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  #1  
Old 12-10-2011, 06:16 PM
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Default Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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  #2  
Old 12-10-2011, 07:04 PM
David Edenden David Edenden is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

FYI: Michael Ignatieff's review of Wolfe's book in Slate:

"How To Learn the Language of Evil"

My review of Michael Ignatieff's deeds, not words, while leader of the Liberal Party of Canada ... read it and weep:

Michael Ignatieff and the Banality of Evil
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  #3  
Old 12-10-2011, 10:39 PM
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Very interesting discussion and a reminder that terms that are as emotionally charged in a primitive, irrational way such as "evil" are not good tools for rational political decision making.

Putting the weight of myth, primal fears, and religion originated imprints when addressing foreign policy is a recipe for disaster.

The other side of the coin, of course, is to attach the idea of exceptionalism or destiny, or purity, or some other virtuous quality to certain nations.

One would think that by now the idea of all good or all bad, black and white, would have been abandoned by modern understanding of group dynamics, but somehow this regressive way of thinking keeps being kindled in the interest of political manipulation.

We need more writers like Wolfe who can advance rational thought.
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  #4  
Old 12-10-2011, 10:44 PM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Very interesting discussion and a reminder that terms that are as emotionally charged in a primitive, irrational way such as "evil" are not good tools for rational political decision making.

Putting the weight of myth, primal fears, and religion originated imprints when addressing foreign policy is a recipe for disaster.
Yes. WWII didn't end well for us, after we engaged in emotional and irrational labeling of the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan.

Quote:
The other side of the coin, of course, is to attach the idea of exceptionalism or destiny, or purity, or some other virtuous quality to certain nations.
LOL Will this religion of navel gazing and self mortification by the left ever be over? Isn't there some kind of finality to it? Some Book of Revelations portion where you are all Raptured to Brussels, or the Federation?

Quote:
One would think that by now the idea of all good or all bad, black and white, would have been abandoned by modern understanding of group dynamics, but somehow this regressive way of thinking keeps being kindled in the interest of political manipulation.
I would like to see you apply this exact concept of politics, and "understanding", to the Nazis. Please demonstrate.
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  #5  
Old 12-10-2011, 10:57 PM
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator View Post
Yes. WWII didn't end well for us, after we engaged in emotional and irrational labeling of the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan.

LOL Will this religion of navel gazing and self mortification by the left ever be over? Isn't there some kind of finality to it? Some Book of Revelations portion where you are all Raptured to Brussels, or the Federation?


I would like to see you apply this exact concept of politics, and "understanding", to the Nazis. Please demonstrate.
I'm sorry that you don't get it. Perhaps you should read the book to have some idea of what Wolfe is talking about.

I'm not taking baits tonight.
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  #6  
Old 12-10-2011, 11:27 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Hannah Arendt and Samantha Power

Great discussion.

I would love to see Alan come back to expand on his increasingly negative view of Samantha Power. Like Alan, I was deeply impressed by her book "A Problem from Hell" when it came out, but have since become thoroughly disenchanted, as I've come to view her more and more as an apologist for liberal interventionism. Alan mentioned that on successive readings of Power's book he became more skeptical and critical of her views. That's what I'll like to hear more about. Perhaps Alan specifically addresses Power in his book (?)

Here, Alan talked about an inconsistency in Hannah Arendt's usage of the terms "radical evil" and "the banality of evil." My take was that Arendt was talking about two aspects of the problem of political evil and not contradicting herself or rejecting her earlier position.

Radical evil for Arendt was the theory and horrifically deranged emergence of totalitarianism in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The banality of evil was the bureaucratic manifestation or routine of evil as personified by Eichmann in his pathetic ordinariness. "Evil" can be radical in intent and abusiveness, yet numbingly stupid and boring in practice. The leadership is composed of radical zealots, the followers (implementers) are dull drones--- just following orders and doing their job.

I think this distinction got interesting when Alan began to talk about the mind of a practitioner of political torturer. Radical evil or banal routine? Worth bearing in mind is that most torture committed in the world is not strictly political; it's usually just the "routine" police work of extracting confessions.
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  #7  
Old 12-10-2011, 11:37 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
One would think that by now the idea of all good or all bad, black and white, would have been abandoned by modern understanding of group dynamics, but somehow this regressive way of thinking keeps being kindled in the interest of political manipulation.

We need more writers like Wolfe who can advance rational thought.
I have not read Prof. Wolfe's book, so I can comment only on this diavlog. I am surprised how muddled the presentation was. He wants to avoid using the word "evil", especially as a noun, preferring the adjective form as somehow less provocative. The word was, however, used freely in this discussion, and without any attempt at definition.

It is asserted that Hitler really was evil, but the Axis of Evil isn't really evil. Well, how do we really know this? Where is the ground of Truth?

Ideas can be partly good and partly bad. That's a fair point, but rather trivial. If we can't define "evil", can we define "bad" instead? If there is such a thing as "bad", should we be upset at those who fight against it? Or shall we drop the good/bad distinction altogether and just not worry about anything?

I don't know what the goal is here. I don't see rational thought at all. I see word games. Show me the rational thought.

Last edited by Simon Willard; 12-10-2011 at 11:40 PM..
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  #8  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:03 AM
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
I have not read Prof. Wolfe's book, so I can comment only on this diavlog. I am surprised how muddled the presentation was. He wants to avoid using the word "evil", especially as a noun, preferring the adjective form as somehow less provocative. The word was, however, used freely in this discussion, and without any attempt at definition.

It is asserted that Hitler really was evil, but the Axis of Evil isn't really evil. Well, how do we really know this? Where is the ground of Truth?

Ideas can be partly good and partly bad. That's a fair point, but rather trivial. If we can't define "evil", can we define "bad" instead? If there is such a thing as "bad", should we be upset at those who fight against it? Or shall we drop the good/bad distinction altogether and just not worry about anything?

I don't know what the goal is here. I don't see rational thought at all. I see word games. Show me the rational thought.
I agree that the difference between the two denotations wasn't defined clearly enough. I also agree that Wolfe should have used a different word for his interpretation of evil as applied to politics in order to avoid confusion.

Although I didn't read the book, I can imagine that in the book he explores these differences more extensively, while here we're just getting a glimpse.

But the gist of it is that the term evil has been used in a way (intentionally or unintentionally, I'm not getting into that discussion) that elicits a primitive form of fear and rejection. It's the essence of evil, all bad and corrupt and ungodly. Once you accept that your enemy or rival embodies such essence of evil, you become the rightful warrior, god's sword in a certain way. These archetypes are dangerous, because once adopted it's a battle of life and death, or even worse, mixed in with ideas of mission and destiny. These are all abstract heroic concepts that stimulate emotions and drive action, but they tend to obtund reasoning. You're fighting monsters unable to reason, who are only driven by their corrupted malignant evilness. There's no road to negotiations, to understanding, or to finding common ground.

Wolfe states that when we use terms such as evil as it pertains to political processes, we have to abandon this charged connotation and interpret it in a much softer way. It would be closer to the sense, or "bad" or "wrong" or any other down to earth term that describes those who act in detrimental ways.

Beyond the triviality of using one term or the other, the main point is that using one connotation or the other sets up the rules of engagement. He could have articulated the same by approaching the topic from other angles, but this is the one he chose to make his point.
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  #9  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:19 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Edenden View Post
My review of Michael Ignatieff's deeds, not words, while leader of the Liberal Party of Canada ... read it and weep:

Michael Ignatieff and the Banality of Evil
Given his performance as a politician and the resulting prime minister of Canada, "the Evil of Banality" would also have been a propos
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  #10  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:20 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Beyond the triviality of using one term or the other, the main point is that using one connotation or the other sets up the rules of engagement.
Fair enough. But this is all still trivial, in the sense that everyone chooses words every day to maximize their persuasive effect. And why should we not do so? What would be the point of language otherwise? There's no theorem that says extreme language works the best. Quite the contrary; when you go too far with language, people tune you out rather quickly.
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  #11  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:23 AM
Baz Baz is offline
 
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Default Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

Ivory tower discussions about evil aside. Support and implementation of tyranny/totalitarianism has been US foreign policy in the middle east for over 50 years. What does that make the US?
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  #12  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:31 AM
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
Fair enough. But this is all still trivial, in the sense that everyone chooses words every day to maximize their persuasive effect. And why should we not do so? What would be the point of language otherwise? There's no theorem that says extreme language works the best.
I would think this is something that can be studied. Is this kind of language (and the respective frame of mind that it evokes) what has historically been used leading up to major wars?

