Friday, August 15, 2008

Response to "Blackadder" on the Atomic Bombings:
(Part I of II)

[Update: I made a few revisions to the originally posted material including the addition of a footnote. -ISM 8/15/08 1:00pm]

As a prefatory sequence of sorts, here are the threads preceding this one which are applicable in some form or another:

On the Atomic Bombings of Japan--Part I by "Blackadder" (circa August 6, 2008)

My Preliminary Musings on the Anniversary of Hiroshima, on Revisiting This Subject, and on "Blackadder" (circa August 6, 2008)

Some Additional Musings on the Subject of the Atomic Bombings Subject and the Importance of Doing My Part to Facilitate Potentially Fruitful Dialogue (circa August 7, 2007)

Principles of Proper Dialogue -Part of a 2007 Joint Declaration by Shawn and "Blackadder" (circa August 10, 2008)

There is also the second part of the response "Blackadder" which he posted on the anniversary of Nagasaki (August 9, 2008) which I will link to soon. But first is my response to his posting from August 6th in its entirety. The words of "Blackadder" words will be in dark green font with any quoted sources in that same font italicized. My sources will be in dark blue font. Without further ado...

A little over a year ago, Shawn of the blog Rerum Novarum issued a challenge to Catholics to debate him on the morality of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of WWII (he was pro). I accepted the challenge, and we emailed back and forth about logistics, and I prepared an initial post setting out the against side of the question. Unfortunately the proposed debate never ended up happening, for reasons that I won’t go into now.

It is not so much that I am "pro" atomic bombing but in terms of dialogual or debate positions, in the situation so noted I do take a position of advocacy for their usage. Nor will I go into the reasons at the present time for why the original dialogue did not pan except to note that the challenge was a dialogue not a debate but that is neither here nor there as long as the same principles are adhered to in either format; namely, those set down in the posting from August 10, 2008 as linked to in the preamble of this response.

Since today is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I thought I would post what would have been my initial contribution to the debate. As it is rather long, I have broken it up into two parts.

I will endeavour if at all possible to respond in two parts for the sake of uniformity.

During our email exchange, Shawn and I had agreed that, in order for the bombings to be justified from a Catholic perspective, it had to be the case both that:

1) the bombings did not involve the intentional targeting of civilians; and

2) the bombings saved lives, that is, any alternative course of action would have resulted in even greater loss of life.

I was willing to approach it from these two points this is true but these are not the only points on which I view this action as having some justification. Nor I might add did I exhaust or fully develop all the arguments that can be advanced for my position either in 2005 or in 2006. However, as "Blackadder" was willing to meet the criteria I set down for public dialogue on these matters and was least willing to present some fixed points of reference rather than a bunch of unsubstantiated emotionalist laden assertions and blatant fallacious attempts at appealing to authority (Lat. argumentum ad vericundiam){1}, I agreed to approach the subject through those prisms for the sake of seeing a productive dialogue on these matters coalesce.

I should also note that I actually did not agree with the wording of one of the above points of reference and suggested an alternative at the time. When apprised of what we agreed upon in the precise wording thereof, "Blackadder" graciously made a public correction in the following clarification posted at the end of the note which I will quote at this time:

UPDATE: References in the above post to “civilians” should refer to “noncombatants.” My apologies. Shawn, who was originally to be my interlocutor, offers responses here.

I appreciate this clarification being made when it was brought to his attention. I believed when I did so that the misrepresentation was unintentional and therefore gladly accept his apology on the matter. I will endeavour to explain a bit about why I use this distinction which to some may appear to be a matter of semantics when indeed it is anything but. But first the intentions of this part of "Blackadder's" response needs to be considered...

This post addresses the first condition, and argues that the bombings did, in fact, involve the intentional targeting of civilians. In the second part, I will argue that the second condition, proportionality, was also not met.

