Understanding Military, Democracy, and Ethics

Actions have consequences. Military actions have very big, wide-ranging, and long-lasting consequences. However, military actions are ultimately within our control. Who we vote for, what we vote for, what we support and what we condemn, are all elements that directly shape our ideas of the military and its use. Understanding these issues is a necessary part of functional democratic participation, as well as an ethical engagement with the world.

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Finding the True Scotsman

The recent trend of “excommunicating” people from various groups, as a rejection of their behaviors, is a bad option for several reasons. Yes, the idea that ISIS members are Muslim sounds abhorrent to Muslims, and the idea that Myanmar’s genocidal government sounds abhorrent to Buddhists. But the attempt to simply call them non-Muslim or non-Buddhists creates far more problems than it solves.

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The (im)possibility of Translation

Translations are a common part of our every-day experience, whether in terms of world news or texts we read. What we often fail to appreciate is the relative impossibility of translation, especially when complex ideas or texts are in question. To demonstrate this impossibility, the analysis relies on three languages (Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese), with two examples each.

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Missing the Point

Quite often, our arguments and discussions go nowhere, and all that effort is wasted. We may believe that the other side is irrational, or that they’re simply stubborn, hard-headed, or stupid, However, on closer examination, it turns out that the reason for this deadlock is the fact that we quite often miss the point of our own arguments.

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The Context Toolbox

In considering the six questions of context, question 5 (general context) was left relatively undeveloped. Here, we return to the issue with a series of tool-box questions, which both help us develop some crucial context points, and help us to identify the weak points of claims, in a neat and systematic way.

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The Role and Value of Religion

While modernity has made secularism a familiar notion – especially in academia – religion has provided the primary context of human events since before written history. When religion and religious concepts are examined critically, they can yield a great wealth of useful and interesting ideas, or at least useful warnings about what ideas lead to dead-ends and escalating problems.

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On Drawing from Diverse Sources

Focusing on our own ethnic, cultural, and historical context makes sense and is a good thing. Doing so to the exclusion of other contexts is a problem – because our context is a tiny percentage of the total available. By critically examining diverse sources, we access a far broader field of thousands of years of theories, practice, and trial and error.

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