Saturday, August 6, 2011

ZenTiger A choice between hell and reason

a civilisation mécanique vient de parvenir à son dernier degré de sauvagerie. Il va falloir choisir, dans un avenir plus ou moins proche, entre le suicide collectif ou l'utilisation intelligente des conquêtes scientifiques [...] Ce n'est plus une prière, mais un ordre qui doit monter des peuples vers les gouvernements, l'ordre de choisir définitivement entre l'enfer et la raison.

So wrote Albert Camus on the 8th of August, 1945. A translation reads thus:

"Mechanized civilization has just reached the ultimate stage of barbarism. In a near future, we will have to choose between mass suicide and intelligent use of scientific conquests[...] This can no longer be simply a prayer; it must become an order which goes upward from the peoples to the governments, an order to make a definitive choice between hell and reason.

The problem with that thought is that the use of reason isn't necessarily a choice to avoid hell. There were reasons aplenty given for dropping the bomb. Perhaps one reason was simply that people spend more time reasoning and less time praying. If Hiroshima represented a choice between mass suicide and intelligence to Camus, with the definitive choice between hell and reason, his answer probably came a lot sooner than he expected. It only took a day.

In the broad spectrum from realism to just war doctrine to pacifism, I come closest to the Just War approach, and therefore see Hiroshima as unjust and unethical. It wasn't a choice between hell and reason though. It was reasoning that lead us to this hell. Wars have taken on a new character since the age of reason - we've not only got better at killing, we now kill more civilians than combatants in most wars. There's a new angle to "women and children first".

This post wasn't really meant to be an anti-war cry (Just War, not pacifism) but it is certainly the day to stop and reflect, to remember and, in spite of Camus' resignation, to pray.

See also: Grim Memories at Eternity Road

2 comment(s):

KG said...

Francis Porretto has a good post up on the subject, Zen.

ZenTiger said...


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