• Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    When was it the case that might was not in a position to define what is right?

    At least since Machiavelli's time and earlier, [May 3, 1469 - June 21, 1527 -- an opportunity to celebrate his birth or death is coming up] several mighty groups have been in a position to define what is right for themselves and for us: property owners (especially those with a lot of property), the rulers put in place or supported in place by property owners (lords, kings, bishops, presidents, prime ministers, Hauptfuhrers, etc.), money lenders (to whom do we lend and to whom do we not lend), capitalists, factory owners, legal departments, and so on.

    The Rights of The People are protected in principle, and in some areas in fact, but are often undermined by the same mechanisms (legislatures, legal systems, etc.) that protect the people's rights.

    Were "The Revolution" to succeed, the might of The People would be turned against the might of property and wealth, stripping them of wealth and power and with no more right than the proles once had. It seems right, does it not, that if The People can overcome their oppressors, they should dispossess the wealthy of their power to oppress?

    It would appear that might does make right.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Does might make right? Ah yuh, but it's complicated.

    If everyone were only out for their own self interest, then culture & society could not exist (one of Socrates responses to Thrasymachus). Honor among thieves is required in order for society to cohere, which is why we have laws (the might) to suppress those nogoodniks.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Your concern about dealing with a-holes is noted. I will give you my full position on this: The golden rule is an absolute in morality, and is an effective tool in conflicts, even with a-holes. There is always a way to deal with any situations without breaking the golden rule, even if the solution is not always easy to find. I will try to explain how it is so.

    Let's unpack the rule: It is not synonymous to being an extreme pacifist or a push-over. It simply answers "yes" to the question "Would I like a similar treatment under a similar situation?". Thus a-holes can be penalized, but justly, not by being a-holes back at them. Example: You murder my wife. I could murder your wife in return, but this would be responding to an unjust act with an unjust act. Instead, I will catch you and put you in jail for a long time. This does not break the golden rule because out of justice, I would like to be treated the same way if I murdered someone.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    This is true, but the laws themselves are based on justice and not the opposite way around, aren't they? When the laws allowed for slavery and apartheid, they were unjust laws. Therefore right makes might. Otherwise, the phrase "unjust law" is logically meaningless.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    What does right mean here, in this context? Getting what you want and making people believe you? That's what "right" is?

    Can might get you what you want and make people believe you? Sure it can. Can the money in your bank account, your ten million soldier army, 75 thousand nuclear warheads, and freakin laser beams from space make your math equations correct? The memory of where your left your keys accurate? Your perception of those around you and their feelings towards you more true? You metaphysical positions more factual?

    In any real sense of "right", then of course not. But, yeah, you certainly will find it easier to get what you want and make people believe you.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    If everyone were only out for their own self interest, then culture & society could not exist (one of Socrates responses to Thrasymachus). Honor among thieves is required in order for society to cohere, which is why we have laws (the might) to suppress those nogoodniks.Cavacava

    True, society could not exist without at least minimal cooperation among the members. But that is neither right or wrong: it's just a requirement. Coherence and non-coherence have to be approximately in balance for the society to go on. Many little, sub-societies come and go as these two factors swing too far out of balance.

    When do right, might, strong, and wrong become issues? When we get past the minimal requirements of coherence and non-coherence.

    So, the honorable band of thieves preying on caravans settles down into a small village (because the caravan-robbing business dried up) and starts growing non-GMO kale, organic quinoa, and unmedicated free range chickens. The necessity for cooperation is now much higher; the old regime of honor among thieves was too anarchic.

    Early settlement is roughly the moment when people begin to need organization that is more complicated than honor among thieves. It's possible that the former thieves will democratically coordinate the kale, quinoa, and chickens, divide up the proceeds in a completely proportional manner, and allocate left-over resources for research and development. It's also possible that a strongman will emerge who will provide the new community with a system of organization that suits him and his clique. The kale, quinoa, and chicken operation will be about the same either way.

