Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Healing and harming

Plato was impressed with the idea that he who can best heal is he who can best kill. I doubt it. The big brawny person with the nail-studded club can kill as well as a physician. But a weaker claim seems plausible: those who are competent to make one well are competent to make one unwell. The reverse is false. Competence with clubs and poisons does not imply competence in surgery and healing drugs. Similarly, it is easy to completely destroy a car and hard to be a mechanic. The asymmetry is interesting. It suggests an important asymmetry between good and evil.

5 comments:

Matt said...

Physicians could create bioweapons and kill a lot more people than the brawny guy with a club. Although I doubt this is what Plato had in mind.

Alexander R Pruss said...

True, but nuclear physicists can do pretty much as well (or badly).

And probably in Plato's time, the guys with clubs (and swords and spears) were more effective than the physicians.

loudogg said...

This reminds me of how Sauron is unable to anticipate the altruistic actions of Frodo and crew precisely because he is unsympathetic. But it's asymmetrical = the good guys can predict what someone who is corrupt might do because it is generally easier to predict what someone with less understanding would do than to predict what someone with more understanding would do. If you could predict it, you could understand it and it wouldn't reflect more understanding.

MG said...

This reminds me of C.S. Lewis' point that people who have never really tried to be good don't even understand badness.

Jarrett Cooper said...

Here's another example: It is easier for a sober man to become a drunk than it is for a drunkard to become sober.

Oh how the virtuous can more easily do wrong than those who are wicked to do good.