Some Rigor about Rigorism

April 28, 2005 § 76 Comments

Rigorism, as I understand it, is a form of moral relativism. The moral character of an act is objective (even though culpability for an act does depend upon our knowledge of its moral character). But rigorism asserts that an act is immoral unless it is known to be morally good. The morality of an act is not an objective quality to the rigorist, but is relative to the knowledge of the person carrying out the act.

Laxism is the same sort of moral relativism applied in the reverse direction. Laxism asserts that an act is moral unless it is known to be morally bad.

So the problem with rigorism and laxism is not that one is too strict and the other too indulgent. The problem with rigorism and laxism is that they are both brownshirts in the dictatorship of relativism.

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§ 76 Responses to Some Rigor about Rigorism

  • Rob says:

    I still say that everything is relative on some level. If I am a Catholic and I stipulate certain concepts as objective truths, based on what the Church holds to be objectively true, then I can make moral decisions that are not relativist within the context of my Catholicism. But a non-Catholic who may reject some of those concepts which you have stipulated as objectively true, will see you acts, based on those concepts, as contingent upon “arbitrary” and unproven “truths” and as moral relative only to those continencies. So, I guess you have been correct to call me a relativist with regard to the big picture. Within the context of those core beliefs which I hold to be objectively true, I will insist that I’m not a relativist.

  • c matt says:

    But just because a non Catholic may not hold certain things as true, does not mean they are not true for the non catholic as well. It just means the non catholic is mistaken about their objective veracity.If a Catholic says that 2 + 2 = 4, but a nonCatholic says, no, for me it equals 5, that does not mean 2+2=5 for him, but 4 for you; it means the nonCatholic is simply wrong. And if you agree that, yeah, it can equal 5 for you, then you are a relativist.

  • Ronny says:

    Making truth relative to an accepted authority within a voluntary community is just another kind of relativism.Firstly, even though the adherent of the particular community willingly submits to the authority of another’s truth claims, the adherant’s submission is primarily a subjective act of the will rather than of deference to objective truth.Secondly, it leaves one with no objective means for evaluating the competing truth claims of different communities.Thirdly, it leaves one with the problem of explaining a change of one’s affiliation from one community of truth to another and evaluating the status of the claims of one’s former community of truth from the perspectives of former believer versus current nonbeliever.

  • Anonymous says:

    c matt–Yes, it is quite true that there are objective truths, such as 2+2=4, that all reasonable persons will agree upon. So what? There are even more differences. A Jew will say it is objectively true, since explicitly stated by God, that eating pork is forbidden. A Hindu will say the same about beef. A Catholic will say that both are wrong that these things are objectively true (even though the Catholic has the Bible that says so). What is Truth?

  • Rob says:

    Sorry, I must start using the preview function. “Anonymous” is Rob. The Catholic will say the Jew and the Hindu are both mistaken; that these things are NOT objective truths.

  • zippy says:

    <>The Catholic will say the Jew and the Hindu are both mistaken; that these things are NOT objective truths.<>Well, I am a Catholic and what I would claim is that the claims of the Jew and the Hindu are objectively false. I would claim that they are not objectively true; I would not claim that they are “not objective truths.” The latter claim leaves it implicitly open that they might be some other kind of truth rather than objective truth, but in fact there is no kind of truth other than objective truth.I think a lot of what you struggle with, Rob, is the difference between <>truth<> and <>knowledge of truth<>. Part of the point to my post is that the ontology-epistemology shuffle can be used to sneak relativism in by the back door; and that both rigorism and laxism are instances of sneaky relativism.

  • Ronny says:

    <>What is Truth?<>Ahem, yes, well, quoting Pontius Pilate is probably not the best way to make your point — just a hunch.

  • Rob says:

    Pontius Pilate? Ah, Ronny; guilt by association. Thou McCarthyite!Zippy: God’s Word is Truth. God said that pork is forbidden. That pork is forbidden is objectively true. The thing with the Hindus and the beef is, of course, different–except to the Hindu. Ronny’s previous point was well put, and exactly what I was trying to express. Ronny expressed it better.

  • zippy says:

    Again, Rob, you are confusing knowledge of truth with truth. Scripture confers knowledge of truth, which is quite different (if we are being rigorous) from saying that Scripture <>is<> truth.It either <>is true<> or <>is not true<> that eating pork is morally wrong. Whether eating pork is morally wrong or not doesn’t depend on what some particular human beings <>know<> or <>will<>. Something is <>objective<> if its truth (or falsity) is independent of what any particular human being <>knows<> or <>wills<>.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:I would think that the fact that God says it’s so makes it true independently of whether any living human being knows that God said it. Obviously, no human being can *will* something to be true; but God can, and does.

  • Rob says:

    Okay. The objective truth is that the pig is unclean. The commandment (of which we have knowledge) is not to eat unclean foods.But, Catholics no longer recognize that the pig is unclean? So God changed his mind? God pardoned the pig? The pig is still unclean, but it’s now allowed to eat what is unclean? All objective truths are eternal; but some objective truths are more eternal than others? Wha’?

  • zippy says:

    <>I would think that the fact that God says it’s so makes it true independently of whether any living human being knows that God said it.<>I don’t see how that supports the case you are trying to make for relativism. It seems to undermine it, in fact.<>Obviously, no human being can *will* something to be true;<>Nonsense. Every human act I carry out involves me willing something to be true. If it were impossible to will something to be true then the word “will” would have no meaning. It is true that an <>act<> involves more than just <>willing<>. It also requires some capacity to transform that willing into reality. When we talk about a <>human act<> we are talking about a state of being brought about by an act of the will. Once it <>becomes<> true it is no longer in my power to make it <>not<> true, though.

  • zippy says:

    <>All objective truths are eternal; but some objective truths are more eternal than others? Wha’?<>It isn’t clear what you are attempting to demonstrate by making your confusion explicit.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:In man willing and wanting are conflated. St. Paul says that he wants to do the good, but all he can actually do is that which he hates. He directs his will toward the good, but he can’t actuate it. God wants nothing; God wills a thing and it is. Man does not have that capacity.

  • Rob says:

    Is it not an objective truth that the pig is an unclean animal?

  • zippy says:

    <>In man willing and wanting are conflated.<>Well, no. But even if we stipulated it, that would support moral relativism how?

  • zippy says:

    <>Is it not an objective truth that the pig is an unclean animal?<>It is true that under the old covenant Jews were forbidden to eat pork, and that under the new covenant Christians are not.Now you seem to be confusing simplicity and transparency with objectivity. It either is or is not objectively true that all non-trivial zeros of the zeta function have real part one-half. But knowledge of whether this is (or is not) true is neither simple nor transparent.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:Why don’t you just leave off my argument, which is getting us nowhere and go back up and address the argument that Ronny made? If you refute Ronny, you have refuted me, and I’ll concede the point.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:No! It is objectively true that the pig is an unclean animal. It is KNOWN that eating unclean animals is forbidden. Either pigs are unclean, or they are not: that is either objectively true, or objectively false. What is allowed under one covenant or the other, is what is known, and obviously contingent upon other things.

  • zippy says:

    I don’t see anything in what Ronny said that requires refutation. He said this:<>Making truth relative to an accepted authority within a voluntary community is just another kind of relativism.<>with which I agree; in fact I’ve warned against exactly this in my posts where I discuss the issue of < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2005/04/ultramontane-moral-relativism.html" REL="nofollow">ultramontane moral relativism<>.Ronny also talks about some general epistemic problems, but I don’t claim to have answers for everyone’s epistemic problems and I don’t in general think that epistemic “certainty” works the way people think it works. My prescription for epistemic angst ranges from a glass of Talisker to a swift kick in the ass, depending upon the particular clinical situation.

  • Rob says:

    It matters whether willing and wanting are conflated because I said that man can’t will something to be true, and you disagreed. My point it that man can *want* something to be true, and engage his *will* in an attempt to bring that something about, but man will fail unless God *wills* that man succeed. Man cannot will something to be true, or actual, or manifest.

  • zippy says:

    As far as I can tell that has no relevance to your polemic in favor of moral relativism and against moral realism. And I never claimed that a man can act against God’s permissive will.Maybe you are arguing that man cannot will, and therefore cannot act, and therefore cannot be responsible for his acts, and therefore there is no such thing as objective morality. Whatever. I take it as manifest that a man can will, act, and be morally responsible for his acts. You may claim that I can’t know that that is true, but see my prescriptions for epistemic angst.

  • Rob says:

    “Making truth relative to an accepted authority within a voluntary community is just another kind of relativism.”Okay. I also agree with that. In fact, that is all I am trying to say. So, I guess “The world is everything that is the case.” And then?

  • Anonymous says:

    Are you saying, then, that while it can be hypothesized that objective truths exist, since it is impossible to ever have enough information to prove that any given proposition can be proven to be objectively true, the best we can do is to group together and agree upon a set of more or less arbitrary rules according to which we all agree to attempt to abide?

  • zippy says:

    <>Are you saying, then, that while it can be hypothesized that …<>No. I am saying that objective truth exists, and that people who think their personal epistemological obsessions undermine the existence of objective truth don’t need philosophy or theology. They need either a generous glass of Talisker or a swift kick in the ass.

  • Rob says:

    The problem here, is that you confine yourself to abstractions, playing logical word games, that are unwilling, or unable, to apply to hypothetical examples of ordinary human moral conduct. And, if anyone else attempts to do so, they get told that what they’ve said has nothing to do with anything that has been previously stated. But it may, though it may not be expressed in mode that you prefer. You kick ass on the debate platform, but what do you do out on the street, after the show?

  • zippy says:

    There are many < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2005/04/just-garment.html" REL="nofollow">discussions<> of < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2005/04/disappearing-intentions.html" REL="nofollow">concrete<> < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2005/04/intentional-wishful-thinking.html" REL="nofollow">applications<> on Zippy Catholic. And the prescription for Talisker or ass-kicking isn’t merely rhetorical. Those are two great methods for getting in touch with the existence of objective truth as something more than a hypothesis.

  • Rob says:

    Yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about.

  • Rob says:

    So, how are you going to demostrate that you can prove that any given moral precept is objectively true, without involving yourself in a regression to an act of faith?

  • c matt says:

    For that matter, how can you prove that any given physical precept is objectively true, without involving yourself in a regression to an act of faith? How can you prove that walking off a cliff will result in falling (and possible injury) without relying on faith (short of actually doing it)? As Steve Kellmeyer pointed out on his blog, faith is believing (1) that past experience will hold true for similar future actions (eg, I walked off a cliff before, and gravity pulled me to the ground, therefore, I have <>faith<> that should I walk off a cliff in the future, it will happen again) or (2) that someone you have found credible in the past will also be credible in future pronouncements on a subject area in which you find they have expertise (my brother was correct that when he walked off a cliff, he fell down, thus I would have <>faith<> in his counsel that if I walked off a cliff, I would fall down). Everyone relies upon faith every day (and reasonably and necessarily so).Applying that to moral precepts, in matters of past morality (particularly the harm caused by artificial contraception to individuals and society in general) the RC Church has been dead on; thus, it would be objectively reasonable to follow its moral precepts in this area.My point is (aside from longwinded) why does “regression to an act of faith” automatically render invalid the conclusion that something is objectively true?

  • Rob says:

    “…why does “regression to an act of faith” automatically render invalid the conclusion that something is objectively true?”c matt:Maybe it doesn’t. That’s what I’m asking Zippy to demonstrate, one way or the other. As for the rest of your point, while there is a well-known philosophical argument (Hume, as I remember) that cause and effect can’t be proven, all of science is based on the empirical method of experimentation and repetition of outcomes–and it works. So, in science, you regress to the level of data which can be tested, and tests that can be repeated to see if they “always” hold true; that’s pretty solid, objective, mathematically measurable stuff. The properties of gravity can be reduced to math.

  • Rob says:

    “…the harm caused by artificial contraception to individuals and society in general…”c matt:How would you prove that artificial contraception has caused harm to individuals and society in general, in order to show that contraception is an objective evil? And how would you counter the argument that it has also been a boon to individuals and society in general, that somebody else might claim proves that it is an objective good?

  • c matt says:

    hmm…therein lies the problem, possibly. In order to determine if something is objectively evil, first, you have to agree upon a definition of evil. I suppose with contraception, what one would call evil (thwarting the natural ends of the procreative act) another may call good. I suppose that one could go further and claim that widespread promiscuity facilitated by condoms is also “good”. And further, the artificial decoupling of acts from the responsiblity for their natural consequences is also a “good”. If one is intent on calling good evil and evil good, there is not much that can be “proven” to one or the other. Perhaps the problem with evil is that people don’t like to hear that value laden word. If one were to say “disordered” – that is, an act is adulterated or modified so that it does not comport with the naturally ordered end of said act, then maybe a basis for proven its objective disorderedness can be made. I suppose that I could argue murder is a “good” if it rids me of an unwanted rival.

  • Rob says:

    c mattSurely, to the extent that birth control spawns promiscuity, it can be seen as evil. Where, however, it leads to low birth-rates in a general population (most of whom are not promiscuous) and therefore increases prosperity and all the good things like health, education, long life spans, that prosperity brings, some people will see it as good, and be able to document why. It is arguable that without artificial birth control the whole world would now be “Third World.” Therefore, those of us who are lucky enough to live in the First World, are benefitting greatly from the low birth rate, even if we denounce that which contributes to our prosperity as evil. Shouldn’t we, then, give up our prosperity?

  • zippy says:

    <>So, how are you going to demostrate that you can prove that any given moral precept is objectively true, without involving yourself in a regression to an act of faith?<> I don’t believe I ever claimed that I could. If at some point I start a thread on epistemology that may come up. It is bound to be a lengthy thread, because epistemology is a big and controversial topic. In the meantime I am interested in sticking to the point that anti-realism is easily refuted by a solid punch in the nose. I am less interested in what Wittgenstein would say in general than in what he would say as he was picking up his dislodged teeth.

  • Rob says:

    Oh, he’d probably just philosophically present the other cheek with a curse for Bishop Berkeley.

  • Rob says:

    So what is your position on taking full advantage of the pleasant life-style and general prosperity made possible for the many by an artificially low birth-rate, “achieved” by the use of birth control?

  • zippy says:

    <>So what is your position on taking full advantage of the pleasant life-style and general prosperity made possible for the many by an artificially low birth-rate, “achieved” by the use of birth control?<>I don’t know if the question was directed to me, but I will answer it anyway.1) You should not assume that I agree with the premise of your question. “Zippy is personally better off because of birth control” is not the manifestly true statement you seem to think that it is.However, 2) As a Catholic I recognize that our current state of life rests atop a history rife with evils, and that our just state absent Christ’s redemption is death. We are not, however, absent Christ’s redemption.

  • Ronny says:

    <>I don’t see anything in what Ronny said that requires refutation.<>I hope not — I was intending my remarks as a critique, not defense, of those who deny the mind access to objective truths yet offer community-specific “truths” as a way out of relativism. My point is that such theories in the end are just another species of relativism.<>Ronny also talks about some general epistemic problems, but I don’t claim to have answers for everyone’s epistemic problems and I don’t in general think that epistemic “certainty” works the way people think it works. My prescription for epistemic angst ranges from a glass of Talisker to a swift kick in the ass, depending upon the particular clinical situation.<>I wholeheartedly agree. The epistemic problems I listed were intended to demonstrate how deferring to communitarian authority while demurring on the knowability of objective truth is just another form of relativism. They are not ones that will plague a metaphysical realist.For all practical purposes, we are by default and in our everyday lives metaphysical realist. It is only when we wish things were differently than they are or engage in abstract philosophical discussions that are not grounded in reality that we become relativists. Even Wittgentstein would know that when Zippy starts pulling his fist back, it is time to snap out of his solipsistic musings and duck.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy is personally better off because of birth control, because Zippy is able to live (and chooses to live) in a much nicer over-all environment because of the low birth-rate than he would without it. One can see the correlation between low birth-rate and general prosperity, and resultant pleasant surroundings, where ever low birth-rate is the case, across the globe, cross-culturally. If you don’t want to accept the premise, you are just being stubborn. So be it. Birth control was only being used as an example of something that is allegedly an objective evil, but one that would seem difficult to demonstrate as such to any person for whom it isn’t an article of faith. I am happy to consider any other example instead. I question that any truth that is not empirically derived can be called “objective” in the sense that 2+2=4 is objective.

  • Rob says:

    If a thing is objectively true, false, good, or evil, it should be demonstrably so to a Fiji islander, or to a Harvard political science professor.

  • zippy says:

    <>Zippy is personally better off because of birth control, because…<>Well, no, I am not. You don’t know anything about me personally.<>I question that any truth that is not empirically derived can be called “objective” in the sense that 2+2=4 is objective.<>2+2=4 is not empirically derived, it is a priori.<>If a thing is objectively true, false, good, or evil, it should be demonstrably so …<>Is that a moral claim about what should be the case? Would you find it morally offensive if there were things that were objectively true but were not universally demonstrable? Because I know all sorts of mathematical truths that do not appear to be universally demonstrable. One of those mathematical truths – Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem – is a rigorous demonstration that not all truths are demonstrable in the domain of mathematics.

  • Rob says:

    “2+2=4 is not empirically derived, it is a priori.”What I said was: “I question that any truth that is not empirically derived can be called “objective” in the sense that 2+2=4 is objective.” So I didn’t say the equation was empirically derived, but that both an empirically derived fact and 2+2=4 are objective. That might not be exactly true, but at least please correctly characterize my errors.“You don’t know anything about me personally.”That is true. You may live in the slums of Calcutta, and possibly don’t even know any millionaires personally. I stand corrected.As for the last bit, the great thing about moral truths is that they are so terribly complicated as a mathematical proof can be, nor do they require so much specialized training, or a technical vocabulary to master. That is most likely why Jesus came as a carpenter, rather than as a philosopher, geometer, or theologian. Most folks can understand “Measure twice and cut once.”

  • Rob says:

    Correction: As for the last bit, the great thing about moral truths is that they are NOT so terribly complicated…”

  • zippy says:

    <>What I said was: <>I understand. You proposed a standard for truth: “empirically derived”. And you established an archetype objective truth: “2+2=4”. Which is not empirically derived. I was pointing out the inconsistency. Clearly you <>do<> accept, as true, propositions (e.g. mathematical propositions) which are not empirically derived.<>…the great thing about moral truths is that they are NOT so terribly complicated as a mathematical proof can be…<>I do understand that you believe all moral truths to be trivial, and that if something nontrivial is proposed as a moral truth you reject it. I currently understand your position to be that unless a proposed moral truth is immediately transparent to you, you will not even consider the possibility that it might nevertheless legitimately apply to you. Moral knowledge is singled out, among all kinds of knowledge, as being only legitimate when trivial.

  • Rob says:

    “Moral knowledge is singled out, among all kinds of knowledge, as being only legitimate when trivial.”Zippy:Your interpretation of what I’m saying is becoming almost bizarre. First of all, quite removed from your ad hominem characterizations of me, you are equating the terms “simple” and “trivial.” I think you should expend a few words defending that concept. What could be more simple, yet less trivial, than, for example, the Beatitudes, or the Ten Commandments, or most any of the parables of Jesus? There is nothing “trivial” about the old carpenters’ adage “Measure twice and cut once.” That adage, applied to human moral decision-making, is both simple and profound.Your problem is that you cannot *value* simplicity. If you can’t make a question so technical and complicated that only you and a few philosophically-trained intellectuals can follow your train of thought, then you have no interest in it. Jesus wasn’t, for the most part, addressing the intelligensia of Palestine as He revealed for our eternal benefit the Truths of His Revelation; he was speaking to peasants and fishermen, farmers, herdsmen, day laborers, and small merchants. God help us if we had the Revelation only from the likes of Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine: only those with advanced degrees could be saved.As for me personally, I find that I have difficulty acting on a moral precept if I can’t understand it. Call me madcap, but that’s my zany take on epistemology. Please take note that I’m just an under-insured clerk, working in the obscure, subterranean bowels of a vast bureaucracy, located somewhere on the rustbelt fringes of Western Civilization. I need to be fed my philosophy and religion as sprinkled, if you will, on a bowl of cornflakes. So sue me.

  • zippy says:

    <>Your problem is that you cannot *value* simplicity.<>Au contraire. ‘Tis that I do not value <>only<> the manifestly simple, and I do not value a thing only inasmuch as it <>is<> manifestly simple.<>I find that I have difficulty acting on a moral precept if I can’t understand it.<>Ah, you mean a wacky complicated one such as “do not use birth control”? That is a quite simple moral precept, but it is not a <>trivial<> moral precept. I can’t say what happens in your internal intellectual life, of course, but its manifestation here is to accept only the intellectually trivial (which, as you correctly note, is different from “simple”).

  • Rob says:

    “…do not use birth control, for example.”Who said “Do not use birth control?” It wasn’t Moses. It wasn’t Jesus Christ. It wasn’t St. Paul. Therefore, I merely ask, “Why not?” I can give you several very good reasons FOR using birth control. The reason for not using it is obscure to me, both in its origin and in its intention. Many people, including most Catholics, agree with me that they don’t see the reason. If God had uttered the injunction, they would see the reason: that’s simple. On the other hand, God said “Vengeance is mine,” but we feel free, with the full approval of many clergy, to go ahead and execute criminals, thus ending the possibility that they might one day repent of their crimes and be saved. What I look for, Zippy, is simple consistency. I don’t find much of it.

  • Rob says:

    Or consider that Jesus said, several different times, several different ways “Don’t amass wealth, if you want to be saved.” How much verbiage is spent in the attempt to make that mean something else? What we usually hear is, “Well, Jesus didn’t mean that we shouldn’t *acquire* wealth, what He really meant was that we shouldn’t become *attached* to the wealth that we acquire.” Right. Then you’re telling me that Jesus was an inarticulate moron Who couldn’t properly express what He meant, but, luckily for me, you are here to interpret for Him. Gosh, thanks a lot!

  • zippy says:

    <>Then you’re telling me that Jesus was an inarticulate moron Who couldn’t properly express what He meant, but, luckily for me, you are here to interpret for Him.<>Um, no. He established a Church for you, actually, and not only, and perhaps not most importantly, as a sure guide to moral truth. But I think I’ve basically said what I have to say in this thread.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:Moi aussi. Please understand that the “you” in my last posting is not you, Zippy, but you, “one”. I just didn’t want to sound like I was fresh from the playing field of Eton.

  • William Luse says:

    <>Many people, including most Catholics, agree with me that they don’t see the reason<> [for not using birth control].I know it’s hard to believe, but 50 million Catholics can be wrong.I think I can offer a reason for not using birth control: when one is more concerned that murderers not be executed than with welcoming new (and innocent) life into the world, one suffers from a lack of “simple consistency.”

  • zippy says:

    Its OK Rob, you know I love you man.

  • Rob says:

    William:Perhaps my lack of understanding on the issue of birth control is a result of my inability to pinpoint the origin of the prohibition. I, of course, welcome new life into the world; just not in numbers that would make life in the world a hell of starvation, disease, ignorance, and dog-eat-dog deprivation. Birth control has been widely available in the West for 40 years. Imagine how different the world would look today if you combined modern medicine, and its high infant survival rates, with 19th century birthrates that had most women giving birth to 6 or 8 or 10 infants, more than half of whom survived to reproduce. If I could be shown some basis for saying that birth control is objectively evil, maybe I could justify what is happening today in Mexico, for instance, happening everywhere. Man thwarts the natural results of natural causes every time he administers antibiotics, or performs complicated surgery to save a life. Birth control doesn’t kill, if ensoulment occurs at conception, it only prevents, or postpones, if you will, the conception of new life. A good shepherd limits the size of his herd to what his pasturage will support. God tasked Man both with filling the earth and with the stewardship of the earth; that means bringing about a balance, not an all-or-nothing solution.

  • Rob says:

    Back at you, Zip.

  • Rob says:

    “…when one is more concerned that murderers not be executed than with welcoming new (and innocent) life into the world,…”William, I have to take exception to that characterization of where I place my concern. If you had said “when one is equally concerned that murderers not be executed and that the earth not become overpopulated” I would endorse your point wholeheartedly.You will also note, that I gave two reasons for being against capital punishments, based on what I believe to be God’s will: 1) that all men have the opportunity to be saved through acceptance of Jesus Christ and their personal Savior, and opporunity that ends at death; and 2) that man is allowed to punish evildoers, but not to take vengeance, which is reserved by God, to God. A murderer in a cage is being punished; but to slay a murderer is to avenge the murder of his victim. Lock the murderer in a tiny cell with nothing but bread, water and a Bible, but don’t take his life; his life belongs to God, not to you.

  • zippy says:

    <>Perhaps my lack of understanding on the issue of birth control is a result of my inability to pinpoint the origin of the prohibition.<><>Matthew Chapter 16:<>“18. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.19. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth it shall be loosed also in heaven.”<>Romans I Chapter 2:<>“26. For this cause, God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature.”Perhaps the fact that all Christian denominations were universally opposed to birth control until the 1920’s is some hint that it isn’t the unfathomable moral mystery that moderns really really wish that it was.I have a friend who converted to Catholicism for precisely this reason. As the whole world was getting sexuality terribly wrong, the lone voice that got it right – absolutely the only voice – was a waffling wimpy aged effeminate celibate: the voice of Peter echoing down the millenia through the person of Pope Paul VI.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:I have no argument with statements of the obvious: sexuality has been corrupted. Large doses of discipline, self-respect, sacrifice of empty “pleasure”, and much more are called for. But does this mean that the human race is charged with the task of breeding itself into a general famine, plague and massive die-off, with the inevitable war of all-against-all for the insufficient resources remaining?Medicine has eliminated the infant deaths and the childhood diseases that for millennia slowed the rate of population growth and allowed man to fill the world, without exhausting its bounty. But it is a finite world and it cannot accommodate uncontrolled growth on the part of a species capable of manipulating every natural law and exploiting every utilizable nook and cranny of the planet. As I said part of the commandment of Genesis was stewardship. A good shepherd limits the size of his flock according to the pasturage available: he does not let it breed into starvation. What was true for the past has become the lie of the present. And the passage you quote could refer to things other than mechanical birth control: sodomy and abortion both come to mind there.

  • zippy says:

    Who are you going to follow, Malthus or Christ?

  • Rob says:

    “…Malthus or Christ?”You haven’t demonstrated yet that this isn’t a false choice. What makes you so sure that man’s ability to control the environment isn’t a gift of God? Why do you (apparently) think that it’s allowable to thwart, or manipulate nature in some things, but not in others? If that quote you cited earlier is the best you can do for scriptural sanction against bc, you are on shakey ground for calling it “objectively evil.”

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:So, when did the Church first explicitly ban the use of birth control?

  • zippy says:

    <>Why do you (apparently) think that it’s allowable to thwart, or manipulate nature in some things, but not in others?<>Because I don’t use the word “nature” in this context the way you use it. “Nature” the way I use it presupposes that natural things have a moral purpose, a telos. It does not mean “whatever happens to be the case”. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”“…fill the earth and subdue it” doesn’t even separate the concepts by so much as a punctuation mark, so you invoking man’s dominion over nature as a license for man to intentionally sterilize his sexual acts is particularly ironic, from the standpoint of biblical exegesis.At some point I may compose my own essay on birth control, why it is objectively evil, and why the Vienna-circle style “why not” attempt to dismantle it as a moral prohibition is intellectually infantile. In the meantime there is a decent brief on it from a biblical and historical perspective < HREF="http://www.deoomnisgloria.com/mt/archives/000440.html" REL="nofollow">here<>. Where most of these briefs fall short, and where I may have something to add to the discussion, is on the natural law side of things. The biblical/traditional side of things is so manifestly conclusive that denying it is like claiming that we were “certain” that Saddam had WMD’s he was going to give to Al Qaeda.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:I would be willing to prohibit permanent sterilization, along with abortion, if you would admit that the use of a condom is not different in essence from “the rhythm method” as used to “space” pregnancies. You are like the Amish, who use buttons, but not zippers, to keep their clothing decently closed.

  • zippy says:

    You can’t ask me to “admit” a falsehood. The choice of when to perform an act is not identically the same as the choice of what act to perform. It is of course possible in general to do wrong in the choice of <>when<>, as opposed to in the choice of <>what<>. But <>what<> and <>when<> are not the same thing.

  • Rob says:

    So, it’s only the means that are objectively evil, even if the ends are identical?Is this couple allowed to employ a thermometer and a basal temperature chart, for more surety as to “when” the female has not in ovulated, or does that cross the line?

  • zippy says:

    Neither the means nor the ends are identical. You seem to think that the intended end is “not to have children”. But that isn’t the intended end. If it were, then the couple would not engage in sex at all.A contracepted sex act is not the same act as a non-contracepted sex act.I happen to think that the cult-of-NFP prevalent in modern American Catholic circles is treading on dangerous moral ground. It is my belief that NFP is probably only objectively moral in a very restricted set of circumstances, and that if those circumstances do not obtain then only a complete abstinence (as opposed to periodic abstinence) would, as an objective matter, be moral. The Church hasn’t said much about it: we have some Magisterial pronouncements proposing that <>grave<> reasons are necessary and some proposing that <>serious<> reasons are necessary, and the laxists interpret that as a license to say that any <>serious<> reason will do.But all that aside, <>when<> is undeniably a <>different<> moral ground from <>what<>.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy:Okay. If you stipulate that NFP is equivalent to condom use for the purpose of postponing, or spacing, pregnancies, I will have to admit that you are at least being consistent. More than that I can’t ask of you.

  • zippy says:

    <>If you stipulate that NFP is equivalent to condom use for the purpose of postponing, or spacing, pregnancies,…<>NO, they are <>not<>. Even in a case where using NFP would be objectively wrong, it would be objectively wrong <>for different reasons<>. A naturally infertile act – even a precisely timed one – is <>a different thing<> from an act which has been intentionally modified to rule out fertility. <>When<> is not the same thing as <>what<>. The means, the end, and the act itself are all different in the two cases, <>even if we choose a ‘when’ case that is immoral<>.

  • Dr. Ruth says:

    “If it were, then the couple would not engage in sex at all.”LoL!

  • Rob says:

    “The means, the end, and the act itself are all different in the two cases, even if we choose a ‘when’ case that is immoral.”If the end is to have sex without a pregnancy occurring, the “naturalness” of it is purely semantic. You and yours may think it’s natural to mutually shove a thermometer where the sun don’t shine to get a safe reading prior to each time you have sex, but that ain’t “natural” around these parts. What Onan did was natural. He was struck dead for disobedience of a direct order.

  • zippy says:

    <>If the end is to have sex without a pregnancy occurring, the “naturalness” of it is purely semantic.<>Semantic, as in pertaining to what the words actually mean, sure. You can jump up and down insisting that an act that has been modified (performed in a different way, not performed at a different time) to rule out fertility is the same as an act that has not been so modified. But jumping up and down screaming that black is white doesn’t make black, in fact, white.Maybe this is Rob’s Moral Uncertainty Principle: observing something about an act is the same thing as changing the act into an entirely different act. Good luck deducing that one from the Bible using a sola scriptura hermaneutic. You’ll find it in Heisenberg chapter 10 verse 19.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–If the basic issue is that a sex act should entail the possibility of procreation, then both the rhythm method and condoms are methods to radically lessen the probability that pregnancy will occur. Is it the means, or the end, that is spoken of in those verses of scripture most frequently used to support the ban on birth control? I think it is the end, so both methods are equivalent in their intent to thwart that end, although in form they differ.

  • zippy says:

    “…radically lessen the probability that pregnancy will occur…”That does not describe an end, nor does it describe a means. An intention to engage in a sex act that happens to be naturally infertile is different from an intention to modify a naturally fertile act in order to render it infertile. As far as I can tell your argumentative strategy has been to repeat “is too” as many times as possible. But asserting that two different kinds of act are the same kind of act doesn’t make them the same kind of act.

  • zippy says:

    And this, by the way:<>If the basic issue is that a sex act should entail the possibility of procreation…<>is not the basic issue. For about the thousandth time. You can’t refute a position by showing that if you start with different premeses you reach a different conclusion.The Church does not teach, and natural reason does not require, that a moral sex act must as a matter of fact entail the possibility of procreation. The Church teaches, and natural reason requires, that a moral sex act must not be modified in order to intentionally rule out procreation.

  • […] decade or so I have to reiterate the point that reasoning well – that is, rigorously – isn’t the same thing as the form of […]

  • […] My present view is that (married, obviously) sexual relations are definitely and unquestionably licit in cases (1) and (2a) (directly contrary to CJ’s impression). I don’t have a strong view of whether relations are morally licit in cases (2b) and (3a) (the ‘hard cases’ if you will), and I am pretty certain that relations are illicit in case 3b.  (It is this latter conclusion that makes some folks consider my views “hard core” or rigorous, sometimes incorrectly characterized as rigorist or physicalist). […]

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