It’s an ad hominem because the guy saying it is a bad person
March 18, 2010 § 4 Comments
An archetypical exchange:
Bob’s argument is consequentialist.
Bob is not a consequentialist in a sense that involves dissent from the Magisterium. According to Veritatis Splendour, a consequentialist
“… den[ies] the existence of negative moral norms regarding specific kinds of behaviour, norms which are valid without exception.”
“… holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its “object” — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.”
Bob does not deny and hold, respectively. In fact he insists that cutting your toenails on alternate tuesdays is always wrong without exception, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice was made or the consequences of the act. Therefore, by counterexample, Bob is not a consequentialist.
There are at least two obvious problems with Hipparchus’ argument.
The first is that he shifts focus from Bob’s argument to Bob the person.
The second is that the argument divorces Veritatis Splendour from the actual content of the moral law: from the actual negative moral norms, the natural law and the teaching of the Church on specific kinds of concrete actions which are always, without exception, morally wrong to choose.
An argument is consequentialist when it contends that a particular kind of intrinsically immoral act – an act, like rape or torture, taught to be intrinsically immoral by the Magisterium of the Church – cannot be qualified as morally evil apart from the intention for which the choice was made or the consequences of the act. Furthermore, a consequentialist argument of this sort is in fact in conflict with the Magisterium of the Church.
Oh, and since everyone always insists on personalizing things in the blogosphere, a person who advances consequentialist arguments is a consequentialist, and in a way which materially involves dissent from the Magisterium. Whether it is politic to say so or not is one thing, of course; but it is certainly true.