Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sun Apr 16 14:01:12 MDT 1995

On Sun, 16 Apr 1995, Rahul Mahajan wrote:
> Justin, I'm not sure we're getting anywhere with this discussion. You seem
> now to be taking care of counterexamples by saying that they are examples
> of stability based on domination, therefore don't fit into your scheme. It
> seems to me that you're simply making your claim vacuous by doing so.

No, I said that the stability of a regime of domination may have other
explanations that its embodying a reconcilitaion of interests. Brute force
or coercionb, my alternative examples of explanations, are not the same
thing as domination. So there is no circularity.

>    I can't remember my exact words, but my premise was not that a less
> innovative regime would be more stable. It was, rather, if you consider a
> closed system, such as in the past many individual countries effectively
> were, although today you would have to take the whole world as the only
> closed system, then technological innovation is clearly a force tending to
> destabilization, simply bacuse ,as Marx taught us, changing the economic
> base of society changes its class structure, creating new contradictions
> which need new resolutions. The argument is not at all about a situation of
> competition between different nations with differing levels of innovation.
I don't see why this isn't a roundabout way of saying what you say it
doesn't say, but that's neither here nor there. Instability due to
innovation or stability due to lack of it are both irrelevant to my case,
which concerns stability due to (thus evidence for) justice and
instability (thus evidence for) lack of it.

> >3. Rahul claims that elites do not really believe in the justice of their
> >own rule, but only avow it cynically to dupe the masses.
> Here, you seem once again to be caricaturing what I said. I clearly
> acknowledged that many (even most) of the elite believe in at least some of
> their system of justification of the status quo. I think it doesn't so much
> harm your argument as make it irrelevant -- i.e., there's no particular
> point in a moral argument to prove they're wrong on their own terms.
The poinbt is for us, not for them. Without such an argument, we seem to
have just bare personal preference or group interest, and no moral basis
for our own claims. They may not care, but we do.

> The point is that the Geneva convention is one part of the dominant
> ideology of justification. All you are saying is that that ideology is very
> crudely inconsistent, which is obvious and to my mind obviates the need for
> any further soul-searching on the subject.

Maybe in this case. But the justifications of other forms of domination
are more  subtle.
> >The struggle for >eamncipation refutes the justice of domination.
> You might as well say the struggle for power refutes the justice of
> equality or the struggle for wealth refutes the justice of equitable
> distribution.

That is of course the relativist problem I set out to solve. If my
argument is right we do not have tgo, and indeed should not, say this.

> >5. Rahul says that moral philosophy has gotten nowhere but avows a crude
> >utilitarianism, saying that "The Good of the many outweights the good of
> >the few."
> >
> >a. Obviously if he accepts the utilitarian principle he thinks that moral
> >philosophy has gotten somewhere.
> I didn't avow the principle, I simply threw it out for you to consider.
> It's not much, and in that form it is rather crude, but I still think it
> beats your convoluted searchings and ideas of stability that have a hundred
> counterexamples.

And you think utilitarianism doesn't?

 Not to mention the fact that even if it can be made to
> make sense it hardly seems compelling in any way.

Well that's as may be. I think it's pretty compelling, which is why I'm
defending it.

 As to moral philosophy, I
> just don't think it's gotten very far. Compare it with biology. The advance
> from Plato to Rawls (or whoever your favorite is) is nothing compared with
> the advance from Aristotle to Watson and Crick, let alone the present state
> of the art.

Apples and oranges. Anyhway, what do you mean by progress? We understand a
wider range of arguments a lot better. I myself think that we have refuted
utilitarianism and natural rights theories. But the fact is, moral
philosophy is just very hard.

>     I'll repeat if I haven't made myself clear before: My point is not to
> provide an alternative scheme to yours, but to claim that the relativist
> problem cannot be solved.

OK, so if it's making fun of you, I'll do it anyway. You are committed to
the view that it is right for exploiters to exploit, from their point of
view. I myself find that unacceptable. So I work to show it's wrong.
 Why should anyone even accept your basic tenet
> that if a certain order creates resistance to it, then it is wrong?

I have given an elaborate argument about why you should accept it.

 I don't
> even accept it in unalloyed form, and I happen to agree with you about the
> desirability of an emancipatory order.

I don't accept it in an "unalloyed form" either, but one qualified in a
complex way. And your acceptance of the preferability of emancipation,
unlike mine, is a brute preference, no better than that of the rich for
domination and exploitation.

--Justin Schwartz

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