Saturday night I spent some very valuable time with my Philosophy Professor: He is a Relativist disciple of Wittgenstein. He proceeded to divide the debaters of the world into rationalists, and empiricists. He sketched out a chart to help the "old man". Introducing me to knowledge “a priori” and “a posteriori". Once he explained the whole system of Rationalism and Empiricism and how one discovers A Priori knowledge by instinct but A Posteriori knowledge through scence experenct, he reduced the world of truth into analytical and synthetic logic, with premis leading to premis. I asked him to please tell me how understanding all this – which I did not pretend to do, would help me answer any of the important questions that I needed answers to. He demanded an example of such a question. “Is the war in Iraq just?” I asked ( I could have asked if Bush's judges should get a vote.) He asked me why I needed to know about the justice of the war. I explained that I needed to know if I should support it or not. “Then," he asked, “don’t you need to know if one should support just wars?" Here I told him that to me that knowledge was a priori. "What if someone disagreeded?" he demanded. I said, “Then they must be misguided.” But he explained that a priori knowledge didn’t need explaining, it was like 2 + 2 = 4. I reminded him of how he had really not always known that; that at one time a teacher had laid out the blocks and got him to remember that truth. I claimed that had he been asked the right questions he would have remembered that just wars must be fought. But I asked, "If that is not true how does your chart help me to understand that?" Then the argument started going round and round. We were in filibuster. Every time I asked if “the war was just” he would ask me to define justice. When I offered a definition he told me it was “not interesting.” I asked him for a definition and got a lot of talk about “cats on mats” and 2 + 2 = 4 and he wondered at the number of rocks on the top of a hypothetical mountain. My Professor then insisted that he knew “2 + 2= 4” instinctively but had had to be taught about justice; that in some other world justice might be something else than it is here. He told me that P and not P cannot be, but that my belief that “freedom was worth fighting for" depended on how I had been taught. I, of course, disagreed. He told me that I had read my Plato and falling in love, I told him he was enamored of his WSU professors and the writings of Kant. He said that no one had to prove to anyone that “p” and “not p” could not be; I told him that before anyone existed man had a right to be free. In the end the discussion stalled. He is still my dearest friend but tired of argument we said goodnight with no answer on the justice of the war. Thus when I had forced an end to the filibustered – when argument came to an end and I called for a vote, he took his balls and went home. The Democrats are similarly bound to circular agreements; as are relativists and the empiricists at all. . When absolutists, rationalists, seek to understand the justice of a war they are fighting, relativists want to talk of the nature of killing, when rational folk want to defend the life of the dieing, relativists want to redefine death, when believers in eternal truths try to deal with politics those who name truth as they see it want to quote Aristotle – and if "we" disagree with the quote and call of a vote, "they" take their balls and go.
By way of ilistration let me give an example. I had a very different sort argument with a friend the other day. He claimed that if he had known what Hitler was to become before he had come to power, he would have been justified in killing Hitler before he had committed any crime. This is a very different way to argue than charts and make believe mountain rocks. I told him I thought he was wrong about killing Hitler and then I told him why. He may or may not have been converted by the power of the arguments that followed; he may yet offer some counter ones to try to bring me round to his way of seeing things; but we will be debating the issue and in the end those who have listened will cast their vote by how they see the truth.
Here were my arguments against “prior restraint” even on Hitler. Until Hitler had done anything wrong, there was no justice in apprehending or killing him. What should have happened was preventing his rise to power in the first place. Once he had accomplished that, the world should have acted on his first violation of justice and removed him from power. Much could and should have been done beforehand to prevent “Hitler”. America should have followed Woodrow Wilson and “made the world safe for Democracy” at the first of the last century! There should have been no treaty of Versailles with the subsequent reparations, collapse of the German economy, and world-wide depression. Having said this, there was no excuse for the path Hitler chose. The time to stop Hitler was when he committed his first act of “illegal” aggression. When he began German rearmament, he should have been stopped, when he seized Austria, he should have been thrown out, when he demanded Czechoslovakia, he should have been brought to London in chains. Again – there is little point in re-fighting WWII but what we must realize is that before Hitler committed a crime he was innocent and could not be judged by any prophesy of the future. (You might consider watching a movie called “The Minority Report”.)
Now let’s apply our reasoning to our nation’s present problem. When Osama Bin Laden first murdered Americans, he should have been stopped. When the Saudi Princes offered him to Clinton, Clinton should have had the courage to take him down. When Saddam first violated the terms of his surrender in the First Gulf War, the United Nations should have brought him to justice. Under Clinton none of these things happened.
What if there had been no Churchill to face down Hitler? We can only speculate on what a continuance of the appeasement of Hitler would have wrought. What if Britain would have handed over Poland and France? What if the US would have stood by and allowed Stalin’s USSR to starve? What if on Pear Harbor Day, America would have handed the Japanese Hawaii and crawled back to the coast?
What if Clinton or Gore would have been in the White House when Osama came knocking? Perhaps confronted by such an atrocity even they would have acted, but I am not hopeful. Within weeks of 9/11 Clinton gave a speech blaming America for the attack, and Gore has claimed that the war on terror has been a betrayal of America. Even as the U.N. sank into its own refuse, Kerry wanted to hand it a veto over American action. Perhaps under such “leadership” the world would have seen the Islamic Super State from Spain to Indonesia. Would there now be the fanatic’s dream of a nuclear weapon armed monster whose purpose would be world wide domination and the extermination of all who do not bend the knee? We will never know. What we do know is that, at last, the free peoples of the world drew the lines and the armed forces of the US paid the price for our freedom. Now in thr “relative” safety of the world such sacrifice has preserved, those politicians who want power in the U.S. are willing to condemn as unnecessary the war which has kept them free. Here is a place for discussion, but leave the P’s and Q’s out of it.
So I await Rumpole’s reply, or perhaps some discussion from Shadow, or Silver Lining, Areas, Apollo, or some legal instruction from DannyBoy or Aeneas, some light from any anonymous, or any of you who so kindly read and post. Here in the Agora we call for debate and no mandatory 60% conscientious is needed before discussion can go on. To dodge the topic by name calling and “scholarly head wagging” will not serve, and refusing to participate does no one any good. Thus we see the tactics of the opposition reveled. When reason deserts them, when the truth calls for action, they can ether filibuster or go home.
6 months ago