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czahar
October 20th, 2009, 03:26 AM
It has often been said that the past should not be judged by the standards of the present. The reasoning for this is simple: people can not justifyingly be judged by standards that they are not even aware of. After all, can a society justifyingly be rideculed for its male chauvinism or racism if none or very few of its members were ever taught the equality between the races or sexes, or if they had racist and/or sexist ideologies so thoroughly pounded into their heads, that the idea of an egalitarian society just seemed ridiculous to them? What if a futuristic society judged animals to be completely equal with mankind? What would that do to our civilization? What would that do to the heroism of people like Martin Luther King Jr. who, to the best of my knowledge, was a meat-eater?

Should the people of the past be judged by their standards or by our standards?

Discuss.

thegreenape
October 20th, 2009, 08:42 AM
A very interesting question and one I've considered many times...

As always, the answer isn't a simple yes/no; however, with the past one must take the good with the bad. It's much like viewing civilization in a similar light that we view our own maturation process.

Being 26, I find myself looking back at decision I did or didn't make and learning from them. While I may judge past-self to be an idiot, a**hole, or whatever thing I did, I've forgiven myself and I feel like I am not a better person because of it. So, I think civilization, in one sense, shoud have that same viewpoint in that we must look to the past for how to create a better future without getting "stuck" on prior poor decisions.

HOWEVER, past generations and civilization must be judged with a critical eye and to our standards with the understanding that there is nothing we can do about it. It is this honesty that can help today and the future. There must also be an understanding that people, many times, are "products of their environment" (say, racist) which should be important to remember.

For example, many people always look back to the "golden age" of the US. The "when I was young kids worked hard, everything was great" attitude. Well, typically people saying this weren't a black or any other minority who didn't have equal rights...you know the story. So anyway, while there are many good things to relatively judge a past society on I do not think that excuses the ills and wrongdoings of them.

We don't (well, shouldn't) let children get away with hurting someone just because they don't know any better; we teach them a lesson and perhaps instill some punishment. Sure, we have some built in leniancy so an 8 year old won't go to jail; however, he's judged by a greater standard that he may not be aware of.

In the end, it is tough to say because its still all relative moralism. Take your hypothetical with the animals. Maybe 100 years from now people will look at us a barbaric because of our treatment of animals; they will say "well, they just hadn't progressed that far in civilization". sure, it would be a blemish on our record (much like slavery, racism, wars, etc. are on others) but there would still be other positives and negatives to compare and contrast as well.

That's my one off rambling at the moment.

Aspoestertjie
October 20th, 2009, 02:06 PM
Very interesting question yes. It is something I think of many times as well, because it is so real in the country I live in.

My parents raised me with the idea that being white is good, being black is bad. Being raised as a racist is much like a religion. Your parents tell you what to believe, they tell you what you may or may not do or even think about doing. Some people go as far as to tell you that God will not take black people into heaven...:idiot2:

Does what my parents did upset me? Does it change my love for them? Do I judge them because of that?

The answer is no. They were raised the same way as me, but in a differnt era all together.

Today, I work together with black people. I know many of them are not evil and all of them are humans just like me. Their skin colour is just different. My standards changed dramatically compared to the standards my parents was raised with.

I don't think I can fully comprehend and understand the standards they had in those years. Society's standards changed dramatically in the past 10 years (In SA). Like Religion, Racism is a deeply rooted 'religion' of its own. It is not something you will change in many people. Many people accept change easily, others have a hard time. I might judge them, but have understanding for where they come from and understand why they are the way they are.

I personally think judging people is wrong, because you might not know with certainty the reason for their behaviour. Rather lead those that can't accept change by example than judging them. That way you might make a harder impact.

eliotitus
October 20th, 2009, 02:48 PM
It has often been said that the past should not be judged by the standards of the present. The reasoning for this is simple: people can not justifyingly be judged by standards that they are not even aware of. After all, can a society justifyingly be rideculed for its male chauvinism or racism if none or very few of its members were ever taught the equality between the races or sexes, or if they had racist and/or sexist ideologies so thoroughly pounded into their heads, that the idea of an egalitarian society just seemed ridiculous to them? What if a futuristic society judged animals to be completely equal with mankind? What would that do to our civilization? What would that do to the heroism of people like Martin Luther King Jr. who, to the best of my knowledge, was a meat-eater?

Should the people of the past be judged by their standards or by our standards?

Discuss.

