In his essay “The Recovery of Ethics,” published this month in Worldview, Paul Nitze argues that we have reached a historical moment propitious for discovering a relevant ethical framework for our national policy decisions. “It seems to me,” he writes, “that there is today a convergence of a number of factors which give grounds for hope that vigorous effort can, in the not too distant future, restore a glimmering of light in the existing darkness.”

Mr. Nitze’s view, as he supports it in his essay, is especially welcome in a year when the nation’s need for a “sense of purpose” has become a major theme of public discussion. For some months now, Walter Lippmann has been developing this theme with increasing urgency. He has argued that Americans on the whole lack an understanding of the historic challenge and trials that lie before them if freedom is to survive in the world. He has claimed that, at a time when our attention as a people should be turned to questions of the public good, we are devoting our energies and genius almost exclusively to the pursuit of private pleas- ures. In the terms of Mr. Nitze’s essay, we are committing ourselves, as a nation, to ends which are essentially trivial in a decade which is sure to demand great vision.

These doubts about the largeness and stability of our national purpose have now appeared even in the pages of Time. This magazine, which usu-

_ ally dismisses such doubts as forms of left-wing ‘deviation, reports soberly in a recent issue that, of twelve prominent American intellectuals inter- viewed on the subject, eleven were pessimistic about the long-range prospects for Western free- dom in its competition with Communist totali- tarianism. And the reason for their pessimism, in almost every case, is a belief that the American people have no idea of what is demanded of them for the long-range struggle against Communism.

“The people,” of course, are not statesmen; neither are they philosophers. They cannot, as “the people,” shape the nation’s strategy nor develop the great ends towards which it should be di-

rected. But a democratic society, if it is to be vi- able at all, rests upon the supposition that the people can discern great ends and support the strategies necessary to attain them if these are made clear to them by the leaders of their society. It is when the leaders themselves are uncertain or timorous that the people falter and, perhaps, finally perish.

Whatever administration comes to power in 1961 will face the task of awakening a complacent nation from its dreams of effortless victory; it will have to spell out the hard realities of competitive coexistence in today’s world. And an adequate sense of national purpose can be grasped only within the framework of such a relevant ethic as Mr. Nitze explores.

It is the lack of an adequate ethical framework for our policy decisions—an adequate public phil- osophy—that has led us to the curious moral desert in which most of our thinking on the problems of modern war has taken place. The majority of Americans (including, certainly, the majority of American leaders) has evaded these problems by pretending they do not really exist: no real at- tempt has been made to relate the strategies of defense planning to the new moral elements which nuclear weapons of mass destruction have intro- duced into history. A minority of Americans, on the other hand, has evaded these problems through a retreat to neo-pacifism. In neither case has there been a public effort to relate the exigencies of contemporary power to the imperatives of moral concern. In this we have brought ourselves peril- ously close to the dread alternatives of either sur- render or annihilation in the event of a military challenge from the Communist powers.

President Eisenhower has recently pleaded with the American people to “have faith” in the triumph of their system. Yes. But, in the order of politics, there can be no salvation by faith alone; here, faith without works is dead. This is the unpleasant but

saving truth which we as a nation must quickly recover.

in the magazines

Those who remember C. P. Snow’s Rede Lecture of last spring, “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution”, may be interested in J. Robert Oppen- heimer’s article, “In the Keeping of Unreason”, which appears in the January issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Like the Snow lecture, Dr. Oppenheimer’s essay is concerned with the “alienation between the world of science and the world of public discourse, which has emasculated, impoverished, and intimidated the world of public discourse without any countervail- ing advantage... and which . . . has denied to public discoursé an element of legitimacy and has given ‘it a kind of arbitrary, uprooted, unfounded quality.” While C. P. Snow is troubled by the effects this alienation has and will have on our response as a society to the challenges of what he has termed “the scientific revolution”, Dr..Oppenheimer explores the nature of, scientific knowledge and the possibili- ties of its cgntribution to a “revival of. all philos- ophy.” He examines in turn the three pre-conditions for public discourse and philosophy.

