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View Full Version : Creating an innocent killer Interesting essay on ender's game and its morals



EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 02:20 PM
Over the years I have told a number of friends that, if I had had access to a nuclear device when I was in seventh grade, there would be a huge crater in upstate New York centered on what used to be West Seneca Junior High School.

Had Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game existed then, I might have been one of its biggest fans. I would have been enraptured by the story of the innocent who is persecuted despite his innocence, perhaps even because of it. The superior child whose virtues are not recognized. The adults who fail to protect. The vicious bullies who get away with their bullying. That was the world as I saw it in seventh grade. Apparently this is a story that still appeals to many people: Ender’s Game is probably the most popular science fiction novel published in the last twenty years.

In relating Ender Wiggin’s childhood and training in Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card presents a harrowing tale of abuse. Ender’s parents and older brother, the officers running the battle school and the other children being trained there, either ignore the abuse of Ender or participate in it.

Through this abusive training Ender becomes expert at wielding violence against his enemies, and this ability ultimately makes him the savior of the human race. The novel repeatedly tells us that Ender is morally spotless; though he ultimately takes on guilt for the extermination of the alien buggers, his assuming this guilt is a gratuitous act. He is presented as a scapegoat for the acts of others. We are given to believe that the destruction Ender causes is not a result of his intentions; only the sacrifice he makes for others is. In this Card argues that the morality of an act is based solely on the intentions of the person acting.

The result is a character who exterminates an entire race and yet remains fundamentally innocent. The purpose of this paper is to examine the methods Card uses to construct this story of a guiltless genocide, to point out some contradictions inherent in this scenario, and to raise questions about the intention-based morality advocated by Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.



The Victim Hero

The scorn and abuse directed at the helpless child as well as the suppression of vitality, creativity, and feeling in the child and in oneself permeate so many areas of our life that we hardly notice it anymore. Almost everywhere we find the effort, marked by varying degrees of intensity and by the use of various coercive measures, to rid ourselves as quickly as possible of the child within us—i.e., the weak, helpless, dependent creature—in order to become an independent, competent adult deserving of respect.1

—Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence



Orson Scott Card is often praised for writing what the late John Gardner called “moral fiction,” and invariably Ender’s Game and its sequels are cited as prime examples of Card’s probing examination of moral issues. “Ender’s Game” was the first science fiction story Card published, in Analog in August 1977. The original story came in second for the Hugo in 1978, and it was largely on the basis of that story that Card received the Campbell Award for best new writer the same year.2 The novel version was published in 1985, and received the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best novel. Speaker for the Dead accomplished the same feat in 1986, and to this date Card is the only writer to win both the Hugo and Nebula for best novel in consecutive years. He has said that Ender’s Game is about “a child, our ultimate icon of vulnerability, put under almost impossible stress. It was when he decided to give up the enterprise that he won the ultimate victory; and then he became an almost tragic figure when it became clear that his victory made him obsolete, while his childhood training had left him unfit for any other kind of life.”3 Despite his moral preoccupations, in this summary of his novel Card seems less interested in interrogating Ender’s morality than in evoking sympathy for him.

The most obvious way Card produces sympathy for Ender is by subjecting him to relentless, undeserved torment. On the very first page of the novel an adult lies to Ender about something that is going to hurt him: the doctor removing the surgically implanted monitor that Ender has worn while being evaluated by the IE training agency swears that the removal “won’t hurt a bit.”4 But in the event it is excruciating.

When Ender is not being lied to by authorities, he is being bullied. The source of most of the hatred directed toward Ender is that he is superior to virtually everyone in the book—superior in intelligence, creativity, sensitivity, logic, psychological understanding of others, morality, and, when it comes down to it and despite a lack of training and physical stature, hand-to-hand combat. In that first chapter, the same day the monitor is removed, Stilson, a playground bully, attacks Ender. At the age of six, in the first of several physical battles Ender wins, he completely incapacitates Stilson.

The family offers no haven from assault. Ender’s older brother Peter torments Ender all out of proportion to any rational motivation, and his abuse goes completely unnoticed and unchecked by their parents. Peter repeatedly threatens to kill Ender. He seems almost the textbook definition of a psychopath—their sister Valentine tells how he tortures squirrels, staking them out on the ground and skinning them alive in order to watch them die5(p. 160). He is prevented from killing Ender and Valentine only by the threat of being found out.

Yet, for reasons that are never made clear, Ender never tells his parents; he learns early to hide his fear and hurt. “It was the lying face he presented to Mother and Father, when Peter had been cruel to him and he dared not let it show”(p. 47).

Inthe real world, the motivation for such secrecy, when it is not fear of retaliation by the abuser, is often shame—the child fears that he or she is somehow responsible for, even deserving of the abuse. It is interesting that the one time that Ender’s father confronts him and asks why Ender did not ask a grown-up for help when he was being bullied, they are interrupted before Ender can answer. The question is never answered. (p. 19).

One might ask where Ender’s parents or teachers are when Ender is physically assaulted. This question reveals a second mechanism Card uses to generate sympathy: in Ender’s Game, adults or authority are never there to protect.

In the case of Ender’s persecution by Peter, we may decide that their parents are simply purblind (The possibility that the parents know but approve or don’t care is not considered.). In the case of commanders Graff and Anderson at the battle school, we see authorities deliberately suppress their urge to help Ender because they need to train him to face any challenge on his own. “He can have friends,” says Graff at one point early in Ender’s training “It’s parents he can’t have”(p. 40). In this context a “parent” is any adult in authority who has power to protect the child. Most of the time, rather than helping Ender, adults deliberately increase his torment. As Graff says, “Ender Wiggin must believe that no matter what happens, no adult will ever, ever step in to help him in any way” (p. 220).

The extreme situation Card has constructed to isolate and abuse Ender guarantees our sympathy. After Ender is manipulated into entering Battle School, (he’s brought there by lies severing him from Valentine, his only protector) his abuse continues, deliberately fostered by Graff. On the shuttle up to the orbiting school Graff singles Ender out for praise for the sole purpose that the other recruits will resent him. Before they even reach the school, Ender is forced to break the arm of Bernard, one of his tormenters. At every turn Ender faces hostility, scorn, and even physical assault. The result is an escalating series of challenges and violent responses by Ender. These sequences invariably follow the following pattern:



* Ender is resented by others for his skills, honesty, intellect, superiority—in fact, for simply being who he is
* The others abuse Ender. They threaten his life.
* Ender does not or cannot ask for intervention by authority figures.
* Even when authority figures know about this abuse, they do not intervene. In most cases they are manipulating the situation in order to foster the abuse of Ender
* Ender avoids confrontation for some time through cleverness and psychological cunning, but eventually he is forced, against his will, to face an enemy determined to destroy him.
* Because he has no alternative, Ender responds with intense violence, dispatching his tormenter quickly and usually fatally. Ender engages in this violence impersonally, coolly, dispassionately, often as much for the benefit of others (who do not realize or admit that Ender kills on their behalf) as for himself. Onlookers are awed by his prowess and seeming ruthlessness.
* Ender does not know that he has killed his adversary.
* Ender feels great remorse for his violence. After each incident, he questions his own motives and nature.
* In the end we are reassured that Ender is good.



As a mechanism for producing sympathy, this scenario is brutally effective. All this is illustrated in the climactic fight that ensues just before Ender’s graduation from Battle School, when opposing cadet commander Bonzo6 Madrid and a gang of his supporters trap Ender in the showers. As an object lesson in how Card manages the reader’s sympathies, this sequence is exemplary, and I would like to analyze it, and the effects of each element of the scene, in detail.

Graff and the battle school’s officers have known for some time that Bonzo intends to kill Ender; they allow Bonzo’s attack to happen, they even want it to happen. They capture it all on video, from several angles. They could prevent it, but they won’t. The effect of this is of course to increase our sympathy for Ender, yet we are also supposed to sympathize with the officers. They don’t do this because they want Ender to be hurt, they don’t enjoy the prospect of anyone being hurt, but they do it because they must do it to train Ender so he can save the human race.

To this Card adds one circumstance after another to cause us to side with Ender: Ender’s enemies surprise him when he is at his most vulnerable, naked and alone in the showers. Ender is smaller and younger than his opponent, and Dink, the one boy there who is on Ender’s side, can’t intervene. Ender doesn’t want to fight, but does because he has no alternative other than to let himself be killed. And he’s not fighting for himself alone—the fate of the earth, we are told, depends on his survival. If Ender dies, the last hope of the human race dies with him, thus making his self-defense an ultimately self-less act.

Bonzo and the other boys represent all the abuse Ender has suffered up until then in the novel. Bonzo’s gang includes Ender’s earlier enemy Bernard, and mentally, Ender includes his earlier tormenters when he thinks, “All it would take for the picture to be complete was for Stilson and Peter to be there, too”(p. 227). These enemies are cruel and, unlike Ender, enjoy the prospect of maiming or killing, even if they have an unfair advantage. The terms in which the boys are presented rival those of the melodramatic villains in a silent movie: “Many were smiling, the condescending leer of the hunter for his cornered victim”(p. 227). Bonzo enjoys the prospect of killing Ender:

“Dink cried, ‘Don’t hurt him!’

“Why not?” asked Bonzo, and for the first time he smiled.

Ah, thought Ender, he loves to have someone recognize that he is the one in control, that he has power. (p. 230)

Bonzo is immune to reason. When Dink points out that their real enemy is the buggers, and that killing Ender may doom the human race, instead of having second thoughts Bonzo is simply more enraged. Ender thinks: “You’ve killed me with those words, Dink. Bonzo doesn’t want to hear that I might save the world” (p. 230). Ender’s enemies don’t care about the human race, all they want is their own revenge.

Bonzo is also immune to pleas for mercy. When Ender begs Bonzo not to hurt him, Bonzo is only more determined. “For other boys it might have been enough that Ender had submitted; for Bonzo, it was only a sign that his victory was sure”(p. 229).

Despite his desperate circumstances, Ender coolly reads Bonzo’s character and manipulates him into fighting one-on-one. Once the fight begins, Ender easily beats Bonzo to a pulp, without himself even getting scratched: when it comes to the test, Bonzo the formidable adversary is stupid and incompetent, or his rage makes him stupid and incompetent. Up until now Ender has shown himself to be vastly superior to Bonzo in mental combat; now he shows himself to be equally superior in physical combat. Yet even when it is clear that Ender has already won the fight, Ender persists in maiming Bonzo in order to insure there are no future attacks.

