Friday, October 12, 2012

Robert Shea on 'Natural Law'

The Connections column in September/October 1987 Nomos quotes Carl Watner's response to the moral riddle posed by Robert Anton Wilson in his book, Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy.

After quoting Wilson's account of Conchis's dilemma in The Magus: either he beats three prisoners of war to death or the Nazis execute every male in the village, Watner proceeds to give us what he deems the correct answer to the question:

If the principle of "no aggression against non-aggressors" (that is, libertarians all agree that it is morally improper to violate the rights of innocent persons) can be used to identify libertarians, then why does Wilson find this such a riddle? Doesn't he agree that it is wrong to kill innocent men? Of course, it is hard to think that 300 people may die but shouldn't libertarians be prepared to let justice be done, though the heavens may fall?

I took down my copy of Natural Law or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy, just to see if Watner was being fair to Wilson. I re-read Wilson's full explanation of why he poses this riddle:

The totally hypnotized, of course, have an answer at once; they know beyond doubt what is correct, because they have memorized the Rule Book. It doesn't matter whose Rule Book they rely on -- Ayn Rand's or Joan Baez's or the Pope's or Lenin's or Elephant Doody Comix -- the hypnosis is indicated by lack of pause for thought, feeling and evaluation. The response is immediate because mechanical. Those who are not totally hypnotized -- those who have some awareness of concrete events in sensory space-time -- find the problem terrible and terrifying and admit they don't know any correct answer.

I don't know the "correct" answer either and I doubt that there is one.

In the light of the above, it would appear that Watner either failed to understand, or chose not to address, Wilson's point. In any case, with a ringing cry of, "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall!" he appears to have impaled himself upon it.

[From No Governor issue No. 10, which I will post next week -- The Mgt.]

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