SFP

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  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    either it’s a prothesis leg or that left knee is badly hurting right now.

    • Could also be hip or back – speaking from experience!

  • Markus

    The Prof. isn’t saying “Might Makes Right” here, he’s saying “You have the might, so now you have to make things right.” She has the authority because she has the power to have authority. The power to make change demands that you make the change you think needs making.

    • Lysiuj

      Interesting. I saw it more as him saying “yeah, your might gives you the ‘right’, just like all the rest. You’re no different from them, they’re no different from you. Deal with it.”

      • StClair

        “It’s not ‘good’ that the world is this way. It just is.”

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      No, he’s definitely not saying she has any impetus for morality, quite the opposite…

    • Incendax

      He’s wearily admitting that people with Might are the ones who make it possible for everyone else to live a life with less violence and force. People with Might have always made the decisions, and those same people are the ones who choose to stand aside and allow others to have Rights, only stepping in to use their Might and stop others who attempt to take away Rights. A conundrum.

      • I rather think his point is ‘might allows you to dictate what is acceptable’.

        • Incendax

          That’s what I said. With far more words. =D

        • Incendax

          That’s what I said. With considerably more words.

    • Dwight Williams

      Power demands responsibility.

      • Kid Chaos

        Spider-Man? Is that you? 😜

    • Scott

      I think you are reading a much more positive message than the one that is actually presented. I interpreted the Professor’s speech not as “make the change you want to see in the world” but as “those with the power to enact change are the ones who shape the world”.
      This isn’t Uncle Ben’s speech about power and responsibility. This is a tired admission that, despite all of humanity’s philosophizing and moralizing, the only rights a person has are the ones they can enforce.
      We may say that humanity has the ‘right to life’ but that won’t stop a bullet from entering your brain. Power is the only thing that can actually dictate morality.
      Power has many forms; it may be physical strength, it may be a gun, or it may be the strength of numbers. When people come together and agree on a code of laws to live by, these laws mean nothing if they can not be enforce. That enforcement requires power.

  • AshlaBoga

    Here are some questions I struggle to answer.

    Certain species of animals will kill other animals painfully in the wild – usually for food, but they still suffer greatly. An example would a Komodo dragon which spits flesh eating bacteria onto its prey and follows them for days. If animal suffering is truly wrong, should we not kill the Komodo’s food for it? Or should we kill all the Komodo’s? Now, I doubt many among us would advocate either of those two options. I simply acknowledge the Komodo’s behaviour as part of nature and do not think of its prey.

    Yet if a person were to hunt in such a manner, poisoning their prey and following it as it slowly died in pain, I would denounce them as cruel and malevolent. Is the only difference that a person is sentient, self-aware and capable of abstract thought?

    If that is the case, then many of us do endorse “might makes right” when it’s practiced by living beings that do not share a language with us, and are not capable of abstract thought to the same level.

    If it is the level of thought that elevates us above “might makes right” does that mean that if I had some sort of super-intellect, it would be acceptable for me to watch other humans kill each other and not intervene because the intelligence gap was so large? This particular example isn’t mine, it’s a paraphrase of a vegetarian argument which can be summarized as, “if it’s okay to eat other animals because they’re less intelligent, then it would be okay for hyper-intelligent aliens to eat us all.”

    I feel like there’s a point of consciousness at which one stops being an ethical source of food, but I am concerned that my argument is self-serving. I want to eat meat, but I also do not want it to be ethical for hyper-intelligent aliens to eat me.

    Thoughts?

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      I feel that “you can’t do that! That’s unethical!” is poor a tactical defense against hungry eldritch abominations.

    • Cyranose

      AshlaBoga, I realize that wasn’t your main point, but your example isn’t accurate. Komodo monitor lizards harbor bacteria in their mouths that make their bites turn septic. Not quite like a venomous snake, but similar, if slower, result. If they manage to bite their prey, and as they usually ambush it that happens often, they track its scent and catch it when it weakens. Or you could say it’s like Bushmen shooting a giraffe with poisoned arrows.

      • nat365

        Nope! Myth. I watched a documentary recently, and they’re actually almost *exactly* like a venomous snake, in that they *use venom*. The bacteria thing is a long held myth, but really their mouths are no worse than most other creatures. They have venom, and it’s their venom that does the job.

        • Cyranose

          Thanks! That clearly came to light after I’d last read up on them, and is quite interesting. So their bite is not poisonous, but contains a blood-thinner? This may be a unique, as well as ingenious, adaptation.

          • nat365

            Yep – that bacteria myth is so pervasive it shows up even in recently written literature. A big part of the documentary I watched explored how widely spread it is and how many people believe it (and how/why on earth it managed to get so far and so widely spread when it was only ever an untested theory in the first place!)

            So yeah, you’re very far from the only person to have been given the incorrect info on that.

            The scientists in the documentary were very excited because it meant they could look for venomous structures in more lizards, which apparently hadn’t really been done before. Funny, because I’d have thought if so many snakes developed venom, and lizards are such close relatives, the possibility would have been explored by now! But I guess if people aren’t dying of lizard bites it just doesn’t end up a high priority, maybe?

          • Cyranose

            I assume you are aware of the gila monster and beaded lizard, both venomous lizards of North America?

          • nat365

            I’ve heard of both – but I literally do not remember if I knew they were venomous or not… I do remember there was something very unique about the komodo’s venom or delivery method that the documentary scientists were all excited about checking for in other lizards…

            If it wasn’t the venom itself maybe it was the specific venomous structures the komodo has that the researchers were all excited about finding other lizard examples of? There was a lot of talk about how those structures in the jaw were almost hidden – they used either an MRI or a CAT scanner to see them (can’t remember which right now).

            …I should probably watch the doc again!

          • Mechwarrior

            There’s some dispute over how venomous Komodo dragons are, but the blood-thinning protein is definitely a cytotoxic compound.

    • nat365

      For me, the meat-eating question is mostly about three things – self-awareness, fulfilment of need, and likelihood of humane (as possible) slaughter.

      Animals that are absolutely *known* by science and research to be self-aware, that have an understanding of mortality, animals like dolphins and chimps and elephants? They should not be hunted, should not be killed, should not be eaten. Should not even be confined, in fact, unless they have to be cared for if survival in the wild is impossible. These animals should be in sanctuaries only. Not zoos or entertainment venues. They know what’s happening when it’s happening. They experience the horror, they grieve the loved ones lost. And yes, among their own societies they sometimes kill each other – but that is their own business.

      Fulfilment of need means I do not support the raising of any animal for meat where its needs cannot be met. So factory farming? Cruel, and should be outlawed immediately, worldwide. But it is not very difficult to fulfil the needs of cattle or sheep or chickens or even horses, if you have enough space. Pigs are trickier, because they’re clever and quite emotional animals. I believe if we continue to farm them in some hypothetical future where others’ concerns are the same as mine, there should be much stricter rules on their care. Ideally, every animal should have a group of scientific experts who have researched that animal tell farmers, ranchers and anyone else raising them exactly what environmental conditions they need to be healthiest and happiest.

      Humane slaughter, meaning cameras in slaughterhouses. Meaning flawless equipment. Meaning death as quickly and as painlessly as possible, before the animal sees it coming. Death comes to us all – and actually, were these animals wild, dying from being taken down by a wolf, or starving to death due to lameness, or sickening and slowly dying… all of those are probably worse endings than a slaughterhouse one could be, if done right. And we will hopefully, at some point in the future, come up with a method that is genuinely pain-free, and that will be the ultimate method used.

      As to the ‘hyper intelligent aliens could use us for meat’ thing? How do you know they already don’t? If they’re that intelligent they could be doing so and we’d never, ever know about it.
      Ultimately, that basically fits into my rules too, because as long as we don’t know it’s happening (even unto death), it does not cause us to suffer… and if those aliens are as intelligent as all that, hopefully they have some kind of ethical imperative, and are not just brains without empathy… in which case I’d imagine they’ve moved far beyond the need to kill for food.

      The whole debate may die off in the next few years anyway. Next fifty years or so it’ll be cheaper and better for the planet to lab-grow meat.

      Finally – scientifically speaking we all eat way too much meat. It should be a couple of times a week at most, really. There are many diseases, partially heart disease, that would become far less likely were we all to cut down on it. Also, meat production is a huge source of greenhouse gasses. More than cars, more than planes… cutting down helps the environment, as well as us.

      • AshlaBoga

        Damn good answer *tips hat*

        • nat365

          Hah! Thanks! *tips it back*.

          As someone who tries to be ethical within daily life, but who also does eat meat (both because I’m prone to a slight anaemia if I don’t, and because I do believe that we evolved to have it in our diets at least some of the time, but we should eat it as ethically as possible), I’ve thought about it a *lot* before coming to those conclusions.

          In honestly, it all boils down to – ‘Did they suffer? How much?’ If the answer is ‘As little as possible in a life where every being that’s not an amoeba experiences *some* suffering’, then for me that’s the ideal. And, like it or not, intelligence does affect ability to suffer. So I say level of intelligence should make a difference to what we eat, and ‘brainier’ animals should be off the table.

          • Cyranose

            I’ve read that pigs are smarter than dogs.

          • Mechwarrior

            They are quite a bit smarter than dogs. Pigs are among the smartest non-simian mammals.

          • nat365

            I’d say depends on the individual pig and dog :-p.

            But yes, pigs are intelligent and emotionally complex animals, and the way they are raised usually meets few to none of their actual needs. The poor things get a terrible deal in life. But then there are situations like the iberico pig, which gets to roam free and eat all the acorns it wants, and generally live a real life, pre-slaughter… personally I think pigs *could* be raised humanely for meat. Just in most cases, they aren’t, which is why in most cases I opt out of eating them.

          • Mechwarrior

            Yeah, modern industrial slaughterhouse conditions are pretty awful.

            But the other thing to remember about intelligence is that it’s a fairly nebulous term to begin with. There isn’t really a set definition and different species have different types of intelligence tests that they’ll do better or worse on compared to other species.

          • Tylikcat

            We can’t define intelligence in humans. We can’t define consciousness.

            Really, as a neuroscientist, a lot of early science fiction where folks go on about the extra specialness of humans pretty much reads like “Blah blah Ginger blah blah…”

          • Weatherheight

            And an additional +1 for the Far Side reference.

          • Tylikcat

            For my qualifying exams, the whole oral portion on evolutionary biology was done from the basis of Far Side cartoons.

          • Weatherheight

            Please, please, PLEASE tell me you have video…
            (Oh please…)

          • Tylikcat

            Sorry.

            The one I really want is of my advisor (who is also a Talmudic scholar) debating a creationist. Yeah, just start trying to quote the Bible at him. Into the that briar patch y’all go…!

          • Weatherheight

            Well… darn….

            ::shuffles off dejectedly with droopy ears and lifeless tail::

          • Oh, I would pay to watch that!

          • saysomethingclever

            i want to upvote your Prof(s).

          • Doubly so in the case of Heinlein’s fetish for redheads 😉

          • Tylikcat

            *groan*

          • Weatherheight

            There seems to be action “recently” {last 40 years or so) to expand the definition of intelligence laterally to include a lot of “things which humans excel at” – i.e. kinesthetic intelligence, emotional intelligence, social intelligence.

            I can’t quite decide if this is enlightened thought or inclusiveness gone rampant, but it makes me think. 😀

          • Tylikcat

            Mm, but I think that’s not even pretending to be a general definition of intelligence, but an innately homo-referential one.

          • I think that’s more an attempt to divide up the problem set/draw in analagous phenomena for a look to see if there’s any insight to be gained rather than specifically homocentric. Whereas a lot of what comes out of specific AI research (expert systems, fuzzy logic etc) turns out to be formulaic approximations. I might have worked on flight control systems that far exceed the ability of a pilot to keep an aircraft in the air, but when you look at them they’re really fairly simplistic rules applied rigorously and repeatedly.

            (Giggles helplessly at the idea I excel at ‘kinesthetic intelligence’, dyspraxic here)

          • Loranna

            Such thinking does help this writer feel smart, sometimes.

            Leaves carrots for the burro

            Loranna

          • Salivation_Army

            There is a difference between the existence of suffering, and causing suffering. One is just a fact of the world, the other is a moral choice.

            Also, the “levels of intelligence” argument has some serious ethical issues. Humans can and do exist at all levels of the intelligence spectrum. No one would be ok with eating irreversible coma patients, but they have less intelligence and awareness than any animal commonly used for food.

          • nat365

            See, people always take it there. But a) humans were cannibalistic in the far more recent past than most would like to think, so it’s not quite so simple as ‘no one would ever do that’… in a lot of ways only the thinnest veneer of ‘current societal mores’ stops that happening, and b) it still fails into intelligence, because I am talking about intelligence as a species, not about the individual. Intelligence correlates with ability to understand death, and to grieve. and the coma patient would, in all but the rarest of cases, have relatives and friends who would suffer upon their being eaten. But relatives still frequently allow for the harvesting and redistribution of a dead loved one’s organs in order to save lives, so maybe one day society will change, and relatives will sign over their loved one to be eaten if it is a life saving measure… of course, eating other humans potentially has health issues, since they’d have all the diseases and bacteria that would easily infect us… Point is, people like to bring that one out like it’s a trump card in the intelligence argument (ugh, trump, even using it as a descriptor makes me grit my teeth), but it’s not, when you break it down.

            As far as infliction of suffering versus existence of it, I thought I’d already made that point with the ‘wolves or slow starvation’ part, but I’ll make it clearer.

            If, ideally, the animal is raised as humanely as possible, with all its social and biological needs met, and then slaughtered in such a way that the end comes quickly, as painlessly as possible, and without the animal seeing it coming, then farming that animal for meat technically *prevented* suffering – the kind of suffering it would go through if, say, it lived its wild life before being disemboweled by a wolf, or eaten alive by lions who only disabled it before tucking in, or twisted up and drowned by a crocodile while its jaws clamp down painfully on a limb…

            If a creature lives well, and happily, and dies quickly, then both the ‘existence’ of its suffering, and the ‘infliction’ of suffering upon it, will be minimal. And it’s only really human-controlled environments that *can* minimise suffering for certain animals – animals that can have their needs met and be happy in a captive environment (which is not all animals, by any means – because, again, more intelligent species suffer terribly in confinement, often simply because they understand they are confined). I doubt there’s be any difference in chicken happiness were they raised free range on a wooded farm, or living wild in an actual woodland… except the wild ones would die more painfully (likely by fox).

            Anyway – happy life, humane as possible death – that is my ideal for meat-eating. There are places you can get that, if you’re willing to look for them, and to pay more. And for the rest, I can campaign against factor farming, and for cameras in slaughterhouses, and generally push for things that will make animals’ lives better. Now. Whereas simply going vegan? It removes myself from affecting the situation altogether. And, as I said, it is not a healthy choice for me anyway. We evolved as omnivores. Not carnivores, but not herbivores either. We need balance, and different people have a wide variety of different dietary needs. Veganism and vegetarianism are safe for some, but not for others. Even if done carefully, not everyone *can* go vegan even if they want to.

          • Salivation_Army

            “Anyway – happy life, humane as possible death – that is my ideal for meat-eating. There are places you can get that, if you’re willing to look for them, and to pay more.”

            People aren’t willing to do either of those things. Thus the factory farming industry.

            Animals have a right to their lives. How, exactly, we kill them doesn’t enter into it, because most of them would not exist at all, had we not brought them into the world to kill them. Killing, outside of need, is wrong, and there is a vanishingly small number of people in the world who actually need to eat meat. If you’re one of them, neat. On the internet, I’ve met dozens, curiously all in the context of defending meat-eating as a moral choice.

          • nat365

            But you have *no idea* how many people actually *need* to eat meat. The only way to know that would be to make the whole world vegetarian or vegan and then see how many people got sick! And beyond that, the fact we can’t get B12 from anything other than animal products proves we evolved as omnivores, and while science can potentially fill all of our nutritional needs, we are nowhere near there yet. Each human is built differently and needs different things, which is the same reason medications work so completely and totally differently on different people. There is *no* one size fits all solution to nutrition. We’re too varied for that.

            In terms of animals having a right to their lives – of course they do. But that is completely irrelevant because it is far too late for that argument anyway. If I could go back in time, get rid of domestication for consumption and have people still hunt for whatever meat they need to eat? Ultimately that’s probably the most humane method of all, strange as it is to say – because, as I said, basically every wild death is horrible and painful – death by gunshot or arrow is probably the least awful way possible, short of falling asleep and freezing to death, since that could happen unknowingly. Hunting for food, and making use of the whole animal, is not something I have a problem with (except for dolphins and whales, which suffer horribly as they’re driven to their deaths, and would otherwise not go through something so awful except *maybe* if their death comes by orca, depending on which part of the world the animal is in). Humans are part of the ecosystem, much as we like to pretend we are not. And in the meantime the animals would live wild, as they were meant to (all of that said, I am totally against trophy hunting and find it a foul practice. Killing an animal when needed, for food, is a much, much different thing than killing for sport).

            But I cannot go back in time and undo farm animal domestication. The best that can be done, until lab-grown meat’s inevitable takeover (if for no other reason than eventually, once the process is refined, it would be much, much cheaper than farming of any kind), is to do what I said. Get rid of factory farms, encourage people to cut down, and have farmed animals given an environment that caters to their needs, and lives as happy as possible before they end. Or would you rather the whole world stop eating meat immediately and the surplus of animals were just all herded up and slaughtered as fast as possible?

            There is a middle ground, and by selecting to eat free range, locally raised, etc etc, an individual encourages that market’s growth, therefore contributing to more animals leading better lives. Being vegan means removing yourself from that equation altogether, which means yes, your money does not contribute to animal deaths… but it also doesn’t contribute to helping some live better lives in the meantime, either.

          • Tylikcat

            So, I’ve lived as a soft vegan (I occasionally ate things that had egg in them, really, I only avoided dairy as strictly as I did because of allergy issues, though I’d probably have limited myself to local organic farmers otherwise), and I’m currently a vegetarian who doesn’t do dairy but who does occasionally eat fish.* I’m also part of a Buddhist community, so I’m around a lot of people who are big into philosophical vegetarianism. Personally… my body doesn’t like land meat. I decided to stop arguing the point, especially since I have environmental concerns. (I have some ethical concerns as well, but they’re complicated – note, I’m an experimental biologist.) Okay, that’s a lot of backstory, but I like to have my biases on the table.

            What I’d like to see more of is less talking in abstracts about “vegetarianism is better” or “veganism is better” or whatever, and more thinking about how one’s food choices fit into the specific environment one lives in. Okay, back up – food is a really personal thing, and there’s a lot more individual variation than is often recognized. (This is coming out more in the literature now, but a lot of study design has tended to wash out individual variation, historically.) So I think get preachy about individual choices is always made of fail.

            But not all land is identical, and if you’re going to freak out about farming animals, you should also look at other farming practices. This is not to say that grain farming is bad and cattle farming is good or any other such nonsense – but land, like people, is not identical. If people are going to be there, and do the least amount of harm, you need to look at that.

            There’s also the matter of ecosystem management. A really common example – in many part of the US (certainly where I live) the deer population is pretty nuts. Two major reasons for this – deer aren’t actually forest animals but border animals, and they adapt really well to suburbia. Second, of course, we’ve eliminated a lot of their predators. No matter how cute you think they are, it isn’t doing the deer or anyone else any good to let them outgrown the carrying capacity of the area.

            Though it’s pretty hilarious to see my neighbors react to the vegetarian biologist who lives at the zendo offering to help them clean and dress any deer they kill. There needs to be predation or some other form of population control – and from what I’ve been hearing from the local parks people, we don’t have the deer birth control working at this point. I don’t really object to local wolves, but the neighbors freak out about that one, too.

            * My body likes fish. I currently reside in Ohio, which has been a good enough reason to not eat it, mostly, and I have a lot of concerns about the state of our fisheries. But a host of other – some very severe – food allergies cropped up, and I decided that the expanded diet was something to try and see if it helped. (Sadly, the most consistent hypothesis is that my immune system really hates having a titanium plate in my cervical spine. Obviously, having it removed would be a, ah, major undertaking.)

          • phantomreader42

            (Sadly, the most consistent hypothesis is that my immune system really hates having a titanium plate in my cervical spine. Obviously, having it removed would be a, ah, major undertaking.)

            Ugh, that sounds bad. I thought Titanium wasn’t all that reactive (hence its use in products where corrosion would be dangerous), so it was hypo-allergenic.

          • Tylikcat

            It’s pretty bio-compatible, though there are some alloys that are supposed to be moreso. Though, come to think of it, I don’t know how far along they are in their clinical trials. It’s possible the plate could be removed now, but then, it’s also possible the surgery itself was a problem. Immune systems are weird, and no one really knows why sometimes they get ornery – my research students joke that they’re afraid mine might start trying to take them out. I’ve had a bunch of testing done, it has been completely unhelpful other than suggesting that whatever is going on is probably not IgE mediated. Neither the allergist or rheumatologist (and I choose my folks carefully, MD/PhD allergist, rheumatologist with a specialty in mitochondrial disorders, which is relevant, sadly) really had much more to offer – I mean, there were further tests that could be done on the allergy side, but we’re looking at a lot more time and inconvenience for increasingly unlikely returns.

            Once I’m through this current crunch stretch i’m hoping to grab some time with an old school friend who’s now a PhD immunologist and brainstorm – the last time something weird came up I figured out most of it on my own, with some cheering on from my medical team, so I figure some outside the box bullshitting might be the thing? (This sounds cool, but seriously, I think we all know I have great problem solving skills. I would prefer more hand holding and guidance.) If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to catch up with a friend I don’t talk enough with.

          • Zac Caslar

            So the debate about Max’s suffering versus those of millions dying without organ replacements etc really has a relevant dimension to you..

            Interesting.

          • Tylikcat

            *blink* Goodness, I did not anticipate that.

            So, in the most immediate personal sense, no – the kind of spine surgery I had is not performed with live tissue donation, and it would be pretty far outside of scope of anything that’s been discussed (or anything I’ve heard of in the research, and I do follow this) to go that way, even with Feral’s special magic tissue. I’m not aware of work being done at the moment, but it wouldn’t be an unreasonable extrapolation of stem cell work to look at disc regeneration. (Annular tear leading to leak of the nucleus pulposa and eventual disc collapse, c5/c6 result of multiple car accidents, long story.)

            I have at several times in my life been told that I was injured in a way that meant I would have to give up an active life, and might not be able to work again, and there were some pretty ridiculous amounts of pain involved. (Keep in mind, i’m not only a researcher, I’m a martial artist and martial arts instructor – my body might be weird, but we muddle along.) So I have some experience with hard medical choices? And when I was out on the west coast, a big chunk of my Chen students had chronic pain or physical rehabilitation issues. (I had a rep for understanding, I guess.)

            …and one of my two siblings who died young died because she needed a liver transplant, and one wasn’t available. (And then two weeks after she died, they called us in the middle of the night to say they had one, because we weren’t off the lists yet.) So there’s that.

            (But I was young myself then.)

          • AshlaBoga

            “…and one of my two siblings who died young died because she needed a liver transplant, and one wasn’t available.”

            So if put in Alison’s position, with the clock ticking against your sister’s life, would you have coerced him?

            If my sister was dying and someone had a superpower that could save her, I would drive over to their house, put a gun to their head and walk them to the hospital without hesitation. And honestly, I doubt I would have felt a tenth of the guilt Alison is feeling right now.

          • Tylikcat

            You’d think that would be a really straightforward question, but unless we get to remove it from the context of my family, it’s really not. I adored A, it broke my heart when she died, and I’m probably a pretty majorly different person because of it. But… would I wish her, as a medically fragile child, back into the care of my parents? I just don’t know. I am also not going to forget being that heartbroken six year old and thinking that for her sake it was probably better she was out of it.

            Okay. Gah. I realize that wasn’t the question you were meaning to ask.

            I probably wouldn’t start with the gun. Judging from past experience of angry confrontations, I may have avoided overt threats of violence. (I’m older and more experienced than Alison, and, entirely possible, less nice when push comes to shove.)

            Though… well, I did commence with the overt threats of violence over another younger sister and a non-life and death matter at once point. (*wince* The father of her unborn child, who was a total asshole, as well as being almost a decade older than her – she wasn’t yet nineteen – informed her that he’d never been attracted to her at all. While she was eight months pregnant. It was a big sister moment.)

          • Mary Lea

            Not that this question was posed to me, but I’ve frequently considered chiming in. My mother and grandmother both suffered renal failure and eventually died of complications. My grandmother was offered a kidney transplant, but turned it down, even knowing she’d likely live only another 3-5 years without it. She said she’d rather the kidney go to a younger person with more life ahead of ’em. She passed at age 56.

            My mother was never quite well enough to go through the tests to get her onto the transplant list in the first place. She died at age 35, when I was 15, and when my brother was less than a year old.

            As desperately as I miss them both, and as irrevocably changed as my brother’s and my lives are, I wouldn’t have put a gun to anyone’s head to coerce them to save my mother and/or grandmother’s lives against free will. And based both on the 15-16 years I knew each of them (my grandmother passed 13 months after my mother), as well as my grandmother’s decision to give up a kidney and her shot at another 20-40 years of life (grand-grandma lived past 90, and grandmother had been in exceptional health until kidneys failed), I feel fairly confident in guessing that neither of them would have done such a thing – nor been willing to accept the results of my doing such a thing on their behalf.

            My father has often said that he has two kidneys: one for me, and one for my brother, and that he’d give up both if we both got sick. I’d personally have a hard enough time with that – allowing my father to sacrifice his health, potentially (or certainly) his life, to save mine.

            Neither of these are perfectly analogous to the Max/Allison situation, but they’ve certainly gone through my mind repeatedly while following this story.

          • A long term friend died from complications of kidney failure last year. OTOH he’d survived with no kidneys (both removed) for decades and had a perfectly good quality of life for most of that, if one tied to proximity to a dialysis machine. It’s certainly passed across my mind several times in reading the arc around Feral and Max.

            Sort of linked to your point about your grandmother is that disability and medical issues often appear more intolerable from the outside than they are from the inside*.

            * Speaking with my disabled hat on there, not just pontificating.

          • Tylikcat

            Oh, we should talk – I have a friend for the purposes of staying in touch with (we met on a memorable airplane trip) who is the world’s coolest research nephrologist, words that I did not think belonged together. Works in third world nephrology – you might be interested.

          • ‘third world nephrology’ – that must be difficult. It’s complex enough managing dialysis on a first world basis.

          • Not been in Tylik’s position, but I can imagine circumstances in which I would do it, and being even more guilt-ridden than Alison as a result. (Catholic, we’ve got guilt down to a fine art).

          • Zac Caslar

            That was NOT a call-out, btw.

            Rather, it is that I value your considerable insight deeper for knowing that it comes from an non-abstracted perspective.

            And I am impressed you’ve apparently spent at least some portion of your life rather well. =]

          • Tylikcat

            Oh, I didn’t take it as such, it just surprised me as I hadn’t looked at my own experiences in such a light. (I mean, I teach anatomy and physiology, and neuroanatomy is kind of my thing, and I knew a lot about these procedures long before I had one, so comparing them to organ donation had never crossed my mind.)

            I have a pretty great life. And for all that there’s been a lot of injury, and some dire predictions about how I would never recover, and never do this or that again (and, to be perfectly frank, some times when I spent a while wondering what quality of life indicated continuing being alive**)… I keep getting better. I’ve been through several cycles of this – it’s kind of hard to get fussed about it these days. I mean, now, I have some residual pain from the spine surgery, and there’s whatever the hell is going on with my immune system, which mostly manifests as having acquired a bunch of incredibly stupid food allergies (rice bran – who the hell is allergic to rice bran?!) but otherwise, I’m fine. I still bike everywhere, and teach martial arts, and hike in the mountains when I have the good taste to be somewhere that actually has mountains. There are some really weird things going on with my body, but at least half of them have been to my benefit – my outcomes have been consistently on “way better than expected” range that it’s a little ridiculous. (I also expect a lot from myself, wish I suppose means I appreciate this less than I should.)

            * And Andrea’s death is something kind of different altogether. It’s kind of funny – I’d been thinking of it a bunch around New Year’s, which I don’t usually.
            ** This sounds really dire, but it wasn’t so much. Mostly I just got really pissed off because I like being alive and fuck everything. Going through that all was some of the best stuff that every happened to me, but damn some of the individual experiences sucked.

          • Zac Caslar

            I’m in a no deer hunting community myself and while I’m no hunter the little fuckers prance around shitting on everything and eating people’s gardens.

            I understand not using firearms, but I swear I’d garrotte one if I could dress and eat it.

          • Tylikcat

            I live in a residential urban neighborhood (though a porous one – Cleveland, we don’t really do density after losing half our population…)

            I would be happy to have a live and let live policy with the deer, but that’s not what’s happening here. I’d be even happier to have some top level predators (as long as they didn’t predate on me) but, yeah, not that either. I get that people don’t want to kill bambi, but the current situation is not really tenable.

          • (Oh, hell, I hadn’t realised that was the working theory for the allergy stuff!)

            Personally I’m a happy omnivore with some mild ethical concerns. If vat grown meat became readily available I’d happily switch, but it’s not that simple a decision. As with Tylik’s deer example, we need to consider the wider ecosystem issues, and what we would do with our food animal herds and flocks if they became suddenly obsolete. In many places herding has irrevocably shaped the landscape and even the climate, and removing that driver would set another set of evolutionary processes in progress.

