6 August 2005 - Saturday

Means to an end

Siris has an intriguing entry on Elizabeth Anscombe, who protested Oxford's decision to award an honorary degree to Harry Truman in 1956. She regarded the use of the atomic bomb on Japan as unconscionable because it was a targeted attack on innocents:

When I say that to choose to kill the innocent as a means to one's ends is murder, I am saying what would generally be accepted as correct. But I shall be asked for my definition of "the innocent". I will give it, but later. Here, it is not necessary; for with Hiroshima and Nagasaki we are not confronted with a borderline case. In the bombing of these cities it was certainly decided to kill the innocent as a means to an end.
Interestingly, however, she strongly rejected pacifism:
The correct answer to the statement that "war is evil" is that it is bad -- for example a misfortunte -- to be at war. And no doubt if two nations are at war at least one is unjust. But that does not show that it is wrong to fight or that if one does fight one can also commit murder.
I cannot say that I have come to a satisfying conclusion on the matter. It is entirely likely that -- on balance -- the bombing of Hiroshima (and maybe Nagasaki) saved lives, even the lives of innocent Japanese. On the other hand, the bombing was a terroristic tactic -- both in its intended psychological effects and in its targeting of civilians. In the early years of the twenty-first century, are we not claiming that no end ever justifies such means?

| Posted by Wilson at 11:55 Central | TrackBack
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