Deontological Alchemy

December 8, 2008 § 23 Comments

In a comment thread on another blog the question was asked:

[C]an a homosexual relationship be a good thing if you don’t know it’s wrong?

The answer, of course, is that no, it cannot. The notion here is one we’ve seen time and time again: take a cup of grave evil, add in a tablespoon of ignorance, and presto! Evil is now good!

But as the Magisterium tells us:

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.

Deontological alchemy doesn’t work. We can’t turn our favored evils into goods by adding enough of the ingredient ‘ignorance’.

Tagged:

§ 23 Responses to Deontological Alchemy

  • Mouse says:

    Good point. That makes a lot of sense. Question: turning to actions that are NOT matters inherently disordered, but rather are fundamentally neutral in moral terms, can ignorance of the true facts turn what is in fact detrimental or harmful (I assiduously avoid the terms “bad” and “evil”) into a morally good act insofar as the moral actor is concerned? Suppose I investigate a “charity” and it looks good from the information I can collect. I decide to give them money to feed the poor. It turns out, though, that the charity was a scam, a front for a con artist, who eventually absconds with the money, and who (just to pick a really nasty end result) invests it in a abortion clinic. When I give the money to charity, is my action accounted (for moral purposes) good or evil? Am I, as the source of the money, an evil actor? Am I responsible for an evil, but the guilt is mitigated or eradicated by my ignorance? Seems to me that it is impossible that I am not attributed a morally good act in the eternal view merely because I was unaware of facts that I made a good faith effort to ascertain, while a another person giving to another charity in exactly the same state of information lucks out and hits a real charity that does good and so the giver is attributed with a morally good act. Which leads one to the suggested conclusion that ignorance of some facts (when the action is not inherently disordered) can excuse evil in the results but ignorance of other facts cannot (when the action is inherently evil). One might say this is because ignorance of the latter category is simply inexcusable in itself.

  • And in over 100 posts not a single Vox Nova contributor defended the Church against one vitriolic attack after another.zippy writes : “if contraception was the camel-in-the-tent’s nose, homosex is its, um, hindquarters.”very funnyreminds me of one I read in National Review back in college. Where a homosexual was quoted as saying that homosexuals look at sex the same way as straights look at having a drink before dinner. To which NR replied “Bottoms Up”

  • Of course a homosexual relationship can be a good thing. The love, compassion, friendship expressed in that relationship is a good thing.And we should celebrate that.What’s not a good thing is the sexual component of a homosexual relationship.Let’s be a bit clearer on exactly what it is that’s wrong and make the proper distinction between what is good in a homosexual relationship and what isn’t.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>What’s not a good thing is the sexual component of a homosexual relationship.<>IOW, a homosexual relationship is never a good thing.

  • Zippy,I think you are wrong to equate a homosexual relationship with homosexual sex.There is more to a homosexual relationship than just the sex, just as there is to a heterosexual relationship.The non-sexual components of a homosexual relationship are good and noble things.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    Well, yes, to the extent a relationship is non-homosexual it can be (though is not necessarily) a good thing. My post doesn’t claim that relationships in general cannot be a good thing. It claims that <>homosexual<> relationships cannot be a good thing; because they cannot. Furthermore, they cannot be made into a good thing by adding a sufficient amount of ignorance.

  • Zippy,The Church doesn’t teach that there is anything wrong with a chaste and non-sexual homosexual relationship.Such as the one David Morrison lived in.http://www.zenit.org/article-9089?l=englishOf course homosexual relationships can be a good thing, to the extent that they are chaste.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    There is no such thing as a “non-sexual homosexual relationship”. If it is non-sexual, it is also non-homosexual.

  • Zippy,I suppose, then, that you’d say that a heterosexual relationship stops being heterosexual when they stop having sex ?I used to think that the Catholic position against homosexual sex was based on some sort of reasonable theology of matrimony. But the more I see the more I’m beginning to conclude that much of it is simply good old fashioned anti-gay bigotry.God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>I suppose, then, that you’d say that a heterosexual relationship stops being heterosexual when they stop having sex ?<>Of course not. But it would be incoherent – and probably slander – to describe a platonic relationship between a man and a woman as a “heterosexual” relationship, since the relationship is in fact non-sexual in nature. I would not describe the relationship between a priest and a nun as a “heterosexual relationship”, for example: to do so would be ridiculous, unless they were in fact sometimes engaging in (obviously illicit) sexual behaviors with each other. The language abuse involved in doing so when it comes to homosexuals is part and parcel to the lie that there is anything good about <>homosexual<> relationships: to the extent a relationship is not homosexual it can be good, of course, but a <>homosexual<> relationship cannot be good, period.<>But the more I see the more I’m beginning to conclude that much of it is simply good old fashioned anti-gay bigotry.<>For the record, I am also unapologetically anti-bestiality, anti-murder, anti-theft, and anti-rape. I’m also anti- many other mortal sins. If that is bigotry in your book, well, then what you call bigotry I call sanity.

