Is capitalism working?


I believe that people should be left alone and allowed to succeed or fail. People need liberty and a system that guards their liberty.

I love capitalism. Capitalism is good but it has a bad name. It’s not primarily about capital and investing. It is about property. As the legal thinker William Blackstone wrote:

There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe. [Note: By “despotic,” Blackstone means “absolute.”]

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Well, bravo. I’m a huge fan of capitalism myself. It’s great to see well thought out arguments like yours.

There’s only one major issue that I’ve identified: This isn’t about capitalism—it’s about libertarianism. I’m not sure if you’ve read Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia but that’s the thing for you.

Robert Nozick talked a lot about the minimal state, a concept that celebrates economic and moral freedom of the individuals and gives only limited role to the state: creating a legal system that protects people’s property and guarantees the validity of contracts. This is very similar to your reasoning but it’s libertarian philosophy and not directly the theory of capitalism.

Capitalism and libertarianism seem infinitely intertwined. Even so, if you look up the definition of capitalism and study the main ideas of libertarianism, you will find yourself wondering if the two are separate at all. They actually are. The U.S. didn’t cease to have a capitalist system under Obama’s presidency, though he’s definitely not a libertarian.

In today’s world, after Keynes and his successors, we have a mixed economic system, that’s not laissez faire but it’s also clearly not communist economy. The state does this and the state says that, courts rule this and that way and many complain why we don’t have the original capitalist freedom. So why is this? Is this something good?

I could bring economic arguments but I’m sure I’d be making mistakes but more importantly the reason for having the current system can be found in political considerations:

#1: The market might always find balance eventually but, in the meantime, individual lives, which’ survival are dependent on economic safety, can be hurt. So the economy of the country may find balance after a year or two of necessary fluctuation but in those years a family may go bankrupt, people can become desperate and not all of them are good-enough economists to be able to avoid undergoing serious losses. You said that these are inevitable casualties but politicians found it otherwise. More on this later.

#2: In a competition the strong/smart prevails and the weak/feeble-minded stays behind. You understood this as the order of nature. But nature isn’t fair. We can say it’s random and random doesn’t equal fair but receiving in proper proportion in accordance with one’s desert is. Being born strong or weak clearly has no relation to our desert.

According to Weber, capitalism was an unavoidable consequence of the emergence of Protestantism: People experienced a new freedom and the sensation of equality and autonomy spread very fast. And of course capitalism was a much better system than feudalism that preceded it in Europe. But it seems today that capitalism is and has been evolving.

You found morality in rewarding the productive and by the promise of these rewards motivating new members of society to become productive. It is, in fact, very moral, however, this can mean in a way rewarding the capable and ignoring the incapable and that is immoral. Why? Because no one made themselves capable. You might think hard work is your own merit, though if you can work hard it means that you have sufficient concentration and the sufficient abilities. These depend on genes and other external variables, so they do not originate from your own doing, ergo it isn’t moral to reward you for something that you just happened to have.

I have introduced some political and moral arguments against laissez faire libertarianism but what are ideas for corrections—you may ask—nobody asks this, of course, but it’s good to think that I’m not writing to myself…

One of the most famous political philosophers of the 20th century, John Rawls, recognized how libertarianism is unfair and so he said that a system should be formulated from behind the veil of ignorance: We decide without knowing what will be the most profitable environment for us, only considering what will surely be beneficial for everyone, since we can be successful salespersons or Hispanic cleaning ladies. Of course the veil of ignorance is an abstract thing, not something real, but it is a fair concept. Or is it? 

Even Rawls came to realize that even though capabilities are contingent, the able should not be withheld their reward because they used well what was given to them. So he created the difference principle: Inequalities may exist as long as they are profitable to the whole community.

Politicians seem to have adopted Rawls’ ideas, though in a very weakened way (for which I am grateful by the way). What we see today is capitalism but fixed with the tools of fairness. Politicians understood and admitted that capitalism is a clever system, working very well most of the time, but they also said that people should be protected and aided because not everyone can stand their ground in an economic competition. They decided to help the weak because politicians can’t settle with inevitable casualties of any standing economic system but they ought to bring welfare to the whole community. In the other hand, politicians can never ignore what is owed to the productive and able.