          • Tylikcat

            It’s a somewhat tenuous theory, but there’s a lot of “no one knows” going on here. I mean, one of my favorite doctors, who also is a good friend, will talk about my “alternate physiology”. (I didn’t hit him, or even get mad, as he was doing so in a professional capacity, even if he also thought he was being cute.) (Okay, just a little mad. But, he doesn’t read my blog.)

          • Salivation_Army

            “… the fact we can’t get B12 from anything other than animal products proves we evolved as omnivores, and while science can potentially fill all of our nutritional needs, we are nowhere near there yet.”

            A) This is just not correct. Any number of vegan products are fortified with B12. I have been a vegan for years, received regular physicals, and have never been told I was deficient in any vitamin or mineral. Perhaps meat is a more efficient vehicle for B12, but saving a moderate amount of research and effort isn’t sufficient justification for killing.

            B) What “we evolved as” isn’t relevant. None of us hunt for food anymore. By far the most common human experience is going to the grocery store, where they sell vegetables as well as meat.

            “Or would you rather the whole world stop eating meat immediately and the surplus of animals were just all herded up and slaughtered as fast as possible?”

            That’s not what would happen, and telling me if I want to keep animals alive our society has to keep breeding them and killing them doesn’t really check out.

            “There is a middle ground, and by selecting to eat free range, locally raised, etc etc….”

            Practically speaking, no, there isn’t. The correct response to the extremes of “I want animals to be killed by people all the time because I like their taste better” and “I don’t want animals to be killed by people at all” isn’t “well, can we meet halfway here, and only kill for pleasure *sometimes*?”

          • Tylikcat

            Just as a data point – widespread cannibalism is well documented in the devastating famine in 1958-1962 in China. (This was a politically caused famine, in a time without war or major weather events. In the vicinity of 36 million purple died. There have only recently been really good sources on the subject available in the west. I’d recommend Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone, myself.)

            Of course, cannibalism is more complicated, and isn’t always about starvation. But severe enough famine will provoke it – this isn’t about it being a Chinese thing.

          • It also cropped up in quite a few instances amongst isolated Japanese garrisons

            in WWII, mostly directed at Allied prisoners if they were available. (And one very disturbing case of elective vivisection and cannabalism among a team of scientists on the mainland).

          • AshlaBoga

            I mentioned Peter Singer a couple of weeks back. He’s a hard utilitarian who supports euthanasia for significantly physically/mentally handicapped infants. His argument goes along the lines giving the parents the option of euthanasia in cases where the parents would be ill-equipped to raise them (e.g if the person would need 24/7 supervision for the entirety of their life). I am VERY, VERY opposed to Singer on this issue, but agree with him on almost every other issue (so go figure).

            Singer draws support from the idea that there are various animal that are more intelligent than infants with severe brain damage, and that we kill and eat those animals. I argue that we should not eat those animals at all. If an animal is capable of sign language (Gorillas and many others) or some form of human language comprehension; dogs, cats, pigs, horses, dolphins, simians and more, then we should only eat them if the alternative is immediate death by starvation. And in the cases where the alternative is immediate death by starvation I also permit cannibalism, so I’m not being specist here.

          • Salivation_Army

            How do you define “capable”? Almost any animal has the capacity to learn how to respond to stimuli with the appropriate reinforcement. Brain-damaged infants, in fact, fail this test. Singer uses that argument to illustrate that this is why we *shouldn’t* draw the line at intelligence; whether you agree with him on every edge case is very much failing to see the forest for the trees.

            I agree with Singer that the capacity to suffer is much more important, and practically speaking, people choose between causing this suffering and not multiple times a day every day at the grocery store. I doubt, philosophically speaking, that it’s a coincidence how little overlap there is between “animals it’s not ok to eat” and “animals whose meat is readily available”.

          • “Brain-damaged infants, in fact, fail this test.”

            Bullshit. Plenty of people with CP demonstrating that every day. You would need an incredibly severe, and rare, disability, something on the level of acephaly, to completely knock out the stimulus-response loop. In fact we know that stimuli-response loops can form and adapt outside of the brain, they’re involved in the origin of chronic pain syndrome (BTDT). Look up ‘neuroplasticity’. (Straying into the dangerous gtounds of neurology, this is usually where Tylik corrects me)

            You need to be very careful in listening to Singer on disability. He is repeatedly, and I can only conclude calculatedly, intellectually dishonest in the way he frames his positions and refuses to acknowlege his errors when corrected by actual disabled people. Most notably Singer repeatedly talks about disabled people as ‘suffering’, when he has repeatedly been told that we are in the overwhelmingly main happy in our lives and in many cases would not want to be cured.

          • Guest

            …Really? I’ve never met, say, a paraplegic, who would refuse the chance to walk again. I’ve met a couple blind people who were surprisingly indifferent to the idea of sight, but otherwise most disabled people I’ve met would “want to be cured” (I would like to not need glasses for the rest of my life, and am hoping to save up for surgery).

            I mean, I get the “we live perfectly fine lives and if you were less of a dick we would live even better lives” argument, because living while dealing with X doesn’t make your life fundamentally more suffering-ridden or more awful (the same way that, hey, being out of shape may not make your life fundamentally BETTER, but people don’t look upon those who can’t run a marathon with sympathetic anguish in their eyes).

            I could see the “would not want to be cured” being important in cases where the disability is natal instead of acquired (why do I need to get an operation so that I can interact with the world the way you do?), but in most cases of acquired disability people tend to live good lives despite their circumstances (the way people tend to live good lives despite, say, not being millionaires) but would still see benefit in “being cured” (the way people would see benefit in becoming a millionaire. You don’t NEED it, but it would be nice…).

            I’ve also heard the argument that all disabilities are kind of contextual anyway. Is the blind guy disabled in a dark cave with no flashlight? Are the deaf people disabled when diving underwater? That’s an actual example, by the way. A diving instructor once said he was teaching a bunch of deaf people SCUBA diving and once they were underwater he basically knew around 10 words while they were having whole conversations in ASL.

            Is there a notable section of the acquired-later-in-life disabled population who would scoff at the idea of regaining full function?

          • “I’ve met a couple blind people who were surprisingly indifferent to the idea of sight,”

            Isn’t that a bit of a clue? I have a significant number of disabled friends who don’t actually have any real desire to be ‘cured’. It’s in fact the overwhelmingly dominant position of the Deaf and Neurodiverse communities, but I also know wheelchair-using friends who really don’t see any need to disrupt their lives for some supposed cure. In fact I’m a neurodiverse wheelchair user myself, and that’s pretty much my view. This isn’t just a theoretical position, I’ve turned down better pain relief in the past (and we’re talking normal levels of pain bad enough I didn’t notice I’d also acquired one of the most acutely painful conditions known to medicine) because I wasn’t prepared to pay the price that went with it – fuzzier thinking.

            The wheelchair use is from a genetic condition known to be statistically associated with neurodiversity. It’s a condition that often only becomes apparent/significantly disabling in adulthood, so there isn’t the binary division between natal and acquired disability most people imagine. I’ve had mobility issues since I was 25, so over a quarter of a century now, I’ve been using the chair for a couple of years and I’m kicking myself for not switching a decade ago.

            Suppose someone comes along and offers me a cure. Neurodiversity is fundamental to development of the brain and the way we think. Would I still be me afterwards? EDS/HMS is a collagen disorder, we’re talking changes in every organ in the body. Every bone, every joint, every muscle and tendon. Skin, veins, arteries, intestines. That’s not going to be a simple fix (in practise it’s not going to be a practical fix, you’ld need to physically rebuild all of my joints, not just swap the tendons etc over to standard collagen). And that statistical association with neurodiversity means the genetic causes may be entangled. If we cure the EDS, will I still be me? The wheelchair use really isn’t a big thing. Do we need to fix me, or fix society? About the only thing I’d want rid of is the pain and fatigue, and I’ve actually got reasonable pain control right now for the price of sticking an opioid patch on my arm once a week.

            So cures, not a huge priority for a lot of us, but it’s quite difficult to get non-disabled people to believe us. Part of the problem there is people are brought up with a negative view of disability and tend to believe the experience is much worse than the reality from the inside.

            It is very condition dependant, it is linked to born vs acquired disability, but it’s also much less clear cut than non-disabled people assume.

          • Guest

            Hmm. Okay, you are right about the binary thing (I hadn’t quite thought of it in the context of are disabilities you’re born with that show up later aquired or natal) so I will need to rephrase my question:

            Is there a section of the disabled population that, while not associating their disability with their identity, would scoff at the idea of (re)gaining full function?

            Like, would you refuse a pain medication that didn’t come with fuzzy thinking and also an exoskeleton that lets you walk? I get the neurodiversity thing (I would not choose to have a “more normal” brain if it meant I couldn’t do the things I can do only because my brain is outside the norm, however I still take medications to mitigate the negative consequences of my own personal weirdness), but I personally have very minor muscular problems and if I could magically be rid of the hassle, I would choose the “cure”.

            I get that, when you live with it it’s just another thing (like having to get extra layers of clothes on because you live in a cold place), but if it’s unnecessary, wouldn’t not-having-to-deal-with-it be better?

          • “Is there a section of the disabled population that, while not
            associating their disability with their identity, would scoff at the
            idea of (re)gaining full function?”

            Individuals rather than groups. I recall seeing a para comment WRT various proposed cures for spinal cord injurt “why would I want to spend months away from my family?” The idea of take a pill and you’re cured isn’t a realistic one for most disabilities. In many cases you’re looking at serious surgery to put things into a reasonable state for recovery, and with most disabilities you would then be looking at a recovery/rehab process taking months or years because of the need to learn or relearn physical processes such as walking that haven’t been used in years or decades. I just switched to varifocals, the optician’s advice was “It’ll take a month to get really used to them”, and that’s about as simple an adaption process as you can imagine.

            There’s a lot of disabled people who look at those who spend their lives in pursuit of a cure, Christopher Reeve most prominently, and think they’ve got the balance wrong. Disability isn’t everything, you need to live the rest of your life as well.

            “would you refuse a pain medication that didn’t come with fuzzy thinking”

            It would depend what side effects it did come with, how effective it was and how satisfied I was with current pain relief. It’s actually a complex question WRT EDS, we’re renowned for atypical reactions to pain relief, some just don’t work at all. The last time I was forced into a change of pain relief (GP politics), I basically lost a year of my life to non-obvious psychological side effects. Eventually I realised what was happening, and told my GP I would rather have no pain relief than ever take gabapentin again. Fortunately that persuaded her to let me have butrans back. The gabapentin gave me the same level of pain relief as butrans does, but the side effects were intolerable.

            “an exoskeleton that lets you walk?”

            Again that’s not a simple question for me personally. I can walk, with issues, but using crutches was causing long term damage to my shoulders, so a chair is a better option for outdoors and preserving my long term function, but I still walk within the house. My major problem isn’t so much with walking as with the being upright for longer than 5 minutes. The current generation of exoskeletons wouldn’t help with that, and I have a better level of mobility in a chair than I would in one of them, plus I never need to look for somewhere to sit down. If I couldn’t otherwise stand, then an exoskeleton might solve certain access issues, but to be honest at the current state of the art there are standing wheelchairs that are probably more practical. I don’t know whether not being able to walk at all would change my mind, I have some doubts as there are days where I use the chair pretty much all the time and they don’t seem to be a massive issue.

          • Salivation_Army

            I apologize for offending you, if I did so. I’m certainly not trying to comment on the experiences of all disabled people. I have to say, though, that this is getting far afield of my point – no one is realistically suggesting eating disabled infants or people of any age. We’re talking about whether or not it’s permissible to kill animals and what metrics we use to determine that, and intelligence is a poor one.

            I don’t think the existence of a syndrome destroying the ability to feel pain actually compromises the argument. 1) This is not a syndrome the animals we kill for food have, on average. 2) No one is going to institute a program to give animals this syndrome in order to make it more morally acceptable to kill them. There’s a significant amount of pushback on the idea that killing animals is wrong at all, as you can see; additionally, instituting such a program would drive up the cost of meat, which is not something meat-eaters are okay with.

            This ultimately just feels like a variation on the “desert island” scenario people typically use to argue that killing animals is fine.

          • You quote, apparently approvingly, Singer on murdering disabled babies*, no matter the blatantly obvious factual flaw in the argument, then take issue with people for killing animals. Honestly, what reaction did you expect? It’s not as if I haven’t pointed out his bigotry every time someone mentions him or made it clear that I’m a committed disability rights activist.

            * And no, this is not simply a step in developing Singer’s position on animal rights, he has repeatedly argued for killing disabled infants independently of his position on animal rights.

            “this is getting far afield of my point – no one is realistically suggesting eating disabled infants or people of
            any age.”

            No, but Singer actively advocates murdering them as an alleged ‘positive’ and you’re using his position on that to back your argument. If you back a defensible position with something indefensible, expect people to concentrate on the indefensible.

            “I don’t think the existence of a syndrome destroying the ability to feel pain actually compromises the argument.”

            It further demonstrates that Singer repeatedly over-generalises the reality of disability in his arguments and illustrates flaws in the claim brain-damaged infants cannot learn and the logic chain built from it. Singer repeatedly relies on data he knows is false (that disabled people inevitably ‘suffer’), but chooses not to admit for reasons of prejudice against disability. If he was a hard scientist, he’d have been up before an ethics board for falsifying his research years ago, but, bizarrely, because he’s an ethicist he’s allowed to get away with it.

          • Salivation_Army

            OK, since we seem to be so unbelievably hung up on Singer, let’s discard him entirely and work from first principles. Is it ok to kill someone that you reasonably believe to be capable of suffering, when you don’t actually have to?

          • “since we seem to be so unbelievably hung up on Singer”

            Wow, patronising much. He actively advocates killing people like me, what reaction do you expect? My only interest in the ethics of vegetarianism is people who quote Singer as though it’s a positive, especially when they pull in his incredibly offensive thinking on disability.

          • It’s so easy to turn Singer’s arguments around and show that it argues for better treatment of animals, not worse treatment of disabled people that you do have to wonder why he goes that way, and whether his utlitarianism is as intellectually rigorous as he likes to claim. Being very smart doesn’t necessarily stop you from also being a disablist bigot.

      • The Duck From p.112

        How do you resolve the problem of, after drastically decreasing the demand for meat once animal rights become respected in the way you outline –yes, I know we all wish– we’re left with huge populations of domesticated animals that can’t live in the wild and will simply rot and die? How do we enact a “humane genocide” of the billions and billions of battery chicken that humanity basically bred only so that it could function as battery chicken and nothing else?
        Still stuck on that one.

        Edit: oops, not the intended account, but this is amusingly relevant.
        Don’t eat duck meat!

        • nat365

          Heh – I mean, for me, when applied to the real world ideally the whole process involves a slow decline, a phasing out, meaning that wouldn’t be a problem.

          For the same reason, were I suddenly given the power to make the whole world vegan, with no negative health consequences and all substitutes taste exactly the same as the animal products they’re replacing, in an instant? I would not do it, because yes, all those animals would basically have to be killed almost immediately, and that’s just horrible.

