Thursday, October 8, 2020

Weigel’s terrible arguments

In his article “Truman’s Terrible Choice” at First Things, George Weigel defends the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I respond at Catholic Herald.


  1. Professor Feser,

    Back on January 3, 2011, in a blog post on this website entitled "Unconditional Surrender", you defended the Allied Policy of unconditional surrender like such:

    Japanese militarism was a grave evil which needed to be destroyed. It is hard to see how that could have been accomplished without the Allied policy of demanding unconditional surrender from the Japanese. Hence while some critics of the atomic bombings are also critical of the policy of unconditional surrender, it seems to me there was good reason for it. Nor does it seem plausible to hold that Japanese resistance was significantly increased by the policy. As anyone familiar with the history of the war in the Pacific knows, the tenacious “to the death” attitude of the Japanese soldier was a deeply ingrained feature of Japanese military culture, and would have been a factor whether or not the Allies had ever demanded unconditional surrender. Indeed, it was a deeply ingrained feature of Japanese culture in general. And so it is no doubt true that destroying Japanese militarism would have required an extremely bloody invasion.


    However, this position seems to have changed in this article. In this article, you wrote:

    In her article “Mr. Truman’s Degree,” Anscombe pointed out the second main problem with the argument that invading Japan would have resulted in more deaths than the atomic bombs produced. The reason an invasion would have been so bloody is largely due to the Allied policy of unconditional surrender. Of course a population is far more likely to fight to the last man when you demand that they put themselves entirely at your mercy, rather than asking for only the more limited terms of peace that had been traditional in warfare. With the atomic bombings, the Allies “solved” a problem that they had themselves created.

    Now, this is not an attempt at a "gotcha." I want to ask you when your position on the Allied Powers' policy of unconditional surrender changed, what changed your mind, and why.

    1. Reading the blog post you linked to, I don't understand how you conclude that Ed has changed his mind regarding his stance on the immorality of massacring civilians.

    2. Joe,

      You obviously didn't read my post. I was pointing out that Professor Feser changed his mind about the Allied Powers' policy of unconditional surrender.

    3. Yeah, I'm with old Feser on this one, but for different reasons. The Japanese did things that are hard to read - things comparable to the Nazis. You don't get the benefits of traditional peace-making terms when you throw traditional war out the window and act like evil incarnate. The emperor should have paid for his crimes. He didn't.

    4. Unknown,

      "The emperor should have paid for his crimes"... by having his people indiscriminately killed en masse?

    5. Geocon,

      Killing his people en masse is a means for Japan's surrender. Justice for the emperor's crimes would (and should) have come afterwards.

    6. Unknown,

      You can't do something intrinsically evil (like murdering a bunch of innocent people) to achieve some good end.

    7. Geocon,

      I agree. But our dispute is likely with whether the people were innocent. I question whether we should not see them as a part of the Japanese war machine.

      The people served as an economic, cultural and moral support for their military, filling its ranks when necessary and with dedication (their defection rate was tiny), and it was a behaviour that existed well before WW2.

    8. Unknown,

      Unconditional surrender was a policy adopted by the allies before most of the major battles in the Pacific War. This had to have had a major effect on this.

      Plus, your reasoning is bonkers. Am I supposed to believe that Grandma Nana is a part of the Japanese war machine because she lived in Nagasaki and bought war bonds? Come on. Your position destroys the very principles of just war by justifying indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatants.

    9. Unknown,

      How is the baby just born in Nagasaki moments before the bombing part of the Japanese war machine?

    10. Geocon,

      I'm not quite sure what your point with the first paragraph is. That could be my failing. Could you specify a bit further.

      Regarding poor Nana, I spoke about the people as part of the war machine, not a particular person.

      Nothing about my position "destroys" the distinction principle of jus de bello. It'd just be a matter of broadening who counts as a combatant or proposing a third category beyond combatant and non-combatant.

    11. Billy,

      I didn't say that the baby is. In this case, it looks like the people are.

      Here's a question for you and those who think like you: Are the Japanese people of that time guilty of cooperation with evil? Was there a formal and immediate cooperation?

    12. Unknown,

      My first paragraph refutes the idea that the Japanese are all these bloodthirsty fanatics that Allied Propaganda portrayed them as. They were people fighting against a military alliance that wouldn't stop until they were utterly destroyed. Who would defect in that scenario? Even if you think the Japanese Empire was evil, there's no way the people would side with invaders that were out to not only defeat the Empire but subjugate the people who lived under it (which is what Unconditional Surrender entailed).

      Under your reasoning, Nana would be considered "part of the Japanese war machine" and thereby a legitimate target for American troops to gun down in the street. Your proposed "third category" blurs the line between combatant and non-combatant. The average Japanese citizen would've supported the Empire regardless of their crimes (similar to how the average American citizen supports their government regardless of its crimes).

      What you believe is evil, period. There's no other way to put it.

    13. Geocon,

      I happily grant that the Japanese were not all bloodthirsty, where "all of the Japanese were bloodthirsty" takes the logical form of a universal generalization.

      I don't agree that the Allies wouldn't stop until they were "utterly destroyed". Perhaps that is what the Japanese government told their people, but that was not an objective of the Allies. What they wanted was unconditional surrender.

      Regarding their defection rate, they had similarly low numbers throughout WW2 and during the Second Sino-Japanese War, too. This makes good sense given their militaristic, ultra nationalistic and quasi-religious beliefs about their superiority.

      Nana is part of "the people" in some sense but that does not imply that she was part of the war effort herself. Attributes of the whole do not necessarily apply to the part (fallacy of division), even if we are using part and whole in the same sense.

      A third category does not blur the distinction. It just creates a new category, such as, say, participant. Thus, there'd be 3 categories: combatant, non-combatant (roughly, civilian) and participant.

      You might believe that what I believe is period, but I don't think you have proven this.

    14. Pardon me. I made a typo. I wrote:

      "You might believe that what I believe is period, but I don't think you have proven this. "

      But I meant to say this:

      You might believe that what I believe is evil, but I don't think you have proven this.

    15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    16. Considering you want to kill people just for what is highly indirect participation in evil at worst, I think I'm justified in calling your moral beliefs evil. I mean, you'd condemn children and elderly who cheered the soldiers and munition workers up as being "participants." It's sickening.

    17. I don't want to kill people for their participation. It's not a matter of justice. It's just that their formal and immediate cooperation make them a target in war.

      The question isn't whether you're justified in calling my beliefs evil but whether you have proven this.

      I wouldn't "condemn" children and elderly for expressing moral support, though moral support can part of the equation. If the people (not children and elderly) act as the motor (moral, economic & cultural support and populating their ranks), then I see the people as a target.

      I've spent the last few posts addressing your misconceptions. Have you considered the possibility that you don't understand what I'm saying?

    18. Unknown,

      The people act as "the motor" in pretty much every conflict. Especially modern conflicts whereby a centralized state can mobilize an entire population.

  2. The only good thing the bombing of Nagasaki did is that it revealed Saint Takashi Nagai to mankind (I canonised him a bit ahead of the RCC, I don't care if I'm not allowed to do that, he deserves it).
    Beyond that, nothing.

    1. You have to pray and offer masses for the cause of his canonization. It's not enough to just say he's one in your own mind as if this were a group consensus. It requires the declaration of the Holy Spirit for a saint to be canonized.

  3. I think the best argument for moral liceity of the atomic bombing of Japan was that the cities themselves contained large, strategic military targets and (crucially) that the allies had attempted to warn civilians to leave the cities (at least in the case of Hiroshima) ahead of time. More information here: If America made a good-faith attempt to warn civilians to leave the city, would it still could as intrinsically evil?

    1. I think that's a dubious argument at best, but irrelevant, because the intention of the Allies was to massacre many civilians.

      Intention at least partly determines the nature of the act, and it is intrinsically wrong to intend to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians.

    2. SeeGee, I largely agree with your premise, and would like to add something to them. In Feser's response he mentions the "civilian population" of the cities involved. I do not think it is clear which citizens can be deemed civilian in the case of Japan in 1945. The citizens of Japan working in military factories for an evil cause they embrace are not innocent by-standards. Certainly we would agree there were some of these people. If all of these people were so categorized would the bombing then be justifiable?

      Certainly there are some innocents, but they are at risk in any other military solution to the problem of forcing Japan to surrender.

    3. Supposedly, Hitler once said "there are no civilians in this war." Was he right? Does this mean that farmers in Japan lost their civilian status because they supplied food that Japan's soldiers ate? There were many kinds of manufacturers in Japan's cities. Should all people be considered non-civilians if they make some kind of product that military might use? Even a factory that makes pencils was creating a product that the military probably used. Can those factory workers be called civilians or not? Those pencils were probably being used to plan deadly attacks like those at Pearl Harbor. So are the workers there civilians or not? I think they certainly are civilians. They were not in the military and I'm sure they were not intending any evil acts by doing their work.

    4. SeeGee,

      This may not be a perfect analogy to Japan in WWII, but here goes:

      Suppose a gang of murderers take up residence in an apartment complex. The police try to get innocent residents to leave, but they're unwilling or unable to do so. Would it be just for the police to blow the residence to pieces? The police might say, "Well, we tried to warn them. It's their own fault they didn't leave! Besides, if we sent in a SWAT team, our own men would have died."

    5. I grew up thinking, like nearly all Americans taught in the 2 decades after the war, that H and N being bombed was good because it ended the war. It was only later that I was able to look at the problem from other angles.

      As to leafleting the cities: there are 3 reasons not to grant it much weight: first, because it was readily possible for the Allies to send leaflets over a city saying "we are going to bomb you, get out" precisely in order to get the people out so that they could not work on the war effort. It was disruptive of the war effort, so we might do it whether or not we were going to bomb them. Second, because there is good reason to doubt that the Japanese officials would permit the citizenry to leave the city (in part for the very reason given above). Third, because it is difficult to gauge how much the recipients would be likely to believe the leaflets. And since the Allies could readily ascertain all of these problems, they could not expect leaflets to have a significant effect toward getting people out of the city.

      The citizens of Japan working in military factories for an evil cause they embrace are not innocent by-standards. Certainly we would agree there were some of these people. If all of these people were so categorized would the bombing then be justifiable?