At the end of the day, though, I still root for capitalism because so far it’s been working nicely. What must be observed in this question is that this system has been based on morals and values, not on figures and balances. We should be critical and be critical with the eyes of the idealist and not the pragmatist.


How I Met the Most Terrible Woman

The famous sit-com, How I Met Your Mother, reached its end finally. It’s been greatly anticipated by many and is currently being hated and scorned by even more. I’ve heard countless negative comments on it but as most people aren’t philosophers, nor particularly good at deeply analyzing films, this popular negative attitude toward the finale of the show rests on feeble limbs.

Two main groups of degrading opinions come to my mind that I’ve heard:

#1: It’s a letdown because we’ve been driven to believe that Ted would finally arrive at a point when all his misery ends and his life magically becomes complete. This state could be transient but in the final episode it lasted for only a couple minutes and it served the sole purpose of building drama, which is truly not an elegant act.

#2: We’ve been lied to because Robin and Barney were meant to stay together. They would have been the true success-story of the show and now it’s gone to smoke.

These arguments wouldn’t stand the ground against strong reasoning because they aren’t based on reason but on emotions and taste; and we all know the Latin proverb: “Taste is undebatable.” They aren’t satisfying arguments to the opposition because they are not smart ones. On the contrary, nobody can argue against them rationally because they are built upon expectations and what we expect is our own—there are no right or wrong expectations, only fulfilled and failed ones.

Shortly after watching it I was hesitant as to what it was meant to be: an ever-hopeful romantic or a disillusioned realist piece. A friend of mine said quite cleverly that it was a disillusioned romantic one. At first I thought it was a brilliant phrase but then I remembered Fitzgerald’s Amory Blaine:

<”I’m a cynical idealist.” He paused and wondered if that meant anything.>

There are terms that just don’t make sense, even though the young egotist feels as though he’s said something utterly sharp. This friend of mine is actually a lot smarter than me but in regards of this he made a mistake. A romantic, by definition, has his/her illusions.

Of course I’m not Immanuel Kant and I’m not trying to build an argument on semantics. My point with this is actually that I understand how this ending seems like something smarter than what the great contemporary romantics could dream up and yet with a stronger emotional core than what any realist could invent. It truly creates the illusion that it’s a smart ending. But I find it at best average.

Smart people, who’ve mostly responded positively to HIMYM’s finale, often argue that:

#1: It touches on the perfect imperfection of life, how nothing good lasts and yet how Good is omnipresent.

#2: It’s the only way that the whole franchise makes sense, since the conclusion explains why this story had to be told in the first place.

#3: It gives us hope that something waits for everybody to make life worthwhile, even in the most surprising forms and even multiple times.

These seem pretty logical arguments to me, however, they are marred by a certain intellectual leniency—that what’s smart and realistic, always promotes valuable concepts. But that’s not true.

The fatal flaw of HIMYM is that it limits life to a race, where no one actually wins.

Think of Robin and Barney. They had a successful marriage that only lasted three years, what cannot be a successful marriage by definition. Success in marriage isn’t depleting a cup of joys and experiences: people vow to keep together to the end of their lives, not to the end of their happiness. Of course, I understand divorces and I don’t deny anyone the right to get a divorce, but they exist because sometimes the married couple fails at their promises and that means the failure of their entire marriage and failure is the antonym of success. It’s impossible to say that it’s a successful marriage but also a failed one. It may have had some success but not a fullness of success.

Think of Ted and Tracey. They were soulmates, destined to be together, and they had their time and they were happy. Then the story contradicts itself and Tracey dies and the concept of the one dies with her. Why does Ted go back to Robin after his marriage? It’s not that I’d reject a story where two, who are not perfectly fitting, but loving and caring and willing get together and struggle to live out their love, which naturally has a number of difficulties. That’s actually a good love story. But how did a perfect marriage not change Ted essentially? How come does he go back to a failed relationship?