Unless it is within the confines of something relevant to today (and thus generally speaking close enough to our own society for it to be judged as contemporary) why should we be judging the past at all? What is the purpose but to make ourselves feel better about ourselves to sit back and scoff at how simple and barbaric some long dead people were. Why is there any purpose whatsoever in trying to judge the past as moral or immoral. There is no justice that can be brought on them even if they are found wanting, they're dead. Sitting in judgment over something that no longer matters in which no one can be compensated and no one punished is a futile excersise.

czahar
October 20th, 2009, 04:40 PM
Unless it is within the confines of something relevant to today (and thus generally speaking close enough to our own society for it to be judged as contemporary) why should we be judging the past at all? What is the purpose but to make ourselves feel better about ourselves to sit back and scoff at how simple and barbaric some long dead people were. Why is there any purpose whatsoever in trying to judge the past as moral or immoral. There is no justice that can be brought on them even if they are found wanting, they're dead. Sitting in judgment over something that no longer matters in which no one can be compensated and no one punished is a futile excersise.

Can we help passing moral judgment, though? When we hear about the horrors Collusium, the Inquisition, or the Holocaust can we not help feel a sense of moral revulsion (the ones of us who are not blood thirsty at least)? Isn't this desire to pass moral judgment almost a subconscious reflex? I suppose a better question would be, then, should we try to temper and control this desire to pass moral judgment on the people of the past when writing about them, or should we just let ourselves go, albeit in a scholarly manner?

eliotitus
October 21st, 2009, 04:07 AM
Can we help passing moral judgment, though? When we hear about the horrors Collusium, the Inquisition, or the Holocaust can we not help feel a sense of moral revulsion (the ones of us who are not blood thirsty at least)?

The holocaust has living survivors and perpetrators. Judgment should befall that event. As for the rest, what difference does it make if they are judged by our own standards or the pasts? Indeed as I said, what place are we in to judge at all? Simply because we cannot help it doesn't mean it is right for us to do so.


Isn't this desire to pass moral judgment almost a subconscious reflex?

This makes it right to do so why?


I suppose a better question would be, then, should we try to temper and control this desire to pass moral judgment on the people of the past when writing about them, or should we just let ourselves go, albeit in a scholarly manner?

Hindsight is a 20/20 as they say. It is a historians duty to approach any issue from within the glasses of a contemporary and only use information from after insofar as it is useful to tell what people thought at the time you are studying. You cannot for instance say that the Pilgramige of Grace "against" Henry VIII did not prove a real threat to his authority just because it was true to its word in not having any intention to dethrone him and indeed disbanded without a fight. Becomming "morally" involved as a historian confuses the issue. When seeing with tinted glasses one will pick up flaws that were never really there or exaggerate the crimes and under-play what is good. I mean sure Cisneros was responsible for much of the inquisition which should it occur today would be decryed, but at the same time far too little is made of his purging of the clergy's abuses.

History should be a factual, and not a moral field.

Telex
October 21st, 2009, 07:28 AM
If we do not judge history we can't learn from it. Without applying our own standards in analysis, history will just be a field full of dead facts, interesting to scholars but pointless. What's more, I don't believe that anyone can escape making judgments: even the author of a completely unbiased book has made a judgment on what to write about - he has judged what is worth being remembered. For example, a hundred years ago historians didn't write much about the experience of women. Even if they wrote completely unbiased works, there would still be a judgment being made (that great rulers are the people worthy of being remembered).

At the same time, it's clearly not fair to judge individuals by our standards all the time. For example, if Lincoln was racist in today's terms, it's probably not fair to completely discredit all his actions. I think (and I haven't thought about this much so am interested in contrary opinions) that perhaps societal values should be judged by our standards, but when discussing individuals we should take into account the power of the contemporary social forces that are at work upon them, and how those individuals react to them.

Edit: I remember talking about this in a class once (I took the side that we can't escape moral judgment), and someone said that the Historian should present facts and let the reader form judgments. It's a nice idea, but in my opinion impossible both for the reason I mentioned above (the choice of subject matter) and the subtle ways in which all language is loaded. You can certainly try to limit bias, but I think it's impossible to do away with it completely. Otherwise scholarly historical books would just be lists of statistics and quotes. At the same time, people can be taught how to spot biases, and a lot of historical criticism is that. Probably the best away around the situation is to attempt to educate more readers on how to spot biases - then the reader will at least be aware of it, and scholars will not have to constrain themselves so much in their writing.

czahar
October 22nd, 2009, 04:54 PM
The holocaust has living survivors and perpetrators. Judgment should befall that event. As for the rest, what difference does it make if they are judged by our own standards or the pasts?

