Our problems remain epistemological.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“Weighing” Good & Evil, and What We “Forgive” in History


I do not suggest that Sakharov, Longstreet, or Rommel were evil men, but they did serve bad causes. I do not say that the good they did (or attempted to do) during their lives is made void by the bad. But I do say it is wrong to suggest that the bad is outweighed by the good. Cf. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) (“I do not say [God forbid], I do not say that the virtues of such men were to be taken as a balance to their crimes; but they were some corrective to their effects.” (language in square brackets is Burke’s)). Such a moral quantification of right and wrong is not possible by mere mortals, and those who attempt such a calculus only callous our consciences.

Seth Barrett Tillman, The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, The New Reform Club(Sept. 18, 2016, 4:38 PM), http://tinyurl.com/hnmm7uz (emphasis added),


One can try to excuse [Jefferson] Davis by pointing out that we honor many historical figures who committed various moral wrongs. For example, many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, just like Davis did. But the Founders deserve commemoration because the evil they did was outweighed by other, positive achievements, such as establishing the Constitution (many of them also hoped and wrongly expected that slavery would soon disappear). By contrast, leading a war in defense of slavery was by far Davis’ most important historical legacy. Few would remember him today, otherwise.

Ilya Somin, Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, The Washington Post—The Volokh Conspiracy (Sept 19, 2016), http://tinyurl.com/jlupdfg (emphasis added).

Compare also:

The Battle of the Atlantic was the key battle of the war. And Ireland made it easier for the Germans. Patrol aircraft available in 1942 didn’t have the range to cover the entire Atlantic, even including airbases in Iceland. If there had been airbases available in Ireland they could have closed the gap, but the Irish government refused to allow it. Churchill even wrote a letter to the Irish government saying that he understood why the Irish didn't want the UK operating from Irish soil, and instead suggested that the Americans build and operate an airfield there. “Surely you don't think the Americans would use it as a base to reconquer Ireland, do you?” well, the Irish turned that offer down, and it wasn’t until the development and deployment of Escort Carriers that it was possible to give air cover to convoys all the way across the Atlantic.

During that period, hundreds of cargo ships were sunk which might not have been if only there had been adequate air support. A lot of the crews of those ships were Americans, too, who died when their ships were torpedoed.

There were a lot of things the Irish did that I object to, but this particular one I cannot forgive. There was no good reason for them to refuse to permit American airbases on Irish soil.

Steven Den Beste, Comment, Ireland and World War II, The New Reform Club (Sept. 20, 2016, 11:28 PM), http://tinyurl.com/gthoczn (emphasis added),


Disgraceful. And ignorant. Not one single word in that about 1,000 years of Anglo-Irish conflict, the murder of Irishmen and women during the Rising, the Civil War, the Black and Tans and Partition. Maybe we weren’t in much of a mood to help Britain out. If this nudnik wants to swing by my farm in rural Clare, he would see the results of the British occupation, written in stone and blood.

David Kahane, Comment, SETH BARRETT TILLMAN: Ireland And World War II, Instapundit (Sept. 20, 2016, 9:09 PM), https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/244334/#comment-2907852245 (emphasis added). 


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, You know you are getting old when ..., The New Reform Club (Sept. 20, 2016, 2:46 PM). [Here 

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