In summary, in the finale there are 2 important points that I find problematic:

#1: Ted arrived at the point where everything started. Maybe things would work out now—maybe not. What is for sure though is that a relatively lasting romantic relationship (a marriage) and parenthood did not alter his concept of where to turn for love. He goes to the same person with the same gift as in the very beginning of the series. What it means is that Ted takes an escapist standpoint and views lived-out love as the primary value in life. Actually not the primary value but much rather he finds everything else pointless because nothing added to or took away from his life: tragedy and great happiness. Ted did not gather true wisdom—he gained nothing but a big number of memories, which hardly correlate, as they eventually take no effect.

#2: Barney’s been emotionally crippled by Robin. All the characters point out that he should move on and move forward because even though divorce is a tough issue, one must be able to not become the Barnicle afterwards. What isn’t recognized is that divorce is beyond human capacity. It’s very nice that Barney becomes emotionally capable through finally becoming a father but the weight of him being emotionally crippled can’t be put on the shoulders of a baby girl. It’s not that a young girl can’t be very strong and do wonders but that it’s not normal and natural—it’s tragic. There’s not a normal way of getting past a marriage but marriages are to be saved. The story runs into a wrong moral that looks very pretty but is actually misleading.

I write this post at about two in the morning so some of my points and arguments are missing and the remaining few is also mixed up and confusing but I felt it important to write this post. Life can’t be a cruel balance of happiness and grief. Life isn’t a pointless circle. I say these not only because I am a christian but also because philosophically they are great and painful simplifications.


Noah vs Christians

My political philosophy professor once said that philosophical texts argue against something. I originally intended to critique Darren Aronofsky’s Noah but I’ve been overwhelmed by the many unjust (well, in some cases) reviews. So what I’m writing right now will not be a crystal-clear stand-alone critique but it will be also an argument against others.

I will begin with the harshest criticism that I’ve heard so far: It is a falsification of he biblical Noah story. It was actually a bit of a surprise to me because I am a christian myself and it never occured to me. What must be observed is that it is a dramatization, which means making something into a drama. A drama is a piece of art, like a painting or an opera. If the crucifixion is painted, does it falsify the Bible by the characters not looking exactly the same as they actually looked? No. If Noah is a dramatization, one must look at it as an independent artistic feat, which in no way attempts to replace, say, the teachings of the Bible. Someone said to me that those, who don’t have a basic knowledge or understanding of the Noah story, will watch Aronofsky’s work and think that it’s the Bible. Well, it’s problematic. I can’t imagine this becoming a thing. This isn’t a hundred percent true, of course, so there might be people, who would fall under the impression that it is a true depiction and it is, of course, acceptable to advertise that it actually isn’t but nothing further comes from this, like saying that it is actively against the Bible. In the other hand, this person did not consider how the christians, who think like him, will miss the actual merits of the film, while strongly concentrating on their preconcieved fears.

There was also the idea that the Bible’s Noah was a missionary and he tried to actually save everyone from dying, instead of deliberately keeping them out of the ark. They argued that it is written in the New Testament that God patiently waited for the people who were otherwise condemned to death (1 Peter 3:20); and that Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). It is a misunderstanding to think that these things go against the movie. They certainly aren’t in focus because Aronofsky had other things he wanted to communicate. But the film’s depiction of God isn’t essentially untrue to this. Christianity’s chief principle is that life on earth is not the complete life but instead, we have an eternal perspective. The Bible’s truth is also about more than the truth that a flood will come: it is about God and his love for humanity. If we marry these two together we will see that Noah’s missionary work was to save the souls of the poeple of his time, much rather than convincing them that they will be killed by water if they persist that they keep out from his ark. So, this aspect of the Noah story isn’t represented, however, if people turned to God, gave up their wicked ways and were truly converted, even Aronofsky’s Noah wouldn’t have kept them out of the ark, even so, the whole deluge would probably have been cancelled.

