“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Who said that?

February 25, 2011

When I wrote about George Santayana’s observation that, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” I didn’t realize it was a quote with controversy over the attribution.

English: Spanish-American philosopher and writ...

He said it: Spanish-American philosopher and writer George Santayana, early in his career (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ridley Scott‘s outstanding 2001 movie, “Blackhawk Down,” opened with the quote, but attributing it to Plato, according to Plato expert Bernard Suzanne in Paris.  One philosopher is as good as another, you might say, so it’s understandable that a good line from a modern philosopher like Santayana might be attributed to one of the most famous philosophers of all time (“they all look alike,” I hear someone saying).  Or, the cynics might say, perhaps Santayana lifted it from Plato — after all, who but another philosopher would actually read the stuff?  Who would know?

Suzanne’s sleuthing is impressive if only because it shows the murkiness of the issue.  According to Suzanne:

  • The quote is popular among American soldiers (ask one — report back in comments).
  • Michael Takiff found it attributed to Plato by a U.S. soldier in Vietnam, writing home, in a book published in 2003.
  • No one has found it in any of Plato’s dialogues — at least, no one Suzanne can find.
  • Gen. Douglas MacArthur used the quote in a farewell address to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in 1962, attributing it to Plato.  That would be a likely source of its popularity among U.S. soldiers.
  • The Imperial War Museum, in London, has the quote engraved on its walls, attributed to Plato.  The museum opened in 1936.  Santayana’s version was published in 1922.
  • Reminder: Santayana said it here: Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, number 25 (1922)

Who put it on the wall of the Imperial War Museum, and why did they misattribute it, just a dozen years after Santayana wrote it?


Quote from George Santayana misattributed to Plato

Quote from George Santayana misattributed to Plato, on a coffee mug from Zazzle


What trains? An insult to fascists . . .

February 25, 2011

XKCD cartoon on difficulty of dealing with fascists in jurisdictions where Godwin's Law applies

XKCD cartoon on difficulty of dealing with fascists in jurisdictions where Godwin's Law applies

Earlier today I stumbled on this claim that Godwin’s Law has been suspended:

3. Godwin’s Law

Made obsolete by the Neocons.
Thanks to the Neocons, Godwin’s law is now obsolete.

And then Jim made me smile with this one, in comments down below that really need to be lifted up a bit to higher visibility:

The Anarcho-Libertarianism advocated by the Tea Party and much of the modern GOP is far, far more dangerous. You see, say what you will about the Fascists…but they make the trains run on time. Under the Anarcho-Libertarians, there either ARE no trains…or they operate when and where the privatized rail companies please…and without such pesky intrusions or encumbrances like safety checks. Who needs safe tracks anyway? Let the buyer beware, right? Sure…the market will solve everything. If one trainload of passengers (or toxic waste) derails…not to worry! The free market fairies will sprinkle their magic free market dust all over the wreckage and next time…it won’t happen. Probably. Maybe. Well…what do you expect? We can’t have gub’mint involved, can we?

And of course, the screaming irony here behind trains and fascism and anarcho-conservatism and Scott Walker is that he queered the deal on high speed rail to begin with. Who needs thousands of new jobs in this humming economy?

Yeah, I know. I am all over the place on this one. But I really do agree with you. Equating Governor Walker with a stupid and evil form of governance like fascism is just plain wrong.

And an insult to fascists.

Of course, Leo Strauss’s reductio ad hitlerum does not mean that, anyone’s noting that an idea’s having been shared by Hitler does not make it bad, also does not make the idea good.

Yeah, I tracked the cartoon down — it is, indeed, from XKCD.

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