The (unsubstantiated) violence of a backwards moral code

William Dalsen

An article by Eric Lanser in last week’s Lawrentian intimated his concerns with altruism as a moral foundation. Unfortunately, his mere discontent does not discredit altruism, let alone substantiate any harm this doctrine creates, let alone connect the practices of anti-war protesters with that doctrine, let alone substantiate claims against today’s protesters because they supposedly adhere to that doctrine. In short, the article lacks connective tissue.But the problems with his analysis do not end there. It seems quite the stretch to contend – with no evidence – that many anti-war protesters oppose the war because “the good is the good of others”; the point is too generalized to accept even if Lanser had provided supporting evidence.

Even more importantly, Lanser’s examination of altruism is not warranted. I doubt that most protesters “hate America on principle,” primarily because I find it hard to prove principled hatred without any supporting evidence; it therefore makes no sense to seek an explanation for hatred where no such hatred exists. Also, Lanser claims – with no supporting evidence – that anti-war protesters “only protest when America acts, and acts in its self defense.” This unsubstantiated claim is so exclusive that it is not even tenable.

Hence, since there is no proof that many protesters hate America on principle, and no proof that these protesters are only motivated by American action, the examination of altruism – or, for that matter, any explanation – does not follow and is not warranted.

Furthermore, even if such examination were warranted, Lanser’s claim that protesters protest only when America “acts in its self-defense” collapses his argument. First, it is a huge stretch to suggest that all war protesters are only motivated by American action, because it is a baseless generalization. Second, lacking evidence of weapons of mass destruction, it hardly seems that we have acted in our self-defense. But if altruism is responsible for anti-war protests, and if protesters protest only when America acts in its self-defense, and we have not in fact acted in our self-defense, then it follows that no one should be protesting. This is an obvious contradiction.

While I believe that this addresses the substance of Lanser’s article, I am nevertheless inclined to agree with his first point: ripping random rhetoric from the past and grafting it onto today’s events requires far greater care than was apparently used.