Editorial Note

This was a paper delivered to a Colloquy at the Department of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, on December 7, 1979. While living in Hawai'i in the early 70's, I had read extensively about Mohandas K. (Mahâtmâ) Gandhi. Once, when I was sitting in the East-West Center cafeteria at the University of Hawai'i, reading Gandhi's Autobiography, an Indian woman sitting across from me at the table spoke up and told me that she had known Gandhi! Such were the opportunities in those days in the East-West Center cafeteria. Nevertheless, I didn't write much about Gandhi. This paper was the principal result of my thinking about non-violence. I still think the basic idea is sound. The theme here is that of Socratic Ignorance and how our inevitable moral uncertainty and ignorance must be practically accommodated. Where I have changed my mind about some things, footnotes will indicate the difference. The body of the text is otherwise unaltered.

Violence, Non-Violence,
and Progress in History

Gandhi's Satyâgraha in Socratic Perspective

My motivation for writing this paper comes from a continuing concern with the role of philosophy in history. To bring that a little closer to home, I might say that my concern is for the way in which each of us, through philosophy -- and this whether we are "professional" philosophers or not -- may be able to contribute to progress in history. My remarks are not intended to reflect the views of anyone else in particular, and I do not pretend that what I present amounts to any kind of apodictic demonstration.

What is philosophy supposed to have to do with contemporary events, social change, political struggles, etc.? We may talk about such things, certainly, in particular philosophic contexts, but we do not tend to associate philosophy or ourselves in the role of philosophers with important contemporary events as significant contributors to change. Ten years ago, when a great many people inside and outside philosophy seemed to be significant contributors to historical change, it struck me as rather sad that the most seriously activist philosophy professors where I was, at UCLA, also seemed to be the ones that believed most staunchly that the only discipline within philosophy to be taken seriously was logic. Their skill in logic never seemed to me to add much to their skill in political activism, and I say that this is "sad" just because it is really my belief that the common sense dissociation of philosophy from the events around us is a mistake.

Each of us is constrained to live our lives surrounded and in the grip of historical change, whether or not we ever give a thought to the nature of things in general. Even if we aspire to philosophic thought, the circumstances of our lives retain a priority that we can never really shake off, little as we may like being faced with the fact. It is really our own choice, however, as thinkers, whether we are going to see what we are doing in philosophy as relevant and involved with what happens around us, in society and in history, or as wholly separate. For all Aristotle's greatness as a philosopher, I do feel some disappointment that we never see him comment on, or even mention, the profound historical paroxysm in progress during his years in Athens. If we choose to turn philosophy towards history, I think we are simply remembering our condition as human beings, stuck here with everyone else in historical conditions that may at any moment destroy our lives.

My title of this paper, "Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History," does not even mention philosophy. This may give the impression that philosophy is not very important, or at least is subordinate, in the context of discussing progress in history. The view I wish to convey is quite the opposite, so I should present at this point a general sketch of my thesis. I wish to argue that progress is possible in history (reserving the right to retain some doubts) but that it can only be realized, given the choice of violent and non-violent means of effecting change, through non-violence. I do not wish to condemn violence in every possible circumstance -- I am persuaded that it may indeed be "necessary" in the face of an Adolf Hitler -- but I do wish to argue that even "necessary" violence cannot contribute towards what I will consider to be progress. The place of philosophy in this is as a necessary condition of the ultimate success of the non-violent transformation of history. I see philosophy as contributing to progress in a way that is not merely just possible, or even important, but as actually essential. Progress requires non-violence, and non-violence ultimately requires philosophy.

The first thing to ask is what "progress" is supposed to mean. In its most general sense, I take "progress" to mean the amelioration of the human condition. The Buddha diagnosed well enough what is wrong with the human condition:  suffering and misery seem to be unavoidable. For "progress" and "amelioration" what I demand then is a reduction in misery and suffering.

In ordinary language I think we tend to use "progress" in a somewhat more concrete way, referring to television sets, Relativity, cancer therapies, pocket calculators, etc. On the other hand, in a disparaging way we may say, "That's progress," when we refer to industrial pollution, nuclear war, plane crashes, the dehumanization of computerized bureaucracy, and the like. Both of these usages of "progress" involve a basic association of that concept with science and technology. Indeed, I think that much of our ordinary usage reflects a belief that the amelioration of the human condition comes principally through science and technology.

It is impossible to deny that in many ways scientific and technological progress has resulted in a lessening of human suffering. On the other hand we seem, especially in this century, to be faced with the circumstance that technological progress often creates as much if not more suffering than it is able to relieve. Our dual usage of progress is an indication of our feeling that the benefits of progress are hardly worth achieving if tomorrow the planet is reduced to a nuclear wasteland or if in the long run life on earth is made impossible because industrial chemicals have permanently destroyed the balance of the ecosystem [1]. These are genuine threats today; and even on the smallest scale, where progress in medicine relieves suffering in the most direct way, we may see that "wonder drugs" and novel therapies sometimes do more damage than if the patient had been left alone [2]. If no more than this, I think we can take it as a clear lesson that a "half-baked" technology is a seriously dangerous thing. But if so, how do we then know when a technology is sufficiently "baked" not to do damage? I don't think we can know:  no amount of study, no mass of safe-guards, can wholly preserve us from the dreaded "unforeseen consequences" of our technological progress.

It is not easy -- perhaps it is not even possible -- to say whether the net result of advances in science and technology will be real progress or global catastrophe. In terms of my own prejudices, I hope that net progress is possible on this front, for much human suffering, from diseases, natural disasters, and the like would seem to be resolvable only through scientific understanding and technological ministrations. The truth may simply turn out to be that genuine scientific understanding will result in less "high" technology than we might have expected. The point of importance in this, however, is that the problem over technology is essentially out of our control. It all depends on what we can find out, and we don't know what that will be [3].

Regardless of our final answer, this whole aspect of the question of progress, as a matter of science and technology, seems to me inherently limited. After all, the responsibility for a nuclear holocaust would not lie half so much with science and technology as with the human beings who, through their own folly in full awareness of the consequences of their acts, might decide to launch a nuclear war. Even primitive technology in the hands of a Tamerlane or the kings of Assyria was fully equal to the challenge of creating massive terror and suffering. The fundamental limitation of all science and technology is, in Kant's terms, that science can only provide "hypothetical imperatives." The form of scientific understanding is such that, given certain conditions, we are able to say what will result. But even though we may understanding that certain conditions will result in certain results, this doesn't mean that those conditions exist, or even that they ever will. We know, for instance, that if we could compress the earth to within a certain radius, it would collapse into a Black Hole. As far as we know, however, there is no way of compressing the earth down to such a radius -- no way that the initial conditions for the collapse could be realized. The technological elaboration of scientific understanding differs from this in no essential respect:  we merely see that in order to obtain results that are not already available in nature, we need to construct an elaborate set of artificial conditions. Once we have decided what it is we want -- to fly or to talk over long distances -- we may or may not be able to come up with the artificial conditions that will get us the desired result. (The other side of technological progress, perhaps better seen in relation to the question of the ultimate benefit, in itself, of technology, is when we discover an unexpected result of conditions we are creating for other reasons. The classic example of the explosion in the laboratory usually means that an undesired accidental result has been obtained -- unless the explosion has the special significance that a new practical explosive has been discovered.)

The limitation of the "hypothetical imperative" form of science and technology with respect to human affairs and history is that we have to know what we want. Technology is practical in the sense that it serves our purposes. The more fundamental question, then, is about what our purposes are; and the more fundamental question about progress is going to concern change in our purposes and the values they represent. In so far as much of the misery and suffering of human life depends on things that we do to one another, the aspect of progress far more important than technological advancement, which exists to serve our purposes, is advancement in those purposes themselves. What "evolution in those purposes" is supposed to mean, however, is the thing that is difficult to get a hold on.

