I don't believe the real world is split into "good people" and "bad people". Real life has a lot of shades of grey, IMO, some lighter or darker than others. The problem is, how far should the shades of grey go? The Nazis don't rule Europe, but only because it took World War II to stop them.
Personally, I tend to favor a Morality Kitchen Sink
to Grey and Gray Morality
. It seems a little odd to say it took World War II to stop them from ruling Europe — to me it looks like World War II was how
the Nazis were going to acquire Europe, aside from Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland (e.g., at the start of Operation Barbarossa, that Germans started attacking the Soviets caught Stalin so offguard that it took him a while to authorize his forces to return fire). World War II just didn't go according to plan the plan of the Germans (or Japanese or Italians). Now, if you said that the violent, bloody warfare waged by allied side is why the Nazis don't rule Europe, fair enough.
As for your example of, e.g., a Staff Chick
with a Holy Hand Grenade
, what if it were a knock-out grenade that caused, oh, a half-hour of unconsciousness or paralysis, rather than seriously maiming or killing? If you're dealing with high-fantasy magic, there's no reason nonlethal weapons couldn't work (especially since, e.g., making people fall asleep or turning people into stone has a longer pedigree in magic than, say, fireballs, so it's not too much of a stretch to say "it's like a gorgon's petrification power or the evil fairy godmother's sleep curse from Sleeping Beauty
, but it only lasts an hour.") Now, if that's too neat and tidy for you, and you want her to be grayer, then you don't have to do that, but there's no reason it's impossible or anything.
Indeed, simply (being?) pragmatically ruthless demands a certain level of goodness. Pragmatism itself does.
Odd idea. What makes you think that? I could see the inverse — that being good requires a certain level of pragmatism — but I don't get the claim that being pragmatic requires a certain level of goodness at all.
You touched on it with the commentary on how offering surrender saves unnecessary bloodshed on both sides.
A pure, ruthless pragmatist, by definition, does not limit herself in her methods. She could treat captives kindly if that is the best strategy at that time, or could torture or massacre them if that's the best strategy at the time — and maybe on some occassions, terrifying enemies with brutality is the best strategy (even if it certainly isn't always
). A good person still wouldn't do that, though. However, pure, ruthless pragmatism is rare among both heroes and villains, which is why I mentioned the case of a villain being unpragmatic.
Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. both made careers out of using a saintly nature itself as a weapon. They were extremely, ruthlessly, pragmatic. They sent people to be beaten or maimed in their causes, were beaten themselves in those causes, and made their followers swear not to defend themselves in so doing. They knew that people would die in the process. They did this because they knew, pragmatically, that the actions that would have to be taken to defend the system against them could not be justified to the system.
Never mistake goodness as a barrier to pragmatism.
A pure, ruthless pragmatist could use civil disobedience and a (feigned) commitment to non-violence as a tactic when that's the best tactic, or use, say, terrorist violence against civilians when that's the best tactic. A sincere believer in non-violence doesn't have that flexibility.
Now, you could make some sort of game theory argument that being clearly, "irrationally," inflexibly committed to something shifts the Nash equilibrium to something more favorable to you, but I'm pretty skeptical of such arguments in the real world. In my experience being irrational is rarely some form of deeper rationality, no matter how much its practitioners are convinced that it is.
Now, morality, of course, isn't irratonal per se; it's just a competing set of motives which sometimes conflicts with other motives. Moral motives don't conflict with other motives out of some particularly anti-pragmatic notions: they just conflict because different motives often
conflict. The fact that I want to win some battle and I want to avoid harming civilians, and there's some tension between these objectives, is no more notable than the fact that I want to eat gyoza whenever I feel like it and I want to lose weight are sometimes in conflict, even though there's no real "moral" content to either motive in that case. In my view, though it's pretty implausible that consideration of moral motives never conflicts with any other objectives.
edited 14th Dec '11 1:55:06 PM by Maklodes