One of the points that I made repeatedly in 2005 and 2006 but which none of my critics wanted to deal with is the issue of military conscription. I will note in a footnote some of the bits from that point where the matter was covered in 2005{2} and 2006{3} before dealing with this factor as I decided to reinforce it further in a posting from 2007 -the latter of which I will now quote at length:

[T]here is a mistake when discussing the subject of warfare with classifying people simply as "military" and "civilian." I will admit to having done this at times in the past but I also did so under the assumption that people would properly understand the murky nature of how these categories really existed in wartime Japan. However, since this has not happened as I had hoped, it seems appropriate in lieu of a recent dialogue challenge on the subject in question to tend to this key point; ergo the reason for the post you are now reading.

There is not in many circumstances the fine line in this area that people may like. For example, there is the talk about the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as "civilians" when in fact most of them were conscripted{1} and thus properly recognized as "military." But even with those who were not conscripted, does that make them immediately a "civilian" which by its very usage implies non-combatant status??? For those who are familiar with the situation of wartime Japan, the answer to this obviously is no.

Indeed I use and have used the following principle as an acid test of sorts to know if a person I am discussing these matters with should or should not be taken seriously:

--Is a little child with bombs strapped to it who is instructed by their parents to walk up to a soldier and detonate the bomb a "civilian"??? How about if they are trained to roll under and try and blow up a tank???{2}

The brief answer to these questions is "no", the long answer to them is "hell no." The proper distinction to be made here is not "military" and "civilian" but "combatant" and "non-combatant." And the examples above as well as others which could be noted{3} coalesce to paint a reality about the situation there which the overwhelming majority of commentators on this subject do not get. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG (circa July 31, 2007)]

Here are the footnotes from that text:

{1} All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.”

This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate –a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511) as quoted in a Rerum Novarum posting (circa September 6, 2005)]

{2} See footnote one.

{3} See this link which was appended to a footnote in my August 17, 2005 posting on Hiroshima. (It is in footnote six and reviewing my accompanying commentary on it for the context in which it was used would also be advised.)

I will for the sake of keeping this response reasonably short not unpack all the factors involved in the above referenced material. Suffice to say, this matter is one involving a lot of factors and is not done justice by the simplistic approaches so many would apply to it. (And which "Blackadder" to his credit has not done.)

It’s true that there were military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but this fact alone does not establish that the bombings did not target civilians. Suppose that we are in battle and you are taken captive by an enemy solder who is using you as a human shield. Unfortunately for him, I really dislike you and have been plotting your death for some time. I think to myself “Ah, here’s my chance to get rid of Shawn!” So I throw my hand grenade at you and kill you both. In this scenario, I have intentionally killed you. The fact that I also intentionally killed an enemy solder might provide a pretext for my action, but it doesn’t change the fact that I really did intend your death. Likewise, if the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the purpose of killing civilians as well as enemy solders, then the fact that there was a military base in Hiroshima does not alter this fact, and will not serve to justify the bombing.

However well his analogy works for the first example, it does not for the second because of the precise nature of the point in which I took issue with the first of "Blackadder" theses initially: the use of the term "civilian." The readers can peruse the parts referenced in the material of my last comments to understand that this was not as simple as "targeting civilians" as "Blackadder" has (undoubtedly in good faith) presumed.

To start with, the lions share of the population (basically everyone between roughly fifteen and forty-five) were conscripted. Furthermore, even those not falling under this classification were trained to attack soldiers with anything they can get their hands on. Even small children were taught to strap bombs on themselves and roll under tanks. This is why I insisted at the outset on the distinction between "combatants" and "non-combatants" and thus be properly viewed as unlawful combatants and not "civilians" in the proper sense of the latter term.

If we look at the minutes of the Target Committee meeting where the initial list of targets for the bombing were drawn up we see that Hiroshima was selected as a bombing site not despite the civilian deaths that the bombing would cause, but specifically because of those deaths.