Survival is perhaps the fundamental human drive -- converted in thought into a purpose -- if we take our biologists seriously. Survival is a general enough concept to include both the bête noire of moral theory, egotistical self-gratification, and an altruistic interest in kin and progeny. Even such fundamental altruistic interests, on the other hand, often assume very strange forms once an interest in self-gratification has been properly cultivated; and the general problem with even a healthy "natural" altruism is that human beings have hardly ever failed to draw a strict distinction between our kith and kin who are deserving of our help and concern and the "others," the Canaanites, Philistines, barbarians and savages, who are wholly alien and vicious, undeserving of the slightest human consideration. Then on top of this there is the fundamental "technology" for implementing our purposes:  taking what we want by force. That "technology" -- the primitive use of physical means -- is liable to be used even against kith and kin; and certainly against the barbarians there are no limitations and no reason to have any limitations on it.

My first interest in this is the "technology" of violence, which is profoundly bound up with the evolution of moral purposes yet sometimes seems itself to be morally neutral, a means for our other purposes, like the technologies that may be used to extend the effectiveness of violence. Violence is not, first of all, something that is evil in itself. If violence is simply "taking what we want by force," then everything we do in daily life -- eating, walking across the room, turning on the TV -- is an act of violence. The moral dimension enters when these acts come into relation to other beings with will and interests. The fundamental moral aspect of violence is as coercion, where coercion is obtaining what we want by force, or by the threat of force, against the will of another. Violence actually results when force is necessary to restrain the conflicting will. This is the sense of violence in which I am interested here, but I should note that very often societies, including our own, have seen fit to restrict acts of violence that need have nothing to do with coercion. In that category of violence belong suicide and acts of dueling, where violence, deadly violence, proceeds by free will and mutual agreement.

What I will call "moral egocentrism," which enters into my consideration of the morality of violence, is a good deal removed from simple egotistical self-gratification. I mean in particular an egocentric perspective of knowledge, which is to say that I may think that I know something you don't know or that I know your interests better than you do. Of course if I know your interests better than you, then it may seem fitting to prevent you, in your own interest, from doing your will. Furthermore, if it seems to me that you are seriously mistaken in some of your beliefs, it may be incumbent upon me to prevent you from doing your will in order to prevent you from harming the legitimate interests of others. There are cases where we expect that we are going to know someone's interests better than they do themselves, as with children, the mentally deficient, and the seriously ill. Thus, I don't think it can be said that moral egocentrism and the coercion that often results from it is always a bad thing, though we could restrict the use of "coercion" by saying that children, etc., can't really be said to have will in the sense of being able to make informed choices -- so the parent does not really force the will of the child. In any case, the error that results from the egocentric perspective is where we are mistaken in our beliefs about the interests of the other person or about the other person's ability to make their own informed choices. For the parent of an adolescent it is often a belated realization that the "child" may now be able to make their own choices, in contradiction to the parent, while the adolescent is often equally unwilling to acknowledge that in some areas the parent may continue to be a superior judge of the adolescent's true interests for quite some time.

If we are at all sophisticated about morals, history, and cultures, we do not like to think that we regard any human beings as wholly alien and undeserving of our moral consideration merely because of accidents of birth -- race, culture, nationality, religion, etc. On the other hand, we may retain an attitude that there are indeed "others" who not indeed by accident but by ill will have removed themselves from any human community that we should recognize. The demonic immensity of the crimes of Fascism, and of Hitler in particular, leave little room for sympathy or a sense of shared humanity [4]. The person whose crimes perhaps result from a mistaken sense of justice can at least be seen as a tragic figure and become an object of compassion or pity; but for the Hitler whose sense of "justice" has become so bizarrely perverted, the only alternative, then and now, seems to be that he and all his works require tearing out, root and branch. In this case, as in others, I run into what seems to be "necessary" violence.

In relation to progress, "necessary" violence has a prima facie moral role in history. It is simple enough to be persuaded of the mythos of "us" and imagine that we and our kind know well enough everything worth knowing, while everyone else is hopelessly sunk in error and indeed ill will. The only thing to do with them, then, is destroy them. For me the worst problem with this is that it is sometimes quite correct. In retrospect 1939 was a year for the clearest of choices for anyone not blinded by nationalism, xenophobia, or totalitarian mysticism. I can't say I would ever be happy to recommend violence, but I think in the long run it is folly not to see it in some cases as indeed necessary. On the other hand, it is all too easy, making so few demands on mind and heart, to find an enemy against whom "necessary" violence can be recommended. Since World War II it has been the path of least resistance for the great conflicting ideologies of the planet to damn each other as wholly alien, vicious, and irredeemable. Much of the violence that we have seen in the world in the last thirty years has resulted from such often foolish damnations. Second guessing history will never aspire to being an exact science, but it does seem reasonable to say that the rejection by the United States of overtures from Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi-minh following World War II, simply because they were Communists, was one of the most serious acts of blind stupidity, with some of the most disastrous consequences, in American history. Similarly, the American support of repulsive dictatorships over the years, simply for being anti-Communist, is shameful and embarrassing [5].

In my own view, however, the real contemporary ideological sinning is found in Communism, this because the basic theory of Marxism embodies a predisposition to violence and to the characterization of the opposition, Capitalism (to be more or less identified, in the long run, with Fascism), as the wholly alien, vicious, and irredeemable foe that can only be truely eradicated through violent revolution, wars of "national liberation," and, on the ideological fringes, terrorism. The fundamental theory of history in Marxism holds, I believe, that violence is necessary for progress in history because in the class struggle the power of the ruling class must, in the end, be destroyed by force.

I do not offer such views as an argument that Communism must be viewed as a demonic enemy. The attraction of Marxism is usually not so much its theory of history as its moral and humanistic protest against the injustices and alienations of industrial society [6]. My concern is that there are plenty of Marxists who do take the theory of history seriously and who do see violent struggle as the recommended way to deal with injustices. I would even go so far as to say that this develops into an ideology of violence that becomes a monomania and leads with hardly a hesitation to terrorism and a total lack of human feeling for the "enemy." The sad precedent for all this was the French Revolution, which all at once managed to both set in motion the mythos of the effectiveness of revolution in history and to provide the pathetically unlearned lessons of the tragic consequences of such upheavals.

My answer to the prima facie moral claim of violence, admitting that of course this cannot be separated from a particular theory of history, is that violence plays no positive role in moral progress. For all the instances of truly demonic enemies in history, I think it remains all the more true that the real demon is among and within our own selves. Destroying the Hitler does no more than put us back to "GO"; for the truth of the matter is that Fascism did not become possible because of some alien invasion from Outer Space but because of what quite a few relatively ordinary people, with communist, capitalist, and nationalist sympathies, happened to believe. It is the misfortune of humanity that mass psychosis was able to break out in Germany and elsewhere; but the seeds of such insanity are everywhere. And in this regard the violent destruction of "enemies" is ultimately futile. Were I the last human being alive, the enemy would still be within. Everyone thinks they are fighting with the best of good wills and the best of intentions in order to free everyone from injustice, but hatred of the enemy serves better than anything else to blind each side to the injustices it perpetuates within itself. And the real failing here is nothing more than too self-confidently clinging to a particular ego-centric perspective. Everyone naturally knows better than everyone else what in the end justice and liberation are -- particularly the philosopher who puts away philosophy as essentially completed and ready to be put into practice.

The underlying principle, as I see it, of Gandhi's doctrine of non-violent struggle is persuasion. Since Gandhi did not believe that violence was ever "necessary" -- he thought that non-violence would even have worked against Hitler -- I cannot be said to be advocating his doctrine through and through. It doesn't seem that Gandhi actually considered violence immoral, since he said that it is better to be violent than to be a coward, if one hasn't the strength for non-violence. So let us just say that I have less faith in the efficacy and universal appropriateness of non-violence. I do hold, however, that non-violence is the only way to genuinely achieve progress, and it is really the element of persuasion that enables it to do this. In violent action persuasion is really beside the point:  when you destroy your enemy, it doesn't make any difference then what they think. In Gandhi's Satyâgraha, , or non-violent struggle, the whole purpose of the encounter is winning over the heart and mind of your "enemy." There is violence and suffering in non-violent struggle, but instead of attempting to inflict these upon the "enemy," we allow the "enemy" to inflict them on us without resistance. Before this happens, however, before the non-violent struggler sets out, in effect, to provoke a confrontation, the issue must be made as clear as possible to the "enemy." We should say to the oppressor, "We think you are doing an injustice, but instead of seeking to punish and make you suffer for that, we will take the suffering and punishment on ourselves, to persuade you of our good will, sincerity, and truthfulness." A non-violent struggle is rendered pointless if it is ever conceived as an attempt to force a certain viewpoint into effect. The opponent of the struggle may well feel that way, but it is up to the non-violent people to be as convincingly non-coercive as to be persuasive of the rightness of their cause.

The greatest of all virtues of non-violent struggle is apparent when we ask, "What if we are mistaken in our beliefs about the cause we advocate non-violently?" If we were engaged in a violent attack on our enemies and then discovered that we were in error, we would have unjustly been making the enemy suffer for our mistake. In the non-violent framework, however, we alone suffer for our own errors. In the perspective of the egocentric justification of violence, we may hold that our opponents are evil and unjust and deserve after all any suffering that we may inflict on them in attempting to forcibly restrain their acts. In non-violence we must be continually asking, "Is anyone going to suffer unwillingly because of our acts?" If we are mistaken in our cause, we cannot blame our opponent for having dealt with us coercively, since the non-violent struggle is really a challenge to the opponent to either enforce what we consider to be an injustice or to abandon it altogether. If we are wrong, then what we should expect is an application of force. Especially if the opponent is our own established government, it has no choice but to use all the force necessary in the execution of its laws. Where it is the duty of citizens and rulers alike to see that a state does not perpetuate unjust laws and institutions, it is the duty of rulers to move with as much force as is necessary against violations of what the state accepts as right and just at a particular time. What the non-violent struggler must do, therefore, is change what is accepted as right and just in the eyes of the rulers and citizens. If that effort fails, then the consequences must be the same as for any law breaker.

How in light of this does non-violent struggle bear on the problem of moral progress in history? If our purpose is to end the human sufferings that result from political, social, and economic injustices, then through non-violence at least we can say that we are not adding suffering to anyone unwillingly; and we can say that our transformation of history is through persuasion, through an evolution of understanding, rather than by violent upheaval and catastrophic destruction. By persuasion the "enemy" is converted into a friend, and if this is possible, we need not then fear the "enemy within," who presumably is won over by the same persuasion. In this way the Pyrrhic victory of a "war to end all war" is avoided, and the illusion and self-deception that the annihilation of our "enemy" means the vindication of our righteousness is prevented.

Everyone of good will struggling, whether violently or non-violently, against suffering and injustices thinks that what they do is the best way, perhaps even the necessary way, to accomplish their goal. Their perspective is determined by their beliefs about history and political conditions; and so I really should own up to what the governing belief is behind the perspective that I present here. That belief is nothing more than the fundamental Socratic conviction in human ignorance. Without a profoundly deep felt appreciation for the Socratic perspective, nothing I have said here is liable to make much sense. It is in the Socratic vein that I have held that the greatest virtue of non-violent struggle, and its greatest recommendation, is that the mistaken beliefs of the strugglers cannot result in any sufferings or injustices being inflicted on anyone but themselves. The violent struggler, if proven to have been mistaken, has left behind a swathe of suffering and destruction for no good end whatsoever. Mistaken violence is liable to result in global catastrophe, while mistaken non-violence is no more than a personal tragedy for those involved in the struggle -- tragic enough, but at least accepted freely. Thus it seemed to me, as stated above, to be a particularly important failing in Marxism that its theory of history predisposes its adherents to violent action:  I really cannot expect truth, justice, or understanding to result from class struggle.

What I have called the egocentric perspective or moral egocentrism is tragically responsible for human suffering principally because individuals are secure in their own beliefs. The ego blinds and deceives. Opinion appears as knowledge. So, secure in our beliefs, we go out to wreck violent destruction among irredeemable enemies. But the egocentric perspective is not something that we can simply recognize, think about, and then get rid of; for it is really the same thing as the condition of having opinions. We cannot fail but possess our own individual beliefs and opinions. The Socratic recognition of ignorance cannot mean simply discarding belief, for that would leave us unable to do anything in life. We wouldn't take the risk of being in error by acting as though anything were true or there were anything worth doing. Our tragic condition then is being forced into action by opinion. We are forced by the necessity of living life to take the risk of being in error. So the best thing we can do is be careful that the consequences of possible error are as limited as possible. Of course there is no certainty that can be done, but non-violence definitely offers hope of a way to avoid useless suffering on a vast scale.

If all is opinion, we would have to sadly recognize that error is really inevitable and progress impossible. Gandhi expected success from Satyagraha just because of what that term meant to him:  "the force of truth." The power of truth is what ultimately persuades every opponent. No one is morally bound to be persuaded by opinion. Gandhi himself had pretty simple ideas about where the truth is to be found:  right out in front in just about any religion you might wish to pick. That may be an enlightened attitude in terms of comparative religion, but it will not be satisfying to anyone who doesn't see the point in accepting any religion. Nor will it help anyone who isn't quite so sure that all religions say the same thing. Gandhi presupposes a basis of shared faith; but if our requirement is to get beyond belief and opinion, that will not be enough in the long run. From a Socratic perspective we are not about to expect knowledge to be just lying around; it will be very much more difficult than that.

If progress in human purposes is really to be possible in history, then it seems to me that moral knowledge must be possible. The whole issue gets thrown into the lap of philosophy, where it is not at all clear that there is such a thing as "moral knowledge," if that is supposed to mean an apprehension of objective moral truths the way science is supposed to be an apprehension of truths about the natural world. Given a perspective of Socratic ignorance, it may well be that moral opinions are all that is possible (since "only the gods are wise"). If morality is an illusion, an arbitrary cultural convention, an expression of emotion, then we are faced in history with permanent human folly: and from a factual consideration of history, one might even think that the evidence supports a belief in such a negative and discouraging result. If "progress" happened to mean really, perhaps, a spiritual liberation that denies the reality and meaningfulness of the world and the whole of our life in it, then that negative result would actually be quite reasonable and expected.

Since Socrates and Plato there has been a feeling that the very existence of moral opinion at least reflects an intimation of underlying moral knowledge that can be got at and made explicit in some way. It hardly seems that we could live and have hope in the world without some sort of confidence that eventually all the requirements of goodness and justice will be made clear and their implementation made possible. We may be able to convince ourselves that in at least an obscure way the quid facti, as Kant might call it, of morality is evident. In my discussion above I pretty much presupposed, as nearly self-evident, the moral principle that segments of humanity cannot be arbitrarily removed from the pale of justice. Such a principle is clearly not universally effective in any human society; but I think we are justified in saying that it is more effective in some places than in others and that it is more effective now than it was in the past, both of which imply that there has been moral progress and a continuing realization of moral truth.

On the other hand, there is no lack of critical moral dilemmas crying out for resolution, perhaps the most important of which in this age is the conflict between the rights of the individual and the interests of society as a whole [7]. Furthermore, there is the general question of the quid juris, drawing on Kant's terms again, with respect to moral knowledge the epistemic justification for what we believe we have identified as moral truths. I don't believe there is a shadow of a consensus on this issue.

In summary, let me say that non-violence seems to me to be the necessary condition of progress in history because that progress is essentially a matter of advancing moral knowledge and understanding. With superior knowledge and understanding, we are presumably better able to persuade others and so transform history through the subtle effects of a diffusion of agreement and consensus. Gandhi's Satyagraha is thus not the primary means of non-violent progress; it comes into play in situations of intolerable injustice where words alone are not enough to jar the perpetrators of wrong out of their ways. It is philosophy that is the primary means of progress, or the final judge that moral progress is impossible. Philosophy, once it has its developed opinions or actually gains real knowledge, is able to hand to non-violent struggle its supreme instrument of change; and with Satyagraha we at least have faith in the ultimate good will and humanity of our opponents, at the same time guarding ourselves against the possibility -- even with "developed opinions" -- that the contents of our persuasion are in fact wrong and false. Beyond Satyagraha faith is laid down, doubt is laid down, good will is laid down, and the thread of genuine progress in history is set aside. Beyond Satyagraha we return to the simple unevolved purpose that we can share with any predator:  destruction.

