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F R O M   T H E   E D I T O R
The New Moralists
Joseph A. P. De Feo • It isn’t just Falwell anymore 
October 2001

Before the dust had even settled after the events of September 11, campus prophets began their calls for repentance.  These were not followers of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, although their statements were often about as well-founded as his notion that the Almighty was punishing us—which is to say, not at all.  
After such a devastating attack, groups amounting to nothing less than terrorist apologists began to plaster the campus with their ill-considered slogans urging a vaguely-defined peace or justice, or an end to American imperialism, globalization, and racism, implying that America bears some responsibility for these attacks.  While their claims are false (see p. 6), it is worth pointing out that these slogans consist only in that—unsupported claims.

Stenciled all over campus sidewalks are graffiti begging “No More Victims” (punctuated by a peace sign).  Those who have so defaced the sidewalks should realize that no one wants more victims.  And that is why so many of us support punitive and espionage campaigns—to prevent future victims.  That the graffiti preachers confound victims and casualties is unfortunate.  That they are naïve enough to believe there to be diplomatic means of dealing with terrorists is farcical.  These terrorists have demonstrated that they are not men to be reasoned with.

One poster read, “Justice, not Retaliation.”  The author offered no real explanation, despite the notorious difficulty of defining both terms, particularly the former. Why is this not a false dichotomy? Cannot a notion of justice allow for retaliation? Regardless, lacking further explanation, one can gather that the author deems any American military campaign retaliatory, dismissing defense and intelligence. There is no argument here, only a very vague slogan.  One can guess the intended meaning of justice only from the tone of the graffiti and these posters, and it seems to be a sickly notion akin to a narrow social justice or a utilitarian calculus, rather than any more robust idea.  

Justice is urged but not defined, let alone defended.  The pacifists seem not to be trying to prove their point to their opposition.  They are only asserting.  They have rejected philosophical dialogue for monologue, which is inexcusable at the university.  But there is a reason for this. Those who urge this mushy justice upon all are mostly people who before September 11 rejected universal truth.  However, they now want to impose their universal ideal of justice, and they do not possess the intellectual tools to do it.  Absolute notions of justice and ethics are based upon absolute notions of metaphysics (the nature of reality) and epistemology (how we relate to or know reality).  But these relativists deny us access to a definite reality; they therefore lack the metaphysical bases and cannot choose epistemological tools to justify their notion of right. The new moralists can therefore only make assertions to which they are hardly entitled, and never approach proofs, which are necessary for one who wants to convince others that his conception of justice is universally binding. They have created an empty religion of peace, all cult, little creed, and less apologetics. In other words, they need to either cease their calls for justice, or else cease being relativists and work from the ground, or rather, the metaphysics, up.

That this has not yet occurred to them, or that it has hardly seemed compelling, should be only mildly surprising at a school where students can take a course in disembodied ethics and think that it qualifies them to expound upon the subject.  Justice, however, is a lifelong pursuit, and the greatest minds have quarreled over it. Those pacifists who recently publicized their pronouncements on justice, in ignoring both philosophy and history, are at best dilettantes, and at worst their work is only Tartuffery.  They have urged us to put the actions of the terrorists in context.  But they should first find a context for their justice.

Joseph A. P. De Feo, Editor-in-Chief


The Yale Free Press is published by students ofYale University. 
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contents. By the same
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Designed by
Joseph A. P. De Feo

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