    It's more likely that strong-man rule will emerge because democratic decision making is less efficient (if not less effective), requires sophisticated thinking among all the participants, and is time consuming. Strongman rule is faster (if less effective), requires sophistication among only a few participants, and for the community, takes no time at all--just the time it takes to hear their marching orders.

    The interests of the strong man and his clique, and their ability to enforce their decisions, are the kernel of autocratic "might makes right". If democratic decision making prevails, then the basis of rightness will rest in the might of the whole group. Democratic or autocratic might will define what is right, and as many have discovered, democratic might can be as unfavorable to outliers as autocratic might can be.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    .

    Martin Luther King, as well as Socrates submitted to the might of the law (I am not sure Socrates was not guilty of the charges against him, but Plato does not present that view), both made examples of themselves, to demonstrate to society the unfairness of its laws:

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    King's bid for social justice became the law of the land, with a huge social upheaval which is still with us, there is great strength in weakness.

    [of course only certain types of weakness]
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    When the laws allowed for slavery and apartheid, they were unjust laws.Samuel Lacrampe

    To whom were they unjust? The owners of slaves? No. The slaves? Since when do slaves have rights? Slavery is just if the slave society defines it as just. Apartheid is just if the apartheid regime says it is just. And they did.

    What changed the "justice" of slavery and apartheid in slave and apartheid regimes was either overwhelming opposition to slavery and apartheid in other regimes, expressed through legislation, trade embargoes, or armed resistance. In all cases, those who had the most might were able to define what was right.

    Might deciding what is right often results in an expansion of liberty (emancipation, desegregation, integration) and a redefinition of what had been deemed morally wrong. Gays can't be discriminated against in hiring and housing, (if such rules are locally in effect), and marriage between gays is now legal in some countries. "Physically weak and defective persons" have been granted protection by the might of the state, such that buildings must install elevators, ramps, and wider doors so that people in wheelchairs can have access. Were these changes brought about by the might of wheelchair users? Hardly.

    Hardly, but cripples, the blind, the retarded, the deformed, etc. have another sort of power: the ability to place a claim on the attention of the fit and able-bodied. This hasn't always existed, of course: Per Dickens...

    "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, ... it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
    "Are there no prisons?"
    "Plenty of prisons..."
    "And the Union workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
    "Both very busy, sir..."
    "Those who are badly off must go there."
    "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
    "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    there is great strength in weaknessCavacava

    I won't take anything away from any of the leaders and marchers who strove mightily to overcome southern resistance to the legitimate demands of very disadvantage blacks, but the civil rights campaign won to a large extent because the Federal Government finally decided to use federal power to force the south to accept change.

    Federal power was exercised through Supreme Court Decisions (not just decisions to rule segregation illegal, but court orders to integrate, or else), armed federal or national guard troops lined up at the entrances to high schools, FBI investigation of murders and bombings, federal civil rights law, and so on. The same thing happened in the north - Boston, for instance, would never have agreed to various busing schemes to achieve integration if they hadn't been forced by the Supreme Court to do so. [Busing was a very cumbersome solution.]

    That being said, if it hadn't been for King, the Southern Christian Leadership Committee, and various other groups, the federal government (like, during the Kennedy administration) probably wouldn't have done much.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    The memory of where you left your keys accurate?Wosret

    God Himself loses His keys.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    I know, right? I think that when it's me though, it's just that Mandela effect, where I've like quantum jumped to a parallel reality where my keys are somewhere different than I remember. See, the universe is wrong, never me.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Social justice has a conscience. King's genius lied in his ability to align and weave the Declaration of Independence with the Bible into a very christian/nationalistic theme (after all it was the religious who gave the colonists the 'right' to treat blacks and natives as subhuman), King aligned human law with de facto human justice, and judges and politicians were forced to realize their unfairness to blacks and others. They jonesed for the might of his rhetorical approach (ha!) and adopted it as their own, quickly rereading the Constitution. Weakness that rests on justice has might, in the right hands it is hard to beat down, or stay beaten down for long. Gandi, Christ, et al.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    it was the religious who gave the colonists the 'right' to treat blacks and natives as subhumanCavacava

    Who are these religious who granted the colonists the right to treat blacks and natives as subhuman? Good Christians didn't need permission to engage in slavery. Slavery, after all, was an acknowledged condition in the New Testament, it had existed in England in post Roman times, and it existed elsewhere in the world.

