Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Don't Knock It 'Til You Try It?

Sometimes, people will say, "Unless you do/have/experience X, you don't get to have an opinion." It's a radical subjectivism, from one angle, and a pragmatism, from another. Quite honestly, it's a move people usually make to shut down debate--especially with regard to abortion, for example--most likely because the moral justification for such an act is dubious, and they know it. Funnily enough though, when they are wronged, many people conveniently rediscover their notion of objective truth!

The pragmatism is almost centered on the body, as if the actions we take with our bodies are by definition morally neutral. Then again, when someone isn't trying to justify themselves, they are able to see how foolish this would be, applied to all situations. I have never committed adultery in the strict sense, but I can give you all sorts of reasons and examples of its harm. Again, when you're not implicating someone you're talking to, you're a trenchant social critic; when you do, you're a judgmental zealot, with too much time on his hands.

Anybody remember the "Sister Act" movies? Quite frankly, I think they give a more positive picture of the Catholic Church than the Vatican press office. Anyway, Kathy Najimy quite brilliantly played "Sister Mary Patrick," the most optimistic, joyous nun you've ever seen. In one scene, she's teaching these kids at St. Francis School in San Francisco about sex. One of the teens asked her how a celibate nun could teach them about sex. She said, "You don't have to taste the doughnut to know it's sweet." That's got layers: 1. She compared sex to another good thing; 2. She hinted that her vocation involved giving up a good thing for a better thing; and 3. She rejected the premise that a person has to know something personally to know the truth about it. Particularly with vice, it is never necessary to do vice to understand that it is vice. In fact, saying that one must experience something to know its moral qualities likely implies that only the practical and pragmatic reasons to do or not do an act are relevant to the decision.

It may be prudent to give a particularly vicious person the pragmatic reasons not to do an evil act, but if we want to form people in the virtues, it would be harmful to stop at the practical. Maybe that's a big part of the trouble we've had lately in the Catholic Church: we haven't given people the truest and best reasons to do or believe the things we do and believe.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Uncomfortable Flip-Side Of The Sexuality Tu Quoque

One of the arguments in favor of the mainstreaming of homosexual relations goes like this: "It's more than a bit rich for the hypocritical heterosexuals to worry now about the downfall of our society."

I agree.

Which is why adultery, divorce, abortion, contraception, etc. are all wrong. I find it hard to believe that no gay "allies" could see this argument coming. They may take advantage of the destruction of all the laws and mores with respect to human sexuality, but anyone trying to rebuild the culture would say, "Hypocrisy is still the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

That's also why a slippery slope argument isn't always a fallacy. The long form of, "It's a slippery slope" is, "The basis for a principled distinction between a behavior you deem acceptable, and one you deem abhorrent, has been removed."

The very purpose of a reductio ad absurdum is to create the conditions where a person of good will will critically re-evaluate premise or premises in their arguments in the light of reason, because those premises lead to an absurd conclusion. As we get deeper and deeper into skepticism and emotivism, it becomes all the harder for people to take moral claims seriously; that is, at face value.

Say What You Mean, And Mean What You Say

It's somewhat disorienting, to not know for sure in some instances what is true. It seems like many people are using half-truths, or outright lies, to advance an agenda. It happens all over. Behind this is an internalized skepticism that sounds something like, "Well, everyone's got a perspective." On the contrary; they are not all equally valid. The truth is the truth, and lies (or honest errors) are not.

To be blunt, I may not be willing to engage in lying to discredit Planned Parenthood--I may even be angry about various willful deceptions for that purpose--but it doesn't actually change the fact that the intentional killing of children in the womb is a species of murder. No amount of right-wing exaggeration, or cowardly moral capitulation in another area, makes such actions acceptable.

Suppose we even take the dubious claim that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding goes toward abortion. There is no doubt that the purpose of such a claim is in effect to say, "See? It's not that big of a deal."

One is still left with these basic claims: "Abortion is morally acceptable," and/or Abortion is not morally acceptable."

Quite honestly, I think some people would rather point out others' hypocrisy, rather than confront the basic question. In point of fact, we cannot prudentially disagree about how to combat abortion, if we do not agree on the fundamental nature of the moral act. All the sniping is a distraction from the central question.

For my part, I could be derided as a "kitchen sink"-ist, if only because I am willing to consider that other factors are driving the arrival at that moral decision. Yet not all kitchen sinkists are created equal.