You seem to answer your own question here:


Becomming "morally" involved as a historian confuses the issue. When seeing with tinted glasses one will pick up flaws that were never really there or exaggerate the crimes and under-play what is good. I mean sure Cisneros was responsible for much of the inquisition which should it occur today would be decryed, but at the same time far too little is made of his purging of the clergy's abuses.

If becoming morally involved forces people to see history through "tinted glasses" then surely the morals which one imposes on that history force the shades and colors we see it through to vary greatly.



Indeed as I said, what place are we in to judge at all? Simply because we cannot help it doesn't mean it is right for us to do so.

History should be a factual, and not a moral field.

I never meant to say that it was right for us to do so, simply that it was something we can not help but do. You say that history should be a "factual, and not a moral field", but are the two necessarily opposites? Ian Kershaw's two volume biography on the life of Adolf Hitler is one of the most respected studies of the Austrian born, German dictator's life. Kershaw supports his facts with thousands of primary source documents. At the same time, though, his view towards Hitler is obviously hostile. Is he being factual or moral here?

Even when reading seemingly amoral historians, morality has this way a showing through. All respectable historians use facts, but what facts they pay attention to is always indicative of their morality. Take Augustus, for instance. Does the historian spend more time emphasizing the peace he brought to Rome, or does s/he spend more time focusing on his somewhat hypocritical moral reforms and the way he snaked a monarchy in through the guise of strengthening the Republic? Both historians could be backing their views with indisputable facts, but how these facts are interpreted is a product of the historian's biases.

czahar
November 17th, 2009, 09:13 PM
Here's a perfect example of what I am talking about, Eliot. I am currently reading Jerry Brotton's The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction. In the introduction there is a section called "The Darker Side of the Renaissance". The word "darker" is obviously being used in the moral sense. In it, Brotton goes into some detail of how the Renaissance explorers destroyed indigenous populations when they were "unprepared or uninterested in adopting European beliefs and ways of living". He is obviously imposing his morality (i.e., that it is wrong to harm indigenous populations for the sake of spreading morality, a belief which may not have been held by many in the Renaissance) on his analysis of this time period. Do you think he was wrong for doing so? If so, how would you have preferred to have seen it handled?

The Great Khan
November 18th, 2009, 08:30 AM
Here's a perfect example of what I am talking about, Eliot. I am currently reading Jerry Brotton's The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction. In the introduction there is a section called "The Darker Side of the Renaissance". The word "darker" is obviously being used in the moral sense. In it, Brotton goes into some detail of how the Renaissance explorers destroyed indigenous populations when they were "unprepared or uninterested in adopting European beliefs and ways of living". He is obviously imposing his morality (i.e., that it is wrong to harm indigenous populations for the sake of spreading morality, a belief which may not have been held by many in the Renaissance) on his analysis of this time period. Do you think he was wrong for doing so? If so, how would you have preferred to have seen it handled?

He might be wrong if doing what the people of the Renaissance did was considered moral during the time period. But I disagree. The people of the Renaissance knew of other non-European cultures, like the Islamic world, for instance. Why didn't they attempt to impose the "European way of living" on them? Because they could fight back. This makes their destruction of the New World cultures a double standard, so I think Brotton is justified in imposing his own morality on the events.

czahar
November 18th, 2009, 08:46 PM
He might be wrong if doing what the people of the Renaissance did was considered moral during the time period. But I disagree. The people of the Renaissance knew of other non-European cultures, like the Islamic world, for instance. Why didn't they attempt to impose the "European way of living" on them? Because they could fight back. This makes their destruction of the New World cultures a double standard, so I think Brotton is justified in imposing his own morality on the events.

I am a bit confused with your argument. Are you saying that it is the double standard which deserves the moral disapproval?

The Great Khan
November 19th, 2009, 03:39 AM
I am a bit confused with your argument. Are you saying that it is the double standard which deserves the moral disapproval?

I'm saying that they actually thought that destroying non-European indigenous populations was immoral. But they put that aside when the indigenous peoples in question couldn't fight back. Therefore, Brotton is justified in his criticism of their immorality, since they agreed that doing what they did was immoral; they just didn't care.

czahar
November 19th, 2009, 04:06 AM
I'm saying that they actually thought that destroying non-European indigenous populations was immoral. But they put that aside when the indigenous peoples in question couldn't fight back. Therefore, Brotton is justified in his criticism of their immorality, since they agreed that doing what they did was immoral; they just didn't care.

Ah. I got you. I am not quite convinced of your argument that Europeans were willing to override their morality when the indigenous people could not fight back, though. You are saying that Renaissance Europeans believed it was immoral to destroy non-European indigenous peoples, but ease somehow overrode that morality? That does not make sense. Despite the ease, I still would not take candy from a baby, nor would I kick an old lady down the stairs. How exactly did ease determine European morality?

Also, keep in mind that I made the Brotton quote to challenge Eliotitus' idea that morality should be separated from the study of history.

Elutherian
November 19th, 2009, 05:12 AM
It's difficult to seperate modern belief systems from belief systems of the past. This, of course, doesn't justify anyone's actions in previous decades and centuries. We should learn from history and apply it to modern times, so in a sense it's inevitable that we judge history by today's standards.

The Great Khan
November 19th, 2009, 11:31 AM
You are saying that Renaissance Europeans believed it was immoral to destroy non-European indigenous peoples, but ease somehow overrode that morality? That does not make sense. Despite the ease, I still would not take candy from a baby, nor would I kick an old lady down the stairs. How exactly did ease determine European morality?

Perhaps not...but would you do it if the candy bar or old lady's cane was made of gold? Because that's what the Renaissance Europeans did. They destroyed indigenous populations to take their land and their stuff. Perhaps they felt bad about it, but it would have been overridden by greed and Christian arrogance. (They're pagan, God's okay with it if we destroy their civilization and take their stuff and convert their kids).

czahar
November 19th, 2009, 09:00 PM
Perhaps not...but would you do it if the candy bar or old lady's cane was made of gold? Because that's what the Renaissance Europeans did. They destroyed indigenous populations to take their land and their stuff. Perhaps they felt bad about it, but it would have been overridden by greed and Christian arrogance. (They're pagan, God's okay with it if we destroy their civilization and take their stuff and convert their kids).

Okay, I understand. What you are saying is greed was the main driving force, and without the challenge of a having to deal with a technologically modern army (by the standards of the Renaissance, at least) they eagerly attacked "primitive" indigenous peoples.

I am still a bit sceptical of it, though. You seem to be saying the Europeans would have felt it morally reprehensible to attack indigenous cultures if they did not have anything of material value gain. Certainly the Europeans would have had no reason to attack them, but if they were filled with such a "Christian arrogance" (as you say they were, and I think we can agree with that), then I find it hard to believe they would have found it morally wrong to destroy a culture which they looked with such disdain on.

---------- Post added at 03:00 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:58 PM ----------


It's difficult to seperate modern belief systems from belief systems of the past. This, of course, doesn't justify anyone's actions in previous decades and centuries. We should learn from history and apply it to modern times, so in a sense it's inevitable that we judge history by today's standards.

But is it fair to judge people by standards which they are not even aware of? Should Martin Luther King be considered a horrible individual because he ate meat?

Elutherian
November 20th, 2009, 06:24 AM
But is it fair to judge people by standards which they are not even aware of? Should Martin Luther King be considered a horrible individual because he ate meat?

I wasn't aware eating meat was a horrible act.

Either way, I don't think people should be judged based on modern standards, but it will inevitably happen.

czahar
November 20th, 2009, 07:02 AM
I wasn't aware eating meat was a horrible act.

Eating meat is not a horrible act - to us. But imagine if a society one thousand years in the future deemed animals to be the moral equals of humanity. Imagine how they would look at people like Martin Luther King Jr.


Either way, I don't think people should be judged based on modern standards, but it will inevitably happen.

Complete objectivity is impossible. Humans will always be affected by the moral standards of the culture they have grown up in. There are, however, things we can do to temper our subjective biases and become more objective. Should we bother tempering our subjective biases in the first place is my question?

Dr Gonzo
November 20th, 2009, 02:57 PM
All history is revisionist history, and all dependent on the point of view of who is telling it. I don't believe it is possible to tell a completely, 100% accurate portray of events without imposing your own morality on the situation, let alone hope that same morality will extend to the future. To tell a history of something that happened in the ancient past, without first hand account (which would no doubt be emotionally influenced by the mores of that time as well) by collecting various facts and clues would undoubtedly be painted as something different than what actually transpired, and that's only considering one point of view (the futurist)! What about all the players at the time, and how they saw the events transpire from their own perspectives?

