Object Puzzles

May 22, 2007 § 105 Comments

Suppose a married couple uses condoms for several years. Later, they find out that the husband was sterile the whole time and they couldn’t have had any children anyway.

Does this mean that their prior acts of contraception were not really acts of contraception?

Suppose a woman is incapable of having an orgasm unless her husband wears a condom. They have no desire to prevent pregnancy whatsoever, but they use condoms in order to achieve this other good end associated with the unitive telos of sex.

Does this mean that when they have intercourse with a condom that they are not contracepting?

Suppose a woman has the skull of her unborn infant crushed in the second trimester because she doesn’t want to get fat.

Is this an abortion?

Suppose a woman has the skull of her unborn infant crushed in the second trimester because doctors don’t know how to save her life without crushing the skull of the baby.

Is this an abortion?

Suppose a general orders the incineration of a city of civilians because it has a lot of Jews in it and he hates Jews.

Is this a war crime?

Suppose a general orders the incineration of a city of civilians because he personally considers even the old ladies and infants in a highly militarized society to be legitimate military targets.

Is this a war crime?

Suppose an interrogator subjects a helpless prisoner (not a volunteer or trainee) to waterboarding because he likes to see those towel-headed Wogs struggle and suffer.

Is this an act of torture?

Suppose an interrogator subjects a helpless prisoner to waterboarding because he thinks he might get some actionable intelligence out of the exercise.

Is this an act of torture?

(Hint: According to Pope John Paul II, the moral object of an act is the chosen behavior of the acting subject, independent of the acting subject’s intentions or the circumstances).

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§ 105 Responses to Object Puzzles

  • Anonymous says:

    <>the moral object of an act is the chosen behavior of the acting subject, independent of the acting subject’s intentions or the circumstances.<>Well put!God Bless,e.

  • William Luse says:

    <>Suppose an interrogator subjects a helpless prisoner to waterboarding because he thinks he might get some actionable intelligence out of the exercise.<>You haven’t been paying close enough attention to the Republican debates. What you describe is not torture. It’s “enhanced interrogation.”

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I’m not actually questioning what I assume is your analysis of any of these cases, but I’m not sure that the phrase “independent of the acting subject’s intentions or the circumstances” can hold up to all examples. For example, I know that even the Church teaches that a hysterectomy is legitimate where the uterus is cancerous or pathological in some other objective way–in other words, for entirely therapeutic reasons. In that case the sterilization effect is a matter of double effect. The whole notion of double effect as ever legitimate would seem to be vitiated by a literal reading of that phrase.

  • zippy says:

    <>The whole notion of double effect as ever legitimate would seem to be vitiated by a literal reading of that phrase.<>I think a helpful perspective may be seeing “chosen behavior” in the subject’s terms, phenomenologically (eek, sorry) if you will. A doctor who operates without anesthesia (say because none is available) isn’t choosing as a behavior to inflict pain on the patient. “Chosen behavior” isn’t a third-party observable, it is a moral qualia of the acting subject closely coupled to the exercise of free will in making the body (or in some cases the mind) act. Our terminology is probably incapable of coming fully to grips with qualia in general, moral qualia no less so than other kinds of qualia.So when I write posts like this one I’m not making an analytic point as much as making an appeal to common first-person experience. I don’t really know of a way to deal with qualia which both takes qualia seriously and nails it to the floor with analytic rigor. But despite the epistemic and discursive issues in defining redness I can still insist that drivers stop at red lights.

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    It strikes me that double effect is probably one of the more abused terms. (No Lydia, I’m not indicting you.) It would be nice to see an exploration on the matter.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I, too, think double effect is much abused. For example, I’m opposed to abortion to save the life of the mother, and I think the use of double effect in those cases is spurious.Zippy, agreements all around. Heavens! The sort of foundationalist I am is very much _into_ sui generis experiences like the quality of redness.But where are you coming from in the cases in the post? I take it that you would say that the behavior is wrong in all those cases, yes? I’m just not sure that the reason for that is the quotation you give from JPII (your co-contributor :-)). Is your point that all of the people in the examples _are_ choosing as a willed behavior to do the things in question–like torture?

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,Curious —What is your opinion of a couple where one of the two actually has AIDS — would it be acceptable for the husband to use a condom if the condom wasn’t being employed as a contraceptive but rather an anti-viral agent wherein the contraceptive effects were merely side effects?e.

  • zippy says:

    <>But where are you coming from in the cases in the post?<>Ah, well, one peril of blogging is that I sometimes change what I think I am doing mid-thought. I initially was just going to post the first two examples, to illustrate the two aspects or modes of a chosen behavior.Yes, I think they are all morally wrong as chosen behaviors. I’ve often made the point in the past, though not always particularly clearly, that wishful thinking isn’t the same thing as choice of behavior: killing the child while wishing you didn’t have to in order to accomplish your goal doesn’t mean that you don’t “intend” to kill her.<>I’m just not sure that the reason for that is the quotation you give from JPII (your co-contributor :-)).<>Well, my understanding of this came from reading him. He emphasizes that the object of an act is the act – chosen behavior – as seen from the perspective of the acting subject. “Chosen behavior” is about as succinct a way as it can be put, but succint doesn’t necessarily mean perfectly clear. (Oh and it is a paraphrase, not a direct quote. Don’t tell Bill Luse).

  • zippy says:

    <>…would it be acceptable for the husband to use a condom if the condom wasn’t being employed as a contraceptive but rather an anti-viral agent wherein the contraceptive effects were merely side effects?<>My opinion is that this is almost certainly not morally licit. Identical chosen behavior is identical chosen behavior, independent of the desired effect. If the act is evil in its chosen behavior (moral object, what the acting subject chooses to do with his body) then I don’t see how finding one effect desirable rather than another can make it licit. Double-effect only applies when (among other things) the act itself <>is not<> intrinsically evil.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>If the act is evil in its chosen behavior<>Zippy:What exactly in the chosen behaviour is evil?The situation I had proposed below:“What is your opinion of a couple where one of the two actually has AIDS — would it be acceptable for the husband to use a condom if the condom wasn’t being employed as a contraceptive but rather an anti-viral agent wherein the contraceptive effects were merely side effects?”… wherein the husband uses the condom not because he wants to prevent conception but because he does not want his wife to get infected.Where is the evil in that?

  • zippy says:

    <>Where is the evil in that?<>As I understand it, an intrinsically evil act is an act which is evil in its <>chosen behavior<>: in the moral object, the behavior the acting subject chooses to engage in <>independent of his intentions or the circumstances<>. In the proposed case he is engaging in identical chosen behavior: he is choosing a sex act which is modified in a way which thwarts fertility. It doesn’t matter (because the act is intrinsically evil) that he doesn’t <>wish<> that he was engaging in a modified fertility-thwarting act: remote intentions are irrelevant to whether an act is intrinsically evil or not.To take a more bizarre case, sodomy with a spouse with damaged sex organs is still sodomy. That the person may <>wish<> to engage in natural sex doesn’t mean <>he has actually chosen<> to engage in natural sex.I can’t claim to have grown wings and flown to Japan if in fact I boarded an airliner to get there. That I <>wish<> I could doesn’t mean that the thing I actually chose to do was the thing I wished I could do.

  • Anonymous,Using a condom to limit AIDS transfer is not contraception because it doesn’t “propose to render contraception impossible” (to quote Humane Vitae). It proposes to limit the spread of AIDS.Neither is using a condom to acheive orgasm (where <>do<> you get these ideas Zippy?). Just make a small hole in the condom and you achieve orgasm without contraception.<>the moral object of an act is the chosen behavior of the acting subject, independent of the acting subject’s intentions or the circumstances<>Exactly where did he say this Zippy ? And exactly what did he mean by “chosen behaviour” ?God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>Exactly where did he say this Zippy?<>In the encyclical <>Veritatis Splendour<>.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>In the proposed case he is engaging in identical chosen behavior: he is choosing a sex act which is modified in a way which thwarts fertility. It doesn’t matter (because the act is intrinsically evil) that he doesn’t wish that he was engaging in a modified fertility-thwarting act: remote intentions are irrelevant to whether an act is intrinsically evil or not.<>Zippy,He is using the condom not to thwart the fertility act (that’s not the purpose it’s being employed for in this case — i.e., preventing contraception is merely a <>side-effect<>) but in order prevent his spouse from getting AIDs which, inevitably, would result in her death.Think about a spouse who has to have a hysterectomy due to cancer. Now, do you still consider the chosen behaviour (her getting the hysterectomy) evil in this case since the hysterectomy thwarts the fertility act?As in the former case, the thwarting of the fertility act is merely a <>side-effect<>.In both cases, it can be argued that they are morally licit.e.

  • Zippy,OK, JP2 said in VS :-<>The morality of the human act depends primarily and fundamentally on the “object” rationally chosen by the deliberate will, as is borne out by the insightful analysis, still valid today, made by Saint Thomas. In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person. The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour. To the extent that it is in conformity with the order of reason, it is the cause of the goodness of the will; it perfects us morally, and disposes us to recognize our ultimate end in the perfect good, primordial love. By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world. Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person.<>1. “it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person” ie when considering the use of a condom to prevent AIDS we must place ourselves in the persepective of the acting person and consider exactly what he is doing and to what end.2. “By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world.” ie we must look not to the physicality of the act (donning a condom) but to the ends willed.3. “Rather, that object is the proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person.”The proximate end here is to prevent (or at least limit) the transfer of the HIV virus. The remote end is not to get AIDS.The moral object is therefore the use of a device to limit HIV virus transmission.The moral object is not to artificially modify the act to prevent conception. That’s an unintended side effect.(Stands back waiting for Zippy to prove me wrong…)God Bless

  • For a discussion of such issues, I suggest the following paper by Grisez, Finnis and Boyle: http://www.thomist.org/journal/2001/January/2001%20Jan%20A%20Finnis%20web.htm

  • zippy says:

    <>Think about a spouse who has to have a hysterectomy due to cancer.<>A cancerous or diseased organ is not the same kind of thing that a healthy organ is, just as a corpse is not the same kind of thing as a living body. Therefore the two chosen behaviors are different. (We wouldn’t bury a living body, but we do bury dead ones, and it isn’t the same chosen behavior). It isn’t about the intended end or the circumstances, which Chris for his purposes – and many others for their own purposes – keep trying to fold into the moral object even though the whole point to <>VS<> is to draw the distinction, and to exclude intent and circumstances from consideration in the case of an intrinsically evil act.We moderns have a difficult time coming to grips with the moral object. It is not on the one hand a physical description from a third-party view (after all, as far as third parties are concerned the acting subject might be sleepwalking). But it also isn’t about the wished or intended outcomes of the acting subject. It is the proximate end of his deliberate decision, the act itself: it is what he chooses to do as a corporate being, independent of what he is trying to accomplish or the circumstances which surround the act. That the condom-wearing spouse does not have the <>remote<> end of preventing pregnancy is irrelevant, because what he is <>choosing to do<> is not a natural sex act but an unnatural, inhernetly fertility-thwarted sex act. What he does isn’t fundamentally different from a spouse who sodomizes his wife because she has damaged sex organs. In both cases the act itself is not a natural sex act of the sort which leads to children, but rather a different, modified act which inherently thwarts the generation of children. That the acting subject is indifferent or even sorrowful about the thwarting-of-children aspect of the act itself doesn’t remove that aspect; and yet he chooses the behavior anyway. The act itself is what is morally pertinent (in the case of <>intrinsic<> evils). No remote intention can make it into a good act.At least, that is my understanding and is at least one of the reasons why using a condom to prevent AIDS is in my view just as immoral as using a condom to prevent pregnancy: that is, because the “to prevent X” aspect describes a remote intention, not the intrinsically immoral chosen behavior. (There are other reasons too in that particular case in my view, but for the present thread this is the pertinent reason).

  • <>what he is choosing to do is not a natural sex act but an unnatural, <>inhernetly<> fertility-thwarted sex act.<>I don’t think using a condom to limit HIV transmission is <>inherently<> a fertility-thwarted sex act.If a condom which stopped HIV transmission but still allowed conception to occur was available, and the actor would have used such a condom instead of the currently available technolgies, then his act is not inherently fertility-thwarted. It’s fertility-thwarted because of current technical limitations and as an unwanted side effect.The moral object always includes the choice of proximate intention which in this case isn’t contraception but prevention of HIV transmission.see http://www.ascensionhealth.org/ethics/public/issues/object.aspBTW contraception is not immoral to prevent pregnancy. It’s immoral in marriage to prevent pregnancy. All the papal teaching on contraception is clearly framed in terms of acts in marriage. Because one of the ends of marriage is procreation. The proper end of acts outside marriage is not procreation.God Bless

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    No one has the right to sex. Within marriage, there is the obligation to produce children, but one of the spouses having a deadly communicable disease clearly ceases that obligation out of circumstance. It took about 100 times reading Humana Vitae for me to understand this. The obligation for the marriage to be fecund at a certain time in the marriage ceases for a grave cause.Understanding this, we move to the sex act itself. Intrinsic to the act of sex are the procreative and unitive elements. To be efficacious, the procreative end is not necessary by accidents, because sex is not always naturally procreative. An action done before, during, or after the sex act to cause it to be infertile is contraceptive. The placement of a barrier causes the act to be infertile. To quote HV, “Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one’s partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.”

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    To put it more succintly, what is the qualitative difference between a poverty striken family using a condom and an HIV infected spouse using a condom?

  • Trying to factor out intent in the case of acts deemed to be intrinsically evil seems problematic to me.In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, for example, I believe removal of the affected fallopian tube (salpingectomy) is sanctioned, even though the fetus dies as a result, while treatments that directly kill the fetus, such as salpingostomy or the use of the abortifacient methotrexate are not.To me, the licit-illicit distinction in this case seems like pure casuistry, intended to salvage the notion of abortion as an intrinsic evil. A good example of the tail wagging the dog.

  • William Luse says:

    Condoms carry a certain risk, some small percentage rate of failure . If it were <>my<> wife, and the failure rate were a mere .001 percent, I wouldn’t subject her to it. A condom-wearing HIV positive hubby who asks his wife to have sex is asking her to play Russian roulette with her life, and I feel safe in saying that neither the “unitive” nor the “procreative” functions are being fulfilled. Some other desire is driving the act, and it’s evil.Even if the failure rate were 0%, Zippy’s still right in everything he says. Marital intercourse is an act good in its kind, but can be made bad via circumstances and intentions, and in this case it is (in addition to the above mentioned recklessness) the husband’s intention to use an evil means (a contraceptive device) to achieve a good end (no virus transmission). If the device thwarted only the virus and not fertility, then he might have an out. But he doesn’t. He has only <>this<> device, and that’s what he’s chosen to use.

  • zippy says:

    <>To me, the licit-illicit distinction in this case seems like pure casuistry, intended to salvage the notion of abortion as an intrinsic evil.<>Denying that there is any such thing as an intrinsically evil act is one way to go. (Not a Catholic way, but one way).Personally I see the casuistry as a manifestation of love: the person, however small, is never tossed to the side as if to say “she is going to die anyway, so we may as well actively kill her”. And love is at the root of morality.

  • <>Personally I see the casuistry as a manifestation of love: the person, however small, is never tossed to the side as if to say “she is going to die anyway, so we may as well actively kill her”. And love is at the root of morality.<>So, by that reasoning salpingectomy becomes a kind of sacrament. The intent to correct a tragic and fatal malignancy is not sufficient justification. There must also be a physical demonstration of right intent.

  • zippy says:

    <>So, by that reasoning salpingectomy becomes a kind of sacrament.<>I’m not following the metaphor.<>The intent to correct a tragic and fatal malignancy is not sufficient justification.<>Correct. A good intention is not enough. The road to Hell is paved with them.<>There must also be a physical demonstration of right intent.<>If what you mean is that the act itself must not be evil, then yeah.

  • <>If a condom which stopped HIV transmission but still allowed conception to occur was available, and the actor would have used such a condom instead of the currently available technolgies, then his act is not inherently fertility-thwarted. It’s fertility-thwarted because of current technical limitations and as an unwanted side effect.<>Fertility-thwarting actually has a quite specific definition: preventing semen from reaching the vagina during ejaculation (which is, incidentally, also unity-thwarting). Anything that does that is inherently fertility-thwarting, meaning that it is not a side-effect. To take a complicated example, one might collect the semen from the condom and use it for artificial insemination, in which case the condom would in some sense “allow” fertility to occur, but the act would still have been inherently fertility-thwarting by its physical nature. The means of disease protection therefore cannot involve preventing semen from reaching the vagina.The problem is that you’ve drawn a false dichotomy between the physical and the moral when you say:<>By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world.” ie we must look not to the physicality of the act (donning a condom) but to the ends willed.<>The analysis is not merely physical, but the event does have a physical component. In this case, the prevention of semen delivery to the vagina is an intrinsically evil means because of its physical nature (like other inherently infertile sex acts). It may seem odd that the physical act of killing someone is not intrinsically evil (it can be done in self-defense, lawful execution, etc.), while the physical act of masturbating to orgasm always is, but that’s an entirely accurate statement. That’s what it means to say that it’s not merely a physical question. There can be non-physical concerns directly pertinent to the nature of the act itself, such as whether the physical act of killing is circumstantially in defense of others, whether the physical act of taking someone’s property is against the reasonable will of the owner, whether the physical act of taking a drink is going to suppress the will in someone’s current condition, etc. Some things are intrinsically evil merely because of the physical nature of the act itself, but those are comparatively rare.

  • Dave says:

    <>We moderns have a difficult time coming to grips with the moral object. It is not on the one hand a physical description from a third-party view (after all, as far as third parties are concerned the acting subject might be sleepwalking).<>I admit I too often think of objects from a third-party view. In your understanding, would ignorance be equivalent to sleepwalking?For example, if this hypothetical HIV-positive husband wears a condom to prevent HIV transmission to his wife, without realizing that a condom is contraceptive, does that change the moral object of the act?

  • <>To me, the licit-illicit distinction in this case seems like pure casuistry, intended to salvage the notion of abortion as an intrinsic evil.<>It seems that you have also abstracted out the physical nature of the act itself. In one case, you are directly attacking the fetus’s body. In the other case, you are physically operating on an organ of the mother. The fetus is not an organ of the mother.

  • zippy says:

    <>In your understanding, would ignorance be equivalent to sleepwalking?<>Not quite.In the sleepwalking case there is no human will involved, so there is no “human act” in the moral sense.I’ll let Pope John Paul II address the issue of ignorance or non-culpable error:<>‘It is never acceptable to confuse a “subjective” error about moral good with the “objective” truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.’<>

  • c matt says:

    <>we must place ourselves in the persepective of the acting person and consider exactly what he is doing and <>to what end<>.<>That would work fine with acts that are not intrinsically evil, but for those that are, how is this not consequentalist?

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy, M.Z. Forrest and William Luse:Thank you all for your thoughtful responses!So in the case of the couple where the husband is infected, they have only two acceptable courses of action it seems:1. Have sex without use of a condom in spite of the fact that it will endanger the life of the spouse2. Both are to commit themselves to a lifetime of celibacyUnless you have a third which I haven’t included in the above.

  • zippy says:

    <>1. Have sex without use of a condom in spite of the fact that it will endanger the life of the spouse<>I think this option would be evil, actually, not because of an intrinsic evil in a particular sexual act but because of gross imprudence and the necessary selfishness which would have to obtain.<>2. Both are to commit themselves to a lifetime of celibacy<>The word is continence, strictly speaking, but yes. (Celibacy means to refrain from marriage; continence means to refrain from sex). But that is the right answer. There are in fact many different circumstances in which perfect continence is the only moral option.

  • Anonymous says:

    Zippy,Actually, I purposely didn’t use the word “continence” since it’s usually interpreted as simply meaning “self-restraint”; which even some clergy have utilized in their messages to couples in this very context.In using “celibacy”, I meant strictly the abstaining from sex.As even Merriam Webster defines:2 a : abstention from sexual intercourse b : abstention by vow from marriage Of course, I refer to 2a in my usage rather than 2b.At any rate, this whole hypothetical situation I posed was due to the decastry the Pope himself had set up to look into the use of condoms as preventing the transmission of AIDS and what Science actually tells us about whether or not a condom prevents enough of the virus from going through in order to prevent AIDS.But if the issue is as simple as you and others here have laid it out to be, then why this action by the Pope? Why call a decastry on such a matter if the act of using a condom is simply and truly the intrinsically evil act you’ve made it out to be?I’m just curious what may be their reasoning on the matter.

  • zippy says:

    <>Why call a decastry on such a matter if the act of using a condom is simply and truly the intrinsically evil act you’ve made it out to be?<>I have no idea. Perhaps because in the modern cult-of-expertise nobody listens to a result until a comittee or task force has had a look at it? (Not that people listen anyway). Perhaps because a scientific justification or a consensus of experts might reduce the amount of inevitable dissent? There were lots of comittees and task forces before <>Humanae Vitae<> too, but the result is really rather simple and quite contrary to the epistemically foggy hypercomplexification-which-amounts-to-license that a great many people were hoping for.Or perhaps it is because Zippy is wrong. Everything I write does come with the caveat that it is merely how I see things, and I’m just some guy.

  • Crimson,I was refering to a condom which would filter out the HIV virus but still transmit sperm. Such a device would not be contraceptive.I agree with Zippy and Luse that the AIDS infected shouldn’t have sex anyway, even with a condom, because of the danger of killing someone (I’m strong on the 5th commandment).No Pope has ever taught that using a condom in sexis intrinsically evil. What’s taught is that the use of contraception in marriage is evil.I think that if someone AIDS infected is determined to go ahead anyway and do something I think wrong (have sex) then, yes, they ought to use a condom because the 5th commandment still applies at that point (even though they are determined to sin) and they and I are duty bound to take what action we can to help save life. I think that’s just the pro-life position consistently applied.God Bless

  • <>So, by that reasoning salpingectomy becomes a kind of sacrament.<><>I’m not following the metaphor.<>Bearing in mind that the fetus is doomed in any case, a salpingectomy then takes on a kind of sacramental significance — an outward demonstration of sanctioned intent. So that, when the fallopian tube is removed, the resulting fetal death may be rightly considered unavoidable collateral damage.Under these circumstances, asserting that alternative treatments preserving the fallopian tube are not licit because “one may not directly attack the fetus” then seems like meaningless hairsplitting. Apparently, others find this distinction troubling as well. From the article on double-effect at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/:“What the critics of double effect emphasize is that the distinction between what is intentional and what is foreseen does not explain the permissibility of [licit actions resulting in the loss of human life].”

  • zippy says:

    <>…a salpingectomy then takes on a kind of sacramental significance — an outward demonstration of sanctioned intent.<>Sure. As JPII says, <>“A doctrine which dissociates the moral act from the bodily dimensions of its exercise is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition.”<> I might add that this separation of the act from its bodily aspect in order to make it purely a matter of intention is just what Chris Sullivan is arguing.<>Apparently, others find this distinction troubling as well.<>Sure. Lots of people find lots of things troubling. Water is wet too, by the way.

  • Chris:Gotcha. I wasn’t sure, but I just wanted to clarify that preserving the possibility of fertility wasn’t actually enough. If you mean “blocks sperm but not HIV,” then that’s OK. My point was that, with present technology, it’s not possible for prevention of sperm reaching the vagina to be an “unwanted side effect,” because that just IS the effect. It can’t possible be unwanted, because that’s what the physical nature of the act is; if you want to do the act, then that effect can’t possibly be unwanted.<>I think that if someone AIDS infected is determined to go ahead anyway and do something I think wrong (have sex) then, yes, they ought to use a condom because the 5th commandment still applies at that point (even though they are determined to sin) and they and I are duty bound to take what action we can to help save life.<>That’s not really the decision. The decision is between two bad acts, so there is no “ought to” involved. The duty under the 5th commandment is abstinence as well. If your argument is that you hope people who ignore their conscience do so in such a way that they hurt fewer people, then I agree, but by being “determined to sin,” they have made moral considerations irrelevant. There’s no such thing as relative morality.<>Under these circumstances, asserting that alternative treatments preserving the fallopian tube are not licit because “one may not directly attack the fetus” then seems like meaningless hairsplitting. <>You find the distinction between the mother and the fetus meaningless? Why would the fact that the fetus is “doomed” change that? Say somebody is comatose on a ventilator, and you’ve decided to take the person off the ventilator. Are you saying it’s OK to shoot him now? Some procedures are designed by their nature to kill people, and some aren’t.

  • <>if you want to do the act, then that effect can’t possibly be unwanted.<>If that’s true then it’s goodbye to the principle of double effect.<>The duty under the 5th commandment is abstinence as well.<>I agree.The problem is that not all the AIDS infected agree agree.To me the whole condom question comes down to whether or not the use of condom in intercourse is intrinsically evil. I think Zippy would probably argue it is (except if one made a hole). I’d argue that no Pope has defined it as evil.Maybe Zippy knows if a Pope has actually defined this ?God Bless

  • <>Sure. Lots of people find lots of things troubling. Water is wet too, by the way.<>Sorry for the long response, but I think it’s worth including this MoJ posting from Georgetown philosophy professor Karen Stohr on the matter. <>There is considerable dispute over whether it is possible to draw a philosophically sound distinction between salpinegectomy on the one hand, and salpingostomy and methotrexate on the other hand. How one draws the distinction depends greatly on what one takes an intention to be, and how intentions relate to action descriptions. One can accept the basic framework of double effect and yet disagree with May et al on the management of ectopic pregnancy, on the grounds that the particular account of intention upon which he relies is philosophically problematic. For a quite different take on the moral structure of procedures such as salpingostomy, see this article by that mighy triumverate, Grisez, Finnis, and Boyle: “‘Direct and Indirect’: A Reply to Critics of Our Action Theory” _The Thomist_ 65 (2001): pp. 1-44.<>I included a link to an online version of the cited article in an earlier posting.

  • zippy says:

    <>If that’s true then it’s goodbye to the principle of double effect.<>When you are dealing with intrinsic evils you <>are<> saying goodbye to the principle of double-effect. The first criteria which must be met in order for double-effect to apply is that the act in question must not be intrinsically evil.

  • Zippy,We’re on the same page about intrinsic evil.But no Pope has defined that the use of a condom in sex is intrinsically evil.They’ve defined contraception in marriage as evil.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    If it is an intrinsic evil though, Chris, then it is an act which cannot be separated from its bodily dimension. So it cannot become not-that-act simply by exchanging one intention for another. (This is the same reason why Jimmy Akin has his torture casuisty completely wrong, by the way: he is doing exactly the same thing you are doing in attempting to divorce the bodily aspect of the act from it so that he can say that it is licit under some particular intention, even though it isn’t licit under some other intention. If you are right about contraception as being existentially dependent on intent as distinct from chosen behavior then there is no reason to believe that Akin isn’t right about torture as being existentially dependent on intent as distinct from chosen behavior).

  • Zippy,If it is intrinsically evil then of course you are right.But where’s the evidence for that ? Where’s the Papal definition ?You appear to confuse proximate intent (what the actor immediately intends by his act) and remote intent (his final goal).The Finnis, Grisez, Boyle article addresses this, as does Veritatis Splendor.http://www.thomist.org/journal/2001/January/2001%20Jan%20A%20Finnis%20web.htmI’d be intersted in your comments on that Finnis/Grisez/Boyle article which I’m slowly working my way thru.Keep up the good work.God Bless

  • <>You find the distinction between the mother and the fetus meaningless? Why would the fact that the fetus is “doomed” change that? Say somebody is comatose on a ventilator, and you’ve decided to take the person off the ventilator. Are you saying it’s OK to shoot him now?<>Your analogy is false.In your example, only the patient’s life is involved. In an ectopic pregnancy both the fetus and the pregnant woman will die if the condition is untreated.Since correcting the problem by any means causes the death of the fetus, I fail to see a meaningful moral basis for allowing salpingectomy, which, although licit, impacts the pregnant woman’s fertility, while disallowing other procedures, which do not.Simply continuing to assert that direct killing of the fetus is immoral in this case is a profoundly unsatisfactory response. As I pointed out in a previous post, the conundrum is one that troubles some professional ethicists as well.

  • zippy says:

    I haven’t read that article and frankly I don’t plan to. Finnis is a smart guy, and I have a couple of his books which I’ve read significant chunks of, but reading him gives me indigestion precisely because he doesn’t seem to have any idea that – as JPII tells us plainly in VS – the moral object cannot be separated from its bodily aspect. The object is what you are choosing to do with your body, independent of why you are choosing to do it. “Chosen behavior” is the best shorthand I know for it, but plenty of smart people (including Finnis) seem to be confused about the matter. I don’t pretend to know why they are confused. I don’t find it all completely transparent all the time by any means, but I don’t find it nearly as baffling as a lot of people seem to.When you know you are talking about an intrinsic evil, you know <>more<> than just that it is always evil to do some class of thing. Finnis just doesn’t get this in the stuff of his that I have read: he tries to create arbitrary lists of what he calls specifying intentions, and as far as I can tell he is just denying that there is any such thing as a moral object that is independent of intentions.I think rather than going up any of those cul-de-sacs you would be better served taking JPII at his word that the moral object is a different kind of thing from an intention. Until one takes that distinction seriously one is left running around in circles, fishing for “specifying intentions” for the things one wants to rule out of double-effect analysis and different “specifying intentions” for the things one wants to do under double-effect. If you don’t consider object and intent to be <>different kinds of things<> then moral theology becomes every bit as arbitrary as people like Antonio seem to think it is.Once one takes the object-intent distinction seriously though, as a difference between <>two different kinds of things, the first of which is a chosen behavior inseparable from its bodily aspect<>, a whole lot of stuff starts to make sense where it didn’t before.But why some people are utterly blind to the distinction even after studying the matter in depth is a bit of a mystery to me. Quantum mechanics is a lot more mysterious.

  • zippy says:

    <>Since correcting the problem by any means causes the death of the fetus, I fail to see a meaningful moral basis for allowing salpingectomy, which, although licit, impacts the pregnant woman’s fertility, while disallowing other procedures, which do not.<>Your failure to see a thing doesn’t really constitute an argument against its existence for those of us for whom it is plain as day, though.

