Moral ambiguity


Our discussion in class today kept me thinking about this whole notion of whether WW2 was really a morally ambiguous or straight cut war. Certainly, I would find it hard to argue that at least in Allied countries it was PERCEIVED as a morally unambiguous war. Afterall, many people call WW2 the last good war, because after that, few wars garnered so much public support. That being said, WW2 in truth, was not a morally clean war. It was a war which resulted in the dropping of two atomic bombs which to this day, is still a point of moral contention for some people. And certainly, Allied actions following WW1 created conditions ripe for the rise of Adolph Hitler. I think this is interesting though, because again it reflects these two types of mentality about moral responsibility. One could argue that the allies were ultimately responsible for the rise of Hitler by creating terrible economic conditions in Germany etc etc... On the other hand, one could argue that despite this, the morally reprehensible actions Hitler took were ultimately of his own accord. To put this into more modern terms... no one doubts that poverty and the environment can affect whether a child grows up to be in a gang or criminal. But where do we draw the line for accountability. Do we let a juvenile criminal walk free because his crime was ultimately the outcome of an unfair system that society has created? Or do we hold him to his actions despite his upbringing. I'm not espousing a particular position here, but just expanding on these two thought processes which Randy and Avi seem to have.

I feel like it would be difficult to call any war a "straight cut" war. After all, different sides are often fighting for two very different things that have two very different moral backgrounds/ideologies connected to them.

Your question about the line of accountability is really interesting, and one I haven't really thought about before. I feel like, with a lot of moral issues, there is a very fine line that is pretty tough to percieve. A lot of stuff really could go either way.

I remember a class in world history sophomore year when we had a discussion on whether history was shaped by singular individuals (Hitler, Napoleon, FDR etc), or whether these individuals arose as a result of the circumstances they were in. These are apparently too different lenses with which to observe history, and I find it immensely interesting. I am of the "individuals rise out of the situations that they are in" camp, but I think that either notion makes for good debate. I think this kind of applies to the idea of accountabiltiy that you just brought up. I think your thought process is very interesting, but it does not seem logical. I don't think you could let a juvenile criminal walk free because his actions were a result of the unfair system society has created. This leads to too much subjectivity and seems incredibly difficult to decide. This may have not been much of an answer-- I was just kind of acting on a stream of consciousness.

i used the juvenile criminal example merely as an extreme example of one camp of thought. obviously, i think few people reside exclusively in one camp or the other, or apply the same criteria for accountability to the same situations for that matter. to regress this debate one level further, we could argue about whether people are a result of all their experiences, or if they maintain some sort of free will independent of the experiences that shape them.