      Archphilarch, I have wondered this also. But first: a city - especially an old city that has a long history - is going to be made up of a great many different types of laborers and manufacturing places, most of which were there LONG before war imposed its needs on them: they did not exist in order to further the war, unlike a bomb factory. They existed to make a city function. Just because a few of the output of window and pencil and paper factories are used by the military doesn't make them "part of the war machine", and it doesn't make a man who worked in the paper factory from 1920 to 1945 a man at was in the same place as a soldier in terms of being a fair target. In general, an ordinary city cannot be a military target. (I would allow for there to be a different conclusion about a military city, one made in order to serve the military - perhaps King Khalid Military City).

      There are also all the women and children and babies that are not in any sense contributing to the war effort.

      I believe that there is evidence - as Awatkins909 says - that the head brass making the decisions intended to use the horror of the bombs in killing everyone as part of the effort to get a surrender. If that's so, it seems to indicate that unlike in a "double effect" situation where there is a good effect that you want and a bad effect that you don't want, here they WANTED what we are calling the bad effect of killing civilians who were not proper military targets.

    6. As the site says, the Japanese were not given any warning of the existence of the atomic bomb before Hiroshima (the Potsdam Declaration only vaguely threatening "prompt and utter destruction), and while there may have been "an effort" in the case of Nagasaki, it was not leafleted until the day after it was bombed.

      These warnings were not distributed for humanitarian reasons, but as psychological warfare, to lower morale and try to get the people to pressure the Japanese leaders to surrender. But even if they had been delivered in a timely way, out of humanitarian good will, to people for whom it would have been easy to simply take their possessions with them and move out of range of the bomb, this would only have excused the bombing on the assumption that destroying civilian homes would be a legitimate and just act on the condition that they were unoccupied. A crime is still a crime if you announce it in advance; if the United States had warned the Japanese that they intended to use nuclear weapons if they did not surrender, it would have been morally equivalent to Dr Evil warning the United nations that he would use nuclear weapons if they did not pay one hundred billion dollars.

    7. @Tony & Calvin,

      Regarding the status of people living in the city - isn't it possible for civilians to cease being civilians and be legitimate targets if they fully identify and support the war effort?

      To clarify what I mean, one example of this is how in ancient collectivistic societies all people of a group or tribe would not only organically support the objectives of the group but would do so spiritedly and with passion - it's not a begrudging or neutral support, but whole-hearted desire to see an opposing country exterminated and destroyed.

      One case that comes to mind is how the woman of a certain tribe collectively conspired to commit acts of terrorism on an opposing group with the wholesale formal cooperation of tribal leaders and everyone else in the tribe.

      Would it be possible to say in at least extraordinary cases like this that mass swaths of people can lose their civilian status and/or participate in guilt of war, so that taking their lives isn't immoral?

    8. A man willing to take up arms and fight is no combatant, unless he actually *tries* to take up arms and fight.

    9. JoeD, I agree with the general idea of "collective guilt" in the sense that a nation as a whole is in some way tarred with the guilt of going to war unjustly. As for that reason, if punitive fines are levied by the winner on the unjust loser, they can be levied on ALL of the nation, not just those who actually fought. Even those who actually spoke out against their own government's going to war can be required to shoulder a portion of the burden of such fines, because they are members of the nation and the nation as a polity is guilty.

      But the whole point of distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants is to distinguish a second level of involvement in the war, that of actually carrying forward the war itself. Soldiers do that. So also do civilians who work in the bomb, gun, and tank factories (though less directly). But farmers do not. If war is subject to "ius in bello" rules precisely to constrain the operations of war to "legitimate" arenas of violence, this means that the collective guilt that lays on the whole nation is NOT sufficient reason to shoot all members of the nation. They are all guilty (by membership in the nation), but they are not all legitimate military targets.

      Perhaps there is a middle layer, between those who are active in carrying out the war, and those who were outspoken against the war - namely, those who were made their "moral support" of the war known - even though they did nothing overtly carrying the war acts forward themselves. And perhaps in justice this middle group ought to be subject to a special level of punitive fines distinct from those laid down on all equally8, because their actions were more wrong (in some sense) assuming that the loser really did go to war unjustly. But even this does not imply that they become military targets of the just belligerent. As I understand it, ONLY those whose acts are specifically directed to the war effort as such can be considered just targets of military violence.

      I would argue that this DOES include, for example, civilian members of the government whose jobs are to provide for the war effort: the head of the Department of Defense, for example, and even more particularly the Commander-in-Chief (even if he is a civilian, like in the US). (But it does not include a farmer who is growing the same crop now that the army chooses to buy that he grew 5 years ago and sold in the market.) Yet I can see making a prudential rule that soldiers should not attack those who are not part of the uniformed service of their country, in order to limit the erroneous application of such targeting.

    10. @Tony,

      1) Regarding the example I used of tribal women committing terrorism with the wholesale cooperation of all their husbands, leaders and the rest of the tribe, would this be a case where much of the tribal population is no longer civilian and so can be targeted? It would seem their intentional formal cooperation with an act of terrorism would make them specifically oriented to the war effort?

      2) Regarding collectivistic societies, one thing I've read about is how in the ancient past in tribal societies most people not only considered themselves combatants but passionately so - being raised in such an environment engenders non-arbitrary group conformity where the individuals in it completely and voluntarily support the group's decisions.

      Would it be possible to say in that case that in those circumstances there would be far, far less non-combatants / civilians than there are nowadays?

      That is, that personally considering oneself a combatant and formally cooperating with acts of war would very likely make you one?

    11. That is, that personally considering oneself a combatant and formally cooperating with acts of war would very likely make you one?

      Perhaps so. Seems likely to me.

      However, that would not include small children, who are unable to make such determinations. So it would still not make the entire population a just military target. Which still leaves A-bombing them out of order. As I understand it, no degree of militaristic aggressiveness by the population at large, (including teens) can make infants and toddlers into just military targets. Unlike an intentional conversion of a iron foundry into a plant making war materiel, (which would turn it into a legitimate military target), a whole population is never PRIMARILY aimed at prosecuting the war.

      I admit that there seems to be a large gap in most accounts of just war theory on who counts as a combatant. The theory seems to work fine with a dedicated soldiery, but less so when the fighters are militia taken from the ordinary citizens, and still less so when everybody old enough is helping to the extent they can - such as men fighting on the walls, and women and youths carrying supplies to them. It also doesn't work as well when the enemy army has broken down the walls and is looting (but not yet raping the women and killing bystanders) where a youth picks up a pole to defend his family's home. And there is a gray area of ordinary citizens turned into "illegal" soldiers (non-uniformed "insurgents" fighting guerilla-style from the countryside) because the enemy army is perceived to be engaging in unjust methods (such as the raping and killing of women).

    12. @Tony,

      Yeah, I suspected that as well. Thanks for the clarification!

  4. Nice article, Dr. Feser. What is it with professional theologians who feel so comfortable differing with traditional teaching and openly expressing this? I can hardly understand how a person in such an office could assume that type of attitude, it smacks of a certain type of inconsistency. And I remember seeing something over at Ite ad Thomam to the effect that Weigel dissents from Integralism, too. It'd be nice to give folks like this the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it's just a matter of honest mistakes; but how are we really to explain stuff like this? Well, speaking of Catholic social teaching, I presume we can expect some commentary on Fratelli tutti before long?

    1. The difficulty is that while Thomas Aquinas falls down firmly on behalf of innocent life even in war, he doesn't spell it out in detail.

      It's not in enough detail to the satisfaction of Post-Thomists who buy into the liberal concept of the value of innocent life being a variable which decreases in modern war or guerrila war. Whereas Thomas Aquinas, would have been horrified at the use of explosive weaponry on civilian cities.

      Keep in mind that Thomas Aquinas lived in a time with very limited weapons such as bow, sword, and catapult and would never have approved of widely destructive weapons which would have killed civilians.

      Such thinkings are a liberal deviation and an indication that many so-called Thomists are just conservatives in Thomist's clothing.

  5. "[1] And it seems difficult, if not impossible, to vindicate Hiroshima and Nagasaki on classic just war grounds without relativizing moral norms in the kind of ethical calculus John Paul II rejected in his 1993 encyclical, Veritatis Splendor.


    [2] Given the available options, it was the correct choice."

    To assert [2] is inconsistent with [1].

    Or, more precisely, it is inconsistent with [1] if you are a faithful Catholic. Simple as that.

    Sorry, I'm as crazy right-wing and nationalistic as they come, but there is only one God, and his Truth is more important than some immaculate image of America as the grand savior of World War 2.

    (I do think we were on the right side of course, but you don't have to brush under the rug some of the imperfect realities of history.)

    1. Christ wasn't walking the Earth in 1776, and he did not grant infallibilty to George Washington and his successors.

    2. Just annoyed with Weigel. Ed's article is excellent.

  6. Just war theory was created in the middle ages when the Church was trying to civilize barbarians. No, when you've conquered the city, you can't execute all the men, rape the women, and enslave the children. No, when invading a foreign land, you can't put to the sword the random peasant family you come across who likely has no idea there is even a war on.

    Ed makes it sound like it is just as obvious today who is a non-combatant. Is the woman manufacturing a Zero airplane that becomes a kamikaze a non-combatant? How about the railroad engineer transporting the Japanese army to the front? Ed doesn't like the idea of "total war" but it's not an idea, it's a description of how war has changed since the middle ages. It's no longer about groups of men hacking each other with swords for an afternoon, but two economies trying to overwhelm each other.

    You can't shoot the railroad engineer carrying the Japanese Army to the front. Instead you have to wait for him to deliver that army and they start shooting at you. Similarly, you have to wait for the Japanese Zero to be diving at your ship, since you can't shoot at the civilian manufacturing that Zero.

    Especially if there are other civilians in area who have nothing to do with military manufacture. Who's fault is that? American soldiers should die because the Japanese choose to put true civilians near legitimate military targets? As far as I'm concerned, that's on them, not us.

    1. And I'd answer that the airplane factory and freight rail lines are legitimate military targets, even though civilians may happen to work there. Bombing or sabotaging such installations is one thing, though. By their very nature, they're part of a war effort that may be legitimately attacked. Levelling a city full of civilians, though, is a difference in kind.

    2. David, it's possible that bomb and airplane factories are legitimate targets for being bombed; and that there is a middle category of, say, train locomotive factories and such that are needed by the war machine but are not, themselves, part of fighting a war, which are legitimate targets of some less indiscriminate form of destruction than bombing with high explosives. Maybe, if someone invents a "bomb" that increases the rate of iron decay (rusting) 10,000-fold, that makes it impossible to keep the factory running, but does not kill everyone? Or other methods, I don't know what all. My point is that the apparently true statement that "there are difficult cases and middle areas" between clear, out-and-out military targets, and clear civilian non-targets, does not mean we can no longer employ the concept of those who are fair targets and those who are not. There has always been the possibility of using more discriminating means to attack the true, proper targets more precisely and leave the others less impacted. Yes, these more discriminating means are, also, more risky to employ. That's the nature of ius in bello.

    3. One can see how you can label the plane manufacturing plants part of the war effort, but not so much hospital or the kindergarten.

    4. David,

      You and me think similarly.

      This idea that the person needs to be directly involved in the combat to be considered as a combatant (seemingly the only way he can be targeted) does not seem to fit well.

      People can play active roles in the war machine without engaging in active combat. And if they are playing an active role, enabling armies like those of 1930s Japan, then the question of whether they're a military target seems open to me. Likewise, whole communities can choose to direct their wealth and intelligence to the war effort, enabling those armies who commit atrocious and evil crimes. I'm not so inclined to dismiss the question of whether they are legitimate targets.

    5. Certainly there are some people who cannot possibly be considered legitimate targets. Children are in this category. There were also thousands of Korean slave laborers in Hiroshima.

  7. ...just war theory was created in the middle ages...

    Augustine of Hippo lived in AD 300-400, which is Late Antiquity, not the middle ages. He still spoke Latin as a native tongue.

    1. Yeah, I'm aware of that. My point still applies.

    2. You're aware that what you said was factually incorrect, and yet you said it anyway?

    3. I was using "middle ages" in a broad sense, which anyone reading my comment charitably would understand. The process of civilizing barbarians started in the late Empire and continued all the way through the Middle Ages up to the modern era. One can argue when it actually started and ended, but just war theory was a part of that process regardless of the start and end dates. Instead of wasting time writing all that out, I just used "middle ages" broadly as a shortcut. That's what we do in comboxes, which aren't dissertations. But I'm pretty sure you and Balanced already knew that.

  8. There's just no way to defend Hiroshima or Nagasaki when you actually picture the horror that they involved.

    There's an old anime, Barefoot Gen, about the atomic bombing. Here's the bomb scene, for those who are curious (graphic): (WARNING: it's graphic, violent and very disturbing content).

    To me this raises the question of the limits of armchair thinking and ethical theorizing. It's a lot easier to try to justify war crimes without having to picture what they're really like.

    1. Atno,

      It's also easier to take a "softer" approach when you're not seeing what Japan did and were still doing to people in China, or elsewhere, at the time of the bombings.

      Crucifixions, , mass rape, human experimentation without pain killers, cannibalism, sexual slavery, forced labour, starvation campaigns, executions, massacres, torture, germ warfare, chemical warfare & perfidy. The 3 Alls policy in China was particularly brutal, and it remains a wound within their relations today.

    2. Absolutely, Japan was involved in horrendous war crimes. For instance Unit 731 - and the United States chose to give immunity to the monsters behind it in exchange for the results of their experiments.

      It does not justify the atomic bombing, however, obviously. There's just no way to justify the horrendously evil and cruel mass slaughter of civilians, including children. It was a war crime.

  9. Weigel says: "Original American estimates of Japanese homeland casualties during Operation Olympic (the invasion of Kyushu scheduled for November 1945) and Operation Coronet (the invasion of the Tokyo Plain in March 1946) ranged from five to 10 million; some later estimates put the anticipated death toll at 20 million, including perhaps 10 million who would die of starvation as food supplies evaporated during the fighting. American combat deaths, projected from the slaughter on Okinawa, were expected to be no less than 500,000 and perhaps as many as a million, out of a total American casualty projection of two to five million."

    Obviously what is worst is the lack of moral principle in his position; but that should not stop us from pressing him where he is also wrong on the facts. Whatever later authors have proposed "would have happened" in some counterfactual scenario or other, these are concrete claims about what American leaders expected in 1945, and they are made up out of thin air.

    On June 18, 1945, Truman met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the invasion of Kyushu. They reported that "There is reason to believe that the first 30 days in Kyushu should not exceed the price we have paid for Luzon", where the U.S. casualties were 31,000 killed, wounded, and missing. There is no evidence from before the end of the war that Truman ever heard any other estimate of casualties. The Joint Chiefs had, however, received an estimate of much higher casualties in the June 14 report "Details of the Campaign Against Japan", but it fell far short of 500,000. The best estimate of casualties in the invasion of Kyushu was 132,500, of which 25,000 would be fatalities. If the invasion of Honshu (the main island) should also be necessary, they projected a further 87,500 casualties, of which 21,000 would be fatalities. At the June 18 meeting, General Marshall also did not mention an estimate of casualties he had requested from General MacArthur. MacArthur estimated 105,000 casualties in battle and 12,600 non-battle casualties in the Kyushu invasion, but when asked for a clarification of the basis of that figure, followed up saying that it was "purely academic" and he anticipated a smaller number of casualties.

    1. Only after the war, when Americans looked back and began to question the morality of the bombings or at least the failure to warn the Japanese of the existence of the bomb, did Henry Stimson publish an article on "The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" in which he claimed: "We estimated that if we should be forced to carry this plan to its conclusion, the major fighting would not end until the latter part of 1946, at the earliest. I was informed that such operations might be expected to cost over a million casualties, to American forces alone. Additional large losses might be expected among our allies, and, of course, if our campaign were successful and if we could judge by previous experience, enemy casualties would be much larger than our own."

      In 1952, James L. Cate wrote to Truman asking for information on some issues relating to the atomic bomb. Truman drafted a handwritten reply in which he claimed that during a meeting with advisers at Potsdam at which the use of the bomb was considered, Marshall told him that an invasion would cost a minimum of 250,000 casualties. When an aide pointed out that Stimson had said "a million casualties," Truman agreed it should be changed to a million. The letter's accuracy is doubtful not only because of the suspicious increase in casualties, but because there is no evidence that such a meeting at Potsdam took place. In his memoirs, he claimed, "General Marshall told me it might cost half a million American lives to force the enemy's surrender on his home grounds." On other occasions, he claimed that the use of the bomb had saved 250,000 American lives (1946), a quarter of a million American lives and "an equal number of Japanese young men" (1948), one-half million casualties (1949), "millions of lives" (1959), and the lives of 125,000 Americans and 125,000 "Japanese youngsters" (1963). These numbers made up by politicians after the war fluctuate and constantly conflate deaths and casualties because these estimates never happened.

      As for what would in fact have happened even if contemporaneous opinion was far too optimistic, even if some have proposed an extreme opinion that twenty million people would have died, Weigel ought to give due weight to the opinions of other experts who, considering the fact that Japan was on the verge of defeat, have projected that there would not have been any casualties in combat. With morale, food, fuel, and ore all in increasingly short supply and national infrastructure devastated by Allied bombing which Japan had no ability to effectively resist, Japan had no capacity to carry on the war into 1946. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey reported in July 1946, "Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." November 1 was the date planned for the invasion of Kyushu.

    2. @Calvin Engime

      At least the generals and staff officers knew that casualty estimates were an unreliable guessing game, and they knew that from something you don't have - experience. Is your next project going to prove that Pearl Harbor would never have happened had the Americans run up every possible surrender signal and that Nazi Germany and Japan were just victims of the existence of America?

      "Proving" that someone is guilty of something by advancing a highly speculative hypothesis as "evidence" just proves that you are guilty of circular reasoning.

    3. Thank you for your comment; in view of their experience, it is certainly worth bearing in mind that most of the generals said afterwards that they thought the atomic bombings were unnecessary or immoral, and they would have opposed them if they had been consulted, and as the Kyushu invasion had already been planned and ordered to begin on November 1, U.S. leadership clearly did not anticipate any human cost they considered unbearable.

    4. The generals are all dead now so what they thought can safely be whatever you want it to be. Your second sentence makes no sense. If something is going to be done at great cost, who would not choose doing it at significantly lower cost if the choice became available?

    5. As if you are one to talk about comments not making sense...

    6. Those who have objected to Americans (and the other Allies) demanding "unconditional surrender" have regularly brought forward evidence that the Japanese high command was already making hints and suggestions of a conditional surrender. The fact that they were already doing so, in July and early August, shows that at least to some degree, they already viewed continued resistance as nearly futile. This adds weight to the suggestion, above, that the Japanese had little capacity to engage in an EFFECTIVE resistance to Allied invasion by November.

  10. Nice to see John C. Ford, S.J. being referenced. He doesn't get the credit these days that he deserves.

  11. First, the bombing of other cities such as Dresden should be included here; otherwise there is a hidden anti-nuclear agenda.
    Second, Truman's strategy worked to end the war. If acting as a conman ends a war, does that justify it?
    Third, a "war" in just war theory should be defined because total war and wars against terrorists don't fit traditional conceptions of war.

    1. "Second, Truman's strategy worked to end the war. If acting as a conman ends a war, does that justify it?"

      No. The ends do not and cannot ever justify the means. Either the means are themselves licit, and it's merely a matter of prudence and proportionality, or else they are intrinsically immoral, and thus can not ever be justified for any reason.

    2. That eliminates spying, ambushing, etc. But the Israelites were told to engage in these tactics.

    3. @Unknown

      The only way to scan RG's second point that makes any sense is to read it as asking whether acting as a con man is justified if it ends a war. It does not make any sense to read it as asking whether acting as a conman could somehow justify an act of war. Your response makes no sense in this light. Conning the enemy into drawing the wrong conclusion about what you intend to do has always been a part of every war - even when the con job is so well done that the enemy surrenders without a fight. It has nothing to do with proportionality at all.

