Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

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jewish_scientist
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Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:39 pm UTC

I am working on a paper for school about how stories with anthropomorphism deal with the reality that animals eat one another (a.k.a. Carnivore Confusion). Somewhat surprisingly, I found that most works adopt the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (i.e. in the natural state people are cruel, but society can change that). Zootopia makes this very explicit, but Kimba the White Lion also takes this view if you dig into the symbolism even superficially.

The problem comes from The Lion King. I just cannot reconcile the Circle of Life with Hobbes. Arguing that the Circle of Life is the name of that society's social contract is pretty easy. There is a scene in a T.V. show spin-off when a character literally takes out a signed contract. The problem is the Circle of Life, when extrapolated to human society, seems to say that a limited amount of violence is acceptable because the social contract guarantees retaliation (Lions can eat gazelle because gazelle will eventually eat the lions via grass). The fact that too much violence is shown to be detrimental (Scar's over hunting upsets the whole ecosystem) does not change the fact that a small about of violence of the same type is justified. It just does not add up. There has to be an alternative way to view the Circle of Life that I am not seeing.

P.S. If someone says that it is just a kids movie and I should stop this masturbatory navel-gazing, then I completely flip out and will vow to one day track you down, find where you live, and write a strongly worded letter about how this position condescendingly dismisses some of the greatest works of art and would lead to a world where we teach our children morals though stories without ever actually investigating what those morals are.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby ucim » Mon Nov 26, 2018 3:46 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:The fact that too much violence is shown to be detrimental (Scar's over hunting upsets the whole ecosystem) does not change the fact that a small about of violence of the same type is justified. It just does not add up.
Are you looking for a moral absolute? Perhaps life is nuanced, and there is no moral absolute. Perhaps that's (part of) the message.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby doogly » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:07 pm UTC

Why would you expect it to be compatible with Hobbes?

When you say it does not add up, do you mean there seems to be something contradictory?
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Chen » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:49 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:P.S. If someone says that it is just a kids movie and I should stop this masturbatory navel-gazing, then I completely flip out and will vow to one day track you down, find where you live, and write a strongly worded letter about how this position condescendingly dismisses some of the greatest works of art and would lead to a world where we teach our children morals though stories without ever actually investigating what those morals are.


It's more the fact that The Lion King doesn't delve into the moral aspects of killing other beings for food. The circle of life isn't cruelty that has been mitigated by society. It is justification to allow Lions (and other predators) to kill and eat and survive. The retaliation you mention is irrelevant since it only occurs after the predators have died of natural causes. It's not even remotely the same as a predator killing a prey animal and ending it's life prematurely. There are plenty of nuance here, such that carnivores NEED to eat other animals to survive. But the Lion King doesn't delve into any of that because it is a children's movie. It's handwaved away as "the circle of life". I'm not sure why are you trying to resolve more meaning out of that than actually exists.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:50 pm UTC

The problem is not that The Lion King disagrees with Hobbes; it is that I cannot find anyone who it does agree with. The Circle of Life says that violence is a necessary, and therefore unavoidable, part of society. Carl Schmitt is only political philosopher who takes this position and his view are definitely not comparable with the Circle of Life. All other political philosophies that I know of say that violence is a feature of a sub-optimal society and that there is a way for perpetual peace to exist. Violence may be necessary to establish a perfect society, but that violence is always temporary (e.g. Marx said it was okay to revolt in order to create a socialist society because the socialist society would not have widespread violence).

Normally when I am unable to wrap my head around a work's themes, I look for a philosopher who holds a similar enough position that reading about them will give me insight into the work, but there is no one who takes a position similar to the Circle of Life. I am hoping that someone here can offer a different interpretation of The Lion King.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby elasto » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:16 pm UTC

All other political philosophies that I know of say that violence is a feature of a sub-optimal society and that there is a way for perpetual peace to exist. Violence may be necessary to establish a perfect society, but that violence is always temporary (e.g. Marx said it was okay to revolt in order to create a socialist society because the socialist society would not have widespread violence).

First off, what kind of society could exist where violence (or the threat of it) was not an ongoing necessity? Only a borg-like one where there is no independent thought but everyone merely acted for the benefit of all seems to qualify, and arguably that would be a dystopia not a utopia.

Secondly, it seems to me that the ethics of animals eating meat seems to have some kind of equivalence to that argument: Right now society could not function without the threat of violence by the state to enforce common ethics, but maybe you're right that one day it could. Likewise, right now the carnivores in Lion King could not survive without killing to eat, but maybe one day they could by consuming lab-grown insentient meat instead. At that point it would be immoral for them to kill to eat just as it would be immoral to use violence in a society where violence no longer had any righteous purpose.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:29 pm UTC

elasto wrote:First off, what kind of society could exist where violence (or the threat of it) was not an ongoing necessity?