Take for example the Exodus of the Jews. Terrible, terrible thing that Egypt did, right? Well, we basically did the same thing in the US in the 18th and 19th centuries, in principle at least. So, are 19th century Americans "evil" like the Pharaohs of Egypt? I don't believe they are held to the same standards, but I might be mistaken :sly:

The Great Khan
November 20th, 2009, 03:25 PM
I am still a bit sceptical of it, though. You seem to be saying the Europeans would have felt it morally reprehensible to attack indigenous cultures if they did not have anything of material value gain. Certainly the Europeans would have had no reason to attack them, but if they were filled with such a "Christian arrogance" (as you say they were, and I think we can agree with that), then I find it hard to believe they would have found it morally wrong to destroy a culture which they looked with such disdain on.

Well, as I understand it, Christianity forbids murder, and slaughtering innocent indigenous people falls under that category. Therefore, what the Renaissance people did was immoral by their own standards. However, greed and Christian arrogance overrode that and allowed them to destroy the indigenous cultures despite their feelings that this was immoral. Therefore, I feel Brotton is correct in criticizing the behavior of these hypocritical Renaissance people, since he's not imposing his morality on them. He's imposing their own, which prohibits murder, and pointing out that they violated their own moral standards.

czahar
November 20th, 2009, 05:05 PM
Well, as I understand it, Christianity forbids murder, and slaughtering innocent indigenous people falls under that category. Therefore, what the Renaissance people did was immoral by their own standards. However, greed and Christian arrogance overrode that and allowed them to destroy the indigenous cultures despite their feelings that this was immoral. Therefore, I feel Brotton is correct in criticizing the behavior of these hypocritical Renaissance people, since he's not imposing his morality on them. He's imposing their own, which prohibits murder, and pointing out that they violated their own moral standards.

I see your point, though whether the Bible is against murder is questionable. Sure it says it in the Ten Commandments, but how often do God's people kill others (usually heathen groups) and God does nothing to punish them? Let me put it this way; if there were a sign up at your job stating "all people who come in late will be fired" but everyone frequently came in late and your boss did absolutely nothing about it, could you justifyingly say that your place of work forbids tardiness? Perhaps in writing, but certainly not in practice.

So were the people of the Renaissance truly going against their own moral code?

Squatch347
November 20th, 2009, 05:34 PM
If we can indeed in some cases pass judgment on the past a la Khan's example does that not imply that there is a higher standard for morality? IE one that applicable despite culture or time?

The Great Khan
November 21st, 2009, 05:11 AM
I see your point, though whether the Bible is against murder is questionable. Sure it says it in the Ten Commandments, but how often do God's people kill others (usually heathen groups) and God does nothing to punish them?

Yeah, but we can ignore all that, since in the NT, Jesus forbids murder ;):


Let me put it this way; if there were a sign up at your job stating "all people who come in late will be fired" but everyone frequently came in late and your boss did absolutely nothing about it, could you justifyingly say that your place of work forbids tardiness? Perhaps in writing, but certainly not in practice.


But Renaissance societal laws (independent of the Bible) forbade murder also. It wasn't purely a religious thing.


If we can indeed in some cases pass judgment on the past a la Khan's example does that not imply that there is a higher standard for morality? IE one that applicable despite culture or time?

No, because that's not what I'm arguing. I'm arguing that the Renaissance people violated their own morals, so the author of the book is right to criticize them for their hypocrisy.

Telex
November 21st, 2009, 11:28 AM
I'm arguing that the Renaissance people violated their own morals, so the author of the book is right to criticize them for their hypocrisy.
I don't think it's that clear. They may have violated written codes of morality, but that assumes that the "official" morals are the real ones. We cannot know the relationship between the professed ideal and how individuals interpreted that ideal internally. It seems to me that it is more accurate to determine morals based on actions - that, while their actions appear hypocritical to a current reader, it was not necessarily viewed as a contradiction by the historical individuals. This could be due to a difference of interpretation, or perhaps the professed morals were not the actual morals lived by.

Squatch347
November 21st, 2009, 08:31 PM
No, because that's not what I'm arguing. I'm arguing that the Renaissance people violated their own morals, so the author of the book is right to criticize them for their hypocrisy.
The problem then is the historical principle of closeness. We sitting here several hundred years later and are limited in our ability to fully understand the situation. We can claim they are hypocritical, but there is a cultural lens that you are looking at their actions through, a lens that only contemporaries, and better the people themselves can view their actions through.

czahar
November 21st, 2009, 11:42 PM
Yeah, but we can ignore all that, since in the NT, Jesus forbids murder ;):

I certainly do not think that is true. To the best of my knowledge, the Old Testament would have been a part of the Renaissance bible, and the Old Testament God was reverred as the same God of the New Testament.