.The first, “a common basis of knowledge”, he believes to haye been undermined by the quanti- tative and qualitative growth of science outside areas of ordinarily communicable human experience: “I believe: that-it’ is not’ possible to have everyone well informed about what goes on, to have a com- pletely common: basis of knowledge. We do not have it ourselves in the sciences—far from it.” The second pre-condition, “a stable shared tradition”, is also missing, but here the reason is the fact that our culture is. secular..“We certainly live in the heritage of a Christian tradition,” Dr. Oppenheimer writes. But, “I find myself profoundly in anguish over the fact that no ethical discourse of any nobili- ty or weight has been addressed to the problem of the atomic weapons.” ~

“A recognition of the importance of non-proposi- tional knowledge” ‘is the third prerequisite for philo- sophical discourse. “The purpose is not the attain- ment of certainty, the purpose is the exploration of meaning; Dr. Oppenheimer asserts. “My belief is that if the common discourse can be enriched by a more tolerant and humane welcome for the growth of science . , . it_may be more easily possible to accept the role of clarification and of commitment which is the true purpose of philosophy, and not to hang around its neck that dread, dead bird, ‘How can you be sure?’ .. .”

As to C. P. Snow, he publishes in the February issue of Encounter some “Afterthoughts on the “Two- Cultures’ Controversy.” Having aroused a “complex and proliferating debate,” not only in Europe and the United States, but in the Soviet Union and the


East, Sir Charles brings the discussion up to date and answers some of his critics.

British left wing youth have a new publication in the New Left Review, which results from the merging of the New Reasoner with the Universities and Left Review. The first issue (January-February) contains an open letter to the Left by a visiting American, Clancy Sigal, who warns that, unless the Left can fulfill its role of opposition and necessary dissent, British political life will soon come to resemble the American system, in which “political parties [do] not represent inherently distinct ways or visions of life, but . . . exist primarily as institutional shelters for various pressure groups contending within an increasingly ‘pluralistic’ society.”

Furthermore, Mr. Sigal asserts, this system has led to a deterioration of the very fabric of American life. It is his belief that “a chronic moral and cul- tural crisis [is] gathering or present in America; that it is at least partly the responsibility of the major organs of political expression which base their appeal and ideologies on what is rather than what ought to be; and that a special and critical disruption occurred in American life at more or less the same moment when that moral energy which, at its most natural, is directed squarely at important social issues—the national libido—was triv- ialized and strangled by the new spirit of political ‘togetherness’.” :

“Often, here in England,” Mr. Sigal continues, “T have had to listen to criticisms of America, and American life, coming from Labor Party members. I cannot always accept such criticism and in fact regard much of what passes for responsible comment as not well informed. Be that as it may, many of those aspects of American life which British social- ists most abhor . . . are sure to make a more aggres- sive appearance on the British scene, if the Labor Party persists in its present policy of ‘me-too’.”

Pamphlet No. 4 in the “Africa Today” series pub- lished by the American Committee on Africa is “The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland: the Future of a Dilemma.” The author, Channing B. Richardson, analyzes the racial and political problems of Central Africa and speculates on the possibilities of their solution in 1960. In addition to Professor Richardson’s survey, there are commentaries by Kanyama Chiume, Joshua Nkomo, Roy Welensky, Garfield Todd and Guy Clutton-Brock.



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Our Task Is to Discover a Framework that Commends Itself to the Modern Mind

Paul H. Nitze

There are a host of issues facing us today which pose an ethical problem in the field of foreign pol- icy. What kind of international order will prevail in the future? Will it be one compatible with ideas, principles, and political structures such as those we enjoy in the United States while offering a place within that structure to Communist states? Or will it be an international structure designed by and compatible with the objectives of the Communist states while offering a possibility of coexistence to us and to other states similarly organized?

Under what types of circumstances, if any, should we continue nuclear tests? Under what circum- stances, if any, should we actually use nuclear weapons? Under what circumstances, if any, should we use nuclear weapons to enforce our views of what is just and equitable in the relations between nations? Under what circumstances, if any, should we use firm measures to keep our allies from en- gaging in unjust or imprudent actions? What non- coercive measures are appropriate to what kinds of international purposes? What economic or political sacrifices are we justified in making or requiring of others for what purposes? How should one choose between competing or conflicting political object- ives or political groups?

It can perhaps be objected that these questions are too general to permit specific answers. But we still are faced with issues which involve ethical judgments even if we make our questions more spe- cific. The more specific we make our questions the more ‘significant become issues of fact. But even after we have settled all the issues of fact there will remain an irreducible element which poses an ethical judgment.

Others may object that many political questions can be resolved only by the competitive exercise of power and that ethical choice has little place. This objection also falls upon closer analysis.

Werner Heisenberg, the German Nobel physicist

Mr. Nitze, former Director of the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. State Department, is now President of the Foreign Service Educational Foundation in Washington, D.C. His essay forms a section of a paper on ethics and U.S. foreign policy which will soon be published by The Church Peace Union in pamphlet form.

who developed the principles of quantum theory, tells a story which illustrates the point. He describes a conversation which he had with a theological stu- dent during the revolutionary struggles which racked Germany in 1919. Heisenberg was seventeen years old and was attached to a military unit in Munich during a period when the center of the city was occupied by Communists. Every noon the unit fetched its lunch from a field kitchen in the yard of a theological seminary. Heisenberg describes the dis- cussion with the student as follows:

“One day we became involved in a discussion with a theological student on the question of whe- ther this struggle in Munich was in truth meaning- ful. One of our group took the stand that questions of power could not be decided by intellectual means, by speech making and writing; the real de- cision between us and the others could only be determined by force, he declared.

“Thereupon the theology student replied that the very question of who were ‘we’ and who ‘the others’ were obviously depended upon a purely intellectual decision; and that probably a good deal would be gained if this decision were made somewhat more intelligently than was usually the case. We could find no good reply to this argument.” Heisenberg ends the story with the comment that perhaps it might not be so bad if we were to teach youth not to despise the values of the mind.

If it is true, as I believe it is, that foreign policy decisions, along with political decisions in general, involve an irreducible ethical content, how do we go about discovering the relevant ethical framework and how do we describe and justify that framework in terms which commend themselves to belief by the mind of the modern world? Many would say that these are the problems on which theologians and philosophers have broken their skulls for gen- erations, leaving us in the state of intellectual chaos in which we now find ourselves, and that there is little hope that we can do better than to add to the confusion. I take a different view. It seems to me that there is today a convergence of a number of factors which give grounds for hope that rigorous effort can, in the not too distant future, restore a glimmering of light in the existing darkness.

One of these factors is to be found in the devel- opments of modern science and in the implications for philosophy of those developments. One cannot read the more general writings of the leading con- temporary scientists without coming away with the conviction that most of the intellectual blocks which classical physics seemed to throw in the path of belief in a meaningful ethic are on the way out. That blind mechanical determination which flowed from Newtonian mechanics and which seemed in- consistent with ethically oriented and responsible human will no longer find scientific support. Poten- tiality is restored to a position of reality. The gulf between mind and matter is no longer in principle unbridgeable. Man need no longer feel that there is an inherent contradiction between his instinctive knowledge that he is a part of a meaningful universe and a cold science, in which he felt he must believe because of its vast success in elucidating so much of the natural world, but which appeared to cut his essential spirit entirely out from that world.

One of the most important features of the devel- opment and analysis of modern physics is that, as knowledge expands, the concepts of ordinary lang- uage seem more stable than do precise terms of scientific language. The scientific language is de- rived as an idealization from limited groups of ex- perimental phenomena. Scientific concepts are de- rived from experience by refined experimental tools and are precisely defined through axioms and defi- nitions. Only through these precise definitions is it possible to connect them with a refined mathemati- cal scheme and derive mathematically the full vari- ety of phenomena possible in the particular field covered by the experiments. Scientific concepts pro- vide a very close fit to the observable results of ex- periments upon that part of nature accessible to precise measurement and subsumable under mathe- matically tight deductive systems of scientific con- cepts. But they may not fit at all with other parts of nature.

The concepts of ordinary, natural language, on the other hand, are formed by an immediate connection with reality over many generations. They represent the human mind, not merely that portion accessible to certain types of precise measurement. Ordinary language concepts may not be precisely defined but they do not lose touch with reality. They may be somewhat modified over the ages. But they are not subject to sudden and complete falsification by a few unexpected results of scientific experiment.

The general trend of thought in the nineteenth century had been toward an ever-increasing and widespread confidence in the scientific method and toward a correspending skepticism with regard to those concepts of the natural language, like


mind, soul, life, purpose, duty, justice and God, which do not fit into the closed frame of scien- tific thought. Twentieth century physics at first in- creased this skepticism, but then skepticism turned against the over-estimation of precise scentific con- cepts and finally against skepticism itself. It was finally realized that that part of reality covered by scientific concepts is very limited, and the part not covered by them is unlimited. “Understanding,” even of the part covered by scientific concepts, must al- ways be based finally upon the natural language. Hence Heisenberg and others conclude that we must be skeptical about skepticism with regard to this natural language and the essential concepts referred to by it. In this way the door is reopened which seemed to be shutting on the possibility of an ethical view of the world not in contradiction with the modern world of science.

Similarly, the climate of belief with respect to all fundamental ideas of philosophy, the concepts of ontology, epistemology, of logic, has shifted from that which pervaded much of the nineteenth cen- tury and much of this century. No longer do people look at one askance if one says that logical positivism is an inadequate approach to the surn total of reality. Today the writings of a man such as Charles S. Pierce, which received little public attention during his lifetime, are republished and widely commented upon. As confidence in the completeness of our un- derstanding of the material structure of the universe has declined, the stature of the concepts of relation and of mediation has risen to a point where the reality of general ideas, such as duty and justice, is on a par with the reality of the concepts of atomic particles and of simultaneity and of position. And our confidence in our ability to know about and to reason with respect to these general ideas has sim- ilarly be restored.

The second factor which seems to me to converge in indicating that one can have grounds for hope that progress can be made in discovering an ethical framework commending itself to belief by the mind of the modern world is the factor of need. I do not mean to imply that merely because something is needed, it is possible. Rather my point is that when the need is not evident and immediate, people are not apt to take the pains to get to the bottom of difficult questions.

For many generations it appeared to Americans that this country was getting along very well in- deed. Our founding fathers had wrestled with the basic question of the relationship of politics to fun- damental philosophic and ethical concepts and had produced the United States Constitution. The poli- tical institutions which flowed from the Constitution might need minor modification from time to time, but there was little need to rethink the basic philo- sophic ideas behind them. That had been done and


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the results were obviously good. Anyone who might try to tackle the extremely difficult job of thinking the problems through afresh must be some manner of crank. Today the context is changed. The future no longer looks obviously good. To tackle the job of thinking through to fundamentals does not today convict one of being a crank.

The third factor which impresses me is that ideas and ways of approaching the problem of politics and ethics are now being exchanged among those think- ing and writing in this field which offer the prospect of clarifying and simplifying the analysis. These ideas may not be new. Most useful ideas are not novel. But in combination, they suggest, to me at least, the possibility that a major step forward can now be made toward clarity and understanding.

Let me mention a few of these ideas. First there is the idea that one of the basic questions of poli- tics is that of the “we” and the “they.” In any par- ticular context, who is it that is considered to be “we” and who is considered to be the “they”?

Second, there is the idea that any individual par- ticipates in an overlapping system of a number of such “we” structures. Third is the idea that associ- ated with each individual and with each group with which he is affiliated there are overlapping systems of value which are connected with his purposes and the purposes and the functional requirements of each group.

Fourth is the idea that over and beyond the val- ues of any particular array of groupings of human beings there exists an ethical framework which has

| objective validity, of which men can aspire to have

some degree of understanding—not perfect, but ap- proximate—and which can give a measure of in- sight and of guidance to those who seek it.

An important thing about these four ideas in com- bination is that they make possible a distinction be tween the values associated with the purposes and interests of an individual and the groups with which he is associated and the ethical framework pursuant to which ethical judgments as between conflicting value systems are to be judged. The fourth idea, the idea that it is possible to rise above both indi- vidual value systems and socially formed value sys- tems and obtain some approximate insight as to the nature of an objective ethical framework over and above those value systems is obviously closely re- lated to the traditional concept of natural law.

Let us briefly examine the problem of ethics and foreign policy in the light of these four ideas. To be specific, let us assume we are looking at the problem from the point of view of the Secretary of State of the United States.

The Secretary has certain individual distinctions of personal character and personal ambition. He has

duties and obligations to the State Department or- ganization which he heads and which looks to him for leadership. He is a member of the Executive branch of government, at present operating under a mandate to the Republican Party and a Repub- lican President. He takes his oath of office to uphold the United States Constitution and the faithful exe- cution of the laws.

Even in this highly simplified description of the Secretary's relationship to “we” groups internal to the state, we see a complex of international interests, duties and responsibilities—in short, values. Con- flicts of values associated with these different groups arise daily and must be brought into convergence or resolved on some basis. In this context, the primacy of values associated with the nation can be presumed generally to take precedence over those associated with the Secretary as an individual, with the State Department as an organization, or with the Republican-controlled Executive as a branch of government. Nevertheless, even at this level, the harmonizing, integration and concurrent pursuit of multiple values is involved.

When we proceed to the next level and con- sider the interplay of value systems on the inter- national scene—from the standpoint of the Ameri- can Secretary of State—we run into similar com- plexities. The Secretary has a primary obligation and responsibility to the interests of the United States as a nation-state; at this level the people of the United States are the “we”, and all other peoples are the “they”. The Secretary, in represent- ing the coalition system and alliance systems of which the United States is a leading member, has obligations and responsibilities to a much wider “we” group of nations and peoples. If the thesis is accepted that a principal task of United States foreign policy is today the construction and de- fense of a world system of order to replace that shattered in the two world wars, then the values to be pursued by the Secretary of State include those associated with a “we” group virtually co- terminous with mankind as a whole.

We have now reached a level of complexity which does not lend itself to simple methods of analysis. Not only are the value systems associated with each “we” group complex; we now have overlap- ping “we” groups of expanding comprehensiveness to deal with.

At this point a few general observations on value systems appertaining to an individual nation-state may be pertinent. No single value—such as survival, security, power, wealth, prestige, respect, influence or freedom to actualize its potentialities without unwanted outside interference—can be posited as the supreme value in relationship to which the


other values are to be regarded merely as means. Neither are .principles ordering the relationship of means to ends to be regarded as absolutes. What is involved is a complex of interrelated values and principles which in the aggregate define the direc- tion and character of the energy comprising the nation-state. The politician may be able to deduce and define with reasonable precision the interests of a state at a given time in history, in a given context and in the light of currently accepted gen- eral values for the state. But judgment concerning the adequacy or rightness of those general values of a nation-state requires a process more akin to aesthetics than to deductive logic or to the scien- tific method.

