Monday, April 29, 2024

Plato and Aristotle on youth and politics

As faculty, including even philosophy professors, aid and abet student bad behavior on campus, it is worth considering what the most serious thinkers of the Western tradition would have thought about the political opinions and activities of the young.  What follows are some relevant passages from Plato and Aristotle in particular.  For purposes of the present article, I put to one side the specific subject matter of the recent protests, because it is not relevant to the present point.  What is relevant is that the manner in which the protesters’ opinions are formed and expressed is contrary to reason.  That would remain true whatever they were protesting.  Part of this is because mobs are always irrational.  But they are bound to be even more irrational when they are composed of young people.

Don’t trust anyone under thirty

Plato held that even the guardians in his ideal city should not be permitted to study philosophy, and in particular the critical back-and-form of philosophical debate, before the age of thirty.  And even then, they could do so only after acquiring practical experience in military service, the acquisition of a large body of general knowledge, and the intellectual discipline afforded by mathematical reasoning.  As he says in The Republic, “dialectic” (as he referred to this back-and-forth), when studied prematurely, “does appalling harm” and “fills people with indiscipline” (Book VII, at p. 271 of the Desmond Lee translation).  For young and inexperienced people tend to make a game of argument and criticism, a means of tearing down traditional ideas without seriously considering what might be said in favor of them or putting anything better in their place.  Describing the young person who pursues such superficial philosophizing, Plato writes:

He is driven to think that there’s no difference between honourable and disgraceful, and so on with all the other values, like right and good, that he used to revere… Then when he’s lost any respect or feeling for his former beliefs but not yet found the truth, where is he likely to turn?  Won’t it be to a life which flatters his desires? … And so we shall see him become a rebel instead of a conformer…

You must have noticed how young men, after their first taste of argument, are always contradicting people just for the fun of it; they imitate those whom they hear cross-examining each other, and themselves cross-examine other people like puppies who love to pull and tear at anyone within reach… So when they’ve proved a lot of people wrong and been proved wrong often themselves, they soon slip into the belief that nothing they believed before was true…

But someone who’s a bit older… will refuse to have anything to do with this sort of idiocy; he won’t copy those who contradict just for the fun of the thing, but will be more likely to follow the lead of someone whose arguments are aimed at finding the truth.  He’s a more reasonable person and will get philosophy a better reputation. (Book VII, at pp. 272-273)

Similarly, in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says that political science (by which he meant, not primarily what is today called by that name, but rather what we would today call political philosophy) is not a suitable area of study for the young.  He writes:

A young man is not a fit person to attend lectures on political science, because he is not versed in the practical business of life from which politics draws its premises and subject matter.  Besides, he tends to follow his feelings, with the result that he will make no headway and derive no benefit from his course… It makes no difference whether he is young in age or youthful in character; the defect is due not to lack of years but to living, and pursuing one’s various aims, under the sway of feelings.  (Book I, pp. 65-66 of the Thomson and Tredennick translation)

This lack of experience and domination by feelings is commented on by Aristotle elsewhere in the Ethics.  For example, he observes that “the lives of the young are regulated by their feelings, and their chief interest is in their own pleasure and the opportunity of the moment” (Book VIII, at p. 262).  And he notes:

Although the young develop ability in geometry and mathematics and become wise in such matters, they are not thought to develop prudence.  The reason for this is that prudence also involves knowledge of particular facts, which become known from experience; and a young man is not experienced, because experience takes some time to acquire. (Book VI, at p. 215)

In the Rhetoric, Aristotle develops these themes in greater detail, writing:

The young are by character appetitive and of a kind to do whatever they should desire.  And of the bodily appetites they are especially attentive to that connected with sex and have no control over it… They are irate and hot-tempered and of a kind to harken to anger.  And they are inferior to their passions; for through their ambition they do not tolerate disregard but are vexed if they think they are being wronged.

And they are ambitious, but even more keen to win (for youth craves excess and victory is a kind of excess), and they are both of these things rather than money-loving (they are least money-loving of all through never having yet experienced shortage…) and they are not sour-natured but sweet-natured through their not having yet observed much wickedness, and credulous through their not yet having been many times deceived, and optimistic… because they have not frequently met with failure…

And in all things they err rather towards the excessively great or intense… (for they do everything in excess: they love and hate excessively and do all other things in the same way), and they think they know everything and are obstinate (this is also the reason for their doing everything in excess), and they commit their crimes from arrogance rather than mischievousness.  (Book II, Part 12, at pp. 173-74 of the Lawson-Tancred translation)

To summarize the points made by Plato and Aristotle, then, young people: are excessively driven by emotion and appetite; lack the experience that is required for prudence or wisdom in practical matters; in particular, are prone to na├»ve idealism and an exaggerated sense of injustice coupled with arrogant self-confidence; and tend, in their intellectual efforts, toward sophistry and unreasonable skepticism toward established ways.  For these reasons, their opinions about matters of ethics and politics are liable to be foolish.

Democracy dumbs down

This should sound like common sense, because it is.  And notice that so far, Plato and Aristotle are describing the tendencies of the young as such, even in the best kinds of social and political arrangements.  But things are even worse when those arrangements are bad.  In The Laws, Plato warns that the young become soft when pampered and affluent.  “Luxury,” he says, “makes a child bad-tempered, irritable and apt to react violently to trivial things” (Book VII, at p. 231 of the Saunders translation).  And again: “Suppose you do your level best during these years to shelter him from distress and fright and any kind of pain at all… That’s the best way to ruin a child, because the corruption invariably sets in at the very earliest stages of his education” (ibid.). 

In The Republic, Plato argues that music and entertainments that celebrate what is ignoble and encourage the indulgence of desire corrupt the moral character of the young in a way that cannot fail to have social and political repercussions:

The music and literature of a country cannot be altered without major political and social changes… The amusements in which our children take part must be better regulated; because once they and the children become disorderly, it becomes impossible to produce serious citizens with a respect for order. (Book IV, at pp. 125-26)

Similarly, in the Politics, Aristotle cautions:

Unseemly talk… results in conduct of a like kind.  Especially, therefore, must it be kept away from youth… And since we exclude all unseemly talk, we must also forbid gazing at debased paintings or stories… It should be laid down that younger persons shall not be spectators at comedies or recitals of iambics, not, that is to say, until they have reached the age at which they come to recline at banquets with others and share in the drinking; by this time their education will have rendered them completely immune to any harm that might come from such spectacles… We must keep all that is of inferior quality unfamiliar to the young, particularly things with an ingredient of wickedness or hostility. (Book VII, at pp. 446-47 of the Sinclair and Saunders translation)

Plato’s Republic also famously argues that oligarchies, or societies dominated by the desire for wealth, are disordered, and tend to degenerate into egalitarian democracies, which are even more disordered.  I have discussed elsewhere Plato’s account of the decay of oligarchy into democracy, and of democracy, in turn, into tyranny.  Among the passages relevant to the subject at hand are the following, from Book VIII:

The oligarchs reduce their subjects to the state we have described, while as for themselves and their dependents – their young men live in luxury and idleness, physical and mental, become idle, and lose their ability to resist pain or pleasure. (p. 291)

The young man’s mind is filled instead by an invasion of pretentious fallacies and opinions…  [He] call[s] insolence good breeding, license liberty, extravagance generosity, and shamelessness courage… [He] comes to throw off all inhibitions and indulge[s] desires that are unnecessary and useless...

If anyone tells him that some pleasures, because they spring from good desires, are to be encouraged and approved and others, springing from evil desires, to be disciplined and repressed, he won’t listen or open his citadel’s doors to the truth, but shakes his head and says all pleasures are equal and should have equal rights. (pp. 297-98)

A democratic society… goes on to abuse as servile and contemptible those who obey the authorities and reserves its approval, in private life as well as public, for rulers who behave like subjects and subjects who behave like rulers…

It becomes the thing for father and son to change places, the father standing in awe of his son, and the son neither respecting nor fearing his parents, in order to assert what he calls his independence…

The teacher fears and panders to his pupils… and the young as a whole imitate their elders, argue with them and set themselves up against them, while their elders try to avoid the reputation of being disagreeable or strict by aping the young and mixing with them on terms of easy good fellowship. (pp. 299-300)

In short, the affluence and egalitarian spirit of a wealth-oriented society that has decayed into a democracy (in Plato’s sense of that term, which has more to do with ethos than the mechanics of governance) greatly exacerbate the failings to which the young are already prone.  In particular, it makes them even softer and thus unable to deal maturely with challenges and setbacks, even more prone to sophistry and excessive skepticism, even more contemptuous of authority and established customs, and more vulgar and addicted to vice.  Even worse, the egalitarian spirit of democracy makes adults more prone to acquiesce in this bad behavior, or even to ape it themselves.  A general spirit of license and irrationality sets in and undermines the social order, greasing the skids for tyranny (in a way that, again, I describe in the article linked to earlier).

What then, would Plato and Aristotle think of the mobs of shrieking student protesters we see on campuses today (or for that matter, the student mobs of the 1960s and of every decade between then and now)?  To ask the question is to answer it.  Nor is it a mystery what they would think of the professors who egg on this foolishness.  They are the heirs, not of Plato and Aristotle, but of the sophists to whom Plato and Aristotle sharply contrasted the true philosopher.


  1. WCB

    "For young and inexperienced people tend to make a game of argument and criticism, a means of tearing down traditional ideas without seriously considering what might be said in favor of them or putting anything better in their place."

    Watching the antics of the MAGA crowd, Trump followers, Tea Party fools and far right Republicans, it isn't right to blame all of that on young people. Right winged media, Faux Noise et al are busy leading us into a dystopian civilization with their lies, incompetence, agitprop and conspiracy think.


    1. Watching the antics of the MAGA crowd, Trump followers, Tea Party fools and far right Republicans, it isn't right to blame all of that on young people. Right winged media, Faux Noise et al are busy leading us into a dystopian civilization with their lies, incompetence, agitprop and conspiracy think.

      That would be impressive if it wasn't obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that Democrats and their supporters and their propaganda machines in the media are no better. It's not a standard if you don't hold both sides equally accountable, which you clearly do not.

    2. Feser: "here is an opinion and the reasons behind it"

      WCB: "no u"

    3. The american democracy seems to mostly be capable of producing children with adult bodies, no matter the ideology.

      Sadly, things are no better here.

    4. It's telling that at some point we started referring to our republic as a democracy. The entire Western world uses terms interchangeably and has for quite some time.

  2. That's interesting you bring up Plato and Aristotle cautioning about exposing the young to argument, ethics and political philosophy. I've always thought our education system needs to emphasize the humanities more in the hopes of exposing young people to philosophy sooner -- it seems like it hardly does at all -- to make them more resistant to gross sophistries and the vile demagogues who peddle them. By the time they get to college, it's too late, and most students have little appetite or aptitude for philosophy or the sort of critical thinking skills that might inoculate them a bit to evil intellectual fads and ideologies like the obvious pro-terrorism and genocidal antisemitism that animates these "Palestinian" liberation organizations that have infiltrated our universities.

    I understand that there are a host of other malign influences in our society that delay adulthood and frustrate phronesis, some of which Aristotle mentions above. Maybe I'm being naive at the feasibility of what I'm suggesting here and projecting myself and my own intellectual development in my 20s (I'm only 34) onto the current crop of young people who are already too spoiled to learn much of anything.

    It's certainly disheartening to see how vicious, stupid, and nihilistic today's college students are, especially the supposedly really bright ones at elite institutions. The farce and historical irony of the situation of the past week is something really astonishing to behold.

    1. (1/2)
      There's some nuance in these matters, and some difference between Pagan and Christian approaches to education.

      A typical age of entry into a Medieval university—or a university at any time, until the 19th century—was fourteen. A young scholar might finish his baccalaureate by eighteen or nineteen and. What did his education consist of? To quote Michael Flynn's article, "De Revolutione Scientiarum In 'Media Tempestas'" (Analog Magazine, 2007; link here):
      The use of reason was uniquely widespread in medieval Europe because the undergraduate curriculum consisted almost entirely of logic, reason, and natural philosophy. Arts and humanities were not taught. As today, most students settled into non-academic lives. Never before or since has such a significant portion of the population been educated so systematically in analytical disciplines.