One where there is nothing to be gained from violence. If your society doesn't recognize property rights then you can only steal for petty gain, and if people's needs are fulfilled then no one has a reason to form an army to take it away or the ability to hire one. If someone is acting violently, there are non-violent means to respond to that such as talking to them, running away, disarming them, or (at most) using just enough physical restraint to stop the harm without causing injury to that person.

Violence is necessary only to enforce rules that benefit some at the expense of others.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:54 pm UTC

I haven't seen this movie in a long time so I'm mostly just going from memory here, but from half-remembered things and a quick look at Wikipedia...

My impression is that the core message in the Lion King is more about responsibility and maturity rather than about a formal political system around the Circle of Life... i.e. the conflict between the philosophy of Mufasa and that of Timon/Pumba.

The only way that I really see the Circle of Life in the context of the Lion King working as a political philosophy is actually a very cynical one. The unelected, unaccountable rulers are rulers because they are the strongest, most intimidating, and most violent, and freely prey on the weaker members of the group. The Circle of Life is a political philosophy that benefits the lions, but not the gazelle.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Leovan » Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:01 pm UTC

Lion King may be anthropomorphized, but they still make a clear distinction between prey and predator. Even Timon and Pumbaa consider bugs prey not worth worrying about. It's a fairly feudal society where the Lions keep their hunting to a reasonable level and keep the hyenas out, and in return they rule and eat. It's basically a violent regime enforced by the threat of even more violence. Not sure if there are any political philosophers that advocate this as an ideal society for an all human population, but I'm not sure if any of them advocated a vegan society.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby commodorejohn » Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:46 pm UTC

(Spoiler: it's a '90s kids movie, they wanted to sound deep but didn't feel the need to actually put any thought into it. This is not to say that analyzing kids' movies from a moral/philosophical standpoint is pointless in the general sense, but: you can't find what ain't there.)
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby elasto » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:08 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
elasto wrote:First off, what kind of society could exist where violence (or the threat of it) was not an ongoing necessity?


One where there is nothing to be gained from violence.

But there's always something to be gained from violence - for example violence exercised in self-defence. The only way that could not be so is if noone has any genuine agency and so can never choose to act 'irrationally'.

If Tom comes home to find his wife in bed with David and picks up the nearest blunt object and starts swinging, David has little choice but to respond with violence in kind. David launching into some speech about 'how there's no property ownership any more' and that 'everyone has their needs met' may not do the trick...

Sure, if the police arrive, they should only use the minimum level of violence necessary to restrain Tom. But that level is not zero. The only way it could be is if we're in some dystopian future where we all have chips in our head and the authorities can issue shutdown commands at will. Cos that would never be exploited by some malevolent agent, no sir-ee...

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:01 pm UTC

As I stated, there are ways to defend yourself without harming someone, such as running away. The question is why would Tom try to harm David to begin with? What does Tom gain from that violence? If they don't gain anything, then it's probably some sort of social issue or mental health issue that needs to be addressed. If they do gain something, then what structures in society allowed them to use violence for personal gain? That's something that can be addressed.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:40 pm UTC

“the circle of life” is trickle down economics

those at the top take whatever they want from those at the bottom and those at the bottom can get some of it back when those at the top are dead
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby elasto » Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:33 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:As I stated, there are ways to defend yourself without harming someone, such as running away.
Not always. In this case David is trapped in a bedroom being beaten with a weapon.

The question is why would Tom try to harm David to begin with? What does Tom gain from that violence?
From his point of view, he gains vengeance. Yes, it's a mental health issue of sorts but the point is that society doesn't have time to send him to a re-education camp, his violence has to be stopped then and there, and only counter-violence (or the credible threat of it) can succeed at that.

If they do gain something, then what structures in society allowed them to use violence for personal gain? That's something that can be addressed.

It's not obvious to me that violence for personal gain can be eliminated without eliminating personal gain itself. To some it might be a utopia if noone can make personal gains but to many it would be a dystopia. After all, personal gain doesn't simply mean material gain it can be any kind of gain from social standing to knowledge.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Chen » Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:34 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:As I stated, there are ways to defend yourself without harming someone, such as running away. The question is why would Tom try to harm David to begin with? What does Tom gain from that violence? If they don't gain anything, then it's probably some sort of social issue or mental health issue that needs to be addressed. If they do gain something, then what structures in society allowed them to use violence for personal gain? That's something that can be addressed.


Because humans are not always fully rational actors. Crimes of passion are definitely a thing. elasto's example is a fairly stereotypical, though still realistic one.