But Renaissance societal laws (independent of the Bible) forbade murder also.

But murder is defined not only by the act, but by the victim. A farmer who slaughters a chicken would not be considered a murderer in the same way a man who performed that same act on a child would be. Chickens are not protected under the law in the same way that children are. Likewise, Native Americans and Africans would not have been protected under Renaissance laws in the same way that white Europeans were, so saying that societal laws forbade the murder of non-Europeans is highly questionable.

The Great Khan
November 22nd, 2009, 05:28 AM
It seems to me that it is more accurate to determine morals based on actions - that, while their actions appear hypocritical to a current reader, it was not necessarily viewed as a contradiction by the historical individuals. This could be due to a difference of interpretation, or perhaps the professed morals were not the actual morals lived by.

Yes, but its possible that people violate morals for personal gain, yes? Because if you view morality based on action, then you say that everything they did was in accordance with their morality, when we know that not everyone does what is moral all the time. This could well be one of those situations.


The problem then is the historical principle of closeness. We sitting here several hundred years later and are limited in our ability to fully understand the situation. We can claim they are hypocritical, but there is a cultural lens that you are looking at their actions through, a lens that only contemporaries, and better the people themselves can view their actions through.

How then do you propose to analyze their actions?


I certainly do not think that is true. To the best of my knowledge, the Old Testament would have been a part of the Renaissance bible, and the Old Testament God was reverred as the same God of the New Testament.

But things changed after Jesus right? No more animal sacrifice, no more circumcising, faith is more important than good deeds, etc.



But murder is defined not only by the act, but by the victim. A farmer who slaughters a chicken would not be considered a murderer in the same way a man who performed that same act on a child would be. Chickens are not protected under the law in the same way that children are. Likewise, Native Americans and Africans would not have been protected under Renaissance laws in the same way that white Europeans were, so saying that societal laws forbade the murder of non-Europeans is highly questionable.

Well, the law probably didn't say "white people" but just "don't kill people." The Renaissance Europeans were definitely aware that the indigenous Americans and Africans were people, since they were able to interbreed with them, and also since only people can have language, clothes, tools, and other aspects of civilization.

czahar
November 22nd, 2009, 05:56 AM
But things changed after Jesus right? No more animal sacrifice, no more circumcising, faith is more important than good deeds, etc.

Things certainly changed, but that did not make the Old Testament irrelevant. And even if the New Testament did specify it's anti-murder stance, God still takes a rather violent view towards heathens. Just look at Revelation and the hideous torments that await the godless in Hell. Such imagery, combined the with violence towards heathens in the Old Testament, could have easily inspired Renaissance men to see the Christian Bible as a justification for their acts.

The problem with the Bible is that it is not clear. It is very vague and often contradicts itself. It is no wonder why there are so many different sects.


Well, the law probably didn't say "white people" but just "don't kill people." The Renaissance Europeans were definitely aware that the indigenous Americans and Africans were people, since they were able to interbreed with them, and also since only people can have language, clothes, tools, and other aspects of civilization.

Mid-twentieth century American law did not specify non-Germans in it's anti-murder laws. The laws against murder during that time did not specify, to the best of my knowledge, that any group was exempt. During World War II, however, the United States bombed Dresden, killing hundreds of innocent people (the numbers may have been higher or lower. I do not have the actual body count on me). Nonetheless, American law did not consider these soldiers to be murderers.

The Great Khan
November 22nd, 2009, 06:10 AM
Things certainly changed, but that did not make the Old Testament irrelevant. And even if the New Testament did specify it's anti-murder stance, God still takes a rather violent view towards heathens. Just look at Revelation and the hideous torments that await the godless in Hell. Such imagery, combined the with violence towards heathens in the Old Testament, could have easily inspired Renaissance men to see the Christian Bible as a justification for their acts.

But the question is, were they actually inspired in this way? How can we be sure of what the Renaissance people were actually thinking?


Mid-twentieth century American law did not specify non-Germans in it's anti-murder laws. The laws against murder during that time did not specify, to the best of my knowledge, that any group was exempt. During World War II, however, the United States bombed Dresden, killing hundreds of innocent people (the numbers may have been higher or lower. I do not have the actual body count on me). Nonetheless, American law did not consider these soldiers to be murderers.