Quote:
Quite the contrary; when you go too far with language, people tune you out rather quickly.
I'm not sure what you're referring to. In this diavlog they are discussing using language to evoke popular sentiments, frame conflicts in terms of The Good against The Evil, by skilled political figures or communicators of some kind. There will always be a population that's receptive to the message and a segment that is not. Those who are not tune out. But think of the discussions we have in this forum. Even some of the most outrageous language and ideas find a receptive group, even if small. And that is with what's supposed to be a somewhat educated crowd.

I've got to sleep now. Enjoy the rest of the evening.
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  #13  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:33 AM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Quote:
Fair enough. But this is all still trivial, in the sense that everyone chooses words every day to maximize their persuasive effect. And why should we not do so? What would be the point of language otherwise? There's no theorem that says extreme language works the best. Quite the contrary; when you go too far with language, people tune you out rather quickly.
I thought the point that it's best to remove "evil" from political discourse made sense. First, there's a pretty simple point about avoiding incendiary language as a violence reduction measure, well applied to Internet forums (flame wars) as well as diplomacy (Axis of Evil). Taunting, demonizing and dehumanizing often provoke violence. Everyone learns that in junior high school, if not sooner.

But the larger problem Alan seemed to be getting at was that the rhetorical use of "evil" or terms like "Islamofascism" obfuscates and prevents one from distinguishing between Hamas and Hitler.

I was very pleased to see Daniel Pipes Christopher Hitchens and Alan Dershowitz all called out for the kind of rhetoric that wages war on clarity of thought.
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  #14  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:34 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Baz View Post
Ivory tower discussions about evil aside. Support and implementation of tyranny/totalitarianism has been US foreign policy in the middle east for over 50 years. What does that make the US?
The Earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it… all I know, is that life on Earth is evil
- Justine (Kirsten Dunst) in Melancholia

You should see this movie, Bas. It might cheer you up.
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  #15  
Old 12-11-2011, 12:45 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil

I could not listen anymore after Mr. Wolfe told us that Saddam was a tyrant and a practitioner of genocide but he was not as bad as Hitler. I know people will label this as a cheap shot, but Mr. Wolfe strikes me as the kind of person who in 1938 would say things like: "Is Hitler that bad? Can't we go along with him?"

But again this whole discussion (which btw suits Bob's politics of how to police discourse to get preferred policy) is upside down. There is no definition of evil, it is just that Hitler, Stalin and Mao are evil and we can't use evil broadly because then too many people would be evil. Starting from the premise that evil people can't be that many is not helpful it is actually deceiving yourself.

Hitler was evil, he was not alone, a majority of Germans under his rule were actually evil as well. They knew what was happening and they went along with it. We know that now so why is it automatically bad if 500 million people are called evil? One can not have a discussion when you start at the conclusions.

Islamo-fascism is a very straight forward term. You can have Judeo-fascism too, I am sure a lot of liberals would not mind (or actually did) calling Bush a Christian fascist. Take for example the founding Islamic theory of Islamic Republic of Iran it explicitly says that the supreme leader is the custodian of all people and in a very intrusive way. First he is above the law, second he can just take away citizen's rights at whim. For example he can void a marriage without either the wife or the husband's initiation. He can void regular Islamic law (In 1987 Khomeini boycotted the annual Hajj ritual muslims attend every year in Mecca; in Islam that is on the same level as prayer and fasting). If that is not fascist then I have no idea what is fascist means.
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  #16  
Old 12-11-2011, 01:04 AM
Baz Baz is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
The Earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it… all I know, is that life on Earth is evil
- Justine (Kirsten Dunst) in Melancholia

You should see this movie, Bas. It might cheer you up.
Yes yes I know the world is evil and we're all terrible and all that. Keep cheering for the home team Simon.
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  #17  
Old 12-11-2011, 01:37 AM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
I thought the point that it's best to remove "evil" from political discourse made sense. First, there's a pretty simple point about avoiding incendiary language as a violence reduction measure, well applied to Internet forums (flame wars) as well as diplomacy (Axis of Evil). Taunting, demonizing and dehumanizing often provoke violence. Everyone learns that in junior high school, if not sooner.

