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Comments on The Fall of America's Middle East Empire

26 February 2011
 

The following are selected commnets on the article How America Will Handle the Fall of Its Middle East Empire published on telegraph.co.uk.

leonb_09:

Time for the Europeans to organise a credible, united and coherent defense instead of relying on the USA for protection. The pro-western rulers are falling fast in the Arab world and whether or not they will be replaced by peace-seeking democracies is anyone's guess. Morocco and Spain's coasts are virtually joined!

是时候了,欧洲各国应该形成一个统一的能依赖的防卫力量,脱离美国的保护圈。亲西方的政权在阿拉伯世界倒得这么快,接下来的将是些什么样的政权谁也说不准。中东的摩洛哥和欧洲的西班牙的海岸几乎就连在一起。

Duck_of_Death:

Until America falls into deep pain - and it will, it will not change. The real danger is that America will lash out at other nations, like an angry giant that has been severely wounded (and blinded), taking down as many as it can, as it suffers crushing defeat of one kind or another (economic, military, all of the above).

美国这个国家,除非被打得满地找牙这也是早晚的事 - 要它放下屠刀立地成佛,门也没有。最大的危险是美国破罐子破摔,死也要拖几个垫背的,像一头受了伤的瞎了眼的野兽一样,横冲直撞,直到受到最后的一击倒地而死,这一击可以来自经济、军事或二者皆而有之。

J.P. Craig-Weston:

There no longer exists the same kind of economic imperative for slavery (and hasn't been since the industrial revolution,) … I take the view based on my own experiences and the insight gained from my natural curiosity about the world and about history that the idea's and the ideals expounded by Jefferson and co do in fact represent a high water mark of civilization. I probably accept the notion of cultural pluralism ... at some length and with such conviction. What I do not accept is that all such, takes, on morality are of equal legitimacy or merit.

自从工业革命,产生奴隶制的经济土壤已经不存在了。杰弗里的宣言(即美国立国宣言:人都是上帝创造的故而生来人人平等)是高级文明的标志。我或许在一定程度上不反对多元文化。但我坚决不认同这种说法,即所有文化在道德上并没有高下正庶之分。

Allectus:

I couldn't agree more. But it doesn't make sense to speak of "moral progress" in the same way as material progress. As Berlin says, approving the sentiments of Vico, "we ... have our sciences, our thinkers, our poets, but there is no ladder of ascent between the ancients and the moderns". This principle is clearer still if we apply it to the arts: could we say, for example, "that Racine is a better poet than Sophocles, that Bach is a rudimentary Beethoven, that, let us say, the Impressionist painters are the peak which the painters of Florence aspired to but did not reach"? I don't think so.

我也不认为文化之间没有高下之分。但认为和物质进化一样,有一种“道德进化”就有点扯。就像博林说的:“我们……有我们这个时代的科学、思想家和诗人,但我们和古人之间并没有高下之分。”这个原则同样适用于艺术。你能说拉辛的诗就一定胜过索福克勒斯,巴赫的音乐就一定不如贝多芬,印象主义画派就一定高于弗洛伦斯画派?

I'm not sure that the absence of slavery from industrial and post-industrial societies - where there is no longer, as you say, any "economic imperative" for that institution - is a reliable indicator of moral, as opposed to material progress. If there were some kind of catastrophe, and we had to return to pre-industrial conditions, then I'm sure human ingenuity would find some way of rehabilitating the institution of slavery.

我也不敢肯定在工业化时代和后工业化时代奴隶制就完全绝迹了。你说因为人们失去了在经济上奴役别人的需要所以不会再有奴隶制,并以此来证明人类道德的进化。一旦大难临头,我们再次回到工业化之前的时代,我敢打赌奴隶制会很快死灰复燃。

Well, I take the view that the "high water marks" of Western civilization were Classical Athens, Renaissance Florence, and Augustan England. The American constitution is just a rag-bag of second-hand ideas, borrowed from original thinkers like Locke and Montesquieu, and of course, that enterprising mountebank, Thomas Paine. But the grotesquely disproportionate relationship between America's economic and military might and its comparatively puny contribution to intellectual culture serves to illustrate the fallacy of speaking of moral or artistic "progress" in the same way as material progress.

至于高级西方文明,我认为不是我们这个时代,而属于古希腊、文艺复兴时期的意大利以及十八世纪的英国。美国文明只是个二手大杂烩,从洛克和孟德斯鳩的理论中东抄一点西扯一块,另就是那个蒙人的托马斯·潘恩的东西,毫无独创性,谈何高度。但它有和其文明程度不成比例的经济和军事实力,再加上它在学术文化服务方面确实做了一些不大不小的贡献,就这样构成了它的精神文明与其物质文明同体进化的假象。

Human nature is fallible: it is therefore possible for us to make mistakes, as it is possible for us to learn from them and from those of others (although it is not always easy to learn the right lessons). But this doesn't mean that it makes sense to talk about a linear model of "moral progress". Indeed, as the moral philospher Bernard Williams has argued, it is even possible for "ethical knowledge" to be "lost", as our changing beliefs about the world undermine established moral codes without suggesting credible alternatives.

是人就不能不犯错误,但我们可以吃一堑长一智,还可以借鉴其他人的经验(尽管最难的是区分什么是好经验,什么是坏经验,什么适合学,什么不适合学),但这并不意味着有一种线形的道德进化。诚如道德哲学家伯纳德·威廉姆斯所说,有时人类的伦理观念甚至会退化,尤其当我们大幅度重组我们的世界观之际,原有的道德符号被打碎了而新的道德体系尚未建立,这时社会就难免出现伦理道德暂时或永久性倒退的状况。

In short, we do not stand in the same relation to Socrates as the microprocessor to Archimedes's screw, and, therefore, returning to my original point, we must reject the "idea that there must exist any kind of objective, immutable, and universal truths, applying equally to all men at all times".

总而言之,在精神层面,我们和苏格拉底的关系不同于微处理器和阿基米德螺旋抽水机之间的关系,因此,我们应该摒弃这样一种观念,即有一种绝对客观的、不可更改的普世真理,适用于所有时代的所有人。

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