  • <>as far as I can tell he is just denying that there is any such thing as a moral object that is independent of intentions.<>Again, it seems to me that you confuse proximate intention with remote intention. You lump the two together and just call them both “intention”.From what I can tell, the proximate intent <>is<> inseperably part of the moral object.Isn’t this exactly what JP2 says in VS :-<> In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person. The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour. …By the object of a given moral act, then, one cannot mean a process or an event of the merely physical order, to be assessed on the basis of its ability to bring about a given state of affairs in the outside world. Rather, that object is the <>proximate end of a deliberate decision which determines the act of willing on the part of the acting person<>.<>It seems as clear as daylight to me (writing in a sunny conservatory of a warm New Zealand Autumn afternoon).But if you don’t like Finnis, who would you recommend to read on how to determine the moral object (something online for us poor New Zealanders would be good) ?God Bless

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I think it’s wrong to remove the tube with a living unborn child inside, as well. Like cutting off the airflow to an airtight bag when you know a person is inside it and then saying, “Well, I didn’t actually touch the person’s body directly. And I cut off the airflow because I was trying to save someone else.”Fortunately, I think actually the statement that the woman will definitely die as well is not always true. There have been cases of “blown” fallopian tubes where the woman has survived with immediate care, and the child _is_ dead by the time the tube bursts. Sometimes pregnancy is anembryonic in cases of tubal implantation, perhaps as a result thereof, and I think it could be plausibly argued that the child has died early in anembryonic pregnancies.

  • zippy says:

    <>Isn’t this exactly what JP2 says in VS<>No. He never (in the English translation) uses the word “intention” to refer to the moral object. He defines it as “the proximate end of a deliberate decision”, refers to it in a number of places as specific <>behavior<>, and reminds us that it cannot be separated from its bodily aspect. Keeping in mind the limitations of language he is quite clear that the object is a different kind of thing from an intention: it isn’t just an intention brought up close, if you will.I got a lot out of Christopher Kaczor’s <>Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition<>, which was recommended to me several years ago by Kevin Miller. Kaczor’s approach reminds me a bit of calculus in mathematics: he studies acts in terms of what happens to our <>plans<> as very minor changes are made to circumstances, which I think is very useful. But even Kaczor is not as clear on the moral object as JPII himself. In some sense reading the literature of the moral theologians is just prep work for reading John Paul: it is difficult to understand what John Paul is getting at until you’ve immersed yourself in some of this literature. (It is worthwhile reading Finnis too, and I’ve done so myself; just keep in mind that these guys are feeling their way around on the floor like everyone else, and in some cases they just flat miss some of the crucial points).Alas, I don’t know of anything on-line that I could recommend off the top of my head.Mind you, some people – though not JPII – do use the term “proximate intention” to refer to the moral object. I think it is confusing to refer to it in that way precisely because intentions as distinct from the object are disembodied in a way that the moral object is not disembodied. Philosophers have tried for millennia to discuss free will in an unambiguous way, with at best very mixed results. But after being immersed in this literature for a while and studying the encyclical itself this is not any <>more<> mysterious to me than a lot of other subjects.If you prefer to think of the object as an “embodied intention” inherent in choosing a behavior that may help at first, but again I think that kind of terminology is confusing. The <>object<> isn’t an intention – the same kind of thing as a remote intention – which happens to be proximate: it is a <>different kind of thing<> from an intention, an incarnate and embodied thing, when the terms are properly understood.

  • zippy says:

    <>I think it’s wrong to remove the tube with a living unborn child inside, as well.<>I have some sympathy with that view. I think the moral object of a salpingectomy is different from the moral object of a salpingotomy, and that the former does reflect a level of charity – of acknowledgement of the child’s dignity – that the latter does not. But it doesn’t follow that the -ectomy is definitely licit.

  • Yes, Kaczor’s book is on my wish list. Maybe one day I’ll get around to it.I agree that the moral object isn’t <>just<> the proximate intent, but it does seem to me that it essentially includes the proximate intent ie the thing chosen.There must be some factor which makes two physical acts different even though to the external observer they appear the same.Say someone blows up a building. The moral object would be different if it was a demolition than if it was an act of terrorism. But to the external observer they appear to be the same act.What’s different is surely the proximate intent.The moral object isn’t “blowing up the building”.The moral object is “blowing up the building to demolish it”.In the condom case the moral object isn’t “donning the condom” but “donning the condom to stop HIV transfer” (licit) or “donning the condom to contracept” (illicit).God Bless

  • William Luse says:

    It may be as plain as day to you, Chris, but to me those two excerpts you give from VS are warning you against the very interpretation you are trying to give it. You are especially misreading the part you put in bold.So, Zippy, is the salpingectomy – under the circumstance that the mother’s life is endangered – licit or not? That is, when you say that <>it doesn’t follow that the -ectomy is definitely licit<>, do you mean that it is so only under certain circumstances? And if it is licit under the desperate condition desribed above, I would ask Lydia why she would be against it.<>I think actually the statement that the woman will definitely die as well is not always true<>Well, if it’s <>sometimes<> true?

  • I’ve taken a look thru Veritatis Splendor where it deals with the moral object.<>it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom 3:8) — in other words, to <>intend directly<> something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general<>It seems to me that where JP2 uses the term “intent” on its own, he means remote intent. For example, in this passage he talks about the “intention” protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. The remote intent of the torturer is precisely this intent – to save lives. The proximate intent of the torturer is to do violence to extract information. Such a proximate intent is intrinsically evil and therefore the remote intent to save lives does not justify the torture.But in this quote he also to specifies something different, “direct intent” (aka proximate intent). Similarly, in Evangelium Vitae, the Pope condemns “direct abortion” ie an act whose proximate intent is to abort.Does this help ?God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>But in this quote he also to specifies something different, “direct intent” (aka proximate intent). <>I take the bit you quote to be referring not to the object specifically but to formal cooperation. To intend directly (formally cooperate) with evil is always wrong, whether you are the person actually performing the act itself (the object) or not.For example, the woman does not perform the actual abortion; she <>intends<>, that is, formally cooperates, with it. The intrinsically evil act is not her act but the abortionist’s act; yet everyone who intends (formally cooperates) with that abortion is doing evil.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>If it is an intrinsic evil though, Chris, then it is an act which cannot be separated from its bodily dimension. So it cannot become not-that-act simply by exchanging one intention for another. <>Zippy,A lot of what you’re saying makes sense; that regardless of intents and circumstances, an intrinsic evil remains just that — an evil. When a subject chooses to commit an act that is intrinsically evil, regardless of his/her intentions or even the circumstances, s/he is committing an evil.But, I’m rather curious; do you consider ‘murder’ to be an intrinsic evil?After all, it is the taking of a life and it is one of the very things that is cited against in the 10 Commandments.Also, isn’t it the case that we must never do evil in order that good may come out of it?How do you reconcile this then with such notions as the ‘just war’ theory as well as acts of self-defense?e.

  • M.Z. Forrest says:

    For my own edification primarly, allow me to flesh out a few things.The condom does not defend against AIDS transmission. A condom is a defense against fluid transmission, what is in the fluid is accidental to the purpose of the condom. In order to protect oneself from fluid transmission, one must prevent it. This may be done by refraining from sex. The question then becomes, “Are we under an obligation (general) to have sex?” In a perfect marriage, such an obligation would certainly exist. However, grave circumstance may impede a marriage from being perfect. For example, the need to preserve the mother’s health may be impeded by the effects of a perfect marriage (children), and therefore the obligation to be fecund would cease for a time or indefinately.I don’t think one can leave the station on double effect until one establishes that he is fullfilling an obligation, either general or specific. For example, if I see a car tumbling toward a child, I’m under a general obligation to seek the protection of others, so any action I took as long as it was proportionate would be licit. For example, if a threw an object that damaged the cart so it wouldn’t hit the child, I would be acting licitly.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Well, Bill, I know we’ve discussed this subject once before (tube removal with a living child inside). My opinion is that it is wrong, even if both will die, because it is (only very slightly indirectly) an act of assault against the child. This is true even if the child is not touched directly, just as it would be assaulting you to throw you out of an airplane in a bag. The fact that you are not physically touched doesn’t change the fact that you’re being thrown out of the airplane. You can kill somebody without stabbing or poisoning him. To my mind, the surrounding circumstances–that both mother and child will otherwise die–are entirely irrelevant, just as they would be irrelevant in any other case where we were considering taking what amounts to lethal action vis a vis a living human being. The fact that the human being is going to die anyway and that some other human being–or any number of them–could be saved if we took lethal action against the one really makes no difference at all. It should be left out of account. So what we’re faced with is sheerly the question of what is being done when we cut out of the mother’s body a part (the fallopian tube) that contains a living, very early child who cannot possibly survive when this is done and will die as an immediate and entirely foreseen result. Remember that if we assume this is a living embryo, then it is receiving its oxygen through the walls of the fallopian tube, just as it would receive it in the uterus. Cutting out the tube with the child inside is, as I said, like cutting off the air supply to a person in an airtight container. Or, if you will, cutting the airtight container out of its immediate environment and cutting off the air supply to the person inside as part of that physical process. The child is not seen, and the child dies in a way that does not involve cutting it up or poisoning it. Instead, it dies from the act of removing it from the mother. This is, to my mind, no different than (to use a different analogy) performing a hysterectomy on a pregnant woman in an early stage of pregnancy. The container that the child is in–whether the tube or the uterus–is being removed with the child inside. This directly results in the cutting off of oxygen and nutrients to the child. The child dies immediately as a direct result of the physical action. The child happens not to be seen, because it’s still inside “the bag.” It happens not to be chopped into little bits. But it is ineluctably killed regardless. And, again, the “it’s going to die anyway” argument is irrelevant when the _immediate_ cause of its death is not the underlying condition but the surgeon’s action in removing it in its container.Again, for the sake of everyone involved in any such situation, I can only hope that in most cases the child has died before. An ultrasound could, I think, ascertain this.

  • <>I think the moral object of a salpingectomy is different from the moral object of a salpingotomy<>In salpingectomy, what is the moral object if the intent is to kill the fetus?<>…and that the former does reflect a level of charity – of acknowledgement of the child’s dignity – that the latter does not. But it doesn’t follow that the -ectomy is definitely licit.<>Aside from intent, what makes salpingectomy a charitable act and under what circumstances would it not be licit?

  • <>My opinion is that [salpingectomy] is wrong, even if both will die, because it is (only very slightly indirectly) an act of assault against the child.<>I assume you’re claiming that the intentional killing of an innocent is instrinsically immoral. That is, it’s never licit under any circumstances.If so, do you believe it’s licit to kill in self-defense? It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the killer is insane or otherwise innocent of intent to cause harm.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Yes, I am assuming that. I think it’s a fair question whether a person can be an active aggressor and still be considered an innocent in the relevant sense. But the question does not even arise w.r.t. the unborn child, as the fact that his sheer existence is putting his mother’s life in danger does not make him an aggressor of any sort, whether insane or otherwise.In any event, if you are going to take a “self-defense” analysis of the deliberate killing of an unborn child in the case of a tubal pregnancy, then you will have to, in consistency, permit the killing of the unborn child whenever his existence places his mother’s life at severe risk, as this would qualify as a “self-defense” case in the same sense as the tubal pregnancy. The fact that the child will die as well in tubal pregnancy is irrelevant under a self-defense analogy.I would hope that this would make the inaccuracy of a self-defense analogy clear in itself.In any event, it would be nearly impossible to be sure epistemically that a man coming at you with a knife sincerely believed himself to be watering his garden, and some such severe disconnection to reality so that there was _really no_ aggressive intent would be about the only thing I would admit to be a case where the man was entirely an innocent in intent. In the incredibly unlikely event that I was strongly justified in believing that a man attacking me with a knife believed himself to be watering his garden, I would have to try to engage in self-defense with the minimum of force and hence not to kill.But heck, I’ve just been told on another blog that an individual is never justified in deliberately killing even a _guilty_ person, even a plain old bad guy attacking you; only the state can do that. I happen to think this is false and under all circumstances that are ever going to arise in the real world I would definitely try to kill the aggressor.

  • So we have 3 meanings of “intent” in Veritatis Splendor :-1. Proximate Intent2. Remote Intent3. Formally CooperatesDoesn’t exactly make it easy to grasp his meaning, does it ?Benedict seems to be blessed with a charism for greater clarity in his writings.Aquinas believed that intentional killing was always wrong in self-defense. If the killing wasn’t intended he tolerated it.In my opinion, Just War can’t be properly reconciled with the 5th commandment. Grisez/Finnis/Borge express the view, and I agree, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church never supports intentional killing in any situation, war included.There’s an interesting discussion on craniotomy in the Grisez/Finnis/Borge article linked to above in which the point is made that the proximate intent is to shrink the baby’s skull so a stuck baby can be removed from the birth canal. Shrinking a head and removing a stuck baby are legitimate proximate intents. Unfortunately, limitations of current medical technology and the traumatic circumstances the operation is preformed in often result in the death of the baby. But such death is not intended and is neither the proximate or the remote intent of the craniotomy. The remote intent is to save as many lives as one can. The proximate intent is to shrink a skull and remove a stuck baby.God Bless

  • <>the fact that his sheer existence is putting his mother’s life in danger<>It’s not the existence of the baby which puts the mothers life in danger.It’s te fact that he’s stuck in place he shouldn’t be.God Bless

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Fine, Chris, call it his sheer existence in that particular location. This does not make the child an aggressor.I find it interesting that some of the very people who are saying intentional killing is always wrong, even of evil rapists trying to drag you off, are the ones justifying cutting open babies’ skulls (killing them “unintentionally”) whereas a rock ’em, sock ’em self-defense person like me is the one saying, “No, never, you can’t chop up living babies’ heads.” Does this strike anyone else as strange? Perhaps the exercise of first saying we can never kill intentionally and then developing all manner of ways of saying that we are killing someone unintentionally (when _clearly_ we’re attacking the person fatally) has the strange effect of oblitering the importance of the innocence/guilt distinction. Or maybe it just encourages self-deception. But in my book, anybody who cuts up a living child’s skull, thus killing it, to “reduce the head size” and “remove a stuck baby” is a murderer, and we shouldn’t mince words.

  • <>I think it’s a fair question whether a person can be an active aggressor and still be considered an innocent in the relevant sense.<>I don’t think you can define the problem away. Recently, a driver in Los Angeles lost control of his car due to a stroke and killed more than a dozen people. Would it have been wrong for someone in peril to kill the driver to prevent further loss of life?Returning to the issue of ectopic pregnancy, is it licit for a doctor to refuse to perform a salpingectomy (a treatment sanctioned by the Church) because of the doctor’s moral beliefs? If the pregnant woman and fetus die as a result, is the doctor culpable?

  • <>Aquinas believed that intentional killing was always wrong in self-defense. If the killing wasn’t intended he tolerated it.<>From the Summa (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3064.htm#7), the opposite seems to be the case. Specifically:<>“The act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one’s life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in “being,” as far as possible.”<>If you have a source supporting your view, please cite it.

  • Another puzzle:If some future technology allowed the rhythm method to achieve the same level of efficacy as ‘artificial’ birth control would use of that technology be licit?

  • zippy says:

    <>In salpingectomy, what is the moral object if the intent is to kill the fetus?<>The moral object is the same if the act is the same. The moral object is the chosen act itself. That is what “moral object” means.When we say that an act is intrinsically evil, we are saying that the moral object is inherently opposed to some truth about man and his ends. We categorize these acts according to species (e.g. murder, adultery, etc) which we refer to as the universal moral norms, but that species-categorization isn’t what makes the act evil in itself. “Look for the lie built into the act” is a heuristic I find useful. The lie built into an abortion is “that tiny thing isn’t a person”, for example.<>Aside from intent, what makes salpingectomy a charitable act and under what circumstances would it not be licit?<>Even if one takes Lydia’s position that salpingectomy is not licit under any circumstances – which isn’t an unreasonable position, it seems to me, though I am inclined to think otherwise – the act itself does respect the existence and bodily integrity of the tiny child in a way that salpingotomy as an act does not.Of course if one just snips out the tube and tosses it in a waste bin then that would be an outward sign of a wrong interior disposition of the will. I think that as it becomes possible to rescue the infant using other technologies that a moral obligation to do so develops – that is, that there is a moral obligation to treat that person as we would any person, even though that person is very small and undeveloped.<>If you have a source supporting your [Lydia’s] view, please cite it.<>Since these are matters of natural law they are not merely matters of citing appropriate authority (especially for Lydia, who isn’t Catholic).<>If some future technology allowed the rhythm method to achieve the same level of efficacy as ‘artificial’ birth control would use of that technology be licit?<>I don’t think the statistics matter (except inasmuch as they impact prudential judgements). You might find the three posts I made on NFP (including the great combox discussions; a lot of the best stuff on this blog comes from the commenters not the host) of interest. See < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2007/01/nfp-it-isnt-brain-surgery.html" REL="nofollow">here<>, < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2007/01/learning-nfp-will-make-you-unhappy.html" REL="nofollow">here<>, and < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2007/01/nfp-graphic-sex-version.html" REL="nofollow">here<>.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Yeah, not Catholic. But I’ve probably been too sarcastic, here, so apologies all round.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I probably shouldn’t inaugurate a WWTT (What Would Thomas Think) contest, but does it seem plausible that St. Thomas would have justified craniotomy in the way stated here as a case of double effect? It doesn’t to _me_, but I’m no Thomas scholar. I would guess he never addressed the issue per se, but still…

  • zippy says:

    Lydia: n. b. Chris is perhaps the Catholic comboxosphere’s best known pacifist. He takes an … interesting … approach to the use of language in general. I want to be clear that just because I don’t argue with many of his points that doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with them vehemently. I usually take up a point of Chris’s when I think we might actually be able to communicate, and not otherwise. I think his craniotomy argument is one of many _reductios_ of his highly textualist (cough cough… bible-protestant … cough) method. There is a positivist strain in Catholicism which treats magisterial documents very similarly to the way logocentric (i.e. positivist) protestants treat the bible. I don’t think the approach works in general, whether the canon in question includes magisterial documents or not. The result can be anything you happen to want: e.g. in this case that intentionally crushing a living infant’s skull is permissable under some circumstances, or that intercourse with a condom isn’t “contraception” under some hermeneutic of intention. Since different people want different results, you end up with the intracatholic moral-theology equivalent of the diaspora of protestant denominations. Personally I see stamping out this tendency both within Catholicism and without as one of the most important intellectual and social endeavors of the current age. Others no doubt view it as my peculiar hobbyhorse.

  • William Luse says:

    <>The fact that the child will die as well in tubal pregnancy is irrelevant under a self-defense analogy.<>Maybe, but it might not be irrelevant under an end-of-life analogy. Just as a ventilator can be disconnected, or other treatment withdrawn, if its only purpose is to intolerably protract the act of dying, so the baby’s air supply can be cut off if it serves the same master. But it is even less irrelevant under the moral scrutiny that should apply to any medical treatment. The underlying pathology that threatens the woman’s life is a flaw in her fallopian tube. By surgically intervening, the doctor is attempting to treat that flaw, in the course of which the baby’s death is not a desired, but a lamentable, side effect. By forbidding such intervention, you are requiring, via an act of omission, that the surgeon <>kill the mother<>, to whose welfare he is supposed to have been equally committed. Your scrupulosity on this matter seems to me a personal peculiarity, not a deliverance of natural law, and would result in the principle of double effect being defined out of existence. <>When<> during such a pregnancy the intervention ought to be authorized is a point of medical and moral prudence, but waiting until the tube ruptures, resulting in hemorrhage, strikes me as reckless disregard for the mother’s life. By the way, if I pose a mortal threat to you or other passengers, you may wrap me in a bag and inflict whatever proportionate violence you think necessary to self-defense. You might even end up throwing me out of the plane. Just make sure it looks like an accident.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Bill, if you ever pose a threat to the rest of the plane by aggressive action, I won’t even bother with the bag. I’ll just bump you off. But if you “pose a threat” (quote very much unquote) just by lying there asleep, I won’t let anybody else throw you out if I can prevent it, even with a bag.I disagree very strongly with the claim that refraining from removing the living-child-in-the-tube is killing the woman. Absolutely not. By that reasoning, the consequentialists can getcha with all sorts of end-of-the-world scenarios. You know: “What if the whole world will blow up if you don’t shoot this one little girl? Then by not shooting her, you’re _killing everybody else_!!!” And so forth. You know the drill. Of course you’re not killing anybody by refraining from killing somebody! And the same goes here. If treating the mother means killing the child, then refraining from treating the mother certainly is not tantamount to killing her. Again, this is just as true here as it is in any life-of-the-mother case. I think it’s very important that people who defend removing the child in tubal pregnancies ask themselves what the logical implications are of their defense of that action for other life-of-the-mother scenarios. For example, if the mother has cancer in the midst of what is otherwise a perfectly healthy pregnancy, are you “killing the mother” if you refrain from removing her uterus until the child is old enough to survive outside the womb? I would say that you absolutely are not, even if that delay does result in her death because the cancer was not treated earlier. I think the point that has to be made is that the woman and child are absolutely parallel in their human worth. I know you believe that, but once you start saying that merely refraining from taking ineluctably fatal action against A is tantamount to “killing” B I have to ask why this does not lead to saying that you must _always_ take fatal action against A if his very existence accidentally constitutes a threat to B, lest you otherwise be “killing” B by refraining from the fatal action against A.So, no, absolutely not. You aren’t killing the woman by not killing the child, under any circumstances.The ventilator analogy is a poor one. Suppose that a child is breathing on his own, perfectly normally and naturally, but that we happen to know that in a week he’s suddenly going to stop breathing. That would be a better analogy. Yet if for some reason he were merely in a location where the oxygen had to be supplied to the room from without, it would clearly be an assault on the child and a case of actively killing the child to cut the oxygen supply to the room. The child who has implanted in an ectopic location but *is alive and growing* is receiving his oxygen and nutrition just as a child in the womb would do. The woman’s body is necessary to this whether the implantation is in a normal or abnormal location, and the situation is no more analogous to someone’s being on a ventilator in the tubal case than in the case of uterine implantation. It is, if you will, _natural_ for an unborn child at that state of his existence to be receiving his oxygen from elsewhere in that fashion.I’ve already admitted, though (and am glad for it), that if the tubal location has caused it to be the case that no embryo develops but only what I believe (haven’t looked this up recently) is called “trophoblastic tissue,” this anembryonic pregnancy may be a case where we can justly regard the child to have died at the time where the tubal implantation screwed up the process of development. I’m pretty sure, however, that this isn’t always the case and that sometimes we’re really just talking about an embryo living as any other embryo would, only in the wrong place.

  • Help me out on this one Zippy. Is the objective evil of an act, the evil that is actualized through that act? Yes or No.If I’m right then the objective evil seen in an act seems to me to be dependant on the one doing the defining. Its evil is not objective but subjective. Killing a black person is wrong if you consider killing black people wrong; not if you don’t. It appears that we only share the same moral language if we accept the same moral underpinnings otherwise the objective evil of an act will appear different to different individuals.<>…..an intrinsically evil act is an act which is evil in its chosen behavior: in the moral object, the behavior the acting subject chooses to engage in independent of his intentions or the circumstances…..<>Ok, let’s say killing is evil per se, independent of the intent and circumstances of the individual, then how do you justify self defence or capital punishment? (speculation–Is this line of reasoning that explains JPII’s attitude to capital punishment?) Likewise removal of an organ is considered an evil but not if it is done to preserve the totality of the body. Chopping off a mans leg is evil if it is to torture him; not if to cure him. It would appear that some evil acts can sometimes be justified in the context in which they are performed. The justification of some of these actions by double effect would seem to be false since the evil lays in the action and not in the intent; this I gather is Lydia’s point of view.When a man kills another man in self defence, he does not perform a good act, rather he performs a non punishable bad act. Likewise we praise a Surgeon not for cutting out an organ, but because he can do it in a way that doesn’t kill the patient: His technical skill at minimizing further injury is his glory. From these two examples it seems that evil acts can sometimes be justified.Lydia: Mutations of the conceptus into non embryogenic forms are not dependant on the location of implantation, rather they are due to defects that are intrinsic to the conceptus itself.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    SP, yeah, I’ve asked doctors about that before, but no one else seems to know. I know some ectopics are anembryonic. Given what you’re saying, this would be a coincidence. I gathter from one doctor’s statement (to an acquaintance who had an ectopic pregnancy removed, where no embryo was found) that some people must think it can result from the environment. That sounds to me as a layman like it cd. happen, but I’ve never been able to get definitive word on it.

  • zippy says:

    <>Is the objective evil of an act, the evil that is actualized through that act? Yes or No.<>“Objective” sounds like a colloquial term used to refer to intentions. In moral theology, though, the “object” of an act is <>not<> the intention. The object is the act itself: it is what the acting subject chooses to do (so it has an inseparable first-person modality) with his body, independent of his intentions – what he is trying to accomplish – and the circumstances.Part of the problem may be in trying to stick to an either/or first/third person dualism, when the human act is precisely where we choose to make what we will into reality. If a fractal is neither one dimensional nor two dimensional and yet both, the human act is neither first-person nor third-person but both. It is exactly that place where free will meets objective reality. Given the philosophical difficulties Western man has had in dealing with free will, it isn’t any surprise that this seems confusing. But to reduce the act to pure intention (the “fundamental option” theory condemned by JPII?) is just as false as reducing it to pure physical process.<>Ok, let’s say killing is evil per se, independent of the intent and circumstances of the individual, then how do you justify self defence or capital punishment?<>Killing isn’t evil per se. Killing the innocent is evil per se, where “innocent” is understood to mean any person who is not harming you or attempting to harm you by choice (where “you” refers to either the individual or the community: depending on which referent applies we know whether licit response falls under commutative justice or distributive justice). If a person is choosing to harm you, you may attempt to stop that harm through proportionate force. This has different implications when “you” are a community versus when “you” are an individual, though the cases are parallel.(It is true of course that “harming you by choice” requires a judgement to be made which could be wrong; but the possibility of making a mistake doesn’t change the moral theology, though it does impact our prudential responsibility in making that judgement).

  • zippy says:

    <>Likewise removal of an organ is considered an evil but not if it is done to preserve the totality of the body. Chopping off a mans leg is evil if it is to torture him; not if to cure him.<>A diseased organ is not the same <>kind of thing<> as a healthy one.

  • William Luse says:

    Well I strongly disagree with your strong disagreement. <>If treating the mother means killing the child, then refraining from treating the mother certainly is not tantamount to killing her.<>You’re mistake is in refusing to admit that the intention is not to kill the child, but to save the mother by treating a defect in her biology that is going to kill her, and has nothing to do with consequentialist, end-of-the-world scenarios. You simply will not admit that double-effect can apply in this case when most respectable (that is, orthodox) Catholic theologians say that it does. You’re not Catholic so you don’t have to listen to those guys, but it at least ought to give you pause.<>if the mother has cancer in the midst of what is otherwise a perfectly healthy pregnancy, are you “killing the mother” if you refrain from removing her uterus until the child is old enough to survive outside the womb?<>No, if the mother can survive the delivery and <>then<> the uterus can be removed. But what if a crisis occurs before delivery, in which the medically certain judgement is that she will die without a hysterectomy?<>I think the point that has to be made is that the woman and child are absolutely parallel in their human worth.<> Yes, I explicitly made that point in my previous comment, and yes I do believe it, but I don’t think adopting your position would allow me to. You’re making the woman’s right to life occupy a status inferior to that of the child’s right to sustenance.<>It is, if you will, _natural_ for an unborn child at that state of his existence to be receiving his oxygen from elsewhere in that fashion.<>It is natural for the child, but not for the mother. It is natural to receive oxygen, but not from the wall of the fallopian tube. His right to oxygen ends when its intrusion upon her right to live becomes fatal. This is a pathology that must be treated to save the mother’s life, and failure to do so <> will kill her by omission<>.The ventilator analogy was a poor one. Or at least I haven’t thought about it enough.

  • antonio,Sure :-Summa Theologica > Second Part of the Second Part > Question 64 > Article 7. Whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defense?<>But as it is unlawful to take a man’s life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above (3), <>it is not lawful for a man to intend killing a man in self-defense<>, except for such as have public authority, who while intending to kill a man in self-defense, refer this to the public good, as in the case of a soldier fighting against the foe, and in the minister of the judge struggling with robbers, although even these sin if they be moved by private animosity.<>http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3064.htmGod Bless

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I believe I’m treating them as parallel, because I give the mother an absolutely parallel right not to have her source of oxygen and nutrition actively removed. Failing to treat her when doing so would involve the ineluctable destruction of her child is not tantamount to an attack on her.I don’t think double effect applies to any direct, deliberate, physical act that has the immediate, entirely foreseen, and physically necessary effect of bringing about the death of an innocent human being. If, for example, two born people are intertwined (after some terrible earthquake or something or in a car accident) in such a way that the only way to get one of them out is to cut off the other one’s head, double effect doesn’t apply to cutting off his head. And so forth. The point is the nature of the physical act. The surrounding circumstances (the other person will die otherwise, etc.) change nothing. If you acknowledge that taking out the uterus with the child in it is an attack on the child when the mother is healthy, then it is just as much an attack on the child when her life is in danger. Her situation makes no difference to the physical nature of removing the child, and removing the child inside of some container–the tube, the uterus–doesn’t change the fact that you’re removing the child and hence cutting off the child’s oxygen. It just means you don’t have to touch or see him or cut him directly with your instruments. That’s the only difference.I’m also opposed to separating Siamese twins in a way that is fatal to one. Few things have made me feel more ill than England’s virtual kidnaping of a pair of such twins after their parents came from Malta and separating them, killing one, against the parents’ wishes. A close second is the description I read somewhere (can’t remember where) by C. Everett Koop of his throttling one Siames twin at its carotid artery in such a separation surgery. He made a virtue of the fact that he did it himself rather than asking one of his assistants to do it.

  • <>But to reduce the act to pure intention (the “fundamental option” theory condemned by JPII?) is just as false as reducing it to pure physical process.<>This also seems to shed light onwhat JP2 means by “intent”. Clearly here the “fundamental option” is a (very remote) intent, not a proximate intent. The condemnation of proportionalism in VS is a condemnation of remote intent, not proximate intent.I still think, Zippy, that you seem to be confusing proximate intent and remote intent.<>Killing isn’t evil per se. Killing the innocent is evil per se, where “innocent” is understood to mean any person who is not harming you or attempting to harm you by choice<>Two points :-1. That isn’t what the commandment says. It simply says “do not kill”. No “innocent” in the text.2. If we can intend to kill a person harming us then the door is open to the mother intending to kill the ectopic foetus. As this is something we rightly reject (and St Thomas rejects as intentional killing in self defense) then we must reject Zippy’s thesis that we can intent to kill those harming us. [I don’t actually thingk Zippy means this, just that his wording here is sloppy and, er, unintentional].<>I think the point that has to be made is that the woman and child are absolutely parallel in their human worth.<>I agree.But one can make a distinction, just as we do in the case of an agressor when it is licit to (proximately) unintentionally kill him in self defence. Judaism excplicity does this by requiring that a greater weight be given to the mother’s life in respect of the other children depending on her. Not that her life is any more value than the baby’s, but that the good of others also needs to be considered. Which is also, I think, Aquinas’ distinction between self defence as an individual and self defense collectively on behalf of the state (not that I completely agree with Aquinas on that but I’m just noting the distinction he makes when the good of others also needs to be taken into account).I’d still like to read a really good and through explanation of what the moral object is and how to determine it.God Bless

  • Lydia McGrew,Your concept of double effect doesn’t seem to be quite the traditional Catholic understanding of the term.Although, the traditional understanding is that double effect is not valid if the moral object chosen is objectively evil (this is the main point Pope John Paul II makes in Veritatis Splendor).So you could argue that the moral object is something objectively evil and therefore double effect doesn’t apply.Intending to kill the baby is clearly objectively evil (intending to kill an innocent is always wrong).But if the killing was indirect or involuntary then the Catholic understanding is that the killing could be morally licit.The best we know as an infallible Catholic dogma is this from John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae :-<>Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.<>Which leaves open the moral licitiness of indirect or involuntary killing.Although, as Zippy rightly points out, I am bit of a stickler for what the texts actually say !God Bless

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Right, I hold that the killing in this case is, as an objective matter of fact, not indirect or involuntary, hence double effect doesn’t apply. But I’m not a Catholic. I just happen to agree that knowingly, actively killing innocents is never right. What I cannot understand is how it can be said that the killing here is indirect or involuntary because of the mother’s situation. That doesn’t make sense to me. To me this falls exactly in the category that Zippy describes when he says that just because you _wish_ you weren’t doing X, that doesn’t mean you’re _not_ doing X. Exactly. Just because you _wish_ you weren’t killing the child by removing it from its mother, it doesn’t follow that you’re not doing so. And you _are_ removing it from its mother, regardless of whether you leave it inside the tube or not.Another analogy: An astronaut in a space suit. Removing the child from the tube is like taking the astronaut out of his pressurized space suit when he’s in outer space. Removing the child from the mother while leaving him in the tube is like cutting off the oxygen supply to the space suit. You’re actively killing the astronaut either way.I want to ask whether those who defend removing a living child in the case of ectopic pregnancy (so long as you remove him while leaving him inside of the containing tube itself) believe that this permits a general use of double effect whenever the mother is going to die otherwise. It seems that some of what Bill is saying would entail this. “His right to oxygen ends when its intrusion upon her right to live becomes fatal.” As far as I can see, this would lead to a general life-of-the-mother exception. In fact, Bill’s statement about a crisis in the case of a normally-implanted pregnancy seems to indicate this as well. I’ve always believed that it’s not really possible to make the common argument for removal of a living child in ectopic pregnancy without having this move into a general life-of-the-mother exception, where we just would refuse to use the word “abortion” when we perform, say, a hysterectomy on a pregnant woman with cancer early in the pregnancy who is otherwise going to die, or where we terminate the pregnancy because of a severe case of preclampsia (sp?) (maternal high blood pressure) before the child can survive outside of the womb.

  • Lydia,Removing a baby from the mother is not necessarily killing it. If we had the medical technology to remove the baby and still keep it alive then that would not be killing. Therefore, it follows that the mere removal of the baby does not constitute killing. [All our children were born by Caesarean and these days very premature babies can be kept alive outside the womb].So, if the mere removal of the baby does not make the operation murder, then there must be something else in the act which is required to make the operation to be murder.That something is the proximate (or immediate) intent behind the operation.Sadly, in the hard real world, there are sometimes hard cases where if we do nothing both mother and child will die, but we are able to do something to save the life of one but we are not able to save the life of the other.In these cases we are not deliberately choosing to kill. It’s just that the limitations of current medical technology do not allow us to save one life.The alternative is to do nothing and let both die; that would be a violation of the 5th comamndment because we are bound to do what we can to save life.God Bless[All our children were born by Caesarean and these days very premature babies can be kept alive outside the womb]So, if the mere removal of the baby does not make the operation murder, then ther emust be something else in the act which is required to make the operation to be murder.That something is the proximate (or imemdiate) intent behind the operation.God Bless

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    No, what else is present in the ectopic case is the set of other facts in the physical situation, _known to the person performing the operation_, namely, that the child cannot survive outside the mother at this stage and cannot be transferred elsewhere but will die immediately. Hence, it is impossible for a person who knows these physical facts to remove the child–either from the tube or in the tube–without knowing that he is killing the child by this act.The astronaut analogy continues to be helpful: _If_ the astronaut were not in outer space, or if it were not true that people explode from pressure differences in outer space, or if you knew that God would perform a miracle to keep him intact and supply him oxygen until you could get him back to the mother ship, removing him from his space suit wouldn’t be killing him. But in the physical situation that you know obtains, removing him from his space suit constitutes killing him.Obviously, what constitutes killing a biological entity depends on physical and biological facts about what the entity needs to survive and what is in fact going to happen to him when you perform the act in question. If heads could be sewn back on allowing the continuance of life, cutting off a man’s head would not be knowingly killing him. But they can’t, so it is.By the way, the fact that removing the child from the tube would be no problem if it could safely be reimplanted elsewhere actually argues for the parallel nature of removing the child from the tube and removing the child in the tube. Both are in fact killing the child, but neither would be if he could survive outside or if he could be transferred elsewhere. Here, as all along, the two acts are parallel vis a vis the effect on the child.

  • Lydia,In the old testament, distinctions are made based on proximate intent.For example, one kind of atoning sacrifice is required for a deliberate infraction of the law of Moses but a different one for an accidental infraction.A different law applies to accidental killing than deliberate killing.A different law applies to killing a house invader in broad daylight (when intent to kill is presumed) than at night (when intent to kill is not presumed due to inability to see).You are right that one knows that the consequence of removing the baby is that it will likely die. This is because one knows that one lacks the technology to keep it alive outside the mother (but one also lacks the technology to keep the baby alive inside the mother).Catholic theology makes a distinction between intended killing and unintended killing which is a consequence which one foresees but does not will but merely tolerates (is prepared to live with for a proportionate good). The proviso is that the moral object not be objectively evil. Willing to kill someone is always a moral object which is objectiveley evil (ie evil wrt its moral object).The standard moral test applied is to ask the question “if I could perform this operation in a way which the baby lived, would I do it?”. If the answer is YES then the killing is not directly willed. If the answer is NO then the killing is directly willed and is not licit.God Bless

  • Zippy,Here’s Janet Smith and William May (two theologians I tend to trust) on “proximate intent” aka “finis operis” aka “present intention” [May]aka “choice of means to achieve this end” [May].It’s clear to me from these extracts that proximate intent is an essential component of the moral object.Another definition from http://www.chausa.org/Pub/MainNav/News/HP/Archive/2002/11NovDec/Articles/SpecialSection/HP0211k.htm<>The moral object is the intention inherent in the action the actor is actually performing: the goal of the action, as opposed to the goal of the actor.<>Would be intersted in your response.God BlessMoral Terminology and Proportionalismby Janet E. Smith, Associate Professor of PhilosophyUniversity of Dallashttp://www.missionpossibledetroit.org/aodonline-sqlimages/shms/faculty/SmithJanet/Publications/MoralPhilosophy/MoralTerminology.pdfLet me comment on the role of the circumstance identified as the “why”. Some are surprisedthat “why” is one of the circumstances, for “why” seems to correspond to the end of the act, or to what is also known as the intention or the motive of the agent. It must be noted that acts are said to have two ends (at least), the end of the object (the finis operis) and the end of the agent (finis operantis). The finis operantis, or the ultimate end of the whole act, the intention ormotive of the agent, is distinguished from the finis operis which is often said to be the “proximate intention” or the “intention” of the object of the act (I would like to call this the “specifying intention”). The finis operis can be an “accidental circumstance” or a “specifyingcircumstance” (which it is, depends upon how the circumstances relates to right reason).Let me give an example. “Cutting into a human body in order to remove a vital organ” for theintention (finis operis) of organ transplantation would be a moral object and would be called“organ transplantation surgery.” The proximate intention, the finis operis, the specifying intention, is “organ transplantation.” “Cutting into a human body in order to remove a vital organ for the purpose of killing an innocent human being” would be a different object in adifferent moral species because it has a different proximate intention, a different finis operis, a different specifying intention; it belongs in the species of murder. When the whole act is evaluated the intentions (motives), the finis operantis, not just the object of the act, would need to be considered. “Organ transplantation surgery” could be done with a bad intention or motive— i.e., not to help the patient but to advance one’s medical reputation. Here one has a goodobject done for a bad end. One could also “cut into a human body to remove a vital organ forthe purpose of killing an innocent human being” with a good motive, i.e., to get an inheritanceto help the poor. Here one has a bad object, done for a good end. For the tradition the ultimateintention (motive) or finis operantis does bear upon the evaluation of the whole act, but it is the specifying intention, the finis operis that defines the object.————————————————————http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/may/contraception.htmCONTRACEPTION, GATEWAY TO THE CULTURE OF DEATH*William E. MayThe central claim of this passage is that the moral object specifying what couples who “responsibly” contracept individual acts of marital congress are doing is “fostering love responsibly toward a generous fecundity.” Their aim, their “intention” is to nourish simultaneously the procreative and unitive purposes of their marriage. While it can be granted that this is the further intention or end for whose sake contraception is chosen, this claim simply ignores the couple’s present intention, or their choice of means to achieve this end, this “further intention.” This claim is rooted in the idea that we can identify the moral object specifying a human act only by considering the act in its “totality.” According to this method of making moral decisions, it is not possible to determine the moral species of an action—whether it is good or bad—without taking into account the “[further] intention” or end for whose sake one does what one does along with the foreseeable consequences for the persons concerned. If one does this, so the argument goes, one can conclude that, if the choice to contracept individual acts is directed to the end of nourishing conjugal love so that the good of procreation can also be served, then one can say that what the spouses are doing—the moral object of their choice—is to foster conjugal love toward a generous fecundity, obviously something good, not bad.

  • zippy says:

    <>I still think, Zippy, that you seem to be confusing proximate intent and remote intent.<>I’m not confusing anything. I am perfectly aware that some intentions are more remote than others. What I flat reject – without any confusion for my own part – is the notion that “object” is a synonym for “proximate intent”: that “intent” and “object” are the same kind of thing, distinguished only by proximity, and that intent is dispositive on what the object of a given act actually is. They aren’t, and it isn’t. “Object” refers to the act itself: the chosen behavior. To the extent that <>choosing<> involves an <>intention<> (for people who want to use the words that way) you can say that there is an intent of a sort as part of the object. But that is merely using the label “intent” to refer to the choice of behavior. Choosing to engage in inherently infecund sex with a condom is the same act whether the intent is to prevent pregnancy or to prevent AIDS transmission. The latter kinds of intent are not dispositive on what constitutes the object of the act: the object of the act is the act itself: the acting subject’s choice of behavior.That plenty of people, including plenty of scholars, may be confused about this doesn’t move my understanding of the matter even slightly. John Paul is right and they are wrong; and John Paul doesn’t refer to the object of the act as a proximate intention.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “The standard moral test applied is to ask the question ‘if I could perform this operation in a way which the baby lived, would I do it?’. If the answer is YES then the killing is not directly willed. If the answer is NO then the killing is directly willed and is not licit.”I completely reject the idea that passing this test represents a sufficient condition for the act to be morally legitimate. Of course, if the act fails this test, you’re in trouble, which makes it a good negative test. But if your act passes the test, that doesn’t show that it was licit. Heck, you could apply that to all kinds of things: “I’m about to blow up, deliberately, this entire train car to kill one guy inside. If I could do it without blowing up all the other passengers too, I would, therefore the object of the act is merely to kill the one man.” Balderdash. You know perfectly well you’re blowing every single person in the train car sky-high. All that the test shows is that you wish you weren’t. Well, bully for you; you’re not a moral monster. But knowingly and deliberately blowing up all the innocents still isn’t okay.By that logic, you _could_ cut off one person’s head in order to rescue another person and just say, “The object of my act was to rescue B, who was trapped behind A. If I could have done so without cutting off A’s head I would have; but I couldn’t. hence my killing A was just an unintended side effect of my rescuing B, even though I had to sever A’s neck with a chainsaw in the process.” Again, wishing you weren’t doing X doesn’t mean that you aren’t knowingly and voluntarily doing X.

  • <>intent is dispositive on what the object of a given act actually is.<>Can you rephrase that ? I don’t understand.And also this which I don’t follow :-<>The latter kinds of intent are not dispositive on what constitutes the object of the act<>I agree that the moral object is not just the proximate intent, but proximate intent must be a component of it because every moral act is a movement of the will, a thing chosen, a thing proposed.The present intention of the AIDS infected using a condom, the thing they are choosing, the movement of their will, the thing they propose (to use HV’s phrase) is to reduce the risk of HIV virus transmission.That’s a different present intention, a different thing being chosen, a different movement of their will, a different thing they propose than using a condom to prevent conception.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>The present intention of the AIDS infected using a condom, the thing they are choosing, the movement of their will, the thing they propose (to use HV’s phrase) is to reduce the risk of HIV virus transmission.<>No, the thing they are choosing, the movement of their will, the thing they propose is to engage in is an objectively unnatural fecundity-thwarted sex act using a condom. Their reason for choosing to do that is precisely the kind of thing (whether labeled “intent” or something else) which is not dispositive on what constitutes the object of the act.

  • zippy says:

    <>I completely reject the idea that passing this test represents a sufficient condition for the act to be morally legitimate.<>I agree. Wringing one’s hands over what one is choosing to do doesn’t change what one is choosing to do.

  • zippy says:

    <>If we can intend to kill a person harming us then the door is open to the mother intending to kill the ectopic foetus.<>You’ve changed the criteria.What I said is that it is licit to defend yourself with proportionate force against an attacker who is choosing to attack you. An ectopic child isn’t choosing to attack anyone.(I think both Bill and Lydia make some very good points about the case where an innocent is <>not<> choosing to attack, where her death is inevitable, and another additional life hangs in the balance. I think it will make a great topic for some future post, but I need to do some more thinking on it in the context of the excellent points made here first).

  • <>But if your act passes the test, that doesn’t show that it was licit.<>Yes I agree entirely. If the act is objectively evil than no amount of intent can ever justify it.<>I’m about to blow up, deliberately, this entire train car to kill one guy inside.<>This fails the moral test right at the start – your proximate intent is to kill. The moral object is “to kill one guy inside”.In the chainsaw rescue, if the only moral choices are :-1. Cut thru A to save B.2. Cut thru B to save A.3. Do nothing and lest both A and B die.(assuming these really are the only choices which seems highly unlikely).then surely it’s better to save one life than let both die ?The moral object here isn’t “to kill A to save B”.It’s to “cut thru A to save B”. If we cannot repair A to save his life then that isn’t something we have chosen but a fact of nature and a limitation of medical technology which is beyond any act our will could ever choose.God Bless

  • <>Their reason for choosing to do that is precisely the kind of thing (whether labeled “intent” or something else) which is not dispositive on what constitutes the object of the act.<>Can you clarify that ?I don’t understand what you mean by the dispositive part ?Thanks

  • <>No, the thing they are choosing, the movement of their will, the thing they propose is to engage in is an objectively unnatural fecundity-thwarted sex act using a condom.<>But here you are stepping outside the will of the actor and making a judgement on their act from the viewpoint of a third party (Zippy’s viewpoint).That’s the precisely the kind of moral thinking JP2 rejected in VS :-<>In order to be able to grasp the object of an act which specifies that act morally, it is therefore necessary to place oneself in the perspective of the acting person. <>God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>I don’t understand what you mean by the dispositive part ?<>The reason for choosing to do something – say “in order to prevent pregnancy” or “in order to prevent AIDS transmission” – doesn’t determine what you are choosing to do. And the object of an act is what you are choosing to do. You keep arguing as if <>why<> you are choosing to do something has something to do with determining the object of the act. It doesn’t. The object of the act is what you are choosing to do independent of why you are choosing to do it.<>But here you are stepping outside the will of the actor and making a judgement on their act from the viewpoint of a third party (Zippy’s viewpoint).<>No, I am not. I am simply stating what they are in fact choosing (in an act of the will) to do, from their own perspective, independent of why they are choosing to do it, from their own perspective.

  • <>The reason for choosing to do something – say “in order to prevent pregnancy” or “in order to prevent AIDS transmission” – doesn’t determine what you are choosing to do.<>Of course it does.If a woman choses to take the pill with the proximate intent of hormonal control of difficult periods then the moral object is “taking the pill for hormonal control of periods”.But if a women takes the pill with contraceptive intent then the moral object is “taking the pill to prevent pregnancy”.It’s well established in Catholic theology that the former is licit but the later illicit.But the only difference is in the proximate intent.They are actually choosing two different things – to control difficult periods or to prevent pregnancy.Similarly with AIDS and condoms. Two different things are chosen – to prevent HIV transmission or to prevent conception.Condoms have two seperate effects :-1. To prevent conception by stopping sperm transfer.2. To limit HIV transmission eg by preventing open sore to open sore contact.Effect 2 is entirely independent of effect 1. Therefore to choose 2 is a difference choice than to choose 1.Now I grant that if the HIV limitation effect of condoms depended and resulted from the contraceptive effect then you’d be right.God Bless

  • Zippy,It strikes me that making a small hole in the end of a condom would partially limit HIV transmission by removing open sore to open sore contact. It would also not be contarceptive.So I guess we’re in a agreement on the licitness of the condom with a small hole ?Although we’re still left with the HIV in the bodily fluid but not the sperm.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>It’s well established in Catholic theology that the former is licit but the later illicit.<>Where is your -magisterial- citation for that one?

  • zippy says:

    <>So I guess we’re in a agreement on the licitness of the condom with a small hole ?<>No way. Only a vile, wicked, despicable man would intentionally, with full knowledge and consent, expose his wife to HIV in this way.

  • <>Where is your -magisterial- citation for that one?<>I know of none. But it seems to be the common understanding. And it’s not taught against. What’s not taught against is permitted.BTW, the use of a condom to limit AIDS is not taught against by the Magisterium so it’s also permitted.<>Only a vile, wicked, despicable man would intentionally, with full knowledge and consent, expose his wife to HIV in this way.<>I agree completely.But you’re missing my point which is that a condom can be used to limit HIV without it being contraceptive.There might be other reasons why it is not licit, but contraception isn’t one of them.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>I know of none.<>Didn’t think so.<>…the use of a condom to limit AIDS is not taught against by the Magisterium so it’s also permitted.<>“Not taught against by the Magisterium” and “permitted” do not describe the same set.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Two brief comments, before I let this thread go, since Zippy has started a new one:I think it’s a reductio that apparently Chris would cut A’s or B’s head off with a chainsaw rather than letting both die and invoke double effect.Second, it’s important in the case of tubal ectopic pregnancies that we understand the child will not just “likely” die. It’s a physical certainty under the physical conditions that now obtain. God could do a lot of things by miracle, but absent that, the child’s just dead after you remove the tube. We are not talking about a 22-week-old preemie who could perhaps be assisted to breathe. We’re talking about an early embryo with no chance of survival outside the life-support system of the mother’s body. Nor are we on the verge of some new technology that will change this. The preemies they save now have at least semi-operational lungs that can be hooked up to a ventilator when they are born too soon. That’s not what we’re dealing with in the case of a tubal pregnancy. There is nothing to be done for the child. He dies immediately, and the tube with its contents is sent to the lab. That’s all there is to it. You might be permitted to bury the tube with its contents; I don’t know. But the child is definitely killed right away in the process.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>…the use of a condom to limit AIDS is not taught against by the Magisterium so it’s also permitted.<>Perhaps it would be truer to say that what isn’t taught against is permitted to be thought permitted.

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