In what ways are Hemingway and Anscombe, respectively, appealing to the tenets of pluralism and/or universalism in the arguments that they put forth? Where do they agree, and where do they disagree? How do different understandings of pluralism and/or universalism undergird and/or animate their disagreements? Word count: 600-750.
April 19, 2023
Week 6 Essay
Many parallels can be drawn from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sling and the Pebble” to the writings of Elizabeth Anscombe. However, the two have stark differences as they argue what each believes to be a better moral philosophy regarding mass bombings. One key agreement between them is that influence is superior to authority and that coercion, in this case, weapons of war, should always be a last resort.
Ernest Hemingway appeals to the tenets of pluralism when saying, “It would be easy for us if we do not learn to understand the world and appreciate the rights, privileges, and duties of all other countries and peoples.” Hemingway’s statement appeals to the tenets of pluralism as he argues that we, as a society, should try to understand cultures different from our own.
Furthermore, we are not obligated to approve or agree. However, we should empathetically appreciate different cultures as long as they are not inflicting harm. Hemingway says, “It will be our duty, when we have sufficient valid knowledge, to disagree, to protest, even to revolt and to rebel and still work always toward finding a way for all men to live together on this earth.” This passage also shows adherence to the tenets of pluralism, as Hemingway’s declaration is rooted in pursuing a world where different cultures can coexist peacefully.
Elizabeth Anscombe’s argument against awarding former President Truman an honorary degree from Oxford University adheres to the tenets of universalism, stopping short of endorsing complete pacifism. Much of her evidence comes from Truman’s signing off on an attack without a defined target. Because of this, she does not believe he deserves recognition and argues that he is a murderer rather than a hero. In sum, she asserts that if Truman planned to take all precautions to avoid murdering as many innocent people as possible, that would be ethical. Adherence to universalism is demonstrated in her position that we are morally obliged to value everyone equally regardless of their relationship with us.
Anscombe’s “The Influence of Pacifism” further clarifies her view. A notable passage, “Principles that are mistakenly high and strict are a trap; they may easily lead…directly or indirectly to the justification of monstrous things,” summarizes her repudiation of extreme ideologies and demonstrates an adherence to pluralism and rejection of monism.
Hemingway and Anscombe both agree on needing a cause for killing an enemy, as there must be a reason to take extreme measures. Hemingways says, “You can wipe out your opponents, but if you do it unjustly, you become eligible for being wiped out yourself.” This quote echoes the sentiments expressed in this passage from Anscombe “It may be impossible to take the thing (or people) you want to destroy as your target; it may be possible to attack it only by taking as the object of your attack what includes large numbers of innocent people. Then you cannot very well say they died by accident. Here your action is murder.”
Hemingway and Anscombe differ in their ideas on how to proceed in war. Hemingway argues, “Once you are involved in a war, you have to win it by any means.” Anscombe would repudiate that claim as she passionately pleads for rejecting the “unconditional surrender” policy of obliterating cities to win the war, calling that policy “visibly wicked.” The main difference between them is that Hemingway supports any action to win the battle, whereas Anscombe advocates for cautious action and avoiding harm to the innocent.
Their different understandings of pluralism and universalism undergird their respective arguments. Hemingway believes we must aim for peace but prepare ourselves for an attack. His words express a desire for leaders to learn from others and to work toward world peace. However, he asserts that should anyone attack without reason, our leaders are justified in taking any action to win that war, including bombing innocent civilians.
Anscombe animates her argument by focusing on the illogical policy of “unconditional surrender.” She argues that this idea is the root of all evil. Anscombe focuses on how leaders assert their authority through coercive measures and false ultimatums, offering the opposing party the “chance” to surrender when they do not have any other choice.
Despite their differing views, Hemingway and Anscombe demonstrate a desire to lead through influence rather than authority alone. Clemens and Mayer discuss that “influence requires a willingness to guide—not command.” Earning influence takes time, but the payoffs are more significant than relying solely on authority.
Anscombe, G. E. M. (1958). Mr. Truman’s Degree. Oxford, England; G.E.M. Anscombe.
Anscombe, G. E. M. (2020). War and murder. The Doctrine of Double Effect, pp. 247–260. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv19m64sz.18
Clemens, J. K., & Mayer, D. F. (1999). The Classic Touch: Lessons in Leadership from Homer to Hemingway. Contemporary Books.
Hemingway, E. (2015, February 19). “The Sling and the Pebble” by Ernest Hemingway. “The Sling and the Pebble” by Ernest Hemingway. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from https://www.billdownscbs.com/2015/02/1946-sling-and-pebble-by-ernest.html