Another criticism that I’ve heard was not unique to christians, even secular voices said this: In the movie, people are subordinate to nature. Noah seems to think the same and the bad guy, Tubalcain, says, what seems to be the modern approach, and it looks a bit like judgment of modern people because of how much they neglect their environment. To me it was much more like Noah had this inner conflict whether or not God wants mankind to continue existing but he never even entertained the thought that hierarchically the animals and plants would be superior to mankind. The animals seemed to have preserved the right to live through not being corrupted, on the contrary it doesn’t equal being more valuable. What gives ground to this view is that Noah understands that he has a responsibility toward the nature. He should serve the animals but not be their servant or slave, much rather being a true master through caring and valuing them. Sadly, this is such an alien or radical concept that people tend to feel offended by it and feel that they are treated inferior to animals.

I heard something else, what really seemed baseless to me: Female characters are depicted in the light of the modern feminist culture, instead of what was present at that age. This argument was a real surprise because the first thing I said, while leaving the cinema was that in this movie the female characters were pretty traditional. Others argued that the way Noah’s wife “told him off” would have been unimaginable at that time, since if the man says they cut down the wife’s children, the wife will have her own thoughts, disagreeing with the man’s decision but they will keep silent and watch he man deliver his will. Well, the first consideration we ought to make is: how long ago did Noah live? Very long ago but who can tell exactly? Nobody can. But someone said to me that the same system existed as in Abraham’s time, since Noah’s family was which started civilization again and so culture originates from them and Abraham lived in an early culture. This is poor reasoning because theologians may know quite a lot about a certain part of history but since every civilization comes from Noah and his descendants, so do older ones, like China. Abraham lived about 4000 years ago, whereas China started its career approximately 5000 years ago (these aren’t accurate numbers, I’m only trying to give a sense about which one is the older). So to have the right to say that this or that was traditional in Noah’s time requires thorough understanding of all of the ancient cultures, which the creators of this argument lack (I lack it about equally as much). We might think that hierarchical traditions precede egalitarian ones, while in China there have been egalitarian communities a lot earlier than the philosophy would have been borne with John Rawls in the 20th century. Of course, there has always been a hierarchical tradition in ancient China, too, my point is only that certain social systems seem to appear after a certain chronology preceding it and it’s just misleading. Having made these precautions, I will proceed to my last argument against this line of reasoning. As Noah’s wife even tells Noah, she stuck with him through everything, even through the annihilation of everyone on earth. She did as he has said and she helped him through hell without really ever going against him in words or in actions. So she never told Noah off. But when she says that she will abandon him, it is not that she stands up and starts a new family, or casts Noah out. She actually pledges her allegiance to Shem and his new family, so the authority that Noah used to have as the patriarch, is being withdrawn by the family, which’ trust formerly constituted it.

There was a secular argument, which really confused me. Someone said that Aronofsky usually makes his characters suffer from a sort of obsession in his films and Noah’s obsession is obeying God’s orders. While I understand what this argument is about, I still find it overall confusing. Nobody can have this obsession because God gives wisdom and shows the way on which to walk in every field of life, ergo whoever is obsessed with God is obsessed with everything and that is not an obsession. In Noah’s particular case he is exclusively focusing on what mission God has given him. He builds up the ark, he gives up human life on earth but eventually walks back on his decision. This can seem like having an obsession, then finally getting rid of it, still, I believe it is a wrong inerpretation. First, we see what happens, when Noah follows his vision: everything goes well and everything is justified by God, he always receives what is necessary for continuing. Then, at one point, Noah is going out to find wives for his sons and then he sees the true wickedness of humanity and that is what implants the idea that all the people should die on earth, including his own family. But this isn’t God’s message, it is Noah’s own idea because he is afraid of the bad that’s inside of everyone’s heart. In the Bible we get to see that Noah’s a righteous person and his heart is clean but it is, once more, a dramatization, and he finds himself equally evil. And though it is true that there was evil in Noah and all his family, he was still saved. Why Noah is trying to get an end to humanity is that he himself judges his own race, just like God has done formerly. We see the consequences of Noah’s judgment, not the Lord’s in it. Well, the Bible is not going into details of this sort but there never seems to be the same thing, so this is Aronofsky’s addition. It is an ineresting thought and worth meditating on but I think it’s quite clear that Noah was not really obsessed but actually conflicted.

The part where I “argue against” ends here. I will go on, though without opposing ideas this time.

What I found very profound was Tubalcain’s inner conflict. He knew about the existence of the Creator but he lost contact with him, he has probably never had it. From the story of Pentecost we have learned that the Holy Spirit was sent to be the mediator between God and mankind only after that event and so having connection with God has been very different before. Tubalcain’s in-film problems probably originate from the fact that apart from Noah, nobody had that connection, but since Tubalcain and his contemporaries were not long after Eden, where Adam and Eve had a daily and personal connection with God, they somehow craved it. There is a certain ambivalence in this because even though he has an honest desire to reconnect with the Creator he still is evil and he wouldn’t think for a second of following God. Tubalcain thinks of the Almighty as equal but men aren’t equal with God. He refuses the proud and accepts the humble. Noah is humble and it doesn’t mean he would be weak or stupid, since he is the only righteous person in the whole world, which is quite an achievement. But returning to Tubalcain, I find it ingenius that Aronofsky made this attempt to explore the depths of feeling neglected or denied by God.

The last thing that I’d like to mention is the montage of murders: Showing people of different ages killing each other by different means, the people being only dark silhouttes before the red background. Aronofsky was truly creative with this one but there’s more to it than the mere spectacle. First of all, it is in the contex of Noah’s tale of the creation of the world, so Noah is reasoning with it against the continuation of the existence of men. But as we see that killing is present through all the ages, not exclusively in the ones that preceded Noah, is alarming. Even in the Bible, it is written after the deluge ended that the heart of humans is filled with evil. The very reason why the total population of earth has been annihilated ultimately persists. This is actually why the story of Noah matters so much: the crimes, for which once everyone was killed, are still present, yet we live. This doesn’t make much sense in itself. Not at all, unless you read the whole Bible and you read about Jesus, who died for us. This is a brilliant thing, something that only God could think of. 





A collection of Ways to Tie a Necktie

Our other collections:

How to fold a shirt

Choosing a suit that fits

6 ways to tie a Scarf

spine cosplayers take note 

i know like six of these by memory so i don’t want anyone ever to tell me”that’s not how you tie a tie” ever again just don’t do it i know what im doing when it comes to ties so shut the fuck up why do you always assume that i don’t know what im doing I KNOW WHAT IM DOING SHUT THE FUCK UP

(via fixyourwritinghabits)

how to tie 


A Question of Morality

Do we do things because they are the moral things to do or do we do them to achieve certain ends? I faced this question in a debate I had with my church’s youth group’s sort of leader. It was of course a peaceful debate—diplomatically ignoring my views eventually—but this question has been living inside me ever since.

I took a Kantian standpoint and argued in favor of the categorical imperative, whereas my opponent said that, the moral thing is to act to earn God’s divine gifts in Heaven. And even though it seemed pretty obvious to me, in the past one week ambiguity has begun to cloud my confidence on this matter.

The heavenly gifts we earn for living a righteous life are quite naturally stimulating and indeed worth living that life for but I thought, that it is not the highest we can get. In my opinion—the one which I had then—acting out completely because of wanting to do the right thing is the most moral way of thinking. Only for the rightness of that action, not for avoiding guilt, or actually finding pleasure in it, or anything of sort.

Using Kant’s reasoning however, would actually mean embracing the opposing view, not mine. Kant actually found God in morals this way. His categorical imperative suggests a certain joy felt over the moral act, properly proportionate to how moral the act was. Although he found a problem in this: say—and this is my example—you commit a crime but you have cleaned up after yourself well enough. Still, a clever detective somehow gets to you and you are persecuted. However, when being tried, you find a way to get away by adding just one more lie, that could clearly undo the validity of any evidence they have against you. Now you are faced wih the dilemma, that either you add just one more lie and get away, or act morally and confess. It is problematic to imagine a situation, where a criminal in the midst of trial starts to think about morality but let’s accept it for the sake of the thought experiment. Now before moving any further, I add another crucial detail: because of the severety of your crime and the local laws, if you testify guilty, you will be executed on the scene without any delay. So now, acting immorally will just get you life, in which you can try to make up for the wrongs you’ve done and do probably some even more moral things, than confessing now. On the contrary, in the present state, the only justifiable action is testifying guilty. But this morality, thinking in earthly matters, is completely vain. It earns you nothing, neither for the community, and though everyone will agree, that at least you did the right thing when you confessed of your crime, you will still be marked as overall immoral, and above these, you will not have a chance to feel any joy over your moral act. Impending death, brought forth only by a moral act, which serves only the abstract morality itself, can take away this kind of joy…

In the case above, according to Kant, the only acceptable choice is the moral one. But without a sort of moral joy felt over it and any service implemented through this, it certainly becomes difficult to find any point in it. On the contrary, no matter the contingencies, such as one’s lack of time for joy, you should still choose the moral decision.

Now this is a place, where Kant found God. After your moral act, you can have joy over it even after you are dead, in case there is life after death. In case there is Heaven, and it is accessible to you—well, anyone can say a prayer a be saved even right before death—this final moral act of yours, will prove to be not in vain and you will have a chance to have that sort of moral joy in the proper proportion.

No, no one has to agree with Kant. I know, I haven’t seen into the depths he has or the depths there are to this question. But—without solidly stating, that this is the right way to think about this question—this is a possible answer, that put some things into new light for me. It’s good to get it off my chest :)


Sherlock’s Wisdom on Getting Married

I quite recently watched a Sherlock episode, titled: The Sign of Three. It was, in my sincere opinion, a relief after the surprisingly disappointing season premier—and I haven’t watched the season finale, so please don’t spoil that for me.

In this episode, besides of a number of complicated and smartly intertwined cases being solved by Sherlock, Dr. Watson gets married. Well, marriage is and has now been for a pretty good while a sensitive and controversial subject and no one blog entry could contain the expression of the complete set of my views on this topic, so I’ll just reflect on one thing.

As Sherlock prepares for his awkward and unromantic best man speech, he points out a flaw in the institution of marriage. He says, that a wedding is not a big day, since two adults, who already live in the same household, will merely continue their relationship, without any addition or alternation in regards of form or content, just implementing a brief intermission consisting of a grand celebration and a short vacation.

Sherlock’s argument against marriage is, however, not, that it should be done differently but that it shouldn’t be done at all, having understood the little relevance it has. Of course we discard this argument as a trivial mistake. We feel this way because the essence of marriage and what it constitutes are unuttured but very valuable things.

The essence of marriage is problem #1. Out of all the definitions I’ve heard in my short life, the most easily acceptable and most up-to-date is this: a union between two willing adults, sanctified by the state, promoting romantic values. This is fairly true to popular contemporary views I believe.

On to problem #2: what does marriage constitute? To answer this question, we will now draw consequences about our answer to problem #1. Marriage essentially constitutes a state, in which the participants have their relationship recognized by the state and their pursue of romantic goals is hence justified.

I will now try to contradict my previous statements and conclusions by explaining faults I believe to have identified.

Fault #1: the state’s sanctification is inadequate. I will demonstrate this by one argument but I believe even more exist. My example is this: take a christian couple. They get married and according to their beliefs their marriage was sanctified not solely by the state but also by God. If we define marriage as a thing getting its sanctification by the state we have disrespected and at least the way the given couple sees it, degraded their marriage. On the contrary, it would be problematic to change the definition in their favor because that would be misfit for the people not sharing christian faith.

Fault #2: in case marriage essentially promotes romantic values, such as romantic love, fidelity, companionship and such ones, it must mark the distinction between the state of promotion and the state, where these values were not promoted or not in the same manner. This means, that, for instance, before the marriage you have the liberty to break up the relationship you have, however, after you’re married, you willingly give this up and thus will never have the freedom to get a divorce. Of course this seems extremely orthodox and hard to accept but given the definition above, the state of marriage does not allow you to violate the institution of it.

The list of problems and faults may be too short or inaccurate in contrast with others’ views but I believe it’s quite enough food for thought for now.

