TIL: Today I Learned

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Cutlass, May 24, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    44,371
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    That gets back to how the scale balances. Owning slaves in 1800 will weigh differently for some people than others. As will Owning slaves in 1500 or 500 CE. Can genocide be ranked? Was it worse in 1944 Germany vs 1914 Turkey vs 1870 US west vs 1640 New England vs Mongol invasions etc.

    At what point in history does the progressive or enlightened agenda become relevant? Were the Aztecs objectively evil? for that matter are the massacres of the Old Testament objectively evil?
     
  2. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,588
    Location:
    Moscow
    Birdjag, I'm sorry, but it's very difficult to discuss this with you when you seem to be talking about three different things as though they are interchangeable.
    1. Acknowledging that somebody did something in the past
    2. Believing that a thing done by somebody in the past was important
    3. Admiring somebody who did something in the past
    To my knowledge, literally no one you're talking to doubts that Thomas Jefferson was a man who was alive two hundred years ago and is reasonably famous for doing things. Many of the people you're talking to believe that he was a execrable human being because of some of the things that he did. Nobody thinks that he wasn't President, or that he wasn't Secretary of State, or that he didn't draft part of the American Declaration of Independence. Some of us may even think that those things make him important to world history. It is possible to hold that idea in one's head and also think that he was a monster.

    The obvious point to bring up here is that you would presumably agree that Adolf Hitler was an awful person while simultaneously being responsible for a great deal of important history. Moral judgment on the people of the past is not the same thing as damnatio memoriae.

    Now, I think that most of the things that Jefferson did of importance to American and world history were #actually bad. Hence my earlier comment about eating Napoleon Bonaparte's ass. But it's not like I think Jefferson didn't matter or something.
     
    Tee Kay, Birdjaguar and Cutlass like this.
  3. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    46,737
    Actually, it has seemed to me like this is really the only point of discussion that BirdJag has been pursuing. Because that is the point that illustrates the fallacy of "objectively evil." In the context of his times pretty much everything Jefferson did that people today complain about was "objectively normal." Without context there is no such thing as "objectively" anything.
     
    Birdjaguar likes this.
  4. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,588
    Location:
    Moscow
    I completely disagree with your reading of the discussion, and I would like to point you to the posts on the previous page discussing "the context of his times".

    :)
     
  5. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    46,737
    Those are the ones that specifically support my reading of the discussion, which is why I was hoping having a second person point them out would make the point.
     
    Birdjaguar likes this.
  6. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    44,371
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    I just got off a three hour conference call and will return to this thread in a bit.
     
  7. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    44,371
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    To continue your line of thought...

    I would add to your list of things under discussion
    1. Acknowledging that somebody did something in the past
    2. Believing that a thing done by somebody in the past was important
    3. Admiring somebody who did something in the past
    4. Maligning someone for doing things I think of as bad
    5. Maligning someone for doing things their contemporaries thought were bad
    I do not see those as independent things, but rather as pieces of a picture or weights on a balance. We give weight to each piece based on our own biases. D of I counts as +5, Sally Hemmings as -4, Louisiana Purchase as +6 etc. You are going to weight things differently and create a different picture and your scale will balance differently than mine. The whole idea of erasing someone from memory is a bit silly. I have no problem with you (or anyone) thinking of Jefferson as monster in spite of his more positive contributions to history. I just disagree. Much like I disagree with those who think Trump is saint. You are probably weighting the pieces of his life differently than I do.

    You do seem to grasp my approach to "judging" those long dead, but how do you do it?
     
  8. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    44,371
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    I think the discussion brought me to the point that "objectively evil" was the actual topic of discussion. And once one moves to that, things tend to get philosophical. The transition from slavery being both normal and generally thought of as correct to slavery being abhorrent and generally thought of as evil has been a long and slow one. At any given time there were adherents all along a continuum of positions. Even today there are those who approve of slavery. No single person represented the all the views, but there were some collective mass of people who held the then generally accepted views. when you establish an independent objective standard for all times and places, it just diminishes the value of human thought and action. The rule is the rule and if you violate it, you are evil even if you didn't know the rule existed.

    How do you set a standard for objectively evil? Were the Aztecs evil? What is the standard for calling Jefferson monstrous versus a bad politician, bad husband, bad president?
     
  9. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    46,737
    I disagree with the assertion "at any given time there were adherents all along a continuum of positions." Throughout the vast majority of history slavery carried no moral tone at all, it was just how the world worked. Drop back 2000 years and it is unlikely that you could find anywhere in the world where you could say "slavery is objectively evil" and not have slaves and slaveholders alike looking at you with "what else do you do with captives?" on their lips. It may have dragged on in the US for a couple generations past its wider world expiration date, but that hardly makes US slaveholders some sort of oddities in the grand scheme of things, and certainly doesn't qualify them across the board as "objectively evil."
     