But the larger problem Alan seemed to be getting at was that the rhetorical use of "evil" or terms like "Islamofascism" obfuscates and prevents one from distinguishing between Hamas and Hitler.
I just don't see how we could successfully prescribe the use of words in political discourse. I will agree with you that words can be incendiary. It remains true in American society that you should not use certain words beginning with F and N or you will offend most people. But politicians normally don't want to offend their constituents.

I also think that words have different effects on different populations. There are words that really grate on liberal sensitives that seen quite innocuous to conservatives. And vice-versa. And the valence of these words is constantly shifting with time, which would make it difficult to prescribe rules.

Words acquire connotations from context and usage. If, instead of "axis of evil", George W. Bush had spoken about "the bad group" of Iran, Iraq and N. Korea, how long would it take until Democrats developed an objection to the phrase "the bad group"?

The bottom line for me is that the audience for your words will ultimately decide on the appropriateness of your language. If Bush thinks that the word "evil" can fire up the Right, he may not care if it irritates the Left. In fact, he may use the word deliberately to irritate the Left.

Did Churchill skew the debate when he said "blood tears toil and sweat"? Did Roosevelt skew the debate when he said "day of infamy"? Did King skew the debate by using the word "dream"? Did Jesus skew the debate by calling the pharisees "thieves"?

Of course they did.

Last edited by Simon Willard; 12-11-2011 at 01:39 AM..
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  #18  
Old 12-11-2011, 01:57 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Baz View Post
Ivory tower discussions about evil aside. Support and implementation of tyranny/totalitarianism has been US foreign policy in the middle east for over 50 years. What does that make the US?
Good adults?
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  #19  
Old 12-11-2011, 02:11 AM
Baz Baz is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator View Post
Good adults?
At least you're honest.

Whats good for the goose is good for the gander?

Last edited by Baz; 12-11-2011 at 02:16 AM..
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  #20  
Old 12-11-2011, 03:38 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
One would think that by now the idea of all good or all bad, black and white, would have been abandoned by modern understanding of group dynamics, but somehow this regressive way of thinking keeps being kindled in the interest of political manipulation.
The very idea that there are no black and whites and everyone is shade of gray to me is wicked in itself.

And since when explanation of motives absolves one from responsibility? "I really wanted a $100K car because all my friends from high school now have one and I did not wanted to go to the reunion with my Toyota Tercel so I stole the BMW and shot the security guard."

And liberals wonder why they lose elections b/c they disregard the public's sense of morality as regressive and then tell them they are dumb not to vote for them. I myself would willingly take a financial hit if it would make sure people who think genocide is bad but stopping it might be worse stay out of office.
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  #21  
Old 12-11-2011, 03:45 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
We need more writers like Wolfe who can advance rational thought.
What has rationality to do with morality? You can't drive human rights with logic, it is a belief, it is a religion. Humans are inherently irrational and that irrationality is deeply connected to our idea of fairness and morality, see the ultimatum game for example.
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  #22  
Old 12-11-2011, 03:47 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Baz View Post
At least you're honest.

Whats good for the goose is good for the gander?
Of course not. Not all actors are good adults.
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Old 12-11-2011, 03:48 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Baz View Post
Ivory tower discussions about evil aside. Support and implementation of tyranny/totalitarianism has been US foreign policy in the middle east for over 50 years. What does that make the US?
According to Bob that is just realism in foreign policy.
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  #24  
Old 12-11-2011, 03:51 AM
Baz Baz is offline
 
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Default Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Parallax View Post
And liberals wonder why they lose elections b/c they disregard the public's sense of morality as regressive and then tell them they are dumb not to vote for them. I myself would willingly take a financial hit if it would make sure people who think genocide is bad but stopping it might be worse stay out of office.
Whats you're definition of genocide?
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  #25  
Old 12-11-2011, 03:55 AM
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator View Post
Of course not. Not all actors are good adults.
What makes a good adult. Supporting tyrannies to control energy supplies?
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  #26  
Old 12-11-2011, 03:59 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Question for Mr. Wolfe

Well lets set aside Hitler, why were Stalin and Mao evil? What did they do that Saddam did not? Clearly genocide is not enough so I am curious what Mao and Stalin did to get that coveted spot and what Wolfe means by evil.
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Old 12-11-2011, 04:03 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Whats you're definition of genocide?
I am not sure if that is a serious question or not. But for the sake of completeness here is what Merriam-Webster's Dictionary says:

Quote:
the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group
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  #28  
Old 12-11-2011, 04:09 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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What makes a good adult. Supporting tyrannies to control energy supplies?
A good adult works towards the highest good. Creating peace in a region full of violent actors, even at the cost of allying with unpleasant people, so that you can shelter the rest of the world from the contagion of their violence.

That the Middle East is filled with unpleasantness is mostly the fault of the Middle East. What the rest of the world does to cope with it should embarrass the Middle East into acting better, not chastise us into taking our fingers out of the dike.
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  #29  
Old 12-11-2011, 04:10 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil

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Originally Posted by Parallax View Post
I could not listen anymore after Mr. Wolfe told us that Saddam was a tyrant and a practitioner of genocide but he was not as bad as Hitler. I know people will label this as a cheap shot, but Mr. Wolfe strikes me as the kind of person who in 1938 would say things like: "Is Hitler that bad? Can't we go along with him?"
Correct. After all, Hitler in 1938 was better than Saddam.
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  #30  
Old 12-11-2011, 04:15 AM
Baz Baz is offline
 
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Default Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Parallax View Post
the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group
Does the 2-3 million killed in Vietnam fit into that category?
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  #31  
Old 12-11-2011, 04:17 AM
Baz Baz is offline
 
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Default Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator View Post
A good adult works towards the highest good. Creating peace in a region full of violent actors, even at the cost of allying with unpleasant people, so that you can shelter the rest of the world from the contagion of their violence.

That the Middle East is filled with unpleasantness is mostly the fault of the Middle East. What the rest of the world does to cope with it should embarrass the Middle East into acting better, not chastise us into taking our fingers out of the dike.
You're not honest, you're crazy. Overthrowing elected governments is the highest good.
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  #32  
Old 12-11-2011, 04:21 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil

An important thing to consider here is that Alan Wolfe seems to be ignoring the role success has in determining who is "better or worse". Put Hitler in North Korea instead of Germany, surround him with vastly more numerous Chinese, an advanced South Korea, and 30,000 of America's finest and he'll be just as "harmless" as Kim Jong Il. Give Idi Amin the resources of Nazi Germany with the same balance of power that Hitler faced, and you'll probably get something equally monstrous and probably more bizarre.

The reason "everyone can agree" about Hitler is because we defeated him in the field. Conquering his nation and applying a rigorous inspection of the records of the Third Reich, along with trials, gave us full view into the atrocities and horrors of the Germans. If Germany had won or just lingered on in "peace time" until Hitler died of old age, with the records purged and rumor and estimates being the only way to guess the extent of the atrocities, we'd see the usual suspects doubting how bad Hitler could possibly be.

The other reason we all accept Hitler as almost UNIQUELY evil is that his victims are educated, recognizable people to us. They tell their stories in a fashion understandable for Western audiences. Can we say the same about the Ukrainian peasantry? Or the Chinese bureaucratic class? Or the Congolese villager?

Given all of these things, who can say that we are too free with the label of evil? Why mitigate the opprobrium heaped on these enemies of civilization?
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  #33  
Old 12-11-2011, 04:24 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Baz View Post
You're not honest, you're crazy. Overthrowing elected governments is the highest good.

Is there some uniquely moral character of "elected governments" that I am unaware of?
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  #34  
Old 12-11-2011, 05:28 AM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Does the 2-3 million killed in Vietnam fit into that category?
That's ridiculous.
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  #35  
Old 12-11-2011, 06:08 AM
Parallax Parallax is offline
 
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Default Re: Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe

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Originally Posted by Baz View Post
Does the 2-3 million killed in Vietnam fit into that category?
I guess there is a language issue:

Quote:
Deliberate:: characterized by awareness of the consequences
Quote:
Systematic: marked by thoroughness and regularity
But seriously, the civillian death numbers range from 200,000 to 2,000,000 in Vietnam which is for a period from 1955 - 1975. A large number of civilians were killed by Vietnamese themselves (both North and South).

Finally even if there was a genocide in Vietnam what does that have to do with my earlier point??
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  #36  
Old 12-11-2011, 06:24 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

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I agree that the difference between the two denotations wasn't defined clearly enough. I also agree that Wolfe should have used a different word for his interpretation of evil as applied to politics in order to avoid confusion.

Although I didn't read the book, I can imagine that in the book he explores these differences more extensively, while here we're just getting a glimpse.

But the gist of it is that the term evil has been used in a way (intentionally or unintentionally, I'm not getting into that discussion) that elicits a primitive form of fear and rejection. It's the essence of evil, all bad and corrupt and ungodly. Once you accept that your enemy or rival embodies such essence of evil, you become the rightful warrior, god's sword in a certain way. These archetypes are dangerous, because once adopted it's a battle of life and death, or even worse, mixed in with ideas of mission and destiny. These are all abstract heroic concepts that stimulate emotions and drive action, but they tend to obtund reasoning. You're fighting monsters unable to reason, who are only driven by their corrupted malignant evilness. There's no road to negotiations, to understanding, or to finding common ground.

Wolfe states that when we use terms such as evil as it pertains to political processes, we have to abandon this charged connotation and interpret it in a much softer way. It would be closer to the sense, or "bad" or "wrong" or any other down to earth term that describes those who act in detrimental ways.

Beyond the triviality of using one term or the other, the main point is that using one connotation or the other sets up the rules of engagement. He could have articulated the same by approaching the topic from other angles, but this is the one he chose to make his point.
I read a Kindle sample of Wolfe's book before I listened to this diavlog. (Is Bob plugging Kindles and Nooks now? It certainly helps to sample a book before these review-type diavlogs.) I also was put off by Wolfe's philosophical analysis of "political evil". He seems to want to start with a common-sense connotation of evil, and then whittle down the meaning until he can talk about the sausage-grinding business of diplomacy and politics without abandoning this word "evil". Call me a social science type, but I just think Wolfe needs a stiff whiff of empiricism. He tries to first to distinguish types of evil. Then, he distinguishes between four types of political evil, which are terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and torture. These are four different concepts. And then, my sample ended.

I'm inclined to accept that a philosophical analysis of the problem of evil is necessary. But, Wolfe's argument sounds like rationalizations pasted together with one word, evil, running through them.
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Old 12-11-2011, 06:26 AM
Hume's Bastard Hume's Bastard is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

Horrible pun for a title. Someone needs to read his/her Nietzsche!
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Old 12-11-2011, 08:28 AM
ledocs ledocs is offline
 
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Default Re: Lessons Learned: Beyond Good and Evil (Robert Wright & Alan Wolfe)

I owe to Ignatieff my sobriquet in another forum. Ignatieff referred pejoratively to someone as a "pseudo-Marxist realist," but this struck me as a good thing to be, especially when compared to the fatuousness of Ignatieff himself (at least with respect to the Iraq war), so I became "proud pseudo-Marxist realist." What's wrong with being a pseudo-Marxist, after all? It's the only position that makes sense.
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Old 12-11-2011, 08:29 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil

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Originally Posted by Sulla the Dictator View Post
Correct. After all, Hitler in 1938 was better than Saddam.
but worse than slavery?
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:07 AM
Florian Florian is offline
 
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Default Re: Thanks, but no thanks. Beyond Good and Evil is Evil

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Correct. After all, Hitler in 1938 was better than Saddam.
Within five months of becoming Chancellor (1933) Hitler, with the help of his henchmen Göring and Himmler, had sent half a million communists, social democrats, liberals and Christians to forced labor camps. Before 1938 (Kristallnacht) when violence against Jews began in earnest, they had already been excluded from administrative offices (including university positions) and deprived of civil rights.

"Better" than Saddam? I suppose, but the word has as little meaning as "evil" when applied without historical discrimination.

Last edited by Florian; 12-11-2011 at 09:37 AM..
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