  • Zippy,I’m not talking about purely platonic relationships.I’m talking about non-sexual relationships between two people who are sexually attracted to each other but for various relations do not express that sexually.In the case of different genders, they would be correctly called heterosexual relationships even when sexless.And in the case of the same genders, they would be correctly called homosexual relationships even when sexless.Chaste and sexless homosexual relations certainly exist (David Morrison lived in one) and they are certainly good to the extent that the partners express proper love for each other.I think what you’re missing, Zippy, is the understanding that chaste love in a homosexual relationship is a good thing.Because it is love.I think that your mis-characterisation of homosexual relationships is an obstacle to the proper explanation of the Catholic position on human sexuality in the modern world.It just makes us sound like bigots (not that you are).God Bless

  • zippy says:

    <>I’m talking about non-sexual relationships between two people who are sexually attracted to each other but for various relations do not express that sexually.<>Right. Like betweeen a priest and a nun. And calling their relationship “heterosexual” would not merely be false, it would be a slander, since their relationship is non-sexual.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    There is a wretched article by Peter Kreeft (okay, an article that has a dreadful long passage) that you, Zippy, would be the perfect person to fisk. I see this especially clearly based on your most recent comment about how it is slanderous to call Platonic relationships “sexual.” Perhaps you have already read the piece in question. It is on the question of whether there is sex in heaven.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>Chaste and sexless homosexual relations certainly exist<>How do you have a sexless sexual relationship?– Kurt

  • William Luse says:

    Actually, Chris, I’d thought that Church teaching on the matter had described homosexual attraction as “disordered”, though not necessarily sinful unless it is a thing one cultivates. Such that a male friendship, even though physically chaste but finding its origin in a sexual attraction, is not really a male friendship in the usual sense of that term. Right?

  • zippy says:

    Mouse:This probably does not directly address your question, but <>VS<> says this about doing the right thing for the wrong reason:<>Furthermore, a good act which is not recognized as such does not contribute to the moral growth of the person who performs it; it does not perfect him and it does not help to dispose him for the supreme good. Thus, before feeling easily justified in the name of our conscience, we should reflect on the words of the Psalm: “Who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults” (Ps 19:12). There are faults which we fail to see but which nevertheless remain faults, because we have refused to walk towards the light (cf. Jn 9:39-41).<>It is important to understand that an act is not merely an event of the physical order, but is the movement of a human will to put into motion certain concrete potentialities. We know that an act (the object of the act) is not the acting subject’s further intentions, or why he is doing what he is doing. But we also know that in order to grasp the object of the act we have to place ourselves in the perspective of the acting subject: that is, we must see and know what he sees and knows. When we talked about shooting down airplanes we distinguished between the fighter pilot knowing that there are innocents aboard, on the one hand, and genuinely thinking that there are not, on the other. If he blows up the plane thinking that there are no innocents on board but there really are, well, it is a mistake — even if a non-culpable mistake. If he knows that there are innocents on board and he blows up the airliner anyway he commits murder. A virtuous person is <>satisfied<> with his good acts, <>regrets<> his mistakes and tries to avoid similar ones in the future, and <>repents<> of his wrongdoings. So our moral disposition, the disposition of our virtue, to each of these kinds of things, should be distinct, it seems to me.<>Which leads one to the suggested conclusion that ignorance of some facts (when the action is not inherently disordered) can excuse evil in the results but ignorance of other facts cannot (when the action is inherently evil). One might say this is because ignorance of the latter category is simply inexcusable in itself.<>Well, with an intrinsically immoral act like sodomy it is impossible not to know what one is doing in a concrete sense. One may object that one does not believe it is wrong, etc, but that does nothing to mitigate the fact that one knows one is doing <>this thing<>. (If one is sleep, uh, walking, one is not <>acting<> in a moral sense at all). Furthermore, whether one knows or agrees with this further fact or not, objectively <>this thing<> is directly opposed to man’s telos.The usual trick these days is to conflate these kinds of knowledge: knowledge of <>what one is doing<> with intellectual agreement that <>doing this is wrong<>. A non-culpable <>mistake<> always involves some kind of gap in knowledge or failure of intellect, but gaps in knowledge and failures of intellect come in different kinds, with different moral implications; and in any event the dignity of conscience arises from the truth, not from subjectivity.

  • e. says:

    Zippy,“If he blows up the plane thinking that there are no innocents on board but there really are, well, it is a mistake — even if a non-culpable mistake. If he knows that there are innocents on board and he blows up the airliner anyway he commits murder.”Was it not your claim under previous discussions that the actor in the former would be classified as having committed an act of evil regardless of what that actor had thought?

  • Kevin Jones says:

    Modifying the original question to ask my own:[C]an [approving of] a homosexual relationship be a good thing if you don’t know it’s wrong?I ask this because love, in the ethical sense, is briefly defined as willing the good of another, while hate is briefly defined as willing evil upon another.Take the case where one wills that someone continue in evil, even if one does not recognize that evil as such.Isn’t doing so an objectively hateful act?I ask for several reasons. First, to reclaim love and hate for the language of virtue and vice, rather than the language of emotion and passion.Second, to expand the focus from intellectual error to errors of action. Third, to note that more of us risk approving of a homosexual relationship than participating in one.Fourth, to suggest that recasting the topic in such language better brings us to reality than somewhat technical talk about objectivity and subjectivity.A person who wishes somebody what is truly good is better than a person who wishes somebody what is only perceived to be good.Say it like this, and the “disorder in relation to the truth about the good” becomes more clear. Perhaps objective and subjective truth are of less relevance to non-philosophers than the true man and the true friend.