      In conjunction with his third point, where he asserts that total war does not fit the meaning of "war" as treated in traditional just war theory - which you are trying to use in your response to him - it becomes even clearer that he was asking about whether doing a con job on
      an enemy engaged in conducting total war against you is OK if it ends the war. He asks that because, absurdly, some posters seem to have taken as a premise that conning the enemy is bad - the enemy won't trust you after you con him - as if he otherwise would.

  12. Hi Ed,

    Congratulations on your well-argued response. Without wishing to defend the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, I'd like to point out something that's often overlooked.

    The bombing of Hirsohima and Nagasaki was no more brutal than the air raids on Japan, which killed between 241,000 and 900,000 people (see It was these air raids which crippled Japan's industrial capacity, as well as killing hundreds of thousands. When people deplore the atomic bombings on the grounds that Japan was already on its last legs, economically and militarily speaking, they forget that the air raids are the reason why. These raids were for the most part indiscriminate attacks, because at the time, precision bombing didn't work: most bombs missed their targets, and the ones that hit caused relatively little damage. That's why Curtis LeMay switched to firebombing. It caused massive, indiscriminate damage.

    So here's my point: had the war been fought according to Catholic moral principles, Imperial Japan would never have been militarily weakened enough to contemplate surrender to the Allies. Within Japan, at least, it would have remained strong. And although it was nowhere near developing an atomic bomb of its own, despite its efforts to do so (see, it might have eventually done so after a period of say, twenty years, by dint of sheer persistence. Think of North Korea. Having a nuclear weapon would have then made it a mortal threat to neighboring countries, such as China and Korea.

    Now let's go back to Ford's example of using an sledgehammer to kill a spider on somebody's head. A better question would be: would you use a sledgehammer to kill something on somebody's head that was developing into a snake, knowing that the snake might strike you?

    One might argue that a total blockade of Imperial Japan would have prevented it from ever acquiring the materials needed to build an atomic bomb. Yes, it would - but at the terrible cost of hundreds of thousands of lives lost to starvation.

    My point here is that if you're going to criticize the atomic bombings as unethical, you should be prepared to bite the bullet and acknowledge that (a) World War II couldn't have been won if it had been fought "ethically" (at the best, the Axis powers would have been contained within the borders) and (b) the world today might actually have been a more dangerous place, had the war been fought "ethically." Are you prepared to do that?

    1. Vincent,
      I don't see how this follows. You bring up a good point with regards air raids, and I am fairly sure that Ed would agree that the bombing raids on Dresden, for example, were an unethical deliberate targeting of civilians.
      Without using either nuclear bombs or the massive air raids on Japan that you mention, the allies could have utterly destroyed Japan's navy, captured Kyushu (with major casualties admittedly), and destroyed every airfield in Japan. If Japan still refused to surrender, they could have bombed every military base around Tokyo, invaded and captured Tokyo by 1947 at the latest. There would have been terrible military costs but it could have been done without nuclear bombs or massive bombing on civilian targets.

  13. I don't have a firm opinion on the moral issue at hand, but it seems to me that discussing it exclusively in terms of Japan and WWII is misguided. AFAIK, the primary reason for the use of the nuclear weapons was not to accelerate Japan's surrender - that was a bonus - but to show the Soviet Union what the United States was now capable of doing.

    So, how many lives were saved because Moscow got the message it could not push too hard in Europe where it had near total conventional military supremacy?

    It would be nice if Mr Feser would write an in depth analysis of the morality of nuclear weapons per se. It would seem to me hard to justify them morally; but they are the only reason the world has had ~70 years of peace between the great powers. That's a pretty mighty consequentialist argument in my view.

    1. It would be nice if Mr Feser would write an in depth analysis of the morality of nuclear weapons per se. It would seem to me hard to justify them morally;

      Prof. Feser did address this, though indirectly:

      Fr. Ford exposed the sophistry of such an argument, however, in his influential article “The Hydrogen Bombing of Cities”. As he pointed out, one could in principle appeal to double effect to justify using a nuclear weapon to destroy an enemy fleet at sea, even if there were civilians on board. In that case the target is a military one, and the presence of civilians is a merely contingent circumstance.

      AFAIK, the primary reason for the use of the nuclear weapons was not to accelerate Japan's surrender - that was a bonus - but to show the Soviet Union what the United States was now capable of doing.

      This is similar to, but different from, what I understood to be the ONE OF the "primary reasons" (not sure there was exactly and only ONE "primary reason") for using the A-bombs at that point. The intent was to get the war over with quickly, so as to prevent Russia getting physically involved in the war with Japan, which would thus enable Russia to get its sticky fingers into the territorial issues of the Far East like they were doing in Europe. By getting Japan to surrender before Russia had soldiers and navy involved, Russia had no firm place at the table dividing up zones of influence.

      Now, this specific rationale for wanting the war over very soon was not, strictly speaking, about just plain "ending the war with least necessary suffering", but it did, in fact, sit well with OTHER reasoning about "ending the war with least necessary suffering". It didn't contradict that purpose. And the amount of suffering Russia would have inflicted on the world had she ALSO been involved in the Far East the way she was in Eastern Europe would have been very great, though (at that time) such truths would have been only vaguely recognized. But you can only use such elements of proportional determination when the act under debate is not intrinsically disordered, they don't bear on the moral analysis of an act that IS intrinsically disordered.

      I don't know the degree to which "get the war over now before Russia is here" was more critical to the thinking than "show Russia who's in charge". But both of them only stand as reasons that would work morally if A-bombing a city was potentially licit if the consequences provide enough of a favorable set of results - but it isn't, A-bombing a city is intrinsically disordered.

  14. A-bombing a city is intrinsically disordered.

    I get the argument and I can't say it's wrong.

    But the result is a world ruled by those who disagree with it (that is, the powers that see no problem in keeping nuclear weapons, strongly signaling willingness to use them in at least certain circumstances and actually doing so if push comes to shove).

    To me, it's blindingly obvious that if nuclear weapons had never been invented (if they were, say, physically impossible), tens of millions of people would have died in great power wars since 1945 and would continue to do as far as the eye can see.

    But if you don't have them, or have them but disclaims any intent of ever using them, deterrence can't work. So the "morally right position" seems to entail endless sufferring in major wars - and that's a circle I can't square.

    1. Your problem seems more emotional than rational.

    2. Well, if reason leads me to think tens of millions of dead in great power wars a better result than nuclear deterrence which makes those nearly impossible, I'm sure to doubt if I'm reasoning correctly.

    3. Even if we grant the idea that using atomic bombs on japan saved tens of millions of lives in future wars, there is no way they could have known that at the time of the bombings. The use of atomic weapons could have just as easily led to the destruction of the world.

    4. This (lack of certainty about the future savings of lives) may be true, but it disguises the moral principle. Suppose that the Japanese had said "we will surrender if you murder Henry Stimson's infant granddaughter in front of us." It would have been immoral to achieve the surrender by doing that. Regardless of how many lives it would have saved in the long run - lives and deaths we would be quite reasonably confident of - it would remain an immoral means to end the war. In similar way, it was immoral to firebomb cities full of civilians to end the war.

    5. Contrary to what militarists tend to think, power is more than just who has the biggest weapons abd destructive potential. Even if one nuclear country managed to conquer all nin-nuclear countries, it's nigh impossible to get all the peoples in the territories you've conquered to do what you want then to do; eventually your empire will collapse through softer forms of resistance and subversion.

  15. Feser writes:

    "By contrast, the civilian population of a city is not a military target, even if there are war-related factories within the city. As Ford noted, appealing to the principle of double effect to justify destroying a city is like appealing to it to justify the use of a sledgehammer as a means of killing a spider on somebody’s head. "

    If the people are the motor behind a military force so evil that it makes Satan blush, then what excludes them as a military target?

  16. Unknown,

    The old men and children of Hiroshima certainly were not that motor.

    1. Bellomy,

      Children were not an active part of that motor. I'm not so sure of old men.

      In any case, when we speak of "the people" in this context, and within many others, we don't necessarily assign a thought, action or role to every person. For example, when we talk about some decision being the will of the people, we don't mean that every single person willed it.

    2. And yet, the children were blown up too.

    3. The choices and actions of a people can affect the children under their care. A people don't get to be part of an ongoing evil war effort and then stress that it cannot be targeted because some amongst them are children.

      The fault of those deaths ultimately rests with Japan and its people.

    4. Unknown,

      By that logic, the moment the authorities declare an unjust war effort, mass genocide is now justified. They could have literally wipe out absolutely every single person in Japan. You can probably go further than that to.

      What counts as part of the war machine would go well beyond the nation. Any ally to Japan, any export of material to Japan, people who invested in Japan before the war declaration is a target even.

      With global economies now, you could inadvertently find yourself as part of the war machine.

    5. Billy,

      That's not my logic.

      If the people support an unjust war and serve as its motor (economic, moral & cultural support, populating the ranks, etc), then it is far from clear to me why they are not a military target. They'd be cooperating with evil, a part of its act.

    6. Because there are different kinds of and degrees of "cooperating with" the evil of an unjust war, there are also different kinds of just responses. The history of "ius in bello" rules is, in part, a history of separating out the kind of responsibility for the unjust war that justifies military (lethal) violence against you, and the kind that warrants other, less drastic actions to suppress your "part in" the war effort. Although there is a long train of sliding scales, on a continuum, of "responsibility for" the acts of war, where it is inherently difficult to assign an easy and clear bright line in the sand, we must draw lines somewhere. One of the reasonable lines we have drawn is between those who are uniformed and "under orders" versus those who are not: a soldier "under orders" to carry violence to the enemy is clearly more responsible for acts of war than a civilian farmer who supplies the soldier (and supplies civilians too). Another reasonable line we have drawn is between suppliers making "implements of war", i.e. instruments whose sole purpose is to be used in the violence of war (such as guns and bombs) versus those who make instruments which can be used for war but also have many civilian uses (such as ordinary kitchen knives).

      But a civilian population still bears a kind of communal responsibility for the unjust war, and justly bears the burden of at least some of the reparations / penalties (after the war is over) to restore justice (at least in principle even if in practice they have nothing with which to pay fines). But bearing some of the responsibility isn't equivalent to being just targets of military violence.

  17. Prof Feser, I'm a fan. Can you resolve this for me, though? You argue that there is scriptural authority for the death penalty, and you go back to some of the hardest of hard-line authority. But in those same early books, there is at least the scriptural example of wiping out full populations, women, children, and infants, for instance in the siege of Jericho. In addition -- and I'm not sure of the theological basis here, if it existed -- the medieval doctrine of siege involved if a city continued to resist instead of surrender, then when the walls fell, burning and mass slaughter were the (at least by common wisdom) justifiable result. How do you reconcile this, especially justifying the death penalty on scriptural grounds (though justifications inevitably bleed into consequentialism here too) but not justifying mass slaughter of civilians, though this certainly has scriptural example?

    1. I suspect that the old "if you surrender, you will be treated decently, but if you persist in war, when we break down your walls we will slaughter your children and rape your women" was ever even remotely "justified" by real Christian teaching. It may have been widely used at times and places, and it may even have been given a false cover of some so-called "Christian" approval, but I doubt that such assertions were ever approved by Christian theologians. It's more likely that captains claimed "I can restrain my men now, but if you go on resisting, I won't be able to control them and you WILL be raped and pillaged at the end" was little more than the same threats of the pre-Christian barbarian hordes, just camouflaged with a bit of lipstick.

      The Fathers of the Church argue that because God is the source of our existence, and His ongoing will to maintain our existence is a necessary condition for us to exist at all, He has the absolute right to take away a person's life at any time. Further, He has the right to do this through any means, including natural disasters, or through wild animals, or through accidents, or through illness, or though sending in an army of men at His orders. In such case, the men are simply carrying out God's direct orders, they are the instruments, but God's is the responsibility. Thus those situations are always special cases, just like prophecy is always a special revelation by God's power separate from man's natural abilities.

    2. Sorry, I meant "I suspect ... was NEVER even remotely justified..."

  18. AI

    Threatened use of nuclear weapons is part of why there has been more peace. If they were ever used in their current form they would cause more death than they saved. Flipping your argument around.

    You threaten and don't elect perfect Saints and the men you do elect act at time to make people question their motives. That all works.

    Cuban missile crisis came close. The moment one nuclear war breakes out strategic thermonuclear weapons will have saved no lives. What also must be considered is things beyond utilitarian calculus. Saving lives is a good thing not murdering is an obligation.

  19. Unknown responding to Billy,

    Does this mean in countries where peoples taxes go towards abortion that they are guilty as well?

    Also serfs during the middles ages provides money to their Lords if these Lords engaged in unjust war then slaughtering the serfs was a ok?

    If taxes make you guilty why give unto ceaser....

  20. Will Clausen,

    Also if we accept that utilitarian logic. We can justify much else. If murder brings about a greater good then it's ok.

  21. AI,
    It's odd that you can't square it most people do evil to obtain pleasure and advoid suffering. Enslaving others for example. One could get peace of a sort with a massive one world goverment Leviathan this would also be much less likely to kick off a nuclear conflict then a world of 200 plus nation states. Great power non nuclear conflicts never ended civilization one nuclear war could. In 1913 one could have said the unification of Germany was great we havn't had a great power conflict for 42 years. We know how that turned out. Not to mention we quite possibly will have a nuclear terrorist event within the next 60 to 80 years. Also is not seriously threatening mass murder worse than crass comments or perhaps even sexual assault?

  22. Vincent Torley you could blockade and let a small ammount of food through load the blockade ships with just food etc one need not feed people an abundance to keep them alive. Malta had low food and keep people going. Also how would you be to blame their government should capitulate before their people starve should they not. If a cult takes over a place and the government blocks food supplies would the government be murdering them? If Japan was totally blockaded they would know they were in an unwinnable position. This all is on the assumption that they couldn't grow enough to even get the minimum ammount. This is far diffrent than actively killing children in bombing raids. It would be the difference between blocking food to the cult vs using notes to killing the children so the men surrender.

    1. I have never read that Catholic just war theory completely outlawed siege / blockade; and I don't see how it could be called always wrong on Catholic just war theory, either. If the blockaded city was just, it would not allow the civilian citizens to die of starvation (a) before its soldiers, who ought to be prepared to die for the sake of the others, and (b) without reasonable hope of success in overcoming its enemy. In that case, it is morally obliged to surrender, and then the deaths "from blockade" are then laid at the door of the city's rulers who won't surrender as they ought.

      As long as war itself is not considered intrinsically immoral, strategies that place civilians "at risk" in the very sense of that automatically occurs by losing the war cannot be intrinsically immoral - that's just what war does. Among reasonable belligerents, a situation where the population will die if they don't surrender just is what ought to bring about a surrender.

  23. Unknown,

    Killing his people enmass so he surrenders while complaining about who evil he is is some heavy pot and kettle. If the rules of war don't include not killing the innocent what leg do you have to stand on to criticize the Japanese. I didn't know inaliable rights could be taken away by being in the wrong country they don't seem inaliable if your governments actions can take then away!!

  24. In today's gospel readinbg, we have yet another exemplary burning of a city: "The rest laid hold of his servants,
    mistreated them, and killed them.
    The king was enraged and sent his troops,
    destroyed those murderers, and burned their city."

    Can this be used to justify mass slaughter in war? If not, precisely why not?

    1. Well, because this was a parable? Because the model for the parable's metaphorical "king" is actually God, who in fact has the authority to kill even the innocent, or to cease to grant anyone continued life.

  25. But doesn't this also bear on Abraham's attempt to bargain with God over destroying Sodom and Gomorrah? He keeps talking God down on how many righteous men are enough to save the city -- but God destroys the cities no matter what. And total destruction of cities occurs throughout scripture, from the Flood to the Gospels.

    1. As for Sodom, God destroyed the city ONLY after sending an angel to get the few righteous ones out.

      Also, nobody (well, no Catholic) is claiming that GOD doesn't have the authority to destroy cities, including innocent people.

  26. Archphilarch,

    We would have to discuss which ones. Would the same hold true of Germany. Would we not have to hold that these actions are intrinsic evils as these peoples children would be threatened. Would we also then not expect as much courage in facing our goverment and it's failings?

    We could start by saying no human lacking reason could be guilty. So 7 on down and some only and disabled humans. Next anyone who is homeless and not contributing but is a financial drain on society. Including those working in jobs that get more benifits out then they put in. People working in dry cleaning clean uniforms are not responsible for the destruction. Unless these actions are such that one is obligated to in a vigilant fashion starve people to death this would also include food workers. Even if they were morally obligated to stave their army they can't stave the innocent in the process so they would have to make food. Medical professional are protected by treaties we don't shoot those with red crosses the Japanese if Hacksaw ridge is accurate would shoot them 1st. This beings up the point that who is civi and who is military (hard target) is neutral not they are the bad gues so there is standard c for them. If you target their children don't complain when they target yours. Was the twin towers a hard target? With train factories they are neutral factually so intent matters. If they are ment to take troops to the front they are like a get away car and the conductor like the getaway driver is a target.

    One needs to also consider the state of mind of these people how well informed were they? All principles deduced should be applicable outside of war as well. Otherwise why cannot rape be used. If the whole adult population is guilty from our limited view then why was the USSR raping on the way to Berlin wrong? If we directly kill innocents not collateral damage what possible ground other then it's ineffective nature do you have? People in war factories seem to be in a middle view. Would a blacksmith be a hard target? Taxpayers are like serfs if paying taxes makes you guilty then being a serf for an evil lord made you a fair target. Taxation is enforced by bullets and bayonets in one age and a sword in another but it is by force in both cases. If all taxpayers are fair targets there are no soft targets only collateral damage. If blacksmiths were hard targets not just the forge. Then workers in military specific jobs could be targeted. Of the train manufacturing center independent of incident then so too the stable. If those in food industry then so too the Baker and butcher. If one thinks the maxim of don't kill women and children is accurate the occupations of women would be soft targets.

    Also a point morality must be primarily about loving God and each other not consequences in the secular realm if one is obligated to not serve in the death camps even if everyone else does. As one would not stop a single death.

  27. Prof. Feser,

    My problem is the same as John Bruce's. As an argument, it would go:

    God commanded the Hebrews to kill civilians.
    God cannot command evil.
    Therefore, killing civilians is not intrinsically evil.

    I don't know if the bombings were right or wrong. But the Old Testament, Christian sieges, etc. these are a problem for anti-bomb Catholics.


  28. Feser is pissed at Weigel because he didn't vote for Toxic Trump

  29. OP
    “it is intrinsically wrong to be a conman,”
    No it isn’t. It is good to con a criminal, in self defense, out of committing acts of violence against one’s self.

    “ It is intrinsically wrong, hence absolutely forbidden, to wipe out the civilian population of a city as a means of trying to convince an enemy government to capitulate. “
    That is a mere assertion.

    Dr. Feser, you seem to inhabit some sort of dream world wherein consequences don’t matter. The rest of us inhabit the real world where we have a real life, one very short and irreplaceable real life where consequences matter a very great deal.

    “By contrast, the civilian population of a city is not a military target”
    How naive. Those “civilians” were engaged in the manufacture of the weapons of war, weapons that did in fact kill Americans. Every Japanese city was a military target because every Japanese city made war on Americans by building the weapons of war used to kill Americans and by supplying the Japanese military forces.

    “ perhaps he means to imply that the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – including, apparently, infants, old women, the disabled, and all the rest”
    Won’t god sort them out? Surely your most merciful god will welcome these innocents into paradise, won’t he?

    “The reason an invasion would have been so bloody is largely due to the Allied policy of unconditional surrender.”
    Again, how naive. The Japanese had proved themselves in battle after battle to be committed to fight to their own death rather than surrender under any conditions. Casualties were high in the Pacific because Japanese refused to surrender, so time and again American soldiers were forced to kill nearly every single Japanese lest the Japanese left alive kill as many Americans as possible before meeting their own deaths.

    Dr. Feser, do you know anything at all about the war in the Pacific, I mean, in terms of the nature of the horrific fighting our American men had to endure?

    From the point of view of the American fighting man the atomic bombings were a godsend. Those two bombs saved the lives of vast numbers of men who were dreading an invasion of the Japanese home islands.

    The atomic bombings also saved a great many Japanese lives by convincing the emperor to broadcast surrender to the Japanese people.

  30. Interestingly, Truman might have been on the same page as you here. According to a nuclear historian whose blog I've read, Truman thought he was sparing civilians and targeting only military installations with the nuclear bomb targeting decisions. He was wrong, but he was led there by a series of honest miscommunications. And when he realized the mistake he'd made, he called a halt to the atomic bombing, and made nukes a Presidential weapon with no authority to use them at any lower level.

    So strangely, I think the commander in chief who used those bombs, might have actually agreed with your thesis about whether it was morally permissible to use atomic bombs on civilian populations. He was just overworked, uncurious, and thought he'd made a decisive stand against killing civilians, when he hadn't.

  31. Stardust,

    You apeal to that you have one life and use this apeal to snuff out others one life. If your prime goal is to enjoy your life why seek to justify actions. Are not all things permissible? Your apeal to they will be ok afterwards could be used by a serial killing rapist as well. Along with several other situations. Most would say the Japanese were bad because of how they treated the innocent. Much
    like with Stalin just because he destroyed Hitler does not make him the good guy. The real world argument for allowing unjust slavery to win a war was used. Is your only arguments against rape and cannibalism that they don't work? Are you also ok with torture (pain used to get answers out of a compromised will.) What about child soldiers under 16 to fight Japan if need be? Is the only reason you were agaisnt nukes in vietnam because of the fact that the US
    Did not have sole possession of the technology

    In reference to a different post you state that no simple uncomposed mind can exist. How can science can't show this as you can't establish how this could be falsified experimentally. Given your low view of reason simply about survival what grounds do you have to be absolutely confident that this is so. Also given the way you think your mind was formed your confidence about much is unreasonable. Except in referance to survival your mind must be thought of a complex. Reason tells us that we cannot trust complex minds (computers assembled by monkeys to work.) Or complex objects to have meaning again monkeys typing a book.

    1. Unknown,
      “You apeal to that you have one life and use this apeal to snuff out others one life.”
      Indeed, in self-defense.

      My one precious life takes precedence over the one life of my attacker. My attacker, by mortally attacking me, has forfeited his claim to have his life respected.

      “Are not all things permissible?”

      “Your apeal to they will be ok afterwards could be used by a serial killing rapist as well”
      No, it could not.
      The rape victim has perpetrated no attack against the rapist; therefore the rapist has no justification for perpetrating his rape.

      The POTUS cannot go to the parents of hundreds of thousands of dead men and tell them that he had a means to save their lives but he chose not to use it because a pope had some kind of theory about right and wrong.

      Think about it, if Truman were to walk up to the parents of every dead American young man and tell each one, in person “I ordered your son to be killed because I read a theory of right and wrong written by a pope, even though I had the means to instead win the war and send your son home alive and well.

      Then Truman would have to go to all the hospitals and meet a million men, one at a time, and tell each man “I could have prevented you from having your legs blown off, your eyes destroyed, your face burned off, your spine severed, but I chose to inflict your injury on you because I read a theory about right and wrong written by a guy who calls himself pope.”

      Presidents don’t get to live in some pie in the sky parallel universe where consequences don’t matter. Leadership is all about consequences. Leaders make decisions based on projected consequences, anything less being a gross abdication and failure of their grave responsibilities.

      Truman saved American lives.

      Truman saved Japanese lives.

      Consequences are of supreme importance, while a pope’s little theories are worthless to leadership.

      “In reference to a different post you state that no simple uncomposed mind can exist”
      Indeed, how would that even work? How can a perfectly simple thing think vast and complex thoughts? Preposterous. Such a suggestion is a statement of opposites, that simplicity is complexity. Absurd.

      “Given your low view of reason simply about survival”
      I never said that. Reason is an evolved capability. Evolution is the result of selection for reproductive advantage, of which survival to reproduction is a necessary but not sufficient component.

      But not all traits have a reproductive advantage. Sometimes called spandrels, or side effects, organisms have many traits that in some sense just come along for the ride. Our ability to reason as we do on specific modern subjects is an incidental side effect of our evolved ability to reason in our previous hunter/gatherer environment.

      “what grounds do you have to be absolutely confident that this is so”
      I think therefore I am absolutely certain that something exists. There are some other absolute certainties based on my self-awareness, but beyond them absolute confidence ends.

      “your confidence about much is unreasonable”
      I am as confident in my conclusions as I am confident in the basic reliability of human senses and human reasoning.

      “your mind must be thought of a complex”
      Indeed, the notion of a perfectly simple mind is incoherent, preposterous, and absurd. I am astounded that otherwise intelligent people can even utter such an assertion as a perfectly simple mind. What an inane utterance indeed.

      “we cannot trust complex minds”
      Right, I don’t function on trust, don’t need it, why would I?

      “Or complex objects to have meaning”
      Meaning is relative. One thing has meaning relative to something else.

  32. Didymus,

    Is God under the moral law like humans are? If so how is He God? He might be an executive like a President but He would not be Sovereign. So he would nor be God and the law or source of the law would be.

    In no sane worldview are we owed by the universe or the universes creator anything. We would be granted our rights due to our purpose. Life is a gift in either view we may not like it but we are apealing beyond our pay grade when we judge the world with a subjective mind.

    On a related note Stardust has a problem, where do his moral ideas come from and why are they aplicable to God it seems like he is making an apeal to what he wants his life to be an objective standard. He may call the professors standard an illusion at least it is not self referentially so. Stardust seems to think the world should bend to his will or in traditional language that he is God.

  33. Stardust,

    Also did not the Japanese fear starvation (loss of their one life) Malthus/population bomb. They like a starving man grabbing bread saw the store owner as a threat. But also shot his children. In one iconic image a Japanese soldier has a bayonetted baby held high. Which I guess Peter Singer would be ok with. If my subjective pleasure and long life is my highest aim. Loving others is purely pragmatic.

    On your grounds their invasion was ok if it was to feind off starvation and all the same people were combatants. Also what is your objection to suicide terrorism?

    1. "On your grounds their invasion was ok if it was to feind off starvation"
      Japan was and is a powerful and rich industrial country. They had the money and the means to build vast weapons systems.

      The people of Japan did not need to invade others because they were starving. Where did you even get that idea from?

  34. Stardust,

    Also on a pragmatic level good luck once the word is out. An honest recruiting poster by your view would be suffer and die for my meaningless existance so that I may not suffer and live longer.

    There are some sci fi books were Prussia like planets reject life extending tech because it would mean they would get a greater portion of efeminancy and less Lancalots or brutes. Your philosophy seems such to do that without the loss of 400 plus years to work against virtue. If all your life is about is your subject ends what rational reason is there for me to risk mine for you? That's not pragmatic in which case I win by shirking and pretence. That is by being a free rider.

    1. "An honest recruiting poster by your view"
      I am not recruiting anybody. You can agree with me or disagree with me, up to you.

      " That is by being a free rider."
      Go ahead and be a free rider is that is what you want. If the free ride you choose is to beg on the streets you will find life very uncomfortable and short.

      If the free ride you choose is crime you will again find life very uncomfortable and short.

      If you really want to get away from it all you can buy some survival gear and go to Idaho to make a living hunting and gathering while you live in a cabin you made from logs you cut down yourself.

      Whatever, up to you, free ride as you wish.

  35. Stardust,

    What reason could you give to not participate in the German or Japanese atrocities against civilians. As well in your view how many were non combatants? If all Chinese were combatants then were there even any atrocities? Why would you hold that a soldier should refuse a rape order or slaughter order let alone try to stop them. Why not use captured children to clear minefields for your shock troops or your own? If killing innocents to get political victory is ok then what's the big deal? Why not killing prisoners of war to free up troops. Or serve in a death camp if this life is of prime importance? You would of course most likaly save your own life by doing so. The Germans at least to a degree though they were saving the species what can go up can go down without the pressure or survival. You don't even seem to be arguing that it's collateral damage. It seems you have made a religion out of politics that's your willing to kill innocents for. Also your maral foundation like Peter Singerseems to be human wish fulfillment. Which is an issue why is it rational for moral arguments when it is used as an argument against theism. If survival andpleasure are the base line lies then truth is not. Children suffer when they think that death is an annihilation of the self.

    Also to consider is how dominant the US was at the time the argument that this was the only way is false. If safety justifies killing innocents why not change the court system. No need to be guilty to be executed. Perhaps no due process for men...

    Your view of Hell is sophomoric we choose it. God pronounces on a character that we have chosen. It is only in his permissive will that we go there if his active will is done then Hell would be empty. Given human selfishness all is hopeless given Gods love there is hope for all perticular individuals (not universalist.) A being cut off in eternity will not be who we know them as. Was Hitler so evil at 2?

    1. "What reason could you give to not participate in the German or Japanese atrocities against civilians."
      Human empathy. We are a social species. Most of us find that harming other is repulsive, the sight of blood is at least a bit uncomfortable, or often repulsive.

      " If all Chinese were combatants then were there even any atrocities? "
      Japan invaded China, not the other way around. China is perhaps the least invasive or expansionist or colonialist major power in history. Given the size and military power of China they have done relatively little to invade other countries.

      " It seems you have made a religion out of politics that's your willing to kill innocents for."
      It all seems so easy in hindsight, but the fact is we got hit hard in the Pacific and the Japanese invaded and won and held vast territory in the Pacific.

      Victory was by no means assured.

      A very large number of fine American men paid with their lives and their injuries to fight a terrible brutal battle of uncertain outcome because we were attacked and nations North and South were attacked and invaded by the Japanese.

      The Japanese were a brutal, genocidal, expansionist, murderous nation that had to be beat down and defeated utterly.

      I deeply respect the fine Americans of that generation who gave so much to meet, counter, and defeat that grave and present danger.

      The Japanese brought it all on themselves and utterly deserved every bomb we dropped on them.

      They were lucky we are basically such a peach loving and generous nation because after we beat them down we helped to build them up.

      " No need to be guilty to be executed."
      Ok, unknown, you have gone wacky. Done.

  36. Stardust,

    Are you calling the Japanese wrong on natural law grounds? What lawful authority was there above the Japanese government?

    What is your view on the inaliable right to life? Do you reject it as religious?

    This is where the crux of the issue is so instead of giving examples and such and possible ramifications of dropping this view let's get to the heart of it.

    I have posted some other critiques bit above is the more pertinent point.

    "Ok, unknown, you have gone wacky. Done."

    You write some pretty wacky stuff on the regular. I'm being serious but you perhaps fail to see the point. The point is the inaliable right to life. Now if rights come from our governments then they are not human rights and the Japanese did not have any claims to rights vs the American government. If however we have inaliable rights then governments are not supposed to violate them. If the goverment violates other humans inaliable rights why not it's citizens? Perhaps it would take a more pressing political concern like climate change. If we are just like other animal why not cull the herd? If the planet is in grave danger? Now we are still as a society so influences by Jesus that we are not going to go there yet. Did the Japanese behave much differently than ancient cultures. Was Pagan Rome much different? Why was Japans behavior diffrent then Americas why was their culture different? You seem to reject post modernism. On what grounds do you judge between cultures? Tou seem to be claiming to get messages from or to be an authority above a state that is not your own at a time where you were not alive. Do you also judge the ancient past?

    You may apeal to the majority will while saying that minority will is bad (priestly lies) but then you have to explain why 0 authority plus 0 authority even if with a large group.
    Gets you sufficient authority to define moral reality. In a way that can stand withering critique.

    Does a country with more people get to do whatever they want to a smaller country. If majority will is the starting point then why not? There is another problem in that majority will does not shine by it's own light and that it has the same problems as DCT plus others. DCT is a better moral theory than democratic command theory.

    How much do you disagree with Peter Singer and why he seems to not go far enough given his world view which is similar to yours. He seems to ground things in majority will and dosnt see how that means its unmoored from truth. While he may be trying to see the truth of his position and I give him kudos for that he has made pleasant lies morally obligatory. Also he has an objective view of morality and ethical obligation while basing it on subjective will. Perhaps because he sees that the war of all against all would be violent and alot of suffering would result. But of it's all subjective minds I think no one has any better claim than any other and a group has no more authority than an individual just more power. But if might makes right what does that do to the problem of evil. Plus one is faced with that idea that objective good could change.

    1. "The point is the inaliable right to life."
      There is no absolute right to life.

      The right to like, like all rights, is conditional and does not take precedence when it comes into conflict with other rights, such as the right to self defense.

      The US had and has the right to national self defense. The bombs dropped on Japan were fair and right and justified by our right to defend ourselves.

      Consequences matter, most especially in the decision making process of the POTUS.

      Dropping the atomic bombs saved huge numbers of lives, especially Japanese lives. Japanese deaths would have been in the millions if we had not dropped the atomic bombs. American deaths would easily have gone over one hundred thousand.

      The Japanese army and navy had a fanatical fight to the death ethic. A prisoner was a coward and a traitor who dishonored himself, his family, his country, and the emperor by failing to fight to the death.

      That fact was shown again and again as the bloodiness got worse and worse as we closed in on the home islands.

      For much or most of the Japanese population the only way to defeat them in an invasion would have been to kill them, because they would just keep fighting until they were killed, because that was their cultural ethic.

      Consequences matter. The deaths due to the atomic bombings were small compared to the deaths surely to be suffered in an invasion.

      Fortunately for the Japanese people the combined effects of the blockade, loss of external territory, relentless bombing deeper and deeper into Japan, and the two atomic bombs convinced the emperor to surrender, thus sparing millions of Japanese lives he surely realized would be lost in an invasion.

  37. Stardust,

    I find almost every post you write to be "wacky" but I don't insult you and then think I have refuted you. Why do you think that this is how to reason?

    You have an odd view of there being a law above secular authority but then this law is very biased towards your side politically. So these aren't neutral applications. Since you seem to be saying murder (killing innocents.) Is something humans are allowed to do tour objections to the Japanese behaviour can't be on principled grounds. Life is afterall the 1st inaliable right. From which all other rights folw upon recognition of why that right to life exists. Given your world view I'm not sure how you would support that right being inaliable. But you may still hold it. Or perhaps you think rights only come from governments?

    "I deeply respect the fine Americans of that generation who gave so much to meet, counter, and defeat that grave and present danger."

    They only became a danger to the US because the Philippines was close to the shipping route from the Dutch east indies where they went for oil.

    I don't disagree you just may put more people into fine than I do I don't put murderers and rapists into the fine category. If I did then there would be no non fine people. I understand that the service men may not have had the mind for full intent at the time. So I'm not speaking about the bombing crews I'm not sure about their mental status. I have served I have always been of the mind that I would not firebomb a city no matter the cost.

    I have had diffrent views on the nukes over the years. Bit unless the non combatants were collateral damage then they were wrong. I'm not nudging from that murder is evil. Life is the 1st inaliable right. A government can murder but it cannot decide what is murder since the right comes before goverment.

    "They were lucky we are basically such a peach loving and generous nation because after we beat them down we helped to build them up."

    If your not arguing that it was collateral damage but that it was deliberate and intentional that children were killed to get surrender. That is a political objective. Then you have just defended terrorism.

    Yes the dead children were so lucky.

    You argue for pure utilitarian action. If so why not in all areas. I mean it's an easy ethic especially if one values ones own life more.

    Peace loving so you excluding all the wars against Mexico and the natives and what is now Canada and the Civil war. So on and so forth. American was isolationist before ww 2 not entirely peace loving but when ones has conquered most of a continent you tend to be at peace. The feather in Americas cap is that it never took over Canada so yes more peace loving than some but not entirely. Countries have a bunch of different people some love peace some do not. Andrew Jackson was not a peace lover.

    Switzerland has better claim to being peace loving.

    Generous hmm you mean it was altruistic not based on self intrest? Countries generally don't behave in an altruistic manner very much. Afterall the war against Japan was not because of what they did to the Chinese but because of pearl harbor. They though they had 6mths to knock the US out of the war after pearl or else they would be destroyed. After midway Japan would have needed some brilliant battles of their own.

  38. Stardust,

    "The Japanese brought it all on themselves and utterly deserved every bomb we dropped on them."

    There you go with group guilt again. Can the state kidnap a drug kingpins family and threaten them to get him to turn himself in why not?

    "Victory was by no means assured."

    That is laughable victory was certain so long as the US and USSR had the will power. Material and resource wise Japan had no chance if Japan was a European country not influenced by a non western death of God ideology like Germany. It would have likaly surrendered at a far earlier point. Bit since they (Japan) valued human life more like you do they were a harder nut to crack no doubt.
    Who are you kidding you had the USSR and the US vs a weakened Japan strangled from resources. You are defending it because less death va more death. So on utilitarian grounds rejecting the principle that you can't knowingly directly kill an innocent human being. If this is not what you are doing are you making the argument that they were collateral damage? That they were not the intended target or that that strike was proportional enough to be one on a hard target with collateral damage. If you remove the principle that killing innocents directly is wrong. Then you are saying at least sometimes terrorism I
    Is ok amongst alot of other things. If you are advocating for murder in war. Then why not canablism or rape so long as they are effective. Why not shoot medical personnel as this would help your army to win. This approach would have its pragmatic advantages in hostage situations just level the place once negotiations break down. Your arguments against genocide can only be consequential not based on the principle that killing innocent human life is a grave wrong.

    Taking this principle out what are tour grounds for saying the Japanese were so bad did they not need farmland to feed their country? I'd do avoid some military casualties it's ok to directly kill innocents then why not in a starvation situation? Ia your argument against the Japanese just that they didn't have a good enough reason to kill innocents or that they killed too many?

    "Ok, unknown, you have gone wacky. Done."

    Says the murder apologist....

    You have repeatedly said that you can kill innocents to pursue public safety. Since you did not seem to make a collateral damage argument. You have removed the principle that we cannot kill an innocent human beings. So we then must discuss when else we can kill innocents. Else you are basing your morality on desire it seems not reason. Is there on rule of consequantial which is true that would allow this but not allow a domestic policy that allowes for innocents to be executed. Afterall high standard of guilt puts the community at greater risk.

    The 10 guilty men going free standard is based on not punishing the innocent if we can punish the innocent to get what we want why not jail time and executions in peace to get greater community safety. Or do american lives matter more than Japanese lives.

    Are you so blind you cannot see this?

    Yes it's a provocative argument.

    "The Japanese brought it all on themselves and utterly deserved every bomb we dropped on them."

    So for a modern terrorist just replace Japan with great satan and dropped with used and it's ready to be shouted from the rooftops.

    Are we not supposed to have neutral principles or are yours just about what you consider good and then you get to do things others don't.

    Are you saying someone saying that the Sanish inquisition stopping the witch crazes in Sapin justifies it or that 1209 22 july at beziers was justified because the children has incurred guilt due to their parents.

    I'm intrested as to what you think the story about the Cananites which seems not to be a metaphor. Since you have abandoned that killing innocents is intrinsically evil. Is your argument just because you think the Cananites didn't behave as poorly as the Japanese did.

  39. Stardust,

    What's your view on the problem of evil?

    Is all suffering bad?

    Also if life is just about freedom from pain. Then are not mothers bad if this world is so evil that God could not have made it they why should they bring new people into it.

    If things are all about pain is not bringing a butterfly boy into the world "child abuse" do abortion should not be a subjective decision.

    If you like Dakwins hurls child abuse accusations around do you not sit and think about what an annihilation view of death means for a child. Speaking personally that cause far more pain than a painful after life view. I have always though little of pain and would rather be alive and suffering insensly than dead.

    Valhalla offers much of the pain of the crudest views of hell. Battles every day but far better company. Plus a glorious last stand.

    In that vein who dosn't want to have fought at Jadotville, Castle Itter and to have been one of the 40 Begian rifles holding off the German advance all alone.

    If Men are supposed to love (Agape not eros) ladies and or children. Not just American children. Would not a man rather his goverment send him into harms way that target a child for death?

    The terrible nature of this gets worse if this life is all there is that innocent child had their life cut short to let adults live longer. That's fairly vampiric. If 70 year olds wer fighting fit a good civilization would send them to fight first so a good civilization would send single men to fight first.

    If winning is all the matters why not just tear up the Geneva convention and say there are no such thing as war crimes. Is winning I'd the only point of war not winning well then there are no war crimes. If it's a sliding scale you think a culture under fear and worry wont think the bare has been passed?

    If directly intentionally killing innocent children isn't a war crime nothing is.

    A male human that would use children as a sheild in battle is no man at all.

    If life is all about pleasure people are means not ends.

    How much do you agree with Peter Singer? I don't think he has gone far enough to fully realise his world views logical conclusions. But he goes further than most but also undermines it if human will sents the standard truth dosn't set the standard and so he has no objection within his system to fidelism. Plus the problem worsens as he bases things on feeling not truth so on what grounds does he place his atheism that it comforts people. Therefore one should be an atheist or is he being immoral in his atheism.

    So far as I am aware sam Harris just apeals to peoples care about others suffering. Was that effective with the japanese will that be effective ever? If that's the best reason can do then is it not just going to be alot of violence amongst intrest groups. Where those outside the group are outside the moral circle. If humans decide the moral circle is your problem with Nazis that they wern't democratic in their exclusion of certian people form the moral circle?

    What grounds do you have for human exceptionalism such that pig slaughter house are ok and the holocaust and Japanese atrocities?

    Atheism keeps saying that they are going to ground morality some how that is they are fidelist about a certian type of morality being true within their world view.

    On what consistent grounds do they then condem fidelism elsewhere?

  40. Stardust,

    Are you aware what many high level atheists still get say that Copernicus denoted humans. Which is a silly statement an is geographical location does not equal an ought. Nor is it really rational to think that it would matter to a father where their child is. Do you value a child in DC more than in Dallas? Also it was wrong about the world view (Greek) that the center was the most corrupt part. Yet the fopernican demotion is still rolled out by high level scientists......

  41. Stardust,

    Also if murdering in the name of country isn't jingoistic nationalism then what is? Hoe can you oppose colinizations worse episodes if they were just bringing bad cultures to heel such as the Mayans. Is the only problem you have is that they didn't rebuild things. With a far lower level of tech and wealth and administrative controal. Where the rules the same then or diffrent and if diffrent how do you know them?

  42. Stardust,

    Killing an innocent moral being is far worse on your view then Fesers. Same with abortion if we have one life it is far more important to determine if the little one is human and to refrain when in doubt. It would be an even greater evil to anhiliate an innocent moral being intentionally. You have annihilated them and took the only life they would ever have so that you the rich having already had a chance to live life can have a longer enjoyable existance. Is this not one of the reason you are likaly against the death penalty of tough sentencing? Do you still think there is such a thing as objective justice or is punishment only about reforming the person so is openeneded and there is no defense against re-education camps. Save pragmatic ones (consequentialist.)

    Also your consequentialist view would lead to execution being part of some baptismal rights. If all that matters is the end or consequence and the means does not matter why should someone not baptise and execute you right after then go to confession or pull an Constsntine and do alot of that then get baptized themselves? If you say that the means can be justified by the ends what argument do you have against religious people that do things you don't like or that but agaisnt your worldview?

    How is it neutral to tilt morality to your world view. That's not a neutral society but an atheist society. That's hardline integralism. Are you for everyone being a hardline integralist? I am not. It leads to alot of political tension and violence.

    How do you justify your trust in reason when your worldview is sinking sand. You have faith in reason (trust) but your creator is untrustworthy. It is worse than a bad God scenario. Could it not in your view be an illusion. How do you defend against Nagels rather generous assessment that you can't be more than 50 percent confident of your position that all is matter? Including your mind.

    Based on how I trust other things I would put it at 10 percent at best if that. I don't trust thermometers to tell me the pressure of a vessel directly. Nor would I trust a complex temp measurement device to tell me pressure directly. Less still would I trust a thermometer which a monkey (seems the favorite stand in for chance) modified. Spandrels would be the former epiphenom the 2nd. I read once there are 2 other materialist views but I lost that screen shot. I don't trust instruments that are complex/composites to be accurate for things that they are not directed towards.

    I'd your skeptical towards your world view on the is side why so certian on the ought side? Your not saying we cant be sure of the law which would be criminal negligence but that we know for certian that it was ok. Are you opposed to the nuremburg trials?

  43. Stardust, and the rest of the board.

    Is it not unreasonable to trust (have fait) in reason such as we do. If reason comes from something that is not all all knowing and all good. There may be intermediaries that are not all knowing but if they are not all good then again we couldn't trust reason 100 percent. Almost any level less than 100 percent trust would lead to low levels of probability in arguments.

    It could be Nagels view on materialism of 50 percent. Or somewhat higher. If it applies for all premisis then you would get A (being the probablitity) to the power of the number of premisis in ones argument. Even if the argument logically followed. Say Leibniz cosmological with 3p. If its .5 then .125 if its. 90 then 0.73. Are not any objections to theist arguments assuming reason is stronger than is warranted on materialism certainly. Is not science one long chain of reasoning from inductive observation. Is not then science at best probabilistic sense if one has a view that cannot resonably maintain the certainty of reason as being accurate? What about the problem of miracles changing experimental results. Do we not need to rule our one way or another atheism(no supernatural miracle working being/beings) or establish theism all good ground of being that cares about us enough to not fool or allow other being to fool us as we seek to discover the mathematical side of reality. Without that is not apealing to technology a large hot hand fallacy. Should not the probability of an argument on the grounds of its conclusion affect the probability of the argument? As Nagel suggests.

    In the absence of a proof should not a resonable man go where the most probability lies. Perhaps those whose mind has the scale almost even would stay agnostic.

    But act follows from though and if you have narrowed things down to atheism following mans will and theism following God however haltingly. Would not Pascal wager apply to theism vs atheism. Is man rational who for the sake of a gee hrs a day or out of distaste of repentance would risk a lottery let alone this.

    Would a good condemn an innocent. If in good faith do not know which Church is true would God condemn you for it? But one must also ask is my hesitation due to the moral requirements does my desire to not obey what I resonably think is true make me not enter? How can a man be sure. Perhaps one should diminish ones passions. If one hates army life one should need an extreme reason to join perhaps 9 11 or a draft. If one has a character that gets joy out of meaningful suffering and wishes it would suck more one not only joined but tries to get closer to the tip of the spear. One would choose a combat arm that is more physically rigorous or a position in Ranger battalion etc. The diffrence between a man that chooses a comfortable desk job vs being a grunt lies as much in his will than his worldview though the two usually have some connection.

    If we are to deify man how can we claim human equality is real. Unless we don't subjectively care about anyone more than others. I care about me and mine more than all humanity. But I hold that human rights are held by a high authority such that all subjective differences are obliterated. Not that they disappear and I must do as much for a stranger as my mother but that my will can and is wrong on points and must be corrected.

    You seem to take a circular view like Singer that democracy is true based on democracy. That democratic assessment of what humans want is moral truth. That majority will to use traditional language is the voice of God. What stand in the way of a small child breaking the spell. If all is based on human will why would anything let alone democracy be true why would the strong care for the weak. Only the strong deserve life and afterall outside our mind its the law of the jungle as Darwin proclaimed. Some life is unworthy of life. This child could realize. If killing of innocents can be sanctioned by goverment then not all will stop were you do.

  44. "Weigel also notes that 'the constraints on the bombing of cities set by the just-war tradition of moral reasoning had been breached long before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.' So, what? This proves only that those earlier bombings were wrong too, not that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not wrong."

    I agree that morally the nuclear bomb is no different from the massive conventional bombing done by the Allies in both theaters. But then, this leads us to the problem, how does one win WW2 without strategic bombing?

  45. The argument for using the bomb against those Japanese cities just doesn't get off the ground. Why the urgency? It seems the real reason for the bombings was to intimidate the Soviet Union, at that time still without nuclear weapons. This must be even more immoral than trying to end the war against Japan quickly.

    1. Miguel,
      " Why the urgency? "
      To end the war, obviously. Huge numbers of people were dying every day on both sides.

      Ending the war as fast as possibly was of the utmost urgency.

      "It seems the real reason for the bombings was to intimidate the Soviet Union,"
      No, not to intimidate the USSR, rather, to prevent Japan from becoming another East Germany.

      Wherever the USSR occupied the people lived in subjugation under oppressive dictatorship.

      Wherever the Allies occupied the people returned to live as free people in a free nation in an amazingly short period of time.

      Not only was dropping the bombs the best thing for the USA, it was by far a huge life saver and freedom creator for the Japanese people.

      Truman was 100% correct in dropping the bombs.

  46. Anscombe wrote that moralists have sometimes to confront difficult cases, but that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not one of them.
    In difficult cases one is ever led by the principle of bonum faciendum malum vitandum. The resolution, nowever difficult must be defensible in these terms.
    Difficult cases exist (That was the point of Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia.) But one cannot do evil that good may come. (That is the point of John Paul II in Veriotatis Splendor.

  47. Weigel is a neocon, so his support anything America does, right or wrong, is not surprising. He supported the war in Iraq, after all. Too many Catholics have become neocons, apologists for the American Empire.

  48. Bishop Baron, in a review titled "Oppenheimer's Frown" of the film “Oppenheimer” by Christopher Nolan, posted yesterday:


    But what began to bother him more was whether this awful weapon should have been used. When he visits President Truman, he comments, with real pain, that he feels he has blood on his hands. Catholic moral teaching would support Oppenheimer’s reservations, for the atomic bombings, which resulted in the deaths of over one hundred thousand innocents, clearly violated the principle of discrimination, which dictates that in any act of war, one must distinguish between combatants and noncombatants. Though a number of characters in the film, including an admittedly cartoonish version of Harry Truman, trot out the familiar consequentialist justification that the attacks saved lives in the long run, Catholic teaching would never countenance doing something intrinsically evil in order that good might come of it.