Furthermore, the values to be maximized are in- determinate as to time. They are not merely to be assessed over the immediate present or in their re- lation to some future point in time. They are to be integrated over an extended period including the present and the indefinite future. Looking back over other states in past historical eras, one should not assess the values actualized, for instance, by the Athenian city-state merely for their contribution to later civilizations, nor slight them because the Athen- ian city-state did not indefinitely survive. It is only reasonable to judge that the actualization of values by the Athenians had a component of worth in itself.

What has been said above with reference to the nation-state applies with perhaps even greater force to the values to be associated with Western civiliza- tion, with the free world, and most generally, with mankind of today and of the indefinite future. And the values associated with each of these are not identical with, although at many points they may converge with, the values associated with the United States as a nation-state.

Earlier it was suggested that the concept “ethical framework” be distinguished from the concept of value systems associated with particular groups or even a limited system of interrelated groups. It was suggested that the phrase “ethical framework” be reserved for those approximate insights into ob- jective value standing above earthbound value sys- tems. Such insights, at a minimum, can be said to relate to the traditional idea of natural law; at a maximum, they can be said to relate to the insights of religion.

Being myself innocent of any theological train- ing or discipline, I prefer to restrict myself to the minimum approach, that relating to natural law and philosophy.

I suggest that the following points have a bearing on the problem of finding some applicable content for such an ethical framework.


The first is the presupposition that the universe and that life are purposeful.

Professor Arnold Brecht of the New School for Social Research has recently reemphasized the point that the entire structure of the scientific method depends on accepting the presupposition of con- subjectivity, the acceptance of the real identity of an object observed by several persons. The scientific method cannot by its own method prove that con- subjectivity exists. It accepts this presupposition on grounds of common sense.

That the universe and life are characterized by purpose similarly cannot be proved by the scientific method. The common sense grounds for accepting this ethical presupposition, however, seem fully as solid as those for accepting consubjectivity.

The second point is that the general direction of that purpose is not wholly beyond the insight of man. Common sense again rejects the proposition that if the universe is purposeful, that purpose is trivial. It is possible to conceive of highly trivial conceptions and then of less trivial and still less trivial conceptions. A highly trivial conception, for instance, would be that the purpose of the universe is to maximize on a given day the production of bathtubs. A less trivial, but still basically trivial, conception would be that the purpose of the universe is to maximize the material satisfactions of mankind over the span of existence of mankind. If any dis- tinction can validly be made between degrees of triviality, the general direction in which the non- trivial is to be found is, in principle, established.

Third, mankind has in the past developed non- trivial approches to the question of the meaning and purpose of the universe and life. The approaches by each of the great cultures have differed, but none of them has been trivial. That of modern Western civilization—which has now spread to form at least a major component of the approach of most of the world—is based upon the accumulated experience, insight and wisdom of the Judeo-Christian, Greco- Roman and European cultures. One generation after another has added, adapted, tested for error, rec- onciled theory with practice and practice with theory. The resulting structure may be complex; it may not be wholly consistent; it may not be fully adequate to today’s world; but it is not trivial. From it does emerge a sense of direction, an aid to understand- ing, a sense of the beautiful and an insight into values transcending those of the individual, of class, of nation, of sect, or of generation—in other words a framework of reason, of aesthetics and of ethics.

The fourth point is that the human will can be effective only at the margin. Freedom is not ab- solute either for individuals or for nations. Much is determined by forces beyond our control, by events of the past which are irreversible, by accident or chance. At any given moment in time the margin of

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freedom left us may seem so small as to make it hardly worthwhile to exercise our will one way or the other. But the narrow margin of today becomes the foundation of the broader possibility for to- morrow. Over time the margin of freedom—of the possible—expands geometrically. The decision of to- day makes possible, or forecloses, ten decisions of tomorrow.

Fifth, the accumulated wisdom and experience of the past do not always give unambiguous pre- cedents for decisions and actions at the relevant margin of freedom of the present. A new integration of general purpose with the concrete possibilities of the present may then become necessary.

