We are free to disagree that I am punching you in the face

August 19, 2017 § 45 Comments

Take a contentious dispute between A and not-A, and suggest that people are free to disagree on the question.

Present a bunch of arguments why someone might believe not-A.

Personally attack anyone defending A with actual arguments by suggesting that in asserting A they violate the free to disagree principle.

Studiously ignore the fact that if asserting A violates the free to disagree principle, then asserting not-A also violates this principle.

§ 45 Responses to We are free to disagree that I am punching you in the face

  • Zippy says:

    I posted this as a new comment to the Crisis article.

  • Ha! Thanks, Zippy. Us laymen call that Gaslighting, 1944, Ingrid Bergman. The culture,liberalism,people can make you crazy trying to present obvious lies. People are not “free to disagree” on certain aspects of objective reality.

    This sentence in your other post was really good, “It is also true that choices of behavior are preceded by the formation of interior subjective plans, intentions, mentalities, and dispositions, all of which are themselves subject to moral evaluation.”

    Many people seem unaware that sin is often proceeded by these things, that we setup the outcomes,usually long before we even get there. There is a cause and effect happening at all times. To arrive at a bad choice or a moral conundrum, generally we first have to make a series of other bad choices that pave the way.

  • Zippy says:

    Aaaaaannd, of course someone brought up ectopic pregnancy.

    These discussions are like an argument clock: wind them up and all the same old predictable arguments come out the cuckoo door.

  • Number 4 is rather chilling, “The good effect(s) must be proportionate to compensate for the bad effect(s).” I refer to those sort of things as rational-lies because they allow us to rationalize just about anything.

    Excising an ectopic pregnancy is not the moral equivalent of dropping bombs on innocent civilians. I presume nature, design, God’s purpose for that pregnancy, along with common sense, plays a role in our decisions there? One cannot use any of these rationales when it comes to dropping bombs on innocent civilians.

  • Zippy says:


    There are many obvious disanalogies, but it always comes up. Nuclear holocaust is just like a medical procedure, in some folks’ minds.

    On proportionality, that is another very abused term.

    One sense of the term (condemned by Pope John Paul II as a variant of “go ahead and do evil that good may come of it”) is to compare multiple bad outcomes and do whatever results in the less bad outcome, as some sort of abstract measure.

    A legitimate sense of the term is “don’t do more than necessary to achieve the result”. Don’t kill the attacker if you could stop the attack just by knocking him down.

  • TomD says:

    Choosing grave evil that good may result is a form of despair, and as Gandalf points out – “despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”

  • William Luse says:

    It almost but not quite amuses me that when I click on your first link, I see only the guy’s question; when I click the second link I see his question and your answer together. How does that work? I’d like to go back and read the remaining comments, but the difficulty of navigation dissuades me.
    Btw, it’s more important that we embrace our Catholic ‘unity’ than that we agree on what an act of murder looks like.

  • Zippy says:


    How does that work?

    The links are just what the Disqus cat coughs up when you pull its “share” tail on the particular comment. As far as I can tell, what you see is wildly different depending on what kind of device you use to view it, and the structure of Disqus discussions is an incoherent mess.

    The best way to view the whole discussion is to load the original article, click “show newest” at the top of the comments, and scroll down until you see my first comment in the discussion.

    But even then you get a mess which is totally out of order from the manner in which the discussion actually took place, because of the way Disqus nests comments.

    Nested comments are the Devil’s work.

  • Zippy says:

    In the Disqus console I can see my own comments by themselves in reverse chronological order.

    But as far as I can tell, Disqus provides no way, even in the profile/console, to view the full discussion in the actual order in which it actually took place.

  • buckyinky says:

    When it comes to sexual matters, Dcn. Russell seems to have a firm grasp on the concept of objective evil.

  • Zippy says:


    At least there are no hobgoblins.

  • buckyinky says:

    I do wonder what a conversation with him on usury would look like – hard to say with his inconsistency.

    I don’t know what your overall takeaway from the a bomb conversation with him was, but I benefited from reading it.

  • Zippy says:


    His argument in the fornication piece self-immolates here:

    But here’ s the problem with the “self-defense” comparison—any time we are compelled by circumstances to do something that results in an evil effect, that evil effect is excused by the fact that we had no choice, such as with killing in self-defense, or stealing food to keep the family from starving.

    Contrast to Veritatis Splendour:

    Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.

  • buckyinky says:

    The contrast between the two excerpts you post suggest his thinking is muddled on what is intrinsically evil. To kill someone (cause their death) is not always and everywhere evil. Murder is always evil, i.e., never permitted, but killing in self-defense is not murder.

