For many years as a professional philosopher I preferred Kant’s ethical analysis. I still accept his recommendation that we treat persons as ends and not solely means. But what Kant’s categorical imperative model for a duty ethic based on reason failed to grasp was the capacity humans have to rationalize the worst of things which they may then claim to be duties. Hume had it right — we are creatures of weak altruistic feelings (“sentiments”) and on that frail base children may be taught justice. But, nevertheless, people, cultures, nations can all too readily rationalize killing and tormenting others — human and other life forms. One need not spell out all the details. Archetypal are the current American practices of torture and rendering people to locations where they are most likely to be subject to torture or death. One of my former philosophy colleagues, Michael Levin, offered the all too typical type of rationalized justification for torture some years back which has been updated for those denied humanity by being designated ‘terrorists’: The bottom line here in my experience is that some people really do feel the pain and suffering of others. Some do not. One hopes that in at least some situations the first are in the majority. But they may not be and even empathetic people can rationalize killing and hurting their enemies or do so in a panic — our young soldiers in Iraq? Wars may induce otherwise humane individuals to kill and maim. One of the discoveries that upset our military leaders after the Korean War was that more than half of our troops were not firing to kill Korean enemies. Military training was revised accordingly and, if we are to spot the chinks in the armor now, perhaps to murderous extremes. The so called School of the Americans — where we trained a generation of brutal foreign officers in such abuses — apparently spilled its moral obscenities over into the practices of our own armed forces: Apart from the horrors of wars and their aftermaths anyone who cares about fellow humans must be stricken by the news emerging from the Middle East where our interventions and/or lack of same seem to be unleashing daily horrors. Iraq is in chaos. Our tampering in Lebanon and Palestine (blocking funds for Gaza) have unleashed killing games there as tormented people turn on each other with the weapons that we have so generously manufactured and supplied to any and all willing to purchase them. Frankly, if one has not experienced such pain oneself, it seems all too easy to turn one’s back on what one’s society is doing to others. A culture war of Jews, Christians, and Muslims is not what humanity needs today to replace the former Cold War. But it seems to be what we have now. The psychopaths are on the march and the empaths are being overwhelmed by lies and manipulations. Those who will not fight fair all too often win — lest we forget the Holocaust! And note that Socrates and Jesus were executed for their caring concerns for the welfare of humanity! — “A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli) — Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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