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posted 18 Dec 2006, 16:12 by Peter, Auditor

The imperfection argument is both very powerful and very unfair in some ways. It is powerful because most ethical systems adopt the principle that "ought implies can", i.e. if it is not possible to do it, then it cannot be the case that one ought to do it. If there were not this reauirement then moral failings could occur through no fault of one's own and yet one would be just as guilty as if it were the case that one could have done something and didn't. So, one might argue 'there ought to be some system by which general decisions can be made. Either governments or absolute direct and participatory democracy could make decisions. Absolute direct and participatory democracy is impossible, so only governments should take such decisions and so governments should exist.' Then one might argue 'Governments can only exist if there are nations (or equivalents), so nations ought to exist'. Other things being equal perhqps nations are bad things, but so long as having a government and nation is better than not having a government and not having a nation, then one ought to have a nation. The imperfection of humanity implies the impossibility of government without some form of national community (or equivalent), at least gov. at the level at which it is needed for the modern world and the impossibility of absolute direct and participatory democracy at the level required for modern society. The argument is, I think, valid (if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true), but it is not clear that all the premises are true. The danger of arguing from our own limitations here is that it can be a veil for all sorts of easy conclusions. Some/many (at the very least Nick Griffin leader of the NF in Britain) on the far right claim that races have inherently different characteristics, including social and behavioural ones and that because of this it is [i:23iwwd7s]impossible[/i:23iwwd7s] for them to live alongside each other. It used to be argued that it was [i:23iwwd7s]impossible[/i:23iwwd7s] for women to be fully educated as their brains couldn't handle it. I think we can be relatively secure in rejecting both these claims, but if we do, should we reconsider the impossibility of living without nations? I reject the concept of nations, though I admit I have inclinations which are not as universal as they should be given my point of view (I strongly identify with a 'European' identity). Intellectually I have come to an opinion and I try to act consistently with it. I don't see that I am unique and special and that therefore my views are destined to obscurity (they are destined to obscurity for other reasons, to do with my own personal limitations). Moreover, when I am feeling optimistic I think that sometimes the world is moving in a less tribalistic and nationalistic direction. The UN may be less than what it should be, it may be a petty talking shop for the great powers to impose "international" will and the lesser powers to make incoherent noise, but the ideal behind it is something to be taken in awe. And the mere fact that it recognises this ideal is enough to give me some hope. On the other hand when I am feeling less than optimistic I find myself echoing Brian Barry when he says (roughly) "I fear we are heading for a new Dark Ages, and there is nothing philosophers [or anyone perhaps] of a liberal persuasion can do to stop it". view post


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