    It appears, at least by the language he uses, that he thinks of killing in self-defense as a permitted kind of murder. I don’t want to be unfair to him in a misrepresentation, but the thinking is common enough without needing to assign it to Dcn. Russell specifically. The thought muddle is to think of something as an evil that is at once absolutely never permitted and also permitted in certain circumstances.

  • Zippy says:


    Basically he begs the question against certain behaviors being intrinsically immoral by using the word “effect”, thus bringing double effect into the picture. This kind of assume-the-conclusion-and-work-backward moral theology is certainly common, and his writing in general provides a good example of it.

  • Basically he begs the question against certain behaviors being intrinsically immoral by using the word “effect”, thus bringing double effect into the picture.

    Ever since the Bombing-double-effect discussion this kind of thing has been on my mind. What actually can be considered an “effect” of my action? If I drop a match in a forest, is the resulting forest fire an “effect” of my action? Or is it part of the action itself? Almost everywhere I’ve been reading seems to assume that it is an effect, and even Aquinas’s argument to defend self-defense seems to be calling it an effect.

  • Zippy says:


    Modern people tend to gloss over essence versus accident.

    Roundness is essential to a ball. Redness is accidental: it is still a ball even if you paint it blue.

    Behaviors are similar. The colloquial distinction we use is accidental versus on purpose. What is essential to a behavior is what the acting subject is choosing.

    Killing everyone known to be in the fatal blast radius is essential to the behavior of detonating a bomb.

    As usual, this doesn’t give us an all-purpose complete theory which can decide everything you throw at it. But if taking away X means that it isn’t really the same behavior then X is essential to the behavior not accidental.

    Also, I recommend reading Veritatis Splendour over and over again.

  • Killing everyone known to be in the fatal blast radius is essential to the behavior of detonating a bomb.

    Ahhhh this makes sense. So for instance with the ectopic pregnancy example, removing a child is not essential to the act of removing a fallopian tube, but is accidental in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. The a fallopian tube doesn’t become not removing a fallopian tube if no child is attached to it.

    Also, I recommend reading Veritatis Splendour over and over again.

    My first experience reading St. JPII was when I attempted to read the audiences which make up the content of TOB. I found it impossible to navigate; I would read the same sentence over and over again and still not understand what he was actually saying. Is Veritatis Splendour clearer than other things by St. JPII?

  • TomD says:

    Yes, Veritatis Splendour is way clearer than TOB.

  • TomD

    Thank you, that is good to hear. I will read it then. I had always avoided everything else written by him because reading those audiences was such a chore.

  • TomD says:

    I have not read anything by anyone (save maybe Kant) that were as dense as the TOB audiences. I can’t imagine what the people listening thought; or perhaps it was lost in translation.

  • Zippy says:

    I think it is safe to say that the more dominant view among Crisis authors and commenters is that deliberately, directly, knowingly, and indiscriminately killing civilians (including children born and unborn) in wartime is sometimes justified.

    The magazine masthead proclaims itself to be “A Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity”. But a more honest masthead might be “A Voice for the Selectively Faithful Catholic Laity”, unfortunately.

  • Yes; it is also disappointing that the two defenses of the bombings were written by clergy and the one opposing viewpoint was written by a layman.

  • If Crisis is holding a heterodoxy contest, it would seem that Dc. Toner is winning by a wide mile. Dc. Russel hid behind weaponized ambiguity, but this new article isn’t even bothering to avoid heresy. It boldly proclaims that the Church’s condemnation of consequentialism is wrong, and that the defenders of Catholic doctrine are pharisees (where have we heard that before).

    It should be clear at this point that Crisis is not an orthodox magazine. If it were, it would never have allowed an article defending a condemned heresy to be published.

  • Mike T says:

    I think it is safe to say that the more dominant view among Crisis authors and commenters is that deliberately, directly, knowingly, and indiscriminately killing civilians (including children born and unborn) in wartime is sometimes justified.

    I would guess that their view is mostly limited to who is doing the nuking. Something tells me that if the Prime Minister of Pakistan woke up on the wrong side of the bed and ordered the nuclear immolation of all of the tribes that support the Taliban in the NW province, they wouldn’t be too happy about that. (Not that they should, but I doubt the PM would get the same glowing support Truman gets)

  • Zippy says:


    You have to agree that he is right and there is no way to be sure who is right.

  • King Richard says:

    As a theologian I often encounter an argument that boils down to (if simply is nothing but) “but I am a good person” or its close friend “but I am a smart person”. The second is heard when someone rejects a dogma or doctrine of the Church out of incredulity. The first when someone is aware they must accept Church dogmas and doctrines, but with to explain why they do not live according to them.
    If you push someone using either (or sometimes both) they retreat to ‘plenty of other people are doing the same thing!’ as if the pagans were not united in idolatry.
    The question is not ‘am I in the company of enough other people?’, nor ‘am I in the company of enough other smart people?’ or ‘am I in the company of enough other reasonable people?’. It is ‘would a virtuous person agree with me?’.
    The virtuous, alas, have never been numerous and are typically seen as unreasonable….

  • Zippy says:

    One commenter is now going with the Neuremberg defense. Consequentialists are like a mechanical clockwork in the predictability of their rationalizations.

  • T. Morris says:

    King Richard:

    One needn’t be a professional Theologian to encounter those arguments/objections, and not only on a personal or individual level but a wider societal level as well.

    I don’t know how many times someone has said to me that (with respect to the election of Barak Obama for example) a majority of electors can’t possibly be wrong. Similarly I am told that my state (Oklahoma) is an “ultra-conservative” state. When I press the claimant for examples of what constitutes Oklahoma as “ultra-conservative” I’m invariably subjected to the same nonsensical explanation which is to compare Oklahoma to Massachusetts et al. So we (Okies) make more unprincipled exceptions in our internal politics; is this proof we’re “ultra-conservative”/non-liberal? Of course not.

    Some years back I had an online (libertarian) friend whose lesbian sister and “wife” are apparently “co-pastors” of a liberal church in Berkeley. He brought this to my attention in a discussion we were having re America’s “greatness.” He explained that his sister and her “wife” had adopted a Russian boy, and said (emphatically) that no matter how much he or anyone else disagreed with his sister’s lifestyle no one can argue that that boy isn’t better off raised in a lesbian home in the U.S. than he was prior to their adopting him.

    And so on and so forth; this kind of thinking is very commonplace.

  • donnie says:

    I would guess that their view is mostly limited to who is doing the nuking.

    I suspect Mike is on to something. For instance, I don’t know how many of the commentators at Crisis have read Watchmen, but I’d be surprised if those that did all came away with the impression that Ozymandias was the hero.

    Then again, they may have all came away with the impression that the objectivist Rorschach is the hero, which is probably just as bad.

  • Zippy:

    I do find it amusing that one commenter accused you of having deficient meta-cognition when the very thing you were attempting to do was ask him to think about the things he is doing and the morality of those actions (which he seemed to be refusing to do).

  • Zippy says:


    Yeah that fella was especially wackadoodle. At one point he said of me that “SJW’s always double down.” He needs to put down the Vox Day books and do a little actual thinking for himself. A small child can grasp the difference between accidental and on purpose.

  • That particular interlocutor told me that “The Japanese Empire was responsible for every death,” which I guess shows that he is willing to assign culpability for actions taken 70 years ago as long as it isn’t the good guys who are assigned culpability.

    He has a history of coming to quick and extreme conclusions about people who persistently disagree with him though.

  • Zippy says:

    I made my Disqus profile public, so interested folks can at least read my own comments there:


  • Mike T says:


    Mainstream right-liberals cannot countenance the idea that the United States can behave villainously on the world stage. Ironically, that is precisely the reason we have behaved villainously in many cases. On a gut level they know that if they ever subjected our nation to an objective analysis they’d find that we are much like Rome and other great empires in being a real mixed bag of good and evil.

    Nuclear retaliation is fine in their eyes, that much they’re consistent about. However, suppose India and Pakistan went to war and India really whipped Pakistan and then proceeded to monkey stomp them with a few nukes on Karachi and Islamabad out of vindictiveness. That would be about what we did to Japan, but I doubt you’d see any support for India.

  • Mike T says:

    He needs to put down the Vox Day books and do a little actual thinking for himself.

    If he actually read Vox Day’s blog, he’d know that Vox Day agrees with you, not Crisis, on this issue.

  • King Richard says:

    Who reads Vox day’s blog more than once?

  • Mike T says:

    Probably more than watched the VMAs.

  • King Richard says:

    If you were a citizen, I’d give you a medal for that one

  • Mike T says:


    Off topic, but check out Angel Vivaldi if you’ve never heard of him. Really good pure instrumental metal and he has a lot of inexpensive content on the iTunes store (you can buy all of his stuff for probably about $15-$16 total).

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