Sunday, June 19, 2022

Biden and his pro-life critics

 On the face of things, there is no conflict between thinking something is wrong, such as divorce and remarriage, and believing that we ought not to impose this as a restriction as a matter of law. There are many things I think are wrong that I oppose legislating against. I think you're a real slimebag if you lie to a woman in a bar in order to go to bed with her. But I don't think people who do that should be arrested. 

The argument that is thrown back at people like Biden is that abortion, on the Catholic view, takes the life of an innocent human person. And, they argue, even the most minimal of governments ought to protect the lives of innocent human persons. 

What Biden seems to think is that even though he as a Catholic has good reason to believe that every fetus has a right to life, he doesn't think that he has good reasons that he can provide to people who don't share his religion that every fetus has a right to life. The Jewish tradition, for example, seems for the most part opposed to the idea. 

However, Catholics who disagree with Biden think that the beginning of life at conception isn't a matter of faith, but is rather a scientific fact. In other words, they not only think that abortion is in fact the taking of innocent human life and therefore unjustified, they think that good reason can be given to show people who aren't Catholic that abortion is that taking of innocent human life and therefore unjustified. 

St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, argued that even though the Catholic Faith teaches that God exists, there are good reasons (five of them) that can be given to show everyone that God exists. The belief that the Universe had a temporal beginning, however, was something he thought you couldn't prove to the satisfaction of everyone, and so that was an article of faith that couldn't be proven. 

Biden thinks the Catholic view of abortion is a matter of faith. His pro-life opponents think it is supportable by reason. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

On St. Athansius

 For people like Athanasius, the central issue was a basic theological issue. The Church was worshiping both God the Father and Jesus, so unless Jesus and the Father are two persons within a single godhead, the Church would be worshiping two distinct beings and would be guilty of polytheism. Second, without the deity of Christ, we would be saved by someone other than God. The Emperors after Constantine sided with the Arians, which is why Athanasius had to go into exile four times. No, it was not about politics for the Church, and CERTAINLY not for Athanasius, though the politicians tried to force resolutions on this issue. Actually, the whole thing finally got resolved when a pagan, Julian the Apostate, became emperor, and the Church was left to its own devices without Imperial interference.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Peter's transfusion of guts

 Historically, people came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They thought that Jesus being God's son was the best explanation for what was happening to them. Look, you go from Peter being so terrified of the authorities that he tells people he didn't even know Jesus to getting up in front of the gate in Jerusalem and telling everyone "You know the Jesus guy YOU put to death? Yeah him. You know what? God has resurrected him from the dead and vindicated him despite the fact that YOU had him put to death in the most humiliating way possible. In other words God vindicated him (and what does that say about you?). How does this sort of thing happen? How much guts does that take, and how did Peter get such a massive infusion of intestinal fortitude all of a sudden? He's getting in the faces of people who exercised the powers of government to have someone executed, and is telling them that God has vindicated the very man they disgraced and executed.

I was never taught blind faith

 I was never taught to have blind faith, I was taught that reasonable people could believe the central teachings of Christianity based on evidence. Here is C. S. Lewis: 

I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man's reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair; some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods "where they get off" you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.
C.S Lewis

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Assisted Suicide


In the case of euthanasia and assisted suicide, there is a tendency to look for death as a way, not to escape pain, but to escape disability. We do have pretty strong pain drugs and effective  hospice care. But some people find the disability that goes with severe illness more traumatic than the pain itself. But what if we give into this? Are we telling people who are struggling, in many cases successfully, to make a meaningful contribution in the face of disability, that their life is not worth living?

These considerations push me toward the "no" side on assisted suicide.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

C. S. Lewis and his interactions with philosophers

Looking at the Socratic Club record, it looks as if Lewis had memorable exchanges with four notable philosophers: C. E. M. Joad, H. H. Price, A. J. Ayer, and Elizabeth Anscombe. The responses to Joad and Price are found in God in the Dock. The exchange with Ayer was in response to Ayer’s harsh critique of a paper by Michael Foster in which Lewis took up Foster’s defense. In addition to these exchanges at the Oxford Socratic Club, there was also the response by Lewis to a critique of his paper on the humanitarian theory of punishment by the Australian philosopher J. J. C. Smart. It need not be concluded that Lewis won all the other exchanges, although Joad subsequently converted to Christianity and credited Lewis with playing an important role in his conversion. But none of the other exchanges with philosophers could reasonably thought of the kind of resounding defeat the Anscombe exchange is portrayed as being. Had Lewis been as incompetent as his is sometimes portrayed as being, it would not have taken an Anscombe to wipe the floor with him; Joad, Price, and Ayer would have done so as well.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Markets and Justice

 Do markets ever produce unjust results that government has to correct? Markets supported racial discrimination in restaurants and in housing. It took government interference to put a stop to that.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

The case for determinism

 A philosopher gives nine arguments for determinism. Here. 

The concept of murder

 The claim that abortion is murder requires some clarification concerning the concept of murder. The first thing to notice is that the concept of logically implies, or seems to, a lack of moral justification. One of the Ten Commandments says "Thou shalt not murder," but the Old Testament is filled with instances of homicide which are not only considered justified, in many cases they are prescribed by God. I remember reading a book about assassination in which one author, a well-known philosopher from the  University of Indiana, wrote an essay with the title "Murder is Sometimes Morally Justified." But he immediately backed off and acknowledged that to call something murder is to imply that it isn't morally justified. In any event, to call something justifiable murder is to commit semantic mistake, to call something justifiable homicide is to refer to a well-known class of actions which only extreme pacifists would claim to be empty. 

People in this discussion, however, seem to  have missed the semantical point.

So murder is at least unjustifiable homicide. But is that all there is to it? Can there be unjustifiable homicides that are not murders? What if there is a homicide that is morally unjustified but legal? On some definitions of murder you have a illegality as a requirement, which of course would exclude abortions where it is legal. And sometimes malicious intent is required. So, what that would mean is that there could be a class of homicides that are unjustified (in the final analysis it was the wrong thing to do), but don't qualify as murder because they were not done for malicious reasons. 

And yeah, semantics matters. Unjustifiable homicide carries less emotional weight than does murder, but it may be a more descriptive way to talk about abortion and why you oppose it. It is a clearer concept.