Michael_Zeleny

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Are Your Enemies Innately Evil?

An accurate estimate of anyone else’s psychology is a dubious benefit in strategic interactions that depend solely on being able to predict the actions of friend and foe.

In Proposition XXXVII of Part IV of the Ethics, Benedict Spinoza asserts that the good that every man who follows after virtue wants for himself, he also desires for other men; and this Desire is greater as his knowledge of God is greater. After proving his claim, Spinoza observes that the law against killing animals is based more on vain superstition and womanish pity than on sound reason (legem illam de non mactandis brutis magis vana superstitione et muliebri misericordia quam sana ratione fundatam esse). He continues:

The rational principle of seeking our own advantage teaches us the necessity of joining with men, but not with beasts, or with things whose nature is different from human nature; we have the same rights against them as they have against us. Indeed, because the right of each one is defined by his virtue, or power, men have a far greater right against beasts than beasts have against men. Not that I deny that beasts feel. But I do deny that we are therefore not permitted to consider our own advantage, use them at our pleasure, and treat them as is most convenient for us. For they do not agree in nature with us, and their affects are different in nature from human affects.
By parity of reasoning, the rational principle of seeking our own advantage allows us to use our enemies at our pleasure, and treat them as is most convenient for us. For our civic nature is defined by the constitution of our state; and to the extent that foreign subjects do not agree in nature with us, and their affects are different in nature from our affects, we would be ill served by extending our habitual notions of humanity, formed through intercourse with our compatriots, to anyone that does not partake of our social compact. To this effect, in setting our foreign policies for war and peace, we must form alliances without affection and prevail in conflicts without hatred. Erring in either direction can only deter us from attaining our goals.