Conflict among Fallible Humans

Conflict among Fallible Humans July 14, 2018

I thought I would start this post by turning a comment I made recently on another post into a meme. One of the challenges of all conflict, for those concerned not about winning but about principles, is how to combat what we perceive to be evil without being turned into that which we hate in the process. Even on a pragmatic level, it is possible to recognize that lashing out in response to attacks can be counterproductive at the very least. But I want to suggest that there is something more to it than that. We need to find ways to balance having strong convictions and recognizing our own fallibility, standing against what we perceive to be evil while recognizing that we and our opponents are all human beings with the same inherent worth and capacity for both good and evil. That is not to suggest that some do not do inflict more harm on others. But often those actions are motivated by things the individuals in question perceive as good, such as protecting their family, their nation, their heritage.

Nostalgia for the past – even an imagined idealized past – is something that all human beings are prone to. And so surely we can find ways to combat the harmful effects of mistaken beliefs that we see across the aisle, without dehumanizing those who hold the beliefs. Failure to do that would be to engage in precisely the sort of unkindness, lack of compassion and empathy, that we have criticized them for, making us the worst sort of hypocrites.

On a related note, Mark Grabe made the case that learning to argue is the most important skill we should be teaching at the moment.

 

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  • John MacDonald

    I am reminded of the racist, dehumanizing propaganda art of WW2 depicting, for instance, the Japanese as demons.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    There is no god.

    • What is the point of such an assertion, with no evidence or discussion provided? Let me respond briefly:

      1) The Egyptians viewed cats as gods.
      2) Cats exist (the internet is full of evidence).
      3) Therefore, gods exist and your statement is false.

      • The Mouse Avenger

        Nice one! ^_^ (sighs) Alas, he’s one of those trolls that just never gives up!

      • Ivan T. Errible

        I view myself as god; I exist; start worshiping me-and make sure I get all that collection money!

      • Ivan T. Errible

        1. I view myself as god.
        2. I exist.
        3. Therefore, god exists.

        This is easy! No wonder people get PhDs in “Divinity”!!!

        • Someone who has studied theology/divinity would not have made the assertion without evidence that you did, would have been aware that there are varied concepts of divinity and that without some definition the bald assertion is either meaningless or demonstrably false, and would now probably proceed to probe at the theology that you are articulating and what it means for you to proclaim yourself a god. If they had a PhD in the field, I would expect them to comment more reasonably, precisely, clearly, and meaningfully than you have been, although even among PhD holders there are all sorts of people…

          • Ivan T. Errible

            But the assertion that the Egyptians thought of cats as gods is fine-after all, they have divine powers like catching mice and so forth?

          • “Fine” in what sense? As a statement of historical fact about what ancient Egyptians believed, it is more than fine. Or are you asking me if I subscribe to the theology that many ancient Egyptians held, in which case the obvious answer is that I don’t? The point is that, depending on what one means by God, the existence of God may be false, open for debate, or true by definition. For those who hold to the longstanding philosophical view that God denotes that which exists by definition and serves as the ground of existence of all contingent beings, it is pure nonsense to deny the existence of God, since that amounts to saying that nothing exists. Likewise if one says that gods do not exist, what one probably means is not a statement about whether entities exist who could be designated as gods, but whether that title is appropriate. That is a debate about theology, not about the existence of the entities in question.

            In short, you make fun of people who study topics for a living and yet illustrate precisely how muddled someone can get if they don’t study those topics!

          • Nick G

            For those who hold to the longstanding philosophical view that God denotes that which exists by definition and serves as the ground of existence of all contingent beings, it is pure nonsense to deny the existence of God, since that amounts to saying that nothing exists.

            But that “longstanding philosophical view” makes the term “God” entirely redundant, since “whatever exists” means the same and will be more generally understood.

          • Why does it make the term “God” redundant? Not all views of God define God so as to include contingent beings, although obviously some do. For theists and Deists, God is the ground of existence and the source that brings other things distinct from God into existence. But in those views as in panentheism and pantheism, God is that which exists eternally.

          • Nick G

            If “God” is not defined so as to include everything, then it clearly is not nonsense to deny the existence of God, since this would not amount to saying that nothing exists.

          • If your point is that the definition of God matters to this discussion, then that is something that I believe I have been saying all along!

          • Nick G

            Of course the definition matters. But unless God is defined to include everything that exists (in which case, the term “God” becomes redundant), it cannot reasonably be claimed that it is nonsense to deny that God exists on the grounds that this implies that nothing exists – because it doesn’t imply that. It could be claimed that in fact, nothing would exist if God didn’t, but even if that were the case, it would not mean that denying the existence of God implies a claim that nothing exists.

        • John MacDonald

          Why is there something rather than nothing? Because all beings are supported by a Ground and hence testify to It: Ἓν καὶ Πᾶν

          • Nick G

            The obvious response is: “Why is there a Ground?”.

          • John MacDonald

            I think ‘Being’ doesn’t have a “why,” but rather is the “why” for beings. Because of this, “Being” seems best approached through a “negative theology,” or, if you prefer, “apophatic” approach: “un-caused,” etc.

          • Nick G

            That’s just pointless babble.

          • Ivan T. Errible

            I don’t know why there is something rather than nothing-and neither do you!

          • John MacDonald

            The contingent beings we encounter are grounded in something “non-dependent.” Why are there beings? Because there is Being.

          • Ivan T. Errible

            How do you know this?