          In terms of the poor animals that have been bred in such a way that literally all they can do is sit there and suffer until they die? Animals like the breast-heavy battery chickens you mention? Death is likely the only way to alleviate that suffering, so yeah, mass slaughter. Again, as humanely as it’s possible to do it. It would be terribly sad, but ultimately it would undo a terrible wrong we’ve already committed.

          • AshlaBoga

            Factory Farming reminds me of Blade Runner.

            A: Is it truly ethical to clone thousands of criminals and genetically engineer them to only live 10-20 years and have them work as slaves in outer space their whole lives?

            B: Well, they wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t clone them, so they might as well be slaves since otherwise they wouldn’t exist.
            A: Well, by that logic we have the right to use our own children as slaves because they wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have them.

            B: *Rage quits*

          • Mechwarrior

            What if instead of mass-slaughtering them, we simply stopped breeding them and let things phase out over time?

      • MikeTheGirl

        Actually, fatiguing injured animals is a standard hunting practice among many hunter gatherer groups. You’re probably alive because one of your distant ancestors hunted that way. Humans may walk upright and be adept at running because of this style of hunting. Humans may even have lost their body fur and become nearly hairless and increased their sweat glands because of it. Our entire body structure may be thanks to our willingness to injure and stalk wounded, slowly bleeding to death prey. Komodo dragons have nothing on us. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting

        • nat365

          Lol – I do know that. I’m glad that outside of certain indigenous populations it’s not a common or necessary modern hunting technique.

          I’ve always liked the ‘everyone got lice and so fur went away to get rid’ explanation though, myself! Haha!

          I did read that we seem to be perfectly designed for distance travel, and that before we all got lazy humans could stay on the move pretty much constantly.

    • Jovial Contrarian

      The thing is, cows tend not to fight back when slaguhtered. At least not effectively.

    • I am skeptical that hyper-intelligent aliens will want to eat other things as intelligent as humans, but if they do, I certainly will not try to argue with them. I will assume they are right, since I am not hyper-intelligent.

      • Thewizardguy

        Ah, but since you lack the intelligence to comprehend their means and motives, how do you know that they are in fact hyper-intelligent? Or are they merely just as stupid as us, but just 100 or so years further into the future?

      • Mechwarrior

        I’m skeptical of alien species that could actually consume anything native to Earth and safely digest it.

        • Sugars and amino acids are fairly fundamental. After that it gets complicated, but not necessarily impossible.

          • MrSing

            There would be a slim chance of them having the same chirality as our amino acids. Most likely even if they, by some miracle, used the same enzymes as us, they would probably either be useless or toxic for them.

    • Elaine Lee

      But you will be eaten. By worms and/or bacteria. Either that, or fire. Or trees, if you have a green burial. Life feeds on life and intellect has little to do with it. You will not escape.

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    And then Alison walks off laughing at the old man, but later during a wrestling gig of hers she lets the competent authorities deal with a thief instead of killing him on the spot and that comes back to bite her when that same thief later escapes and accidetally kills Prof. Gurwara during a robbery.

    She becomes the tyrant he always shrugged her becoming and remembers fondly his last words to her: “Might Makes Right. I don’t really care.”

    (Incidentally? Prof. Gurwara’s first name is Bennes. His nephews call him Ben.)

    • OmnipotentEntity

      I know it’s a joke, but I actually learned today that Guwara does have a canon first name. It’s Arjun. Just passing it on.

    • SuddenFan

      Spider-Man is religion to me, so that hurt me on a deep level.

  • Murray C

    The real question is, are the Beastie Boys TRULY the greatest philosophers of Brooklyn?

    • Shjade

      How dare you, sir.

    • Lysiuj

      Of Brooklyn? Perhaps. But their contemporaries from Long Island took the thesis “fight for your right to party”, and posited an antithesis “party for your right to fight”. An altogether more intriguing philosophical concept, in my opinion.

      • Paradoxius

        Except than the latter uses the noun form of “party”, rather than the verb.

    • UnsettlingIdeologies

      Notorious BIG, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Big Daddy Kane, Jean Grae, MC Lyte, Foxy Brown, GZA, Grandmaster Flowers?

      Nah, the Beastie Boys ain’t even close.

  • The Duck From p.112

    I am miffed the old man with a cane did not even mention *the* greatest philosopher of the region, although few even know the name of Brooklyn in Duckspeech. As he was fond of saying: “This is the city of St. Canard. Like any other major metropolis, it has its problems with the criminal element.”

    • Steele

      Sorry mister duck, but you can’t hold a candle to the Beastie Boys.

      Mostly due to your lack of opposable thumbs, but still.

      • The Duck From p.112
        • AdamBombTV

          The Duck is getting sassy.

        • Steele

          Hahaha, fair enough! I bow to your superior wisdom!

        • Rugains Fleuridor

          Teach us your language, master duck!

      • Izo

        I would think on a webcomic where Social Justice is an important aspect, Beastie Boys wouldn’t be touted as great philosophers.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e8j3-TuzCs

        • Lostman

          Truly great men of our time.

          • Izo

            Girls, all I really want is girls
            And in the morning it’s girls
            ‘Cause in the evening it’s girls

            I like the way that they walk
            And it’s chill to hear them talk
            And I can always make them smile
            From White Castle to the Nile

            Back in the day
            There was this girl around the way
            She liked by home-piece M.C.A.
            He said he would not give her play
            I asked him, please?, he said, you may
            Her pants were tight and that’s O.K.
            If she would dance, I would D.J.
            We took a walk down to the bay

            I hope she’ll say,
            Hey me and you should hit the hay
            I asked her out, she said, no way
            I should of probably guessed their gay
            So I broke up with no delay
            I heard she moved real far away
            That was two years ago this May
            I seen her just the other day
            Jockin’ Mike D. To my dismay

            Girls, to do the dishes
            Girls, to clean up my room
            Girls, to do the laundry
            Girls, and in the bathroom
            Girls, that’s all I really want is girls
            Two at a time, I want girls
            With new wave hairdos, I want girls
            I ought to whip out my,
            Girls, girls, girls, girls, girls
            Girls, girls, girls, girls, girls
            Girls, girls, girls, girls, yeah

            Truly the pinnacle of respect for women. Truly. 🙂

          • Smithy

            Assuming a small rejection is because she’s gay, check
            Breaking up because solely because she wouldn’t have sex right away, check
            Hoping the girls will do all the house chores, check

            Indeed, a testament to respect of others and equality for all genders.

    • scottfree

      This is increasingly less and less cute with every new page, novelty spam account.

  • zellgato

    Realy aint wrong.

  • Arkone Axon

    Yeah… I think it’s time we all just admitted it. Alison needs to give way to a more capable hero:

    http://imgur.com/gallery/dbsCK

    • The Duck From p.112

      Amateur.

    • RobNiner ♫

      He DOES have a cool theme tune.

  • Ellis Jones

    For a philosophy professor, Gurwara seems to struggle with the difference between “Right” and “Possible”

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      Is this what we call an “is-ought” problem or have I really never understood what that stood for?

      • AshlaBoga

        The is-ought problem is that you must first prove that something is moral/immoral and secondly, that a moral truth demands you take/do not take a specific action.

        The issue is going from positive statements to normative statements without proving your conclusion.

      • Ellis Jones

        The is-ought “problem” is just the distinction between a belief drawn from an empirical observation and a belief drawn from an axiom.

        Some people consider it problematic that you cannot really believe anything purely based on an observation, but honestly that’s a moot point.

    • Incendax

      “Rights” are made possible when someone with “Might” is willing to fight for them. =P

      • Ellis Jones

        Huh? Whether or not something is possible has nothing to do with whether it is “right”.

    • Olivier Faure

      Yeah, the whole Gurwara arc is starting to annoy me. Like, okay, bad things exist, and government are perfect fair system. We know that, Allison knows that, no one is learning anything. The interesting question is “how do we work with that?”

      So far Gurwara has failed to provide any insights on that question.

      • Stephanie

        Let’s hear the scene out to the end and then make our judgments. He may be building to something. Or maybe not–maybe this is all he’s been building to. We don’t know either way as of yet.

        • Stephanie, you know me well enough by now to realize that I prefer to make snap judgments that I can then be wrong about and claim to have known better all along!

  • Voidhawk

    TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

    MY POINT EXACTLY.
    – Death and Susan, Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett.

    The universe is an awful, horrible, terrible place. It is unsuited to human existence, let alone such ideas as Good, Right or Justice. If you look outwards, searching diligently for some perfect set of rules you can follow and sleep well at night, you will either be terminally disappointed or worse: believe you’ve found it.

    Gurwara’s point is that as it currently stands, there is no Right. Those with Might are privileged with the strength to fight that cosmic fact, to stand up to the entirety of the universe and human experience, and create something better. Might MUST make right. Because if not you, then who else?

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      I feel like the quote would benefit to have it added what comes just before, because this is absolutely not about facing the reality that the universe is a cold and lonely indifferent place. Au contraire. Death is saying that we’ve got to believe in these values because there’s nothing else.

      • Voidhawk

        Pratchett’s point, is that Justice doesn’t exist naturally but we NEED it to exist to be human. And that the first step in bringing it into existence is believing that it could/should/does exist.

        Gurwara’s point, is that the second step will involve someone with power doing something about it. That only by the powerful trying things will we ever make any progress away from the horror of a natural state.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          He seems rather miserable about that second point, and I agree with him, only difference being I must still hold the boldness of youth not to abandon the fight against the etheral forces of entropy.

          The powerful having more duty due to their power sits very badly with me. With great power comes great accountability, not responsibility. Lest we want old white men to always call the shots.

          • Tylikcat

            Well, it didn’t just come. We must bring it.

          • Urthman

            But there can be no true accountability without power to back it up. Even if Alison were to “submit” to the authority of a government, she still would (rightly!) refuse if that government told her to do something she thought was wrong. The ultimate decision about how to use her power rests on her shoulders unless someone has the power to make her do otherwise.

            (We saw that in Marvel’s Civil War movie. Stark was pro-government accountability until the first moment when he thought the government was doing the wrong thing and he instantly disobeyed orders and flew off to help Captain America. Because nobody could stop him. The only real difference between Tony and Steve is that Steve recognized this and was honest about it up front.)

          • AshlaBoga

            “With great power comes great accountability, not responsibility. Lest we want old white men to always call the shots.”

            Actually, I think that people not accepting responsibility when they have power is why “old white men” call a lot of the shots, as you put it. If a powerful person is only accountable for what they do wrong, rather than inaction, then they have no responsibility to share that power with others. If I gain great power and don’t hurt anyone with it, save by deciding not to use and spend my days golfing, I can’t really be held to account for all the suffering of the world. If however, I have great responsibility, my inaction is wrong, and I should be sharing and distributing that power so that the world will become a better place. The concentration of power works best when people consider death and suffering from inaction on the other side of the planet, to be different than letting someone die in the street while you walk by.

          • saysomethingclever

            i think that what Clem is saying is more along the lines of “accountability is the means by which we can know if those with power are taking proper responsibility or not”. Correct me if i misunderstood, Clem?

          • Elaine Lee

            Believing that the world is inherently unfair doesn’t mean you’ve given up. It’s just the first step. You have to look reality in the eye, before imagining something better. It’s impossible to get from point A to point B, if you are refusing to even see where point A is located. The things you want take a very long time, sometimes generations. And the old white men are being replaced. Indications are it’ll be Asians next. It’s up to us to make sure that’s better. If we just replace white men with Asians, it won’t be. We have to make sure more folks get shots to call. Spread around the power.

          • Weatherheight

            “You can’t know if you’re spinning your wheels if you don’t know where you started.” – My Dad

          • K. J. Hargan

            Ask Czar Nicholas and Louis XVI what was stronger than the power of an absolute monarch, and we come back around to Alison’s original assessment from a different angle. “We got this.”

            Ultimately the great accountability has to fall on the shoulders of the people, as a whole, who want a free and just community.

          • Fillintheblanks

            But they has their power taken. Alison CANT to our knowledge. They had their reigns cemented in their control over people, who controlled peiple, etc. Etc. They lost control of the ones who were at the bottom and the people between them and the commoners couldnt pull back on the reigns. Until Alison’s power has a weakness, which we are learning is getting STRONGER with age, we have an individual who CAB be aj absolute monarch

          • Lostman

            “But they has their power taken.”

            When it comes to violence; if their a will, there a way.

          • Zac Caslar

            Could Allison be an “absolute monarch”?

            No, she can’t.

            She can’t be everywhere. She can’t personally monitor all electronic communications. She can’t literally change people’s minds. She can fly, but not particularly fast nor very high. She can’t disable satellites. She can’t stop WMD’s. She isn’t immune to harm. She isn’t anything resembling prescient and thus given her need to breath is vulnerable to traps involving thermobarics. She doesn’t command absolute loyalty. She can’t protect her family perfectly.

            This idea of Allison as nascent “living god” is absolute stupidity worthy of a DC Comics movie.

            Allison is a big bag of hit points combined with a lot of immediate destructive power.

            And that’s all.

          • Fillintheblanks

            Forgive me if I was unclear. Absolute monarches aren’t gods, they are people who don’t have their power limited by a set of rules. This is often called rule of law. Leaders control populations through legiamcy, often catagorized in 3 types; Logic, Historical, and forceful. The author does a wonderful job pointing out Allison’s legitimacy as viewed by the government. She walked into a highly secure military facility and NOONE stopped her. While I’m not saying she’d ever do this, would the government s of the world have a way to stop her from walking into government and forcing them to sign legislation? Some may oppose her, but at the threat of death and no feasible chance to fight back, people will obey. Visit a few of the prime goverments of the world; bam, Alison is the ruler of the world, through fear and controlling the governments.

            Alison is terrifing because absolute monarchs almost always fall through military might: Hitler, Louis, Napoleon, Ceasar all went down in the flames of conflict. This isn’t an option for the world. Should Alison desire, she could probably fight anyone and everyone in the world by fighting and recovering her energy after.

            And your point about having high Hp might be more like having a set of armor that just keeps giving you better and better stats for just having it. We’ve had it confirmed that Allisin’s body cannot be cut unless an object can split molecules/atoms from eachother and that was simply the skin layer, it was implied heavily that her bones were neigh un-breakable. Given this, it’s reasonable to infer that other weaknesses of her body have been or are being removed by her power.

            And don’t just insult me openly, if we are going to argue, fight with your claims, not exaggerating my statement and calling my argument absolute stupidity. We are al civilized here

          • Preacher John

            ^”And playing Lex Luthor: Zac Caslar” 😉

            (I agree, by the way)

          • Arkone Axon

            Bear in mind that even the most powerful person can be taken down, once they make themselves a target. Alison breathes. Alison has limits to her power levels (she loses her invulnerability in direct proportion to how much she uses her power for strength and flight). Alison is emotional and easily provoked.