Like many scenes of personal violence in this and other Card works, this fight is painfully intense, ending with Ender kicking Bonzo in the crotch, “hard and sure”(p. 231). Though he does not know it at the time, Ender has killed Bonzo. But lest the reader be repulsed by Ender’s pursuing the fight until Bonzo is dead (which an observer might see as vengeful, unwarranted, or vicious), the narrative insists that it is done for entirely rational reasons, not out of a personal desire to lash out. “The only way to end things completely…” Ender thinks, “was to hurt Bonzo enough that his fear was stronger than his hate”(p. 231).

Ender generalizes from this situation that the only rational policy to insure safety in the world is to be ready always to cause excessive pain. No authority, law, ally, or social structure may be depended upon. “The power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can’t kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you”(p. 232).

Despite his settling on this martial philosophy, after it is all over we are assured again that Ender is at heart a pacifist. When Dink justifies Ender’s beating up Bonzo (Bonzo meant to kill Ender, Bonzo was a troublemaker, he had superior strength and size), Ender breaks down and cries.7 “I didn’t want to hurt him!” he insists. “Why didn’t he just leave me alone!”(p. 233)

It is not until pages later that we learn Bonzo isn’t just hurt, he’s dead. Also, it is only at this point (240 pages after the event) that we learn Ender killed Stilson in the analogous fight that occurred when Ender was six years old. The officers have kept the facts of these deaths from Ender. But the effect is to keep these killings from the reader as well, divorcing the consequences of Ender’s violence from the acts, and thereby reducing the likelihood that the reader might judge Ender at the moment they occurred. And as if to additionally insulate Ender from our judgment, a few lines after we learn that Bonzo and Stilson are dead we are assured by Graff that, “Ender Wiggin isn’t a killer. He just wins—thoroughly” (p. 247).

Graff’s judgment on the deaths of Bonzo and Stilson clarifies Card’s definition of a killer. Presumably, someone can kill hundreds, thousands, even billions (Ender eventually “kills” an entire race) and not be a killer. A killer is motivated by rage or by selfish motives. To be a killer you must intend to kill someone. And even if you do intend to kill, you are still innocent if you do it for a larger reason, “selflessly,” without personal motives. And if you feel bad about being forced into doing it.

Kate Bonin, in her article “Gay Sex and Death in the Science Fiction of Orson Scott Card”8 points out how the killing of Bonzo prefigures Ender’s eventual destruction of the buggers. The history of the war against the buggers follows the pattern of the fight against Bonzo; in fact, just before the final battle in which Ender exterminates the buggers, he explicitly compares his confrontation with them to the unfair fight in the shower (p. 322). The number of times this scenario of unjustified attack and savage retaliation is repeated, not just in Ender’s Game but in other of Card’s stories and novels, suggests that it falls close to the heart of his vision of moral action in the world.


The Innocent Killer

These killings by a hero whom Card has gone to such lengths to present as sympathetic indicate that Card means to put in the most challenging terms the fundamental premise of his moral vision: that the rightness or wrongness of an act inheres in the actor’s motives, not in the act itself, or in its results.

Here, as elsewhere, Card argues for a morality based on intention. Throughout Ender’s Game, we are urged many times to judge a character’s actions not on their effect (even when that effect is fatal) but on the motives of the person performing the action. As Ender states it in Speaker for the Dead, “Speakers for the Dead held as their only doctrine that good or evil exist entirely in human motive, and not at all in the act” (Speaker 39).

Though this doctrine is not codified in Ender’s Game, it is everywhere present in the action. And by testing this moral premise in situations of murder, even genocide, Card seems to dare the reader to try to reject it—as if to say, if a morality of intentionality can stand up to this test, it can stand up to any. But at the same time he chooses these difficult examples, Card goes to great lengths to urge the reader not to reject Ender based on the violent reprisals he visits on his enemies. We are told over and over, without irony, that Ender is good. Just after Ender is recruited (soon after he has killed Stilson) Graff tells Anderson, “He’s clean. Right to the heart, he’s good.” (p. 38) Later, Graff insists, “There’s greatness in him. A magnitude of spirit.” (p. 280) Ender himself protests, “I never wanted to kill anybody. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to kill anybody.” (p. 331)

In a long scene between Graff and Valentine, Valentine insists desperately: “Ender is not like Peter!”

…maybe I’m like Peter, but Ender isn’t, he isn’t at all, I used to tell him that when he cried, I told him that lots of times, you’re not like Peter, you never like to hurt people, you’re kind and good and not like Peter at all!”

“And it’s true”

“…Damn right it’s true.” (p. 162)

The source of Valentine’s desperation, and the reason for Graff’s querying her on this issue, is that they both recognize that Ender has committed acts that are just as violent as—in fact, more violent than—any Peter has committed. The difference between Peter and Ender is not in what they do, but in what they are. Peter enjoys hurting people; Ender abhors it. Ender is “kind” and “good” even when his actions seem to belie that characterization.

Other characters in Ender’s Game are also forced to do things they see as immoral, against their better natures, in the service of saving the world from the buggers. Graff, the orchestrator of Ender’s brutal education, swears that “I am his friend” (p. 38) even though he does nothing to demonstrate that friendship, and in fact does many things that to a neutral observer would indicate a desire to destroy Ender. As with Ender’s goodness, this is a case of the author insisting on a quality in the character that need not be demonstrated by action to be held as true. Goodness is not a matter of acts, but of intentions, an inherent quality independent of what one does. “I don’t really think it’s true that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Card stated in a 2002 interview.9 “Good people trying to do good usually find a way to muddle through. What worries me is when you have bad people trying to do good. They’re not good at it, they don’t have any instinct for it, and they’re willing to do a lot of damage along the way.” The import of this statement is that there are some people who are good before they act, and some others who are bad before they act, and that goodness or badness is exhibited in their actions. These "bad" people can’t do good, and “good” people can’t do bad.

So we see that later, when Ender is made a cadet commander, even though his treatment of his subordinate cadet Bean recapitulates in its unfairness and arbitrary harshness Graff’s treatment of Ender, Ender is not doing wrong. As Graff did to Ender, Ender makes the other cadets resent and dislike Bean so that Bean is forced to show his superiority. “That was the only way he could win respect and friendship,”10 Ender says to himself (but not to Bean). “I’m hurting you to make you a better soldier in every way . . . [even if]… I’m making you miserable” (p. 184) Like Graff, Ender insists he is Bean’s (secret) friend.

Over and against these examples of “good” people whose cruelty is justified, even an act of friendship toward its objects, we have the “bad” people whose mistreatment of others, unlike that of Graff and Ender, springs from bad motives: Peter, Stilson, Bernard, Bonzo. We are never invited to wonder whether (and it is hard to imagine that) they might have a good motive for any of their actions. Bernard is a sadist from word one. Stilson is a bully. Peter is a psychopath. Bonzo is consumed by jealousy and hatred.

Card thus labors long and hard in Ender’s Game to create a situation where we are not allowed to judge any of his defined-as-good characters’ morality by their actions. The same destructive act that would condemn a bad person, when performed by a good person, does not implicate the actor, and in fact may be read as a sign of that person’s virtue.

The doctrine that the morality of an action is solely determined by the actor’s motive rests on a significant assumption: that the good always know what their motives are, and are never moved to do things for selfish reasons while yet thinking themselves moved by virtue. Ender has perfect knowledge of his own motives and the motives of others. Ender never suspects himself of doing other than what he thinks himself to be doing, and indeed, in Speaker for the Dead he makes a career of delivering faultless moral judgments of other people. When Stryka, one of the students on Trondheim in Speaker, objects to the morality of intention that the Speakers propound, Ender dismisses her.

“Xenocide is Xenocide,” said Stryka. “Just because Ender didn’t know they [the buggers] were ramen [i.e. human] doesn’t make them any less dead.”

Andrew sighed at Stryka’s unforgiving attitude. It was the fashion among Calvinists11 at Reykjavik to deny any weight human motive in judging the good or evil of an act . . . Andrew did not resent it—he understood the motive behind it. (p. 39)

The possibility that Stryka may have a legitimate reason to object to Ender’s behavior is never considered—her qualms are “fashion.” A page later, Ender identifies Stryka’s real motivation (which Ender knows but she does not) as a fear of the stranger. In this case the stranger is not the aliens exterminated by Ender, but Ender himself. Stryka’s concern for the genocide of the buggers, which might be interpreted as arising out of a concern for the humanity of the “other,” is presented instead as an example of scapegoating the “other”—but in this case the other is redefined as the exterminator, not the exterminated. This is a very clever stratagem: those of us concerned about understanding the “other” are redirected from worrying about the alien to worrying about the killer of the alien, and thus our condemnation of genocide reemerges as a sign of our prejudice and small-mindedness. Ender is not the victimizer, but the misunderstood victim of others’ fear and prejudice.

This bait-and-switch stratagem prevails throughout these novels. In the extended ending of Ender’s Game and throughout Speaker for the Dead, Ender is presented as a victim of the extermination of the buggers rather than its perpetrator. Card bases much of Speaker on the irony that this most moral of humans (the founder of a new religion of understanding) is considered to be evil by people who are not as moral as he. Indeed, Ender’s notoriety as “the Xenocide” only works in Speaker for the Dead if he isn’t really guilty of the crime of genocide.


The Guiltless Genocide



As I have suggested, this issue of genocide puts the morality of intention to its ultimate test. We may forgive Ender the killings of Stilson and Bonzo, but can we forgive him the extermination of a race of intelligent creatures? This question has previously been raised in an essay by Elaine Radford that appeared in Fantasy Review in 1987.12 Radford’s essay says many things with which I do not agree, and its tone is often intemperate, but she touches on several issues that are central to my own trouble with Card’s writing.

Radford’s essay speculates that Card wrote Ender’s Game as an apologia for Adolf Hitler. She points out certain parallels between Ender’s biography and Hitler’s—that they were both third children, that they were virgins until age 37, that they were close to their older sisters, that they were abused by adults, that they both committed genocidal acts.

Card, in the same issue of Fantasy Review,13 denied Radford’s assertions. He said that he had no knowledge of any of the Hitler biographical information that Radford cited. Such parallels were “trivial coincidences.” He said he intended Ender as the moral opposite to Hitler: Hitler knew what he was doing; Ender did not. Hitler intended to exterminate; Ender did not. Hitler felt no moral qualm; Ender spends the rest of his life expiating the guilt he feels for exterminating the buggers.

Let me say very clearly that I do not believe that Orson Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game as an apologia for Hitler. I do not believe the biographical parallels Radford finds to Hitler are evidence that Card intended any parallel with Hitler—other than the parallel that they both commit genocide. Like Card, I take the other points of similarity as coincidences.

Yet although Card takes pains to point out how much he intends Ender to be Hitler’s moral opposite, he does admit that his introducing the issue of genocide was deliberate.

On the broadest level, it should be obvious to every reader of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead that I do draw one key parallel between historical monstrosities like Hitler, Stalin, and Amin, and my character Ender: they are thought of in the public mind as loathsome mass murderers. Despite their similar public image, however, every other element of Ender’s story is designed to show that in his case the image is not reality—he is not like Hitler or Stalin, exactly the opposite of what Radford claims. Far from using Ender to try to make people approve of Hitler, I use the contrast with Hitler, Stalin, and other genocides to illuminate the character of Ender Wiggin.14 "

“The humans in Ender’s Game never imagined that they were obliterating another species; rather they thought they were destroying an invading species’ ability to make war. Genocide was the result of not understanding the effect on the buggers of the death of the hive queen.” 15

“…Does Radford really believe that I was claiming Hitler’s near extermination of European Jews was an accident? That he and his underlings didn’t know their death camps might kill all the Jews? Yet if I made Ender’s crime so obviously different in intent from Hitler’s deliberate genocide, how can she imagine I meant Ender’s story to be an apologia for Hitler.”16

These paragraphs are full of obfuscation. First, the phrase “destroying an invading species’ ability to make war” is a careful parsing of language that obscures what happens in the novel: the buggers are unable to make war because they are exterminated. Characterizing this as destroying their ability to make war is like characterizing cutting off someone’s head as eliminating his ability to whistle.

Second, it is inconceivable that the commanders would not at least suspect that killing the queen would kill the entire race; the buggers in battle always responded as a unit, as if under the direction of a single mind, and in Mazer Rackham’s famous victory decades before, destroying a single ship caused the entire bugger fleet to go dead. (p. 206-07) Rackham explains the nature of the bugger group mind to Ender at length long before the final battle, and Ender uses this knowledge in preparing his strategy. The only reason the commanders would not know this is to make it possible for Card to assert that the final genocide was accidental.

Third, even this point about the hive queen is an evasion. Ender doesn’t just kill the queen: he disintegrates the entire bugger home world. The “MD Device” is a weapon that destroys matter in an expanding sphere. Ender knows exactly what it does, as do his commanders. When he sets off the MD Device there is nothing left of the buggers’ planet but “a sphere of bright dust”(p. 325). “Where the vast enemy fleet had been, and the planet they protected, there was nothing meaningful”(p. 325). The buggers do not need to have a group mind for this to constitute extermination.

Fourth, the passages insist that the difference between Hitler’s genocide and Ender’s is that Ender’s was an accident. Ender thought he was playing a simulation whereas Hitler knew the gas chambers were real. This "science fiction element" (remote-directed war) serves in moral terms as yet another evasion; in reality, people do not commit genocide by accident. This is another parallel between the bugger war and the fight scenes where Ender kills Stilson and Bonzo, all three constructed by Card, however improbably, so that Ender never knows he is killing his adversaries. But whether or not Ender’s battle simulations were practice or real, the ultimate purpose of any practice was to enact such destruction in reality. Ender and his commanders were aiming for this battle and they all knew it; thanks to the trick played on Ender it just happened sooner than it would have otherwise.

Fifth, Card implies that the humans were appalled by Ender’s success in destroying the buggers. Yet the officers have valued Ender from the beginning precisely because when he resorts to violence, he does so to the extreme, completely eliminating any chance that his enemy may regroup and strike again. Ender destroyed Bonzo and Stilson’s “ability to make war” by killing them. The commanders view Ender’s killing his adversaries not as an unfortunate overreaction, but a valuable trait. They need someone who will go to that extreme, they create Ender to be such a person, and they justify his killings afterward. So the fact that Ender succeeds in winning the war by totally destroying the enemy can hardly be called an unintended consequence. And when the bugger home world is obliterated, the humans in the battle room are not horrified, but relieved, even overjoyed, thanking God for their deliverance (p. 326).

No one charges Graff or the commanders with genocide. When, after the war, the courts charge Graff with "mistreatment of children, negligent homicide" (p. 336) in his running of the battle school, he is exonerated, essentially because of a Nuremberg defense: “I did what I believed was necessary for the preservation of the human race” (p. 336). When Ender’s killing of Bonzo comes up at the trial, “…the psychologists and lawyers argued whether murder had been committed or the killing was in self-defense. . . . Throughout the trial, it was really Ender himself under attack. The prosecution was too clever to charge him directly, but there were attempts to make him look sick, perverted, criminally insane”(p. 340). The only conceivable point of this last line is to assert that Ender is not sick, perverted, or insane. The prosecution of Graff, and through him, of Ender, is misbegotten and unjustified.

So despite the evidence in the book that the extermination of the buggers is at the very least a war crime, Card wants us to believe that Graff and Ender are not guilty. Any attempt to blame them is an injustice.


The Lonely Savior

But wait. Despite his heroic reception in the immediate aftermath of the bugger war, and his exoneration by the courts, as time passes isn’t Ender vilified as a mass murderer? Despite Mazer Rackham’s assertion that Ender is blameless, [Mazer says, after the battle, “We aimed you. We’re responsible. If there was something wrong, we did it”(p. 329).], Ender goes down in history as “the Xenocide.” Doesn’t this indicate that Card believes that Ender did something wrong?

Moreover, doesn’t Ender accuse himself even more than others do? After brutally beating up Stilson, and after virtually every incident of violence he performs, Ender accuses himself of being a sadist like Peter. When Ender joins an expedition preparing to settle the newly opened extra-solar systems, he cringes at the other colonists’ praise. He doesn’t want to hear them “tell him how he was so young it broke their hearts and they didn’t blame him for any of his murders because it wasn’t his fault he was just a child—“(p. 341). Ender looks at his reflection in a mirror and sees “eyes that grieved for a billion, billion murders”(p. 331). “All his crimes weighed heavy on him, the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo no heavier than the rest”(p. 340). He goes off to the colony worlds in order to “repay” the buggers, as he says, “by seeing what I can learn from their past”(p. 346). Ultimately, he finds a dormant bugger queen and carries her cocoon off to reseed the bugger race on another world.

But rather than seriously undermining Ender’s moral nature, these self-accusations serve to disarm any impulse we might have to speculate that Ender has any motive other than necessity for his seemingly excessive violence. A self-lacerating innocent tells us he never gets any personal satisfaction out of hurting anyone, and what an outside observer might see as vengeance, we are told by the author is self-defense. Plus, as we have seen, Card has constructed a plot and argued hard for an ethics under which Ender can kill without being guilty. By the morality of intention that, in Speaker for the Dead, we are told is “the only doctrine” of Ender’s new religion, he is not guilty of genocide. We, who have seen Ender abused almost from birth, who have seen how painful every step of his training has been for him, now must watch as he takes the sole blame for the extermination of the buggers.

Card has spoken in interviews about his tropism for the story of the person who sacrifices himself for the community. This is the story, he tells us, that he has been drawn to tell again and again. For example, in justification of the scenes of violence in his fiction, Card told Publisher’s Weekly in 1990 that, “In every single case, cruelty was a voluntary sacrifice. The person being subjected to the torture was suffering for the sake of the community.”17 I find this statement astonishingly revealing. By “The person being subjected to the torture,” Card is not referring here to Stilson, Bonzo, or the buggers, who may well be sacrificed, but whose sacrifices are certainly not “voluntary.” Their deaths are not the voluntary sacrifices that draw Card’s concern. No, in these situations, according to Card the person being tortured is Ender, and even though he walks away from every battle, the sacrifice is his. In every situation where Ender wields violence against someone, the focus of the narrative’s sympathy is always and invariably on Ender, not on the objects of Ender’s violence. It is Ender who is offering up the voluntary sacrifice, and that sacrifice is the emotional price he must pay for physically destroying someone else. All the force of such passages is on the price paid by the destroyer, not on the price paid by the destroyed. “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” might well be the slogan of Ender’s Game.

If, therefore, intention alone determines guilt or innocence, and the dead are dead because of misunderstanding or because they bring destruction on themselves, and the true sacrifice is the suffering of the killer rather than the killed—then Ender’s feeling of guilt is gratuitous. Yet despite the fact that he is fundamentally innocent, he takes “the sins of the world” onto his shoulders and bears the opprobrium that properly belongs to the people who made him into their instrument of genocide. He is the murderer as scapegoat. The genocide as savior. Hitler as Christ the redeemer.

I do not make the allusion to Christ casually. The figure of Christ, like that of Hitler, comes up briefly in Ender’s Game, and the associations it calls up are revealing. When Ender’s friend Alai points out that his habitual salute to Ender, “salaam,” means “peace be unto you”, an image immediately leaps into Ender’s mind. He recalls his mother quoting Jesus from the gospels.

“’Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword.’ Ender had pictured his mother piercing Peter the Terrible with a bloody rapier, and the words had stayed in his mind along with the image.” (p. 187)

The word “peace” calls to Ender’s mind not the Prince of Peace, not the Jesus of turning the other cheek, not the Jesus who stayed his apostle’s hand when the apostle attacked the soldier who came to take Jesus in the garden. “Peace be unto you” evokes in Ender an image of murderous revenge against his personal tormenter: the savior as righteous killer.

Thus, Ender’s taking on guilt for the extermination of the buggers at the end of Ender’s Game, and in Speaker for the Dead, is in no way a repudiation of his earlier violence, which is still viewed as justified, but rather a demonstration of the “magnitude of spirit” Graff praised him for earlier. Ender exterminates an alien race, gets credit for saving the human race, gets credit for feeling bad about it, and gets credit for expiating sins which he did not commit. First he sacrifices himself emotionally in order to save the human race physically, and then after the buggers are dead he sacrifices himself morally so that others may feel themselves innocent. History records him as a monster. In reality, the monster is a savior.

Because he has sacrificed his life for others, there is little happiness available to Ender. He takes what satisfaction he can from his work for others, though that work is more often than not unseen or, when recognized, unappreciated. His rage and alienation are deeply suppressed.


Why is Ender’s Game popular?



Ender’s childhood is based, albeit loosely, on my own; his relationship with Peter and Valentine is based, not on my actual relationship with my older brother and sister, but rather on the way I conceived those relationships to be when I was Ender’s age. Ender’s revised understanding of Peter late in life parallels in emotion the same revision I went through in my teens as I discovered the my childish view of my older brother was hopelessly wrong.18

—Orson Scott Card



What becomes of all those people who are the successful products of a strict upbringing? . . . anger and helpless rage, which they were forbidden to display, would have been among these feelings—particularly if these children were beaten, humiliated, lied to and deceived. What becomes of this forbidden and therefore unexpressed anger? Unfortunately, it does not disappear, but is transformed with time into a more or less conscious hatred directed against either the self or substitute persons, a hatred that will seek to discharge itself in various ways permissible and suitable for adults.”19

—Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence



Ender’s Game, seventeen years after its first publication, continues to sell between 100,000 and 200,000 copies per year in the United States.20 I have listened to students speak about it. It is tremendously popular with young readers. It has broad appeal. In my class this semester, when one of my most serious students, a believing Christian, praised Ender’s Game, another, a cynic and not any sort of Christian, chimed in with “that’s a great book.”

I would suggest that the methods of evasion that I have delineated in the text, and their congruency with the psychology of adolescence, offer an explanation for the novel’s deep and broad popularity. Psychologist Alice Miller has examined the mechanisms of abuse widespread in “normal”child rearing and explained how abused children incorporate their experience into their psyches, only to act it out years or decades later. Miller explains how children often justify abusive treatment, or deny even that it was abuse. I deserved it, they say, I needed to be socialized, my parents really loved me despite what they did, they did it for a larger purpose, for my own good. In extreme cases, the abused convince themselves that the abuse was evidence of love.

Because their abusers were secretly their friends, no anger against them is permissible. The repressed rage gets displaced, then acted out.

Disassociated from the original cause, their feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, longing, anxiety, and pain will find expression in destructive acts against others or against themselves .

The abused child, when grown and given the power to act out his own suppressed rage, is unable to identify with the objects of his rage. In extreme cases, as Miller says about convicted child abusers,“Compulsively and without qualms, they inflicted the same suffering on [others] as they had been subjected to themselves.”21 Yet to the abuser it still feels as if he is being abused, as if the sacrifice is his, and the effects of his actions on others take a secondary place to the emotions he feels himself.

This, I fear, is the appeal of Ender’s Game: it models this scenario precisely and absolves the child of any doubt that his actions in response to such treatment are questionable. It offers revenge without guilt. If you ever as a child felt unloved, if you ever feared that at some level you might deserve any abuse you suffered, Ender’s story tells you that you do not. In your soul, you are good. You are specially gifted, and better than anyone else. Your mistreatment is the evidence of your gifts. You are morally superior. Your turn will come, and then you may severely punish others, yet remain blameless. You are the hero.

Ender never loses a single battle, even when every circumstance is stacked against him. And in the end, as he wanders the lonely universe dispensing compassion22 for the undeserving who think him evil, he can feel sorry for himself at the same time he knows he is twice over a savior of the entire human race.

God, how I would have loved this book in seventh grade! It’s almost as good as having a nuclear device.

The problem is that the morality of that abused seventh grader is stunted. It’s a good thing I didn’t have access to a nuclear device. It’s a good thing I didn’t grow up to elaborate my fantasies of personal revenge into an all-encompassing system of ethics. The bullying I suffered, which seemed overwhelming to me then, was undeniably real, and wrong. But it did not make me the center of the universe. My sense of righteousness, one that might have justified any violence, was exaggerated beyond any reality, and no true morality could grow in me until I put it aside. I had to let go of my sense of myself as victim of a cosmic morality play, not in order to justify the abuse—I didn’t deserve to be hurt—but in order to avoid acting it out. I had to learn not to suppress it and strike back.

We see the effects of displaced, righteous rage everywhere around us, written in violence and justified as moral action, even compassion. Ender gets to strike out at his enemies and still remain morally clean. Nothing is his fault. Stilson already lies defeated on the ground, yet Ender can kick him in the face until he dies, and still remain the good guy. Ender can drive bone fragments into Bonzo’s brain and then kick his dying body in the crotch, yet the entire focus is on Ender’s suffering. For an adolescent ridden with rage and self-pity, who feels himself abused (and what adolescent doesn’t?), what’s not to like about this scenario? So we all want to be Ender. As Elaine Radford has said, “We would all like to believe that our suffering has made us special—especially if it gives us a righteous reason to destroy our enemies.”23

But that’s a lie. No one is that special; no one is that innocent. If I felt that Card’s fiction truly understood this, then I would not have written this essay.

Fri
2008-06-17, 03:22 PM
Ah, ender's game. Gifted/depressed kid's favourite book since the 70s. Which edition of the novel do you got, EE? There's an essay from Card about... well.. things on Ender's Game for opening in my version of the book. Did other edition got that too?

And, anyway. There's something missing from your essay. Your conclusion is? Sorry if there's actually a conclusion that I didn't get.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 04:24 PM
Well i think the essay is trying to make is that Ender's game's morality isn't as realistic as people tend to praise it for, that is is in fact rather black and white, but your right, it needs a final conclusion paragraph
from
EE

Ozymandias
2008-06-17, 04:46 PM
John Kessel, isn't it?

I think the thesis is that Card presents Ender as perfectly virtuous, and since he is perfectly innocent any actions he takes are justified post hoc. His (Kessel's) argument seems to be that he disagrees with the notion that people like Ender can exist in fact, and Card's presentation of him does nothing other than have the reader identify with a false standard and use that as justification for moral aberrations.

I sort of half-agree. I think that people shouldn't use persecution or ostracism as an excuse for violence, but I also think that circumstances like that can and sometimes should lead to a revolution, at whatever level is appropriate. I do think it's a little dangerous for middle schoolers to read, however, owing to that demographics notorious immaturity and even more notorious delusions of maturity.

Mr. Scaly
2008-06-17, 06:17 PM
Well i think the essay is trying to make is that Eragon's morality isn't as realistic as people tend to praise it for, that is is in fact rather black and white, but your right, it needs a final conclusion paragraph
from
EE

Eragon???

I never actually read Ender's Game to be honest. I think I'd like it though. Headscrew is fun.

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 07:20 PM
Sorry Mr. Scaly


John Kessel, isn't it?

Yep

I think the thesis is that Card presents Ender as perfectly virtuous, and since he is perfectly innocent any actions he takes are justified post hoc. His (Kessel's) argument seems to be that he disagrees with the notion that people like Ender can exist in fact, and Card's presentation of him does nothing other than have the reader identify with a false standard and use that as justification for moral aberrations.

The thing with Card that makes him different from other popular authors i dislike is that he is actually a good writer, i can't deny that. However the morality of the story is really really grating.



I sort of half-agree. I think that people shouldn't use persecution or ostracism as an excuse for violence, but I also think that circumstances like that can and sometimes should lead to a revolution, at whatever level is appropriate. I do think it's a little dangerous for middle schoolers to read, however, owing to that demographics notorious immaturity and even more notorious delusions of maturity.

Also, while in Card's perfect (through the perfect is cleverly hidden) world ends do justify the means, and you can in fact be innocent while preforming a genocide, that simply doesn't work in reality. It is like justifying El Salvador, it just doesn't pan out. The book creates an extremly black and white portrayal of some rather dangerous options, through you have to credit Card's writing quality (through he seems to hate descriptions)

from
EE

Mr. Scaly
2008-06-17, 07:30 PM
From what I've heard so far it sounds to me more like Ender is being set up to be pitied BECAUSE of the mixed up morals being presented. Somebody who believes they're doing right, or is ignorant of the fact that they're doing wrong seems very sad to me. When they really know what's going on and accept the truth then they're either a hero or a villain, but if Ender really doesn't know any different because of the way he grew up then he does have good cause to be the victim.

Yes he's committing murder and genocide, which we can all agree is wrong no matter how you've grown up. But don't you think it's a little sad that he doesn't know any better?

EvilElitest
2008-06-17, 07:41 PM
From what I've heard so far it sounds to me more like Ender is being set up to be pitied BECAUSE of the mixed up morals being presented. Somebody who believes they're doing right, or is ignorant of the fact that they're doing wrong seems very sad to me. When they really know what's going on and accept the truth then they're either a hero or a villain, but if Ender really doesn't know any different because of the way he grew up then he does have good cause to be the victim.

Yes he's committing murder and genocide, which we can all agree is wrong no matter how you've grown up. But don't you think it's a little sad that he doesn't know any better?

but thats the thing, and i know you didn't read the books, i'll spoil it for you


The thing is, Ender isn't doing evil things because of his culture has raised him to become a bit of a monster. That would mean he would be a bit of a tragic hero, or an anti hero, we would realize that he is a monster who is just tragically being corrupted because of his culture. We realize he is an awful person, but we pity him because he truly believes in what he is doing and he didn't want to become a horrible person. however in Card's novel, he is innocent. I say that in bold because the actual novel's point is that he is totally innocent of the crimes. The books almost out right states that he is in fact an innocent killer

from
EE

Closet_Skeleton
2008-06-18, 02:24 AM
I'm sort of reminded of how in Star Wars, whenever people give Palpatine more power he always says how sorry he is and that he doesn't want to have to take liberty from people in order to give them safety. It's a bit interesting how Card's ideal protagonist is someone who's regretful about what he does while Lucas' ultimate evil is someone who uses those same kind of words to make him seem like an ideal hero.

Icewalker
2008-06-18, 02:30 AM
AAAAAAH LONG.

I read the introduction, and find this idea very interesting. Having been starved of actual intellectual literature analysis due to my HORRIFIC teacher this year, I'll probably read this when I find time. Also, Ender's Game was an amazing book.

kamikasei
2008-06-18, 02:45 AM
Might be a good idea or just good form to include a link back to the source, plus an attribution.

EvilElitest
2008-06-18, 09:50 AM
sorry, i literally didn't have the space in the first post to include much at all, here you go

John Kessell

http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/Killer_000.htm

Also i like Closet Skeleton comparison

I agree that Ender's game is an amazingly written book, but i have to agree with the essay about the morality of it
from
EE

hamishspence
2008-06-18, 05:06 PM
now that was one interesting essay. Now that the Shadow series have come out, what lights can that shed on the ender story and what was going on behind the scenes?

It gives a motivation for Peter's treatment of Ender: jealeasy for that fact Ender loves Valentine more than him.

It tells us Battle school turned Peter down not for recklessness but for lack of charisma. And gives us a sample villain to contrast with him, showing that Peter was not a tyrant in the making.

It fills out the characters of Theresa and John Paul Wiggin.

It tells us that Ender was almost certainly subconciously aware of the real consequences of his actions, even if he didn't consciously know.

So it's worth thinking about.

The impression I got was that good people rightly feel good for bad results of their actions, even if they are not aware of said results at the time. Had ender lacked guilt once he found out, he would indeed be a monster

Moff Chumley
2008-06-18, 05:55 PM
AGH, WALL OF TEXT!

Just a quick question, who likes Peter more than Ender?

Emperor Tippy
2008-06-18, 08:18 PM
Ender's guilt or innocence is irrelevant in regards to the bugger genocide. Morality has no place at all in the issue. Ender, and the IF, did exactly what was necessary to safeguard humanity.

Hell, you can justify the extermination of any alien species you find -regardless of threat level- on the grounds of preemptive protection. Not exterminating a species that has twice attacked you only world and threatened the extermination of your species would be the height of stupidity.

Mr. Scaly
2008-06-18, 09:33 PM
Dang forums, shutting down on me...

Closet_Skeleton, the difference between Palpatine and Ender though is that Palpatine is a power hungry bastard who doesn't think life has any value for anyone but him, whilst Ender is just a messed up kid.

EvilElitest
2008-06-18, 09:44 PM
Ender's guilt or innocence is irrelevant in regards to the bugger genocide. Morality has no place at all in the issue. Ender, and the IF, did exactly what was necessary to safeguard humanity.

Hell, you can justify the extermination of any alien species you find -regardless of threat level- on the grounds of preemptive protection. Not exterminating a species that has twice attacked you only world and threatened the extermination of your species would be the height of stupidity.

That ideal only works in the perfect world Orwell created, where options are limited to only one course of action, and the real trouble is going through with it (IE, the chess situation, an Ender's game). As a book that is trying to show something however, in the real world, the idea of an innocent killer is not a possibility.

Now if Ender destroying the Buggers was shown like in a manner like Song of Fire and Ice, where the other possibilities are uncertain, and yet one can clearly understand the motives of the main character, i'd be fine.
from
EE

LurkerInPlayground
2008-06-24, 02:15 AM
Once upon a time, I read this essay, thought about it and decided I didn't care much.

The whole thing stinks of shrill alarmism. The essay is a steady march into the purview of Godwin's Law. I find it very hard to take seriously since it's premise seems to want us to accept that Ender's Game is propaganda, and they're telling you so through propaganda.

Take this little quote:


What becomes of all those people who are the successful products of a strict upbringing? . . . anger and helpless rage, which they were forbidden to display, would have been among these feelings—particularly if these children were beaten, humiliated, lied to and deceived. What becomes of this forbidden and therefore unexpressed anger? Unfortunately, it does not disappear, but is transformed with time into a more or less conscious hatred directed against either the self or substitute persons, a hatred that will seek to discharge itself in various ways permissible and suitable for adults.”19

—Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence

Unfortunately, this really just seems like somebody trying to cash-in on somebody else's credibility but without really establishing a link between fiction and somebody else's work. And if somebody had been paying attention, this little snippet may just as well be saying that some of that pent-up energy might become expressed in constructive ways. That it doesn't always end in violence.

We'll never know because it's been quoted out of context and the author of the article didn't bother explaining why it was thrown in there.

For one thing, Ender chooses to amend his anger instead of letting it twist him. His crimes, whatever they are, doesn't have to impact his destiny once he's free of the military and he basically exiles himself. At the beginning of his school, he made the attempt to reconcile himself with his tormentors, choosing to build bridges when he could. He's faced with the conflict of being like Peter, who is really more a symbol of savagery and all-consuming cruelty. A part of that is overcome when he realizes that his brother isn't a completely irredeemable monster.

If, therefore, intention alone determines guilt or innocence, and the dead are dead because of misunderstanding or because they bring destruction on themselves, and the true sacrifice is the suffering of the killer rather than the killed—then Ender’s feeling of guilt is gratuitous. Yet despite the fact that he is fundamentally innocent, he takes “the sins of the world” onto his shoulders and bears the opprobrium that properly belongs to the people who made him into their instrument of genocide. He is the murderer as scapegoat. The genocide as savior. Hitler as Christ the redeemer.
Godwinned with Jesus for triple the points! If I needed anymore convincing that the author is an artless tool, this pretty much sums it up.

Ender's Game strikes me as one giant victimless crime. That is, there are plenty of people in the wrong, lots of corpses and everybody got hurt. A giant game of chicken that ended with one race dead. Even the surviving humans had to fight it out when their world-wide alliance broke down and the various nations made their bid for power.

If we were to say *anything* it's more accurately a portrayal of the irony of war, dumb animal fear and our tribalistic natures. Forgive the cliche, but that's the human condition. Ultimately, the Buggers were just as human because they were no more immune to it then anybody else.

Guilt and innocence are crude tools that lose their relevance under the tide of all that nastiness. Judging guilt and innocence would be perfectly rational, but of course, that was never the point.

TheElfLord
2008-06-24, 12:52 PM
AGH, WALL OF TEXT!

Just a quick question, who likes Peter more than Ender?

Ender's Game Peter or Shadow Peter? Because He became a much more likable person in the Shadow series. So I would say I like Peter over Ender in the Shadow series, but Ender better in Ender's Game.

Interesting article. I don't know quite how I feel about it.

Dervag
2008-06-24, 10:51 PM
Also, while in Card's perfect (through the perfect is cleverly hidden) world ends do justify the means, and you can in fact be innocent while preforming a genocide, that simply doesn't work in reality. It is like justifying El Salvador, it just doesn't pan out. The book creates an extremly black and white portrayal of some rather dangerous options, through you have to credit Card's writing quality (through he seems to hate descriptions)The point of the exercise in writing a book like this is to clarify a moral question down to its purest form. In this case, the question is:

"Is a person evil for committing acts we would call evil if committed deliberately without any deliberate intent?"

If Ender wanted to exterminate the Formics (Buggers), we would say he was a monster. If Ender had known that the Formics' Hive Queens were all gathered on the world he destroyed, ditto. If he'd even known he was fighting the war, targeting the planet would have been a very questionable act.

But he didn't, on all three counts, which is why there's even a question to be asked. This story would not be useful in real life because it's the artificial limits Card puts on the situation that even allow us to ask the question.

We're used to the idea that a person can kill someone by accident, or wrong someone by accident. Most people are inclined to be forgiving in that case. Only by creating an artificial scenario can Card ask "what about a really big crime committed by accident? What then?"

If you want a real life example of "genocide by accident," though...

...consider what happened to the Native Americans due to European diseases. Millions were killed by diseases that European explorers didn't even know they were carrying and had no way to fight. That comes pretty close. Even if Columbus, De Soto, and the like had been totally benevolent and kind, they still would have directly caused the deaths of millions.


I'm sort of reminded of how in Star Wars, whenever people give Palpatine more power he always says how sorry he is and that he doesn't want to have to take liberty from people in order to give them safety. It's a bit interesting how Card's ideal protagonist is someone who's regretful about what he does while Lucas' ultimate evil is someone who uses those same kind of words to make him seem like an ideal hero.Well, the thing is that Ender really is sorry; he had literally no idea what he was doing to his enemies when he did it.

And he's the one who writes the book that gives him a reputation as a mass murderer instead of the savior of humanity. So he really took his state of sorriness to extremes, to the point where he could never travel under his own true name again without getting very nasty looks. The kind that a man named "Adolf Hitler" might get in real life today.


Ender's guilt or innocence is irrelevant in regards to the bugger genocide. Morality has no place at all in the issue. Ender, and the IF, did exactly what was necessary to safeguard humanity.Is it always a morally neutral act to do something in the same of defending yourself?


Hell, you can justify the extermination of any alien species you find -regardless of threat level- on the grounds of preemptive protection. Not exterminating a species that has twice attacked you only world and threatened the extermination of your species would be the height of stupidity.Could the aliens justify exterminating us on the grounds that we are the kind of species that would wipe them out in "preemptive protection?"

That's the problem with doctrines of preemption; they give rise to moral paradoxes where A has a moral right to kill B for having the moral right to kill A for having the moral right to kill B... et cetera ad nauseam.

Emperor Tippy
2008-06-25, 12:31 AM
Is it always a morally neutral act to do something in the same of defending yourself?
Yourself? As an individual? No. Yourself as a species? Yes.

The single highest imperative of any species is the continuation of his species. If Ender had attacked and killed the Buggers because he feared for his life then their extermination would not have been morally neutral or justifiable. But Ender attacked and killed the Buggers because of the threat to his species, and it was a justifiable threat.


Could the aliens justify exterminating us on the grounds that we are the kind of species that would wipe them out in "preemptive protection?"
Yes. And they attempted to do so, twice (at least in Enders case). The single overriding priority of any sane member of any species has to be the survival of his species, at any cost.


That's the problem with doctrines of preemption; they give rise to moral paradoxes where A has a moral right to kill B for having the moral right to kill A for having the moral right to kill B... et cetera ad nauseam.
Moral right has nothing at all to do with it. Morals and ethics are a thin veneer used to obscure the true justifications for an act so that said justifications are seen as less base and objectionable.

Every moral and ethical justification in the end comes down to survival and propagation; be it survival of self, survival of loved ones, or survival of a cause.

In fact most morals arise from the first and second of those justifications. Why is it considered evil and immoral to kill people who have things you like so that you can take them for yourself? Because if you do it then your neighbor Bob will do it and then Mike will do it and eventually someone will kill you and take your stuff. So it's in your best interest for the killing random people to take their things be seen by society as an abhorrent act.

Everything in the end comes down to survival and continuation.

hamishspence
2008-06-25, 01:36 PM
Survival-centric morality can be a little dubious. Like Ends Justify the Means. An evil act can be excused by survival, but that doesn't make it any less evil.

Ender, late in book 1, is thinking on how the Formics had not lauched a third attack.

Emperor Tippy
2008-06-25, 01:54 PM
Survival-centric morality can be a little dubious. Like Ends Justify the Means. An evil act can be excused by survival, but that doesn't make it any less evil.
I never said the act was or was not evil, I said its "good" or "evil" ness is irrelevant. Good and evil are not objective concepts.


Ender, late in book 1, is thinking on how the Formics had not lauched a third attack.
Before or after he wiped them out? If it was before, he had absolutely no way of knowing whether or not the attack had been launched. With a 70+ year time gap between launch and arrival and the size of space he had no way of knowing that the attack fleets hadn't passed each other in space.


----
What it comes down to is that you can not justify the taking of any action because said action is "good" or condemn the taking of any action because said action is "evil". You can condemn an act because it is something society in general sees as "evil" but even then the condemnation isn't justified because the act was "evil" but because the act not being condemned as "evil" would encourage others to take said action.

Is genocide evil? It depends on why genocide is being used.

Are you fighting a war for survival against an enemy that you have no way of communicating with and has twice threatened the elimination of your entire species? If so them genocide isn't just justified it is the only reasonable course of action.

Did you decide that you just didn't like brown people so you are going to kill them all? If so then genocide isn't in any way justified.

The real dividing line is between species. Humans killing other groups of humans because of their skin color (or other such things like religion) threatens the survival of the species as a whole so it should be prevented at nigh any cost. Allowing another species that could be a threat to the survival of your species to survive though is risking the survival of your entire species.

If you only have 1 world then you dare not risk it in any way, even if you meet another species and they only have a 1/1000 chance of eliminating your species. If you have multiple worlds then the reasonable and prudent response is different, your species can't be eliminated with trivial ease any more.

hamishspence
2008-06-25, 02:23 PM
"Evil" has always been hard to define, but that doesn't mean that all morality is determined by utility.

Machiavelli's The Discourses made it clear that some acts can be seen as reprehensible. Excusable, but still reprehensible. At least by one standard. In the Penguin Classics version, edited by Bernard Crick, it stressed that Machiavelli never calls wrong right, only that there are times that it may be necessary to do a morally wrong thing.

if we mover from Ender to Griff and Mazer, it is clear that they see themselves as having done wrong, but that it was necessary.

Which is why we speak of Necessary Evils, rather than saying "Anything that is necessary is good"

Oslecamo
2008-06-25, 02:56 PM
If you only have 1 world then you dare not risk it in any way, even if you meet another species and they only have a 1/1000 chance of eliminating your species. If you have multiple worlds then the reasonable and prudent response is different, your species can't be eliminated with trivial ease any more.

Unless you are the Aliens from Ender's game, in wich case your QI is inferior to that of rotten burned and stomped cocroach and you not only expose your indispensable comander to enemy fire, you also put all your indispensable comanders on the same planet when the enemy has already shown to possess an uber weapon.

And then when the enemy shows up with said uber weapon, you actually tell your endless fleet to move out of the way so they can shoot better.

Seriously, I was actually liking Ender's game as I read it, but when I saw how far the stupidity of the aliens reached I almost throw up.

In my opinion, Ender has embraced the dark side. When he's bullied, he answers by bullying back ten times as hard. He likes to humiliate other people, he wants glory, atention, power. He knows that he lives in a wrong world, and he totally embraces it instead of trying to fight it.

It doesn't matter that he was lied to or everybody he met was a total jerk, he made his choice out of his own will to join the "cool boys" who blow up enemies with a smile in the face. He knew his choices were wrong, and still carried them out. This is the whole concept of evil.

Emperor Tippy
2008-06-25, 03:24 PM
"Evil" has always been hard to define, but that doesn't mean that all morality is determined by utility.
Everything that is not objective fact is determined by utility. Evil is any belief or action that decreases survivability for the group as a whole. Good is any belief or action that increases survivability for the group as a whole.


Machiavelli's The Discourses made it clear that some acts can be seen as reprehensible. Excusable, but still reprehensible. At least by one standard. In the Penguin Classics version, edited by Bernard Crick, it stressed that Machiavelli never calls wrong right, only that there are times that it may be necessary to do a morally wrong thing.
I am going to an even more base level. Morality is entirely irrelevant, whether the act is seen as good or evil is irrelevant. Morality is never a justification for any action. If an act is justified then the morality of the act is irrelevant in regards to whether or not the act should have been committed.


if we mover from Ender to Griff and Mazer, it is clear that they see themselves as having done wrong, but that it was necessary.
No, Griff and Mazer see the harm they did to Ender as wrong, while still being necessary. They don't see the elimination of the Bugger species as wrong. The acts required to bring about the genocide can be "evil" without the genocide being "evil".


Which is why we speak of Necessary Evils, rather than saying "Anything that is necessary is good"
I never said "Anything that is necessary is good". I said "Anything that is necessary should be done." The good or evil of the act is entirely irrelevant in regards to whether or not the act should be committed, they are only relevant after the fact when society is reviewing those actions. And then only as a simple way to justify to the masses.

There is no good and evil or right and wrong. Just necessary and not necessary. It's good if most of society sees it as necessary and evil if most of society sees it as not necessary.

Genocide, for example, in general can be held to be evil while a specific genocide can be held to be good. The taking of another human life can be generally held to be evil while the taking of a specific human life can be held to be good.

Emperor Tippy
2008-06-25, 03:34 PM
Unless you are the Aliens from Ender's game, in wich case your QI is inferior to that of rotten burned and stomped cocroach and you not only expose your indispensable comander to enemy fire, you also put all your indispensable comanders on the same planet when the enemy has already shown to possess an uber weapon.

And then when the enemy shows up with said uber weapon, you actually tell your endless fleet to move out of the way so they can shoot better.

Seriously, I was actually liking Ender's game as I read it, but when I saw how far the stupidity of the aliens reached I almost throw up.
Yes, the Buggers were idiots. That isn't relevant though.


In my opinion, Ender has embraced the dark side. When he's bullied, he answers by bullying back ten times as hard. He likes to humiliate other people, he wants glory, atention, power. He knows that he lives in a wrong world, and he totally embraces it instead of trying to fight it.
Incorrect. Ender doesn't want glory, attention, or power. He wants love and to survive without pain. Let's take the first person he killed. Ender had 3 options; (1) get beat up, (2) win the fight but have to fight every day knowing that he will eventually lose, (3) win the fight in such a way that none of the bullies will ever want to fight him again. He chose the third option because it would cause him the least long term pain and was most conducive to his continued survival.

A disproportionate response is not "evil" or "wrong". Like it or not, the overriding priority of any species (and the individual members of said species) is their own survival. In the case of humans, the most effective way to stop a human from doing something is by making them fear the consequences of doing said thing. The most effective fear is that of dieing without accomplishing one's goals.


It doesn't matter that he was lied to or everybody he met was a total jerk, he made his choice out of his own will to join the "cool boys" who blow up enemies with a smile in the face. He knew his choices were wrong, and still carried them out. This is the whole concept of evil.
Incorrect on ever level. Ender destroyed the Bugger home world because he thought he was playing a game and thought that it was an act so heinous that the IF would never put someone willing to commit said act in command. Ender was tricked into fighting the war and tricked into eliminating the bugger race.

Oslecamo
2008-06-25, 07:34 PM
Yes, the Buggers were idiots. That isn't relevant though.


Oh, it is relevant. If your enemy is an idiot, you don't exterminate it, you find a way to manipulate it and make him do your biding, or at least fight between themselves. It's a classic in history. And it's relevant, because it means the human comanders are either all sadomasochists or really stupid, and it shows how Ender lives in a completely unrealistic world, where the top military comanders are sadomasochist/morons.


Incorrect. Ender doesn't want glory, attention, or power. He wants love and to survive without pain. Let's take the first person he killed. Ender had 3 options; (1) get beat up, (2) win the fight but have to fight every day knowing that he will eventually lose, (3) win the fight in such a way that none of the bullies will ever want to fight him again. He chose the third option because it would cause him the least long term pain and was most conducive to his continued survival.

A disproportionate response is not "evil" or "wrong". Like it or not, the overriding priority of any species (and the individual members of said species) is their own survival. In the case of humans, the most effective way to stop a human from doing something is by making them fear the consequences of doing said thing. The most effective fear is that of dieing without accomplishing one's goals.

And this is were we disagree. Violence breeds violence. Fear breeds vengeance. You may manipulate people by fear for some time, but they'll eventually jump at your throat as soon as you show an opening.

Thus, the most effective way to stop a human from doing something is presenting him a better looking alternative. In this case, choice (4), try to find something the bullies like more than beating him and give them that. But thanks to his violence for violence policy during the whole series, Ender breeds enemies left and right, when he could be trying to breed allies. If he's being bullied, he should try to understand why the hell is being bullied, instead of becoming a bully himself.

Not to mention, as soon as Ender arrived at the station, the first thing he does is starting to show off how smart he is by hacking the computer system to insult his collegues and pwning the veterans at the simulations. He was asking to be bullied.



Incorrect on ever level. Ender destroyed the Bugger home world because he thought he was playing a game and thought that it was an act so heinous that the IF would never put someone willing to commit said act in command. Ender was tricked into fighting the war and tricked into eliminating the bugger race.

Then Ender is as stupid as a bug. He got plenty of signs that it wasn't just a game anymore. If he didn't want to do it, what he should have done was just to order his ships to self destruct or simply refuse to do anything. But mr "behold my ownage skills!" does it again, trying to get the most flashy effect possible out of the situation at hand.

As a final note, if humanity followed even half the rules you claim, we would still be hunting mamoths with bone spears, if that much.

We didn't try to extinguish all fire, we learned to control it.

We didn't exterminate the wolfs, we domesticated them to help us.

We didn't seeked to exterminate all the other animals, we settled in houses wich isolated us from them.

We didn't throw away aparently useless products, we discovered ways to turn them into something usefull.

Turning an enemy into an ally, an obstacle into a passage, a danger into a tool, that's the true strenght of mankind, not the "CLEAN PURGE KILL!" philosophy wich Ender's game defends.

Dervag
2008-06-25, 11:52 PM
Yourself? As an individual? No. Yourself as a species? Yes.

The single highest imperative of any species is the continuation of his species. If Ender had attacked and killed the Buggers because he feared for his life then their extermination would not have been morally neutral or justifiable. But Ender attacked and killed the Buggers because of the threat to his species, and it was a justifiable threat.Why?

Why is a species a morally transcendant entity in this model? Why is it more important to take all imaginable precautions to preserve the species than to, for instance, avoid the utter destruction of someone else's species?

Why is it just for one intelligent species to exterminate two under given circumstances than it would be for one individual to kill two individuals under similar circumstances (scaled down to the individual level)?


Moral right has nothing at all to do with it. Morals and ethics are a thin veneer used to obscure the true justifications for an act so that said justifications are seen as less base and objectionable.

Every moral and ethical justification in the end comes down to survival and propagation; be it survival of self, survival of loved ones, or survival of a cause.Can you prove this? It's a very ambitious claim. You see, I am familiar with a number of ethical systems that don't use "survival over all" as their core premise. These systems appear to be logically consistent to me. Perhaps I have misunderstood something somewhere along the line.


Everything in the end comes down to survival and continuation.Can you demonstrate this to be an abstract truth, or is it something you are convinced is the case for reasons specific to you?
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I never said the act was or was not evil, I said its "good" or "evil" ness is irrelevant. Good and evil are not objective concepts.I must respectfully disagree. Since I've presented my reasons for doing so many times, I do not intend to bore the audience with a repeat performance unless necessary.

Do you have a formal argument aimed at demonstrating your proposition that good and evil are not objective concepts?


What it comes down to is that you can not justify the taking of any action because said action is "good" or condemn the taking of any action because said action is "evil". You can condemn an act because it is something society in general sees as "evil" but even then the condemnation isn't justified because the act was "evil" but because the act not being condemned as "evil" would encourage others to take said action.Ah. Argument from moral relativism.

My objection is that moral relativism is either a premise of your argument, or something you have deduced by a chain of logic from other premises. If it is one of your premises, then it's a simple fact that lots of people do not agree and that you aren't going to be able to prove that they're making a mistake. You can't prove the axioms of your own belief system.

If moral relativism is not one of your premises, and is instead something you deduced from other premises, then it would be kind of you to present your reasoning for claiming moral relativism.


The real dividing line is between species. Humans killing other groups of humans because of their skin color (or other such things like religion) threatens the survival of the species as a whole so it should be prevented at nigh any cost. Allowing another species that could be a threat to the survival of your species to survive though is risking the survival of your entire species.What is the ethical distinction between a "species" and a "race?" Why is it worth committing massacres for one and not the other?

This is not a rhetorical question. I would very much like to see your answer.


I am going to an even more base level. Morality is entirely irrelevant, whether the act is seen as good or evil is irrelevant. Morality is never a justification for any action. If an act is justified then the morality of the act is irrelevant in regards to whether or not the act should have been committed.I do not agree, because I believe the entire point of the exercise of morality and ethics is to figure out which actions are in fact worth doing for their own sake. The alternative (no morality or ethics) is effectively nihilism, because it requires you to conclude that nothing is worth doing for its own sake, in which case there's no particular point in doing any thing rather than any other thing.

In your case, your argument is that the ethical rule which should guide all actions is "necessity." You fold the concept that philosophers call "ethical" into your concept of "necessary." My question to you is then:

How do you decide what is necessary without creating a system of moral and/or ethical rules? How do you know whether something is necessary? By definition, an act can only be necessary for some specific purpose. It may be necessary to fight a battle to stay alive, or to throw baseballs to win a game, or to tell jokes to keep a fellow person happy. But necessity cannot tell you why you are bothering to stay alive, win the game, and keep someone happy. It can only tell you what you need to do to achieve your aims.

If there is nothing but necessity, there are no aims, and therefore necessity vanishes. Or, rather, becomes purely arbitrary. What you consider "necessary" has nothing to do with anything but whatever goals you decided to pursue at this particular moment, and you have no compelling reason to choose any goal over any other goal.
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There is no good and evil or right and wrong. Just necessary and not necessary. It's good if most of society sees it as necessary and evil if most of society sees it as not necessary.

Genocide, for example, in general can be held to be evil while a specific genocide can be held to be good. The taking of another human life can be generally held to be evil while the taking of a specific human life can be held to be good.Do you normally refuse to draw a distinction between "believed to be X" and "actually is X?" Or is this argument only applicable to morality and ethics, for a reason I do not understand?

Again, this is not a rhetorical question. I would be very interested to see your answer on this.
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Emperor Tippy
2008-06-26, 06:27 AM
Oh, it is relevant. If your enemy is an idiot, you don't exterminate it, you find a way to manipulate it and make him do your biding, or at least fight between themselves. It's a classic in history. And it's relevant, because it means the human comanders are either all sadomasochists or really stupid, and it shows how Ender lives in a completely unrealistic world, where the top military comanders are sadomasochist/morons.
You seem to be of the opinion that communication between the Buggers and humans was possible. It wasn't. Communication was attempted by both sides and neither ever realized it.


And this is were we disagree. Violence breeds violence. Fear breeds vengeance. You may manipulate people by fear for some time, but they'll eventually jump at your throat as soon as you show an opening.

Thus, the most effective way to stop a human from doing something is presenting him a better looking alternative. In this case, choice (4), try to find something the bullies like more than beating him and give them that.
Appeasement never works. 1) Ender had nothing the bullies wanted. 2) Why would the bully, now knowing Ender fears him enough to give him his possessions, leave Ender alone instead of extorting more things from Ender? If one doesn't have the stick then the carrot is worthless.

If you have something that I want, let's say this item is worth $100 bucks. You know that I will fight to get said item, you know that you would win said fight but be injured enough to miss 2 days of work. It is cheaper for you to pay me the hundred bucks and not fight me. However if I continue to want $100 items every week it becomes cheaper to defeat me than to pay me.

What it all comes down to is a cost benefit analysis. If Ender had just beaten Stilson (the first bully) then he expected that he would face said bully every day and would face other bullies as well. So Ender chose to make it so that he would only have to fight Stilson once. How? By making a fight with him cost prohibitive for Stilson and as an example to other bullies that he was willing to fight to win.


But thanks to his violence for violence policy during the whole series, Ender breeds enemies left and right, when he could be trying to breed allies. If he's being bullied, he should try to understand why the hell is being bullied, instead of becoming a bully himself.
Ender had exactly 2 real enemies, maybe 3 if you include the Launchie. Stilson and Bonzo. Stilson didn't like him because he was smart. Bonzo didn't like him because he was smart and made Bonzo look like the idiot he was. What was Ender supposed to do? Make himself stupider or act stupider? He didn't antagonize either of them. As for allies, he made tons of allies.

As for being a bully, he never was. Ender was a military commander, soldiers have to obey their commanders orders instantly and without hesitation. The commander has to be able to give orders that he knows will result in harm to soldiers under his command so that his side wins. Officers and Enlisted men are kept separate for a reason.


Not to mention, as soon as Ender arrived at the station, the first thing he does is starting to show off how smart he is by hacking the computer system to insult his collegues and pwning the veterans at the simulations. He was asking to be bullied.
Um no. Ender was being bullied on the flight to the station. Graff caused that, Ender had nothing to do with it. In regards to hacking, he couldn't physically take on those bullying him and he couldn't openly take support away from Bernard. So he undermined that support, allowing himself a chance to make allies. As for the game, he asked to play a game that he had every right to play. He was better at it than the older players. Why should he purposely loose?


Then Ender is as stupid as a bug. He got plenty of signs that it wasn't just a game anymore. If he didn't want to do it, what he should have done was just to order his ships to self destruct or simply refuse to do anything. But mr "behold my ownage skills!" does it again, trying to get the most flashy effect possible out of the situation at hand.
Um no. How the hell was Ender supposed to know? The entire military was conspiring to conceal the fact from him.


As a final note, if humanity followed even half the rules you claim, we would still be hunting mamoths with bone spears, if that much.
We do follow them, you just don't think about it.


We didn't try to extinguish all fire, we learned to control it.
Yes, because fire=heat which allows more people to survive the winter. It also allows cooked meat and boiled water, which reduced disease and germs.


We didn't exterminate the wolfs, we domesticated them to help us.
We didn't exterminate the wold because by the time we had the capability to exterminate the wolf we had already domesticated them and they weren't a threat any more. Why do you think wolves were almost extinct? It's because we were killing them.


We didn't seeked to exterminate all the other animals, we settled in houses wich isolated us from them.
Because said animals aren't a threat. There is no similarity between a fox and a sentient species which has interstellar travel capabilities. You could literally exterminate the human species tomorrow with about one hundred 50 megaton nuclear warheads. Anyone that can travel from solar system to solar system can deploy those nukes and we have no way to stop them. Or they can accelerate an asteroid up to high velocities and crash it into the earth.


We didn't throw away aparently useless products, we discovered ways to turn them into something usefull.
Those products would never have existed in the first place if someone didn't think that they would be conducive to theirs and others survival. At the root of it thats what it comes down to.


Turning an enemy into an ally, an obstacle into a passage, a danger into a tool, that's the true strenght of mankind, not the "CLEAN PURGE KILL!" philosophy wich Ender's game defends.
Enemy into an ally? What are you smoking. Most every major technological advance in human history was derived from things created to kill other humans more efficiently. Hell, the internet which we are using to communicate right now and that has done more to unite the human race than anything else in human history was created by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) which is part of the US Department of Defense.


Why?

Why is a species a morally transcendant entity in this model? Why is it more important to take all imaginable precautions to preserve the species than to, for instance, avoid the utter destruction of someone else's species?
Because we are selfish? You have a duty to protect your family and friends from people who could harm them. Your nation has a duty to protect its residents from other nations that could cause them harm. Your species has a duty to protect its self from anything that threatens its eradication. And unlike the individual or even the nation, there are no second chances with species eradication.

If some great and powerful being came down to your house tomorrow and said that you could roll a 1,000 sided die, if it comes up anything but a 1 then the great and powerful being will cure all diseases, give humanity cheap, unlimited energy, triple the human life span, and eliminate poverty, but if it comes up a 1 then Sol goes nova. Would you take the chance? It's a .1% chance, hell make it a 10 million sided die, would you risk those odds, knowing full well that people win the lottery every week and that the lottery has worse odds.


Why is it just for one intelligent species to exterminate two under given circumstances than it would be for one individual to kill two individuals under similar circumstances (scaled down to the individual level)?
Because, to be perfectly blunt, any single life is truly irrelevant. We might feel bad about the loss of a given life, said loss of life may even cause quantifiable harm to the species as a whole. But the death of any given individual won't cause their to never be any other individuals.


Can you prove this? It's a very ambitious claim. You see, I am familiar with a number of ethical systems that don't use "survival over all" as their core premise. These systems appear to be logically consistent to me. Perhaps I have misunderstood something somewhere along the line.
Name any given ethical or moral belief and I will show how it breaks down to survival in the end. For most of them its because society condoning the act that one is seeking to prevent (bribing a witness for instance) would cause harm to most of society.


Can you demonstrate this to be an abstract truth, or is it something you are convinced is the case for reasons specific to you?
Name something that doesn't. You go to work to make money so that you can provide food, clothes, and shelter to yourself. You buy a car because it allows you to travel to work quicker and easier, effectively providing more food, clothes, and shelter in a given time period. You buy a TV because pleasure and the ability to unwind with your favorite TV show at the end of the day reduces stress and makes you happy. You watch the news because knowing more about the world and what is happening in it improves your chances of survival. In the end, the cause of any action is self interest. Odds are you have never been starving. Should a person who had the bad luck to be born in certain parts of the world, Columbia or a Darfur for example, be considered evil because the only way that they can get food is by killing other people or dealing drugs? Unless you have experienced such crushing poverty that you are in danger of starving to death (and if you are reading this then chances are you never have) then you have no right to call something evil, immoral, or unethical.


I must respectfully disagree. Since I've presented my reasons for doing so many times, I do not intend to bore the audience with a repeat performance unless necessary.

Do you have a formal argument aimed at demonstrating your proposition that good and evil are not objective concepts?
Do you have an argument demonstrating that they are objective concepts. My argument against them being objective is simple, you and I have different views on what is and is not "good". If "good" was objective then that wouldn't be possible.


