Object Lesson II

July 31, 2006 § 38 Comments

The Church teaches us that certain acts are intrinsically evil: they are evil by the nature of their object.

The Church also teaches the principle of double-effect: that an act can have an evil effect which is unintended, and that such an act may (if it meets other criteria) be licit. Sometimes the known-but-unintended effect is called an indirect voluntary effect.

One way of simplifying an aspect of the issue is to observe that, in the case of acts known to be intrinsically evil, double-effect simply does not apply. So in the case of an intrinsically evil act — direct abortion, contracepted sex, direct killing of the innocent, torture, etc — there isn’t any point in saying that a certain effect is known but unintended. There isn’t any point to it because it would only be relevant if the act we were talking about was not an intrinsically evil act. The fact that we are talking about an intrinsically evil act means that double-effect is off the table. A plea of “known but unintended” before the Judge doesn’t make an intrinsically evil act morally defensible, because “known but unintended” is only a valid defense in the case of acts which are not intrinsically evil.

Object Lesson

July 31, 2006 § 6 Comments

To “deliberately frustrate the conjugal act” is to:

A) Modify the conjugal act in a way intended to prevent conception
B) Intentionally modify the conjugal act in a way which knowingly prevents conception
C) Either A or B

To “deliberately kill noncombatants” is to:

A) Modify the targeting in a way intended to kill noncombatants
B) Intentionally modify the targeting in a way which knowingly kills noncombatants
C) Either A or B

To “deliberately throw the baseball through the window” is to:

A) Modify the throw in a way intended to make the ball go through the window
B) Intentionally modify the throw in a way which knowingly makes the ball go through the window
C) Either A or B

Correct answer: C

In the technical moral theology sense of object, intent, and circumstances, we can understand the object of an act (roughly) by asking what we chose to do. We can understand the intent of an act (roughly) by asking what we hoped to accomplish by doing it. (Or at least for me those questions help to identify object and intent as distinct components of an act. Your mileage may vary).

This can be pretty confusing, because sometimes the thing we choose to do is also referred to as intended. And indeed it is intended, because it is, after all, the thing we chose to do. But nevertheless the intent in what we choose to do is different from the intent in what we hope to accomplish, and the latter is the “intent” in the triune model of the human act as object, intent, and circumstances.

With answers ‘A’ I attempt to address the intent of the act, whereas with answers ‘B’ I attempt to address the object of the act. If the object of the act is evil, the act is evil. If the intent of the act is evil (even as a prerequisite to a good effect), the act is evil. It follows therefore that if either of the intents (from answers A or B) obtain for an intrinsically evil act, the act is evil.

All of this, of course and as usual, assuming that Zippy has the faintest idea of what he is talking about.

Hollywood to Christians: F*** You

July 30, 2006 § 25 Comments

But Judge Matsch zeroed in on the real issue. “[T]he Studios do not compete in this alternative market,” he wrote, referring to the world of conservative and religious families that patronized CleanFlicks and the other family-video editors. “[T]he infringing parties are exploiting a market for movies that is different from what the Studios have released into and for an audience the Studios have not sought to reach,” he continued. “[I]t is a question of what audience the copyright owner wants to reach.”

And so it is. It’s one thing to show a cleaned-up version of Wedding Crashers for the enjoyment of passengers on a flight from Los Angeles to Paris; but for a family in Provo to be able to watch it together is another matter entirely. One of the conservative complaints about Hollywood has always been that it’s a town where people will exploit anything for a dollar. But it seems that there are still limits: Catering to a religious audience is something the studios just won’t do.

(HT: William Luse (via email))

Statuesque Superstition Redux

July 29, 2006 § Leave a comment

It seems to me that there is a difference between a particular practice being categorically superstitious and that practice being historically superstitious. Thanks to The Fifth Column for a useful distinction, and to Dan Jasmin for asking exactly the right question in the first comment of my old post.

Nukes don’t kill people…

July 29, 2006 § 8 Comments

…people kill people.

This has got to be one of the dumbest arguments I have ever seen in favor of the moral liciety of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If possession of a gun for deterrence is licit then clearly every actual time a gun has been fired in anger it was necessarily licit.

You Can’t Fool Mother Nature

July 29, 2006 § Leave a comment

It turns out that when a man fails to provide for and defend his wife and children, divorce is much more likely. It turns out that when a woman refuses to place herself and her children at the mercy of what her husband can provide and make a home for him, divorce is much more likely.

What a shocking development.

Calvin and Hobbes

July 29, 2006 § 1 Comment

Sometimes the more flagrant and obvious a lie, the more passionately people believe it.

Take the Hobbesian statement “war is the natural state of man”.

I would be hard pressed to invent a more obvious and obnoxious lie about the human condition. If we added up or approximated all of the man-hours ever spent living, and all the man-hours ever spent engaged in actual combat and related operations, it is obvious on its face that orders of magnitude lie between.

Imagine if I told doctors that “sickness is the natural state of man”. In addition to being an obvious falsehood, what I would be encouraging them to conclude is that curing disease is a foolish enterprise. We should set our sights lower: we should accept, not merely that sickness occurs, but that this person is sick because it is his natural state to be sick. In every case of sickness we encounter we should not try to cure the sickness itself, we should just try to make the best of alleviating the symptoms. Because after all, being sick is man’s “natural state”: if we can’t universally eliminate all sickness everywhere, we might as well just accept this sickness and not try to cure it.

This is what all-or-nothing Calvinism gets us, whether we are dealing with diseased persons, diseased art, or diseased politics.

If war is man’s natural state then being on the moon is man’s natural state. After all, it is absolutely true that the ratio between man-hours spent on the moon and man-hours spent living is greater than zero.

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