  10. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    44,371
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    You are likely right about the objective part, but I was thinking that as part of the population, slaves might well hold the view that slavery was not such a great idea if you were the slave. They might well be opposed to it. Spartacus seemed to be...;)

    Wait... Wiki to the rescue:

    :)
     
  11. Berzerker

    Berzerker Deity

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2000
    Messages:
    20,721
    Location:
    the golf course
    About 81 percent of autism risk comes from inherited genetic factors

    according to new research
     
  12. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,588
    Location:
    Moscow
    They certainly are not. Your subsequent elucidation of your position, quoted below, is incorrect. I can't imagine how I can be clearer.
    I'm sorry, but I think that this is word salad and a very long way away from what the original topic was - or indeed anything else we've been talking about.

    The topic under discussion started when two forumites pointed out that some dead men that they had originally liked and respected did disappointing things, too. You dragged that into the related-but-not-quite-the-same topic of "why judge people in the past by modern standards?" You built off it to describe your, um, give-everybody-from-the-past-a-number rating system, which is...well, it's very nice, and good for you, but it's a long way away from any point anybody else was trying to make. I get that you think that these things are all actually the same discussion, but they aren't, and your decision to shift the terms of the discussion over to what you want to talk about rather than what people have actually said is very frustrating to me.

    Throughout, it's easy to notice a shift in the terms of the discussion with each of your responses. When TeeKay pointed out that using modern standards to talk about the dead is useful when dissuading modern people from being okay with the things that they did, you started talking about "influence" - nobody said anything about influence - and "value added" - also never discussed. In fact, nobody had even started to talk about their overall appreciation for any of the people under discussion yet. MagCult didn't say, "welp, now that I know that about Calvin Coolidge, a man I used to admire, I now hate him and think that everything he did was awful, and also he wasn't an important person in history or anything". Phrossack didn't say that about Teddy Roosevelt, either. You brought all of those assumptions in yourself. You're basically monologuing, and it doesn't matter if the post you're responding to is tangential at best to your point - you'll make it anyway.

    What drew me into this discussion was the bit on standards. I'm mostly here because I feel very strongly that many of the times people claim that it's okay to write off horrible things that dead people did because it was supposedly morally acceptable at the time, those people are wrong. Those assertions are founded on a deeply flawed understanding of the past and an outright disrespectful attitude toward the dead. I am all for recognizing context and the sorts of choices that the people of the past would plausibly have made. It is often the thing that I choose to speak up about on the Internet in history discussions. Some of my favorite books and authors deal with approaching the choices that dead people made on their own terms, on subjects as disparate as late antique Rome and the Battle of Midway. And it's why I keep hammering away on this point.

    I'm not here to talk about legacies or overall evaluations or your Gesamtnoten für berühmte Männer. My concern is that you are blithely waving your hands and saying "welp, it was just the way it was back then, no big deal, it's okay if I think this guy that did some awful things was still great". I don't really care what your overall opinion is of (insert whatever guy). What I care about is the "it was just the way it was back then". Not only does it turn an is into a should, it ignores the contemporaries who did not do that thing and, in fact, thought that it was horrible.
    I'm not the one who mentioned the term "objectively evil", so I'm not sure why you expect me to talk about it. It certainly was not the "actual" topic of discussion. I have not even addressed objective morality and have no desire to do so. It's unnecessary to the points I've made or am interested in making.

    Since y'all are basically ignoring what I have to say on the subject, and pulling your discussion into new and...exciting...areas, I'm gonna dip. Have fun.
     
    Birdjaguar likes this.
  13. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    46,737
    I can't imagine either, but perhaps not relying on "I am Dachs so I am correct and you are wrong, trust me" would provide an angle.
     
  14. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,588
    Location:
    Moscow
    I would love to know when you think I've ever assumed that kind of tone.
    The short version is that there was a lot of antislavery and abolitionist sentiment in the Atlantic world in Jefferson's time, that those activists actually managed to get a lot of stuff done in Britain, France, and America, and that Jefferson was absolutely aware of all of this and even participated in some of it.

    In fact, his hypocrisy extended even further. Here is a delightfully lengthy quotation from his letters about slavery being morally wrong:
    This man continued to keep humans in bondage after writing these words.

    His actual approach to the problem was a series of half-measures. He followed the paragraph above with a halfhearted plea that eventually enough people would change their minds that every slaver would voluntarily emancipate their slaves, but did nothing to follow through for himself. He tried to improve conditions for the slaves at Monticello rather than actually emancipate them, with mixed results. He professed abhorrence at the harsh punishments meted out to slaves, but did nothing to mitigate what his overseers did while he held political office, and even imposed such punishments himself on occasion. He held 130-odd people in bondage at the end of his life and freed a grand total of five, one of whom was his own son. The rest were sold to cover his debts; their families were broken up and scattered across the United States.

    Thomas Jefferson knew that he was "depraved" and a "despot" and he continued to do it anyway, and if that isn't cause for moral censure even on his own terms, then I'm not sure what else to say to you about that.
     
    Lexicus, Traitorfish and Samson like this.
  15. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2005
    Messages:
    26,310
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
    So we shouldn't find fault with Nazis, because they were a product of their time and place. :rolleyes: What does this say about the neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers (public Holocaust denial is considered a hate crime in Canada)? These POSs are certainly not products of the time in which they were born, because they believe things that are now considered abhorrent by most modern North Americans.

    It depends on what they're famous for and how they went about it. There are a lot of historical figures I admire for specific things they did, but at the same time I acknowledge their faults.

    There are places in Canada where people are actively pulling down statues of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, because of his policies regarding the native population of the country. Yes, the residential schools were horrible places and the goal was basically cultural genocide. That said... I'm of the camp that says it's better to leave the statues up and teach people that Sir John A. had conflicting facets to him - he had a grand vision of creating the country of Canada that would stretch from the Pacific to the Atlantic, but he also believed in cultural genocide of the natives, AND he is responsible for the execution of Louis Riel (Riel can legitimately be considered to be one of the Fathers of Confederation, since without his efforts there would have been no province of Manitoba). That's the first (and hopefully the last) time that a Prime Minister has been responsible for the execution of someone who had been elected to Parliament.

    We're being reviled now. Not that I'm someone who does a lot of flying, but I do eat meat. And every time a vegan starts yapping about how immoral I am, it just makes me want to eat a cheeseburger at them.
     
  16. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    46,737
    In the immediate quote right there. "You're just wrong, I don't know how to make that any clearer" is hard to take as a representation of any other tone, really. But no worries. I always swat back but I have a very thick skin and am completely unharmed. I just enjoy such exchanges, perhaps too much.

    A hundred years from now you and I may be viewed through a prism of "they f'ing KNEW what their cars were doing to the planet, but they JUST KEPT DRIVING!!!!" Now, I dunno about you, but for most of my life living in Southern California 'drive or die' may not have been absolutely true, but it has sure seemed like it. Does it present me with a moral dilemma? Yes. Might a future context where cars have been recognized as the epitome of arrogant selfish outright objective evil make me look hypocritical and lead to my demonization? Sure. Is there abundant "anti car sentiment" happening right here in my own time? Sure. But the fact remains that contexts change and my context right now leaves me plenty of room to squirm.

    Anyway, you'll note that the statement you called "just plain wrong" involved a two thousand year time frame, not two hundred. Two hundred years is a blip. A blip in which the immorality of slavery has grown from a topic of discussion with moderately wide agreement to an absolute truth. Those contexts are different, as is the context of two thousand years ago, when seriously EVERY human culture on the planet took and kept slaves, in varying degree, and no one gave a moment's thought to any idea that they shouldn't.
     
    Birdjaguar likes this.
  17. Yeekim

    Yeekim Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2006
    Messages:
    10,667
    Location:
    Estonia
    This.
    Also, I really should start selling myself being too lazy to get a driver's license as a sign of impeccable moral fiber instead.:yup:
     
    BenitoChavez and Birdjaguar like this.
  18. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,588
    Location:
    Moscow
    I assumed that when you informed me that you had read the posts in question, you had actually read the posts in question, and that I didn't need to refer back to them.
    :dunno:
    Ever since Birdjag brought up Thomas Jefferson, I've pretty much been sticking to Thomas Jefferson. When I described the post as an "elucidation of your position" - your position that I, in talking about Jefferson, was wrong - I was interested more in the claim about US slaveholders, not about the bit about millennia of human history, which is a thing you and Birdjag started talking about amongst yourselves. It would have been clearer if I had only quoted the part specifically discussing US slavery, I suppose, but I didn't like starting off the quotation with a pronoun that had an unclear antecedent. That was a problem I could've rectified with square brackets instead, but I incorrectly assumed that it was pretty clear that I was focused on Jefferson. I apologize for the poor drafting and lack of clarity.

    For what it's worth, I do disagree about the "no one gave a moment's thought" bit as well. Christian critiques of slavery have existed for pretty much as long as the religion itself has, e.g. by Gregory of Nyssa, and churchmen staging emancipations was certainly a Thing in late antiquity. It's an oversimplification to describe slavery as a monolith that was everywhere until the Enlightenment; its use waxed and waned, and different ideological justifications sprang up around it at various times. Frankly, I'm not the right person to hold an extensive discussion on the topic, but I'm aware of the outlines of it.
     
  19. hobbsyoyo

    hobbsyoyo Deity

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2012
    Messages:
    26,576
    TIL:
     
  20. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    46,737
    You awe inspiring climate warrior you!
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page