            Alison is nowhere near as powerful as, say… the God Emperor Leto II. Who spent two millenia deliberately breeding humanity while oppressing them, until he finally created humans capable of killing him. And Alison doesn’t have immortality, prescience, or a nigh invulnerability to anything other than a substance almost impossible to find on her native planet, the way he did.

          • MikeTheGirl

            Unless “we got” an air force, the deck is stacked remarkably different nowadays… My dad, who was an MP in Vietnam, used to laugh at the crazy militia types who said they were arming themselves against the government. His joke went something like, A 19-year-old with 8 weeks of training and halfway decent binoculars could stand a quarter mile away and call down death on everyone you ever met. Sure, buy the assault rifle.

          • And yet every government in the rather noticeably militarised Warsaw Pact fell to popular revolution, mostly overwhelmingly peacefully.

          • MrSing

            Bombing your own cities and salting your own lands isn’t exactly a winning strategy.

          • Yeah, and that turned out great afterwards, didnt it?

          • crazy j

            “You can’t build an economically successful country without throwing a few communists out of a helicopter.” – GEN Pinochet

        • I’m not so certain, or at least think Gurwara will be pouring a whole heap of nuance on that. You can be a strong man and dictate change, or you can be a whole crowd of the weak, and watch the sudden fear on the face of the strong man when he realises power can make you a dictator, but it can’t make you a leader.

      • Eric Schissel

        Yes. Remember, around the same time, he makes a distinction between a gas giant rising in the sky, and the sun rising in the morning. As he said in interviews, he also doesn’t believe in the real, objective existence of truth, justice, some sort of extra-human (extra-sentient?…) meaning that will look at Ozymandias’… sorry, our… – works long after we’re gone, and say, these were wondrous, these should not have been bothered with; he does believe that even though the universe doesn’t care what we do, that not an excuse for nihilism- it’s still extremely important that _we_ care about what we do, and (important) what we do. That was his view, anyhow, but I think there’s something to be said for it…

    • juleslt

      The way I see it, Ideas are not substance, but patterns within the substance.
      Meta-patterns several times removed, even, since life is itself a pattern within the substance.

    • Laurelinde

      Exactly the quote I thought of, as well.

    • Roman Snow

      Just a week or two ago I was thinking about what irked me about this quote. Just before this Death refers to “JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.” as the ‘big lies’ and “tooth faires, Hogfathers (santa claus)” as ‘little lies.’

      “AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.”

      The tooth fairy and Santa Claus are abstract concepts insofar as they’re fictional characters. They’re both frequently sold to children as physical reality, ostensibly to enforce good behavior but usually more as a tradition passed down from parents who enjoyed believing in them when they were children.

      Justice, mercy, and duty are very different abstracts. Firstly, few are possessed of the illusion that they are physical. They aren’t “lies,” they’re concepts based around prescriptions for behavior. What prescriptions they entail and why will vary based on the philosophical framework or lack thereof, and depending on which version of justice, mercy, or duty etc. they may be coherent or they may not be.

      tl;dr: It’s an arguably idealistic point made in a needlessly cynical way.

      • It’s good to realize that we don’t all read these passages the same way; I have always read this as a statement in praise of humanity, reflecting how we can create greater truths that are not necessarily supported by physical science. Thank you for reminding me that this is not the only possible reading of this passage.

      • You might want to read the section in The Science of the Discworld, I forget which volume, where Pterry talks about teaching as ‘lies to children’. He isn’t condemning it or being cynical, he’s describing a necessary abstraction. His use of ‘lies’, and the value he assigns to the word, is more nuanced than you’re allowing for.

        • Roman Snow

          If you believe I think he’s condemning, I worry that the nuance of my criticism has been lost.

          “A ‘lie-to-children’ is a statement which is false, but which nevertheless leads the child’s mind towards a more accurate explanation, one that the child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie.”

          Then there are “lies-to-bosses, lies-to-parents” and “lies-to-ourselves.” The latter sounds the most relevant, so what are our examples?

          “A chocolate you don’t like the flavour of doesn’t count as chocolate.”
          Chocolate should be good, so why count bad tasting chocolate?
          “Food consumed while walking contains no calories.”
          It can be more healthful to eat while exercising, although for different reasons.

          So if I extrapolate from that in reference to the quote above, it could be understood as “Justice, mercy, and duty are ‘false,’ but we must begin to understand them before we can understand the real truth.” For clarity let me phrase that a second way: “Justice, mercy, and duty are good and necessary things and we must learn them, although they do not exist.”

          If that sounds right, here’s why it bugs me personally: it’s an arguably idealistic point made in a needlessly cynical way. My reasoning can be found in the distinctions I made in the original post. Justice, mercy, and duty aren’t actually comparable to the other examples, all of which really do relate to physical falsehoods.

          • I spent a few days in Pterry’s company in the early 90s, the one thing he wasn’t was cynical. Behind all the humour in the Discworld books was a man who believed passionately in doing what was right, and was using his humour to lead people towards that.

          • Roman Snow

            You’re very keen on defending his intent, but what I criticize is execution in this particular instance. I’m not speaking about the man, I’m speaking about this quote from his writing. And what I’m trying to express is that this passage has always bothered me personally because, for all the reasons I have described, it’s an arguably idealistic point made in a needlessly cynical way.

            I sincerely don’t know how to be clearer than that. I have been as thorough as I can imagine. You are welcome to have a different reaction to the text.

          • I simply don’t see it as cynical at all, and your argument isn’t doing anything to convince me it is. I’m not certain whether the disconnect is in our interperation of the text, our core beliefs about abstract values, our definitions of cynicism, or what, but we’re reading it very differently.

    • martynW

      Try and remember that many human beings look at “Might Makes Right” and think, “this can’t be the way things are.” Philosophers can argue where that impulse originates, from cultural mores or our God-given spiritual nature, but either way the part of us that says that, is the part that makes the world work.

      The rights of a fish may end at the jaws of a shark, but no shark ever wondered whether or not it was proper to kill. Human beings are not sharks.

      • palmvos

        “human beings are not sharks’
        true… humans are much much worse.

        • martynW

          No. They aren’t. That’s a fashionable attitude nowadays, but when you think it through, you realize that no other species ever works to save creatures besides themselves, and that human beings actually have a pretty good record of living together in large numbers without hurting each other.

          • I have worked in homeless shelters, inner-city high schools, and I’m currently employed (as a teacher) in a medium security prison; I think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen some of the worst that humanity has to offer. Despite that, the monsters really are the minority and humanity, as a whole, really does seem to want to be moral- even if we don’t always agree on how to achieve it. Thank you for not being the cynic in the room.

          • martynW

            The Golden Rule is almost universal among human cultures across history. Even if you’re not religious, this says something profoundly encouraging about our species.

          • Actually, Kant wasn’t a huge fan of the golden rule, but his reasoning from what he called the categorical imperative provided a pretty similar outcome.

          • OTOH there’s a strong argument that altruism may be selected for by evolutionary pressure, which would have embedded it well before we emerged as a species.

          • I haven’t come across that particular argument, yet- my own amateur study of philosophy and natural science is somewhat spotty, still- but it sounds interesting. Care to point me in a direction where I can learn more?

          • Do a search for ‘kin altruism’ and ‘reciprocal altruism’

          • This made for some interesting reading; it’ll probably take me some time to digest all of it, even from just the precis provided by wikipedia. Having said that, I’m not entirely sure that the concept of kin altruism or reciprocal altruism is really synonymous with altruism as it is generally understood, as it posits that altruistic actions happen most commonly between closely-tied members of given species and less frequently or not at all among more distantly tied members.

            Altruism, as I understand it, is more closely akin to generalized reciprocity, wherein I choose to do good without expecting any form of immediate compensation. My reasoning is that by doing good, I increase the balance to happiness versus sorrow in the world and the entire world is enriched.

          • They’re special cases, however they demonstrate that the potential exists for general altruism to be selected for. There’s a discussion here that goes into the arguments, which have swung back towards general altruism possibly being selected for http://www.iep.utm.edu/altr-grp/#H1

          • Preacher John

            The key that you’re missing is that humans have relatively little genetic variance compared to most mammal species. To the point that even complete strangers share approx 1/120th of their DNA. So from the POV of your genes if you sacrificed your life to save say 240+ or more unrelated people (equation would vary depending on whether you had offspring or not and if they’d fail to thrive without you) if that sacrificial trait were genetically encoded – it would be selected for.

          • Preacher John

            The Golden Rule is widespread, it’s true. What that says about humans is that as a species we evolved from / and into creatures that organise ourselves in kinship clan / tribe (and later on wider) groups, and that a degree of reciprocity is naturally selected for.

          • It doesnt matter, it only takes the few to destroy the works of the many. A species isnt exemplified by its best but by its worst.

          • I believe Stephanie answered this adequately. If you desire to be cynical, that is your right, but don’t expect me to further justify your commentary.

          • I dont “desire” to be cynical, I just dont see how blind optimism is any more valid

          • MrSing

            A picture can have many colours, but if I even see a spot of red on it, I decide that the entire picture must be red, will always be red, has been red since the dawn of time.

          • Preacher John

            BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! 😉

          • cphoenix

            There are many stories of dolphins saving humans. Also, dolphins commit infanticide.

          • Also dogs, and various stories about primates.

          • Tsapki

            Both of your points on humans come down to one thing.

            Food.

            Humanity learned to grow/domesticate their food sources, making it possible to do more than just survive day to day.

            Saving other animals is generally either a species of intrinsic interest and benefit (we protect farm animals from predators because we want to kill and eat those animals ourselves), emotional connection due to similarity (we like monkeys and ape because they remind us of ourselves), or both (cats and dogs played useful roles in early civilizations and are today the beloved pets of millions.

            We can lives together in large numbers because of our food supply. Of the most integral reasons for violence and crime “I need to eat”, is probably the majority.

          • Preacher John

            “no other species ever works to save creatures besides themselves,”
            This is multiply untrue. For example: Both wild dolphins and tame dogs have acted to save humans on multiple documented occasions. Note that both are (like humans) genera (more than one species of dolphin) / species of *social* mammals.

        • Dwight Williams

          The worst of us can be worse than sharks. Some are preparing to be exactly that.

          The best of us, however…?

      • Loranna

        Might Makes Right,
        But Compassion Makes Better?

        . . . Just an odd thought I had >.>

        Loranna

        • saysomethingclever

          <3

    • korbl

      Or, in another book, “THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS JUST US.”

    • Izo

      “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

      Or if you’d rather…. since people are talking about philosophy…

      “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” – Immanuel Kant

      • Vigil

        Huh, I agree with Kant, how strange. The ends-and-means justify the means.

        • Izo

          Actually Kant is saying the ends do NOT justify the means. He was saying that rational human beings should be treated as an end in themselves and not as a means to something else.

          • Absolutely correct. Kant described it as the categorical imperative: act in such a way that your actions would cause no contradiction if everyone were to act in the same way at all times. Because the future cannot be accurately predicted, we must act at all times as if our means are the end, not some nebulous future goal that may be altered by things we cannot predict.

  • Matrix

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya.
    Point is here that Might is representative of the power to do something. The power to make a difference. And Right is simply the will to do so. It is an interesting difference. So, Logically speaking: Might=Power. Right= what? the ability to act unencumbered? The ability to make things change? I don’t know.
    I think that in Philosophical terms “Might makes Right” is an interesting conundrum. While it IS those in Power that establish order and it IS those that have the ability to deviate from the norm. To go for new ground? A new perspective where there was none? In evolutionary terms it is only the strong, the well built or protected that continue, in other words those with more Power. But as humans we have laws, as humans we have “rights”, as humans we have rules. Does that mean she is not human? Well, on a species side, Yes she is human, or rather we haven’t proved otherwise. By this I mean she could breed with humans. As it hasn’t happened yet and it is not reported that they Dymorphs (am I getting the word right?) have had children or even if the super powers have breed true. So we can’t make the assumption that she is a different species. Emotionally, developmentally, and by upbringing she is Human. In every sense of the word. Even if you ignore DNA and go with the term “Human” as being a state of being. A consciousness, capable of understanding the passage of time and learning and communicating that learning.
    So she is Human. Now we get into Human Morals. Or Moral Codes. She is needing to construct her own as the current template of moral code does not cover her circumstances. She has the Power and the “Right” to create or should give herself that license or at the very least she should give herself more leeway and ease off her self hatred at what she has done. Find her center and move on trying to make things better for those around her and not worse.
    That said, time to move on. No need to hash it over a million times. I wait to see what comes of these revelations that she is on the verge of having.

    • SmilingCorpse

      Inconceivable!

      • Guest

        Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

        • Weatherheight

          Iocaine Powder – I’d Stake My Life On It!

    • saysomethingclever

      i always understood “Might makes Right” as “the mighty get to define what kind of behavior is righteous” for everyone in any station. This argument always makes me think of Charlemagne’s coronation, and how for centuries the Roman Catholic Church and the Kings of England and France propped each other up, thanks to the convenient fiction of divine right. Meanwhile, both the Church and the Monarchs of Europe enriched themselves to an obscene degree at the expense of the common folk.

      that’s a bit different from how i understand what you are saying, which is that the rights (freedoms) and privileges of any person in a society are only those that the mighty of that society are willing and able to enforce. is that more or less accurate? does anybody know offhand what definition of “right” is supposed to fit there?

      • Actually, I believe the term sort of evolved from Thucydides premise: “right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

        This was, incidentally, a somewhat controversial stance even in Ancient Greece, as no less than Socrates disputed it in Plato’s Republic…

      • Matrix

        I am an optimist with realistic views, aka a dreamer. I like to think the best of everyone but know that it just isn’t going to happen. Laws are made for a reason. A Justice System is made for a reason. Often when a populace gets big the system does not function as well as it could and loses it’s purpose in favor of expediting things. What can happen as well is that a System does not cover all situations. Here is where our judges and the like come in to interpret the law. Often those interpretations cause precedents to be set and those precedents don’t always cover things. My own frustration is that sooooo much of the law is based on precedent, when they shouldn’t.

        But I diverge from my thoughts here.

        To get back to the point: Might Makes Right. I was making a bit of a commentary that our “rights” are nothing of the kind. They are only there if we are given them. Often we are given them by those with the power to take them away or change them (Government, Criminals, chance, ect). So while we have the “Right to Live” this can be revoked by our actions and even dumb luck (in the case of an accident). So on the Realistic side of things, Allison CAN (as in physically) do what she wants. On the Philosophical end she SHOULD take into consideration the LAW and her own sense of right and wrong. If she violates the latter then it is mostly her conscience that she is facing as the rest of humanity in general does not have the ability to stop her. She has the Power to enforce her views. Does she? Not fully, not yet. She still has allegiance to the law and her own sense of right and wrong. She is teetering on re-interpreting it. She is seeking those she feels are wiser than she in advice.

        But in a real sense: If you have the Power to change something….

        So in a sense: the Power to evoke changes (Might) provides the opportunity to create a different reality (to Make) and create a new norm or new type of correct moral behavior (Right). So, what sort of new Moral Behavior is she going to choose to live her life by or modify later. So in a literal translation the phrase can be correct.

        It is too often translated in a negative way to simply mean: I can get away with it so why shouldn’t I. As Whiskey Jack says below with his statement, “Actually, I believe the term sort of evolved from Thucydides premise:
        “right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power,
        while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

        This
        was, incidentally, a somewhat controversial stance even in Ancient
        Greece, as no less than Socrates disputed it in Plato’s Republic…
        In
        a way, correct. But we look to those with Power (Might in this case)
        to do the best thing for individual and/or society. In another Sense a
        group of people (when united) could overcome people with Power (and be
        those with the Might) of those champions (if they are not serving their
        interests well).”

  • Philip Bourque

    Power does not come with responsibility. Great power comes only with great power. Responsibility is something we thrust upon ourselves.

    • Guest

      Responsibility can also be thrust upon you, though. Eg: “you’re a big boy now, you need to wash the dishes.”

      I mean, that precludes there being a greater power that can thrust responsibility on you but hey, there’s always a bigger fish, right?

  • Karmik

    People have commented on what kind of background or life this man has lived to bear what look like a great number of scars. I think his perspective on this point of view says a lot on that subject.

    I think this is a man who has seen “Might makes Right” in action by people that few would ever deem “Right”. People with the power to do and take what they wanted and did so with gusto to the detriment of all around them. It seems like he has come to view this as simply a fact of existence rather than rail against it. There will always be someone or something with more power than oneself; the spider eats the fly, the bird eats the spider, the cat eats the bird. He does not like it but it is what it is.

  • Ptorq

    A good take on “Might makes Right” can be found in White’s “Once and Future King” (if you’ve never heard of it but are a Disney fan, you’ll find the first section of the book eerily familiar).

    • phantomreader42

      It’s been a while since I read that, but I saw Sword In The Stone not long ago

  • JohnTomato

    A possible different facet of Prof. Gurwara; What if he was a tin pot dictator who got out with only his hide mostly in place? Could give one pause to examine one’s past.

    • Mechwarrior

      If he was a former dictator, it would suggest that Alison’s school has remarkably lax hiring standards or background checks.

      • Weatherheight

        Or Arjun was particularly good at covering his tracks or hiring someone to do so.

      • JohnTomato

        There was a news piece recently about a fellow who had constructed a new life for himself after escaping from jail. 40 years worth of a new life.

        It can be done.

  • Stephanie Gertsch

    As far as I know, what philosophers such as Locke meant when they referred to “inalienable” rights was not “rights everyone everywhere actually has” but “rights everyone everywhere should have.” There might be nothing to stop a thief stealing a wallet, but there’s also no force that can make that action moral.

    • Mart van de Wege

      No? If that wallet belongs to a rich person, and the thief has a family to feed, would you still call that immoral? Would you still prioritise the right to property over the right to life?

      ‘Inalienable rights’ is a nice sound bite, but when the philosophical rubber hits the road of life, it turns out that they are as much a social construct as anything else.

      • cphoenix

        She said “no force” not “no context.” Plenty of actions are moral in some contexts and immoral in others – e.g. cutting an unconscious person with a sharp knife. But if an action in its context is immoral, then increasing the force of the person doing it does not make it moral.

        • Mart van de Wege

          That’s splitting hairs on the definition of force. I read it in the colloquial sense, and in that case, yes, that does mean “there are no circumstances where that action would be moral”.

          • This doesn’t make sense to me; cphoenix hasn’t split hairs regarding the definition of force at all.

            What he said was that if an action is wrong, then increasing or diminishing the amount of force used to accomplish that action does not make it more or less wrong. The other thing he said was that context may determine whether a described action is wrong or not (using the example of cutting on an unconscious person with a sharp instrument- in the context of a life-saving surgery, this might be a very great right; in the context of a mugging in a dark alley, this is obviously a very great wrong.) The amount of force, however, is largely irrelevant to context.

          • Mart van de Wege

            Yes, I know that is what cphoenix said. It is also besides the point.

          • No, it’s not besides the point; it is exactly to the point, since you introduced context as a way to defend the argument that force was permissible in some situations. The “some situations” are the context, but cphoenix’s point was that if force was impermissible in some situations, than the amount used would be irrelevant, and also, apparently, that the reverse should hold true (I am not certain I agree with the second part, as performing life-saving surgery with a scalpel is one thing; performing it with a broadsword seems considerably more fraught).

          • Mart van de Wege

            No. By this point I am going to assume you are deliberately misreading, and I am not willing to continue this conversation.

          • As I said above, if I have misread you, it was not intentional; I have answered only what I saw in what you wrote. If my interpretation was incorrect, then I apologize.

      • Yes, I would still call that immoral, because the act of theft is inherently immoral. On the other hand, taxing the rich man so that a portion of his wealth is used for social welfare is a considerably more complex problem; some, such as Andrew Carnegie, believe that welfare is an inherent wrong because it causes the poor to become dependent on the rich; others, like Mill, appear to support the idea that the state should provide certain sureties for its populace in the theory that it provides the greatest happiness to the most people while inflicting harm to the fewest. Obviously, as with all arguments regarding morality, YMMV.

        • Mart van de Wege

          the act of theft is inherently immoral.

          You see, I think you are, in the correct philosophical sense, begging the question here.

          You may call it axiomatic, but I don’t. Why would theft be inherently immoral?

          • Actually, I base this on the assumption that the idea of property is, if not good, then necessary for any successful society- you will note that attempts to eliminate the concept of property have all failed.

            It is also true that theft cannot exist in the absence of property- if no one owns something, than that thing cannot be stolen. At the same time, theft denies property such that, if everyone engaged in thievery at all times, property would no longer have meaning. Ergo, the act of stealing creates a contradiction which, Kant would argue, makes it morally wrong.

            You will note that I am not arguing from the ends, but from the means- the act of stealing is wrong, and it does not matter who is stealing from whom. Charity, on the other hand, is a somewhat more controversial issue.

          • Guest

            Super Holy Immanuel Kant, Batman!

          • Hey, man, what can I say? Kant had a good point…

          • Mart van de Wege

            What idea of property? It’s a social construct, not some inherent natural property. If you look at the past, even in succesful societies there was a flexible definition of what property actually was, and what part you could call rightly yours.

            Heck, feodalism, which was the system that took us out of the chaos of the migratory period and lifted civilisation back up to some level, took about 700 years with the idea that anything beyond what your hands could make was owned by some overlord, not you. And yet, if you look at the period 800-1500, you cannot say society was unsuccesful.

            For some reason you seem to think I am against the concept of property an sich. I am not. I am against the concept of property as an inherent, natural, inalienable right.

          • Okay, so property is a social construct, but it existed even in feudalism. The fact that serfs owned no property meant that they could not be stolen from (although, I think you’ll find, even then there were artificial constructs), but theft from a noble was possible and extremely punishable.

            I think, at this point, you are the one splitting hairs. You don’t like my premise: theft is wrong. That is your right and I wouldn’t take it away from you for the world, but I think it’s idiotic.

            There are any number of methods of redistributing wealth, but theft, as defined (and, no, you don’t get to make up new definitions just to suit you) is wrong. It is really that simple. You cannot posit that theft is okay if you ignore property, because theft presupposes property- if there is no property, there is no theft.

          • Mart van de Wege

            Again, you’re misreading. By this point I assume deliberately. My point was not disagreement with ‘theft is wrong’. My point was ‘it may not always be immoral’. Those things are empathically not the same, and if you insist on the first, then you are attacking strawman arguments.

          • If I have been misreading you, I apologize; I was answering what I saw in what you wrote.

          • Mart van de Wege

            Apology accepted. I think we’re miscommunicating here, and it will take too much effort to find out where we went wrong, so just let it rest.

        • But if part of society is starving and another part has more than sufficient money to feed everyone, then hasn’t the immorality, and the theft, already happened?

          • In point of fact, no. What has happened is that taxes have been inadequately enforced or distributed, and a group of wealthy people may have had a hand in it- but it does not mean that being wealthy is the same as being a thief anymore than it means that being poor is the same as being virtuous.

          • Society exists to provide collective protection. If part of society is at risk, and part is very comfortable, thank you, then someone has been cheating on their moral responsibilities and getting the benefits of society without paying. Ergo, thief.

          • No, it doesn’t work that way; you are repurposing a word to mean something that it does not. Thief has a very specific meaning: it means taking property that you do not own. Anything else may be immoral, but is not unethical and, therefor, not the definition of thievery.

          • “you are repurposing a word to mean something that it does not”

            Absolutely. It’s something people do all the time in order to illustrate a point. “He stole their futures”, “She stole a peek inside her presents”, and so on.

          • Yes, but it does not work in the context of this argument. If you insist on it, I cannot stop you, but it seems as ridiculous as positing that every infant born into the world is stealing my oxygen.

        • Zac Caslar

          Here we get into the realities of the differences of outcomes in lives informed by a lack or surplus of resources. Poor kids tend to suffer, rich kids tend to thrive etc and the need to resist separating means from ends.

          Presumably Carnegie would take issue with the “Job Creators” fallacy though somehow I doubt it.

          • Carnegie, actually, supported the idea of teaching the poor to be self-sufficient through charitable endowments. It’s why there are libraries, museums, and universities named after the man; what he was against was giving directly to the poor, because he believed that would make them dependent on the donor, thus exacerbating the problem.

          • Zac Caslar

            Huh. Interesting. I can’t entirely dismiss the sentiment as being out of touch with reality, but it sounds like it suffers from a not illogical paucity of information about society (can’t think of more precise terminology right now). Like describing “the poor” as a single monolithic set of people with their powerlessness being expressed as a single problem.

            So on one hand “childhood nutrition wut” and on the other “art! knowledge! wisdom!” Which is great -Neil DeGrasse-Tyson attests to as much- but a little incomplete.

            So, cool. Reminds me of Libertarianism in a “kinder, gentler” sense. Less cutthroat, or at least using a duller knife.

            ….though the approache lacks shoes. Food. Shelter. Medicine. Lots of good cerebral material, but a little too much “if you don’t die of polio.”

          • I don’t disagree. One of the things my amateur investigation into philosophy, morality, and ethics has led me to conclude is that there is no single system of ethics that works universally; there are only principles that must be considered with care and deliberation.

        • Guest

          Holy Immanuel Kant Batman!

      • Stephanie Gertsch

        I’m not really tied to the wallet example, although Locke was a fan of “What you put labor into becomes yours and people shouldn’t take it.” You can substitute murder or maliciously hurting someone who’s always been kind to you, or various forms of oppression if you like.

        I’m pretty sympathetic to Jean Valjean, but if there was a soup kitchen or homeless shelter available I would recommend taking that option over stealing.

  • Zac Caslar

    So short form: strength has to be a core virtue because it underlies all the other virtues, but it cannot be the only virtue nor even the central virtue.

    Strength worship is also the core of Right politics and how you feel about them will tell you a lot about how you feel about that.

    • Karmik

      Your virtues and your vices are equally hollow if you lack the capacity to enact them.

      I like this thought.

  • Loranna

    Random Observation: Professor Gurwara’s eyes are so very evocative in this strip – even when they’re drawn just as dots under his eyebrows. It’s like his eyes describe a journey, from Us to Os to periods, a succinct statement to Alison and the reader, punctuated by those big, black, bushy manes sitting atop his brow.

    Loranna

    • Weatherheight

      That’s what was nattering at me about the art. Thank you.

  • Weatherheight

    Today’s comic reminded me of a bit from a Stephen R. Donaldson book (yes, yes, I can hear the groans already). The titular character of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant writes a book, it’s very popular, all is going well, and then he develop leprosy. His second book, written after this affliction is known and his family has left him, has as its premise that “Innocence is Impotence”. Essentially, the argument is that the exercise of power is always leaving oneself open to being corrupted, but the alternative, rejecting even the possibility of corruption, leads to inaction and thereby powerlessness.

    The risk of action is failure, sin, and corruption.
    The outcome of inaction is stagnation.
    Tough choice.

    “There ain’t no justice in the world,” the person said.
    “Then we shall make it with our own hands,” the other said.

  • korbl

    Thank you, professor! That’s kind of what I was trying to say last week.

  • Izo

    Odd that the animals who were the mightiest with the biggest jaws are now extinct, Gurwara.

    Unless you’ve seen megalodons when you’re swimming, and T-Rexes when you’re taking a walk.

    Cool, I’m back to hating Gurwara – this time for being a fool. Not to mention modern civilization wouldnt exist if it all boiled down to ‘might makes right.’ Especially since Gurwara is missing a pretty big thing with Alison compared to others. Anyone. Can. Be. Killed. Including (and especially) the tyrant.

    • Stephanie

      Wouldn’t killing the tyrant also be an example of “might makes right”?

      Also, “might” doesn’t necessarily mean raw physical strength. Power takes many forms.

      • Weatherheight

        Lucre. Charm. Beauty. Brawn. Brains. Technology. Time.
        These are things that influence us and cloud all of our minds.

      • MrSing

        Only if it is to impose your own will on the tyrant’s former subjects.
        Just like violence to defend yourself from violence is self defense instead of assault.
        So is disposing forceful tyrants by force not per definition a case of “might makes right”.

        • Stephanie

          You’re imposing your will on the tyrant by forcibly removing them from power. It was your “might” that made it possible to end their tyranny. The tyrant’s not going anywhere otherwise.

          You decided that the tyrant was not acting in accordance with your values, so you used power (in one form or another) against the tyrant to remove their power against their will. This is an enactment of your own values (your “right”) at the expense of the tyrant’s values.

          Also, you’re imposing your will on their subjects even if you don’t take control afterwards, since removing the tyrant will affect the subjects (which was presumably your goal in the first place).

          (Violence in self-defense may not be assault, but it’s still violence, and it’s still an exercise of “might”. )

          • MrSing

            The point is that Might Makes Right is used to say that people impose their own rule over others with their power.
            Saying that stopping a, for the sake of the argument, immoral dictator that uses their might to rule over unwilling people is the same as Might Makes Right is missing the point of doing this. It is an act of freeing others instead of enslaving them to your will.
            You do not enforce your will on the former subjects, you free them from unwilling subjugation to the will of another. Only if you thereafter start imposing your own will on these unwilling people does it make a case of Might Makes Right.
            It might be an exercise of might, but not one of Might Makes Right.

          • Stephanie

            The “right” is the outcome where people are free, right? And that outcome can only be achieved through might. Ergo, might makes right.

          • MrSing

            Perhaps, but that “right” is not enforced by might, but made possible by it. It is makes it possible for people to have and practice their own version of right.
            If that is a form of posing your “right” on others, it is one that allows for a lot of individual versions of “right” that are not perpetuated or enforced by your own might. Making it possibly the weakest form of “Might Makes Right”.
            Let’s further note that this is only an example of might being used to achieve this goal, with might not being the only way to achieve this purpose.
            The mightiest and most brilliant generals with the largest armies cannot march on empty stomachs, as Russia has exploited many times in history. Defeating their enemies not with might, but by denying them resources.

          • Stephanie

            Might doesn’t only refer to physical strength or weaponry. Power takes many forms. The power to deny your enemies food is one such form.

          • MrSing

            Running away and setting your own land on fire to deny your enemies resources isn’t really a form of might. You are literally doing nothing harmful to your enemies. You are just counting on attrition overcoming them, basically allowing your enemy to destroy itself.

            If we start calling fleeing a form of might we are stretching the definition beyond any use.

          • Stephanie

            The “might”, or power, in this case is the combination of access to the land, the ability to render it inhospitable to invaders (and survive doing so), the tactical acumen to devise that strategy, and the authority to implement it. Without all of that, the invaders (each time) could have just waltzed right in and taken over. This was a form of power at Russia’s disposal which they employed to repel invaders and protect their own rights and values. The might of the invaders was not able to overcome Russia’s defensive might.

          • MrSing

            So, let’s say, if a murderer runs after me and I’m able to outrun them for five minutes and they die of a hearthattack from exhaustion. I used my might to defeat them?

            Would you say I used power to force my attacker to stop? Because that’s basically what Russia did historically.

            What people who say that society is held together by Might Makes Right overlook is that a society just as much held together by Gifts Make People Want To Follow You. GMPWFY, for short. Might, in this comic, is used near exclusively to mean violence. Gurwara is not talking about how Allison can gift things to people to make them do what she wants, but use physical force to do so.

            Societies that purely, and only(!), stand on Might Makes Right (with Might meaning force) are doomed to fail. A society that does not provide for their citizens, that doesn’t gives them acces to resources, safety, and some level of comfort (needs not to be that high, but does need to be given) will fail or be extremely inefficiënt.

            Just like the invading army couldn’t use their might to conquer Russia because they lacked resources, so can a country use their resources to establish order and impose their version of Right.

            Just look at international politics. Violence and war is usually not the first option for a country. If they can make another country willingly do what they want by talking them into it or exchanging goods, that will often be the preffered means of doing so.

            Yes, even against small countries that do not pose that much of a threat. Wars cost a lot of resources and carry the inherent risk of being drawn out or escalating, making the population very unhappy. Not to mention that other countries will probably start looking at you sideways.

          • Stephanie

            They didn’t just run, they burned the countryside behind them so that the invaders couldn’t live off of it.

            Society is held together by both might and “gifts.” If you have a society whose people are fiercely loyal to you because you provide them with resources, rights, and comfort, but you don’t have any means of defending against force, nothing will stop an invader from steamrolling you and taking your resources. And you can’t provide safety within the society unless you have some way of forcibly dealing with crime.

            I don’t know why you’re assuming that I think force is the only thing that holds together a society. It’s not the only thing, it’s just a necessary thing.

          • MrSing

            It’s because that is what is implied by Gurwara.

            He says that might makes right, and very heavily implies that this is the only thing that makes right while also pertaining to Allison who used might in the sense of violence. “Claw and fang” “The world gave you the only authority it truly understands when it made you strong”.

            Other forms of might have not been mentioned, like the more broad terms of might you and I are discussing.

            You and I both agree that even if you had the largest army in the world, if you did not have the farmers to feed them you wouldn’t be able to do anything.

            That is why Gurwara is patently wrong in what he is saying here. And why his message of “Might Makes Right” is not one we should take as realistic in this context.

    • I would like to believe that Gurwara will introduce Kant into the discussion as well as John Stuart Mills and Montague…

      There are many moral codes to explore, and someone as powerful as Alison cannot be allowed to bumble through them without getting at least a little clarity on the actual theories.

      • AshlaBoga

        Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mills would have a lot to contribute.

        • I’m pretty sure they already have…

          Personally, since this has been going on for so long, I want to see it decided in one of those claymation celebrity deathmatches: Mill v. Kant!

          Who’s with me?

    • EveryZig

      “the animals who were the mightiest with the biggest jaws are now extinct”
      The mightiest jaws are not those that grow from a head. What is a sword, after all, but a massive external jaw built from material stronger than anything found in the body? What is a bomb but the function of a claw extrapolated to a geographic scale?
      For that matter, the uses of and prerequisites for swords and bombs also explain the role of civilization in a world governed by might.

      • Izo

        “The mightiest jaws are not those that grow from a head. ”

        He was making a comparison to the animal kingdom, trying to make a clever simile. His simile was stupid. His comparison is incorrect. I made a different simile, that the creature with the largest jaws often goes extinct.

        Unless you’re trying to tell me that the Megalodon and the T-Rex were killed by humans with swords and bombs, in which case I feel sorry for today’s educational standards.

        “What is a sword, after all, but a massive external jaw built from material stronger than anything found in the body?”

        Really now…. Lets all remember how George Washington, and every other President in US History was ONLY removed from power because of bombs. Oh wait, that never happened. They left voluntarily in a peaceful transfer of power.

        “For that matter, the uses of and prerequisites for swords and bombs also explain the role of civilization in a world governed by might.”

        Actually the use of swords and bombs have explained how civilization has REMOVED tyrants as often as placing them in power. And even our current ‘might’ which you’re defending is LIMITED by our laws of when might CAN be used. Which is something that Alison would not be subjected to. If you’re wanting me to want Alison to be dead, then sure – keep saying she should want a world of might makes right. If you want to think that might makes right is a GOOD thing…. I feel sorry for you when someone uses that might on you and there’s no one to protect you.

        Do you think that a police officer should be allowed to shoot you without cause? Hey… might makes right.

        Do you think that the government should be allowed to imprison or execute you without a trial? Hey why not… Everyzig thinks a free society operates on ‘Might makes right’ for its citizenry.

        Maybe if the government lands some bombs on a few key cities in the United States, say …. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston…. there would be a lot fewer Democrats voting in future elections. Call it ‘Might makes right’ election strategy. After all, might makes right.

        Do you think someone should be able to break into your home and beat you up with a crowbar because they don’t like what you’re posting on a comic book forum? Heck… might makes right. Nothing else matters. Nature! Biggest jaws win! No need for rules other than might makes right and that’s how the world works. Right?

        WRONG.

        Might does not make right. Not in a free, persisting society. Tyrannies operate on might makes right. Tyrannies ALWAYS end violently or in chaos when the leader dies or is overthrown, often by a populace which has already been disarmed by those tyrannies in an attempt to prevent their own deposing (meaning the populaces no longer have the ‘might’ to make right, but have numbers or cleverness – Russia, France, ) and Gurwara is an idiot or playing games with Alison to say otherwise.

        Don’t try to compare Alison’s use of force to, for example, the Allies beating the Nazis, as an example of ‘might makes right.’ That was not a single person deciding things. It was many people, working together, with war having been a last resort (the US didn’t come in until they were attacked by Japan, Britain came in because they were attacked daily, France was already under German control, Russia was in a defensive war). It’s the exact opposite of what Alison did.

        Might can support what is right in the background, if there are rules in place to limit that might. There’s a reason that, despite nuclear weapons existing now for over 70 years, no one has yet used one since the end of World War 2. Might does not MAKE right.

        • Stephanie

          “He was making a comparison to the animal kingdom, trying to make a clever simile. His simile was stupid. His comparison is incorrect. I made a different simile, that the creature with the largest jaws often goes extinct.”

          Making a counter-simile doesn’t refute his point. As you said, the “fish” and the “jaws” and the “shark” are all metaphors to illustrate–not to support–his argument about power. Countering his analogy is pointless if your goal is to counter his claim, since his claim doesn’t actually require T Rexes and megalodons to persist.

          If Gurwara were arguing “Might makes right because creatures with bigger jaws are always more successful,” then it would make sense to bring up the extinction of big-jawed creatures. But he wasn’t. Nitpicking the analogy is wasted text that distracts from your real point.

          “Actually the use of swords and bombs have explained how civilization has REMOVED tyrants as often as placing them in power. And even our current ‘might’ which you’re defending is LIMITED by our laws of when might CAN be used.”

          Removing tyrants is an exercise of power. Enforcing laws is an exercise of power.

          “Do you think that a police officer should be allowed to shoot you without cause? Hey… might makes right.”

          The threat of being shot, imprisoned, fined, or otherwise subjected to force by a more powerful entity is the reason we comply with police officers, in cases where we’d otherwise prefer not to. A police officer who would otherwise be inclined to shoot someone without cause refrains (most of the time) for the same reason. Power takes many forms.

          “Do you think someone should be able to break into your home and beat you up with a crowbar because they don’t like what you’re posting on a comic book forum?”

          Again, someone who wanted to do this would either be dissuaded by the threat of being subjected to force by a more powerful entity, or–if they went through with it–would then be subjected to that force.

          “Don’t try to compare Alison’s use of force to, for example, the Allies beating the Nazis, as an example of ‘might makes right.’ That was not a single person deciding things. It was many people, working together”

          Power can be exercised collectively by a group.

          “If you want to think that might makes right is a GOOD thing…. I feel sorry for you when someone uses that might on you and there’s no one to protect you.”

          As Gurwara said, “might makes right” is not an endorsement. He’s not saying it’s a good thing. He’s not saying that power confers morality. He’s saying that power is the ultimate arbiter of which moral values are actually enacted.

          I’m open to being persuaded that he’s wrong, especially since it’s such an unpleasant thought, but so far you haven’t said anything that contradicts his conclusion.

          • Izo

            “Making a counter-simile doesn’t refute his point.”

            Actually, it absolutely does refute his point.

            “As you said, the “fish” and the “jaws” and the “shark” are all metaphors to illustrate–not to support–his argument about power. Countering his analogy is pointless if your goal is to counter his claim, since his claim doesn’t actually require T Rexes and megalodons to persist.”

            You never really seem to respond to what I say. You always seem to respond to what you wish I was saying. He said ‘the rights of the fish have always ended at the jaws of the shark’ – ie, biggest jaws are the ultimate authority and rule. I countered with the counter-simile that actually, the biggest jaws always seem to go extinct – without there being an even bigger jaw to MAKE them go extinct – ie, the biggest jaws are short-lived and ultimately useless

          • Stephanie

            I am really not interested in continuing to debate the fish/jaw analogy. As far as I’m concerned, its only purpose was as imagery, to add emotional weight to his argument. Gurwara never claimed that literal big jaws are the ultimate authority. “Jaw” is a visual metaphor for power. Power takes many forms.

            Since you haven’t responded to the points I was interested in talking about, there’s no need for me to draft another counterargument. Instead I’d like to recommend you this story, which I think you’ll enjoy: http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/sekhmet-hunts-the-dying-gnosis-a-computation/ It’s sort of an exercise in human defiance against “might-makes-right”/”survival of the fittest” as the natural order. I’ve always thought it was inspiring.

          • Izo

            Re-read my post. I hit post before I was done, and you posted RIGHT AWAY before I could finish my complete post.

          • Stephanie

            I’m…sorry for replying promptly? I’m already editing my post to respond to your edits.

          • Izo

            No need to apologize. I’m just explaining why your response was premature. Not like you knew that I hit post accidentally before I was done. I need to head to work so i’ll probably respond to whatever you write after I get home.

          • Stephanie

            I’ve completed the edits.

          • Zac Caslar

            I see you thoroughly engaging someone I have had muted for some time now.

            If doing so is fruitful, terrific.

            If not, I don’t think you’re missing anything.

          • Stephanie

            On reflection, I think my main point is getting bogged down in all of the sentence-by-sentence responses, so I’m just going to summarize it.

            Power is the means by which moral values are translated into action. Values, on their own, exist only in the human mind. They only affect our reality when enacted by means of power.

            No matter what rights we consider a person to have, those rights–if not protected by sufficient power–can be removed by force. For example, in spite of your strong belief that Max had the right not to boost Feral, the fact remains that Alison forced him to do so. With the application of her power, she enacted her own moral values at the expense of his. Max may have conceptually retained the right to his inaction, but what use was that right to him without the power to back it up?

            This is why it’s necessary to use whatever power we have to enact and protect our values. Power does not necessarily mean violence. For example, suppose we find ourselves in a totally hypothetical situation where the leader of our nation is an impulsive, narcissistic bigot with aspirations of tyranny. We can exercise the power of our votes, our money, our skills, our presence, and our time to combat that tyranny–to wrest away at least some of his control over the world for ourselves. We must do this if we want our values to be anything more than conceptual. We must do this if we want our lives to be dictated by our values instead of his.

            “Might makes right” doesn’t mean that power makes your actions moral. “Might makes right” means that power makes your morals into action.

          • Izo

            “Via power. You remove the tyrant via power. The tyrant isn’t going anywhere, otherwise.”

            Stalin died from a stroke.
            Mao died from Lou Gehrig’s Disease
            Franco died from Parkinson’s Disease
            Pinochet died from heart failure
            Idi Amin died from kidney failure

            So… no, not all tyrants are removed via power. Another problem with a dictatorship, even if there was a good one (which there isn’t) is that it lasts only as long as the tyrant lasts, and from what I know, Alison isn’t immortal. I hope not, at least, if she continues with this evil ‘might makes right’ deal which a scary amount of people on the forum seem to approve of. I wonder how much they’d approve of it if the ‘might’ decided that what was right was for them to be removed for the greater good.

            “That choice was meaningful because he had the power to choose otherwise. Those with power have the luxury of choosing not to exercise it, if exercising it would contradict their values.”

            Actually, what Washington did was UNHEARD of in history until him. Even the American people assumed, and WANTED, Washington to essentially be President for Life at LEAST. He’s the one who decided on the incredibly novel idea, almost never practiced in history, of voluntarily walking away from power to give it to someone else who he knew might have an entirely different political viewpoint than he did (which in fact did happen between the Presidency of Adams and that of Jefferson). And it was done peacefully, and both parties were fine with the idea that someone who opposes the former ruler would be taking the leadership power, again temporarily until he would eventually give it up to yet another person.

            Washington went AGAINST what the people would have let him do, which would be to essentially be like an American dictator, because he realized that would lead to disaster for the nation and was very short-term thinking. Not to mention it went against the goals that the founding fathers had for the new nation.

            “Enforcing a law to protect someone is an exercise of power.”

            Limited power, constrained by rules put in place and protections for the ‘victim’ of the power being used on them.

            “Voting is an exercise of power.”

            Limited power again.

            “Changing a law is an exercise of power.”

            See my above two responses. Limited power, requiring a series of rules to be followed and hurdles to be jumped through, with protections against someone running rampant with that power. Changing a law is NOT a simple, immediate process.

            “We have created structures to confer these forms of power and facilitate their use.”

            Actually we created structures to make these forms of power as difficult as possible to use casually, SPECIFICALLY in order to prevent a tyrannical government and keep power with the people, not the ruling party. The structures in place are meant to NOT facilitate these forms of power.

            “I didn’t say I supported it.”

            You seem to support the might makes right belief. You’ve continually argued in its favor, along with utilitarianism, which REQUIRES a might makes right belief.

            “Power takes many forms.”

            Alison’s ‘power’ is distinctly based on physical might.

            “Obviously most of us have individual moral reasons to comply with police and refrain from murdering people.”

            Then might makes right is NOT the reason for civilization as you seem to claim (and as Gurwara is seeming to ‘admit’ incorrectly).

            “But those without such qualms would exercise whatever power they had to do and take what they wanted, if there weren’t a powerful organization to force them to cooperate.”

            Again, no. It’s not that there’s a powerful organization to force them to cooperate. There are limitations placed ON those people who have power, which rests with the populace and the laws. In the end, it always comes down to the people, not the government or authority class, if you want to have a non-tyrannical society that will last more than the life of the tyrant.

            “That’s why I specified “A police officer who would otherwise be inclined to do so.””

            I strongly believe that most police officers are inclined to their jobs out of a sense of being protectors, not being abusers. I think most police desperately hope they never have to fire their guns at another living being in their careers, and the majority of them do so only in a last resort. I don’t think man is as sociopathic as some people think the species is, as a whole. We would never have survived as a species if we were, especially considering that we are NOT the strongest creatures, or the fastest, or the biggest, or have any particularly effective natural defenses, and we spend a large period of the beginning of our lives completely helpless.

          • Stephanie

            I don’t care that some tyrants die of natural causes. It’s irrelevant. You were explicitly talking about intentionally removing tyrants from power, and I responded to that.

            I don’t care that Washington’s decision was without precedent. It’s irrelevant. He could not have made that decision if he didn’t have the power to make it.

            I don’t care if you think I support “might makes right.” I already told you otherwise. I’m not going to waste any more words trying to convince you of the distinction between “is” and “ought.” It’s well established by now that nothing will prevent you from making your own unflattering assumptions about my inner thoughts. And in any case, my opinion of “might makes right” is irrelevant to the question of whether it’s true.

            I don’t care that certain exercises of power are limited. They are limited thanks to the ongoing application of power.

            I don’t care that Alison’s specific power is based on physical might. It’s irrelevant to the broader point. Power takes many forms, including but not limited to physical might. Gurwara is clearly placing Alison’s strength into a broader context.

            I don’t care that the power structures that exist to uphold rights are themselves limited in their exercise of power. Those limitations were implemented and are enforced via, you guessed it, power. If there were no mechanisms to enforce those limitations, the limitations would not exist.

            I don’t care that most police officers are good. I never said otherwise. The threat of force is required (though clearly not always sufficient) to dissuade the bad ones from abusing their authority.

            I don’t think that the majority of humans are sociopaths. I never claimed to think so. I believe that most people are trying to be good.

            Do you want to debate the claims either you or I made, or do you just want to find irrelevant things to contradict me on? Trying to call me on irrelevancies won’t win you the argument. Neither will arguing against claims I didn’t actually make.

            I’d rather see a single truly compelling counterargument that exposes a critical flaw in my thinking than a hundred pointless “um, actually”s.

            I will respond to your argument that “might makes right” can’t be the basis of civilization if most people are inclined to cooperation. That’s a relevant counterargument to the claims I made. My response is that no matter how many people prefer cooperation, they are vulnerable to exploitation by those who don’t, unless they exercise power to enforce cooperation. It’s a “hawks and doves” scenario. The hawk strategy wins unless the hawks are prevented, via either the use or the threat of force, from taking advantage of the doves. E.g. “if you murder someone and take their money, we will use our superior force to restrain you and throw you in jail.”

          • Guest

            …People peacefully giving up power wasn’t an unheard of thing in history. Lots of people did that before Washington. I mean, Washington made it a big Thing that was expected from then on from the leaders of the republic he helped found but he wasn’t the first one.

    • His point is not that power makes you invincible, but that sufficient power allows you to dictate what is acceptable, at least for a while, even if the legal and social structures exist to say that what you propose is not just unacceptable, but illegal. The people without the power can fight back, substituting numbers and obstinate resistance for power, and I rather suspect Gurwara has spent his life fighting back, but spending your life fighting back is tiring.

      • Izo

        I hope that’s what he’s actually saying, but I don’t think it is. Because so far, what he’s saying is sort of idiotic on its face, and he HAS been circling around the idea that ‘might makes right’ is both inevitable and an absolute truth.

        • Gurwara’s position has consistently been that power allows you to impose your point of view, that this is problematic, and that sometimes there are moral dilemmas involved that may incline you to do something problematic out of good intentions.

          And that this is still a problem, even if some people will support you.

          • Izo

            Gurwara’s position has been less and less ‘consistent’ if you compare him now to him in the classroom. In the classroom, he was making the axiom of a tyrant a bad thing. Here’s he’s making excuses for it instead. He’s pretty much doing a 180 turn, at least how I’m reading it.

            That being said, I don’t entirely disagree with your interpretation – I just don’t read it that way. If it IS that way though, it’s a little better for my view of Gurwara.

          • AshlaBoga

            He wasn’t saying “we are all in this together” was a bad thing. He was simply pointing out that it was the axiom of a tyrant. Alison was the one who took it as an insult.

          • He said ‘the axiom of a tyrant’ in relation to Alison talking about imposing a solution she believes to be a moral positive actually being ethically dubious. She’s now done that, found out he’s right and she’s suffering for it and asking for help.

            Gurwara’s point in all of this is to help Alison find the wisdom to find the least worst answer in these dilemmas. That means analysing competing demands – ‘In order to do A, which is good, I must first do B, which is bad’. You can’t analyse her actions without actually debating that. Solving the world’s transplant shortage, good. Kidnapping and brutalising Max, bad.

            ‘Alison has done good while doing bad’ is not an excuse, it’s a statement of fact. She acted as a tyrant, electing ultimate power to resolve a worldwide problem for herself alone – statement of fact again.

            Alison is caught on the horns of the contradictory morality, and she asked for help. To teach her, to give her the tools to evaluate mutually contradictory demands and find the least worst solution, Gurwara has to take her through the competing demands, so of course he’s arguing both sides. It’s what she asked him to do (even if she doesn’t know it).

          • Stephanie

            Was he actually making out “the axiom of a tyrant” to be a bad thing in class? My recollection is that he just described Alison’s axiom that way and demonstrated why. It was Alison who saw the label as deeply offensive.

            And in today’s comic, I don’t think he’s doing a “180 turn” from the position of “tyranny is bad” at all. He says that “might makes right” is his “tired admission.” He’s describing an attribute of human society that he’s clearly unhappy about.

        • palmvos

          ‘might makes right is not an endorsement it is the tired admission of an old man’
          I don’t know how you are reading that but that’s closer to an admission that something is than it is an endorsement.
          also- given that man is a social animal, and that an individual person or couple or family unit can do only a very limited amount themselves. id say that society can work quite well with that as an underlying principal as long as you keep in mind that no king rules alone!
          ‘Odd that the animals who were the mightiest with the biggest jaws are now extinct, Gurwara.’
          you do know that sperm whales are not extinct (yet), they are predators, and do you have any idea what those things eat? (hint its not microscopic)
          i’d also ask how you define mighty jaws… because there are some absolutely beautiful animals out there that kill by numbers that compare to or exceed Mao and Stalin.
          also- you’re implying that meglodons and t-rex were made extinct by human effort. (‘odd that the animals who were the mightiest with the biggest jaws are now extinct, Gurwara.’) in at least one case… that requires some evidence.
          finally I will paraphrase someone who is shameless enough that he didn’t attribute it. (i doubt it was original to him)
          ‘the most dangerous predator on earth walks on two legs’

          • Izo

            “I don’t know how you are reading that but that’s closer to an admission that something is than it is an endorsement.”

            Well heck, if I’m not reading it like you are, then you must be right!

            Wait no. If I’m not reading it like you are, then I might be reading it as him admitting to something which is not true in order to have the storyline allow a narrative which is incorrect.

            “you do know that sperm whales are not extinct (yet), they are predators, and do you have any idea what those things eat? (hint its not microscopic)”

            Yes, they eat giant squid. Which are BIGGER than they are. So much for the ‘biggest jaws’ theory.

            “i’d also ask how you define mighty jaws…”

            I define them as a simile to Gurwara saying ‘might makes right’ where bigest jaws means mightiest/strongest.

            “because there are some absolutely beautiful animals out there that kill by numbers that compare to or exceed Mao and Stalin.”

            Unless you’re talking about killing plankton, no there aren’t.

            “also- you’re implying that meglodons and t-rex were made extinct by human effort. ”

            Holy not-reading-my-post, Batman! No, I’m implying that Megalodons and T-Rexes went extinct WITHOUT succumbing to another creature. Because I’m implying that ‘the biggest jaws do not make the rules in the long run. They die off.’ News flash…. dinosaurs and giant sharks existed a few dozen million years before even the earliest primates. Again…. it’s a simile.

          • Stephanie

            Whyyyy are you still arguing with people about whether big jaws always win

            You know it’s just a metaphor and yet you’re still doing this

            Here, let me try. “Giant squid don’t even HAVE jaws! Checkmate, Gurwara!”

            Come on, mate.

          • Guest

            Do you perchance have deep love of Aquinas’ philosophy of law? You sound a lot like him.

            I would recommend John Austin’s legal positivism and to a lesser extent Hobbes, as well as Aquinas, for it seems that you are talking past other people without realizing (and also other people are talking past you without realizing), because you are engaging a different argument than the one they put forth. Austin may help you see where Gurwara is coming from in that regard. While I disagree with Austin on quite a lot, I think he illustrates the chain of reasoning that leads to this conclusion pretty well.

  • AbacusWizard

    Oh jeez. That last panel is the saddest thing ever.
    *all the feels*

  • Stephanie

    What Gurwara’s saying here reminds me of the short story “Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis: A Computation.”

  • Soqoma

    Oh, my heart.
    All that spinning, and we land at your sorrow?

  • Martine Votvik

    So far the way I see it: Might makes right = might puts you in a position where you are able to make choices that force other people to comply. This is a fundamental law of all being. Being in this position can be painful when you feel like there should be a higher law that dictates the legitimacy of your conduct, but find that there really isn’t. All people have to deal with the ambiguity of knowing that there is no perfect choices in certain circumstanses. But most people are kept in check by the limits of their situation.

    Alison has a wider scope of those limitations and therefor her actions have the potential to do more bad as well as more good. Alison struggles witht he feeling that she should therefor be judged more harshly, but at the same time she also feels like her actions were fundamentally justified.

    If she didn’t feel like that she would be at the police station handing herself in for abduction and threaths of bodily harm towards Max.

    Her situation makes it possible for her to be the sole judge of whether her actions will have negative consequenses for her personally.

    However she twists and turns it everything boils down to this. She will have to make a final choice about it and live with it.

    The heaviest thing to live with is the acknowledgement that it will always be like this. That she will always be in a position where she will have to be the final arbitrar on how to conduct herself in the face of moral dilemmas. Even though it feels (and really is) more dramatic due to the potential of her superpowers, the core reconciliation is the same as it is for all who mature into adulthood.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    Well…congratulations, SFP. You got me to relate and agree to the Good Professor here.

  • AnonoBot9000

    He is mistaking the term “right” for, “can’t be stopped” or “in power”, in that phrase.

    Just because you are stronger than someone, doesn’t automatically make your actions justifiable, it just means no one was able to stop/stand up to you. They still have the same moral consequences, and will still be interpreted the same way by others.

    “Might means; I win.” just isn’t as catchy a phrase.

    The world obviously knows a lot about justice and freedom, otherwise the professor wouldn’t be able to sit on a park bench in the middle of the day with his gold walking cane and suit, and complain that life is hard to a super villain having an identity crisis.

    • AnonoBot9000

      And before anyone makes a comment. She utilized super powers in order to commit multiple felonies. She is a super villain.

      • And wasn’t when she was being ordered to do so on the government’s behalf.

  • Merle

    Humanity is a system by which the universe derives and tests systems of morality.

    • palmvos

      this implies that the universe has a will. come… you are not too far from some very interesting questions….

  • Might doesnt make Right, Might just makes more Might, because there’s no such thing as Right. It’s just empty words people make up to justify their own actions. We desperatly try to fill that empty hole in ourselves by convincing ourselvs there’s some higher purpose to all of this, but there isnt.

    Nobody ever learns anything, because there isnt anything to learn. It’s just another generation of a short-lived species of ape with delusions of grandeur about why THEY have a higher purpose and are more special than any of the other rotting physical matter shuffling around on the planet.

    • Stephanie

      We make our own meaning. It’s miraculous that we have the capacity to invent concepts like morality and purpose. That’s something worthy of celebration, not edginess and contempt.

      Also, it’s objectively not true that “nobody ever learns anything,” or that “there isn’t anything to learn.”

      • It’s not miraculous, its just a survival mechanism developed to keep social groups from tearing eachother apart, and it doesnt even work half the time. Once we no longer had to spend every second focusing on not starving to death, we literally had to make up reason for why we existed at all. It’s not a miracle, its just coping.

        And its true that nobody ever learns anything, because the same crap just keeps cycling through society over and over. There’s nothing to learn because people are still the same selfish pigs they’ve been since they came out of the trees.

        • Stephanie

          If you consider how ridiculously unlikely it is for anything like us to exist, it’s absolutely miraculous.

          We don’t need a “reason” to exist. We just do. But it’s amazing and beautiful that we can create our own reason and purpose.

          That said, it sounds like you’re determined to be edgy about this. You do you. I’m going to try to actually appreciate being sapient.

          • Enjoy your moral superiority. I’m sure it’ll be a great comfort when we’re all radioactive cinders in a year.

          • Stephanie

            Shit, you better hope the apocalypse really does happen or you’re going to be real embarrassed a year from today.

          • Oh yeah, it’ll definetly keep me up at night, if my crushing anxiety and crippling depression didnt already do it for me.

    • Bob

      No. You are wrong.

  • Kid Chaos

    *sigh* This is what you get for confiding in a philosophy professor. 💀

  • Arklyte

    “If you can’t believe in small lies, how can you believe in big ones like mercy or honor?”;)
    Anybody remebers why Armstrong died in the end of MGS:Rising btw? Might Makes Right… but humans aren’t inherently evil and even amongst the mightiest there will always be the majority of those who will aim for good:P

  • Arizona Hurn

    I don’t know what about this made me start crying but I really love this arc. It’s interesting both for the story and real life. Thank you.

  • RainWall

    I really hope this isn’t leading up to a “It’s okay to punch “Nazi’s” endorsement. Like, I approve of Max’s actions in regards to Feral, because honestly the morality there is open and shut, but using power to enforce your political agenda and silence your opposition is fundamentally wrong.