But the US had no choice. Germany had to be brought down. The Renaissance Europeans could have certainly let the natives live. They were no threat.

czahar
November 23rd, 2009, 08:38 PM
But the question is, were they actually inspired in this way? How can we be sure of what the Renaissance people were actually thinking?

I suppose we cannot, but how then would you explain this quote made by you in post #12 of this thread:


I'm saying that they actually thought that destroying non-European indigenous populations was immoral.


But the US had no choice. Germany had to be brought down. The Renaissance Europeans could have certainly let the natives live. They were no threat.

I think you are missing the point, though. Just because a people has laws against murder and does not specify any group as being exluded from those laws, does not mean that all groups are included in those laws.

You also have to remember that said crimes occured outside the jurisdiction or Europe. If prostitution were illegal in my country (the United States), would I get arrested for taking part in it in Amsterdam?

The Great Khan
November 26th, 2009, 04:40 AM
I suppose we cannot, but how then would you explain this quote made by you in post #12 of this thread:

I said they actually thought that based on what I know of the Bible and the Renaissance period. You did the same. The point is, there's evidence in the Bible to support both our views. I don't think we can know for sure unless there's some kind of document from the period specifically documenting the morality or immorality of killing indigenous people.


I think you are missing the point, though. Just because a people has laws against murder and does not specify any group as being exluded from those laws, does not mean that all groups are included in those laws.

But the law doesn't specify. Unless it does, how do we know who is included and who is not? We have no way of knowing if the law was broken or not.


You also have to remember that said crimes occured outside the jurisdiction or Europe. If prostitution were illegal in my country (the United States), would I get arrested for taking part in it in Amsterdam?

The Europeans would of course be under native "jurisdiction". However what they did would still be immoral, because native laws and traditions surely prohibit murder.

czahar
November 26th, 2009, 05:03 AM
The Europeans would of course be under native "jurisdiction". However what they did would still be immoral, because native laws and traditions surely prohibit murder.

Which would have made it immoral under native jurisdiction (if such a thing even existed), not necessarily European.

The Great Khan
November 26th, 2009, 05:06 AM
Which would have made it immoral under native jurisdiction (if such a thing even existed), not necessarily European.

Every native group had some kind of government, even if it did not extend beyond individual family groups. I'm pretty sure there was some kind of ban on killing and stealing, both of which were things that the Europeans did extensively.

czahar
November 26th, 2009, 05:12 AM
Every native group had some kind of government, even if it did not extend beyond individual family groups. I'm pretty sure there was some kind of ban on killing and stealing, both of which were things that the Europeans did extensively.

But whether or not that's true is irrelevant. The question is, how would Native American jurisdiction have made something immoral to Europeans?

The Great Khan
November 26th, 2009, 05:32 AM
But whether or not that's true is irrelevant. The question is, how would Native American jurisdiction have made something immoral to Europeans?

But that's not what you posited. You said:



You also have to remember that said crimes occured outside the jurisdiction or Europe. If prostitution were illegal in my country (the United States), would I get arrested for taking part in it in Amsterdam?

If you meant moral, prostitution, despite being immoral in America, would be considered moral in Amsterdam. Even if they Europeans thought killing and stealing from natives was moral, they shouldn't have done it, because native morality forbade it. But we still haven't figured out whether their morality did indeed forbid killing indigenous people.

czahar
November 26th, 2009, 09:01 PM
But we still haven't figured out whether their morality did indeed forbid killing indigenous people.

I disagree with you there and feel that the matter is leaning heavily in favor of my argument that there were neither any moral or legal codes against killing the natives. The Bible is so wishy-washy with its view on killing and takes fairly negative attitude towards heathens; therefore, I do not think there was a strong moral taboo (at least within the Bible) against killing native peoples.

I have also never heard of a man in the Renaissance being prosecuted for any crimes against native peoples; therefore, I do not think there was a strong legal code (if any legal code) against killing indigenous peoples.

The Great Khan
November 27th, 2009, 04:50 AM
I disagree with you there and feel that the matter is leaning heavily in favor of my argument that there were neither any moral or legal codes against killing the natives. The Bible is so wishy-washy with its view on killing and takes fairly negative attitude towards heathens; therefore, I do not think there was a strong moral taboo (at least within the Bible) against killing native peoples.

I have also never heard of a man in the Renaissance being prosecuted for any crimes against native peoples; therefore, I do not think there was a strong legal code (if any legal code) against killing indigenous peoples.

