Peter Posted September 25, 2010 Share Posted September 25, 2010 What are the rights and responsibilities of a hostage? I was thinking about the woman hiker who was captured by the Iranians and recently released for “medical reasons” after paying a half million dollars in bail, or ransom, however you look at it.Now she is back here after getting a clear bill of health, and saying how wonderful the Iranian people are, and kissing up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN to win the release of her fiancé and friend. Perhaps she should be put into a room with the relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq, who were killed by bombs made in Iran.Or is what she doing, simply a corollary of Philip Coates’ “The Hostage Principle?” She is doing what is necessary to win the release of her friends from a barbaric regime, and there is no moral turpitude involved. In a sense she is still a hostage because her friends are still hostages.I remember an Ayn Rand publication verifying the morality of lying to a Nazi to save yourself and others.Another corollary of “The Hostage Principle” is the obligations of captured soldiers. Virtually everyone is familiar with the old saying, “Only give your name, rank, and serial number.” However, what if a captured soldier is under duress, such as deprivations or torture? Is he expected to hold out until he is dead? Is this congruent with Objective principles?And what about “white lies?”See my notes at the bottom for some ideas. Any responses would be appreciated.Semper cogitans fidele,Peter TaylorThought of the DayTime is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn't seem to be working. – AnonymousNotes:The United States Military Code of Conduct, Article One, begins: I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. Explanation: Article I of the CoC applies to all Service members at all times. A member of the Armed Forces has a duty to support U.S. interests and oppose U.S. enemies regardless of the circumstances, whether located in a combat environment or in captivity.Article II I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist. Article III If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy. Article IV If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way. Article V When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.Article VI I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America. End of quotes from Code of Conduct.From: "Philip Coates" <firstname.lastname@example.org>To: "owl" <email@example.com>Subject: OWL: The Hostage Principle -- Short FormDate: Sat, 4 May 2002 00:48:43 -0700Subject: The Hostage Principle -- Short FormBecause I'm job hunting I don't have time now for long time-consuming posts to this list, but this philosophical principle is _extremely_ important right now . . . and is in fact a life and death issue in terms of the war on terrorism and whether we are going to win it:I've been corresponding with a libertarian leader who takes the position of what seems to be the overwhelming majority of the leadership of the libertarian movement who have joined forces with the far left on this issue (a position which is so anti-life and anti-commonsense that it threatens to marginalize the libertarian movement, to undo the progress they have made in the last twenty years, and make to them a laughing stock in the country).This position is applied to any innocent civilians who are killed by the U.S. in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. It is also applied to the Israelis when they invade the West Bank, trying to root out terrorists. It was applied decades ago to Hiroshima (whose purpose was to shorten that war . . and ultimately to save lives): >How can the killings of non-combatants by the US government, intentional or not -- possibly be legally or morally allowed?I first ran across this argument stated by Murray Rothbard when I sat in on a class he gave in NYC.He stated that if the Soviet Union were to launch a nuclear attack on the United States and kill millions of people, the U.S. would be morally wrong to retaliate with a second strike because it would kill more millions of people in the Soviet Union, the overwhelming majority of whom were innocent. I was aghast and horrified that this influential libertarian was spouting such a grotesquely false and twisted (and suicidal) version of the non-initiation of force principle.I pointed out the following to him in a letter I titled "The Hostage Principle" (I gave a copy to Dr. Peikoff and Harry Binswanger...and a couple years later I heard some people in Oist circles referring to the hostage principle...but I wasn't given credit for it or its title, if I recall):<This is a very short, terse, essentialized form of the argument...I don't deal in this post with the whole set of 'fog of war' issues or apply it to a wide range of circumstances and varying contexts . . . nor do I deal with cases in which an alternative solution to 'collateral damage' is possible.>1. Suppose a robber walks into a bank and grabs the first person standing by the door as a human shield. Holds him in front of this body and starts shooting at the guard, trying to kill him. Only way guard can survive is to shoot thru the hostage.2. Result: Self-defense in some cases (this one) requires that you kill an innocent non-combatant.3. Conclusion: U.S. law (properly) places full moral blame for the deaths on the person who placed the innocents in the position of shields or hostage. 4. In a certain metaphysical sense, the aggressor is the _cause_ of the deaths of the innocents, of civilians, of non-combatants and of any collateral damage which is unavoidable in the process of self-defense.5. Application: Now apply this on a larger scale. Apply this to war in which the civilian population (of both countries) are used as hostages or shields by the aggressor.6. Alternative: If you can't defend yourself if innocents or non-combatants die in the process, you must become a pacifist -- it becomes immoral to defend yourself against a sufficiently ruthless aggressor.No defender could ever win a war or discourage aggression this way. The aggressor would merely insure that the body count of innocents would be high and would win immediately.