Barring being in a post-scarcity society I find it hard to see a situation where violence wouldn't lead to SOME sort of gain, even if its in rare cases. Even IN a post-scarcity society there are things that generally remains scarce, like time. Imagine an absurd scenario of someone walking down the street and being hungry. They could walk 10 minutes to go get some food or they could just grab the guy who walked by them and take that person's sandwich and eat it. I'm not sure what societal formulation would remove a scenario like that from happening barring everyone having personal hand-held replicators to produce whatever they want instantly.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby cphite » Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:34 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
All other political philosophies that I know of say that violence is a feature of a sub-optimal society and that there is a way for perpetual peace to exist. Violence may be necessary to establish a perfect society, but that violence is always temporary (e.g. Marx said it was okay to revolt in order to create a socialist society because the socialist society would not have widespread violence).

First off, what kind of society could exist where violence (or the threat of it) was not an ongoing necessity? Only a borg-like one where there is no independent thought but everyone merely acted for the benefit of all seems to qualify, and arguably that would be a dystopia not a utopia.


Not any realistic society.

We live in a world where unfortunately there are people who exist who are willing to harm other people to get what they want. These people will always exist no matter how we structure our society. Sometimes they use violence or a threat of violence; and sometimes the only way to prevent them from harming others is with violence or the threat of violence.

Any functional society will have laws to prevent behavior that is deemed harmful to the society; and those laws are ultimately backed by a threat of violence. If you rob someone, someone else comes and arrests you; the arrest is ultimately backed by a threat of force. If you're found guilty, you get locked up; both the trial and the sentence are backed by a threat of force. Otherwise, you could just decided that you'll not cooperate with the arrest, or that you'll skip the trial or the punishment.

Secondly, it seems to me that the ethics of animals eating meat seems to have some kind of equivalence to that argument: Right now society could not function without the threat of violence by the state to enforce common ethics, but maybe you're right that one day it could.


The entirety of human history suggests otherwise.

Likewise, right now the carnivores in Lion King could not survive without killing to eat, but maybe one day they could by consuming lab-grown insentient meat instead. At that point it would be immoral for them to kill to eat just as it would be immoral to use violence in a society where violence no longer had any righteous purpose.


Frankly I think the odds of lions coming up with lab-grown meat are just about the same as the odds of humans creating a society where enforcement wasn't necessary.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:08 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Thesh wrote:As I stated, there are ways to defend yourself without harming someone, such as running away.
Not always. In this case David is trapped in a bedroom being beaten with a weapon.


You don't have to attempt to inflict harm to stop the attack; you can block, disarm, and then run away. You are trying to find a scenario where violence is the only possible solution, but you aren't asking why people would find violence to be a reasonable solution to begin with. You have just accepted violence itself as the inevitable way people will behave, decided before even asking the question of what leads to violence that people are terrible and will always behave terribly unless they fear being harmed.

Part of the reason so much violence occurs is because we live in an extremely violent society where violence is the default solution when people break rules. Part of the problem is that the rules themselves are designed to enforce hierarchies, rather than actually lead to a society without violence. We don't even attempt to ask how to solve the problems that lead to violence, we simply declare that the rules that we have are based on moral truths that must not be violated like how property should be managed using a title system.

We glorify people who use violence as heroes, we create a world in which everything is property that no one has a right to by default, and still this is all the violence we have. It's amazing how peaceful people are, despite so much in our society pushing us towards violence.

There would most certainly be much less violence under a system where violence was never justified for any reason, as it would require actually solving problems instead of saying "beg for change in the designated spaces or we will beat the shit out of you".

elasto wrote:It's not obvious to me that violence for personal gain can be eliminated without eliminating personal gain itself. To some it might be a utopia if noone can make personal gains but to many it would be a dystopia. After all, personal gain doesn't simply mean material gain it can be any kind of gain from social standing to knowledge.


What does that even mean? Like, you do realize that ownership of property needs to be enforced, right? So how do you maintain something as your possession if people don't agree that it's your possession? With threat of violence? The instant they walk away, people can just take it back. But to do that would also isolate them from society and leave them without access to the benefits of society.

Have you put any thought into this at all? Have you read anything at all written by pacifists, or is literally your entire understanding of this subject written by people who were writing in support of the state?
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Kit. » Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:51 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
All other political philosophies that I know of say that violence is a feature of a sub-optimal society and that there is a way for perpetual peace to exist. Violence may be necessary to establish a perfect society, but that violence is always temporary (e.g. Marx said it was okay to revolt in order to create a socialist society because the socialist society would not have widespread violence).

First off, what kind of society could exist where violence (or the threat of it) was not an ongoing necessity?

One that was not formed by evolutionary forces. One that is not, strictly speaking, "life".

It doesn't mean that the members of that society cannot enjoy their individual consciousness.

Thesh wrote:What does that even mean? Like, you do realize that ownership of property needs to be enforced, right? So how do you maintain something as your possession if people don't agree that it's your possession? With threat of violence?

