone. Rousseau laid out more of the socialist mindset, that people would go along to get along in the right circumstances. (This is an ugly, thin summary of a lot of extremely deep writing I read more 20 years ago, so forgive the lack of details).FC
Is man inherently good and driven to evil by his environment or is man inherently evil and is his baser impulses civilized?I've been thinking about this question all day trying to determine which, if either, camp I belong to. I even went so far as to print out the thread and read it at work today. Yes, your question is worth 13 pages of paper and a staple.I determined that I am unable to fully subscribe to either theory--man is good or man is evil. This is one of those either-or scenarios that leaves me asking, "What was the middle one?"My first instinct is to approach such questions as a logic problem. Doing so got me a sketch on my 13-page printout that looked something like a Venn diagram of the Good-Evil Space: _______________________________________________| _____________ _____________ || / Things that \ / Things that \ || / are Good \/ are Evil \ || / /\ \ || | / \ | || | A | C | B | Other || | | | | || \ \ / / D || \ \/ / || \_____________/\______________/ ||_______________________________________________|This gets to the heart of why I reject the question. Good and Evil are not mutually exclusive--they can coexist in the same person, place, time, or event and often do. As an example, I will use the execution of Timothy McVeigh. I'm not a big proponent of the death penalty, but I definitely did not cry for him back in 2001 when he was punished. To me the execution was both good and evil. I don't wish to debate his execution, but I'm sure you could see how a person could be opposed to it and in favor of it for McVeigh, yes?This highlights a problem with this use of logic--as if there were only one here. The above diagram is not constant. The components A, B, C and D change in size and content with the point of view, time and context. sonofed illustrated this with some very pointed questions (http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=22734995).The notion that Good and Evil are somehow elastic, that they change with fashion and framework, is fraught with problems. It leads to moral relativism on every question.Is killing 50 innocent people on their way to work good or evil?It's evil, right? I hope we can all agree that this is an evil act, right? But there are those who squirm around this topic and claim that the act of terrorism is somehow justified and had some crazy sort of logic behind it. Sure, I can see how someone might claim that this act wasn't evil, but I refuse to accept it.But I have to wonder, what is the criteria for declaring something evil? Do we have to have complete unanimity on the matter, or does a simple majority vote do the trick? Perhaps we require a supermajority before calling something evil?So if we continue to use the above chart as a guide, we have to modify the caption to say that it is merely a two-dimensional shadow of the n-dimensional Venn-diagram logic function of the Good-Evil Space with variables including, but not limited to, point of view, timing, context and perhaps phase of the moon?The Good-Evil model of human behavior doesn't really satisfy me. The scientist in me won't allow a binary classification of the nature of man.Where does that leave me? I think I'm stuck at existentialism.That leaves a strange and indistinct taste in my mouth not unlike a plain rice cake with a side of tofu.Hot wings and beer, please.Spy
_______________________________________________| _____________ _____________ || / Things that \ / Things that \ || / are Good \/ are Evil \ || / /\ \ || | / \ | || | A | C | B | Other || | | | | || \ \ / / D || \ \/ / || \_____________/\______________/ ||_______________________________________________|
That leaves a strange and indistinct taste in my mouth not unlike a plain rice cake with a side of tofu.Followed up with a rice wine, this is the makings of an excellent night.Hot wings and beer, please.This works too.fredinseoul
That leaves a strange and indistinct taste in my mouth not unlike a plain rice cake with a side of tofu.Followed up with a rice wine, this is the makings of an excellent night.Hot wings and beer, please.This works too.fredinseoulHot wings and beer vs. plain rice cake and a side of tofu.Hmmm...Is it just me, or does this eerily echo the whole "good vs. evil" discussion?Gwen, a round for the house please. My head hurts.csayre
I don't believe war is a physiological imperative but a result of systemic, societal, thinking supported by belief structure. Change the results of the belief structure and the thinking changes. Is war a physiological imperative? Again, I believe this is the wrong question. I think it is a question less of raw human nature and more of a form of economics.If you want something, it is human nature to try to get it by the most effective means. For most of us, the easiest way to get the stuff we want would be to just go up and take it. The only things that prevent most of us from doing that are thousands of years of behavioral programming, perceived benefits from belonging to the group, and societal systems put in place to change the decision calculus (e.g. police forces and prisons).The behavioral programming stemmed from what I will call societal natural selection - those societies that adopted certain collective behaviors prospered. Those that didn't proved unstable and passed away.This is where game theory comes in. Certain social memes result in stable societies (Don't kill your neighbor, don't steal). Groups that lack these memes disintegrate or are overwhelmed from without. That said, there will still be groups of people within a larger group who see a tactical advantage in rejecting those beneficial memes. If everybody around you strives to be honest and hard working, and you choose to be a thief, you can