Both faults, listed above, originate from how we define the essence of marriage and what we want it to constitute. Now, that I have questioned and denied the modern day thinking about this topic, it may seem, that I agree with Sherlock and see marriage as an irrelevant contingency in life but that’s not the case either. What I personally think about it is, that as long as we don’t have a unanimous definition of marriage, we can’t make court rulings or legislations defining its aims, since no matter how liberal we are, it will always take away the freedom of at least a few. And to give my view on what to make of the current problem, I will say, that marriage is valuable and it should continue to exist, however, to fill it with importance, contemporary thinking about it should indeed be changed.


The Hobbit - Smaug’s Philosophy

Peter Jackson’s Desolation of Smaug (2013) had a great impact on me for numerous reasons. When I was introduced to Tolkien’s tale, I was in high school and I found a number of morals of the story, that I could revisit now. This time, however, I have come across a thing in Smaug’s reasoning, that was brand new to me.

When Bilbo and Smaug have their conversation, the dragon speaks scornfully of Thorin’s attempt to reconquer the mountain. He says, that the dwarf if misled, if he believes, that his ancestors’ kingdom can be restored. The dragon also argues, that no one has right to Erebor but him.

We, the sons and daughters of modern democracies, which mostly promote both liberal and communitarian values, automatically think, that of course the Lonely Mountain rightfully belongs to Thorin. He is heir to the throne and the land was taken by force by a—so to speak—tyrant. The dwarf’s reasoning seems legitimate and just. Smaug’s evil and Thorin is virtuous, this is very clear.

But we must bring this conflict to further consideration to understand it in depth. What we actually see is how two philosophies confront each other. Smaug explains this almost explicitly to Bilbo. The dragon argues, that the dwarves have a narrative identity, which gives them ground to make their claims, on the contrary, Smaug says, he has just as much justification. His main argument is probably, that he is stronger, and justice exists only between equal parties but since they are inequal in strength, the more powerful does as he/she sees fit and the weaker obviously can’t resist, ergo must undergo whatever the other decides. Smaug’s second, maybe less conspicuous argument is, that his narrative identity also gives him ground to be ruler of Erebor: he conquered this land—probably by different means but with the same outcome—just as the race of the dwarves once did and now it belongs to him.

This predicament reminds me of the famous Melian Dialogue, which is in Thucydides’ History. In that, the Athenian empire asked the island of Melos to surrender to them and pay tribute but they refused and appealed to Athen’s sense of morals: mercy and the respect of neutrality. It is, of course, not an identical case, but what is very similar: the Athenians argued, that there’s no true moral argument, that could be made in this case. They said: ”For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretenses—either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us—and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Spartans, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that 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”. Smaug reasoned very much like the Athenians did. He thought it foolish to bring up questions about a code of honor or virtue because none of them can be more morally approved, than the other, since every land comes to be ruled by being conquered. The dragon kept arguing, that he has the right to do as he does by possessing the power that he does.

Naturally, Thorin’s claim still seems more justified. Our approval can be traced back to two possible roots, both sufficiently sublime to give us peace about our point of view.

The first possible explanation is, that Thorin aimed to cultivate the land and the neighbor peoples. He wanted to restore a state of prosperity to the benefit of all.

The second possibility is, that Thorin’s allegiance was to the side of good or the side of light, as opposed to Smaug’s, which was to Sauron and the side of darkness. In this case the dwarf king was trying to reach a divine goal: to overcome evil with good.

Of course both explanations have their shortcomings, mostly because of Thorin’s weaknesses, that are often in the nature of morals, but all in all, he is something like a “good guy”.

Smaug’s reasoning in IR and political philosophy in general is called a realist approach. It’s like Machiavelli’s “power is power” way of thinking. I believe our disapproval of the dragon’s line of argument shows our natural tendency to believe in more than just causality. We have a moral code implanted in our souls. We can, of course, fight it in favor of profit or the “greater good” or whatnot but it’s undeniably there. This tendency is a beacon of hope for me. It gives me faith and not just in humanity or a set of ideals, no. It gives me hope, that overall there is good, which transcends our desperate, miserable and depressing world. It gives me hope, that there is God, in whom I can lay my trust.

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