--Philip CoatesRAND QUOTE 1:Q: What should be done about the killing of innocent people in war?AR: This is a major reason people should be concerned about the nature of their government. Certainly, the majority in any country at war is innocent. But if by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overthrow their bad government and establish a better one, then they must pay the price for the sins of their governments we are all paying for the sins of ours. If some people put up with dictatorships some of them do in Soviet Russia, and some of them did in Nazi Germany then they deserve what their government deserves. There are no innocent people in war. Our only concern should be: who started that war? If you can establish that a given country did it, then there is no need to consider the rights of that country, because it has initiated the use of force, and therefore stepped outside the principle of right. I've covered this in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, where I explain why nations as such do not have any rights, only individuals do.ENDAyn Rand question and answer sessionQUOTE 2Q: Assume a war of aggression was started by the Soviet Union; assume also that within the Soviet Union, there were individuals opposed to the Soviet system. How would you handle that?AR: I'll pretend I'm taking the question seriously, because this question is blatantly wrong. I cannot understand how anyone could entertain the question. My guess is that the problem is context-dropping. The question assumes that an individual inside a country can and should be made secure from the social system under which he lives and which he accepts, willingly or unwillingly (even if he is fighting it he still accepts it because he hasn't left the country), and that others should respect his rights and collapse to aggression themselves. This is the position of the goddamned pacifists, who wouldn't fight, even when attacked, because they might kill innocent people. If this were so, nobody would have to be concerned about his country's political system. But we should care about having the right social system, because our lives are dependent on it because a political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it. So if we fight a war, I hope the "innocent" are destroyed along with the guilty. There aren't many innocent ones; those that exist are not in the big cities, but mainly in concentration camps. But nobody should put up with aggression, and surrender his right of self- defense, for fear of hurting somebody else, guilty or innocent. When someone comes at you with a gun, if you have an ounce of self-esteem, you will answer him with force, never mind who he is or who stands behind him. If he's out to destroy you, you owe it to your own life to defend yourself.ENDFrom Ayn Rand...PLAYBOY: What about force in foreign policy? You have said that any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany during World War II . . .RAND: Certainly.PLAYBOY: . . . And that any free nation today has the moral right -- though not the duty -- to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba, or any other "slave pen." Correct?RAND: Correct. A dictatorship -- a country that violates the rights of its own citizens -- is an outlaw and can claim no rights.End of Rand quoteHonesty as an Objectivist virtue, from OPARquote (all that follows is a quote until I say end of quote)"Conventional moralists usually regard honesty as a form of altruism. They regard it as the selfless renunciation of all the values one could have obtained by preying on the naiveté of one's fellows. Objectivism discards any such notion. In both its forms - honesty with oneself and to one's fellows - the present virtue, like every other, in an expression of egoism. Every virtue defines an aspect of the same complex achievement, the one on which man's survival depends: the achievement of remaining true to that which exists.We can now deal summarily with the issue of "white lies." The ethical status of a lie is not affected by the identity of its intended beneficiary. A lie that undertakes to protect other men from the facts represents the same anti-reality principle as the con-man variety; it is just as immoral and just as impractical. A man does no service to his fellows by becoming their accomplice in blindness. Nor does he gain any moral credit thereby; an improper practice is not improved by attaching to it an altruistic justification. If anything, the latter merely compounds the evil. It removes the liar a step further from reality.Is honesty then an absolute?Just as particular objects must be evaluated in relation to moral principles, so moral principles themselves must be defined in relation to the facts that make them necessary. Moral principles are guides to life-sustaining action that apply within a certain framework of conditions. Like all scientific generalizations, therefore, moral principles are absolutes within their conditions. They are absolutes - contextually . . . A man is obliged to practice what he preaches - when he has the political freedom to do it. But he has no obligation to preach or practice any idea that would invite the attention, say, of the Gestapo or the IRS.The same approach applies to the interpretation of honesty. The principle of honesty, the Objectivist view, is not a divine commandment or a categorical imperative. It does not state that lying is wrong "in itself'" and thus under all circumstances, even when a kidnapper asks where one's child is sleeping (the Kantians do interpret honesty this way). But one may not infer that honesty is therefore "situational," and that every lie must be judged "on its own merits," without reference to principle. This kind of alternative, which we hear everywhere, is false. It is another case of Intrinisicism vs. Subjectivism preempting the philosophical field.Lying is absolutely wrong - under certain conditions. It is wrong when a man does it in the attempt to obtain a value. But, to take a different kind of case, lying to protect one's values from criminals is not wrong. If and when a man's honesty becomes a weapon that kidnappers or other wielders of force can use to harm him, then the normal context is reversed; his virtue would then become a means serving the ends of evil. In such a case, the victim has not only the right but also the obligation to lie and to do it proudly. The man who tells a lie in this context is not endorsing any anti-reality principle. On the contrary, he is now the representative of the good and the true; the kidnapper is the one at war with reality (with the requirements of man's life). Morally the con-man and the lying child-protector are opposites. The difference is the same as that between murder and self-defense.There are other than criminals or dictators to whom it is moral to lie. For example, lying is necessary and proper in certain cases to protect one's privacy from snoopers. An analysis covering such detail belongs, however, in a treatise on ethics.In discussing integrity, I said that to be good is to be good "all the time." I can be more precise now. To be good is to obey moral principles faithfully, without a moments exception, within the relevant context- which one must, therefore, know and keep in mind. Virtue does not consist in obeying concrete-bound rules ("Do not lie, do not kill, do not accept help from others, make money, honor your parents, etc.") No such rules can bedefended or consistently practiced; so people throw up their hands and flout all rules.The proper approach is to recognize that virtues are broad abstractions, which one must apply to concrete situations by a process of thought. In the process, one must observe all the rules of correct epistemology, including definition by essentials and context-keeping. This is the only way there is to know what is moral - or to be honest."end of quoteFrom: Diana M Hsieh To: OWL <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: OWL: honesty and social construction and personal questionsDate: Sun, 14 Jul 2002 11:29:12 -0600 (MDT)A few notes on three different posts:Eyal Moses wrote:>I think the Objectivist analysis of honesty makes it clear that the answer is yes, people in general should act absolutely honestly. There is no room for personal differences on this.I agree with Eyal that the virtue of honesty is contextually absolute. If a long-range perspective is taken, faking reality is never in our self-interest in the normal course of life.But there are very difficult personal judgments to be made about honesty, particularly when the question is: How much of this information should I reveal to this particular person at this time? People committed to honesty struggle with these questions all the time.For example: Is a father being dishonest in telling his friends that his daughter is "in the hospital" when she is more precisely at the drug rehab center? When those friends start reasonably inquiring after her illness or injury, then what should the father say?For example: If your spouse asks you whether you ever fantasize about other women, is it acceptable to refuse to answer the question? As your spouse, doesn't he/she deserve a truthful answer? And won't refusing to answer be tantamount to answering "yes"?For example: If you meet a co-worker/friend on her way to the conference room to give an important presentation to some clients and she asks you how she looks, should you tell her that she looks like she hasn't slept in a week? Is telling her that she looks "fine" dishonest? Should you deflect the question by saying "Go get 'em!" or somesuch? In other words, is it acceptable to tell possibly misleading technical truths? Must we tell the whole truth to some or all people? Does honesty require is to sacrifice privacy or kindness or other important values?The failure of traditional accounts of honesty to deal with these questions has opened the door in recent years for defenders of dishonesty (like the very slick David Nyberg). They argue that full honesty isn't even possible, let alone morally praiseworthy.In my recent lecture "White Lies, Black Lies" to the TOC Summer Seminar, I addressed these questions in arguing that the standard here ought to be that we tell the contextually-relevant truth. I gave some primary and secondary criteria for determining that relevant truth, although I'm sure my list is not exhaustive. That lecture should be available through TOC Live! at some point soon, and my slides from the lecture are available from this page:http://www.dianahsieh.com/philosophy/ethics/honesty/white_lies_black_lies.htmlBTW, the best in-print discussion of honesty in the Objectivist literature is Tara Smith's _Viable Values_ pages 164-174.Robert Campbell wrote:>Conclusion: Socially constituted phenomena exist, and we need to take them seriously. Social constructionism, however, isn't needed to explain them. Which is just as well, because it is untenable.I agree with Robert that social constructionism is false, but that we do need to understand socially constituted phenomena.To self-promote just a bit more, I attempted to do that with respect to norms of masculinity and femininity in my essay "Sex and Gender Through an Egoist Lens: Masculinity and Femininity in the Philosophy of Ayn Rand" in _Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand_. There I argued that gender norms take on symbolic meaning in a culture (or subculture) and thereby serve as methods of communicating information about our inner selves to others. As egoists, we want to be sure that the norms we adopt are authentic and not harmful to our lives and happiness.(If I were writing that paper again today, I would probably alter and expand upon a number of points, but I think that my basic thesis stands.)Amy Hayden wrote:>At last year's summer seminar, where I was lecturing about sexual ethics, I was constantly approached by men. While I had hoped they would want to discuss ethics and philosophy, the majority of the things they had to ask me had to do with my sexual preferences, behavior, and experience.Having attended the talk, I suspect that Amy got this reaction because her conclusions seemed to rely very heavily upon her own personal experience. That wasn't how she presented her ideas, but the lack of any substantial philosophical justification or citation of relevant psychological research left myself and others with the strong impression that her ideas were basically her own personal opinions. So it doesn't surprise me that people asked her about her personal experience, as that seemed to be the primary data on which the talk was based. (I have no doubt that some men were boorish and rude, however. But that is surely not the explanation for all or likely even most of the inquiries.)diana. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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