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Copyright (c) 1979, 1998 Kelley L. Ross Ph.D., All Rights Reserved

Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 1, 1998


Today I am much less persuaded that there is such a thing as "the balance of the ecosystem." Industrial chemicals can, indeed, do damage, though the most destructive chemical ever introduced into the Earth's atmosphere by life was actually oxygen. What happened was that organisms adapted to oxygen, which arguably led to aerobic organisms superior to the anaerobic kind. DDT, which was harmful, was banned, but the result has been millions of deaths from malaria which were not occurring during its use. Thus, what we have is the moral ambivalence of trade-offs, not unambiguous benefits. The ecological movement has little patience for cost-benefits analyses -- even when it does not prefer outright that humans should die rather than animals. Since I would prefer than humans be saved, even at the expense of animals, this complicates simple-minded programs to "save the planet" when that means forestalling an evolving ecosystem with much more of a human presence than formerly.

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Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 2, 1998


Not to mention when effective drugs, like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, are banned from medical use for purely moralistic and political reasons.

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Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 3, 1998


Now I would say that "high" technology is good because people think so and want it. What people want, in general, is greater wealth, and greater wealth means that life becomes both healthier and more interesting. The anti-technology fears that began in the 70's, and that I reflect in this paper, now seem mostly a matter of an anhedonic moralism that condemns "vulgar," i.e. popular, enjoyments, and an anti-capitalist mandarinism by which an intellectual elite hope to dictate the morals and purposes of the masses.

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Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 4, 1998


Today I would certainly not fail to mention in the same context the crimes of Communism as well as Fascism. Here I may have been sharing in the popular leftist sensibility that overlooks mass murder by Stalin or Mao, because they meant well, but singles out the Fascists in particular, because they presumably didn't. In fact, none of them meant well in the traditional terms of "bourgeois" morality, and they all were just different varieties of the same bitter fruit of the tree of Marxism.

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Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 5, 1998

This now seems like the most naive and foolish statement in the paper, though it is still part of leftist mythology that Mao and Ho were simply good nationalists who were driven into the arms of Communism because we were mean to them. Earlier statements in the paragraph also reflect the idea of a "moral equivalence" in the Cold War between the East and West:  that our condemnations of Communism were somehow just as closed minded as communist condemnations of capitalism. Complete nonsense. Stalin was an agent of naked aggression, tyranny, and murder fully as much as Adolf Hitler, who was his partner in the original aggression of World War II, the invasion of Poland. The business of World War II, to end and punish totalitarian conquest, went unfinished as the Soviet occupation of Poland and Eastern Europe was accepted rather than contested. When Truman fully awakened to the threat, it was too late to save Eastern Europe or China, but further conquest could be contained by alliances and vigilance. But the left has never forgiven America for stopping, containing, and outliving Communism, which was, pace my statement in the text, in truth "wholly alien, vicious, and irredeemable." Ronald Reagan, to the undying spleen of the left, made the endgame moves that finally broke the Soviet Union.

The support of anti-communist "repulsive dictatorships" by the United States, however, was a real politik that, to be sure, involves disturbing moral ambivalence, but which is usually very much a matter of the lesser of two evils. The hypocrisy and double standards of the left, however, are currently displayed in Great Britain, which has currently (December 1998) violated international law by arresting Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile, while he was travelling on a diplomatic passport, just because some prosecutors in Spain want to try him for "genocide" in the killing of 3000-4000 people in Chile under his dictatorship. Meanwhile, of course, Spain hosts Fidel Castro, a reigning dictator who has probably killed many more people, while Spain itself knew better than to try and settle all the scores left over from its own forty years of Fascist dictatorship. Spain knew, as did Chile, that the restoration of democracy would not survive any large scale vengeful bloodletting over the old regime. Most of the murders, millions of them, in Eastern European communist block countries have been forgiven and forgotten, for similar reasons. But Pinochet cannot be forgiven for saving Chile from Communism, or for killing what in many cases were foreign political tourists who had shown up to participate in Salvador Allende's "revolution" -- cannot be forgiven even after Pinochet oversaw the subsequent restoration of democracy in Chile. Castro, who has overseen nothing but murder and poverty, is, on the other hand, almost universally celebrated by the intellectuals.

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Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 6, 1998


Almost wholly misconceived and falsified, of course.

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Violence, Non-Violence, and Progress in History, Note 7, 1998


This question is the most thoroughly examined here in "Rights, Responsibilities, and Communitarianism".

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