Stephen Kahn

Posts Tagged ‘William James’

Moral equivalent?

In Hard to tell on October 5, 2011 at 3:39 am

I mentioned my frustration with Bev’s pacifism to one of the sort of leaders of Transition Whidbey (a group which seems to strive to be a functioning anarchy). I said something along the lines of, “I don’t keep weapons in my house (like some 4th Amendment fanatic) except for the pellet rifle I use to pot the occasional rabbit, but I would not expect a sheriff’s deputy to have to carry out his job without a weapon.”

Her response was along the lines of, “Guns always create more problems than they solve.”

While this argument might have some merit as a general philosophical statement, I find its use as an unassailable law of social science frustrating and unpersuasive. There are indeed times when a bullet placed into a dangerous person (say a homicidal maniac) is the best response.

There is another difficult issue we need to consider, and that is the problem of motivation and inspiration. When I was a college English major, I read (with some weariness and lack of enthusiams) some of the writing of Henry James. It wasn’t until much later, when I got around to reading Varieties of Religious Belief by Henry’s brother, William James. The James gang were a couple of bright bulbs, and William pondered the issue of why young people (mostly young men) are so inspired by the prospect of fighting and dying in war. James argued that humans need something as thrilling and inspiring as fighting to exercise their spirit. Humans have wrestled with the problem of human violence for thousands of years, and I have no solution, so I will move my blog on to another topic and let James provide the last word on the subject (after a brief introduction).