Or it's the other way around. Pinker speculates that "property" is the Nature's way of resolving the games in which otherwise symmetrical strategies would harm both participants. Some species even have "anti-property" behavior, in which the incumbent is less willing to defend its usage of the resource than the challenger.

Thesh wrote:But to do that would also isolate them from society and leave them without access to the benefits of society.

It would not do that by itself. Someone ("society") needs to actually enforce that against them. Which is (surprise!) violence, as defined by the WHO.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby cphite » Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:36 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Thesh wrote:As I stated, there are ways to defend yourself without harming someone, such as running away.


Not always. In this case David is trapped in a bedroom being beaten with a weapon.


Charging for the door and hoping for the best is certainly an option - maybe even the best option. But that's assuming that David can in fact run, that the door is accessible, and that Tom isn't either really good or really lucky with whatever weapon he's holding.

Facing an armed opponent who is seriously trying to hurt you is no small feat; it requires serious training or a lot of luck - and in many cases both of those things. Add to this the fact that David has been caught with his pants literally down, is probably surprised and rightfully scared - odds are pretty solid he's going to have to defend himself.

The question is why would Tom try to harm David to begin with? What does Tom gain from that violence?


From his point of view, he gains vengeance. Yes, it's a mental health issue of sorts but the point is that society doesn't have time to send him to a re-education camp, his violence has to be stopped then and there, and only counter-violence (or the credible threat of it) can succeed at that.


It's a natural reaction. People might object to that being said, but look at human history - people have used violence to settle things for as long as there have been people. Some people glorify the ability to use violence; other people glorify the ability to refrain from using violence - but the common denominator is violence being a natural response.

It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:43 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:But to do that would also isolate them from society and leave them without access to the benefits of society.

It would not do that by itself. Someone ("society") needs to actually enforce that against them. Which is (surprise!) violence, as defined by the WHO.


You can deny people access to your services without denying them access to the means of production.

cphite wrote:It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.


Which is the default answer for every single person who doesn't actually want to make major changes to society or try and address any real problem. This is pretty much the response to every single time anyone every time someone resisted a system that brought greater equality, and literally every single time we brought greater equality it changed things for the better, proving them wrong again and again, and yet they still give this same basic exact answer: Our problems are an inevitable result of human nature, and we cannot do anything to solve it.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:54 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:You can deny people access to your services

Not if your service is producing something, and once you've produced it (for yourself or people you willingly offer your services to) someone you're trying to withhold your services from can just take it and you can't do anything to stop them.

I mean, you can decline to give people massages or something that's just performing an action upon them, but if you make something, like some food, and someone (who has been violent that you're thus trying to exclude from society) just comes and grabs it, what are you going to do? Not make any food anymore, and let yourself (and anyone else who depends on your food-making) starve to punish the offender?
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:10 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I mean, you can decline to give people massages or something that's just performing an action upon them, but if you make something, like some food, and someone (who has been violent that you're thus trying to exclude from society) just comes and grabs it, what are you going to do? Not make any food anymore, and let yourself (and anyone else who depends on your food-making) starve to punish the offender?


Pacifism doesn't mean non-resistance; if they want to take your stuff, you can take it back, you can lock a gate, you can stand in the doorway. They would have to literally turn every single interaction into a violent confrontation, and you can always get body armor and riot shields to protect yourself.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby ucim » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:15 am UTC

Thesh wrote:You can deny people access to your services without denying them access to the means of production.


Who said anything about means of production?

Ok, your wife is the means of production of your children. So, there you are. Alice is your wife (you both have taken vows to that effect), and you discover her in bed with Bob. How did that happen? Does it matter?
Spoiler:
In this particular case, Bob wanted to boink Alice, and Alice wasn't too keen on it, but whe also wasn't violently opposed either, as evidenced by the fact that she didn't stab him but instead, ever so kindly, seems to have agreed to become the means of production for Bob...to risk bearing Bob's children (for you to raise) and catching Bob's venereal diseases, and violating the contract she had with you when you married her, but whatever, there she is. Bob's happy, because he's getting to boink your wife, despite the fact that there are hundreds of other women he could have rented instead. Why did he do this? Well, sorry, you don't get to psychoanalyze him when you find him there. In fact, by opening this spoiler, you already know too much.
Anyway, there you are. You happen to know that Bob does this a lot. He gets away with it because "people don't own property, and people aren't property".

In any case, this particular bonking is about to happen. I presume (am I right?) that you really would prefer it if this boinking didn't happen, at least not until you got to talk to your wife to find out if she really was intent on breaking her vows to you (and causing you to re-evaluate everything that led you to those vows).

Your wife appears to be in some distress, and Bob appears to be causing it.

You politely ask Bob to refrain from boinking Alice. Alice agrees with this request. Bob doesn't, as he really wants to boink Alice. So, they continue, and Alice (peacenik that she is) doesn't violently fight back.

