Double-Effect and Positive Duties, Again

July 9, 2008 § 12 Comments

Suppose there was a group of anarchists, and we wanted to collaborate with the anarchists on something good.

Suppose though that in order to have ‘street cred’ with those anarchists it was necessary to refuse to pay our taxes and debts.

In this case, the proposal is made that we don’t pay our taxes or debts, and use that not-paying as a specific means to gaining street cred with the anarchists: that maybe they won’t even work with us at all unless we refuse to pay our taxes and debts.

Is this justifiable under double-effect? Absolutely not, because refusing to pay our taxes and debts is specifically a means to the end of getting the anarchists to collaborate with us. Deliberately shirking a specific, positive duty is what specifically causes the good effect we are seeking.

Similarly, Catholics have a grave positive duty to work against the legality of abortion: a positive duty every bit as real and required as paying taxes and debts. One may indeed in certain circumstances talk to and work with pro-choice persons and groups. I’ve never seen anyone assert the contrary. But one may not refuse the grave duty to conscientiously object to the legality of abortion, with that refusal as a means of making collaboration with pro-choicers work better (or work at all). Doing so fails double-effect, just as refusing to pay taxes and debts as a means to making collaboration with anarchists work better fails double-effect.

Tagged:

§ 12 Responses to Double-Effect and Positive Duties, Again

  • August says:

    I’m in total agreement with your argument, but I have noticed that term ‘legitimate authority’ in connection with taxes. So at least for those taxes, we could argue that since our gov. no longer follows the constitution, it’s no longer legit. Thus one could make the argument that we aren’t under moral obligation to pay taxes.

  • zippy says:

    Well, honestly, I have little sympathy for the major premise of an argument that the government is illegitimate and therefore we don’t have to pay taxes. I doubt the illegitimacy argument is stronger for here than for Caesar, and we all know what we’ve been told about giving unto Caesar.

  • discalcedyooper says:

    I guess I have difficulty seeing how “gaining street cred” is substancial. Obviously we can stipulate that the given act is necessary for our desired outcome, but I would think such a claim would simply only be valid by its construction and not by any real merit. Any blessing forthcoming from the anarchists would seem to be material to circumstance and not the intention of the moral act. I’m probably not helped in this evaluation in that I tend to believe double effect to be an overused principle. Of course when people’s only tool is “double effect”, every problem needs to be addressed by double effect. (Please note, that wasn’t directed at the author.)Despite promising myself a hiatus on the abortion question raised, I will address it. It would seem that one would not be able to support decriminalization as opposed to a civic right and as a temporary goal. There is a certain quality that differenciates itself from an analogous alliance qua abortion with those who support the three exceptions. While such support may legitimatize in the broader society a view that those created under the action of rape for example are less worthy of life, it clearly condemns as illegitimate the proponderance of abortion acts that are occuring. It is unclear to me how those who would advocate decriminalize so as to find those more willing to condemn abortion are actually bringing about its delegitimatization, although I do agree with them the political means to achieve criminalizing abortion are not likely to be available in an environment where that civic right is exercised widely and often.

  • zippy says:

    IIRC, even in the case of cooperation with ‘3 exceptions’ laws one is obliged to make it clear than one does not support the three exceptions. One may neither <>pretend<> to formally support the three exceptions themselves, nor <>actually<> formally support the three exceptions, as a means of making the collaboration happen.

  • m.z says:

    <>IIRC, even in the case of cooperation with ‘3 exceptions’ laws one is obliged to make it clear than one does not support the three exceptions.<>Correct<>One may neither pretend to formally support the three exceptions themselves<>It depends on how you define support. I would probably qualify it with “in and of themselves”. One is obviously supporting them contingently.<>, nor actually formally support the three exceptions, as a means of making the collaboration happen.<>I’m unclear of how you are using formal in this instance. I’m assuming in the declaratory sense. I think one would be okay as long as it were understood not to be the final end but a proximate end. I believe the obligation to make that clear is on the advocate and not on the listener. Advocates have had a tendency not to make the two clear.

  • zippy says:

    <>I’m unclear of how you are using formal in this instance.<>Oh, I just mean the usual thing: to <>intend<> the three exceptions in law – even as merely a means to the end of getting more cooperation in passing that law – as opposed to tolerating them because that was the most restrictive proposed legislation that was available to support. Any time X is <>intended<> that implies formal cooperation with X. (Formal cooperation can also refer to participation in the act itself, in which case one may disclaim intention but the intention nevertheless obtains. The key element of formal cooperation is <>intention<>).Another way to say it: it is acceptable to <>tolerate<> evil in someone else’s political proposal, if that is the best you can do, while objecting to the evil. It is not acceptable to <>propose<> evil as a ‘marketing tool’ to get broader cooperation with your own political proposal. Vote for a ‘three exceptions’ law if it is in fact the best option form among options over which we have no direct control, si. <>Propose<> a law with the three exceptions because we think it will garner more support – because the three exceptions will, we believe, play the part of a means to the end of garnering more support – no.

  • August says:

    Whose face is on our money?We could give to George, I suppose.Our Lord was speaking the truth in the midst of a trap. There is what is Caesar’s and there is what is God’s. We can give Caesar what is his, and then, as much as is practical, stop dealing with him, and stay with God.Anyway, it’s an argument based on the wording of the Catechism and I haven’t looked at the relevant parts in quite some time. A much more pertinent question; how much of your tax money must go for abortions, torture, etc. before you decide you shouldn’t pay taxes?For the record I pay them. Jesus established He wasn’t obligated to pay the temple tax, and then paid it anyway. Looks to me like a strategic move, what with other things being a bit more important to Him.

  • zippy says:

    <>A much more pertinent question; how much of your tax money must go for abortions, torture, etc. before you decide you shouldn’t pay taxes?<>That definitely is a pertinent question. A related one is how much of one’s taxes paid to Caesar must pay to carry out crucifixions before you decide you shouldn’t pay it?Anyway, you may have noticed that I anticipated the question in my post by postulating <>taxes and debts<>, because I didn’t want the point I was illustrating about positive obligations and double-effect to get sidetracked by the particulars of the example. I figured if my anarchists wouldn’t work with anyone who pays taxes <>or<> debts I could avoid libertarian-leaning arguments from the right and the left. :~o

  • Kyle R. Cupp says:

    Does working to outlaw abortion prevent one from working effectively with pro-choice advocates to reduce abortions? I don’t think so. We can, and should, do both. And more besides.

  • decker2003 says:

    Does the duty to work to enshrine protection for all human life from conception to natural end also entail a duty to take ineffective steps toward that goal which sacrifice other important goals? Isn’t it a question of strategy HOW we seek to enshrine that protection in law? Couldn’t one conclude that the strategy most likely to succeed is to collaborate with the pro-abortion lobby on certain points of mutual agreement in the short run, then as abortion becomes less common, work for legal protections on the theory that there will be less opposition to such protections when abortion has become much less prevalent? I know many will disagree with that strategy, but does that disagreement follow from first principles or from differing judgments about what is likely to be successful?The purpose of my question is simply to test your argument that collaboration with pro-abortion folk conflicts with the duty to oppose the legality of abortion. It seems to me you may be skipping over a step — viz, the duty to work toward a goal vs. the duty to take particular actions to achieve the goal.

  • zippy says:

    <>Isn’t it a question of strategy HOW we seek to enshrine that protection in law?<>Not if a proposed strategy fails double-effect. Any strategy which involves choosing an action wherein a bad effect causes the good effect is off the table.When choosing among licit strategies, absolutely.

  • zippy says:

    Let me make a clarification here:<>… collaboration with pro-abortion folk [necessarily and in every case] conflicts with the duty to oppose the legality of abortion<>… is NOT something I contend. At all. Any number of people have attempted to ascribe that position to me. It is not my position.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Double-Effect and Positive Duties, Again at Zippy Catholic.

meta

%d bloggers like this: