Proportionalism’s Lex Orandi
December 6, 2006 § 26 Comments
A commenter at CAEI suggests that the non-partisan credibility of Catholic Answers would soar if torture was added to the list of non-negotiables in the CA Voter’s Guide. That is true, and I think it would be a good thing in general for the non-partisan credibility of CA to soar.
But that isn’t a good reason to add torture as a sixth non-negotiable. The only good reason to propogate the notion of six non-negotiables is if it is in fact true that there are six non-negotiables; specifically the six being propogated.
And note what it would not imply: it would not imply that it is OK to vote for a Democrat whose express policies include one or more of the non-negotiables over a Republican whose express policies include one or more (presumably different) non-negotiables. It would imply that if any candidate’s express policy is one of the non-negotiables, you may not vote for that candidate, period, even if that means staying home.**
And this is where it starts to get interesting. If there are in fact non-negotiables – and I think there probably are, though what makes voting for a candidate and his policy non-negotiably wrong is not yet clearly established – then voting in a way which chooses one non-negotiable over a different one is inherently proportionalist. What that implies is that modern democracy is a kind of lex orandi (or behavioral training ground) for the lex credendi of proportionalism.
In fact, perhaps even more interestingly, this last point is true even if, as an objective matter, there is no such thing as a non-negotiable in the act of voting. If people believe themselves to be choosing a lesser of two evils they are training themselves to choose the lesser of two evils. And training ourselves to choose the lesser of two evils is, itself, an evil thing to do.
** Unless and only unless all other available options are also identically wrong on each and every one of the non-negotiables. This is a pathological (in the mathematical sense) situation which occurs so rarely that it can be discounted as nonexistent, unless it happens to be the case that the number of non-negotiables is very small and the number of races and candidates is also very small. At some point I may develop another post to show quantitatively that as the number of non-negotiables, races, and candidates go up the number of races it is licit to vote in at all (at least for a major party candidate***) becomes a very small percentage of the total number of races.
*** This qualifier sidesteps the argument that voting in protest for a third-party candidate you do not expect to win is a different kind of act from voting for a major-party candidate you intend to actually win.
<>Unless and only unless all other available options are also identically wrong on each and every one of the non-negotiables.<>>>Just so I understand what you are saying:>>Three Candidates A, B, C.>>Five Non-negotiables (NN) 1 – 5.>>A and B are wrong on NN 1, 2 and 3>>C is wrong on 1 only.>>Voting for C would be proportionalism.>>A and B are wrong on NN 1-5>>C is wrong on 1.>>Voting for C is not proportionalism.
There is a distinction between voting for a candidate who endorses ________ (enter your favorite “non-negotiable”) and voting for ______ yourself. The object of voting for the candidate is to elect the candidate to office. The object of voting for the “non-negotiable” is to enact that particular law/policy. If the law/policy is intrinsically evil, then voting for that law/policy is intrinsically evil as well, since the object of the vote is to enact a law that is intrinsically evil. However, even if the law/policy is intrinsically evil, voting for the candidate who supports that law/policy is not intrinsically evil, because the object of the vote is not to enact the law, but the elect the candidate. The candidate’s support of that law, and his use of the elected office to enact it, are properly classified as a foreseen but unintended consequences of the vote for the candidate.>>This isn’t just my view. Grisez, Finnis and Boyle said the same thing about voting for candidates who support nuclear deterrence (which they concluded was an intrinsically evil policy because it necessarily included the intent to kill innocent civilians). Nuclear deterrence was a “non-negotiable” for them, but they said it could be licit to vote for a candidate who supports nuclear deterrence since the candidate’s support for deterrence be an foreseen but unintended consequence of electing him/her.>>Now, foressen but unintended consequences, although evil, can be tolerated under the principle of double effect. This is proportionalist in the sense that one weighs good and bad effects and chooses the act that is, on-balance, good. That sort of proportionalism has been part of Catholic moral theology for centuries. The so-called “proportionalists” however expanded the principle to swallow up traditional teaching re intrinsically evil acts. Veritatis Splendor condemns a proprotionalism that does not recognize that the principle of double effect cannot be applied to certain acts because they are intrinsically evil. It does not reject the traditional view that double effect reasoning can be used to justify actions which are not evil in themselves, but have foreseen but unintended evil consequences.
What is intrinsic to supporting an act of legislation is a lot simpler than defining what is intrinsic to voting for a candidate. Some would make the argument – IIRC Abp Burke did – that one abdicates their responsibility to ensuring the common good by failing to vote. I do not believe however that this requirement extended to choosing between two viable candidates. I have difficulty however distinguishing how not voting for one of the two viable candidates and not voting at all don’t effect the common good in the same way. I also have difficult seeing how one could be culpable for the evil a candidate would do to the public good if elected unless such were manifestly obvious. >>The moral calculus seems to better follow a parliamentry goverment than our government.
I think both of the specific cases you mention are not proportionalism.>>Lets put it in terms of a bitwise comparison of positions of candidates on NN issues. Define the “morality word” as a series of bits (1 or 0) corresponding to the positions of the candidates on a given NN.>>A “1” means that the candidate is wrong on the non-negotiable corresponding to that position in the “morality word” for that race. A “0” means that the candidate is not wrong on that particular NN.>>In your specific proposed cases we have two candidates (your A and B overlap perfectly so they are really identical on the issue of NN’s) and five non-negotiables. That gives us:>><>Case 1<>: A=11001, C=10000. In no case is there a 1 for C and a 0 for A. Verdict: voting for C is not proportionalism.>><>Case 2<>: A = 11111, C=10000. Again, in no case is there a 1 for C and a 0 for A. Verdict: voting for C is not proportionalism.>>Interestingly, in every case where you get a nonzero N-way logical exclusive-or of the morality words of the candidates, choosing any candidate at all is proportionalism. In order to not be proportionalism, any “1” in your candidate’s morality word has to be also present in every other candidate’s morality word.
Decker2003: in this post I am not trying to argue over whether or not there are non-negotiables in voting. I am starting with it stipulated that there are and showing what that implies.
The “you” in my 12:23 PM post is c matt, of course.
I think I get it now>><>Case 3<>: A = 01101, C = 10000>>Voting for C would be proportionalism.
First of all, I entirely agree that voting is proportionalist. But proportionalism is not bad, so I have to take issue with the following particularly:>><>And training ourselves to choose the lesser of two evils is, itself, an evil thing to do.<>>>On the contrary, I think training ourselves to choose the lesser evils is training <>judgment<>. Remote material cooperation with evil is not sinful, but if we do not train our judgment on how to wisely judge what counts as a proportionate reason, then we might often engage in objectively sinful conduct out of poor judgment. More likely, we will fail to do some good that could be done, and perhaps that we would have preferred to do or even should have done. And as a practical matter, it may well be inevitable that we are remotely materially cooperating with all manner of evil simply by going about our daily business of fulfilling our moral duties, and without some sense of perspective, one could be beset by paralyzing scrupulosity, unable to do anything at all for fear that compliance with one moral duty will involve supporting some evil.>>As Decker noted, unless you are voting for a candidate precisely because of their stance on some or another issue, it a case of remote material cooperation subject to double effect analysis. In that respect, I do not understand “non-negotiable” as saying that you can never remotely materially cooperate with evil in question. Rather, I view it as saying that no objective and reasonable moral judgement could find proportionate reasons of offset cooperation with any of these evils <>other than<> among one another. And as I tried to make clear, the reason that I think these are selected is that they pertain to the most serious and most fundamental moral duties of the state, so much so that they inflict grave harm on the entire society by the mere advocacy of violating them. That sort of calculus is entirely appropriate when calculating proportionate reasons. Weighing the non-negotiables against each other is entirely unremarkable as a comparison of the good involved in avoiding different sorts of evil. And it appears to me that the CAA guide was sound in its advice on how to make judgments in that case.>>I would, however, argue that error on the non-negotiables might well be a sufficient reason not to vote at all. In the first place, it simply isn’t true that a failure to vote for one candidate is effectively a vote for the other, so abstension should not be considered implicit support for the other candidate, not even as an unintended consequence (in no way does your failure to vote result in the election of the other person). Moreover, a refusal to vote and to remotely cooperate in a candidate’s evil might well send a message to that candidate, his party, and the like, in order to encourage them to reform their policies to the benefit of the common good. It is oversimplification to say that one has a <>duty<> to vote for one or the other candidate.
Incidentally, to illustrate that we are dealing with a class within a class of offenses to the dignity of humanity, I note that before singling out abortion and euthanasia, Evangelium Vitae quotes Gaudium et Spes for the following proposition:>“Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.”>>Thus, I want to make very clear that by distinguishing among them, I absolutely do NOT mean to make light of anything that is a “supreme dishonour to the Creator.” Nonetheless, not all of bear the same degree of pertinence to the fundamental duties of the state, which is why Evangelium Vitae selects abortion and euthanasia from that list as being of particular moral weight for the lawful conduct of the state.
<>Remote material cooperation with evil is not sinful.<>>>It also isn’t <>choosing evil<>. My post is predicated on taking seriously the notion that there are certain acts of voting which are non-negotiable. If they are non-negotiable it can only be because they entail choosing evil. If they don’t entail choosing evil, they are negotiable.>>Some may see the formal results that that entails as a <>reductio ad absurdam<> of the premise (i.e. that since the premise that there are non-negotiables leads to this result, the premise is false: there are no non-negotiables). That is fine, at least for now, though at some point I may have something to say about that too.
My problem with Mr. Prejean’s analysis is that, while he accepts this classical “double effect” reasoning, he then draws an artificial boundary that is just not sound. In other words when you have “the most serious and most fundamental moral duties of the state, so much so that they inflict grave harm on the entire society by the mere advocacy of violating them” then proportionate reasons do not hold. There are a number of seperate issues within this statement. >>First, the notion that you can restrict the issue to the CA’s five. Jonathan quotes from EV and other documents to justify this. He fails to note that the church speaks out against the pressing moral issues of the time. There is a reason why EV does not devote much attention to cannibalism, and it is not because it is non-negotiable! Torture was not an issue in Catholic circles until some under the spell of the wickedness of Bush administration began to defend it. Hence, to be fully consistent, CA would say that torture is just as “non-negotiable”. But (and I think Zippy is right here), it makes no sense to restrict the list to 5 or 6 issues. Jonathan himself quotes the GS and VS list that includes not only torture but deportation and subhuman living conditions. Are these also non-negotiable? We know, rightly understood, that they are instrinsically evil. But how “non-negotiable” are they? Are the akin to abortion and euthanasia, or to contraception and prostitution (all evil, some can be permitted under law, and not others). So, yes, there are non-negotiable issues, but it makes no sense to restrict them to these 5. Where the boundary lies, I have no clue (though I suspect this list provides the best guidance available). And Jonathan’s postulation that torturing somebody is less serious than advocating abortion is just a little bizarre, a strained attempt to justify is position that is simply not backed up.>>Second, as Mr. Decker has pointed out, establishing something as non-negotiable in the sense that it should not be permitted by law is not the same as saying that voting for such a person is “non-negotible”. His use of the seemingly long-forgotten nuclear deterrance debate in this context is excellent. He has written a very good essay on this topic, that should be required reading in this area.
<>My post is predicated on taking seriously the notion that there are certain acts of voting which are non-negotiable. If they are non-negotiable it can only be because they entail choosing evil. If they don’t entail choosing evil, they are negotiable.<>>>I think you’re missing that “non-negotiable” refers to non-negotiable <>as against any other class of issues<>. It isn’t necessary that they be non-negotiable because they entail choosing evil. They can be non-negotiable simply because cooperating with a candidate’s evil in these areas can never be proportionate to any other realistic good effect purported to be obtained by electing him. Not sure that was clear in the guide, because of the defective rationale I cited, but that was how I believe the definition should be established.
<>I think you’re missing that “non-negotiable” refers to non-negotiable as against any other class of issues.<>>>I may be missing something but I can’t be missing that, because literally the only class of acts whatsoever in my formalism are non-negotiables.
How is this:>><>They can be non-negotiable simply because cooperating with a candidate’s evil in these areas can never be proportionate to any other realistic good effect purported to be obtained by electing him.<>>>… different from saying that choosing to cooperate with a candidate’s evil in these areas is always itself evil?>>It seems to me that you are trying to make a new moral class out of whole cloth here: not-evil-but-you-still-should-never-do-it or something. I don’t think that works. If as a moral matter you should never do it, it is always evil to do it.>>If voting for a candidate who supports X is non-negotiable, that means it is always evil to do it: that is, doing so is choosing evil. If that is the case then my little formalism follows as a straightforward matter.
And by the way, just to be clear, I by no means reject the principle of double-effect. Double-effect comes into play when an evil effect is unintended: that is, when the acting subject is not <>choosing<> the evil as either a means or an end (e.g. in an emergency operation without anesthetic the surgeon is not <>choosing<> the pain felt by the patient). If there are indeed non-negotiables in casting votes for candidates, that is the same thing as saying that it is always (non-negotiably) evil to <>choose<> to vote for candidates who support certain NN positions. IF that is the case, THEN double-effect doesn’t apply. IF that is the case THEN choosing to vote for a candidate who supports a NN issue is choosing evil, and double-effect doesn’t license choosing evil. Double-effect is not consequentialism.
<>My problem with Mr. Prejean’s analysis is that, while he accepts this classical “double effect” reasoning, he then draws an artificial boundary that is just not sound.<>>>That appears to be Zippy’s difficulty as well, so maybe I can answer both. Zippy says:>><>It seems to me that you are trying to make a new moral class out of whole cloth here: not-evil-but-you-still-should-never-do-it or something. I don’t think that works. If as a moral matter you should never do it, it is always evil to do it.<>>>Actually, I think the case of voting for a pro-choice versus a pro-life candidate ends up being in the same class as actions that are so objectively disproportionate that the response is a no-brainer. Punishing theft by execution. Using a grenade to defend yourself against a knife-wielder in a crowded mall. Carpet bombing to target two soldiers in a city. Perhaps “non-negotiable” is not the right term for that. Technically, all of those cases get evaluated by proportionate reasons, because in all cases, one can rightly intend a purely licit object. But the good is so objectively out of line with the unintended consequences that no reasonable person could accept it. The point is that there simply is no good you could obtain by voting for any real candidate that would be proportionate to giving the same person the bully pulpit to rail against the state’s responsibility to prevent abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage, except for the good of preventing another candidate from engaging in an even worse version of the same. The great moral weight of those issues, to the point that it is formal cooperation in the sin simply to suggest that they can be legal, simply overwhelms anything else; that is what makes them non-negotiable. >>That exception alone marks the difference; it is not something that you should never do <>simpliciter<>. The circumstances can indeed justify the action; there are cases where voting for such a person is proportionate. I’m not saying that you can’t vote for a candidate who is wrong on these issues in <>any circumstances<>. I’m saying that you cannot vote for such a candidate on the grounds that he is good on lesser issues; that will never <>in any real set of circumstances<> be a proportionate reason. The only proportionate reason is that the opponent is even worse on the issues of greatest moral weight. Perhaps it would simply be better to say that they are issue of overwhelming moral weight, so that no other goods stacked on the scale can possibly balance them.>>Regarding the selection of those five, I certainly do not support arbitrary limits on what might be in the list. Nuclear deterrence is one case that could be placed in the same category of severity, given that it carries with it annihilation of life on a global scale, which I should think would pertain to the state’s fundamental protection of its citizen’s lives. It seems that no one is really supporting either massive escalation or massive disarmament, so I’m not sure which way this cuts, but I wouldn’t be averse to adding it. And of course, if people start advocating laws permitting consensual cannibalism, that will go on the list as well!>><>Are the akin to abortion and euthanasia, or to contraception and prostitution (all evil, some can be permitted under law, and not others).<>>>I think this is the right question to ask, but that requires an understanding of how there were selected. My argument, which I think has excellent textual support, is that the proper standard for evaluating the relative harm inflicted by unjust government action is their pertinence to the state’s obligation to defend the common good. Issues that are bound up with the most fundamental aspects of this duty, those essential for even the idea of protecting the common good, are of much greater moral weight. And EV, for example, selects such issues for particular consideration, even from among the list of serious evils in GS and VS, and the CDF document applies the same criteria to select same-sex marriage. That tells me there is a coherent basis for picking them out even from among such lists, and the fact that abortion and euthanasia were selected FROM them suggests to me that the other items on that list do not qualify.
<>Actually, I think the case of voting for a pro-choice versus a pro-life candidate ends up being in the same class as actions that are so objectively disproportionate that the response is a no-brainer.<>>>But that is just another way of saying that it is a no-brainer that making those choices is evil because of disproportion. Notice that my formalism doesn’t depend on the NN’s being choices of evil in their object. It merely depends on them being actually non-negotiable. Saying that they are non-negotiable is identically the same thing as saying that they necessarily entail choosing evil. The technical term “no brainer” doesn’t change the moral theology: if a defined class of choices is non-negotiable, it can only be because every instance of a choice in that class is a choice of evil.
<>if a defined class of choices is non-negotiable, it can only be because every instance of a choice in thatif a defined class of choices is non-negotiable, it can only be because every instance of a choice in that class is a choice of evil. <>>>I think I see what you’re getting at now. You can’t vote FOR a candidate because of a defective stand on abortion (that would be choosing evil). So in that case, you can’t choose either, because even if you picked the fellow who was better on a non-negotiable, you would be still be voting for him based on a <>wrong<> stance, which would be immoral. And if you can’t look at anything else, then there would be no positive reason to vote for either. That’s a pretty good way of posing the quandary.>>The option that I believe you’ve left out is that you could vote for the “less evil” candidate not in the interest of supporting that candidate, but in preventing his opponent from taking office. In that case, you are tolerating the unintended effect of whatever the “less evil” candidate’s bad policies happen to be for the intended result of preventing an even worse candidate from being in office. It is, in effect, attempting to take out a villain using licit means that have a high cost. If you tried to use your vote to take out the less evil candidate, the cost would not be proportionate; the harm you prevent would be less than the harm you allow.>>If I’ve understood you right, then you’ve made a very good point. You aren’t voting FOR anyone applying the non-negotiable analysis if no candidate is right; you’re voting AGAINST someone. That actually seems consistent with the EV analysis concerning voting for a relative improvement for abortion laws. You aren’t voting for the unjust law; you’re voting against the current regime that is even worse. Good correction. When dealing with candidates who are both wrong on the NNs, the rationale MUST be harm avoidance, not support of the candidate. Of course, you could also vote for a candidate precisely because he had a correct stance on an NN as an additional good, in addition to the avoidance of the opponent’s evil on some issue.
<>The option that I believe you’ve left out is that you could vote for the “less evil” candidate not in the interest of supporting that candidate, but in preventing his opponent from taking office.<>>>Ah, but (again taking it as a given that there is indeed such a thing as a non-negotiable) there <>is no “less evil”<> candidate in any instance where the logical exclusive-or of the “morality words” of the candidates is nonzero. In other words, if <>your<> candidate supports a non-negotiable, and <>any other<> candidate does <>not<> support <>that specific<> non-negotiable, then there is no “less evil” candidate without appealing to precisely the kind of proportionalism condemned as heresy in <>Veritatis Splendour<>.
The (formal) conclusions is inescapable. A person who:>>1) Believes that there is such a thing as a non-negotiable;>>2) Thinks that there are more than at most one or two of them actually in play; and>>3) Nevertheless casts a vote in every (or nearly every) race>>…is <>definitely<> making the condemned kind of proportionalist judgements. Quantitatively, in other-than-contrived mathematically pathological circumstances, a person who believes (1) and (2) would necessarily have to vote in only a small number of races in order to avoid making (the condemned kind of) proportionalist judgements.
The formal conclusion is inescapable, but the way I formally described it is wrong. It is really a bitmask (AND), not an exclusive or.>>Define each candidate’s morality word P to be his platform on all of the non-negotiables in play in the race. A “1” means he is wrong on that non-negotiable, a “0” means he is right. I may only vote for candidate A without making a proportionalist judgement if the logical AND of his platform Pa with <>all<> of the other candidates’ platforms Pi is equal to his original platform Pa. If it isn’t, that means that some other candidate is <>right<> on a non-negotiable for which my candidate is <>wrong<>: so (no negotiating now!) I may not vote for my candidate. >>Anyway, this is getting into the more in-depth analysis I was planning to get to later on. But we can already tell, without an in-depth quantitative analysis, that people who believe there is such a thing as a non-negotiable ought to be regularly abstaining from particular races. If they aren’t, they are necessarily making proportionalist judgements.
I think I have a difference with your formalism. See my proposal here:>http://crimsoncatholic.blogspot.com/2006/12/digital-voting.html
< HREF="http://crimsoncatholic.blogspot.com/2006/12/digital-voting.html" REL="nofollow">Here is a link<> to Jonathan’s post, for convenience. Now I’ll go read it.>>(To put a link into these comments, just type the following:>>SOME TEXT>>…with the URL of your link replacing “URL” and whatever you want replaceing “SOME TEXT”.)
“people who believe there is such a thing as a non-negotiable ought to be regularly abstaining from particular races. If they aren’t, they are necessarily making proportionalist judgements”>>There is definitely a very serious tension between the idea that (1) it is not licit to vote for a candidate who takes the wrong position on a non-negotiable, and (2) one may vote for such a candidate in order to prevent the election of an even worse candidate. #2 seems to concede that the candidate’s wrong position on the non-negotiable is not necessarily imputed to the voter who elects that candidate, in which case it is difficult to explain why #1 is true. If I can vote for a candidate who takes the wrong position on a non-negotiable to prevent the election of a candidate who takes an even worse position on that issue, then why not to prevent the election of a candidate who will great harm in some other way? This devolves into a discussion of probable effects, their relative gravity, etc. — in other words, a double effect calculus. Once we get there, we no longer have bright-line rules but personal judgments based on all the circumstances of a particular case.
While deleting comment SPAM I noticed that I hadn’t said something here I had intended to say.>><>Once we get there, we no longer have bright-line rules but personal judgments based on all the circumstances of a particular case.<>>>This seems to presume that it isn’t possible to have rules based on the particular circumstances of particular categories of cases.