Sixth, changes in degree may, at some point, move so far as to become a change in kind. The most difficult issues of foreign policy and ethics arise where changes of degree become so great that they cross this boundary line and fundamental changes in past policy seem to be indicated.

Let us examine a currently important foreign policy issue in the context of the ideas suggested above. Are any of those ideas relevant and, if so, how and to what extent?

As an example, let us consider the circumstances, if any, under which the deployment and possible use of nuclear weapons might be justified.

Western civilization and its antecedent cultures have not taken the view that the precept of the Sixth Commandment was tobe taken as an absolute. The values of achieving or maintaining freedom, diver- sity and cultural growth and of combatting tyranny, reaction and cultural stagnation or death have been generally considered to overweigh, at least under certain circumstances, the strong presumption against the taking of life. There has been much debate about the circumstances under which the important values are so threatened as to justify action involving the loss of life and much debate about what can be done to reduce the chances of such circumstances arising. But, except for absolute pacifists, the major point— that there may be such circumstances—has been agreed and has been the basis on which foreign policy has been conducted and judged from time immemorial.

There have been, from time to time, changes in the degree of destructiveness of weapons and of war. These changes have, up to now, generally been con- sidered not to have invalidated the major point. But with the advent of nuclear weapons in volume, we are faced with a new issue. Has the change in degree now become one of kind? At the extreme of the possible it may very well have become such. The

release of the full potential for destruction of the nuclear weapons presently available in national stockpiles could amount to virtually total destruc- tion.

Our consideration of an ethical framework sug- gests that the values, even the most important values, associated with any partial group of mankind, say the United States or the U.S.S.R. as nation-states, must be presumed not to be ultimate. A course of action likely to lead to general destruction cannot, therefore, be justified in support of those values.

That there are no conceivable circumstances un- der which the deployment and possible use of nuclear weapons would be justified does not, however, necessarily flow from the same premises.

The argument is made that the whole purpose of a policy of nuclear deterrence is to prevent nuclear weapons from being used. The thesis is that nuclear deterrence both makes possible the preservation of the values of freedom, diversity, and cultural growth and makes the general destruction of a nuclear war so unlikely as to make the risk tolerable.

Some would argue that no risk of so important a stake is tolerable. At a minimum it is clear that the risk must be reduced below its present magnitude. Can that be done? This is largely a question of fact rather than a question for ethical judgment. I be- lieve it can, with great effort, be done—that by, say, 1965 we can so design and construct our nuclear defense system that no rational purpose could be served by the Soviet Union in initiating nuclear war and that, thereafter, little purpose would be served by either side in further accelerating the nuclear arms race, At such a time, if it has not earlier been pos- sible, agreements on the control and regulation of armaments still further reducing the risk of nuclear war should, in my opinion, be possible.

An analysis of the reasons for the inherent in- stability in the current weapons confrontation be- tween the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and the technical considerations which lead to the belief that this inherent instability can be radically reduced over the next few years is not appropriate for inclusion in this essay. The point relevant to this analysis is that an assessment of the facts, of feasible possib- ilities, and of probable consequences of alternative courses of action are essential elements in judging any important issue of foreign policy and ethics.

But the even more important conclusion is that the meaningful analysis of foreign policy cannot even be begun unless we have some idea of an ethical framework from which the analysis can derive its relevance.

other voices


The January issue of the Union Seminary Quarterly Review publishes “Some Ethical Foundations of Christian Theology”, which is the inaugural lecture of Dr. Roger L. Shinn as Professor of Christian Ethics. The following is an excerpt.

Modern historians and social scientists have opened up immense new possibilities for the understanding of culture. Following great pioneers like Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch, many gifted scholars have added to our insight of the relation between faith and culture. Exactly in this area lie some of the greatest problems and adventures of the American church in these days.

How can we, to take one example, disentangle within our ethics the Christian responsibility and the habits of our particular society? Many a church- man still assumes that the prudential ethic of the Enlightenment, which had some relation to the religious virtues of the Puritans, is part of his Christ- ian faith. Many an editorialist or politician uses his standard quotations, not certain whether they come from Scripture or from Poor Richard's Almanac. Now that we no longer live in the Puritan culture, what of the ethic of our forefathers is still valid, what obsolete?

And how can we, to take another example, find ethical help for situations which the human race has never faced before? What is the ethic of interna- tional relations, of war and peace in the atomic age? What is the economic ethic for our society of high productivity? What is the ethic of reproduc- tion in over-populated lands? . . .

Christian ethics, without claiming a monopoly for the interest in culture, has long had as a foremost concern the study of society and its relation to the Christian message. Increasingly this concern be- comes essential, both for the practical work and for the theological concerns of the church.

Another way to get at the same subject is to investigate the characteristic heresies of our time. It is true that a careful study can discover repetitions of many of the heresies of ancient times: of docetism, Arianism, Pelagianism, and so on. But we are not likely to see the whole direction of the church's history hanging on a subtle metaphysical decision.

Men are not likely to martyr other men or turn bitterly against their friends over the meaning of hypostasis and ousia or over the filioque clause.

Without belittling these traditional controversies, one must say that the heresies which tempt the church today are primarily ethical ones. Great political-economic movments threaten or lure church- men into apostasy. We have seen dictators try to take the church into camp, corrupting its message for their vicious purposes. We have seen free societies persuade the church to soften its message, to present the Judge of mankind as a partisan of their way of life. If the American church fails in our time, the reason will not be that lions have eaten its leaders or police burned them at the stake; it will not even be that our economy and politics have enticed them into renouncing God in lust for wealth and power. It will be that a culture has so embraced and cajoled them that they worship its idols, even while directing their liturgies to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us grant that Christian ethics, as preached in our time, has itself contributed to some of these heresies. It has sometimes chained the church to legalisms which had nothing to do with the Gospel of God’s grace. It has fought obvious evils and neglected more dangerous and insidious ones. It has poured its scorn on publicans and sinners, while salving the consciences of self-righteous hypocrites. It has often served its culture—including the pocket- book and the imperial impulses of its culture—to the denial of the Lord. But just as the answer to bad theology is never less theology but better theology, so the answer to a misguided religious ethic is not a less ethical, but a more profoundly ethical faith.

In suggesting that culture is frequently a tempta- tion to heresy, I am not advocating a search for some “pure,” a-cultural Gospel. The Word once made flesh in Jesus Christ must constantly find its flesh in every culture. In the ecumenical church the many cultural expressions of Christian doctrine and life can glorify God in a richer harmony than any one alone or than any attempt at a supercultural church. But Christian faith always—and never more than in our time—must recognize culture both as the most sig- nificant aspect of God’s creation for its work and as a source of temptation to apostasy.

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Santa Barbara, Calif. Sir: Mr. Charles Burton Marshall suggests (World- view, January) that Dr. John C. Bennett should sage 93 “some policy proposal . . . to serve the wel- are of generations to come.” With deference to both your distinguished correspondents I should like to make such a practical proposal.

In so doing I refrain with regret from extended comment on certain of Mr. Marshall’s statements that contain the tragic fallacies of our present policy. But is there not a monumental illogic in his asser- tion: “To be in a position to avoid both thermo- nuclear destruction and Soviet world dominance we require a thermonuclear capability sufficient to halsnoo that of the Soviet”? We cannot avoid ther- monuclear destruction with thermonuclear capa- bility, we can only use it for reprisal. The proposal set out below aims at doing what lies practically in our power to do to prevent the holocaust.

The millennial vocabulary has been pretty well worn out in the discussion, which makes it even more important to keep in mind that a thermonuclear attack on the United States is moderately estimated to produce sixty to seventy million deaths, with commensurate physical damage, and with illness and radiation lingering over many years. In spite of such a prospect (to which must