Ah. Argument from moral relativism.

My objection is that moral relativism is either a premise of your argument, or something you have deduced by a chain of logic from other premises. If it is one of your premises, then it's a simple fact that lots of people do not agree and that you aren't going to be able to prove that they're making a mistake. You can't prove the axioms of your own belief system.
Seeing as the argument against moral relativism is that morals and ethics are objective truths then I have no problem arguing from the position that they aren't objective truths and I consider anyone who holds moral or ethical positions to be objective truths to be an unmitigated idiot. Why are they unmitigated idiots? Because all you have to do to know that moral objectivism is incorrect is compare the US view on Birth Control to the view of the Vatican. Or the US view on womens rights to Egypt's view. Or the US view on suicide bombing to that of the Palestinians.


If moral relativism is not one of your premises, and is instead something you deduced from other premises, then it would be kind of you to present your reasoning for claiming moral relativism.
Is it one of my premises in and of its self? Not really. Is it similar enough to my premises to be relevant? Yes.


What is the ethical distinction between a "species" and a "race?" Why is it worth committing massacres for one and not the other?
The ethical distinction is that one species can be a threat to another species while one race can't be a threat to the species. If there was a green race of people and this green condition was contagious and would render all members of the race sterile then the genocide of the green race is entirely justified. Whether that genocide is committed by just shooting all of the green people or by imprisoning them and waiting for them to die out is irrelevant. Both are genocide.


I do not agree, because I believe the entire point of the exercise of morality and ethics is to figure out which actions are in fact worth doing for their own sake. The alternative (no morality or ethics) is effectively nihilism, because it requires you to conclude that nothing is worth doing for its own sake, in which case there's no particular point in doing any thing rather than any other thing.
I never said that their were no morality or ethics or that either was bad. I just maintain that they aren't the actual justification for any action, I have said that morality and ethics are derived from the will to survive and propagate.


In your case, your argument is that the ethical rule which should guide all actions is "necessity." You fold the concept that philosophers call "ethical" into your concept of "necessary." My question to you is then:

How do you decide what is necessary without creating a system of moral and/or ethical rules? How do you know whether something is necessary? By definition, an act can only be necessary for some specific purpose. It may be necessary to fight a battle to stay alive, or to throw baseballs to win a game, or to tell jokes to keep a fellow person happy. But necessity cannot tell you why you are bothering to stay alive, win the game, and keep someone happy. It can only tell you what you need to do to achieve your aims.
Why do you stay alive? Because either you want to or you fear dieing. Why you want to stay alive is irrelevant. Why you fear death is also irrelevant. You are assuming that life and living in and of them selves have meaning. That isn't a provable assumption. It in fact has absolutely no evidence to support it, not 1 shred. Your alive because your parents had sex and the sperm and egg combined and then said combination lasted 9 months in your mothers womb.


If there is nothing but necessity, there are no aims, and therefore necessity vanishes. Or, rather, becomes purely arbitrary. What you consider "necessary" has nothing to do with anything but whatever goals you decided to pursue at this particular moment, and you have no compelling reason to choose any goal over any other goal.
I never said that their was nothing but necessity, or more precisily I didn't mean to imply that is was necessity alone but the need to survive. I said their was nothing but survival, necessity furthers survival.


Do you normally refuse to draw a distinction between "believed to be X" and "actually is X?" Or is this argument only applicable to morality and ethics, for a reason I do not understand?

Again, this is not a rhetorical question. I would be very interested to see your answer on this.

Actuality has no basis in moral or ethical discussions. They are not objective facts. As for a distinction between belief and actuality, those are drawn in science, law, marketing, shopping, dating, and pretty much every form of human endeavor.

hamishspence
2008-06-26, 10:00 AM
"The good of the greatest number" or "the good of the species" isn't always what people will see as right.

Try a simple example; Outbreak. Deadly disease capable of wiping out a civilization. Is it "good" in any sense, to wipe out hundreds of innocents to save a nation, or the world? Some people would call it murder, even if by murdering a few, you save the many.

Dervag
2008-06-27, 12:25 AM
Tippy: My objection to much of your claims boils down to this.

You make a great many absolute statements: "You have no right to...", "You have a duty..."

These are the forms of arguments from moral principles, which you claim are meaningless and purely relative. Therefore, by your own argument these duties and rights you are so convinced of are in fact objectively meaningless and do not have any rational hold on any person, including you.

I cannot have a duty to survive, to help others survive, or to ensure that other people will be surviving even when I am not, if there is no objective moral rule along the lines of "survival is good."


Because we are selfish? You have a duty to protect your family and friends from people who could harm them. Your nation has a duty to protect its residents from other nations that could cause them harm. Your species has a duty to protect its self from anything that threatens its eradication. And unlike the individual or even the nation, there are no second chances with species eradication.Hang on.

What's the duty coming from? If there are no objective moral or ethical rules, then how can we possibly have a "duty" to do anything?


Because, to be perfectly blunt, any single life is truly irrelevant. We might feel bad about the loss of a given life, said loss of life may even cause quantifiable harm to the species as a whole. But the death of any given individual won't cause their to never be any other individuals.If it's the possibility of future individuals that matters, isn't the real rule "always defend whatever leads to there being the maximum number of individual entities," and not "always defend your species?"

And, again, if there are as you say no objective moral or ethical rules, why is it "right" or "necessary" or "appropriate" or anything else to ensure that there will continue to be people of any kind in the world? How can you make objective statements about a course of action that is (apparently) desirable purely for its own sake in the absence of morals or ethics?


Name any given ethical or moral belief and I will show how it breaks down to survival in the end. For most of them its because society condoning the act that one is seeking to prevent (bribing a witness for instance) would cause harm to most of society.Death before surrender.


Name something that doesn't. You [do all manner of things because they] improv[e] your chances of survival. In the end, the cause of any action is self interest.OK, hold on. Does that mean I should do all those things? Do I have some right to do all those things? Does this right trump other people's rights to pursue their self interests?

If so, isn't that an objective ethical rule? And if not, what gives me the right to do anything for my sake that makes it harder on someone else?


Unless you have experienced such crushing poverty that you are in danger of starving to death (and if you are reading this then chances are you never have) then you have no right to call something evil, immoral, or unethical.What is your reasoning? Is it that I am unable to identify what is evil, immoral, or unethical, and therefore unqualified? History suggest that having been in desperate danger does not make one better at identifying evil.

Or is it that there is some claim of authority people gain from having been in desperate danger? But how can that be true if there are no objective moral rules in the first place?


Do you have an argument demonstrating that they are objective concepts. My argument against them being objective is simple, you and I have different views on what is and is not "good". If "good" was objective then that wouldn't be possible.It goes like this.

Ethics and morality are, by definition, methods for finding the proper and choiceworthy things to do. Things that are worth doing for their own sake, rather than purely as a pragmatic necessity. Ethics are the rules that tell us not what we need to do, but what we ought to be trying to do.

You do not claim that the idea of finding proper things to do is absurd. Indeed, you lecture me on proper conduct. Therefore, by your own argument, there exist proper things to do. Things that should be done, not for the sake of achieving some other goal, but purely for their own sake. Survival, for instance.

If this is the case, then there must exist ethical rules that allow us to identify what we should be doing by telling us what is worth doing for its own sake (surviving) and what is not (say, yodeling, or some other useless activity). Therefore, objective ethical rules must exist according to your argument. If you wish to revise your argument to exclude objective ethical rules, be my guest.

Moreover, your own "logical" argument for there not being objective ethical (or moral) rules seems to revolve around the fact that people disagree about what is right. Which is a strange way to prove it. There are all sorts of questions that people disagree about in real life, and some of them have objective answers. For instance, people may speculate about the lifestyle of a reclusive billionaire. They may have many wild and mutually exclusive ideas about what that lifestyle is. This does not somehow "prove" that the lifestyle of the billionaire is in fact relative, and that it's purely a matter of opinion.

Facts exist outside our heads. The fact that we disagree about them doesn't make them go away.


Seeing as the argument against moral relativism is that morals and ethics are objective truths then I have no problem arguing from the position that they aren't objective truths and I consider anyone who holds moral or ethical positions to be objective truths to be an unmitigated idiot. Why are they unmitigated idiots? Because all you have to do to know that moral objectivism is incorrect is compare the US view on Birth Control to the view of the Vatican. Or the US view on womens rights to Egypt's view. Or the US view on suicide bombing to that of the Palestinians.One who lives in a paper house should not throw fireballs. You are asserting that there must be no objective rule on the grounds that there exist two or more groups that do not agree about what the rules are. That is not a good argument to bear the weight of your extremely unambitious claim.

Perhaps you operate under the impression that objective facts must always be obvious to everyone? This is not the case, as any number of examples from the history of science show. Or perhaps you believe that wherever there exists a disagreement there must be no correct answer? Once again, there are more examples to disprove this belief than I could possibly count.


The ethical distinction is that one species can be a threat to another species while one race can't be a threat to the species. If there was a green race of people and this green condition was contagious and would render all members of the race sterile then the genocide of the green race is entirely justified. Whether that genocide is committed by just shooting all of the green people or by imprisoning them and waiting for them to die out is irrelevant. Both are genocide.Hmm. That doesn't really address the heart of the question:

Why is it so important that a species continue to exist, if neither the lives of individuals nor anything else is worth preserving? What makes a species so uniquely sacred in a universe where nothing else is worth your time?


I never said that their were no morality or ethics or that either was bad. I just maintain that they aren't the actual justification for any action, I have said that morality and ethics are derived from the will to survive and propagate.But why are these things desirable for their own sake, rather than as a means to some other end? If they are not, then they are not a viable basis for forming moral or ethical rules any more than, say, making the largest possible number of elaborate flower arrangements would be.

"Flower arrangement ethics" would be a farce. "Survival ethics" is little better, unless survival is desirable purely for its own sake, independent of all other conditions. Is it? And if so, why?

Aristotle addressed this question in the Nicomachean Ethics; you might want to look at it.


You are assuming that life and living in and of them selves have meaning. That isn't a provable assumption.On the contrary. I am assuming no such thing. My question to you runs like this:

Why is survival desirable for its own sake? If it is not desirable for its own sake, what is it desirable for? Is that desirable for its own sake? If not, what is that desirable for? And so on.

If we never run into something that is desirable for its own sake, then we have no conceivable reason to do anything. Survival is not preferable to flower arrangement in such a scenario. I have no compelling justification for inconveniencing anyone or harming anyone for the sake of my survival unless survival is actually worth having in some objective and abstract sense.