  • Anonymous says:

    Please read in The Curt Jester:By Guillermo Bustamante on December 16, 2008 9:48 PM Jeff:After the election and the utterly contemptible ‘lawyerly’ position from the USCCB not to excommunicate the intellectual-formal “Catholic” lawmakers of abortion (scandalously, because the surgical minions automatically are), and some “gay rights lawmakers”, we lay orthodox Catholics MUST FIGHT PUBLICLY, BLAMING THE HYPOCRITICAL USCCB!!!!! for what they are: servants of mammon.St. Luke: 11: 52 Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard, and to provoke him to speak of many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch at something he might say.16: 1313 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”Cordially

  • Anonymous says:

    By Guillermo Bustamante In addition to my yesterday’s text, to further clarify the clear liability of the USCCB, for confusing ignorant Catholics into supporting heretic-evil policies of “politically correct pro-gay-sick-degenerate-put-dick-in-excrement & pro-abortion Catholic politicians”:History will INCREASINGLY SHOW A DAWNING OF THIS BLAME-SHAME from the USCCB, when they did not show deep repentance for the pedophile scandal TO THE ROCK SUCCESSOR OF PETER BENEDICT XVI, and KNOWINGLY-PUBLICLY TO TV-WORLD-VIEW, DISTRIBUTED THE EUCHARIST in his April DC Mass, TO THOSE POLITICIANS-formal-intellectual authors of the BUTCHERING-greatest genocide known to mankind.THIS RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT HORRENDOUS SCANDAL IS AUGMENTED WHEN THE ENTIRE GLOBE WATCHES yet!!! the VP, Speaker and other sacrilegious lawmakers of the most powerful country on earth, boasting that they are CATHOLIC: name usage STILL approved by the USCCB to scandalize the one billion Catholic in the planet!Prophet Malachi:“1.6 …says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. You say, `How have we despised thy name?'7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. And you say, `How have we polluted it?' By thinking that the LORD's table may be despised. (…)2 1 “And now, O priests, this command is for you.2 If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung upon your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence.”Sincerely

  • Anonymous says:

    <>GET A BLOG!!!!<>

  • Anonymous says:

    By Guillermo Bustamante Mr. Donohue satirical fun really depicts not a conspiracy theory, but the plain rotten fruit of a major everyday banging from the devil to CENSOR-banish, NOT ONLY OUR BROTHER BABY JESUS-GOD, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY HIS LIVING PRESENCE HERE & NOW: THE EUCHARIST.Here I copy my recent comment in Vox Nova a.k.a “Auschwitz Debate Club” (brilliant nick-name-mockery of Zippy to Cafeteria Catholicism):“The censoring of my first comment here, goes in line with Vox Nova CENSORING THE MOST IMPORTANT AND LAST ENCYCLICAL OF JPII “ECCLESIA ET EUCHARISTIA”… and gives an orthodox Catholic like me some measure of the lowest La La land-cafeteria.RegretsBy Guillermo Bustamante on December 18, 2008 8:57 PM The offending comments DEFENDING THE EUCHARIST, censored in many blogs (mainly the ones praising the USCCB president, obviously), were published by a just gentleman like Mr. Jeff Miller here at The Curt Jester and Zippy. Many thanks.Merry Christmas.

  • Mouse says:

    Chris, No, a “homosexual” relationship is not a good even when not carried into explicit acts of sex. Insofar as it is appropriate to refer to such a relationship as “homosexual”, it is so only because the parties view their relation and act in such a way as that the acts bear on sexual attraction to each other. Since this sexual attraction is inherently disordered, the acts that reflect this attraction are disordered (unless the acts are “I am going to move away to another part of town so I am not drawn into sin” – i.e. to cut off the relationship as a fight against the disordered attraction.) When two male roommates, who each separately have fiances (of the female gender) they are madly in love with, relate to each other, they do not relate in a homosexual manner, even APART from the fact that they do not have sex together. The mere fact that they are both males does not make the relationship homosexual. It is only the addition to a male-male relationship two additional elements that it is called homosexual (1) they are attracted sexually, and (2) they accept the rightness of this attraction as being good (or at least neutral), and reflect this choice in their acts. The first is disordered but not a sin. The second cannot exist without a morally disordered will. While you are right that two homosexual men can have <> other <> aspects of their relationship that are not sinful, it is just so far as these other aspects are not rooted in or tied to their sexual inter-relating that these aspects can be free of the disorder. But as a general matter, when a person wholly approves in himself a state of being that is objectively a grave vice, all other aspects of his actions are touched by this, and even the best of his outward actions are tinged with disordered reasons for his “good” acts.

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 Deontological Alchemy at Zippy Catholic.

meta

%d bloggers like this: