Rebecca Goldstein over-reaches on behalf of the relevance and effectiveness of rational argument and the role that philosophers – with their rational arguments — played in bringing about an end to slavery and the plight of women (regarded as second-class members of society). Like with Yanni’s grand statement, so with Goldstein’s declaration of rational philosophy being the starting point of humanitarian developments, when we test the grand statement against the actual social and historical developments we find much reason for doubting and rejecting them.
The humanitarian movements that have helped to bring about the end of the institution of slavery have included social, historical, and economic forces not at all philosophical in nature; and have been executed by different people of different backgrounds, most of whom were not inspired by the “theoretical moral arguments” of some philosopher or other.
In his book, A History of Western Philosophy,* Bertrand Russell makes some rather surprising statements about love as definitive of two great religions, Christianity and Buddhism. It is in the process of contrasting what he sees as advocacy of love by Christianity and the Buddha with what he takes as Friedrich Nietzsche’s ethic, that Russell contrasts the Christianity’s and Buddhists love for humanity with Nietzsche’s complete lack of sympathy for others. In the process Russell effectively misleads us both with regard to the religious ideal and Nietzsche’s philosophy
But more frequently than not, deep pockets are the main factor that enables a person or an athletic team to claim victory. This applies as much in sport competition as it does in politics and love. Any competitor for the big prize in politics better have a good fund raising team, as well as a good political program (or at least one that appeals to the voters). Our romantic myths may say that love conquers all, but any man seeking a desirable partner in life better show at least a potential for a decent income if he is to succeed. A destitute lover usually remains destitute longer than he remains a lover.
In the former U.S.S.R. the story of Soviet genetics from 1937 to 1964 was one of the most tragic examples, with disastrous results, of a pseudo-scientific belief rising to absolute dogma. During this time a plant physiologist and charlatan named Trofim D. Lysenko rose to power, eventually achieving absolute control over all genetic and agricultural research. Lysenko not only destroyed the lives of thousands of scientists and stifled the development of biology in the U.S.S.R. for decades; he also had a devastatingly destructive influence on Russia’s entire economy.
Twp Nuclear Scientists, Robert Oppenheimer and Andrei Sakarov, played leading roles in the development of nuclear bombs (A-Bomb for R.O. and the H-Bomb for A. S.) for their respective governments, and then both had similar reversals in their views of the wisdom and morality of the nuclear weapons programs in their respective nations.
The killing of Osama raises some interesting moral and philosophical issues. However, one might hesitate raising them in the context of the overwhelmingly popular view that “that the assault had been lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way,” and that even as an act of vengeance, the killing of Osama was a good thing.
But 65 years ago a quantum jump in warfare took place—the atomic bomb. Soon the nuclear genie was out of the bottle. More and more countries were eventually able to build or acquire nuclear weapons. North Korea and Pakistan. Soon Iran? There is even a nuclear black market that attracts terrorist groups. Yet, a full-scale nuclear war would destroy civilization and threaten life itself. Even a “limited” nuclear war could escalate into a full-scale one, as could a conventional war among the superpowers. At some point, if civilization is to flourish, loyalty to 200 individual nation-states must be enlarged to include a new over-riding loyalty to humanity as a whole. But, can we do this? Does our brain carry within it the potential to peacefully resolve fundamental conflicts?
In August, 1945, the United States exploded a single nuclear fission bomb over Hiroshima and another over Nagasaki. Both cities were destroyed, 125,000 Japanese were killed outright, and within months another 100,000 had died from injuries and radioactive fallout. Yet, today, each of our Trident submarines has the firepower of about 200 Hiroshima bombs, or eight times the firepower released in the entire six years of World War II!
In recent years, the term “Islamo-fascism” has appeared in editorials and op-ed pieces. But what exactly is fascism? In an essay titled “Fascism Anyone?” Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. . . much of it [also] mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide.
We can reject or have serious doubts about the “cause” for which our people are sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan while sympathizing with families like that of Lt. General Kelly and feeling sadness over the loss of lives like that of his son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, the lives of many other young servicemen and the tragedy that is brought on the people of those countries.