Your continued polite requests fall on deaf ears.

Your move:

[politely request again]
[run away]
[employ threats of violence]
[employ violence by proxy (call the police)]
[employ violence directly to stop him]
[suggest a game of tic-tac-toe]
[claim that Bob would never have done this]
[fill-in] ________________________

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Kit. » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:36 am UTC

Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:But to do that would also isolate them from society and leave them without access to the benefits of society.

It would not do that by itself. Someone ("society") needs to actually enforce that against them. Which is (surprise!) violence, as defined by the WHO.

You can deny people access to your services without denying them access to the means of production.

They can deny you both.

If you don't do the same, you lose. If you do, that's violence.

Thesh wrote:
cphite wrote:It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.

Which is the default answer for every single person who doesn't actually want

So what? Does it make the answer any less valid?

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:51 am UTC

Kit. wrote:They can deny you both.

If you don't do the same, you lose. If you do, that's violence.


Who is they? What is this scenario that gives one person or a small group of people power over the means of production for the rest of society?

Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
cphite wrote:It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.

Which is the default answer for every single person who doesn't actually want

So what? Does it make the answer any less valid?


The people in the past simply couldn't imagine a world where things could be done any differently than they did it; but that was only because they lacked imagination. The people making it today fall into the same trap - they look at the world as it is today, assume it has to be pretty much like this, never actually take the time to explore why some places are violent while others are much less violent, never take the time to ask whether what systematic problems have led to the violence, never looked into other systems of justice than our own, never did serious research on alternative economic systems or what effects they have on social structures...

They simply declare human nature and stop thinking about the problem, because their objective is purely to justify the current system and they are hostile to the idea of change, and don't want to consider that maybe all the violence they support today is wrong.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby ThirdParty » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:30 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:There has to be an alternative way to view the Circle of Life that I am not seeing.
I'm not sure I understand your question, but have you considered the fact that if the carnivores stopped keeping the herbivore population in check, the herbivores would eat all the plants and the system would crash? So there's a sense in which all the animals, even the carnivores, are working together in service of the greater good, by each doing his own job.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:07 am UTC

They could use other forms of population control, like having the females spayed, and then live off of carrion. There are scales of evil and they decided to say "fuck it".
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Zamfir » Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:50 am UTC

There's an interesting divide in how people view (large) predators, and how they view other parasites. It's like day and night - the first are the glorious emblem of power, while "parasite" is the lowest of the low. Predators might be feared for their danger, but they are not despised for their parasitic way of life.

It gets even stronger with scavengers. You'd think that a Circle of Life ideology would value scavengers much higher than predators, but no... That attitude is hardly invented by the Lion King, only reflected. As an example of the weirdness, here's the BBC:
One of the most oft-touted tropes about hyenas is that they are scavengers, stealing most of their food from more upstanding species like lions and (according to Pliny the Elder) sometimes even digging up graves in search of human corpses.

That is wrong, at least for spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Working in the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania back in the 1970s, zoologist Hans Kruuk found that the lions scavenged spotted hyena kills more often than the other way round.


Lions are good because they kill other animals, and hyenas are bad because they stick to already-dead animals. Except for spotted hyenas, who have the unfair reputation of not being killers...

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Kit. » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:20 am UTC

Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:They can deny you both.

If you don't do the same, you lose. If you do, that's violence.


Who is they? What is this scenario that gives one person or a small group of people power over the means of production for the rest of society?

What makes you think that the group that employs strategic options clearly superior to yours will be small? Do you believe that your brainwashing powers alone will be enough to keep the rest of the population under your control?

Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
cphite wrote:It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.

Which is the default answer for every single person who doesn't actually want

So what? Does it make the answer any less valid?

The people in the past simply couldn't imagine a world where things could be done any differently than they did it;

That's not true, and you know it.

Besides, you are not answering the question, but just continuing the same questionable behavior.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby ThirdParty » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:58 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:They could use other forms of population control, like having the females spayed, and then live off of carrion.
Isn't spaying kind of a delicate operation for animals without hands to try to perform?

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:04 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:They can deny you both.

If you don't do the same, you lose. If you do, that's violence.


Who is they? What is this scenario that gives one person or a small group of people power over the means of production for the rest of society?

What makes you think that the group that employs strategic options clearly superior to yours will be small? Do you believe that your brainwashing powers alone will be enough to keep the rest of the population under your control?


What is the scenario you are imagining where they have anything to gain by violence? You've obviously not been following the conversation, as the point is that no one has anything to gain by starting an army. Your assumption seems to be that under all circumstances no matter what, someone will form an army and take power but you have failed to attempt to explain why, which is the whole point of the argument. Please go back and read the thread. Seriously, don't waste my time if you aren't even interested in the fucking arguments being made.

Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
cphite wrote:It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.

Which is the default answer for every single person who doesn't actually want

So what? Does it make the answer any less valid?

The people in the past simply couldn't imagine a world where things could be done any differently than they did it;

That's not true, and you know it.

Besides, you are not answering the question, but just continuing the same questionable behavior.


So, literally, the ONLY ARGUMENT BEING MADE is "Pacifism is impossible because human nature, burden of proof is on the person who asks for evidence". Absolutely no other argument is made, no conditions discussed, no attempt to back up that statement at all is given - that human nature means people are terrible is taken without any question whatsoever. There is absolutely no attempt being made to determine the conditions that cause humans to act violent, as if we go into uncontrollable rages in which conscious will is suppressed. It doesn't work that way - nature, nurture, and environment all work to change our behavior.

It's invalid for a million reasons, but also because the argument has never been right in the past. You are literally defending a non-argument for the sake of defending the status quo.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby cphite » Tue Nov 27, 2018 3:30 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:There's an interesting divide in how people view (large) predators, and how they view other parasites. It's like day and night - the first are the glorious emblem of power, while "parasite" is the lowest of the low. Predators might be feared for their danger, but they are not despised for their parasitic way of life.


My take is that for most of human history, a predator was a thing that you could at least see and avoid; whereas a parasite was harder to detect. If a predator got you, you were either gone or you were the guy who faced down a predator and lived. A parasite you could carry for years, it could make you weak, and you could pass it on to other people.

And finally, a predator served as a model for hunters to emulate - and things that people emulate would tend to be seen in a more positive light.

It gets even stronger with scavengers. You'd think that a Circle of Life ideology would value scavengers much higher than predators, but no... That attitude is hardly invented by the Lion King, only reflected. As an example of the weirdness, here's the BBC:
One of the most oft-touted tropes about hyenas is that they are scavengers, stealing most of their food from more upstanding species like lions and (according to Pliny the Elder) sometimes even digging up graves in search of human corpses.

That is wrong, at least for spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Working in the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania back in the 1970s, zoologist Hans Kruuk found that the lions scavenged spotted hyena kills more often than the other way round.


Lions are good because they kill other animals, and hyenas are bad because they stick to already-dead animals. Except for spotted hyenas, who have the unfair reputation of not being killers...


Eating dead and rotting things is generally bad; and so something that lives off of dead and rotting must be bad too. Could also be a lesson of sorts - don't be like the hyena and eat the thing that's been laying in the mud for a week.

Also according to Wikipedia hyenas are known for sneaking into settlements and stealing food, and even small animals and children; which would make them seem more evil as compared to most predators.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Kit. » Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:37 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:They can deny you both.

If you don't do the same, you lose. If you do, that's violence.


Who is they? What is this scenario that gives one person or a small group of people power over the means of production for the rest of society?

What makes you think that the group that employs strategic options clearly superior to yours will be small? Do you believe that your brainwashing powers alone will be enough to keep the rest of the population under your control?


What is the scenario you are imagining where they have anything to gain by violence? You've obviously not been following the conversation, as the point is that no one has anything to gain by starting an army. Your assumption seems to be that under all circumstances no matter what, someone will form an army and take power but you have failed to attempt to explain why, which is the whole point of the argument. Please go back and read the thread. Seriously, don't waste my time if you aren't even interested in the fucking arguments being made.

Please go back and read the thread if you have short memory span. What they can gain is written in the first line of your quote.

Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
Kit. wrote:
Thesh wrote:
cphite wrote:It would be awesome if we humans could eliminate violence from society, could eliminate the need to ever use force or threaten force... but it'd also be a completely new and unknown state for humankind.

Which is the default answer for every single person who doesn't actually want

So what? Does it make the answer any less valid?

The people in the past simply couldn't imagine a world where things could be done any differently than they did it;

That's not true, and you know it.

Besides, you are not answering the question, but just continuing the same questionable behavior.


So, literally, the ONLY ARGUMENT BEING MADE is "Pacifism is impossible because human nature, burden of proof is on the person who asks for evidence".

"Pacifism" is a belief, and this belief is possible and existing for a long time. Jainism, for example, exists for more than 2000 years, arguably for more than 2500 years.

Also, the argument is not that it is "impossible". The argument is that it was tried multiple times, never succeeded (sometimes making things worse), now (in the 21st century) we know why it didn't work, but you are speculating that we can still try to do the same, disregarding our newfound knowledge.

And this is a valid argument, based on the empirical evidence. What makes you think that it will become invalid if you start blaming the messenger?

Thesh wrote:Absolutely no other argument is made, no conditions discussed, no attempt to back up that statement at all is given - that human nature means people are terrible is taken without any question whatsoever.