Here is what the report said about Hiroshima:

(2) Hiroshima - This is an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area. It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage. Due to rivers it is not a good incendiary target. (Classified as an AA Target)

There is a lot in that paragraph but I will try to avoid excessive post length and unnecessary tangents by unpacking it at this time.

The meeting minutes state that “for the initial use of the weapon any small and strictly military objective should be located in a much larger area subject to blast damage in order to avoid undue risks of the weapon being lost due to bad placing of the bomb.” The minutes also cite Hiroshima as being a particularly good target because it “has the advantage of being such a size and with possible focusing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed.” Likewise, the Interim Committee, headed by Secretary of War Henry Stimson and created by President Truman to deal with the bomb planning, agreed in its May 1945 meeting that “the bomb be used without prior warning against Japan at earliest opportunity, the targets to be a military target surrounded by workers houses.”

"Blackadder" quotes the minutes of the meeting accurately but I want to briefly touch on this to contextualize them. The concern with regards to the bomb drop was insuring that it would not be wasted -this is what the report meant when it set down the principle that "for the initial use of the weapon any small and strictly military objective should be located in a much larger area subject to blast damage in order to avoid undue risks of the weapon being lost due to bad placing of the bomb." As Hiroshima was the initial usage of the weapon, this explains why it was used as it was in that respect.

Another reason it was important to inflict as much damage as possible with the weapon was that there was not a proliferation of supply of these things yet the impression needed to be given that there was. This was not only the case as far as attempting to break the will of the Japanese and hasten an end to the war but also to make a statement to the Soviet Union: yes there was more than one message being sent with the usage of the bomb.

As for not giving notice of the bombing, I will deal with this as well later on.

Far from being an unintended side effect, then, the death of a large number of civilians was part of the reason that Hiroshima was selected as a target site.

There were a variety of reasons for the selection of Hiroshima as a target site. As far as the status of the population there, again, I point the reader to the distinction on this made earlier as when the terms are properly understood.

Now it’s true that President Truman did indicate in his diary entry for July 25, 1945 that the bomb was going to be used against a “purely military” target. It’s not clear to me whether this was a rationalization on Truman’s part, or whether he was duped or just didn’t comprehend what it was that the people who planned the bombing were telling him, but the entry is clearly not an accurate reflection of how the bombing occurred.

Readers can consider a city fortified with significant military installations{4} not counting the building of various munitions which was taking place in private residences throughout Hiroshima{5}, the presence of a quarter of a million soldiers{6}, an overwhelmingly conscripted population{7}, and what was noted earlier in this thread about the training and mentality of even those who did not fall under the status of conscription{8} as to whether what was being dealt with could be rationally styled as a "purely military" target or not.

Truman says that the target was “purely military” (which it wasn’t)

This is at a minimum a controvertible proposition for reasons I noted in the previous paragraph.

[A]nd that the U.S. was going to “issue a warning statement” prior to the bombing (which it didn’t).

But indeed a warning statement was issued. If "Blackadder" would like, I will track down the pamphlet text and present it to him. I point the readers at this time to what President Truman noted in a December 1945 letter to a Dr. Compton on an article written for The Atlantic Monthly on the use of the bombs. Here is the relevant part of that correspondence:

"The Japanese were given fair warning..."

And in the case of Hiroshima, they were warned. While the evidence itself may not change his overall view on the subject, I trust at the very least "Blackadder" would revise the statement he made about there being no warning given upon being made privy to it.

Personally, I’m inclined towards the dupe scenario. When Truman saw the photographs of the Hiroshima aftermath on August 10 (the day after Nagasaki), he ordered a halt to any further bombing, saying that he couldn’t bear the thought of killing “all those kids.” And in 1948, he discussed the matter with Atomic Energy Commission Chairman David Lilienthal, who quoted him as follows:

I don’t think we ought to use this thing [the A-Bomb] unless we absolutely have to. It is a terrible thing to order the use of something that (here he looked down at his desk, rather reflectively) that is so terribly destructive, destructive beyond anything we have ever had. You have got to understand that this isn’t a military weapon. (I shall never forget this particular expression). It is used to wipe out women and children and unarmed people, and not for military uses.

The problem with this quote is it is after the fact and at a point where it is possible that President Truman was having some issues of conscience due to what happened. Who in his position would not have in the immediate aftermath of such an event??? However, Truman with the passing of time did not change his mind on what he viewed was the correctness of his action even if in the final years of his presidency he did at times lament some of the effects of the choice he made.

It appears that Truman went from a position of certainty in the heat of the war which (after it was over) he had some struggles of conscience about pertaining to the derivative effects of those events. The certainty of 1945 and 1946 was replaced by 1948 of some regret as to the effects of the bomb -a view that carried through the remainder of his presidency in 1953.

However, it is similarly evident if you review the statements and correspondence after Truman left office that he had after time and reflection ceased to have such waverings on the matter -review his writings after 1955 to see precisely what I am referring to.

In any event, since Hiroshima was selected as a bombing target specifically because of the high number of civilian deaths that the bombing would cause, the first condition is not met.

As I have demonstrated that the classification of much of the Japanese population of Hiroshima as "civilian" does not meet the proper understanding of this term, the first condition "Blackadder" presented far from not being met is actually sustained. Before moving onto part two in the coming days, I want to thank "Blackadder" for his refreshingly rational and charitable approach to this delicate and often emotionally-charged subject matter.


{1} Essentially, I realized through experience on the issue in question the Pandora's Box that is involved in discussing it. Part of the reason for this is the emotions that an issue such as this can have. With the overall lack of anything resembling rational thought and logical analysis of issues in society at large, I should have realized that such a situation could have occurred which did but alas, I was naive in trusting friends to act as friends. And when considering the number of times this subject has been on the verge of being rehashed in the past year -and how I have managed to skirt it through a proper appeal to principled rationale[...] the time has come in my mind for a careful reappraisal of my normative approach to this matter.

As much as I tire of hearing about this issue[...] from the usual suspects[...], it also stands to reason that no subject can be shut off from being discussed indefinitely. For those reasons, and to insure that the subject is neither (i) completely neglected or (ii) handled in the embarrassing fashions to which I have unfortunately witnessed on not a few occasions, I will despite my reluctance agree to discuss it. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa July 22, 2007)]

{2} Again readers, I have not merely made assertions as to Hiroshima being a military target (as [XXXX] has in saying it was not) but I have actually set forth arguments and stated evidences that anyone can verify. And while I could draw out this post with yet further reinforcements of my assertions, I will remember my readers and their patience and stick to one for now: Wikipedia. This is generally a source I do not like for various and sundry reasons but I will use it as a lawyer uses a “hostile witness” in court to point out some facts on this matter that seem to elude my good (but misinformed) friend [XXXX]:

At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of considerable industrial and military significance. Some military camps were located nearby such as the headquarters of the Fifth Division and Field Marshal Hata's 2nd General Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. Hiroshima was a major supply and logistics base for the Japanese military. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. It was chosen as a target because it had not suffered damage from previous bombing raids, allowing an ideal environment to measure the damage caused by the atomic bomb. The city was mobilized for "all-out" war, with thousands of conscripted women, children and Koreans working in military offices, military factories and building demolition and with women and children training to resist any invading force. [Wikipedia: Entry on Hiroshima]

I will return to these points later on when delving into my copy of American Caesar and pointing out where Doug Long is deceptive in quoting the source. But before doing that, let us deal with the subject of conscription since it also changes the landscape of this issue and is a detriment to [XXXX's] argument:

The opposite of voluntary enrollment is conscription, carried out by the nation-state. The resulting military force lacks the moral characteristics of a volunteer army; it is essentially a machine requiring severe discipline, its cohesion being maintained by the threat of punishment. Its great problems, desertion and slackness among the troops, can be kept within bounds only by strong organization and leadership…

[Most often], conscription is part of a program of universal military service accepted by the public and carried out in cooperation with it. [Encyclopedia Brittanica Fifteenth Edition: Excerpt from War, the Theory and Conduct of Macropaedia Volume XXIX, pg. 705 (c. 1985)]

Obviously, where you have conscription taking place of giant chunks of the population, that changes the dynamic of a key point of the argument altogether. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 6, 2005)]

There was also this addition to the above material:

The best and most obvious place from which to start this examination in my humble opinion is with the Supreme Commander of the Pacific himself one General Douglas MacArthur. Doug Long starts his quote-fest by quoting from American Caesar which was William Manchester’s well written biography on the man. As I happen to own the very same William Manchester biography of General MacArthur being cited, I will deal with that source first. Starting on page 510, the following is outlined after discussing the inter-service rivalry between MacArthur, Le May, and Nimitz, the following words from pages 510-511 of American Caesar set the stage for putting Doug Long’s quote into proper context:

Hirohito’s generals, grimly preparing for the invasion, had not abandoned hope of saving their homeland. Although a few strategic islands had been lost, they told each other, most of their conquests, including the Chinese heartland, were firmly in their hands, and the bulk of their army was undefeated. Even now they could scarcely believe that any foe would have the audacity to attempt landings in Japan itself. Allied troops, they boasted, would face the fiercest resistance in history. Over ten thousand kamikaze planes were readied for “Ketsu-Go,” Operation Decision. Behind the beaches, enormous connecting underground caves had been stocked with caches of food and thousands of tons of ammunition. Manning the nation’s ground defenses were 2,350,000 regular soldiers, 250,000 garrison troops, and 32,000,000 civilian militiamen –a total of 34,600,000, more than the combined armies of the United States, Great Britain, and Nazi Germany. All males aged fifteen to sixty, and all females ages seventeen to forty-five, had been conscripted. Their weapons included ancient bronze cannon, muzzle loaded muskets, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows. Even little children had been trained to strap explosives around their waists, roll under tank treads, and blow themselves up. They were called “Sherman’s carpets.”

This was the enemy the Pentagon had learned to fear and hate –a country of fanatics dedicated to hara-kiri, determined to slay as many invaders as possible as they went down fighting. [William Manchester: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 510-511)]

I have already discussed the concept of military conscription in part I of this thread so readers need to account for what was noted there when reading the above words from Mr. Manchester's book. From there the book discusses a dovish contingent that was also present. According to the book (pg. 511) everyone MacArthur talked to in the War Department believed that Japan could hold out for at least two more years. From there, the book quotes some Japanese persons with retrospect statements about how “Japan was finished” all of that is towards the end of page 511 leading into page 512 where the citation from Long is made. I will interact with these quotes shortly. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa September 6, 2005)]

{3} [I]t is not only arguable that more lives were saved than lost, it is an indisputable fact as anyone with a smidgen of knowledge of the war situation in Japan during WWII is well aware. Secondly, the idea that there were all of these "innocents" in Japan and that their deaths was a means to achieve the end (rather than a derivative effect of the action taken) is also misguided. All that is required is for the good effect to be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect. And with most of the populace in Japan under conscription, there were very few who could be called "innocent" and even with those that were who died it does not get in the way of a proper understanding of the principle of double effect. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 23, 2006)]

{4} To note a couple of the earliest examples from these archives:

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets as a result of the voluminous output of military equipment and munitions that was done in those cities. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 17, 2005)]

I already noted that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military centers of wartime Japan where carriers, aircrafts, torpedoes, and other munitions were built; ergo they can be properly considered military targets. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 17, 2005)]

{5} As you may know, there [were] munitions being built in individual houses as well as in plants in the towns of greater military significance (such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki). I am unaware of any similar phenomenon in America during the war -I mean there were "victory gardens" as we know and the saving of resources for the war effort. However, there is a difference between food and the materials for potential munitions and machinery and the actual construction of such things from the materials themselves in housing units. However the conventional lines are blurred by the situation in wartime Japan, this is one line that I feel is of no small importance though (due to what else was covered in my own arguments) I did not raise this issue as yet another argument for my position. (There were a few arguments I either did not include or barely touched on as I only have so much time and when virtually no one wanted to have a civil dialogue on these matters, I saw no reason to expend the additional time on the matter delving into other matters.) [Excerpt from an Email Correspondence (circa July 5, 2008)]

{6} There were 10,000 military aircraft targeted for Kamikaze missions against the US military along with roughly a quarter million or more soldiers in Hiroshima alone. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa August 17, 2005)]

{7} See footnotes two and three.

{8} I noted this earlier in the present posting both in the text as well as in a footnote quoting something I wrote back in 2005. (See the quote from Manchester in footnote two.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Principles of Proper Dialogue:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

I have decided to post this thread for reasons already noted on this weblog and to put into context any responses I make to the material posted back on August 6th to the web by "Blackadder." (Thus far, I have written two postings on the subject -one on August 6th and one on August 7th but they do not deal with the substance of the arguments advanced by "Blackadder.") Before tending to that, I wanted to follow up those preliminary postings with a text comprising most of what was at one point going to be a joint declaration preceding his opening statement on a dialogue we were going to have but which real life unfortunately intervened on last year. So with certain omissions to the text pertaining to specific applications for that project (and which are noted in the aforementioned posting), here is the part dealing with general dialogual principles for those who are interested in seeing some of the principles that make me tick when engaging others in the arena of ideas. Without further ado...

The purpose of this joint statement of principles is to accompany the dialogue on the atomic weapon usages of 1945 as proposed by Shawn and accepted by "Blackadder." We want to in issuing it highlight some principles that we both believe are essential for proper discourse on any subject. This posting therefore will serve as the start of the dialogue and will encompass both general dialogual principles as well as particular applications of procedure for the dialogue we intend to undertake in the coming weeks.

General Dialogual Principles:

It is with no small degree of chagrin that we take a jaded view of the lacuna in modern life of genuine dialogue. The latter when properly understood is both difficult and also potentially rewarding. Most definitely it is not aimless bantering or a series of monologues as much of what passes today for "dialogue" actually is. Instead, dialogue properly conceived and carried out contains a dynamic constituent to it.

As Catholics we are the beneficiaries of ancient truths which to some extent admit of variations in application depending on particular times, circumstances, etc. However, there are also core principles which do not admit of an expiration date and which sadly we see given little if any accounting these days in much of what passes for public discourse. The degree of ignorance of people (some of whom considering what they claim for themselves should know better) of fundamental principles of proper conduct is appalling. There are however two ways to deal with this. We can either curse the darkness or try and light a few candles. With this statement of joint principles as well as the dialogue to follow, we intend to aim at the second approach.

We have an interest both for ourselves individually as well as to assist the common good generally in handling this matter in accordance with principles that are at the core of how Catholics should conduct themselves when confronting another person with opposing views. But these are not principles which are strictly speaking matters of faith only. We believe faith and reason cannot contradict and that reason is a natural light given to us all by the Creator as one way we are made in His image. It is therefore a crime to denigrate reason the way many people do and sadly, not a few Catholics fall prey to this.

We intend in this dialogue to show a proper respect for the rigours of proper logic and reasoning while doing our best to set an example for others of how a dialogue should be conducted. We trust that readers will see if they are of good will that in the sources about to be cited, while of an authoritative character for Catholics, the principles being touched on are and should be by logical extension universal. For example, there should be a general principle of what is and is not a dialogue and how one is properly conducted. We intend to propose one in this thread which will serve as a point of reference for us in the following undertaking but which has an applicability which we believe is universal.

The ancient concept of dialogue was codified by Pope Paul VI in his inaugural encyclical letter as "[the] internal drive of charity which seeks expression in the external gift of charity" (Ecclesiam Suam). It therefore must have charity at its core which St. Paul declared was "patent, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, seeks not its own interests, is not quick tempered, kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, does not brood over injury, does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth." (cf. 1 Cor. xiii,4-6).

So if dialogue has at its core charity and all that term encompasses, this by logical extension means that the parties actually listen to one another. Clarifications if requested by one party are complied with by the other. If in the process, someone encounters a principle, an argument, an approach to something different than what they have seen before, it involves considering that information and seeking as far as possible to assimilate it into the matrix of their own view to the extent they can. It may even require modifying one's view either in part or wholly.

Dialogue is indeed all too rare today because it takes genuine effort and shuns the kinds of strawman caricatures, sound-bytes, etc. that play into what passes for much of modern discourse. Pope Paul noted that the following characteristics should accompany a dialogue and we note them here as principles that we will endeavour to follow at all times on the subject before us as much as any other.

First of all, dialogue requires by its very nature clarity or as Pope Paul noted "the dialogue demands that what is said should be intelligible" (Ecclesiam Suam 81). We will strive at all times to be intelligible to both each other as well as the readers of what we will present.

Second, dialogue requires a degree of humility because as Pope Paul noted "[i]t would indeed be a disgrace if our dialogue were marked by arrogance, the use of bared words or offensive bitterness. What gives it its authority is the fact that it affirms the truth, shares with others the gifts of charity, is itself an example of virtue, avoids peremptory language, makes no demands. It is peaceful, has no use for extreme methods, is patient under contradiction and inclines towards generosity" Ecclesiam Suam 81).

We will certainly strive to persuade others to give consideration of our positions as they will be outlined. We will also in recognizing these principles not make a demand on each other or others -viewing what we will say and how we shall say it as either standing or falling on its own merits or lack thereof.

Third, dialogue requires a confidence by both parties "not only in the power of one's own words, but also in the good will of both parties to the dialogue" (Ecclesiam Suam 81). We expressly recognize in each other the good will to dialogue and would ask of those reviewing what we will present the same courtesy as well.

Fourthly, dialogue requires adaptation to the characteristics of the audience or "allowances for the psychological and moral circumstances of his hearer, (Mt 7.6.) particularly if he is a child, unprepared, suspicious or hostile" (Ecclesiam Suam 81). This is a difficult areas to navigate because people's understanding can vary significantly; we will however do our best which is all anyone can do really. Having noted the principles and procedures we intend to follow, a bit needs to be said on the subject of criticism itself.

Society today has an overly critical component to it that often seems to want to criticize as if the latter is an end in and of itself instead of a means to an end. Fundamentally and in principle, neither of us has a problem with criticism -indeed we intend to criticize the positions of the other on the subject in question. But we do not intend criticism for the sake of criticism as that is of no value. In a dialogue, criticism can suit a useful purpose to enable people to explain themselves better, to account for weaknesses in one's position, etc. and therefore be of a constructive nature. It can also give people cause to reassess their views and (in the words of Benjamin Franklin) "question a bit of their own infallibility."

We are both willing to consider the possibility that we may be wrong and indeed it would seem strange for us to expect either each other or anyone reading what we write to reconsider their views where ours may be different if we somehow were unwilling to do the same thing ourselves.

Another problem of modern life is the loss of a habit of mind that allows differentiation of arguments from quarrels with the result that disagreements or attempts at correction tend to be destructive rather than constructive. This is a trap we intend to avoid to the best of our abilities.

Labels: , , ,

Miscellaneous Threads Worth Noting:

It does not take long for things to change for someone -consider the example of comedian Bernie Mac in these two articles from April 7th and April 9th respectively:

Mac in stable condition, expects release in weeks

Actor, comedian and exasperated dad Mac dies at 50

Things can turn that fast and one of my favourite modern comedians has now passed on. Rest in peace Bernie and may your comic legacy live on.

Labels: ,