    Slavery existed in England before the North American colonies were established (prior to 1600). English ships began the African slave trade -- again before 1600. Aside from outright slavery, labor as punishment for criminal convictions came very close to slavery. Indentured or 'transported' workers could be bought and sold. They did have some minimal rights, while slaves had zero rights

    Slavery made good business sense, as long as slaves were the cheapest most malleable labor one could get. It didn't need a religious cover. My guess is that few slave owners actually believed that their slaves were not pretty much human. They needed to distance themselves from the people they owned and (fairly often) with whom they interacted sexually. One could argue that their hatred of blacks after the civil war might stemmed in part from the guilt they bore as slave owners.

    I'm not trying to let religious people in the North American colonies off the hook. They were not just complicit, they were actively involved, in northern colonies like Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as in the south. The Bible is long enough to provide cover for all sorts of things--like the liberation of slaves, as well as enslavement.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    I agree, however ancient Romans & Greeks were not racist (as I understand it). It took Christianity to start racism, the curse of Ham.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    Really? No racism anywhere except that started by Christianity?

    How did Christianity do that? Are there any other factors in Western Civ that might have a leading role?

    If the Greeks or Romans were not racist, what kept them from it?
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Really? No racism anywhere except that started by Christianity?

    Yes, that is my understanding and there appears to be plenty of online references to back it up.

    How did Christianity do that?

    That Old Black Magic, got them in a spell, they saw black as evil.

    If the Greeks or Romans were not racist, what kept them from it?

    I don't think it occurred to the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians et al...Ham was the father of the black people, he and his descendants were cursed to be slaves because of his sin against Noah,and some Christians said, "Africans and their descendants are destined to be servants, and should accept their status as slaves in fulfillment of biblical prophecy."
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Slavery is just if the slave society defines it as just. Apartheid is just if the apartheid regime says it is just. And they did.Bitter Crank
    In which case, was it a just act for the nazis to kill the jews in Germany under the nazi regime?

    What changed the "justice" of slavery and apartheid in slave and apartheid regimes was either overwhelming opposition to slavery and apartheid in other regimes, expressed through legislation, trade embargoes, or armed resistance.Bitter Crank
    And why were the other regimes and armed resistance in opposition to slavery and apartheid, if not because they thought that these laws were unjust? If so, then right judges might, or a priori justice determines if the laws are just or not.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that you are now arguing for "right judges might" instead of "might makes right", as seen in the following quotes. Am I correct?
    the unfairness of its laws
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
    a state sweltering with the heat of injustice
  • DebateTheBait
    11
    Just because you can does not mean you should, right guys? I think this falls into responsibly.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    In which case, was it a just act for the nazis to kill the jews in Germany under the nazi regime?Samuel Lacrampe

    Of course it was not just. However...

    The Nazis, born into a nation noted for its thorough systematic methods, were careful to establish a judicial cover in accordance with their racial hatreds. What they were doing was "authorized" and "legal" and for "the good of Germany". Whether individuals fell into the hands of the Gestapo for being pessimistic about the war, whether they were Jews discovered in a cellar, or whether they were an entire Jewish ghetto, procedures were followed, more or less.

    Had the Nazis prevailed (they could have, had everything gone according to plan) the might of the Third Reich would have validated the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovahs Witnesses, homosexuals, Slavs, criminals, asocials, etc. We would not now, 70+ years later, be debating this--just like Turkey is not debating the Armenian genocide a century ago. Just like Americans are not debating the American Indian exterminations which were concluded around 125 years ago.

    Regardless of who wins, though, people are free to judge others by their own standards. Israelis feel imminently justified in the establishment of Israel. The Palestinians are not obliged to agree with them. We are not obliged to agree with the Turkish people that there was no Armenian genocide. No one had to approve of the apartheid regime of South Africa. The white rulers of South Africa thought it was appropriate. Lots of people didn't.

    Most communities follow a a double standard: The winners generally get away with their crimes. The losers are punished for theirs. No one has punished the United States for exterminating Indians. We won. The Germans were punished for killing the Jews because they lost.

    Communities usually give themselves moral cover. Americans did not (many do not) generally think that we were exterminating Indians. We were defending ourselves from the Indians, or moving the Indians out of the way of progress, or just killing a lot of buffalo for the hides, or just clearing the land. We certainly weren't committing a crime against humanity.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Yes, I guess so, good pick up.

    LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

    Abraham Lincoln, Cooper Union Address
    February 27, 1860

    I found the following note fascinating, regarding Lincoln's speech from an observer:

    "When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was tall, tall, -- oh, how tall! and so angular and awkward that I had, for an instant, a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man." However, once Lincoln warmed up, "his face lighted up as with an inward fire; the whole man was transfigured. I forgot his clothes, his personal appearance, and his individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on my feet like the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering this wonderful man."
  • dclements
    227
    It would appear that might does make right.Bitter Crank
    I agree that under certain conditions when someone needs to do what needs to be done and/or break a few eggs to make an omelette, certain lesser evils by those who have power can be used to undermine someone else who potentially will do something worse as well as lynch mobs are justified under certain conditions to overthrow there oppressive leaders with violence if necessary.

    But even under Machiavellianism/Sun Tzu's Art of War there are'right' and 'wrong' ways of using power. IMHO people that have power often use it to remain in power and to have leverage over others, and that can be worse then intelligently applied Machiavellianism; if there is such a thing.

    It may be a little idealistic but I believe there may be a middle way between tyranny and utopia (or some other kind of society that is too nice/peace for it's own good) where people are experienced and skilled enough to do what needs to be done when it comes to security but also open and free enough to allow for most of it's people to reach their full potential. Supposedly the industrial countries of the world are a model of this but I believe this is more of a facade then the actual truth.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    When I say, "It would appear that might does make right" that should not be taken as an endorsement. I heartily disapprove of "Might Makes Right" thinking. But it isn't wise to think that just because the noble unarmed occupy the highest moral ground that they stand much of a chance against the lowlifes down in the valley who are armed to the teeth and are not burdened by a sickly inability to use force.

    Sometimes the noble bearers of goodness, truth, and light have arranged to be well armed, and manage to vanquish the forces of darkness, falsehoods, and evil. At other times the nobles end up in a gulag somewhere, or worse. Ecclesiastes says, "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    Whether we are right or wrong, strong or weak, we can't be altogether sure of how we will fare in the conflicts to come.

    There are clearly advantages to being mighty, and having the prerogative to write history, at least for a while. We have to decide whether we'd rather be right (whether we win or not). Personally, I'd rather be right, even if it means a trip to the gulag.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    I think you are saying that might makes these acts legal, authorizes them, calls them good, and gets away with them. To this, I agree. But I think "might makes right" translates to "might makes an act objectively just", and to that, I disagree. We can determinate the justice of an act by testing if it passes or fails the golden rule: Do onto others as you want them to do onto you.
    - Nazis exterminating the Jews, Gypsies, Jehovahs Witnesses, homosexuals, Slavs, criminals: fail.
    - Apartheid regime of South Africa, even if the white rulers of South Africa thought it was appropriate: fail.
    - Armenian genocide: I am guessing fail. I don't know much about this one.
    - Israelis feel imminently justified in the establishment of Israel: maybe, this is a matter of facts I think.
    - The United States exterminating Indians: fail, unless they attempted every other possible ways to make peace, which I doubt.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    I too like to think that the (modern) man-made laws of justice are based on the natural laws of objective justice. Also when in doubt for a particular act, there is always the good old golden rule of ethics: do onto others as you want them to do onto you.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    Of course the command to treat others as you would have them treat you is a superior moral prescription. However, it applies to individuals. When people act in the position of governors, it is not possible to treat other states as you would have them treat your state. What does the golden rule tell Britain and France to do to Germany when they invaded Poland? Or, what does the golden rule tell the Soviets when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union?

    The English, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish explorers and colonists could have treated the native peoples of the western hemisphere as tribes, communities, and individuals with an established right to hold their lands securely, but that would have conflicted with their own intentions as a people. They didn't go to the new world on holiday -- they were there to make money, and as much of it as possible as fast as possible.

    Individual explorers often got on rather well with the native peoples, partly because they were no more than a small canoe full, and not a big ship worth. But en masse, no -- not much chance of the golden rule kicking in.
  • dclements
    227
    When I say, "It would appear that might does make right" that should not be taken as an endorsement. I heartily disapprove of "Might Makes Right" thinking. But it isn't wise to think that just because the noble unarmed occupy the highest moral ground that they stand much of a chance against the lowlifes down in the valley who are armed to the teeth and are not burdened by a sickly inability to use force.

    Sometimes the noble bearers of goodness, truth, and light have arranged to be well armed, and manage to vanquish the forces of darkness, falsehoods, and evil. At other times the nobles end up in a gulag somewhere, or worse. Ecclesiastes says, "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    Whether we are right or wrong, strong or weak, we can't be altogether sure of how we will fare in the conflicts to come.

    There are clearly advantages to being mighty, and having the prerogative to write history, at least for a while. We have to decide whether we'd rather be right (whether we win or not). Personally, I'd rather be right, even if it means a trip to the gulag.
    Bitter Crank
    I think we agree enough and you are aware enough of the issue(s) for me not want to argue with you more than I have already. :)
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739

    I think the golden rule applies to all groups: individuals, companies, states, etc.
    Of course, the complexity is increased when more members are involved, and so this makes its application challenging, but not impossible. When it comes to conflicts between states, the Just War Theory applies, which is an adaptation of the golden rule specific to wars. It is summarized as such:
    - Just cause: Reason to go to war must be justified.
    - Competent authority: The government must know the facts correctly.
    - Right intention: The goal is to restore peace in the long run.
    - Last resort: All alternative peaceful measures to prevent the war have been exhausted.
    - Proportionality: The war-option may not cause more evil than the no-war option.

    This is the theory. In practice, I am sure there can be really sticky situations like being an honest german soldier during the nazi regime; in which case the 'right thing to do that will result in a successful outcome' is not easy to find.
  • Bloginton Blakley
    58
    Does might make right?

    Wouldn't we have to start with a known wrong and then demonstrate that the application of force makes that know wrong... right.

    For example. In what situation does the application of force make 2 = 6 objectively right?
  • TheMadFool
    3.1k


    Might is Right

    The above phrase probably means physical power in terms of the military/police that can be used to enforce a moral doctrine on people. You might want to add the power of psychological manipulation to that.

    However, philosophically, the ideal form, morality isn't about such things. Moral philosophy is about rationaly analysis of the subject of ethics. A convincing argument or a counter-argument is what morality should be based on.

    So, while it may be true that might is right, that physical force and psychological manipulation work in imposing a particular brand of ethics, such a situation doesn't last. The mind is a powerful thing and once it starts thinking it'll eventually see through all the tricks and games of power play. Hasn't this happened already? Yes, in some countries and no in others but it is inevitable.

    Might is right but only temporarily which implies that might never really was/is right.
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