          • John MacDonald

            Consider the questioning of a child about her origins. A child learns that she came from her parents, and they came from their parents, and so on. Clearly, this can’t regress infinitely, or else the child would never have come to be in the first place. The question is: what is the nature of the ultimate origin? – not whether there was an ultimate origin.

          • Ivan T. Errible

            No, but the forms change slightly with each generation, otherwise there would be Homo Sapiens fossils from hundreds of millions of years ago.

          • John MacDonald

            The point is that you can trace the chain of causes and effects all the way back to The Big Bang (or beyond, as some cosmologists do), but the chain can’t go back forever into an infinite regress because if it did, you and I wouldn’t be here having this conversation. There must be some foundation at the end of it all that isn’t itself an effect of an even prior cause.

          • Nick G

            You have not shown that there can’t be an infinite regress – nor even tried to. You have simply asserted it without argument.

    • John MacDonald

      The Principle of Sufficient Reason: To “be” means to stand in relation to a ground.

      • Nick G

        I have never seen an adequate justification of the so-called “Principle of Sufficient Reason”. Why should there be a sufficient reason for everything?

      • Ivan T. Errible

        All righty, then….

  • Tom

    Humanization of the opponent is no way to fight a war. I struggle with this when I sit in the company of those whose theology I wildly disagree. The problem being that, as I sat and listened to them, I fell in love with them. I found people, as individuals, who were just trying to make sense of it all using the tools they were taught to use. I saw their struggle as I see mine and I lost the ability to fight them, because I realized the fight was, truly, with myself. But then again…I could be entirely full of shit.

    • Iain Lovejoy

      Dehumanization of the Japanese by the US, and mistreatment if prisoners and civilians in islands captured, so I have read, prolonged the war. Japanese propaganda prepared its population to fight to the last man (and woman, and child) by convincing them that the US would do to them what the Japanese did to those they conquered, and worse, if they invaded, and so better to go down fighting.
      The Japanese did not surrender after Hiroshima, but did after Nagasaki, because in the meantime Russia had entered the war against them (and they definitely did not want to be invaded by the Russians) and the US had softened their stance on keeping their emperor.
      All wars end when one side decides it is no longer worth continuing to fight. The better they think they will be treated in defeat, the more likely they are to accept it.

      • John Smith

        Japanese surrendered when they got concessions; but the Nazis fought on until Hitler was dead, Wehrmacht destroyed and Germany occupied, and some still kept fighting guerilla battles for years afterwards.

        Not all wars end or even an end in a compromise. Some fights are to the death. Conservatives might be fighting to protect their families, nation nor heritage, but they’re also they’re fighting to protect their privilege. Privilege and equality are mutually exclusive concepts; having privilege means you’re oppressing those who don’t have it. There can be no peace between them; one must fall. And it’s not going to be equality.

        Japanese wanted to have an emperor over themselves, but the Conservatives want to be the emperor over all.

        • Iain Lovejoy

          I am not aware of guerilla battles for “years” afterwards. I would be interested in any citations / evidence. As far as I am aware, the only Germans who continued fighting after Germany’s surrender were those who would otherwise have been captured by the Red Army, and they continued to fight the Russians to escape and surrender to the US and the British instead, which rather demonstrates my point.
          https://m.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/did-you-know-ve-day-did-not-end-all-battles-in_europe-mm.html
          Forgot to add: the allies insisted on unconditional surrender by the Germans in WW2, which was one of the reasons why they fought to the bitter end, again illustrating my point: the harsher you propose to treat your enemy, the longer and harder they fight.

          • Nick G

            The point of the demand for unconditional surrender was to pre-empt a second “stab in the back” legend arising; it worked. (At the end of WW1, the imperial-military regime in Germany handed over to a civilian and predominantly democratic socialist titular government, which then negotiated the armistice and subsequent peace treaty. This was subsequently presented by the right as a socialist and Jewish betrayal.)

          • Iain Lovejoy

            That makes a certain logical sense as a policy, but I suspect what really made a difference to the outcome in terms of German popular opinion (and avoiding another re-run) post WW2 vs WW1 is the the decision not to saddle the newly elected democratic German government with wrecking reparations, sanctions and penalties and instead assisting with reconstruction via the Marshall plan and integrating Germany into Europe via the EC then EU.
            The new German government took no blame, because there was nothing to blame them for.

          • Nick G

            Those things were certainly important as well, but I’m strongly inclined to think the demand for unconditional surrender was correct. What was the alternative? Either to negotiate with Hitler or a Nazi or military successor (and any plausible successor would have been deeply involved in the crime of planning and waging aggressive war, defined as a crime in international law under the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, to which Germany was a signatory), or to demand prior regime change – with the attendant risk of a second stab-in-the-back legend.

          • Iain Lovejoy

            I’m not saying the demand for unconditional surrender was unnecessary or wrong, only that it was a factor in the Germans continuing to fight as long as they did. Not insisting on unconditional surrender might have meant the war ending earlier but have resulted, as you say, in worse unintended consequences as well.

          • Nick G

            Germans who recognised that the war was lost were primarily concerned to be occupied or taken prisoner by the western Allies rather than the Russians. If the western Allies had been prepared to offer a “Surrender unconditionally to us but keep fighting the Russians” deal, I think most German forces in the west would have laid down their arms – it was the demand to surrender to the Russians that was the sticking point. But such a deal, of course, would have risked immediate war with the USSR.