Reason or sophistry? : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread

"The killing of soldiers is not less evil than the killing of civilians, and the killing of civilians is not more evil than the killing of soldiers.

Well, isn't this spayshul. "" is incapable of making a moral distinction between the deliberate murder of civilians and the killing of professional soldiers on a battlefield.

True enough, in all-out war, cilian casualities can be huge and are often deliberate. In WWII, the fire-bombing of Tokyo and Dresden, the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were aimed at civilians. Somehow I doubt that countenances those acts.

What do you think of the proposition? Remember, it cuts both ways.



ar, Reason, & Innocent Civilians By Clark Rieke

If we reasoned better about war, there could be less of it. An example of bad reasoning is the conventional premise that an adversary who targets innocent civilians is too evil to be worthy of a hearing and a negotiated peace. The goal of less war and less terrorism would be helped by reasoning about what causes terrorists to become terrorists, what their goals are, and whether their goals could fit into a mutually beneficial peace settlement.

This essay will make four points about the killing of innocent civilians:

One- the conventional belief that civilians in a democracy are innocent is false. Two- the rule of war that civilians are not to be targets of military violence is inconsistent. Three the rule of war that civilians are not to be targets of military violence is counterproductive.

Four this inconsistent rule of war is counterproductive because it is used to demonize the enemy and increase the emotions for war.

One, it is false that civilians in a democracy are innocent. Civilians in a democracy are responsible citizens. Citizens of the United States vote for, and pay for having some citizens be soldiers for them. U.S. citizens are the employers of soldiers, and it is not logical that the employers are more innocent than their employees.

Two, the rule of keeping civilians off limits as targets is inconsistently applied. Remember all the civilians targeted in World War II. The past and present power of big bombs is not based on the ability of these bombs to avoid killing civilians. The United States' mightiest weapons have their power and value based on their ability to kill more than just enemy soldiers. If civilians could not be targets, then the U.S.'s mightiest weapons should not be built or maintained. When the U.S. justifies its own creation of such weapons, it is not consistent for the U.S. to say that its adversaries are extra evil when they use their weaker weapons on civilians.

Three, the ideal of having civilians not be targets is counterproductive. It is counterproductive because it makes war feel more civil. The goal of reasoning about war is not to make war seem more civil because the killing is targeted only at soldiers. The killing of soldiers is not less evil than the killing of civilians, and the killing of civilians is not more evil than the killing of soldiers. One emotion behind this faulty reasoning is that civilians understandably identify closer with killed civilians than killed soldiers. If civilians had to spend as much time in harms way as soldiers, they would raise the threshold for deciding to send them into harms way. The goal is to make all the killing less civil and equally evil. It is a higher goal to keep anybody from being killed than having only soldiers be killed.

Four, the faulty rule against targeting civilians is counterproductive when it is used to demonize the enemy. The purpose of demonizing is to increase the emotions for war (putting soldiers in harms way) rather than seek a mutually beneficial peace settlement. Negotiating with terrorists for peace is a more reasonable way of reducing further killing than demonizing them.

I am hopeful that once the killing of civilians is understood as only being just as evil as the killing of soldiers, then we will be able to open our minds to seek a peaceful settlement of a violent conflict with a terrorist.


Clark Rieke at

-- (, April 09, 2002


The italicized quote at the start of your post can only be true if you you evaluate every killing of another person as exactly equal to all other such killings. This requires a stunning lack of imagination whether you term the killings as all equally evil, as Mr. Reike does, or all equally moral, as Mr. Hilter did. For example, the term "civilians" embraces infants and children as well as adults.

The fact that targeting civilians is more or less normal in warfare does not remove the moral stigma of doing it. It is only another instance of placing the end above the means.

-- Little Nipper (, April 09, 2002.


As a logician, I hope you will email Mr Rieke and help him with his miasmatic rationale.

-- (, April 09, 2002.

"If we reasoned more about war, ...".

Now there's a leap.

-- Carlos (, April 10, 2002.

I think its sophistry.

-- Jack Booted Thug (, April 13, 2002.

What's sophistry?

-- helen (unarmed@non.combatant), April 13, 2002.

Ask a sophisticated sophomore

-- (, April 13, 2002.

helen, in common usage, "sophistry" is what you call any philosophy you disagree with.

It comes from the "sophists" of ancient Greece, who were itinerant teachers, mostly teaching grownups how to be their own lawyer in court, since professional lawyers didn't yet exist... any wonder why it was called the "Golden Age of Greece"?

Plato (whom many people credit with having invented snobbery from the ground up) wrote scathing things about sophists and put them into Socrates's mouth. Plato preferred the title "philosopher", and since then "philosopher" has been used by all the "best" people and "sophist" has become a term of reproach. You can look it up.

-- Little Nipper (, April 13, 2002.

Sophistry synonyms

-- (, April 13, 2002.

Thank you, Nipper. If I ever use the word around here, someone will beat me up. Not because they know what it means, mind you, but just because it sounds so bad. "You sophist! I swear to you, the standard response will be, "I'm a Christian!"

-- helen (mules@are.sophists.probably), April 13, 2002.

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