But I highly doubt a Renaissance man could slaughter natives without it weighing down his conscience.

czahar
November 28th, 2009, 06:14 PM
But I highly doubt a Renaissance man could slaughter natives without it weighing down his conscience.

And your doubt is reasonable, but more proof is still needed. Just because a person is killing for personal gain, does not mean they have an aversion to murder which is only being overcome by their greed. It is entirely possible for a person to kill for personal gain and feel absolutely no guilt for the crime he is committing.

Squatch347
November 28th, 2009, 06:58 PM
How then do you propose to analyze their actions? False dilemma, why is it necessary that we pass some sort of judgment on them, why can't we simply report history factually?

The Great Khan
November 30th, 2009, 09:27 AM
False dilemma, why is it necessary that we pass some sort of judgment on them, why can't we simply report history factually?

...because the OP is about judging people.



It is entirely possible for a person to kill for personal gain and feel absolutely no guilt for the crime he is committing.

But that can't have been part of mainstream Renaissance morality. No society is that heartless!

czahar
November 30th, 2009, 08:56 PM
But that can't have been part of mainstream Renaissance morality.

First of all, it was not mainstream society that was killing off the Native Americans. Most of Europeans were in Europe and not in America. Second, it is entirely possible for a society which is significantly psychologically distanced from the suffering of a group to feel no guilt for what they are doing to another group or what is happening to that group. Take animals for instance. How many thousands and millions of cattle, chicken, and pigs are slaughtered everyday in the United States? How many Americans are meat eaters? Now, how many Americans are animal rights activists?

The Great Khan
December 1st, 2009, 12:47 PM
First of all, it was not mainstream society that was killing off the Native Americans. Most of Europeans were in Europe and not in America.

But they had European morals, (which, unfortunately, we have yet to precisely define.) It's not like they'd suddenly change their moral system upon coming to the Americas.

czahar
December 1st, 2009, 03:59 PM
But they had European morals, (which, unfortunately, we have yet to precisely define.) It's not like they'd suddenly change their moral system upon coming to the Americas.

If we have not defined what they are, how can you assume the Europeans changed them? In order to claim something has changed you have to know what it was before it changed.

theJackal
December 6th, 2009, 08:54 AM
It's difficult to seperate modern belief systems from belief systems of the past. This, of course, doesn't justify anyone's actions in previous decades and centuries. We should learn from history and apply it to modern times, so in a sense it's inevitable that we judge history by today's standards.

Er actually it is very easy to separate modern belief systems from those of the past as the environment and the age of the society one lives in will ultimately shape the values, principles, and beliefs that one has. A perfect example would be people in the early 19th century who endured horrible atrocities at the hands of society for being "possessed by demons" when in fact looking at it today these people had a recognized medical condition such bipolar disorder, ADHD and what have you. Imagine being a medical doctor from this age and being taken back to the beginning of that time-line; who was to say then that their belief systems were inaccurate? are these belief systems not totally different from what you hold as a logical explanation today?

That said, it becomes incredibly apparent how erroneous it would be to judge the actions of time past by today's standards, as these rules did not apply in that setting at the time. What is even more curious, now that we are dancing with the time aspect of this, say it was perfectly acceptable to execute your neighbor, infact it has been for over 600 years. You do so, then tomorrow a new law comes to effect outlawing this action, should people look at you differently now? citing the fact that you HAVE killed someone (oh my gosh!!!).

History to me, merely acts as a guide to help us chart an acceptable belief and value system today. If this system did not exist at the time when the historical events occurred then you really can not judge the past, as your current belief system is in fact a product of those events that occurred.

Squatch347
December 8th, 2009, 04:05 PM
...because the OP is about judging people. Indeed, and I challenged the OP based on a logical error, the OP presumes that it is necessary, but I maintain that it is not required.




But that can't have been part of mainstream Renaissance morality. No society is that heartless!
Misquote, however, there have been several societies that have had the I for myself mentality.

czahar
December 8th, 2009, 04:31 PM
He might be wrong if doing what the people of the Renaissance did was considered moral during the time period.

I am actually going to concede to you, Khan. After reading through some of my Renaissance texts I did come upon some conscientious objectors to the treatment of the people in the New World. In fact, one even supports your claim to the letter. On page 96 of The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction Brotton mentions how the sixteenth century Dominican priest, Bartolome de las Casas said the explorers:


did not want to kill them [the Native Americans] directly, for the hate they bear them; they kill them because they want to be rich and have much gold.

Well played, my friend! :afro: