Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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January 26, 2006
The Great Reversal

The currently out-there issue of Philosophy Now celebrates Sartre's 100th birthday.

In the articles about him, the paragraph most directly relevant to current headlines (or the most philosophically "now") seemed to me to be one by Ian    Birchall, in his essay that discusses JPS's moral/political view of the phrase "by any means necessary."


It is interesting to note that in recent years the debate has shifted. In the Cold War period it was the left who were repeatedly denounced, sometimes with justice, sometimes not, for believing that the end justifies the means.

In the new century it is the pro-war right who deploy the argument. Such collateral damage as the deaths of hundreds of children is justified because Saddam Hussein has been removed from power. The more serious question is not raised.

As Sartre observed, the end of socialism cannot be achieved by such means as tanks and labour camps.

Likewise, warriors against terrorism might enquire whether democracy, in any meaningful sense, can be achieved by the bayonets of an invading army.

The above is a reflection on the Sartrean view that Birchall provides in a précis as follows:

[I]f there is no pregiven end, then any end we arrive at will be the product of the means used to get there.

One supposes that the "moral clarity" crowd within this so-called "pro-war right" could try to dismiss Sartre by arguing that, in contrast to the non-"pregiven" end of his socialism, their cause entails a pregiven end: Freedom™.