Humans are not "terrible" - that would be a value judgement. Humans just don't work as you (as a human) personally would want them to work, because humans are hypocrites (which still doesn't mean that humans are "terrible" - terrible at what? Humans are actually good at being hypocrites: their hypocrisy is self-serving).

Thesh wrote:There is absolutely no attempt being made to determine the conditions that cause humans to act violent,

You are misunderstanding the nature of violence. There is no conditions that cause humans to "act violent", there are conditions that cause humans to recognize some of their acts as "violent" and withhold them (or not).

Now, as human are good at being hypocrites, they do mistakes in that recognition (in both directions) in the self-serving way.

Thesh wrote:as if we go into uncontrollable rages

Violence does not require "uncontrollable rages". Instrumental violence works better without them. Only retaliatory violence gets some help from them.

Thesh wrote:It's invalid for a million reasons, but also because the argument has never been right in the past.

Because it's a straw man.

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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:51 pm UTC

Kit. wrote:Please go back and read the thread if you have short memory span. What they can gain is written in the first line of your quote.



Thesh wrote:
elasto wrote:First off, what kind of society could exist where violence (or the threat of it) was not an ongoing necessity?


One where there is nothing to be gained from violence. If your society doesn't recognize property rights then you can only steal for petty gain, and if people's needs are fulfilled then no one has a reason to form an army to take it away or the ability to hire one. If someone is acting violently, there are non-violent means to respond to that such as talking to them, running away, disarming them, or (at most) using just enough physical restraint to stop the harm without causing injury to that person.



To which someone responded: "but if there is no threat of violence, then why won't people just be violent assholes to get ahead"
To which I responded: "because if they are assholes, society will reject them and they won't get ahead"
To which you responded: "what if an army has seized control of the means of production"

You have completely changed the scenario from one person refusing to participate, to an actual army, without even showing how you get there and my original statement already dealt with that (not only dealt with, but was precisely the point that I was arguing, that you ignored as you are apparently laser-focused on finding examples where violence is necessary since you are not at all interested in anything that I was saying, only defending violence).

Can I assume the rest of your post is to the same level of quality, and thus should be completely ignored?
Last edited by Thesh on Tue Nov 27, 2018 5:26 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 27, 2018 5:26 pm UTC

Thesh, I think the scenario people are thinking of -- and this seems really obvious to me -- is this:

You have a group of humans living in peace somewhere and sharing everything. Some resources are, as always, hard to come by, not because of human action, but because the natural environment is not always bountifully supplying everything everyone needs; animals face scarcity too.

Some of those humans are afraid that there might not be enough to go around for everyone to survive, so they team up to fight everyone else away from the resources. What they gain is a better chance of survival. That's the motive for violence right there.

And yes, that means that we can reduce the motive for violence by reducing scarcity, and that's a great strategy for doing so. But until scarcity is completely eliminated for everyone always, and it's absolutely effortless for anyone to get anything they want, then there will be some motive for some people to be violent to get those things more easily. See the absurd example given earlier about it being easier to take someone else's hamburger who you pass on your way to the free hamburger stand rather than walking all the way over there yourself: that's not much motive, so that's really not going to be much of a problem, which is why the example is absurd, but it's the same principle in effect.

And so long as some people are being violent, because there is some motive to do so, because we don't live in a perfect absolute postscarcity utopia yet, we need to be able to do something to stop them.

EDIT: Also you need to take into account acts that violate other people's rights without being intentionally violent. Acts that are merely negligent, callous, or inconsiderate, not targeted to hurt people, but still do hurt people, as a negative externality. Take for example someone dumping toxic waste into the environment. You need to be able to make them stop doing those things too. How are you going to make them stop?
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 5:38 pm UTC

We don't have a problem with scarcity, we have a problem with how we allocate resources, which would not be a problem in a system that is not enforced with violence. We have had the ability to completely avoid actual scarcity for well over a century on a global basis - we don't solve the problem with scarcity because instead of examining systematic problems of why scarcity exists despite productivity far outpacing population growth for millennia, we just say that it's inevitable.

We've been in a society that has had the technological capacity to give everyone in the world happiness without risk of economic insecurity for a long time now - we just don't do it because you literally cannot profit without scarcity and our economy is built to revolve around profits. The barrier to solving that problem is that people simply declare "human nature" and refuse to question how we got to this point, and what we should do differently - instead, they just assume that people are just terrible or our problems inherently unsolvable.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:01 pm UTC

We today may have sufficiently low scarcity by any reasonable measure, but you're asking why would anyone ever, out of an initial state of peace and equality, start up an army to use violence to take things for themselves and exclude others. The answer to that is that those people starting up the army think that there's not enough to go around and want to make sure that they get enough for themselves. In different times and places (and for different values of "enough") they might be right or wrong about that, but all it takes is for them to think that they're right and now you've got violent people that you've got to deal with somehow.

I agree that it's probable that if we had an initial state of peace and equality with today's resources that most people would have enough that they probably would not be motivated to violence in order to secure more. But "most" and "probably" isn't "definitely all". Some people will still want more, think that they deserve more, and think it's okay to use violence to get what they deserve. Most of them would probably be wrong, but they think they're right and that makes them violent and then what do you do about them?
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby commodorejohn » Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:54 pm UTC

Also, some people are just jerks.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby Thesh » Tue Nov 27, 2018 7:33 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:We today may have sufficiently low scarcity by any reasonable measure, but you're asking why would anyone ever, out of an initial state of peace and equality, start up an army to use violence to take things for themselves and exclude others. The answer to that is that those people starting up the army think that there's not enough to go around and want to make sure that they get enough for themselves. In different times and places (and for different values of "enough") they might be right or wrong about that, but all it takes is for them to think that they're right and now you've got violent people that you've got to deal with somehow.


My point being that you can't say "people will rape, murder, and take everything you have no matter what" and that the system itself is generally maintainable without violence. You are saying there is a non-zero possibility that conditions may change to the point where that is not possible; my point is simply that barring that change, the system can be maintained.

Pfhorrest wrote:I agree that it's probable that if we had an initial state of peace and equality with today's resources that most people would have enough that they probably would not be motivated to violence in order to secure more. But "most" and "probably" isn't "definitely all". Some people will still want more, think that they deserve more, and think it's okay to use violence to get what they deserve. Most of them would probably be wrong, but they think they're right and that makes them violent and then what do you do about them?


Pacifist society doesn't mean "No one ever commits violence, everyone is perfect and peaceful and happy", it just means that no one accepts violence and violence is generally dealt with non-violently. Your argument assumes the situation in which a violent army can arise will come as a foregone conclusion - the only thing you are trying to do is find hypothetical example in which philosophical pacifism will fail, when my point is to get you to think of the conditions required for practical pacifism to work.

Look, people have a survival instinct; when the system is completely destroyed, they will rebel. A violent leader rising up with everyone laying down and taking it without the leader ever fearing violence is not an actual problem that anyone will ever actually have to be concerned about ever in any time in any future; but it seems to be the only thing you care about arguing against, when my entire point is to get you to focused on the practical implementation of pacifism. So fine, you can have violence against complete overthrow of non-violent society (literally, the philosophy that things like anti-fascist action are the only acceptable forms violence) by the inevitable force that you can't explain how will come into existence but "umm... fear?" without even examining how much time and effort goes into building an army and growing support for war today, which can be stopped non-violently in a society where the right to propagandize isn't protected by violence.
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Re: Circle of Life as Political Philosophy

Postby jewish_scientist » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:31 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:There has to be an alternative way to view the Circle of Life that I am not seeing.
I'm not sure I understand your question, but have you considered the fact that if the carnivores stopped keeping the herbivore population in check, the herbivores would eat all the plants and the system would crash? So there's a sense in which all the animals, even the carnivores, are working together in service of the greater good, by each doing his own job.

Although that justification could work, but the problem is that is not the justification used in the Lion King. 'Group X needs to be in control of Group Y because Group Y would destroy itself if left to its own devices' is basically an argument form the Great Chain of Being. Although I do see many similarities between the Great Chain of Being and the Circle of Life, their is a vital difference. The Great Chain of Being says that some being are better than others, while the the Circle of Life says that all everyone is equal.

Zamfir wrote:Lions are good because they kill other animals, and hyenas are bad because they stick to already-dead animals.

Zazu to Simba about the hyenas wrote:Oh, young master, one day you will be king. And then you can chase those slobbering, mangy, stupid poachers from dawn until dusk.

The main reason hyenas are villains in The Lion King seems to be less to do scavenging and has more to do with wrongful killing.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


There is a really interesting conversation about the possibility of a society having no violence of any type going on here, which is not really what this thread is about. I think this started when I miscommunication something. When I said, "All other political philosophies that I know of say that violence is a feature of a sub-optimal society," I did not mean to imply that political philosophers are trying to find a society completely absent of violence. With the exception of anarchists, everyone accepts that there are conditions in which an optimal government should use violence on its citizens (e.g. that citizen has broken the law). A political philosopher will usually identify this or some other type of violence, and then talk about why it is unjustified and/or how to eliminate it: libertarians argued that taxation is a form of violence and should be minimized by a minimalist state, Marx argued that capitalism is a form of violence and should be replaced with communism, Rawls argued institutional inequalities are a form of violence and should be compensated for, etc. The fact that an individual in each of these philosopher's ideal society could still go out and hurt someone else was not a flaw in their philosophy as a whole. I am sorry for not making myself clearer. I would be happy to have this discussion with you in a different thread though.
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