Semantic Self-Immolation

July 9, 2008 § 39 Comments

Apparently, someone who willingly takes up arms in a war in order to ingratiate himself to war-supporters is a ‘conscientious objector’ to that war. Oh, and ‘torture’ is a Randian anti-concept. And since a decision to wage war is a prudential judgement, there is always room for legitimate disagreement and only the President can say whether the Iraq invasion was just.

Have I missed any important ones?

Hat tip to Bill Luse, for predicting where this discussion had to go.

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§ 39 Responses to Semantic Self-Immolation

  • William Luse says:

    Here’s MM’s comment:<>The problem, Zippy, is that you mis-define conscientious objection. Providing support to a certain pro-choice person or group…is neither an evil act nor an evil ommission– provided you do not share their “pro-choice” beliefs.<>(I wonder why the scare quotes around pro-choice.) But you might recognize this from a long-ago discussion as another version of the infamous dictatorship of intention: I can get to a good end using an evil means as long as my inner speechwriter tells me I intended only the good end. He then draws an analogy:<>You remind me of people who claim one can never talk to terrorists, because doing so provides implicit support for their activity (after all, we have a duty to oppose the murder of innocent people). I would argue the opposite: sometimes the need to protect life calls for enaging these people, especially when there is no other moral alternative.<>Did he just call Obama a terrorist?

  • zippy says:

    Not only is the attempt to justify the position through double-effect patent nonsense (since the evil omission causes the putative good effect); even the places where that is attempted are equivocations on other comments, also in the linked post:<>“It is simply too easy to assert that society must simply criminalize every incidence of abortion, and that’s that. It’s just not going to happen. <>The barest hint of such legislation would muster the mother-of-all pro-choice backlashes.<>“<>and<>“I think we can agree with pro-choicers that it possible for the law to abstain from punishment, …”<>The idea is that we should forget about making abortion illegal as an explicit requirement, and instead keep abortion legal and make nice with pro-choicers, and attempt to minimize abortions through other means (free DVD players, food stamps, etc).<>Did he just call Obama a terrorist?<>Heh. Obama is worse than an ordinary terrorist, because he is a key supporter of a legal regime which makes it a legal ‘right’ to kill the infidel/untermensch.

  • Oh yeah, keep up the patent nonsense. Keep telling yourself that talking to terrorists and pro-choicers is somehow “and evil means toward a good end”. I’m sure it makes you feel better. And yeah, keep up the smug jokes too, while abortion continues without abatement. I don’t know what box you guys have locked yourselves in, but it’s not a Christian one. But perhaps I speak harshly: you guys do associate with a woman who advocates killing criminals to reduce prison overcrowding.

  • Dave says:

    It seems to me that if double-effect applies to anything in this situation, it applies to supporting criminalization of abortion. While it may have the unfortunate effect of increasing the abortion rate (which I think is very unlikely), that effect is clearly unintended.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    I clarified that, MM, and that is not my position. I have already apologized for having spoken flippantly and having used the word “to” where I should not have done so. Meanwhile, I’m getting a bit tired of your abusing Zippy. I’m surprised he lets you get away with it.

  • Anonymous says:

    MM:<>I’m sure it makes you feel better. And yeah, keep up the smug jokes too, while abortion continues without abatement. I don’t know what box you guys have locked yourselves in, but it’s not a Christian one. <>And supporting a candidate who will guarantee the universal accessibility of abortion and fund such abortions by tax-payer dollars is <>the<> solution to the ongoing holocaust, let alone, a Christian one???Have I missed something here???What Christianity is this?

  • Bob says:

    I’m solidly behind the pro-life movement, and I hope that some day Roe v. Wade is made illegal.As I just posted at MM’s site against contraception, I figure it will ignored as unattainable. But, I’ve also noticed a hint of reservations on the other side as well.What say you folks here? Without questioning the priority of stopping the attack in the wombs, can we also attack Griswold vs. CT. as well?Peace,Bob

  • zippy says:

    <>Keep telling yourself that talking to terrorists and pro-choicers is somehow “and evil means toward a good end”.<>That would be a great retort against a stupid position if anyone had actually taken that stupid position.

  • zippy says:

    Bob:I’m certainly very sympathetic to making contraception illegal. On the other hand, it would I think be a mistake to couple that too closely to abortion and euthanasia as a matter of legal priority. The Magisterium has expressly stated that Catholics have a grave duty to conscientiously object to the legality of abortion and euthanasia. The Magisterium has not said that with respect to the legality of contraception, as far as I know.

  • Bob says:

    D’oh! “Roe v. Wade is made illegal.” Did I write that?Zippy,Insofar as I’m unaware that the Magisterium has done the same for torture, I’m not sure that it’s material. I do know that torture and contraception are intrinsically evil. Knowing that torture and contraception are very destructive to the societies in which they’re allowed is enough for me to say they must be opposed.The linkage between contraception abortion was made by Pope JPII in Evangelium Vitae and by the Supreme Court in Casey vs. PP. I’m sure you know that. It’s not that I wish to give priority to contraception, it’s that I realize that contraception was the Pandora’s box for the sexual revolution. If there is something I do agree with MM about is that merely making abortion illegal doesn’t suffice. Where I do disagree with MM, is that material means isn’t a sufficient solution for the protection of the unwanted child.I do view contraception as civilization destroying. It destroys the family, it destroys a person’s perception of herself, and it leads to the destruction of children.It’s not that I sense that you disagree with me. It’s that I think pro-life people need to have the courage to be up front about the necessity of dealing with contraception as well.Peace,Bob

  • zippy says:

    <>It’s not that I sense that you disagree with me. It’s that I think pro-life people need to have the courage to be up front about the necessity of dealing with contraception as well.<>Sure, Bob, and the scourge of no-fault divorce, normalization of fornication and homosexuality, etc. I’m just making the devil’s advocate point here that ‘failure to advocate for making contraception illegal’ is not manifestly in contradiction with statements by the Magisterium, whereas failure to advocate for making abortion and euthanasia illegal <>is<>. Believe it or not, I really do try to avoid overstating the case in my arguments.

  • William Luse says:

    I’m surprised he lets him get away with this, which is a literal calumny: <>you guys do associate with a woman who advocates killing criminals to reduce prison overcrowding.<>

  • zippy says:

    Well, Lydia can and did take care of herself on that point. Sometimes it is best to leave a calumny up and answered rather than just taking it down. It documents what actually happened in case the issue ever comes up again.

  • William Luse says:

    If “Providing support to a certain pro-choice person or group” means voting for Obama, I’m willing to stick with the charge that it’s an evil means to the good end of (putatively) eliminating or reducing the incidence of abortion. It’s a blatant dereliction of the duty to actively seek destruction of the abortion liberty. When that vote is cast, Mr. Obama is not going to be able to “read” MM’s intention, but rather consider it as part of an aggregate, collective mandate to perpetuate and perhaps extend the bloody regime.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Don’t worry, I”m not looking for Zippy to take anything down. I just get steamed on his behalf when MM keeps beating _him_ over the head with it. 🙂

  • Tom says:

    <>It’s a blatant dereliction of the duty to actively seek destruction of the abortion liberty.<>That’s not what our bishops teach.

  • William Luse says:

    But that’s what it is, whether they teach it or not.

  • Tom says:

    I’m sure you won’t be offended if I follow the bishops’ interpretation of the duty to actively seek destruction of the abortion liberty rather than yours.

  • zippy says:

    I am not aware of any bishop saying, let alone teaching in an exercise of his office, w.r.t the specific candidate Barack Obama, that voting for him is or is not a blatant dereliction of the duty to actively seek destruction of the abortion liberty. I take Bill’s point to be that saying ‘the bishops don’t teach that’ isn’t all that interesting an observation. It isn’t the sort of thing that bishops ordinarily take a position on, in the exercise of their teaching office, at all.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Well, < HREF="http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1073" REL="nofollow">Abp Chaput<>, while making it clear while Obama is an unacceptable candidate for him, seemed to deliberately stop short of declaring him unacceptable to all Catholics.He also gave some conditions Catholics must work through before supporting a candidate like Obama, and some might say those restrictions are sufficient that they could not possibly be met.But my suspicion is that if Abp. Chaput believed that a vote for a pro-choice candidate was derelection of duty, he would have said so in these columns.

  • zippy says:

    <>…seemed to deliberately stop short of declaring him unacceptable to all Catholics.<>Well, yes. When have the US Bishops, or any particular US bishop, declared a particular candidate unacceptable to all Catholics? That just isn’t the kind of thing bishops do.<>But my suspicion is that if Abp. Chaput believed that a vote for a pro-choice candidate was derelection of duty, he would have said so in these columns.<>Change “a pro-choice candidate” in that statement to “Barack Obama”. Bill is contending that voting for Obama specifically is in fact a dereliction of the duty to oppose the abortion legal regime. The notion that it is impossible for this to be the case about this particular candidate unless the Bishops have said so is just ultramontane moral relativism all over again. If George Weigel said “the Bishops have not said that the Iraq invasion was definitely unjust” — a true statement — I would be just as nonplussed at the significance attached to the statement.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    The argument from silence strikes again. Very weak form of argument, the “if it were true, we would have heard so-and-so say such-and-such” premise is so often false.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>But my suspicion is that if Abp. Chaput believed that a vote for a pro-choice candidate was derelection of duty, he would have said so in these columns.<>Why must it always need to be so explicit?My goodness!I take it giving support to Hitler is not necessarily giving support to the genocide of the Jews unless made explicit by the leaders of the free world back then as well!

  • JohnMcG says:

    First, I generalized to “pro-choice candidate” because there are obvious reasons why a bishop might not make such a statement about a particular candidate, but might not be so restrained in making a general statement.Second, I don’t think Archbishop Chaput can be dismissed as a typical squishy Amchurch bishop. He hasn’t shied away from controversy on this issue before.I think pointing to Abp. Chaput’s statement is a little stronger than an argument from silence. He laid out under what circumstances one might support such a candidate. As I mentioned, it may be the case that he put the bar so high that it could not be cleared. I’m not saying he gave a green light. Indeed the purpose of the piece was to dissuade Catholics from supporting candidates like Obama. But he gave something less than a red light as well.

  • William Luse says:

    No, I won’t be offended. You flatter yourself to think that anything you did might.<>I take Bill’s point to be that saying ‘the bishops don’t teach that’ isn’t all that interesting an observation.<>Completely uninteresting.

  • zippy says:

    <>First, I generalized to “pro-choice candidate” because there are obvious reasons why a bishop might not make such a statement about a particular candidate, but might not be so restrained in making a general statement.<>By doing that, though, you are changing the subject.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I am not advancing the position that something can’t be objectively wrong unless the bishops say so. As noted, the bishops never make statements like this about elections, and that doesn’t mean it’s never objectively morally wrong to vote for a particular candidate, and I will not take their failure to make a statement on this election as an imprimatur for either candidate.But the bishops, both through the USSCB documents and in pastoral letters, have addressed the question of voting at length, and not come anywhere close to what Bill is asserting. So, if what Bill is asserting is true, it raises the question of why the bishops have not taught it. As a veteran of Catholic blogs, I know that the answer is that it’s because they’re spineless wimps, the USCCB is the Democratic Party at prayer, etc. You can go have fun at Rod Dreher’s blog.But I don’t think this applies to Abp. Chaput, since he has written with considerable force against pro-choice Catholic politicians, and in this column was specifically addressing “Roman Catholics for Obama,” but seemed to take more of a tone of “watch out,” than “you’re wrong.” I’m quite sure Abp. Chaput does not want Obama to be the next president, and I don’t think he would decline to use the most powerful tools at his disposal to work against that. Yet he has not used anything like this “derelection of duty” rhetoric to convince Catholics not to vote for Obama specifically or pro-choice candidates in general.Again, this is not proof that a vote for Obama cannot be objectively wrong. But that Bill is probably overreaching in stating that a vote for Obama is a blatant derelection of a duty. Catholics considering voting for Obama should heed Abp Chaput’s words and consider how their reasons would sound to the unborn who remain vulnerable.

  • JohnMcG says:

    Also, I think a medieval pope once voted for a pro-choice candidate, so the Church can’t call it intrinsically evil. (:-)

  • zippy says:

    <>But the bishops, both through the USSCB documents and in pastoral letters, have addressed the question of voting at length, and not come anywhere close to what Bill is asserting.<>That is right: because they haven’t said <>anything much at all<> about any particular candidate (though one Bishop did excommunicate a governor for holding a position virtually identical to Obama’s), and, as we’ve agreed, they are highly unlikely to do so.Again, I’m just baffled why either you or Tom appear to think that counts as evidence – of any sort – against Bill’s contention.<>Catholics considering voting for Obama should heed Abp Chaput’s words and consider how their reasons would sound to the unborn who remain vulnerable.<>My own guess is that it would sound like a blatant derelection of duty, at the very least, on the most charitable possible reading; though ‘collaboration in genocide’ is probably more objectively accurate.

  • zippy says:

    I mean, if we listen to Abp Chaput’s criteria we are talking about looking at the issue from the perspective of a person whose only living experience is being hacked to pieces in her mother’s womb, or growing for nine months only to have scissors stuck through one’s skull by a duly authorized ‘doctor’, right?I expect that ‘derelection of duty’ is the least of it.

  • Tom says:

    I didn’t say the bishops have been silent. They haven’t.I said the bishops don’t teach what William Luse teaches, and that I will follow what the bishops teach rather than what he teaches.There comes a point where the search for moral rigor falls into rigorism. In a society of laxists, it’s not always easy to see where that point is, but maybe one way to tell how close you are is how much of your time is spent binding heavy burdens for the shoulders of others.

  • zippy says:

    <>I said the bishops don’t teach what William Luse teaches …<>What you fail to appreciate is that the Bishops do not teach either for or against what Bill ‘teaches’ (though Chaput comes close to a very strong ‘for’, in my view); yet you appear to treat the matter as if they teach against.<>There comes a point where the search for moral rigor falls into rigorism.<>I think that is flat wrong. Rigorism is a particular error which pertains to subjective judgements of moral probability and their relation to actual objective immorality. Rigorism asserts (roughly) that when it is thought <>probable<> that X is morally wrong that means that X is <>in fact<> morally wrong. It is incorrect to treat rigorism as if it were a synonym for “thinking rigorously about morality”.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I guess where I’m coming from is that when a Christian is making a contention about behavior that he would never engage in, in essence, his neighbor’s behavior, he better be on solid ground. If someone wants to apply that standard to his own behavior, that’s his business. When someone goes on the internet and makes an accusation of derelection of duty against a class of his Christian brothers, well, them’s fightin’ words, and one better be prepared to defend them with more than, “well, it’s true.”If in their recent document on torture, the USCCB never used the phrase “intrinsic evil,” then I would not feel good continuing to use that phrase in discussing torture. In the same way, if I made such a claim in arguing against the death penalty, I would expect to be called on it.This isn’t just about “making nice;” this is about credibility. There is an extraordinary temptation for people to disregard to pro-life message, and to actually derelect their duties. When their experience of pro-life people is baseless accusations being thrown around, the appeal of this temptation increases.

  • zippy says:

    <>When someone goes on the internet and makes an accusation of derelection of duty against a class of his Christian brothers, well, them’s fightin’ words, and one better be prepared to defend them with more than, “well, it’s true.”<>It has been defended on more than <>just<> that basis though. It has been defended on at least as strong a basis as the statement “the Iraq invasion was manifestly unjust”.Plus, Bill just bloody thinks it is true, and so do I. How do I distinguish your position from “I know you think it is manifestly true, but shut up”?

  • JohnMcG says:

    <>“How do I distinguish your position from “I know you think it is manifestly true, but shut up”?<>Maybe you can’t, but I don’t neccesarily see that as a problem.There’s all sorts of things I believe are manifestly true that I don’t express for a variety of reasons, both good and bad. It may be manifestly apparent to me that the baby is ugly. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to tell the baby’s mother, or write a blog post detailing the ugliness of the baby.Now, you might say that what you’re saying has more moral value than proclaiming a baby’s ugliness. I might agree, but I think the value is lost on those who would derive value from it.

  • zippy says:

    OK, fair enough. Let me rephrase the question.How do I distinguish your position from “I know you think it is a manifest truth which it is important to state openly, but shut up”?

  • JohnMcG says:

    I guess what I am saying is to consider why you feel it is essential to state it openly, and if the effects of you stating it openly are aligned with those reasons.

  • zippy says:

    Fair enough.

  • William Luse says:

    John, I just want it clear that I speak only for myself. No bishop has said, nor will he ever say, what I have said, even if he thinks it. He is charged with guiding souls, not dismissing them, and with maintaining a certain tax-exempt status. Tom should of course follow the bishops’ teaching rather than mine, although his insistence would be more useful if accompanied by an explanation of how the permission to materially cooperate with evil (under certain strict conditions) in any way proves me wrong.When you say “I think the value is lost on those who would derive value from it,” you are probably right, but again I want you to know (which may not interest you) that I have never been under any illusion that what I have to say will be of any value to those who might so derive. There comes a point when the failure to call a spade a spade is no act of charity.

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