benefit disproportionately for the amount of work you do, at least until the rest of the group decides to stop you.This tactical advantage provides an incentive for people to try behaviors that thousands of years of social evolution show to be inimical to the group's health. That incentive can't be erased by additional social programming. The temporary advantage of circumventing the rules will always be present and there will always be people with the incentive to try it. That's why organizations like the KKK can thrive in certain conditions. All we can do as a society is try to set the cost of circumventing the rules so high that the economics don't work out - in effect, the advantage of anti-social behavior gets erased because the risk of loss exceeds the expected gain. Now, this micro behavior - citizens seeing an advantage in flouting the rules - also applies at a macro level. Nations in the group of nations can see a tactical advantage in behaving badly as well. That perceived tactical advantage provides an impetus for war. The long and the short of it is that the question of whether war is in our nature is a philosophical one, and is unlikely to provide a satisfactory answer. What is more clear is that civilization thrives because we agree to live by a certain set of rules. However, the benefits civilization provides create an incentive to certain people among us to flout those rules to their tactical advantage.When an individual citizen tries it, we have crime. When a nation tries it, we have war.The inportant point from my perspective is that it isn't really a question of philosophy, it's one of economics. If the risk/reward calculus looks to be in favor of just taking what we want, then in general we will take it. Fortunately, most of us perceive such a high benefit from belonging to society and from our self image as helpful, productive individuals, that the risk/reward calculus tilts squarely in favor of following the rules. For those among us who see a different balance point, we have police forces, prisons, and armies to try to shift the decision back in favor of following societal conventions.Steve
Nice post, Doc. Gwen, beer him for me.Oh yeah, patch says all my drinks are on his tab. :)Naj
Oh yeah, patch says all my drinks are on his tab. :)That's fine as long as I can do all my virtual gambling on your tab.
Hot wings and beer, please.SpyI'd kill for hot wings and beer.MichaelR
"I'd kill for hot wings and beer."There is a joint that just opened up near the Brown Line in my neighborhood (I live in Chicago). It's called The Rail. Nice place, great beer and food specials. On Mondays they run 10 cent wings and $2.00 domestic pints. Not much I like more than a dozen hot wings and 3-4 pints of Goose Island Honkers Ale. Good times.dh- Oh, and the foot rail at the bar is an actual length of track rail. I love the small details...
Having thought about this for a few weeks I think I have concluded a few things.1. Those who graced me with their thoughts made good and valid points. You will find no bigger fan of game theory then me. Nor will you find someone who appreciates how taxonomy influences an argument. My post was simplistic and largely useless, unless I introduced a few of you to Theodore Dalrymple who I very much enjoy. So sorry for the sloppy thought. Too much reading not enough writing lately.2. I like civilization. That's a stupid thing to say but it sometimes must be said. I like what's been percolating for the last few millenia, I'll call it civilization. I won't describe it as good or evil, I won't call it "the natural order of things," I wont say it is without flaw, dysfunction or the ability to grave injustice or unwarranted harm. I will say however it exists, can be described, observed and is somewhat predictable It's opposite in a simple two sided strawman will be barbarism. I don't like barbarism. 3. Civilization needs to be defended and extended (hat tip to PJ O'Rourke).4. People drive it all. People are remarkable. People working in a high functioning civilization can do great things and liberate incredible economies of scale. 5. The golden rule of both civilization and barbarism is do whatever you want and take the consequences of your actions. Civilization functions because we decide what actions have consequence and mostly we operate within those societal norms. Barbarism diminishes the societal consequence and therefore incentivizes a greater range of action for those who can mitigate personal consequence.6. The focus of 21st century warfighting will be "civilized vs barbarian." the rules of the civilized vs civilized need to be preserved only in as much as we don't allow our freedom of action to corrupt and imperil our civilized norms.7. Systemic forces internal to the civilized, which promote barbarism, need to be reexamined and eliminated. Bottomline: In the absence of provable faith the notions of good or evil don't apply universally. I believe in good and evil, not as a condition but as a type of moral choice within specific context. That said the better context to discuss these issues, I think, is civilization vs barbarism. Your posts and comments helped me. Thank you.
That said the better context to discuss these issues, I think, is civilization vs barbarism. Framing the discussion as order vs chaos rather than good vs evil can give a radically different perspective. The difference between medicine and poison is dosage. Similarly with order/chaos, the right amount of each can be hugely beneficial while too much or too little is destructive.
Framing the discussion as order vs chaos rather than good vs evil can give a radically different perspective. As a veteran Dungeons and Dragons player I am used to describing things in terms of good vs. evil, lawful vs. chaotic and adding neutrality to the mix.TJLawful Good
TJLawful Good ***********Law! Bah!!! Just do what is right.dhNeutral Good
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