Sunday, 19 August 2012

Suffer Little Children

So Aristotle this week was interesting.  Rhetoric certainly prompts interesting discussions in our group.  This week, for instance, Aristotle talked about the best arguments to make for killing innocent children.

This gave us pause.  I’ve already mentioned that in Rhetoric Aristotle seems almost amoral at times, but this was rather over the top.  What possible argument could anyone make for killing innocent children?

To be fair, when we read the argument, it did have a certain plausibility to it.  (Now, don’t everyone write angry comments.  Anyway, plausible as it may have been, it didn’t convince me, though I can’t speak for everyone in the group.)  What Aristotle did was quote Homer, the Iliad, a line that says something like: If you vanquish your enemies, can you let their children live, knowing that they may grow up to seek revenge on you?

Interesting point.  If you defeat the Nazis, I wondered aloud, would you want to kill their children?  But my answer to that was no.  Someone in the group said, You’re such a liberal.  Maybe.  I remember The Boys from Brazil (warning: spoiler alert), in which it turns out that a bunch of Hitler’s children are on the loose.  One radical group wants to kill them, but Laurence Olivier says, They’re only children.

And I shouldn’t leave you with the impression that Aristotle is in favour of killing innocent children.  He’s only saying that if you want an argument in favour of doing that, here it is.

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