      Does that mean we should refrain from teaching the arts and humanities to younger students? C. S. Lewis had something to say about it in "The Abolition of Man," (Ch. 1):
      The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

      I also think Commander Paul Galanti (interview here) also has some insightful words. He was asked, "Did your training at the Academy help you overcome captivity in Vietnam?" He answered thus:
      Yes. Many of the leaders in Hanoi were Naval Academy graduates. Admirals Jim Stockdale and Jeremiah Denton (’47), Bill Lawrence (’51) and others. I often refer to my Hanoi experience as Plebe Years Bravo through Hotel. Admiral Stockdale said the same thing. He lamented the softening of plebe year and the over-emphasis on computer and other people unfriendly endeavors. Our old “Jack of all trades master of none” USNA B.S. degree was the best “major” in existence then. When USNA decided to do the “Major” thing and join the academic standards rules of the majority of colleges and universities, the experience went downhill in my opinion...Why? Our degree was 160 semester hours almost equally divided between Hard Sciences and Humanities. We all had classes on Saturdays and the curriculum was identical. We were engineers who could write. The degree was good for grad school in nearly any discipline.

    2. (2/2)

      What I think his clear is about education in the arts and humanities, where the purpose is to guide a student to "just sentiments" concerning truth, goodness, and beauty, is that it must be joined to a rigorous education in logic and related "analytical disciplines," such as mathematics and the sciences. However, when the ancients and medievals spoke of an education in geometry, they were referring not to the algorithmic/algebraic operations that students learn by rote, but the applied logic of thinkers like Euclid and Apollonius that teaches disciplined thinking and order of operations. Part of the purpose of studying such subjects was to learn how to apply logic to the world, while accumulating factual knowledge and experience that helped form prudence/practical reason.

      What was also expected is that students should sit down, shut up, and learn, at least part of the time. In the classroom, with dialectic, rhetoric, or just plain conversation, the teacher was guide and coach. He slowly brought his students to the more abstract, far-reaching, and perilous subjects of philosophy, and the freer discourse that comes with serious argumentation. And the rigors of the scholarly life also taught discipline and made the student subject to obligations and expectations.

      Indeed, schools and universities were expected, by custom and law, to exercise the authority of in loco parentis and oversee the conduct of their students. This wasn't a state of affairs that was seriously challenged until the 1960s. I would also note that, at least in the case of American education, it was also not uncommon send sons to private military schools.

      As to the current generation, I wouldn't wholly despair. Home schooling is more popular than ever and record numbers of youth are foregoing a college education. Here is short clip from a longer interview on "Pints With Aquinas" with Gen Z activist Isabel Brown. It's heartening, I think.

    3. @David

      In pratice, how effective this type of education was on generating critical thinking and a life truly guided by reason? I read Montaigne some time ago and his portrayal of the scholastics was suprisingly sad to me.

      I don't know if there is even a way to measure it, of course, just asking because how we teach today clearly does not work, so if there is something better i would like to know.

    4. The short answer? Very effective.

      The long answer?

      When Montaigne was writing, in the very midst of the Renaissance, it was popular to trash the Scholastics, a trend carried into later centuries. The idea that the Scholastics discussed, for instance, " many angels could dance on the head of a pin," was satire arising from a misunderstanding of what the Scholastics were debating and the metaphysical backdrop against which those debates occurred. It's like an illiterate man viewing letters on a page and only seeing indecipherable squiggles.

      Renaissance humanists, which could include both Protestants and Catholics, were not exactly fair, and sometimes intellectually dishonest, in their criticism. It was those same humanists who coined the term "Middle Ages," suggesting that the Medieval era was a benighted age between Antiquity and Modernity, in which nothing of note occurred.

      They saw themselves as returning to the glories of Rome, which meant, often enough, slavishly aping the Ancients and ignoring Medieval advancements. The Medievals, as much as they were in awe of Rome, read Classical sources less uncritically, and as a result, did more to add to the riches they had inherited.

      As Terence Parsons demonstrates in Articulating Medieval Logic, the Medievals dramatically extended Aristotle's system, producing a framework that could equal modern Symbolic logic, without resorting to quasi-mathematical notation. You don't carry out such a project without a vigorous and living practice, in both formal reasoning and discourse.

      That practice of logic yielded fruit, one of which was the Scientific Revolution (which you can read about in Flynn's article above), perhaps better dubbed the Scientific Culmination. To cite one example, the Merton Calculators, the first to use mathematics in the modelling of nature, developed logarithms about three centuries before they were supposed to have been invented. John Buridan and his acolytes (Nicholas Oresme being the most famous) laid the groundwork for many developments in physics and astronomy (you can read more here). When Newton said he and others stood on the shoulders of giants, he was paraphrasing a Medieval aphorism!

      And all that is setting aside the wider fields of philosophy and theology, which produced giants like Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, whose work still studied and argued over in secular scholarship. There's been a spate of new translations, commentaries, and studies on the Scholastics in the last two decades or so, as scholars have rediscovered their work.

      Treating the pedagogy of Antiquity and the Medieval era (as well as the Renaissance) as a single educational tradition, it was the educational norm into the 18th century, large parts of it were a part of schooling until almost the end of 19th century, and elements remained a part of education well into the 20th century. Autodidacts, homeschoolers, private and charter schools, and even some colleges keep reviving it, at least in the US.

    5. David Marcoe,

      Thanks for the introduction to education systems and norms of antiquity and the medieval world. It helps clarify the pedagogy in play here. I was using the terms "philosophy" and "critical thinking skills" very broadly. I see now there's a large degree of nuance and distinction-making here I was papering over in my off-the-cuff comment.

    6. @David Marcoe

      That was sure quite helpful! I will read your recommendations.

      Montaigne attacks were more focused on the usefulness of education to the pratical life, but i can see that he truly was not aways fair, and he truly seemed to know little of the medievals when compared with what he knew of the romans, probably thanks to his excentric education.

    7. (1/2)

      Montaigne's attacks are all the more absurd because the liberal arts were all about learning how to reason and learn—a skill that allows you, in principle, to acquire virtually all other skills. They also were called the "liberal arts" (as opposed to "servile arts," aka manual labor and trade skills) because they trained the reason and gave a man the tools to command himself—his passions and appetites—preparing him for a life of virtue and citizenship as he participated in civic affairs.

      Christians reframed this Pagan system of education from the training of an ideal man-as-citizen to the training of man-as-saint, which encompasses citizenship. A unique Christian contribution was the elevation of and marriage of the active life (and "servile arts") to the contemplative life, seen the the Benedictine ideal of "work and prayer." A man thus contemplated and practiced the good, enabled by God's grace, coming (hopefully) to more and more to resemble the source of all good.

      There were seven liberal arts in total, broken into two clusters or phases. The first was the Trivium—grammar, logic, and rhetoric. While grammar meant the study of the structure of language, the "grammar" stage can also mean taking in facts. Rhetoric, of course, is about clear and persuasive communication, where logic is applied to expression.

      The second was the Quadrivium—geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. These were studied as "analytical disciplines," where logic was applied, but also train the mind to see harmony and proportion in nature.

    8. (2/2)

      If you ever want a do-it-yourself Trivium, I have a few recommendations (which I'll put in order of logical progression, as I see it):

      —Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book, which could also be titled "How to Study," since it's not about basic literacy, but how to get the most out of any given book and how to structure your study across multiple books for any given subject.

      —A. G. Sertillanges's The Intellectual Life, which is a meditation on the pursuit of study and scholarship, but is packed with practical advice, such as time management and training your memory.

      —Miriam Joseph's The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, was written as a textbook for an undergraduate composition class, but it's a thorough one-volume introduction to the Trivium.

      I won't make any recommendations for any books strictly about grammar. There are a million of them on the market and each and every one of them has fans and detractors. If you're interested enough to delve into the subject, find what works for you.

      I will, however, recommend two grammar-adjacent books.

      —Joseph Williams's Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace is about achieving greater clarity in your sentences and paragraphs. Be careful, since there are other books by the author on the market with similar titles—Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace and Basics in Clarity and Grace. Anything before the 12th edition is good, since as best as I can tell, that's when some leftwing nonsense starts creeping in. Used copies are available all over the place.

      —Virginia Tufte's Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style is about applying rhetorical figures to your construction of sentences. Great book that just gets down to business, without a lot of fluff.

      —Henry Veatch's
      Loogic as a Human Instrument is an excellent "modern" (1959) undergraduate text on classical logic. It's out of print and used copies can be pricey. You can find copies at, here and here, as digital withdrawals from their online library, and here, with an available PDF download.

      —Edward Corbett's Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student is the best all-around volume on the subject that I know of. Stick with the 1st edition (1965), since more and more leftwing nonsense an pandering slipped in with each subsequent edition. Copies of the 1st edition are available from here and here as digital withdrawals from their online library.

    9. @Modus Pownens

      It's interesting how "critical thinking" came to replace "logic" in people's parlance, or at least two terms are as treated interchangeable. Funny enough, but critical thinking is its own subject now. It seems like it could be a good adjunct to logic.

    10. @Talmid

      Just a clarification: When I said " can read about in Flynn's article above," I meant Michael Flynn's article that I linked to in my first reply to Modus Pownens, toward the top of the comments.

  3. To quote James Madison, in Federalist no. 53, "In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates; every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob."

  4. If somebody believes that mass murder is taking place in Gaza, why exactly is it "shrieking" to loudly protest it? If protests of comparable intensity were taking place against abortion (may we live to see the day), and pro-choicers dismissed it as "shrieking," what would we think about that? If you disagree about whether the war in Gaza is murderous, then argue for that position. But responding to people protesting (what they regard as) mass murder by saying "wow, bad manners much?" is ridiculous.

    1. Way to miss the point. If the anti-abortion protestors were chanting "Death to abortion doctors," assaulting pro-choice students, disrupting classes for everyone, illegally occupying university property, blocking traffic, and generally engaging in illegal, harassing behavior, then, yes, an objective observer would have every right to describe them as "shrieking" and point out that their bad behavior is related to their youth in the manner Plato and Aristotle describe.

    2. Presumably, it is not called "shrieking" because it is a protest, but because of the style of the protest.

      After all, one could have a protest with lots of silence or with relatively long speeches followed by applause.

      But here (from the snippets I've seen) it seems that the protest mostly consists of loud expressions of anger. And, presumably, that's what is being described by the word "shrieking".

      And yes, it is perfectly fine to criticise people for protesting badly. Yes, even if they are protesting against what they consider to be "mass murder".

      Because, among other things, protesting badly is counterproductive. Furthermore, protesting badly means that the position of the protesters is not actually argued for all that much. So, there isn't much to argue with.

  5. What do you think we, in higher education, should do about it?

    I understand your desire to avoid the particulars of the current political situation, and I mean that also in my question. What one does with a particular riot depends on the situation, but what should we be doing in higher education to mitigate against the human frailty identified by the early philosophers?

    1. "God is dead and we have killed him." I obviously don't mean a Christian conception of God either. But in the losest sense of an organizing principle of real external hierarcy of values. We're in Nietzsche's furture. Even if I don't like it. Any attempt to "mitigate" this now is just preference having and will-to-power.

  6. Dear Professor Feser,

    What is a youth to do when he is confronted with the struggle of right belief? Being 17, I tend to engage in comparison between systems of theology and philosophy, not out of mere skepticism but out of an honest desire to understand (or at least to live by the proper understanding of) the first principle of things. In doing so I have become most convinced of Aristotelian-Thomism and the Catholic Faith in general.

    I would also be curious to see how anyone may relate this topic to Socrates' supposed corruption of the youth. The teaching of Socrates evidently caused a sort of intellectual rebelliousness among young men. Can't this often be good/lead to some development? It appears that even Christ encouraged a sort of virtuous rebelliousness in those who would leave the beliefs of their fathers and follow Him. This sort of philosophizing and truth-seeking inevitably happens in many of the young, so should they not be educated in said subjects so as to properly address these problems they face? Perhaps I am reading too much into the article.

    As you can see I am a youth rife with questions. Forgive me for my poorly ordered comment.

    1. Jack, fair questions. Let me give partial responses, on a few points:

      First, as a young man seeking to get educated, be prepared for it to be lengthy, and this implies that at many in-between points, what you have learned so far is importantly incomplete, so incomplete that you don't yet have enough ground to have a reliable opinion. (That is, no opinion that even you would rely on, much less others.) This is not a failing, it is a natural stage through which you will pass. But in that period, it's ok (even, right) to say "I am withholding judgment until I have learned more". Withholding judgment is the normative state of anyone who is lacking both sufficient data, and developed understanding of principles and standards of application. This isn't to say you won't have any opinions, you will and that's fine. But the manner in which you hold them, especially when they run along the lines of "this major social structure X is degenerate" typically should be held tentatively, as an opinion that YOU KNOW has incomplete grounding, and that might legitimately change with greater inputs.

      (One might point out that when you hold opinions in that tentative manner, that would rarely provide the impetus for law-breaking protests regarding that very subject.)

      It appears that even Christ encouraged a sort of virtuous rebelliousness in those who would leave the beliefs of their fathers and follow Him.

      Actually, it would be more accurate to suggest that Christ encouraged his disciples to a virtuous return to the true meaning of the Law and the Prophets - a meaning that had been held by earlier prophets and patriarchs, and many other Jews, but currently (at Jesus' time) rejected by the Pharisees and Saducees. Christianity holds to the real meaning of the revelation made to the Jews, plus the information that Christ is the messiah foretold.

      This sort of philosophizing and truth-seeking inevitably happens in many of the young, so should they not be educated in said subjects so as to properly address these problems they face?

      Indeed, they SHOULD be the proper order. That's the crux, I think. Before you can study the treatise on the Trinity in St. Thomas's Summa (with benefit), you need a lot of philosophy under your belt. And before you get a lot of that philosophy, you need some math, science, grammar, foreign language, and literature. And within that philosophy, there are early matters that must be grasped before more complicated (and more debated) matters are tackled. A LOT of the trouble with the celebrated (but anti-Catholic) philosophers of the early modern era (Hobbes, Locke, Hume, etc) is that they often tackle problems in the wrong order, without having the necessary tools at hand, and thus go haywire in their results. And a foundationally pernicious aspect of modern universities is the absolute rejection of that principle, that the student - precisely because he is a beginner - is not yet competent to set forth his own program of study of philosophy, (as if preference established the order of the sciences).

  7. I protested the Vietnam War, on my campus and on other campuses. Our protest helped to end that damn war. I never engaged in violence. I never disrespected veterans. My older brother was dropping bombs on North Vietnam, which also helped to end the war. He hated that war too,
    but for different reasons. He hated the way the U.S. fought it. We remain brothers forever.

  8. I agree with and share Prof Feser's general reservation about mob activities and gatherings.

    And I think he diagnoses the problem really well especially with regards to the inexperience of youth in this article.

    Nevertheless, I'd appreciate it more he could be more clear as to what is the solution. I am inclined to agree with Dr Jennifer Frey's twitter thread on the issue where she advises certain limits on time, place and manner of protest with perhaps loss of tenure or similar penalties as a way of enforcing consequences for not adhering to the restrictions. That makes sense to me because if a cause is important to you should be willing to lose something for it.

    Moreover, prof did mention in that mobs article that

    "Usually the cause is bad, and the participants are ignorant yahoos. But I dislike such rallies even when the cause is good and the participants well-meaning. They may sometimes be necessary, but they are always regrettable and to be avoided if possible."

    "They may sometimes be necessary."

    It would be interesting if Prof could expound on it a little bit.

    For example the pro life moment does a lot of work through gatherings of young adults and college students

    At the moment equally unruly pro Israel gatherings have formed in opposition to the Palestine protests.

    I also severely detested both the blm riots and the capitol invasion. I found both of them to be despicable.

    Nevertheless I'd be willing to grant that many of the people at these protests sincerely beleive in their cause and beleive that the mass gathering was their only way to bring attention to it.

    A wonderful Thomist philosopher who I greatly admire and respect Dr Josh Hochschild wrote an article about his presence at the Jan 6th protests and spoke of the general tenor of the day. He felt that the unruly side that eventually stormed the capitol had nothing to do with what the protest really represented.

    Now personally I think the cause was not justifiable and actually stupid as I do of BLM's cause. Nevertheless I do think that lots of people do beleive in their cause and as Dr Feser admitted sometimes the gatherings may even be necessary.

    So suppose a well meaning and serious college student does think that Israel horrifyingly went too far in their response to the horrific Oct 7 attack. Or what if they feel that Israel targeting humanitarian safe zones to get one terrorist (brings to mind the example of Father Ford where he compared such tactics to using a hammer to kill a fly sitting on the head) should not be subsidised by the American government.What should be the avenue for them ?

    Or what should be the avenue for Patriotic Americans who feel that the elites in government are unjustifiably getting us involved in a broader conflict that will involve their fathers, sons and brothers, widow their wives and daughters, for a cause that doesn't really affect them.

    What should be the avenue for jews to voice their frustration because they feel the USA isn't doing enough to defend Israel, where they presumably have loads of close family.

    All these sub sections of the populace probably genuinely feel that the only way to bring attention to their cause is to rally. Maybe it's the fault of our system that the leaders feel insulated from their voters until the voters come together and only then they may choose to act whatever their cause might be.

    We may to well create more rational and intellectual ways to get an idea of their voters thoughts and frame policy as such before they turn to such unruly and as Doc says irrational protests.

    I'd also say on a further note and this is not a dig on anyone, it's rather ironic that of all the dumb and even satanic things that the woke left regularly protests about, "trans- rights", "equal- fertility" rights, "love is love" and what have you, this is the issue that has put the scanner on the nature of protests.
    A rare issue where probably people on both sides have genuine concerns.

    1. It seems to me that there are a couple of categories of actions one might take against what they perceive to be unjust actions by the government.

      One action that appears to have been particularly effective was what the original civil rights movement engaged in regularly to expose racist laws. If there is a law that you see as unjust, publicly breaking that law and then accepting the consequence (often jail time) is a really good way to get the public who is unaware or previously ambivalent about that law to realize "wow, that's actually a really stupid law, we should change it." Note that the primary purpose of this kind of protest is to garner support for your cause, not to cause as much inconvenience as possible. A similar thing happens occasionally in the pro life movement when you see a story of a nun who is arrested for praying the rosary quietly outside an abortion clinic. Arresting someone for quietly praying outside an abortion clinic is obviously an unjust thing to do, so this is kind of "protest" is incredibly effective at increasing public support for your cause.

      Notice the difference between that kind of protest and the kinds going on in support of Palestine on college campuses. There is nothing intrinsically linking sitting in a tent outside a Columbia university building and innocent people being murdered in Gaza. There is *definitely* nothing nothing linking innocent Gazans being murdered and verbally harassing Jewish students and telling them that they are unwelcome on their own campus. This kind of protest is not the kind that is intended as a goal to garner support for the cause, it is clearly intended as a show of force and intimidation. I don't think you can even argue in good faith that the issue of what is going on in Gaza is something that needs more national attention, and that this is the actual goal of the protests. It's all the media wants to talk about already. These protests are neither shining a spotlight on a previously unreported issue nor are they pointing to an overlooked cost of the war.

    2. Hi Anonymous
      Thanks for your insightful reply!
      Yes , I agree setting tents and encampments are stupid and doesn't really make a difference.

      On the point of jewish harrasment. I am rather skeptical. Most incidences that are reported seem to highly exaggerated. Tbh I don't see any difference between them and everytime some trans student falsely complain of harrasment. Any legitimate criticism of Israel is associated with anti semitism.
      Although at Columbia a bunch of students did break in and enter and vandalise. I think that's wrong.

    3. In the last few hours , these protest have definitely got much worse then I thought they were. They have gone on to set up Jew Free zones, areas where jewish students cannot enter etc. That is definitely Anti-Semitic. These protests have gone on to become a detriment to any genuine cause or intention that they purport to represent. They should be disbanded.

    4. @Norm: "Although at Columbia a bunch of students did break in and enter and vandalise. I think that's wrong."

      It's not clear how much the break-in was spurred by "outside agitators." The police and university have said that non-Columbia individuals played leading roles in occupying and vandalizing Hamilton Hall.

      Of course many of the protesters outside the university's gates, who were harassing Jewish people, were not affiliated with Columbia. I heard that some were recognized from protests in Georgia against "Cop City."

    5. @Norm: following up, today reports say more than 47% of the protesters arrested at Columbia and City College on Tuesday were not affiliated with those schools.

      Both schools have thousands of students - Columbia something like 35,000. We shouldn't think that the generality of college students are protesting. Nor are they all "woke." [not that you said they are] Back in 1972, the majority of young people who voted voted for Nixon not McGovern.

    6. Clearly the point in protesting in this way specifically on a college campus is to give the impression to the public that the protesters are some way affiliated with the university, either as students or as staff.

      Since the protesters association with college students is clearly something the protesters intend as part of their image, it isn't obvious to me why it's being uncharitable to point out that their chosen identity is not actually a positive selling point for the argument they are making.

      Either they actually are mostly students at the university, in which case the point Feser is making is relevant, or they are not students at the university but still think that protests being done by students at the university would be a more powerful message, in which case the point Feser is making is still relevant,

  9. "What then, would Plato and Aristotle think of the mobs of shrieking student protesters .... "

    Probably that they were ill reared rather than ill born: a more generous assessment than the genocidal or eliminitivist fixations of the borgish organisms of the left.

    But the topic expands beneath one's focus: it's almost too big to get a good handle on, or at least to be approached from one angle.

    But, I'm convinced that as with many other sociopolicical and moral ordering questions, it resolves to an anthropological question.

    In the case of morals, a generalized philosophical anthropology will condition the eventual form which the proximate social rules take. It sets the limiting boundaries much in the way the U.S. Constitution and its principles condition and limit the boundaries of legitimate statute and judicial operation.

    Somewhat intertwined with the limiting principles of legitimacy derived from the philosophical anthropology, is an empirical social and psychological anthropology which subsequently impacts the practical application and enforcement of legitimately constructed law under the titles of discretion and extenuation.

    And revealed here, in the striking human differences in personality, emotionalism, the tendency to projectively identify, individual capacity for emotional self-regulation, and the personal need for group affiliation, acceptance, and affirmation, is where we see human differences manifesting as so great that the construction of a coherent and generalizable philosophical anthropology based on agreed upon species characteristics and a shared moral teleology, may be rendered logically impossible.

    Pretend for a moment that there were real vampires living among normal humans. Would it be possible to construct a set of social rules securing the interests of both parties in one society?

    What about those with little to no emotional control, or high levels of impulsivity?

    Psychologists have long established measures of personality and character traits. Assume for the sake of argument, that just as with schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, a trait for extreme social neediness accompanied by moral lability were established as lineage specific assortative mating developed traits?

    At what point is one not dealing with human variation which might be accommodated within one system of law and rights developed from a shared philososophical anthropology, but rather, with a diverging species having differentiated natures and conflicting and irreconcilable life interests?

    Consider the famous Pew research finding that 56% of polled young, white, progressive females, self reported having been clinically diagnosed with a psychogogical or emotional disorder. Do they constitute a self-replicating population? Or are they the mere coalesence of an otherwise randomly generated distribution? If however, self-replicating, are their behaviors to be accommodated with special dispensations? If so, why?

    Psychologists like Jon Haidt might argue that cosseting and permissive child rearing practices are partly responsible for the psychological disturbances they manifest.

    But what if they are "born that way" just as as the sex perverts claim to be? What then? Religion, would just paper over the problem by corralling them, and constantly adjusting their behavior through external influence. They would still be the same intrinsically psychologically disturbed or problematically "vulnerable" people; just, reined in through constant effort.

    If this scenario seems like a right wing fever dream, it is instead the flip side of the progressive identity ideology.

    Progressives were quite aware of the redounding effects of their own anthropological constructions. It is only recently that having gained the levers of institutional control, that they have begun to take ownership of their own "eliminationist" principles imagining that they are now safe from any effective blowback. "Why bother to argue?" they think. "You are just punching a Nazi "


  11. Two thoughts:

    1. In Re Youth: To govern is fundamentally a matter of prudence, and more specifically it is a matter of prudence as applied not individually, but en masse, to large numbers and in respect of many interwoven causes and effects. By definition, the young cannot have achieved the necessary range of facts and understanding of the relationships of facts to make that level of prudential judgments required for governing.

    The fact that these particular young people are distinguished in their ignorance of history is only icing on the cake to the conclusion that we should not be looking to the young for prudence. I dislike their mouthing propaganda put in their heads by their professors (and the leftmedia)...but I would dislike it as much if they were equally mindlessly yelling other slogans for other causes for which I have greater sympathy. In particular, I detest the idea that one should show support for Gaza sufferers by protesting at Columbia, as if Columbia were somehow an important locus of causes by which evils going on at Gaza are created, of all things! If you MUST throw a tantrum against something you hate, at least throw the tantrum in the direction of those truly responsible, for cryin' out loud. Suppose there are some remote connections between the university's investments and pro-Israel entities: So? Half the purchases any student makes probably have just as much connection - so stop buying anything! Connection to somebody that has a connection to an evil is: the human condition. Why, in my ancestry, there are very likely Roman soldiers who murdered!

    2. While I don't normally cater to conspiracy theories, I find the nearly thoughtless lockstep of liberal university students against Israel, in this situation, to be mighty suspect: before Oct. 7, there was hardly a peep out of them about Gaza. And on the whole, there is very little overlap between the goals of the typical American university liberal student and the goals of Hamas. If nobody had told them to favor Hamas and Gaza in this dispute, how many of them would have concluded on their own that their areas of interest are served by passionately protesting for Hamas and against Israel?

    Let me rephrase that question for you in terms of one syllable: How many could have found Gaza on a map?

    Why aren't they protesting about East Timor? Tibet? Venezuela? Afghanistan? South Sudan? Who told them that Gaza is more important than all these others?

    I have no doubt that these students are passionate. I doubt whether THEY know why they are passionate in this particular case specifically.

    1. The Israeli government's policy towards Palestinians has been a cause celebre on the American left for decades. Nothing sprang inexplicably out of the ground here. More importantly, very few pro-Palestinian protestors would describe themselves as pro-Hamas. That's not to say many of them aren't antisemites (the leader of the Columbia protest obviously was); but they're not protesting in support of Hamas. They're protesting against the actions of Netanyahu's government and the IDF, which has a long history of regarding the laws of war as more like the "suggestions of war." I would love to see Prof. Feser weigh in on whether Israel's crusade against Hamas even is a just war, given the huge number of civilians who are being caught in the crossfire and the dubious military necessity of prolonging the conflict.

    2. @Great Thurible: good question. As I recall, Prof. Feser suggested that Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion might not be a just war.

    3. Prof. Feser suggested that Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion might not be a just war.

      Never said that and that isn't my view

    4. @Prof. Feser, my apologies for not going back and checking what you wrote. I should have done that and seen that you were discussing a NATO military action against Russia not Ukrainian resistance.

    5. More importantly, very few pro-Palestinian protestors would describe themselves as pro-Hamas. That's not to say many of them aren't antisemites (the leader of the Columbia protest obviously was); but they're not protesting in support of Hamas.

      I actually agree that (by and large) they are not protesting in support of Hamas...considered formally. And probably many of them would decline to position themselves in favor of explicit Hamas policies, including terrorist policies.

      Yet, a great many of them are also so ignorant of the facts on the ground that they could not even begin to tell you of which of the actions of Israel are more or less directly the response of other, prior, longstanding Hamas terrorist violence (i.e. besides the Oct. 7 actions), nor say how many Palestinians supported Hamas officials precisely because of their intransigent policies regarding the existence of Israel, past violence, etc. That is to say, if they can't distinguish such things, then their support of "Palestinians" might just count de facto as support for Hamas, being a distinction without a practical difference.

      Those who know the history and can make the distinctions, I would credit differently. And I can credit violence of Hamas not performed as terrorism differently from their terrorist actions. And I can do the same for Israel. Given that even among the oppressed Palestinians who live in parts of Israel that are not occupied, support for Hamas generally has been distinctly sub-par and willingness to have Israeli citizenship higher, I would suggest that a real solution in the region is difficult enough that virtually every possible angry slogan at any protest would be basically ignorant, naive nonsense. Could we try putting the entire 14M population on prozac for 3 generations?

    6. Thurible,

      Not "inexplicably," perhaps, but "unjustifiably," I think is the more apt term.

      While we're asking questions:
      1) Which laws of war specifically is the IDF treating as mere "suggestions" in Gaza, as well as during the greater Israeli-Arab conflict of the past 100 years?
      2) If Israel treats the laws of war as "suggestions," does not Hamas simply ignore them when deliberately refusing to differentiate its combatants from civilians, deploying ordinance in and around mosques, schools, hospitals, etc., and targeting Israeli civilian populations, most notoriously on Oct. 7, in absence of any clear or feasible military objective?
      3) How do you know most of the protestors are not "pro-Hamas" but just merely critical in practice of Israeli policy when they:
      a. participate in mobs that approvingly shout antisemitic slogans that imply the liquidation of Israel's Jewish population like "From the river to the sea...," "Intifada, intifada..." and "We don't want no two states; we want 48," which are all in line with the stated genocidal aims of Hamas' 1988 charter?
      b. neglect to articulate and differentiate their non--pro-Hamas views from the "bad apples" who are explicitly pro-Hamas and are leading these mobs, thus giving the appearance they agree with the terrorist sympathizers speaking on behalf of these mobs they again willingly are making themselves a part?
      c. harass, bully, assault, wish death/murder upon everyday Jews who aren't representatives of the government of Israel, as evidenced by increasing numbers of anecdotes and online videos?
      d. solely fixate on and assign blame to Jews and Israel for the human cost of the war instead of Hamas, who instigated this conflict when it slaughtered 1,200 people, specifically directing its savagery against women, children and the elderly, and kidnapped 200+ more and continues to refuse to relinquish the hostages, agree to ceasefire agreements and to surrender despite knowingly having no means to defeat the IDF by force of arms?
      4) What should Israel do instead if it's a "dubious military necessity" to destroy Hamas -- whose leaders have vowed to repeatedly enact the barbarism of Oct. 7 -- fulfill its sovereign obligation to recover as many captive citizens who remain alive, and strategically weaken its archenemy Iran's capabilities to surround and strike at Israel through Islamist terror proxies?

    7. Tony: I really like basically everything about your reply. "A real solution in the region is difficult enough that virtually every possible angry slogan at any protest would be basically ignorant, naive nonsense" is a great way of putting it.

      1) The most obvious example would be the fact that Israel has kept the territory it won in previous conflicts with Palestine and its other neighbors, expanding its borders through warfare. You're simply not allowed to do that under international law, no matter what the casus belli. As for this most recent conflict, the charges are that the IDF is doing nothing to minimize civilian casualties and is indiscriminately targeting civilian structures and sometimes deliberately killing civilians in cold blood (including Palestinian Christians and Israelis mistaken for Palestinians). They've also (either knowingly or out of sheer incompotence) bombed multiple humanitarian sites and killed aid workers. On top of all this, the conflict has displaced nearly everyone in Gaza and seriously interfered with people's access to basic necessities like food and water (and denying civilians access to their basic needs is a war crime).

      2) As any toddler who's ever gotten in trouble for fighting with their sibling knows, the fact that the other person also broke the rules does not justify you for doing so. You're engaging in a blatant ad hominem fallacy.

      3) Once again, nobody is denying that antisemitism runs deep in the Palestinian cause. But the presence of antisemitic rhetoric does not mean either that they are not genuinely opposed to Israel's current and historical policies towards Palestinians or that they don't have a point. Once again, to say otherwise is an ad hominem.

      4) Well, just how much of a blank check does Israel get to "fulfill its sovereign obligation to recover as many captive citizens who remain alive?" Think about the proportionality here. In its (supposed) quest to recover the ~250 hostages, Israel has killed something like 15,000 Palestinian civilians. How would we feel if the US government (or whever you're from) kidnapped 1 foreign citizen, and that, during the operation to recover its kidnapped citizen, a foreign power killed 60 American civilians? Or if police routinely ran over dozens of civilians in pursuit of kidnappers or human traffickers? Netanyahu himself estimates that Israel has killed at least 1 Palestinian civilian for every Hamas fighter. Even America's exceptionally brutal crusade against Imperial Japan (and believe me, I have no sympathy for the dead of that racist, genocidal empire) killed significantly more combatants than civilians (a ratio of around 7:2). So much of the rhetoric is support of Israel talks only about the justice of the ends while ignoring the means. An actual just war requires both.

      (Incidentally, I think the reason Palestine is proving so divisive within the American Left is that the convergence of humanitarian and racist rhetoric doesn't fit how the world is supposed to work according to the progressive worldview. Racist language is usually taken to prove the complete moral bankruptcy of the cause that uses it, and so those on the Left must either ignore the antisemitism and maintain that Palestinians are the "good guys" or recognize the antisemitism and conclude that Israelis are the "good guys"—no further nuance allowed. There's no room for a legitimate cause which is nonetheless tainted by racism and needs to be aggressively reformed.)

    8. Thurible,
      Without addressing everything you say, I want to highlight one claim: “…Israel has kept territory it won in previous conflicts with Palestine...expanding its borders through warfare.”

      This is true in the most literal sense, but very misleading. Israel was most certainly not the aggressor of the Six Day War (‘67). In the prior Suez conflict, the UN supported them explicitly in the view that the Suez must remain open for passage without discrimination against any particular nation. And indeed, Israel explicitly pointed out both then and after that closing the Canal (including the Straits of Tiran) to them would be an act of war to which they would respond.

      Fast forward to ‘67. What happens? Nasser decides to close the Straits of Tiran, specifically targeting 90% of Israeli oil movement. Not only that, he lied about the fact of mining the Straits in the first place. And even more: he stated explicitly on more than a few occasions that his goal was not some localized or low level conflict. He had every intention of destroying Israel itself wherever and by whatever means.

      Now, as we know today, Israel had intelligence that allowed them to respond *immediately*, and they did so with such speed that they even circled back from Egypt to meet Jordanian forces head on and Syrian forces thereafter.

      And then- of course- they ceded the *overwhelming* majority of land they controlled and occupied in the war. They made a plenty legitimate argument for their occupation of Golam Heights entirely appropriately to securing the border of any nation who had been attacked with a view to their utter destruction. And they were, indeed, willing to negotiate the West Bank thereafter, despite the breakdowns thereafter.

      In all of this, both Geneva and the UN had originally *acknowledged* the legitimacy and requirement of such occupations after conflicts, assuming they weren’t carried out by the “belligerent” nation. It was only well *after the fact* of the war had ended that policies were passed with the intention of - far and away- targeting Israel alone by qualifying policies that had already been on the books.

      So yeah, from the perspective of history and fact, I think its obvious Israel was in the right by both the spirit *and* letter of the law. Nor is this changed by considerations of neglect or mistreatment thereafter. Those things matter enormously, but they dont in the least support the idea that the expansion of Israel’s borders was illegitimate any more than any defensive nation in history adjusts its borders appropriately to the conflicts that had ensued.

    9. Thurible,
      I was going to try to be brief in my response, but there's a lot here to contest, and that’s just not how it turned out:

      A) On “1)” in my original comment to you, ANON has articulated a rejoinder better than I could. I don't think you're an antisemite, but you appear ignorant on the history of the conflict, the relevant legal agreements, and the differing states of relations between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab nations through the years -- like the protesters you're defending. What rational grounds, then, do you or the protesters have to actually criticize Israel if you're both erroneously operating under such vast misapprehension of the basic facts of the conflict?
      Likewise, I think your understanding of how the conflict in Gaza is unfolding is way off base too.

      B) The IDF, in previous operations in Gaza, and I know in the early stages of this one, goes out of its way to alert civilians through dropped leaflets or mass text messages to evacuate before they're going to strike a building. They've also let in lots of humanitarian aid, which is pretty remarkable in the long annals of warfare when an army besieges a city. The problem is Hamas pilfers the aid, depriving the civilians of it who need it. I thought I have also read that Israel has fought to establish and secure corridors so the aid can be distributed.

      C) You underestimate the conventional firepower of modern militaries. Consider that the Allied fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo resulted in casualty estimates of 25,000 and 100,000 respectively. It's very plausible Israel could turn the whole Gaza Strip into a smoking cinder. It hasn't, which isn't to say it ought to or what the Allies did in WW2 was moral or the IDF has conducted its operations ideally. What it does give is a baseline for comparison and a sense of scale in terms of loss life when it comes to military operations that don’t discriminate between military objectives and civilians. As mentioned above, it’s well-known that Israel does differentiate. According to the 1:1 ratio you cite, you estimate the total dead over 6 months to be 30,000. Dresden and Tokyo were done in single nights.


    10. ...

      D) Your comparison between Netanyahu's 1:1 insurgent-to-civilian ratio with our supposed 7:2 combatant-to-civilian ratio in the Pacific theater of WW2 is not comparing apples to apples. Most of the fighting and battles like Midway, Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, Iwo Jima (Okinawa and the retaking of Manila/Philippines are notable exceptions) took place at sea or on sparsely populated islands, not densely-populated urban areas and cities. It would also be interesting to know if that figure you cite takes into account the casualties of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo and other notable bombing campaigns against Japanese cities on the home islands. A better comparison would be more recent cases of actual urban warfare like the Battles of Mosul against ISIL or Fallujah in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      Hamas was estimated to have 30,000-40,000 fighters at the start of this war. I think Rafah is suspected to be a stronghold for the last 4 battalions out of the 24 Hamas had. Based on these figures, the range of Hamas deaths is 25,000-33,000. You cite 15,000 dead civilians, half of 30,000 deaths -- Netanyahu's 1:1. Right now the number being reported is 34,500 total via Google, which I don’t see distinguishing between civilian vs. combatant deaths or civilian deaths caused by the IDF vs. those caused by Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad like in the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital incident.

      From what I can dig up, 10,000 civilians died during Mosul while ISIL boasted 2,000-4,000 jihadis. In 2017, I don't remember the Iraqi army and coalition forces being under such withering scrutiny for crimes against humanity, for “genocide,” or accused of negligence when it comes to minimizing civilian casualties after destroying ISIS when its ratio, if my calculations here are right, is greater than the ratio reflecting the IDF’s performance in Gaza now.

      At the very least, both figures seem to be in the ballpark of one another, suggesting perhaps the IDF’s campaign is not so callous to civilians as critics insist. Bear in mind, too, casualty figures from the Hamas-owned Gaza Ministry of Health, who has every incentive to lie, deserve a degree of skepticism. (See statistician Abraham Wymer's analysis in Tablet.)

      E) Hamas -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- wants the Palestinians to die en masse. They are deliberately using the people who elected them as meat-shields and props to manipulate international opinion against Israel in order to survive and thus win to butcher another day. We have a macabre and unusual situation where the besieging forces, contra some popular narratives, are taking extraordinary steps to minimize civilian casualties while the besieged forces are tactically trying to maximize civilian casualties of the people on whose behalf they claim to be fighting, which never seems to be considered before the criticisms of Israel start.
      F) None of my rhetorical questions in my original reply commit the ad hominems you're alleging. But perhaps clarification is needed: I was not arguing that Hamas broke the laws of war so Israel is justified in doing so. Nor did I argue that the criticisms against Israel from the protesters don't have merit solely because these critics offering them are antisemites. In my view, the criticisms of Israel fail because the claims, assumptions, and inferences underlying them are verifiably false and or patently fallacious. In “2),” I was just pointing out the absurd double standard Israel is held to by critics while Hamas, and the Palestinians as a whole, are held to none, especially when I think an objective reading of the history shows that, holistically, the Palestinians are guilty of far worse than what Israel, charitably speaking, can be accused of since Jews started coming back in large numbers to the Holy Land in the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration. Israel has not been the aggressor here, and the Palestinian Arab’s relative weakness and underdog status does not confer moral superiority.


    11. ...

      G) As a matter of fact, I'm also just not buying that there is some rationally defensible moderate position here that's obscured by the excesses of "antisemitic rhetoric" and behavior we've seen with these campus mobs and public demonstrations across Western cities. What is it then? I would think the moderates would want to distinguish themselves and their positions from the heirs of Hitler and the Nazis instead of falling into rank behind them.

      See no evil; hear no evil; speak no evil, I guess. But if a movement talks like pro-Hamas genocidal antisemitism, walks like pro-Hamas genocidal antisemitism, then it probably is really just pro-Hamas genocidal antisemitism.

      I mean Hitler also did kind of have “a point” when he noticed that lots of communists, especially prominent ones, were Jews, and communism is indeed horrible. Deep down beneath his "antisemitic rhetoric," he was legitimately aggrieved about how the Treaty of Versailles was unduly harsh when it wasn’t just Germany’s fault for WW1. It’s also true there were lots of ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, and “Gdansk” was just Danzig renamed, with it and the surrounding “corridor” being arbitrarily made part of Poland…

      You seem like a smart guy, but c'mon man! We've seen this all before and at universities no less!

    12. If Israel is merely engaging in (hypothetically temporary) military occupation in the interests of rational self-defense in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, then why has Israel established dozen of civilian settlements in the occupied territories? That was ruled out in the Fourth Geneva Convention, nearly two decades before the Six-Day War, so there's no use claiming that Israel is being victimized by some ex post facto law invented just for them. Even the US government, Israel's best buddy in the world, said this was a violation of international law.

      As for all this number crunching that I seem to have provoked, you're sidestepping the basic issue: Proportionality. It's no good to claim the huge number of civilian deaths can be laid entirely at the feet of Hamas. I gave you numerous examples of the IDF killing unarmed civilians with no provocation. Simply put, I don't believe the Israeli government's claims that it carefully avoids inflicting civilian casualties. The talk doesn't line up with the walk. The IDF will drop leaflets on one area and then bomb the place they told the civilians to evacuate to. There have been numerous instances of IDF soldiers shooting unarmed civilians on all sides. And again, what's all this about? Destroying Hamas, the organization that Netanyahu's government was actively supporting to undermine the Palestinian Authority until it blew up in his face? Rescuing the hostages, despite the massive human cost? The IDF has killed significantly more Israeli hostages than it has rescued, and the idea they going to hunt down the remainder before they either die in Israeli airstrikes or are murdered by Hamas is sheer lunacy. What's the point? Are the lives of the remaining hostages and tens of thousands of civlians less important than refusing to negotiate with an evil organization?

      Have you actually met any Israelis, incidentally? The ones I've met would give Americans and Chinese a run for their money in the jingoism department. Very strong support for their government and military, combined with a siege mindset. I'm not saying I don't understand. When you grow up seeing rockets being fired at your country on a daily basis, of course you're going to feel persecuted and not want to hear what the other side as has to say (assuming, of course, there are only two sides). But the Netanyahu regime is playing the Israeli public, and he's playing the American media, too.

      (P.S. I'm glad you brought up the Balfour Declaration, because it was the British Empire who got us into this mess in the first place, encouraging both Zionism and Arab nationalism and then fleeing the scene. They're the real bad guys here.)

    13. One more thing on the topic of "suggestions of war:" The IDF makes no bones about placing the burden on civilians when it comes to distinguishing between combatants and noncombatants. That's why those three Israeli hostages were shot by the IDF back in December: even being unarmed, removing their shirts, waving a white flag, and speaking Hebrew was not enough to prove to that they were noncombatants in the eyes of the Israeli military. That standard, regardless of whatever legitimate security concerns underlie it, is effectively an inversion of the principles of the Geneva Convention, which places the burden on "the Parties of the conflict" to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants.

    14. Although I have opinions on a lot of things in this matter, I’m gonna do my best to stick at least this singular topic for now.

      So, on what basis have Israel’s settlements been argued illegal? The singular article I see cited everywhere as the law Israel committed themselves to before the Six Day War is Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. And this is actually a really short and simple article that can be summarized by its first sentence:

      “Individual or mass forcible transfers or deportations of protected persons from the Occupied territory to [any other territory]…are prohibited.”

      The article goes on to grant that some movement might be necessary, so aim to do it in XYZ way when it is. Etc. All things said and done, in my view theres exactly one sentence of import remaining:

      “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer its own population into the territory.”

      Now, correct me if I’m wrong- and I well could be- but my impression after reading through many arguments on this matter remains that it is that concluding sentence that is 99% of the argument. The scholars I have read don’t attempt to argue the first case because its clear the conflict continues to exist precisely because Israel did *not* engage in any intentional deportation at the level of the state.

      So the question is: Did Israel transfer its population into the territory? I would argue it has not. The notion of any “transfer” is a state sanctioned movement of people. But a family that builds a settlement beyond its countries borders is not a “transfer” at all. And thats common sense, right? The average person would never even consider describing that event with that term. And thats precisely how the settlements have happened, right? People *want* to go there because their historical roots. Nobody is forcing them or requiring them to go. In some cases, people build settlements as a community. In others, it is individual families. But the long and short of it is, they aren’t being “transferred” at all.

      Now, as it happens, I think Israel has indeed been negligent in its enforcement of those settlers’ conduct. That is indeed a longer discussion, but it is *different* discussion. The fact of the matter is that I dont buy the common argument that those settlements are illegal. By the text, they’re not. And even by the framing of the article itself, it is obvious what is being discussed is top-down state intervention.

    15. Oh, come on. You don't just walk into a region under military occupation and build a town without the implicit (or, let's be real, explicit) approval of the occupying power. If the occupation really was about national security and not a thinly-disguised colonial mechanism for expanding Jewish land at the expense of Arab land, those people would never have been allowed to settle there. "Gee, I don't know how it happened, all these towns just sprouted out of nowhere" is not so much a defense as an admission of guilt.

  12. I have a question about the "mechanics of governance" part. Are the mechanics really seperable from the form of political organization?

    Having a universal and equal right of vote for everyone, just seems like a form of egalitarianism that tends produce many others.

  13. Interesting story about Plato's last evening and his burial site.

  14. For as much as leftists like to talk about being "on the right side of history" on all their particular views, the violence with which they react when challenged on those views certainly doesn't seem like what you would do if you truly believed that your side was inevitably going to win in the end.

    You would expect them to look a lot more like Christian martyrs,

    1. WCB

      Trumpism. Enough said.


    2. As if to say,
      The best principles will have the best proponents.

  15. "Unseemly talk… results in conduct of a like kind. Especially, therefore, must it be kept away from youth… And since we exclude all unseemly talk, we must also forbid gazing at debased paintings or stories… It should be laid down that younger persons shall not be spectators at comedies or recitals of iambics, not, that is to say, until they have reached the age at which they come to recline at banquets with others and share in the drinking; by this time their education will have rendered them completely immune to any harm that might come from such spectacles… We must keep all that is of inferior quality unfamiliar to the young, particularly things with an ingredient of wickedness or hostility. (Book VII, at pp. 446-47 of the Sinclair and Saunders translation)"

    My goodness. How could we ever turn our backs on such thinkers?

    It's truly a shame to live in a modernity that ignores and turns a blind eye to ASTOUNDING thinkers like Plato and Aristotle.

    Thank God for people like them to exist -- and for people like Ed too.

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful perennial knowledge on this post, Ed.

  16. It's a little Narcissistic to say to students that if they study philosophy they'll become great philosophers. Like saying that everyone who takes Physics I will end up like Albert Einstein.

    Be realistic. Everyone is gifted differently. Most will never become like Plato, no matter how much they study. Aim for success: getting complete and total yokels to practice a modicum more critical thinking.

  17. Miguel CervantesMay 1, 2024 at 1:38 AM

    The diabolical paganism of the New World was overthrown by angry young men, not philosophers. This was a very positive mob. Their "emotions" and "stubbornness" saved the day in any number of tricky situations. It is true that they were followed by the Castilian missionaries and administrators. The whole thing continued to work well because a few Jesuit and Dominican social theorists got their ideas right.

  18. "Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.": 'And do not listen to those who keep saying, 'The voice of the people is the voice of God.' because the tumult of the crowd is always close to madness.' Alcuin of York, Works, Epistle 127.

  19. So I supposed Plato actually approved of the execution of Socrates, then? Corrupting the youth with philosophy, teaching them to argue with their elders, etc.?

  20. which would appear to show conservative views are the norm in society, as a whole. and, perhaps, both philosophic and theosophic teachings and admonishings are reflections of rationality and logic?
    never trust anyone under thirty. quite so. younger people tend to be impressionable and subject to whim.
    Socrates as rabble rouser and revolutionary? that is a novel perspective. *perhaps he doth generalize too much*.

  21. Carl Trueman at First Things magazine, elaborates on the youth factor that is the main point of the OP: "This exaltation of youth is simultaneously the exaltation of ignorance and incompetence. Early claims of Israeli occupation of Gaza [students were ignorant that Israel had long left Gaza before Oct 7, 2024] and the continued sloppy use of the language of genocide, fueled by people at the UN who could benefit from using a dictionary [it was not only the youth but their seniors at the UN who were ignorant as to what constitutes genocide], are two obvious examples of the former. As for the latter, when, for example, did adult revolutionaries hold hunger strikes lasting a whole twelve hours or seize buildings and then demand that the university authorities give them food and water. I have no affection for Che Guevara, but he did at least spend time in a Bolivian jungle while trying to foment revolution. I presume he never once considered whining to the Bolivian government about the harsh conditions of jungle life and had to find his own food and water. A cynic might say that even our revolutionaries are pathetic these days."

  22. Aristotle also says that those who bear arms in defense of the state are entitled to a share in its governance. So Aristotle might say that the explosion of youth activism in the 1960s, much of it chaotic and destructive, was a predictable result of conscripting 18-year-olds for a war that their country didn't need to fight at a time when in all but a few states they were denied the franchise.

    1. Aristotle also says that those who bear arms in defense of the state are entitled to a share in its governance.

      While I generally agree with Aristotle's take on a lot of things, I think he missed important issues in this theory. The most obvious (for this context) is this: those who most ought to have a role in governance are those who are most able to govern usefully, fittingly, well. "Entitled to" is simply a category mistake for governing, as it is properly a duty and a burden carried for the good of others. In an age - probably in the pre-Troy days for Greeks - where ability to physically quell your foes would significantly count as part of the "ability to rule", then bearing arms in defense of the state might be a significant (but partial) criterion for establishing who "can" govern usefully, fittingly, well. But such a condition of the need for raw might won't long last in any stable state as a significant part of governing, and after that it is far from a useful criterion - it might even be a negative indicator. Far and away the criteria would entail things like prudence, information processing, self-control, possibly charisma, etc. In a well-organized state, the role of governance should not be assigned to those who are unable to govern well, and "fighting for your state" simply doesn't overlap with "governs well" sufficiently to constitute a good indicator of the ability/willingness to have a role in governance.

      Maybe those who rose to (and served well as) officers should automatically have a share in governance. But then, rising through ranks to being selected as an officer and accomplishing the role well just is ruling (a smaller entity).

    2. Maybe “entitled” was a poor choice of words on my part, and then again maybe not, it was a paraphrase from memory. In any case these speculations are all interesting, but this observation of Aristotle’s occurs not in his discussion of the ideal regime form but the discussion of how to build a pretty good regime that will be stable given the constrains of human nature and circumstances. He also says by way of illustration that a country that needs a large navy has to have a government that inclined toward democracy because the sailors cannot be denied a role in governance.

      In any case, it seems to me that the experiment of mid-century America in mass conscription of legal minors who were denied political participation is a point in favor of Aristotle’s view and against interesting speciation to the contrary. The experiment resulted in widespread youth activism—and social instability. Some of the music was really good though. So, there’s that.

  23. I have fond memories of the movie
    "Billy Jack."

  24. I am puzzled about the position of those who defend the Palestinians and their "rights", e.g. one of the major complaints is that Israel refuses to honor Palestinian refugees' "right to return". Is this "problem" an issue only because of a newer international standard than what obtained before, say, 1956? All over the world, there have been massive forced moves of whole ethnic populations: between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, Hindus and Muslims to India and Pakistan in 1947, 12 million Germans evicted after WW2 and forced to move, Ukrainians and Poles forced to move when their borders were changed, other central European ethnic groups around Yugoslavia and so on, Japanese evicted from Taiwan, and more. And before the 20th century, when 2 countries fought a war over territory and one of them won, the loser lost the territory and (for those who survived the war) had to leave: to the victors went the spoils, and the land.

    In all of these, there was no room for any "right of return" for those forced to flee. Nor was there any permanent "refugee" status for them. They left, and either they got on with life where force deposited them, or they tried to keep moving to somewhere else more desirable. To be a "refugee" means to be uprooted and in transition toward some other goal, but none of them were refugees with any (allowed) claims on returning back to where they were evicted from.

    The Palestinians and their Arab supporters in surrounding countries lost 3 wars to Israel. Somebody please enlighten me why Israel doesn't get to dictate that they are grabbing territory the same way has happened thousands of times in the past? I am not asking about the justice of it, that would depend on whether Israel or Palestinians had fought a just war (and lots of other details too), but about the international standards on what victors get to insist upon. Why does a lot of the world imagine that Israel doesn't get to dictate terms to Palestinians, the same way that the victors evicted Japanese from Taiwan after WW2?

    Is there a huge double standard here?

    1. Well, "might makes right" is definitely an argument Israel supporters could make. It would certainly be ironic, given that the animating mythology of Zionism and the Jewish state is centered around the Holocaust and the way Jews have been victimized by bigger, more powerful nations. But then it's hard to give any value to the saying that "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East" when that democracy was won by mass violence and ethnic cleansing. "We were stronger, we won, shut up" would be a more honest argument, when asked the question of why Palestinians can't return to their homeland, but it would hardly jive with the idea that Jews are some kind of Western humanistic force in the region. And many Americans would find that kind of attitude difficult to support (as, indeed, many men in the Truman administration found it difficult to support Israel after 1948). Bottom line is, if America is going to be morally grandstanding about International Law, the Rules-Based Order, while sanctioning its enemies for humanitarian infractions, having Our Greatest Ally resort to Might Makes Right arguments to resolve its own problems isn't a good look.

    2. I agree that we don't much like the "might makes right" argument. But my point is that within the very same period that Israel first shoved Palestinians out of a fair portion of their territory, in the 1947-48 war, the western (democratic) countries and the UN were quite satisfied with the world shoving around Indian Hindus & Muslims, Germans, Poles, etc and not defending it as "might makes right" even though at least in part that's what it was. It was in part something else (politically decided social engineering) and that also applies to what Israel has done. So, why the double standard?

      when that democracy was won by mass violence and ethnic cleansing

      Please. The "massive violence" was present - that's what war is. It happened on both sides of the conflict, and it has ever been a hard sell to claim that the violence was simply started by the Jews. It's complicated, and that's the honest truth. As for "ethnic cleansing", the Palestinian population in 1948 was 1.8M, and it is almost 6M now, apparently Israel is incredibly inept at ethnic eradication, fostering their enemies' growth at the same rate as their own. "Oppression" might be a valid description, and maybe some of the hotter slogans of some of the hotter Jews speak of eradication, but they haven't enacted that in fact.

    3. Its not that complicated. Israel has put millions of Palestinians in walled off ghettos and the giant concentration camp known as Gaza. They arent the first country to do that to their enemies, but the situation has persisted for decades at this point and remains a live political problem. If Israel solved the problem by totally exterminating the Palestinians, they wouldn't be the first group to do that, either, and it might be a "double standard" to say that they can't resort to mass homicide to resolve the ethnic conflict. So what? The Palestinians exist, and it is incumbent on Israel to figure out how to solve the problem, given that Israel exists on and controls the land where the Palestinians live. Its perfectly normal and just for other groups to say Israel can't just exterminate or expel racial undesirables, even if other countries have gotten away with that before. And given that America is the only real supporter of Israel and its policies, and America continues to regard itself to be uniquely qualified to impose its moral vision on politics across the globe, the "double standard" goes the other way--America tolerates actions undertaken by the Jewish State and even endorses them where it condemns them elsewhere. You can appeal to stuff that happened in other parts of the world at different times, but if countries are going to interact within a shared framework, Israel will need to acknowledge the grievances of others and address them practically, or it will go down.

    4. @ NotBob

      Exactly. I'm descended from Danube-Schwabians who settled in the former Yugoslavia after the Ottomans were pushed, living there for generations. In the aftermath of WW2, Serbian partisans under Tito and sponsored by the Soviets revoked rights, confiscated property and rounded up German-speakers and either sent them to Siberia or put them into labor camps to be worked to death. I don't know of any Danube-Schwabian descendant today who claims to have a right to "return" back to a homestead in the vicinity of Belgrade.


      You do realize Egypt shares a border with Gaza? This is what I mean when most criticisms of Israel seem to be derived from "assumptions and inferences that are verifiably false and patently fallacious." Case in point, looking at a map. You also do realize that the descendants of the Palestinian Arabs who did not flee or take up arms in the 1948 war number two million and are fully enfranchised Israeli citizens? Only someone blinkered by ideology seriously entertains the notion that the Israelis are mulling a "final solution" to the "Palestinian problem" and has it out for Palestianians qua Palestinians.

      The reason Israel and Egypt control what goes in and out of Gaza is the place is full of jihadis, who seem to smuggle in materials in which they make rockets that they launch at Ashkelon. Prior to Oct. 7, Israel was letting in tens of thousands of Palestinians to work for higher wages than they would get in Gaza. Not exactly typical of ethnic cleansers.

      The Palestinians are a Middle East problem. Many of the Arab countries where the Palestinians ended up never bothered to assimilate them. Kuwait, for instance, kicked theirs out. In other places, the Palestinians destabilize the countries they dwell in like with Lebanon.

      And given what I disclosed to NotBob above about my family history, it's repugnant that you insist on describing Gaza as a giant "concentration camp."

    5. Gaza is a small strip of land that has been under Israeli blockade for over a decade. Israel controls what goes in and out of Gaza, controls the airspace, and has a militarized perimeter around the strip. The people can't leave, or when they could, they needed permission from the Israeli government to do so. British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron described Gaza as a "prison camp."

      Most of the people in Gaza are descended from refugees from the 1948 war. Many of them had homes that are just miles away from where they currently reside, on the other side of the fence. The reason they can't go back is because they aren't Jewish, and because the superpowers of the 20th century decided it was OK for a bunch of European Jewish transplants to declare the place the Palestinians had lived for generations a "Jewish State" that needed a Jewish demographic majority. So they got kicked out. The reason Israel currently tolerates the Arab Israeli minority within it's border is because most of the land had been emptied of Arabs (ethnically cleansed) and Jews became the dominant majority. Maintaining a solid Jewish demographic majority has been Israel's policy from the beginning, and they accomplished this by expelling Arabs, and then by locking Palestinians out of political power in the territories it occupies and settles.

      These people are Israel's problem because they came from the land that is now Israel, and Israel controls the place where they are now. Yes, Egypt and other Arab states are using the Palestinians as a thorn in Israel's side--but the Palestinians were there before the Israelis, and the Zionists CHOSE to put their new country in the middle of a bunch of Arabs. When you put your ethnostate in the middle of a bunch of people who aren't going to want it there, then kick many of them OUT to a bordering territory, then invade and occupy that territory for decades, you are going to have problems.

      When Prime Minister Netanyahu describes the people of Gaza as "Amalek," it is totally understandable why people might think this war is genocidal and the forerunner to a "Final Solution."

    6. because the superpowers of the 20th century decided it was OK for a bunch of European Jewish transplants to declare the place the Palestinians had lived for generations a "Jewish State" that needed a Jewish demographic majority. So they got kicked out.

      Have you read any of the details of the 1947-1948 war? The idea that the Jews succeeded only because of the superpowers intervening isn't supported by the facts. There was little direct action by the superpowers during the war except for (sort of) supporting an arms embargo, and what support the British gave was generally for the Arabs. The UN (not the superpowers) voted for Partition, but did not back it up, and the US eventually pulled out of supporting the partition, and the Arabs celebrated that as beneficial to them. The Jews did get help from US citizens, but mainly the "support" of the US government was to turn a blind eye to that civilian support.

      And whether the rest of the world gets to "declare" that the Jews get to have a homeland of their own or not, that gets to the question of the justice of the claims. Setting those aside (since both sides obviously claim they have justice on their side), the point is that it was the Jews that won the initial war, and that typically in international affairs that means they get to claim the land they won. Sure, that left those kicked out wishing they could get their homes back, but that's not normally something that affects the winner holding the land.

      You want to interject claims as to the justice of it, but when you do, your points are superficial and ignore a zillion other facts that make it more involved than any simple approach.

    7. The Zionist movement (later Israel) gained the backing of the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States, to varying degrees at different times. The only reason Jews could emigrate to Palestine in large numbers to begin with was because of the British Mandate. East Bloc weapons (and the military training of the British) helped facilitate Israeli victory in 1948. Arabs in the region had little support from anyone after the Axis Power defeat. Since the 60's, America has provided diplomatic and military cover for Israel, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact, the Palestinian national movement has had no serious patrons.

      The Right of Conquest argument is legitimate, or would be, but the current international order (structured mainly by the United States) recognizes no such right. "International Law" isn't real but countries generally must abide by a shared set of norms to interact with each other over the long term. "We won, you lost" is sort of a legitimate argument otherwise, but Zionists don't often make it. They usually claim that Jews are indigenous to the area, or have some kind of divine mandate to live there in a racially pure ethno-state.

      But even if we accept Israel has a right to the land because of winning the wars, what about the people living there who aren't Jewish? Set aside the "Right of Return," there are millions of Palestinians living in territories that Israel conquered in 1967, many of whom are refugees from the 1948 war (especially in Gaza). Does it have a right to expel them, because their presence undermines the ethno-religious dominance of Jews? Does Right of Conquest allow for ethnic cleansing? What are the limits the Jewish State is supposed to abide by, if any? The reality is, the Palestinian political question is still alive, and Israel will have to figure out a solution. It has evaded the problem and refused to actually define its borders, while allowing Jewish settlers to move into lands not officially recognized as Israeli and inhabited by hostile Palestinians. Israel has also successfully alienated all of its neighbors (Sunni, Shia, Christian, Arab, Turk, etc.) and relies on the U.S. to bribe Arab countries into not being overtly hostile to it. This is NOT a tenable situation however you slice it.

  25. Miguel CervantesMay 3, 2024 at 9:09 PM

    The difference here is that Palestine is the Christian West's Holy Land, full of our sacred sites. The only imperative is that these are venerated, visited, and stewarded by the Christians who have always lived there. This comes before the ideological claims of either side in the present conflict, neither of which guarantee our imperatives as Christians.

    If you want to get "practical", the Zionist movement from Mitteleuropa made its bed when it decided it wanted to move into the Middle East. Continuous unpleasantness and warlike attacks come with the turf. It's like the English in Ireland - even after 800 years, the natives would hurt them, even if they could not expel them. Get over it.

    1. the Zionist movement from Mitteleuropa made its bed when it decided it wanted to move into the Middle East. Continuous unpleasantness and warlike attacks come with the turf. It's like the English in Ireland - even after 800 years, the natives would hurt them, even if they could not expel them. Get over it.

      I suppose there's some truth in that. But if it explains the "unpleasantness and warlike attacks" of the Irish after 800 years of being conquered by the English, wouldn't it apply just as much to the Jews in regard to their "homeland" that had been taken away and their desire to reclaim it? So, is the "practical" solution to just let them duke it out and see who has the stronger claim by force of arms? Repeatedly, every generation or so? Or do we rightly seek to impose restraints on that kind of "practical" to eventually get actual peace? Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Picts no longer fight over portions of England. Bretons, Gauls, Celts, Normans, and Franks are not fighting over portions of France.

    2. It's more like the Irish-English conflict than the others you mentioned - Ireland became insoluble because it was a battle of two civilisations, not a merely one between ethnicities or nations. The Palestinians are the natives here, as the Irish were. Wherever the ancestors of the Mitteleuropan Zionists had lived over two thousand years prior has subjective value only.

      In practice, the natives have been fighting with both arms tied behind their backs since the English mandate let the central Europeans slip in; ever since, little "David" has enjoyed the decisive help of big brothers overseas. The Irish had far better odds for centuries and still couldn't expel the English.

      The principle that a nation must be maimed to the degree that it may never be able to engage in war again is a twentieth-century idea. It cannot morally be used as an excuse to obliterate two million people. Tel Aviv and its government was never in threat from the embarrassing incursion in October and its response can't be justified. If they get attacked again, presumably they can beat it off as usual, in a war of self-defence. Annihilation of another people in order to prevent the chance of it ever doing anything that's not nice is not the just war as understood by us.

      I don't have a lot of time for either side. All that matters is our sacred sites and the Christian Palestinians. Our job is to defend them. That is Christian Western geopolitics.

    3. The Palestinians are the natives here, as the Irish were.

      I would agree with this except for 4 competing factors: (1) That particular land was the subject of specific promises / gift by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, following which they were the inhabitants for something like 1400 years. (2) Add in that (when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem) the Jews had already undergone one forced diaspora (Babylonian) and looked just like one more dispossessed people, and in spite of that they got their homeland back. (3) The diaspora effected by the Romans destroying Jerusalem was never a complete disruption of Jews living in the area in settled Jewish villages and towns: they may have been in the minority, and they may have been oppressed, but they had never lost discernible ethnic separation that retained clear ties with the lands of Palestine. To a significant degree, unlike most peoples who were dispersed or forced to leave (and who often entirely absorbed into other ethnicities), even the diaspora Jews continued to revere Palestine and view it as their homeland to which they wanted to return. (4) During the 400 years of Ottoman Turk ruling, the areas of now Palestine never comprised a coherent national/political/ethnic entity of "Palestine" whose people were "the Palestinians". The Arab leadership proposed to the British Mandate to call the region "Southern Syria".

      the natives have been fighting with both arms tied behind their backs since the English mandate let the central Europeans slip in;

      Not exactly: the return of central Europeans (and eastern Europeans) actually started before the British mandate, while the Turks were in control, and the Jewish immigrants were simply coming in and (when they had resources) buying land from willing sellers. They weren't violently dispossessing Arab inhabitants. During the British Mandate, there was continued Jewish immigration (and Arabs selling them property), but there was also de facto policy to allow unrestrained Arab immigration as well, and there was some. Due to pressure from Hitler, there was a lot of exodus of Jews from Germany (and Austria) and many went to Palestine. Then as a result of Arab pressure, (and riots) the British Mandate policy changed to limit Jewish immigration. The notion that it's due to the British interfering with Arab attempts to lawfully rid themselves of Jewish interlopers (when they finally recognized an ethnic / political threat) is overly simplistic.

    4. Miguel CervantesMay 7, 2024 at 9:25 PM

      Not really. Without the Mandate, the influx would have ceased in 1918. The numbers of central Europeans entering Palestine exploded during the Mandate, making it possible to entertain an ethno-state of their own there. According to the online Jewish Virtual Library, the Jewish population of Palestine in 1918 was 8%. At the end of the English mandate, it had shot up to 32%. This was a huge leg-up from a perhaps unwilling foreign big brother. In the sixteenth century, (before the Zionist movement in Europe began to change the demographics from the late nineteenth century) the Jewish population had been only 5,000, or 1.7%.

      As for Palestinians “freely” selling off their land to the Europeans, the decision to sell land to such an enterprise ought to have been agreed to by the entire society of Palestine because it affected them directly and dramatically. Poland has such restrictions on German purchases of land in the former German territories. Mexico restricts foreigners from buying near the coast. Such restrictions are legitimate. The individual good is restricted, not because the common good is superior, but because the common good is the only way to secure the private good in such cases of egotism. What if Hamas decided on mass-scale purchase of land in Ohio or Yorkshire for its people to have a nice place to live. Make no mistake, there WOULD be sellers, before the government stepped in.

      From the Roman Empire, until the English Mandate, Jews were an insignificant minority in Palestine, vastly outnumbered by Christians for almost a millennium, and then by Christians and Muslims.

      The religious beliefs developed as Judaism over the last two thousand years are of subjective value for them only when dealing with supernatural claims in Palestine.

      Palestine does not need to be a modern nation state like Tel Aviv. Under the Christian Roman Empire, then the Byzantines, and again under the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Palestine was a coherent society in its own right acknowledging Christ. The Ottomans had their millet system. Let's tear up the silly nineteenth-century ethno-history that depicts Palestine as a wasteland of Bedouin nomads till the enlightened Mitteleuropeans with their Enlightenment ideologies turned up. Palestine had never seen anything like them and their worldview, not in three thousand+ years.

    5. As Tony points out, this is the second time that the Jews got back their homeland that God had promised them. This time it was barely three years after the most concerted effort to wipe out the Jewish race entirely. Almost as remarkable is the fact that the national language of Israel was Hebrew, a dead language until Eliezer Ben-Yehuda began to revive it in the early 1900s. The First Zionist Congress in 1897 did not expect that. What happened historically surpassed the expectations/fears of all involved, whether Arab, British, or Jewish. The Jews fended off armies from five nations invading them in superior numbers. By 1967, they were again able to worship at the Western Wall of the Temple dating back to Roman times, and house in Jerusalem the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls (written roughly 1,000 years earlier than the oldest complete Hebrew Bible) which authenticated the accuracy with which Jewish scribes had copied the sacred text. It is my belief that God had a purpose in this second time that the Jews got their homeland back just as he had a purpose the first time.

    6. Christians believe that the Jews who do not follow Christ no longer follow the religion of their biological ancestors, which was a preparation and waiting for Christ, not a nineteenth-century European ethno-state. You shouldn't read truth or the will of God into the contingencies of the world - that is the great error of Conservatism. The zionist project is certainly noteworthy for its pertinacity and power, but that does not make it any better than so many other things that are permitted in the world by God. The universal and essential truth of Christ will trounce contingencies every time.

      The revived Hebrew you speak of is truly painful to listen to because it's spoken with the thickest of Mitteleuropan accents. They really should have got Sephardic Jews from the Middle East to revive it - it's been a botched job. It would sound to the Hebrews of Our Lord's time like the Latin spoken at Oxford - or English legal jargon a century ago - would have sounded to ancient Romans; their language spoken by implacably foreign people.

    7. You believe that it is a coincidence, and I believe that it is divine providence. Jews keep commandments in Torah that the council of Jerusalem determined are not obligatory for Gentile Christians. That does not mean that those commandments are different from the religion of their biological ancestors. I don't know whether you are one of them, but I do know Catholics (and some Protestants) who hate the fact that the state of Israel exists. That was not the position of John Paul II or of Benedict XVI.

    8. The apostles were sneered at for their accent too; haven't you got anything better? Modern Greek sounds extremely different from classical Greek; the case system is much simplified etc.; so what? If modern Hebrew had used Sephardic pronunciation, I doubt that would have impressed you either.

    9. Judaism today isn't just the OT religion minus Our Lord; it's added a lot more on, besides subtracting what was most important about the OT religion.

      The Apostles' accent wasn't a Roman accent or a Mongolian accent. Modern Greek, likewise is still an autochthonous variation of the original thing. When it comes to accents, just as modern Italian dialects would sound very strange to Romans, it would not strike them as Germans or Nabateans trying to speak Latin. I mention the botched revival of Hebrew because you seemed to think it miraculous. It certainly shows commitment, if not authenticity.

    10. Most modern Israelis can read the Hebrew Bible (and other Classical Hebrew documents such as are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls) better than most modern Greeks can read Plato and Homer and certainly better than most English can read Old English texts.

      As I said, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI seem to have had a far more positive attitude toward Israel than you do.

    11. But modern spoken Hebrew is as much of a contrivance as modern spoken Anglo-Saxon would be, or Norwegians writing in ancient runes. Hebrew was mostly dead in the time of Christ and Middle Eastern Jews historically spoke Arabic after Aramaic disappeared. The originators of Zionism spoke German or Russian or Yiddish. The Hebrrw revival is impressive certainly, but it is not a mark of continuity with ancient Israel but a legacy of 19th Century Romantic Nationalism. There's a reason the region has been in turmoil since Israel emerged, and it's because it has no roots and legitimacy as a Middle Eastern phenomenon.

    12. Anonymous,
      Thank you for making my point, whatever the inaccuracies in your statement (e.g. Aramaic never completely died out; Syriac is Aramaic and has been continuously spoken). The state of Israel is not only a state depending upon ethnicity (which the First Zionist congress did imagine) but also language (which they could not have imagined) and also religion (where as the majority of Jewish settlers in the Levant were not particularly religious; the orthodox Jews came later). It is now much harder for the anti-Zionists to dismiss the state of Israel as legitimate and harder to eliminate than they (or the Jewish settlers) expected. Further, the state of Israel achieved a scarcely believable military victory against 5 invading states and their holy Scriptures (and those of the Ethiopic, Coptic, and Syriac Churches among others) have been validated by the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered between 1947 and 1956. Coincidence--No Way!

    13. Syriac was NOT the language of Middle Eastern Jewry, Arabic was. Jews in Cairo and Baghdad spoke Arabic. The increasingly religious character of Israel rather does the opposite than legitimize the state, it undermines Zionism as an ideology because Zionism was never about religious affiliation as you yourself point out. The point was to have a secular, socialist etho-state. Orthodox Jews themselves have been far more mixed in their reception of Zionism and the Jewish State than secular Jews. On top of that, if in 20 years, Israel is an open Talmudic Theocracy, does that help or hinder Israeli aspirations? Hard to say, but it would certainly alienate Israel from its Western base of support and once and for all put to rest the idea that Israel is a "democracy." Regardless of its military victories, Israel is perpetually at war with its neighbors, hostile to Sunni, Shia, and Christian alike, and heavily relies on foreign intervention to buttress it militarily and diplomatically. It is not "organic" to the region in any way and the fact that it remains permanently at odds with everyone else in the region attests to this fact.

    14. Well, the northern Ireland Presbyterian ascendancy lasted four centuries and the Irish river is still in the process of returning to its original bed. The 1967 war is easy to explain - entirely human factors.The Dead Sea Scroll are the records of madcap heretical sects.

  26. Miguel CervantesMay 6, 2024 at 7:37 PM

    Not really. The numbers of central Europeans entering Palestine exploded during the Mandate, making it possible to entertain an ethno-state of their own there. According to the online Jewish Virtual Library, the Jewish population of Palestine in 1918 was 8%. At the end of the English mandate, it had shot up to 32%. This was a huge leg-up from a perhaps unwilling foreign big brother. In the sixteenth century, (before the Zionist movement in Europe began to change the demographics from the late nineteenth century) the Jewish population had been only 5,000, or 1.7%.

    From the Roman Empire, until the English Mandate, Jews were an insignificant minority in Palestine, vastly outnumbered by Christians for almost a millennium, and then by Christians and Muslims.

    The religious beliefs developed as Judaism over the last two thousand years are of subjective value for them only when dealing with supernatural claims in Palestine.

    Palestine does not need to be a modern nation state like Tel Aviv. Under the Christian Roman Empire, then the Byzantines, and again under the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Palestine was a coherent society in its own right acknowledging Christ. The Ottomans had their millet system. Let's tear up the silly nineteenth-century ethno-history that depicts Palestine as a wasteland of Bedouin nomads till the enlightened Mitteleuropeans with their Enlightenment ideologies turned up. Palestine had never seen anything like them and their worldview, ever.

    1. But what alternative is there to the nation state these days?

    2. Not really. The numbers of central Europeans entering Palestine exploded during the Mandate,

      It is true that a large increase occurred during the Mandate. That does not mean it happened because of the Mandate. In general, the British did not help the Jews out, and in practice made Jewish expansion difficult. For example, while the official policy permitted making over state and other land not privately owned over to private development (esp. cultivation), by 1949 the British had allotted 87K acres to Arabs and 4K acres to Jews. Most of the expansion of the Jewish population occurred during the Nazi regime, and the British policy on paper was not up to the task of managing the problem. (At the same time, those who are vociferous here in favoring Palestinian rights also tend to be vociferous in favoring "open borders" for the US south, so they would have no leg to stand on in urging that the Jews fleeing murder in Germany had no "authority" to go to Palestine.)

      making it possible to entertain an ethno-state of their own there.

      The Zionist concept entertained the idea right from the beginning, e.g. in the 1890s.

      From the Roman Empire, until the English Mandate, Jews were an insignificant minority in Palestine, vastly outnumbered by Christians for almost a millennium, and then by Christians and Muslims.

      They fell to a minority from somewhere between 300 and 500 AD (at best estimate), but remained a non-trivial minority well into the Muslim period. But my point was that no other ethnic people attained a cultural and political dominance in the land either. The region was basically ruled by foreign potentates and appointed surrogates (Byzantium, Caliphates) for part of the time, by transplanted Europeans creating faux kingdoms for a short interregnum, and by the Ottoman Turks for 400 years. There was, during that time, no other entity that comprised a local, homegrown people organizing and ruling themselves according to their own cultural order. Whether you call it a "state" or not.

      Maybe if the League of Nations had stayed out, and no British Mandate had been imposed, the Muslim locals would have eventually created a state that covered the area. It probably would have belonged either partly or wholly to Egypt, Syria, or Jordan. (Or Iraq wholly absorbing Jordan.) If that had happened, nobody in the world would be arguing that the "Palestinians" need their own state. The literature of the 1900s to 1930s spoke of "Arabs" almost entirely, and they tended to view themselves as part of a pan-Arab whole.

    3. What alternative is there now to not ditching the nation-state? Throughout most of the world, the effort to copy nineteenth-century European ideology is a disaster. Now the West itself is full of people who will never turn into cardboard cut out Englishmen, WASPs (in the US) or French or Germans. The only way to have viable states is to return the the formula of Constantine and Theodosius the Great: the confessional state. There will be people within the borders of states who will not "identify", and they will be free not to. But states and countries will again have a sense of purpose. The ethno-state can't work because it is the modern state, and because ethnicities and their histories are endlessly divisible and overlapping, and mostly now co-exist with new peoples who may or may not be ethnically compatible. To put the 19th. century ethno-state Humpty Dumpty back together again will require about two hundred Yugoslavia style wars, and the final product will be what they have there now. The confessional state, before absolutism and the modern state, permitted the smallest ethnicity to live. I think it's now the only alternative.

    4. Under Roman and Byzantine rule, Christians became dominant demographically and politically. It makes no difference whether one cannot find a Palestinian ethno-state until modern times because such such states didn't exist anywhere until the Enlightenment. Palestine before the Muslim invasion had all the hallmarks of a strong, defined identity, like the rest of the Catholic empire. The "faux" Crusader states, as you call them, allowed this to resurface. Under Muslim rule, the Christian majority eventually became a minority, but their identity as members of Western civilisation, as well as autochthonous inhabitants of Palestine (and largely descended from OT Hebrews), was not in question. It makes no sense to look at the pre-Enlightenment world through Enlightenment eyes.

      Before the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Zionist project could not be seriously entertained - only hoped for. Only the Mandate allowed the huge influx that made it possible to entertain setting up a new country. ANY combination of indigenous Middle-Eastern actors would have been categorically against the Zionist project. Preventing locals from taking power after the Turks left was a make or break question.

      One ought not speak too patronisingly of "Arabs". The peoples that speak Arabic are more diverse by far than those speaking English. Would you argue that New Zealanders, English, Irish or Canadians don't need a country because they can very well live in some other English-speaking "Anglo" country?

    5. I agree with confessional states - that's fine. But in addition to confession, different ethnic/cultural norms also can require separate states - it's not like Christians of Coptic Egypt can easily share a confessional state with Catholic Bavarians or Catholic Portuguese. So I don't agree that ethnicity is not a core factor for the governing order. Confessionality as a factor doesn't remove ethnicity as a factor. (As Christian empires reflected.)

      There will be people within the borders of states who will not "identify", and they will be free not to.

      Your "free not to" is a modern and western sense of things. In many confessional states in the past, they have not been free to not identify. Certainly Muslims had fun killing those who would not convert. Christianity in principle repudiates conversion by the sword, though that principle wasn't always fully observed in practice. Yet even when it was, confessional states normally have imposed constraints on those not confessing that to them is a burden from moderate to severe, and to modern Westerners today is considered unconscionable. And that 95% of Catholics would claim violate Dignitatis Humanae. If you have a confessional solution in which, across several religions and cultures, those who decline to confess the state's religion WITHOUT their suffering second-class citizenship in ways that they feel greatly burdens their religious practice, then you have something the world has never heard yet, but needs desperately.

      Even if someone successfully imposed a two-state condition on the region in which Muslim Palestinians and Jewish Israelis were forced apart and kept apart and kept peaceful (e.g. imposed and kept by overwhelming outside force), with a neutral zone in between, even that would not solve the impossible riddle of Jerusalem, which is foundational to Jews, critical to Christians, and important to Muslims.

    6. Tony, you are correct that ethnicity is usually a core factor for the governing order. You had precursors to the nation state in the ancient world where ethnicity and language were key factors in governing groups within rough borders. Also, advocates for a two state solution with regards to Israel/Palestine are Zionists, by the definition of Hamas and the protesters. You can be pro-Palestinian (in the sense of being for a Palestinian state) and pro-Zionist in the sense of acknowledging the legitimacy of the state of Israel. But that makes one an enemy of the protesters. Hamas do NOT desire the good of the general Palestinian populace in Gaza; they are not trying to minimize civilian casualties.

    7. I said that ethnicity should not be the sole factor, as it has become in these discussions, and modern politics generally. The confessional state does not, and did not always, require all populations to conform to this confession in their private espousal of religion. Per se, these are two different issues. Once we ditch ethno-states, we are no longer bound by a two-state solution, and the proper priorities of Palestine can be restored. We may be speaking of an ideal world of course, but if Catholics merely discuss things in the false political and sociological terms in vogue since the Enlightenment, they will have NOTHING to say.

    8. Miguel,
      If you are not proposing a 2 state solution, and it seems you are not offering any other solution which includes a Jewish state, what solution are you proposing?

    9. Ideally, there would be self-determination and protection for the populations that exist in Palestine, but this autonomy would not be absolute. Indeed, social sovereignty shouldn't be absolute anywhere, but conditioned by universal principles like natural law and the true religion. In an ideal world, this country would have a government that professed Our Lord.

      In a less ideal world, the Christian West (which is the real West) should intervene to protect the holy sites and the Christians, and restrain any aggression against these them (on these counts, it is has been failing). Tel Aviv and Hamas should not have an absolute say over these two things. If what's left of the West has difficulty handling such concepts, it will be a great exercise in self-reformation - courage mounteth with occasion.

      The argument over Palestine is tiresome, and so similar to the Northern Ireland question. For so long, the Protestant majority maintained that, if it didn't run the entire show and keep up its repression of the Catholic indigenes, they would be thrown back into to sea, back to lowland Scotland. Stormont could sustain its regime with the backing of a powerful big brother. Now that London no longer allows forced ethnic cleansing of natives, the cultural Protestants are down to 40% and have discovered that the world does not end when one's supremacy is at an end and has to talk to others as human beings. Life goes on, even for the "settlers". There is a lesson for all in Palestine from this.

    10. We are not living in the ideal world, Miguel. The argument over the Holy Land is very different from the Ireland question. Weekly Mass attendance in Dublin was down to 18% in 2011 and is likely in single figures by now. Less than 3% of the priests in the Republic of Ireland are under 40. The percentage of active Protestants in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland is also falling.
      By contrast, the percentage of weekly attenders of synagogue in Israel is steadily rising. I agree with you that Christians should be concerned with protection of Christian holy sites, whether Roman Catholic sites, Protestant sites, Eastern Orthodox sites, Armenian Apostolic sites, Coptic Apostolic, Syriac Apostolic, Ethiopic Apostolic, and probably some others. One of the delights of being in Israel and in Jerusalem in particular has been the relative safety (compared to when the Arabs, the British, and the Turks were in control) in which all these churches have been able to operate. I went to the holy sites of several of these denominations in Israel in 2023. It is not perfect but it has been pretty good so far.

    11. I provided two scenarios, not just that of the idea world. Religious attendances go up and down everywhere and in all times. You need to get your facts right concerning the ongoing oppression of Palestinian Christians by Zionist settlers. Middle-Eastern Christians have been better off under Nationalist Arab regimes than under Zionist, or Islamist ones. I admit that the nationalist Arab regimes (not an ideal world in themselves) have largely vanished (and most of the Christian populations with them (for example, Cisjordania, Iraq, Syria before its mutilation). But their demise was directly due to the activities of Tel Aviv and its big brothers.

  27. I think one of the biggest culprits for our skewed understanding of youth and politics is, as it usually is, J.J. Rousseau. As is well known, for Rousseau all men are naturally good; it is society or "the system" that corrupts them and makes them bad. By this logic, young people are the repository of all that is good, pure and "authentic" since they have lived the fewest number of years in society and are therefore the least "corrupted." Mature adults and the elderly, by contrast, are by definition corrupt and compromised. This, of course, is an inversion of the way societies traditionally understood the relative wisdom of youth and old age (as exemplified in the thought of Plato and Aristotle). Hence, we have the pathetic and ridiculous spectacle of middle-aged politicians pandering for the approval of the youth on any number of social policies (most exemplified when same-sex marriage was made legal: "Youth people can't understand why same-sex marriage is illegal, therefore there must be no rational justification for keeping it illegal").

  28. Remark for the Thurible:
    I am certain we were/are unpopular. But having lived through seventy-five years of this hot, middle east mess, I agree with you. Am just glad the seventy-five years were not lived in the middle east. End of rant.