Recently, Max Weisman sent out emails with writings of Dr. Adler on the subject of Anarchy. Specifically, Dr. Adler rebutted the arguments by philosophical anarchists on the basis that human nature requires a certain about of coercion and punishment in order to achieve the greatest good and that it would require, as Mills said, humans to have the nature of angels. Thus, anarchy is simplistic and naive and could never work. The coercive power of the state is good rather than the lesser evil.
These argument are based upon the belief that human nature is at least partly evil and that the ills we see in the world are a result of that nature. From Aristotle to Catholicism to evangelical protestants, the basic view has been similar: There is a list of things that every human needs to be truly happy, therefore, there is a moral duty to obtain those things, therefore anyone who doesn't appear to be seeking the things on the list is wrong, bad and worthy of punishment, coercion, psychiatric treatment or at least some form of correction. American legal theory is also based upon such beliefs.
This worldview is not the only viable option. Buddhist thought, for example, regards human nature as intrinsically good but that people have become disconnected from that nature so that the evils we see in the world are not a result of human nature, but of a disconnection from it. By getting in touch with that inner goodness, we address the root causes of suffering and reduce or eliminate it from our lives. Notice that the agreement on the list of things that humans need to be happy is there, but there is a departure that there is any moral quality to this list. Instead of labeling people who suffer or cause suffering evil, wrong, bad and declaring them worthy of punishment, we could also choose to consider such people as being tragically disconnected from their own needs or ignorant of their own nature. This, by the way, was the belief of Socrates and Plato - that evil was caused by ignorance rather than nature.
My own view is that if human nature is, in fact, intrinsically evil, then there never was any hope for us in the beginning. How can evil people come up with conceptions of good to begin with? I think human nature is intrinsically good and that this forms a common bond between us all and a basis of cooperation. When we deal with people in a way that appeals to their basic goodness and to their fundamental needs, we can experience getting our needs met through compassionate giving. Check out www.cnvc.org for some additional thoughts on this worldview.
Dr. Adlers rebuttal of anarchism is subtley based upon his worldview as a neo-Aristotelian. Before we accept his rebuttal, I think it relevant to first debate the merits of Aristotelian ethics. Lets start with the behavior of one of his star pupils - Alexander.
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