Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Bloody Sunday killings and public sector employees.

The Saville Report is out. I'm not going to study it closely. Nor am I going to say anything about the £191 million pounds that it cost the tax-payer. I'm just going to comment on one thing.

The Telegraph report said that the report "blamed the 10 minutes of chaos on 20 individual paratroopers who “lost their self-control” and shot civilians in the back as they tried to flee."

Now, it seems to me that it would not be helpful to prosecute the soldiers concerned - especially since members of the paramilitary organisations have been given amnesties. But the relatives of the victims do have a genuine grievance, and part of the cause of that grievance is that the soldiers were allowed to get away with doing something that they would not have been allowed to get away with if they had not been government employees. Or, to put it another way, the impression was given that if you work for the state, you can treat the public as you like.

I thought of the way that the police treated Dale McAlpine. An innocent man was dragged away and put in the cells for 7 hours. What the police did was wrong, but the police constables involved could be fairly sure that they would not suffer any serious consequences because they worked for the state.

I'm not saying that there is an equivalence between their actions and those of the soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings. But there are parallels.

And it's not just soldiers and police officers. A lot of people who work for the state have the ability to make life difficult for people they deal with - whether through malevolence, incompetence, or simply a love of pushing people around - in a way that they would not get away with if they worked for private companies.

If the Saville Report tells us one thing, it is that employees of the state have often been unduly protected from having to take the consequences of their actions.

81 comments:

indigomyth said...

Hey Ho YMB,

Wonder if you had picked up on the story of Muslim countries once again trying to make defamation of religion illegal. Ably and completely supported by the odious and vile institution of the Vatican, of course.

Heresy Corner gives a good summation:
http://heresycorner.blogspot.com/2010/06/discriminatory-regimes-continue-to-push.html

Young Mr. Brown said...

Indigomyth, you are not going to believe this.

1) I had just visited Heresy Corner today, for the first time in a while, and read the story. Very interesting. I especially liked the bit about how "anti-religious statements were "being defended under the garb of freedom of expression."" It's a bit difficult not to laugh.

(With regard to the Vatican, I didn't actually see anything at HC or on the link that the Heresiarch posted which associated the Vatican with anything.)

2) I had decided that I really ought to read Heresy Corner more, and was just about to add it to my links.

indigomyth said...

Great minds think a like and all that! (or fools seldom differ?)

//With regard to the Vatican, I didn't actually see anything at HC or on the link that the Heresiarch posted which associated the Vatican with anything.//

In the comments section, beneath the article.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Read the linked page carefully, which is what I think the Heresiarch is referring to in the comments section.

The only relevant bit, as far as I can see, is this: "The 36 countries and the Holy See highly appreciated the historic significance of [the end of the Second World War], which saved the people of the planet from the scourge of the Nazi tyranny; opened the way towards creating a new world built on the principles of international cooperation, dialogue and respect for law; laid the foundations of the modern international order; and restored faith in the ideals of human rights and respect for human dignity. The 36 countries and the Holy See would never forget the sacrifices to defeat the forces of destruction and barbarity and honoured the memory of those millions of people who had given their lives for the triumph of freedom and justice. Highlighting the progress made since the end of the Second World War in overcoming its legacy and towards reconciliations, they reaffirmed their determination to prevent further tragedies and to save succeeding generations from threats to peace and security. "

If that is all the evidence that Heresiarch has to support his claim that the Vatican is trying to make the defamation illegal, I'm pretty unimpressed.

Albert said...

I'm unimpressed too YMB. I can't find anything saying the Holy See supported the proposition, except what you quote (which seems to amount to nothing). However, I have found interventions from the Holy See opposing the proposition, including as recently as March.

This should come as no surprise: the Holy See has both reasons of principle and pragmatism to oppose it. On the side of principle the Church's teaching supports religious freedom for all. On the side of pragmatism, while the most vicious persecution of Christians in history has come from secularists, a large proportion comes from Islam. As the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices pointed out, these defamation laws are used in such countries to target minorities like Christians.

I suppose expecting secularists to give the Holy See a fair hearing is too much to ask. It is particularly fascinating, however, given the vast amount of human rights abuses perpetrated around the world, by enormous dictatorships (both religious and secular) that so much ire is directed at the Holy See, which has such a clear doctrine of human freedom. I find that psychologically fascinating.

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//so much ire is directed at the Holy See, which has such a clear doctrine of human freedom//

It is a curious definition of "freedom" that says the state ought to tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies, in a mutually consenting individuals.

It is further interesting that the Catholic church has only developed an interest in "freedom" once secularist and enlightenment values have become so popular (in the Western world, at least). I do not recall the Catholic church being so liberal when it was burning protestants and heretics at the stake, or torturing Jews to make sure that they had fully accepted the doctrine of the church.

This does not absolve the many other abuses committed by atheistic (Stalinist, Maoist etc) , Islamic (Iran, Egypt) or otherwise fascist (Nazi) regimes in history, however, it does rather damage the institution that claims to be the defender of eternal morality, and it does mean that they are hardly arguing from a position of moral authority.

I also notice that the Holy See has remained studiously silent on proposed legislation in Uganda advocating the death penalty for those convicted of homosexual activity, and the imprisonment of the same in many other African nations, where the Catholic church has a great deal of power. I find it psychologically fascinating that smart people can believe that the Catholic Church is a stalwart defender of liberty, when its history, ideology and current action suggests every alternative.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Hello, Albert.

Thanks for your post. Perhaps you could find a reference to the Holy See's opposition to the proposal? (If you do, Indigomyth will hurry over to Heresy Corner and post it there for the Heresiarch's enlightenment.)

"On the side of pragmatism, while the most vicious persecution of Christians in history has come from secularists ...."

I was going to say (tongue in cheek, of course) that I thought it had come from other Christians - but I see that Indigomyth beat me to it. :-)

Anyway, you and Indigomyth are old friends, so I'll let you get on with the debate.

(p.s. And if anyone has clicked on "comments", hoping to read lots of interesting debate about Bloody Sunday, I do apologise, but it seems that we can't oblige. I'm guessing that Indigomyth and Albert both agree with me.)

indigomyth said...

Soz YMB for hijacking the comments section. Thought you would be interested in the actions of the Muslim nations.

Also, I agree with you entirely about Bloody Sunday.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I said how strange it is that secularists often have such ire for the Holy See, in a world in which terrible atrocities are committed by evil regimes all around the world. You respond by referring to the Holy See's teaching on contraception (if that's what you mean). All I can say is QED.

It is further interesting that the Catholic church has only developed an interest in "freedom" once secularist and enlightenment values have become so popular

Good grief! Surely, even a cursory look at Catholic doctrine on freedom indicates it is quite different from whatever secular doctrine is currently in vogue. It has origins in scripture, and a crucial development in the Middle Ages. Indeed, in comparison, it is secular accounts that are increasingly exposed as resting on Christianity and lacking in content outside of that context.

Certainly, the Catholic development of human rights is uneven, sinfully so in some cases. But it has to be considered what a barbaric starting point it had in the prevailing culture, and the way in which the Church's development was frequently undermined by historical circumstances.

it does rather damage the institution that claims to be the defender of eternal morality, and it does mean that they are hardly arguing from a position of moral authority.

Only if you have misunderstood the nature of the Church's claims.

As for the UN question, see here and here.

I also notice that the Holy See has remained studiously silent on proposed legislation in Uganda advocating the death penalty for those convicted of homosexual activity

In view of the fact that the Holy See opposes the use of the death penalty anyway, it should come as no surprise to discover that the Holy See was not silent on this issue. Moreover, you over-look what the Holy See will have been doing behind the scenes, through her diplomatic channels and local clergy. This is much more effective than barking from Rome, as African countries tend to regard such behaviour as colonial and it makes them dig their heels in. The diplomatic route also gives Muslims fewer reasons to murder Christians, because they sometimes see the Christian softness on homosexuality as an occasion for more persecution.

Albert said...

YMB

I was going to say (tongue in cheek, of course) that I thought it had come from other Christians

You were wise to put your tongue in your cheek. This is what Michael Burleigh, one of our most important historians on this question has to say:

“The first attempt to create a society consciously without God was made by the Jacobins in France in the 1790s with their cult of reason. It was part of a broader desire to purify society. In order to implement their moral vision on earth, they essentially tried to destroy Christianity...In Western France alone they killed about a quarter of a million people who attempted to adhere to the old religion. The Jacobins weren’t having this, they just slaughtered them...If you subtract God, and you subtract the notion of an afterlife, then there is a real risk, particularly in the political utopianisms, which were so deadly in the 20th Century, then there’s a real risk that you will attempt to create heaven on earth, go for a quick fix in the here and now, to have the arrogant illusion that you can sort of remake man and woman into some sort of new being, and that invariably results in hell for ordinary people.”

In contrast, the worst Christian atrocity was probably the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, which clocked up a "mere" 30 000 deaths (to give the highest modern figure).

And Rod Liddle (of all people) adds:

“The events of the last century should have taught us that countries which adopt secular ideologies can reach heights of cruelty, bigotry and repression which had hitherto been unimaginable”

So no. Christian violence against other Christians, reprehensible though it is, never got near the violence secularists perpetrated within a few months of their first crack of the whip. And that of course, never got near where secularists ended up. This is why, while I fear the wrong kind of Islam, I would say, give me that any day, compared with the wrong kind of secularism.

Albert said...

Oh yes, and I do agree with what you say about Bloody Sunday, YMB. You may not have seen that Dale McAlpine is going to sue the police involved:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cumbria/10174393.stm

If he doesn't come out on top of that one, it will be very worrying indeed.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Indigomyth,

Don't apologise for 'hijacking' the comments section. It is the contributions of people like you and Albert which make the comments section of this blog one of the most intelligent and erudite in blogosphere.

OK, I exaggerate a little, but only a little. The comments sections of some popular blogs are not exactly noted for the quality of the contributions.

And we have to have these conversations somewhere. So why not use a thread on Bloody Sunday?

Albert,

"You were wise to put your tongue in your cheek."

I do have occasional moments of wisdom.

...while I fear the wrong kind of Islam, I would say, give me that any day, compared with the wrong kind of secularism.

I agree with you completely on that.

By the way, thanks for the pointer to Michael Burleigh. His books look most interesting.

Young Mr. Brown said...

And no, Albert, I hadn't heard that Dale McAlpine was planning to sue the Cumbria Police. Thanks for that. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

Albert said...

It is the contributions of people like you and Albert which make the comments section of this blog one of the most intelligent and erudite in blogosphere.OK, I exaggerate a little

LOL!

Burleigh is excellent. He is very fair, and he will confirm the worries we share about the wrong kind of secularism. Read him on the sufferings of Christians in Russia, and then recall the remark of Christopher Hitchens:

“One of Lenin's great achievements, in my opinion, is to create a secular Russia. The power of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition, is probably never going to recover from what he did to it.”

Or as Richard Wurmbrand, who has been tortured for his faith in communist prisons, says,

The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no Hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//So no. Christian violence against other Christians, reprehensible though it is, never got near the violence secularists perpetrated within a few months of their first crack of the whip. And that of course, never got near where secularists ended up. This is why, while I fear the wrong kind of Islam, I would say, give me that any day, compared with the wrong kind of secularism.//

Hmm, in your comments you seem to be conflating secularism and atheism. They are not the same thing.

It would also seem to me that it is far better being a Christian in one of Europe's modern secular democracies then in one of the Islamic states in the Middle East? Secular societies are more pleasant to live in than Islamic societies, even for Christians. Would you prefer to live in Iran or the UK?

//“The events of the last century should have taught us that countries which adopt secular ideologies can reach heights of cruelty, bigotry and repression which had hitherto been unimaginable” //

"Can" not "will".

//You respond by referring to the Holy See's teaching on contraception (if that's what you mean). All I can say is QED.//

It was not its teachings that I referred to, but rather its attempt to get its ideology on interpersonal matters transferred into law, which is merely the threat of violence.


I suppose the essential question here, is what type of ideology is most likely to result in an authoritarian state, or incite its followers to violence.

//The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil.//

Hmm, but 9/11 wouldn't have happened, would it? Because the atheist have nothing to expect from the afterlife, they have no reason to commit suicide. They have a reason not to, because they believe that nothing will occur afterwards, so all that matters is being alive. I have never heard of atheistic suicide bombers, have you?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

I read the articles you cited. They were interesting, however this sentence jumped out at me:

//Archbishop Tomasi also lamented that fact that Christians are now subjected to discrimination even in some countries where they are a majority.

"There are situations -- including public parliamentary statements -- that attack different aspects of Christian belief, and this tends to marginalize Christians from society and to impede the contribution of their values to the same," //

We have moved here from talking about physical and violent attacks on Christians, to talking about Christian belief being attacked by words. That epitomises a great deal of what I hate about the Catholic church - it demands acceptance of everything on its terms, and asks for people to not criticise it.

But a lot of the article was okay.

Albert said...

Indigomyth

It was not its teachings that I referred to, but rather its attempt to get its ideology on interpersonal matters transferred into law, which is merely the threat of violence.

I still say QED. Look at the world, and the atrocities that are so widely committed and yet you seem to single out the Catholic Church for particular ire for something like this (overlooking the tremendous good it does as well). For all I know the local bishops (and their position should not be conflated with that of the Catholic Church) see contraception as socially damaging in the same way as we see some kinds of recreational drugs as socially damaging. Doubtless, you oppose bans on the latter, but given that you think that it is not morally wrong for a mother to leave her child to starve to death (but that it would be wrong for the state to punish her for it), I am hardly interested in defending Catholic teaching on freedom to your satisfaction.

Hmm, in your comments you seem to be conflating secularism and atheism.

I spoke of "the wrong kind of secularism". In any case, philosophically, atheism is a subset of secularism and I reamin unconvinced that secularism per se is capable of providing an adequate moral framework, which is why, as Burleigh points out, it all too easily slips over into violence. In contrast, whatever the failings of Christians - which are grotesque at times, we bear within ourselves the marks of Jesus (Gal. 6.17) which operates as a kind of acid, undermining the violence we commit (see here for how this works (useful to compare Burleigh on the tragic history of secularism)).

Politically, I see a wider difference within secularism. I would regard myself as a secularist in that I do not regard the state as compentent to judge on religious matters. What I have noticed recently, is that some secularists have moved from that position to one in which religion is to be removed from the public sphere. The first step in this process is usually an unjust misrepresentation of religion - such as you seem to me to be guilty of.

So I would prefer to live in a secular society of the sort I support, but not of the sort that imposes non-religion, either by force or by misrepresentation. (It is the worry about the latter, when it leads to discrimination that seems to be the heart of the worry of Archbishop Tomasi - the position you attribute to him would be doubtfully consistent with Catholic teaching).

"Can" not "will".

"Has" and "does" is enough to support my point that your anti-Catholic ire is disproportionate.

Hmm, but 9/11 wouldn't have happened, would it? Because the atheist have nothing to expect from the afterlife, they have no reason to commit suicide. They have a reason not to, because they believe that nothing will occur afterwards, so all that matters is being alive. I have never heard of atheistic suicide bombers, have you?

Never heard of them? They invented it! Stop reading ex-communists like Christopher Hitchens and start reading serious historians.

a lot of the article was okay.

You'll be "hurrying over to Heresy Corner" to make a few corrections then I assume.

One of things I find most worrying about "the wrong kind of secularism" is the way in which such secularists really believe their positions are based on evidence and reason, while being so easily exposed as being factually wrong and lacking in proportionate judgement.

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//but given that you think that it is not morally wrong for a mother to leave her child to starve to death//

I never said it would not be morally wrong - indeed, I find it absolutely morally repugnant. I just do not think it is an action that ought to be punishable by the State. And I stand by that - Rothbardian liberty and all that.

//What I have noticed recently, is that some secularists have moved from that position to one in which religion is to be removed from the public sphere.//

It depends on what you mean by "removal from the public sphere". I am not at all sure that I understand which sphere is being referred to. In any case, I find the attempts by the UK State to force Catholic adoption agencies to send children to homosexual couples, to force religious schools to teach a particular, State-approved curriculum, and to force vocal critics of homosexual activity to stop, to be abhorrent. So, I am not the kind of secularist that you may imagine. I do not believe that the State should impose itself onto individuals, religious or otherwise. That includes allowing the mutual consenting communities of Catholics to live as they wish, but it also means allowing the mutual consenting communities of homosexuals to live as they wish.

I think that we can agree that the size of the current State ought to be reduced significantly. It is just that I wish to see it reduced in a consistent and universal way.

//yet you seem to single out the Catholic Church for particular ire for something like this//

I could go off on a rant about how much I hate Islam, if you wish, but there would be little point - indeed, it goes without saying that I find the attempts by the Islamists to get free speech curtailed because it offends them, to be disgusting. I find the murder of homosexuals and Christians at the hands of Muslim to be abhorrent. I only criticise the Catholic church the way I do, because I find its attempt to pass itself off as "the defender of human liberty" to be somewhat annoying. At least the Muslims never do that!

indigomyth said...

//"Has" and "does" is enough to support my point that your anti-Catholic ire is disproportionate.//

Look, essentially I just want to be left alone to live my life. I don't want Catholic or Islamic purity squads arresting me, or breaking down my door to find out if I am sinning. I don't want socialists or Communists taking my money, and deciding where I can and cannot work, because I am of the wrong caste. Is that so wrong? I lash out at Catholicism because I see that it has a tendency towards authoritarianism and violence (via the State). That is why you oppose the wrong kind of secularism, and I appreciate that.

//It is the worry about the latter, when it leads to discrimination that seems to be the heart of the worry of Archbishop Tomasi//

It depends on what sort of discrimination. There is nothing wrong with discrimination by private individuals and groups - it is part and parcel of property rights. So the Catholic church has every right to discriminate against women from becoming priests, or to ban abortionists from accepting Communion. That is its absolute right. But it is also the right of atheists, or anti-Catholics, to discriminate against Catholics, if they so wish.

And, in regards to discrimination against Catholics and Christians in relation to the making of public policy or laws, I do not have a problem with that, really. Personally I would rather have more of that - indeed, let us have discrimination against socialists and Islamists, who wish to use the force of law to compel people to live as they wish! It is not right of Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, to pass laws taking away the freedom of innocent people. I would much rather have Young Mr Brown leading the country, being a libertarian and a Christian, rather than David Milliband, an atheist and Socialist.

//One of things I find most worrying about "the wrong kind of secularism" is the way in which such secularists//

I am glad then that I am not that kind of secularist (the kind that wishes to see religious individuals, and their consenting communities, forced to abide by an inclusive, egalitarian, gay-friendly, ideology)!! I am a libertarian secularist.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I never said it would not be morally wrong - indeed, I find it absolutely morally repugnant.

I apologise if I misrepresented you - I must say though that I cannot see how your moral repugnance flows from your premisses, but if it did, I would have thought (given the gravity of the harm done to the child's freedom) the state ought to be able to proceed against her.

It depends on what you mean by "removal from the public sphere".

I had a feeling you might not even recognise the category!!

I am not the kind of secularist that you may imagine.

I realise you are not the kind of secularist who wishes the state to impose itself on the Church. However, you have done the next worst thing: you have misrepresented the Church, such that new enemies are made for her. Reading you on this thread has reminded me of Hitchens' God is not Great - a frightening combination of anger and misinformation. It is hard to be free, when before one can do anything, one must untangle the web of misrepresentation and resulting ire. (I note you haven't hurried over the HC BTW.)

I lash out at Catholicism because I see that it has a tendency towards authoritarianism and violence (via the State).

I think you are unfair. In a Church of 1.3 billion there are madmen of course, some of them wearing pointy hats. Where are the Catholics calling for you to be arrested? More specifically where is the Catholic teaching that calls for such, rather than defending your freedom to seek the truth?

I only criticise the Catholic church the way I do, because I find its attempt to pass itself off as "the defender of human liberty" to be somewhat annoying.

Annoying? "Hate" is the word you used. "Supremely evil organisation." supremely? You really mean there is no more evil institution than the Vatican? True it is not the liberty you defend often (though often it is), but then as a Catholic, I fail to see your liberty as liberty at times. How can a child who starves to death be free? And what about your comment that in regards to discrimination against Catholics and Christians in relation to the making of public policy or laws, I do not have a problem with that, really? It's not freedom as I understand it. But you don't find me singling out libertarians for special ire. There is too much evil in the wider world for that.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//I must say though that I cannot see how your moral repugnance flows from your premisses//

I think it is because I have not made a clear distinction between my political philosophy, and my personal philosophy. That is my mistake. My political philosophy is libertarian, my personal philosophy is otherwise. Therefore, I can comfortably condemn someone using my personal philosophy, and not condemn them with my political philosophy.

//How can a child who starves to death be free? //

I get my system of political ethics from Murray Rothbard, specifically from this work:
http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics.pdf

Chapter 14 deals with children, and how starving to death is not a violation of property rights.
Chapter 20 expands on this issue with lifeboat situations, and how a man owning the only oasis in a desert must not be forced by violence to share his water.

//It's not freedom as I understand it.//

But, I also included any other individual that wants to control innocent people. There is no right to impose a particular personal moral code on people - it is exactly like punishing people for theft, it is not a reduction of liberty, but an enhancement of that, because it reduces aggressive violence. Would you not consider it a better world if socialists and Communists were not allowed to implement their political aims?

//It is hard to be free, when before one can do anything, one must untangle the web of misrepresentation and resulting ire.//

I have promised not to intrude on your religion, or your activities. How have I betrayed your freedom? Where is the hardship? It does not require you to untangle anything, as I have as my foundation to do no aggressive violence. If the Catholic church leaves me alone, I will leave it alone.

//I note you haven't hurried over the HC BTW//

I am still myself learning these things, so cannot yet be a prophet for the RCC.

//There is too much evil in the wider world for that.//

And I will gladly join with you to eradicate aggressive violence, one of the fundamental evils of the world.

Look, I don't want to leave you in doubt that I respect your right to believe as you want, to say what you want, to worship as you want, and to be part of the religious community as you want.

indigomyth said...

And I know that there is terrible evil in the world, an example that just popped up
http://www.countingcats.com/?p=7116

How evil is it to kill because of watching a football match?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Firstly, I do completely accept (and admire) your stance on religious liberty (my comments below on innocence notwithstanding though). I find it startling, because secularists are usually in favour of curtailing religious liberty (I guess they would have been communists many of them, if communism hadn't now been shown to be rubbish (apparently they couldn't work it out for themselves)). What I think you miss though, is that when you play into the prejudices of such persons, (by misrepresenting Catholics (and others)) or simply accepting and propogating their pronouncements without checking them first, you strengthen them and their oppressive outlook. That makes it harder for us to be fairly heard, which in turn leads to the disgraceful circumstances surrounding the arrest of Dale McAlpine, all of which undermines your libertarian credentials. Say what you like, but make sure it is true first, or you undermine the freedom of others.

I think it is because I have not made a clear distinction between my political philosophy, and my personal philosophy.

What's your personal philosophy based on then?

I also included any other individual that wants to control innocent people.

Yes, but that requires me to accept your definition of "innocent", which in turn requires me to accept your doctrine of freedom, which is based on your anthropological doctrine. And since I don't accept any of these, you think you can curtail my freedom - because I don't accept your doctrines. That's the kind of secularism that slips over into violence and oppression.

so cannot yet be a prophet for the RCC

Fair enough!

How evil is it to kill because of watching a football match?

Precisely, so why so much ire for the Vatican, just because it doesn't follow exactly the doctrine of freedom you wish to impose upon it?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Yes, but that requires me to accept your definition of "innocent", which in turn requires me to accept your doctrine of freedom, which is based on your anthropological doctrine. And since I don't accept any of these, you think you can curtail my freedom - because I don't accept your doctrines. That's the kind of secularism that slips over into violence and oppression.//

Well, it depends if your idea of "freedom" involves committing violence against me. It is no more a betrayal of libertarian values to defend yourself against a thief, even if they believe they believe they have a right to my property, then it would be to attack those that would prevent you from worshipping as you wish.

I don't think I can curtail your freedom for not accepting my ideology. However, I do have a right to defend myself if you decide to send the arm of the state into my business, when I have not attacked you.

For example, I accept the right of neo-Nazis and radical Islamists to say what they want. When that starts becoming violent, then I will defend myself. So with you - I do not wish to curtail your human right to freedom of religion, even though I disagree with your beliefs, I merely wish to be allowed to live my own life in peace.

And yes, I suppose that does mean that someone who thinks that they have a right to control me will find themselves being retaliated against, and therefore believe that their human rights are being violated, but I have to say, I don't care. If they are attacking me using physical violence, or the threat of the same, then defence is entirely justified.

//What I think you miss though, is that when you play into the prejudices of such persons, (by misrepresenting Catholics (and others)) or simply accepting and propogating their pronouncements without checking them first, you strengthen them and their oppressive outlook. That makes it harder for us to be fairly heard,//

I do not think so. If the message is clearly "I disagree with this person totally and utterly, but I think that it is their right to say these things" then I cannot see the problem. It is the difficulty of having a libertarian perspective on things. But I do take your point on checking stories. To be fair to myself, I have defended the Catholic church on the Guardian's CIF section, when Peter Tatchell was trying to claim the RCC initially denied the reality of evolution. I did a cursory google search, and found no references to any such statement of belief (where surely it would have been a top one, had there been any firm declaration), and so I publicly stated this. So I do accept that the Catholic church has a more open approach to scientific enquiry than other religions, or even other Christian sects (even though I disagree with it on the moral stance it takes on certain scientific issues, which seem to almost approach a Prince Charles-esque approach to nature).

//Precisely, so why so much ire for the Vatican, just because it doesn't follow exactly the doctrine of freedom you wish to impose upon it?//

I do not wish to impose anything on it - I just do not wish the Vatican to impose itself on me. That is rather like saying someone being raped is imposing themselves on the rapist, by trying to fight them off. It is all about the difference between attack and defence.

//What's your personal philosophy based on then?//

Well, it is based on non-aggression, naturally. It is also based upon personal responsibility, independence, being interested in the world around me, acting with honour and honesty, trying to separate myself from the consumerism that plagues society, being polite to others, and showing them their due respect. Pretty basic stuff - not a huge, consistent body of work, not like a tome of Catechisms, but it seems to work for me.

Albert said...

However, I do have a right to defend myself if you decide to send the arm of the state into my business, when I have not attacked you.

You spoke of "any other individual that wants to control innocent people". Who counts as innocent though depends on our philosophy. In my world-view, a woman who leaves her child to starve to death is not innocent, neither is a parent who procures an abortion. In principle therefore, I believe the state has a duty to prevent such actions. But you presumably think (on basis of what you said earlier) that that belief is a violation of an innocent's freedom and therefore you are able to curtail my freedom to prevent me curtailing theirs. So whether you permit my freedom depends on my accepting (or at least abiding by) your doctrines.

Thank you for speaking up for the Church on evolution. It is profoundly ignorant for people to say Catholicism is against evolution. Pope John Paul II spoke very clearly in favour of it, and I think evolution did Christian theology a favour - besides, Augustine had a proto-doctrine of evolution in the Fifth Century. The kind of Paleyesque Natural Theology does not fit well with the Thomistic view of universe preferred by Catholicism (though don't tell Richard Dawkins. His section on this in the God Delusion reminds me of the GCSE student who has only revised Paley, and finding the question on the paper is about Aquinas, goes right ahead and writes his essay on Paley anyway- pathetic).

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//though don't tell Richard Dawkins. His section on this in the God Delusion reminds me of the GCSE student who has only revised Paley, and finding the question on the paper is about Aquinas, goes right ahead and writes his essay on Paley anyway- pathetic//

I confess, I haven't read The God Delusion, or God is not Great, or indeed any of the recent atheist books. I started to read The God Delusion, but found it tedious and boring. Again, to be fair to RD, The Blind Watchmaker is a fantastic book, with a brilliant explanation for the logic and evidence of evolution. A well recommended read (he does not talk about religion).

//In principle therefore, I believe the state has a duty to prevent such actions. But you presumably think (on basis of what you said earlier) that that belief is a violation of an innocent's freedom and therefore you are able to curtail my freedom to prevent me curtailing theirs. So whether you permit my freedom depends on my accepting (or at least abiding by) your doctrines.//

I suppose it does, but as I said earlier, to say that would be the equivalent of saying someone being raped is curtailing the freedom of the rapist by trying to fight them off.

//to curtail my freedom to prevent me curtailing theirs.//

But it is no more a curtailing of your freedom then it is a curtailing of the freedom of a socialist by preventing them from stealing your property. Rothbard, in the link I supplied earlier also explains how it is not a curtailing of freedom to have a robust laws against actions that curtail that freedom.

So yes, I grant you that I wish to curtail your "freedom" (using your definition of freedom and innocence, which I disagree with, and find inconsistent and flawed) by preventing you from preventing someone from having an abortion (or abandoning their child). But I am perfectly comfortable with that, given that I am not a relativist, or a nihilist. It sits exactly as comfortably with me as outlawing Islamists from throwing acid in the face of women - they could make the exact case you are, that it is part of their religion to disfigure women. But that would not convince me, nor awaken discomfort in my breast. And it is not so much a restriction of religion, but rather a universal restriction on people acting violently towards each other. YMB and myself were exchanging ideas about this on an earlier thread, in relation to the "Unionist" vs "Defederalist" approach to liberty.

A point of clarity
//that that belief is a violation of an innocent's freedom//

It is not the belief, but rather the acting out of that belief.

It is not a violation of an innocent's freedom to imagine raping them. However, the action most certainly is.

//In my world-view, a woman who leaves her child to starve to death is not innocent, neither is a parent who procures an abortion.//

It would depend if you accepted "aggressive violence" as being the primary thing that ought to restricted by the State. If you did, and where supporting the above position (the banning of abortion, and the punishment of abandoning mothers) based on that, then I imagine that it could be resolved by debate.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I don't doubt that Dawkins is a very fine communicator of science. He is a very fine communicator full-stop, it's just that when he ceases to be talking about science what he communicates is rubbish.

that would be the equivalent of saying someone being raped is curtailing the freedom of the rapist by trying to fight them off

Except that, as I see it, in the case of abortion the parent plays the role of the rapist. You disagree, so we are back to you imposing your view on me, for imposing my view on the parent, for imposing his/her view on the child in killing them. This is why I doubt political philosophy can begin with freedom. There is inevitably a prior set of beliefs.

Rothbard, in the link I supplied earlier also explains how it is not a curtailing of freedom to have a robust laws against actions that curtail that freedom.

Apologies, I missed it.

It is not the belief, but rather the acting out of that belief.

Yes, I didn't express myself clearly enough.

It would depend if you accepted "aggressive violence" as being the primary thing that ought to restricted by the State. If you did, and where supporting the above position (the banning of abortion, and the punishment of abandoning mothers) based on that, then I imagine that it could be resolved by debate.

Sorry, I don't follow.

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//Sorry, I don't follow.//

Just that, if negation of aggressive violence was your primary aim, then I believe it could be shown that abandoning a child is not aggressively violent, and abortion is defensive.

//This is why I doubt political philosophy can begin with freedom. There is inevitably a prior set of beliefs.//

That could be said of any attempt to construct a political philosophy that everyone would agree with!! No matter what you try and base it on, there will be someone who will disagree or reject it. I do not think that there are really any universally agreed standards for people. There are universal human rights, and they are negative rights.

//for imposing his/her view on the child in killing them.//

Indeed. However, the child is imposing itself upon the mother, by stealing its nutrients from her. So, in fact, the child becomes the rapist of the mother. When the mother retaliates, it is as the raped defending themselves against the rapist. I can do no better then quote from the foreword to The Ethics of Liberty:

"Rothbard argued in favor of a mother's "absolute right to her own body and therefore to perform an abortion". He rejected the
"right to life" argument not on the ground that a fetus was not life (in
fact, from the moment of conception, he agreed with the Catholic position,
it was human life), but rather on the fundamental ground that no such thing
as a universal "right to life," but exclusively a universal "right to live an independent and separate life," can properly and possibly exist (and that a fetus, while certainly human life, is just as certainly up to the moment of birth not an independent but, biologically speaking, a "parasitic" life, and thus has no rightful claim against the mother)."

Lol, as you doubt that a political philosophy can begin with freedom, so I reject that it can begin with a right to life. See what I mean about not finding common ground?

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//Sorry, I don't follow.//

Just that, if negation of aggressive violence was your primary aim, then I believe it could be shown that abandoning a child is not aggressively violent, and abortion is defensive.

//This is why I doubt political philosophy can begin with freedom. There is inevitably a prior set of beliefs.//

That could be said of any attempt to construct a political philosophy that everyone would agree with!! No matter what you try and base it on, there will be someone who will disagree or reject it. I do not think that there are really any universally agreed standards for people. There are universal human rights, and they are negative rights.

//for imposing his/her view on the child in killing them.//

Indeed. However, the child is imposing itself upon the mother, by stealing its nutrients from her. So, in fact, the child becomes the rapist of the mother. When the mother retaliates, it is as the raped defending themselves against the rapist. I can do no better then quote from the foreword to The Ethics of Liberty:

"Rothbard argued in favor of a mother's "absolute right to her own body and therefore to perform an abortion". He rejected the
"right to life" argument not on the ground that a fetus was not life (in
fact, from the moment of conception, he agreed with the Catholic position,
it was human life), but rather on the fundamental ground that no such thing
as a universal "right to life," but exclusively a universal "right to live an independent and separate life," can properly and possibly exist (and that a fetus, while certainly human life, is just as certainly up to the moment of birth not an independent but, biologically speaking, a "parasitic" life, and thus has no rightful claim against the mother)."

Lol, as you doubt that a political philosophy can begin with freedom, so I reject that it can begin with a right to life. See what I mean about not finding common ground?

Albert said...

However, the child is imposing itself upon the mother, by stealing its nutrients from her.

Well I find myself rather underwhelmed by that argument - at least as it stands. But I note with interest that R agrees with the Church on the child in the womb.

Firstly, I think stealing normally includes intention. Clearly, the child in the womb cannot be stealing, since it has no intention. In other words, the child is innocent on this argument, and since you spoke earlier of the need for laws to prevent people "taking away the freedom of innocent people", then (since killing inevitably removes the freedom of the innocent), on your argument abortion ought to be illegal.

Secondly, we do not punish stealing by exectution. Some Muslims cut off the hands of those who steal and Western people are rightly outraged.

Of course, we might shoot a wolf dead which metaphorically is said to "steal" our food from the table (though even then, we would probably be a little outraged by someone who did so lightly), but someone who shot a human being dead for doing the same would be justly punished. If an adult shot a starving child for stealing food, we would be even more outraged, but if a parent shot their own starving child for stealing food, we would regard that as about as immoral as it gets.

So as far as I can see, you argument, far from defending abortion, seems to show why abortion is morally unacceptable, should be illegal, and those involved should (all things being equal) be punished.

I would add that I am unhappy about the definition of "independent and separate life". Separate perhaps, but independent? Is anyone really independent? I suspect most, at least, of us are not, and so most would not be covered by the definition.

In contrast, I observe that today I was at a Mass in which children were making their first Holy Communions. In that Mass Jesus freely gave himself to those children. The contrast with the culture of death which you are espousing could hardly be greater.

This reminds me further of Aristotle saying that if a man argues he is able to kill his mother-in-law, the position is so abhorrent, that you do not argue with him, you should stop him. GEM Anscombe said the same of someone who wants to kill an innocent person (as the child is on R's view). It was not that she could not defend Catholic teaching on abortion, it was that she thought even to discuss the question in seriousness was to concede too much to a “corrupt mind,” and a depraved morality.

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//Firstly, I think stealing normally includes intention.//

I do not believe so. If you take something that belongs to someone else, that is stealing. So the intention of the child is irrelevant. It may be innocent of the intent to steal, but it is still performing the action of stealing (the action of taking what does not belong to you). You have shifted the goal posts, and tried to make it the intention of stealing that is the thing that is punishable, rather than the actual act of stealing.

The child does not own what is in the mothers blood, and it is taking that without consent, isn't it? Therefore, in what regard is it not stealing? Even if not by deliberate intention.

//Secondly, we do not punish stealing by exectution. Some Muslims cut off the hands of those who steal and Western people are rightly outraged.//

Well I am slightly on the side of believing that theft ought to be punished by execution. I cannot imagine the mentality of someone who mugs another person for a mobile phone. My father was mugged at screwdriver point, and they stole his laptops, and my car has been broken into, and the sat nav stolen. I would gladly see such people die (were it not for the obvious utilitarian objections to that). Also, if the only option from preventing the stealing was to kill, then I think most people would agree that killing was acceptable. What if in old lady is being mugged, and the only weapon she has is a gun? Is she not to use it on the thief, because it will kill the thief?

//as the child is on R's view//

Actually, Rothbard believes that the child is guilty. Guilty of stealing the body of the mother for its own use. Note where he calls the foetus "a parasitic life". Hardly the language of someone who believes the child to be innocent!

//Of course, we might shoot a wolf dead which metaphorically is said to "steal" our food from the table (though even then, we would probably be a little outraged by someone who did so lightly)//

Hmmm, are you for or against fox hunting? A similar sort of issue, isn't it? Indeed, they take it to the extreme of "lightness", and turn it into a game.

//but someone who shot a human being dead for doing the same would be justly punished. //

I imagine that it is because there is other options of getting rid of people outside of your body. However, as I showed in the old lady example, if the only option is to kill the other person, than most people would fully support the action. However, with a foetus, there is only one option for stopping the stealing, and that is death. It is a defence against the theft.

//Is anyone really independent?//

We may be technically interdependent. But certainly in terms of out body systems, we are independent, aren't we? I know my body does not need another person's organs to extract oxygen from the air, pump blood around my body, or digest food. Does yours?

//it was that she thought even to discuss the question in seriousness was to concede too much to a “corrupt mind,” and a depraved morality.//

Yes, I can see why she would think so. To consider such matters for a devout Catholic must be like trying to seriously consider genocide.

I should point out that I consider myself "pro-life". I believe abortion should only be undertaken in circumstances where the mother's life is threatened, and would far rather see adoption being used as a way to redistribute unwanted children. And, I do rather like the actions of certain pro-life movements in the US that have managed to significantly reduce the number of abortions performed, by the mere act of standing outside abortion centres, giving women free ultrasounds. It is unfortunate that more focus is not paid to that sort of activity, rather than the spittle flecked rantings of some anti-abortionists.

It may seem odd. For most people, their political and personal philosophies are identical - for the libertarian, things are far harder.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

If you take something that belongs to someone else, that is stealing.

Here's a legal definition of stealing:

the wrongful or willful taking of money or property belonging to someone else with intent to deprive the owner of its use...Any appreciable change in the location of the property with the necessary willful intent constitutes a stealing

http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/s074.htm

If you don't like that definition because it is American, here's the UK law (1968 Theft Act):

A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

On your definition a person is guilty of stealing if they take something they honestly (but mistakenly) believe is theirs rather than someone else's. You might as well say that someone who says things which are mistaken is guilty of lying - in which case you are guilty of lying (twice) vis a vis the Catholic Church.

You have shifted the goal posts, and tried to make it the intention of stealing that is the thing that is punishable, rather than the actual act of stealing.

No I haven't, I have just used the language of stealing the way the penal system uses it. You, by misusing the language, have made something an act of stealing that plainly isn't.

The child does not own what is in the mothers blood, and it is taking that without consent, isn't it? Therefore, in what regard is it not stealing?

In the sense that it doesn't meet the definition of the term.

Your views on execution for stealing are therefore moot, but, I note you do not defend them except emotively. You won't be surprised to find I regard them as outrageous.

are you for or against fox hunting?

I am personally against it, but I don't think it should be illegal.

if the only option is to kill the other person, than most people would fully support the action.

How can you possibly know that? If it is true, I would say it would simply be an indication of the way in which with the decline of Christian belief, morality has given way to vengeance - another way in which the West has become more like those aspects of Islam it hates.

To consider such matters for a devout Catholic must be like trying to seriously consider genocide

Spot on, except that at the objective level of Catholic morality it is slightly worse, because it is the killing of infants by their parents. Genocide tends to work in the opposite direction insofar as it is about killing people who are not one's relations, for the (supposed) good of those who are. In practice of course, Catholicism understands the plight of women who feel it is their only choice, and regards the creation of such a society as a great evil.

I agree with you on pro-life organisations. Ranting isn't helpful, because most women feel they don't have a choice. I like charities that offer support to pregant women and new mums. Catholic parishes tend to run these. A few weeks ago, one such non-Catholic mum was at Church with the baby she clearly loves greatly to thank everyone, for the help that enabled her to have the baby. Abortion is often not about women's freedom but a collusion (not a liberation) of women feeling unfree.

For most people, their political and personal philosophies are identical - for the libertarian, things are far harder.

It would be interesting to hear YMB on that.

Albert said...

As a matter of interest, why do you take the "pro-life" position (such as it is) that you do?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//As a matter of interest, why do you take the "pro-life" position (such as it is) that you do? //

Because I believe that killing a human ought to be a last resort (or proportional punishment), and I do not think that most abortions are preformed in those conditions where it is necessary. I find the killing of children to be unpleasant, and a moral evil. Again, I would note that my personal philosophy is not some great coherent behemoth.

//On your definition a person is guilty of stealing if they take something they honestly (but mistakenly) believe is theirs rather than someone else's. You might as well say that someone who says things which are mistaken is guilty of lying - in which case you are guilty of lying (twice) vis a vis the Catholic Church.//

An interesting point you raise. However, your previous point about the wolves raises a relevant dimension to this question. Based on the legal definition given, a fox cannot "steal" chickens from a farmer, yet we still regard that as wrong, because it is the taking of the farmers property. People have the right to defend their own property, and since the mother is the owner of her body, she can defend it. The child is the owner of its body, however it is not the owner of the mothers body, and therefore has no entitlement to the functions of its organs.

Also notice that the legal definitions only apply to those capable of intent - it cannot apply to children and animals. These things are apart from the law. So, just as a parasite "steals" from the body of a host, so an unwanted child "steals" from the body of the mother. The actual legal language used does not describe the moral imperative that the women has over her own body, and her own resources, and the right to defend them.

//In the sense that it doesn't meet the definition of the term.//

And in the moral sense, of the women having complete property rights over her own body and blood?

It is not stealing in the legal sense, because the law does not talk of actions performed by non-sentient agents. It may as well have laws against weeds "trespassing" on land!! Absurd. But this in no way undermines the essential points regarding the relative property rights in the case of the mother and the unborn child.

Here is a question for you: do you think it ought to be illegal for pregnant women to drink alcohol and smoke? For if they do so, are they not poisoning the infant child? And what of physical activity? If a pregnant women wishes to engage in such activity, is she to be arrested on charges of endangering the life of her unborn child? For, just as surely as you would arrest a women for feeding alcohol and giving cigarettes to the born child, so should you for a women doing so while pregnant? If so, you have created a situation where women are to be forcibly restrained by the State from doing many actions, on the basis it harms the unborn child. That strikes me as enormously immoral.

indigomyth said...

//How can you possibly know that? //

The seemingly widespread support for Tony Martin for one. But, I grant you that I do not have quantitative data on that.

//Abortion is often not about women's freedom but a collusion (not a liberation) of women feeling unfree.//

I am afraid I am rather unsympathetic towards women that feel "pressured" into having an abortion. Unless the pressure comes in the form of direct physical violence, or threat of the same, I do not see how they are pushed into having abortions. Rather, they are persuaded by arguments over parental support, finance etc. Rather cold-hearted (as if I would be!) I know, but I have always been strong willed.

//A few weeks ago, one such non-Catholic mum was at Church with the baby she clearly loves greatly to thank everyone, for the help that enabled her to have the baby//

It is so much a better outcome than the alternative. And is evidence of the strength of these non-aggressive campaigns.

In your experience, have you found the majority of anti-abortion people to be of the type mentioned above, friendly and approachable, or of the sort that turn up on news programmes, all wild-eyed and tangle haired?

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Because I believe that killing a human ought to be a last resort (or proportional punishment), and I do not think that most abortions are preformed in those conditions where it is necessary.

But in admitting that it is disproportionate you admit it is unjust (by definition) in which case, it is wrong in such a way that the state can stop it.

Based on the legal definition given, a fox cannot "steal" chickens from a farmer, yet we still regard that as wrong

It is not morally wrong (the fox isn't being immoral), so the fox is still innocent - and that is the key, since you wish to defend the freedoms of the innocent. That we are able to kill the fox but not our starving child, shows us that it is not the taking of the food that allows the killing, but the agent doing the taking that determines whether we can kill or not. We can kill the fox in this case because it is a fox, but we cannot kill the child, because the child is a human being. Do you think parents are entitled to kill their own starving children for stealing food from the table?

The key point about appealing to the law is that by using the language of stealing and just punishments, you have moved into that category. Since the law does not allow killing as punishment for stealing, then even if the child were stealing (which it isn't) you still wouldn't be able to kill the child, so it seems the legal system is in self-contradiction over abortion, and you cannot appeal to it.

the women having complete property rights over her own body and blood?

I find the concept of us having "property rights" over our bodies to be dualist, and since I regard dualism as deeply objectionable, I cannot speak of having property rights over my body. I am not separate from my body, rather I am embodied. And since bodies only exist as in relation to other bodies, I only exist in relation to others. Therefore, I cannot conceive of the atomisation that your position requires: you seem to be talking about immaterial essences with physical posessions, rather than human beings. In a sense R's definition gives the game away, he spoke of a right to a "separate life". But the mother clearly isn't separate, from the child, or we wouldn't be discussing the question of separating the child from the mother.

The actual legal language used does not describe the moral imperative that the women has over her own body, and her own resources, and the right to defend them.

Execution for theft is wrong (granting that it is theft, which it isn't), second, all human rights rest on the prior right to life. Without that right any other right can be undermined. Unless we are alive we can have no rights, so no one can have the right to take an innocent life. But someone without intention cannot be guilty therefore they cannot be killed without imperilling all human rights. Or to put this another way: I doubt your commitment to freedom.

Albert said...

Here is a question for you: do you think it ought to be illegal for pregnant women to drink alcohol and smoke?

If they used these drug with the intention and to the degree that they killed the child then yes, it should be illegal. But that is hardly conceivable. I think it is right that parents should be able to smoke in their own homes despite the fact that this is harmful to their children. In admitting that, I am hardly conceding that parents are therefore able to kill their children. So I don't get the relevence of your question.

The seemingly widespread support for Tony Martin for one.

There were huge reasons to be sympathetic to him - I feel sympathetic to him. The police failed him, he was arguably mentally ill, but on the actual question of whether he was right to intend and try to kill burglars, then it was morally wrong. His peers who were addressing that question, rather than any question of their sympathy, thought so too and found 10 to 2 in favour of his guilt.

In your experience, have you found the majority of anti-abortion people to be of the type mentioned above, friendly and approachable, or of the sort that turn up on news programmes, all wild-eyed and tangle haired?

Yes - the friendly and approachable type. By definition, they don't make as much noise, but people in parishes work like this. Not incidentally that I think there is no room for the political campaign and the effort to inform people about abortion and the truth of people like Marie Stopes (how morally blind must the modern world be that that woman can be used as an icon for the abortion movement? can you imagine if Pius XII had been anything like her?!).

indigomyth said...

Albert,
//But in admitting that it is disproportionate you admit it is unjust (by definition) in which case, it is wrong in such a way that the state can stop it.//

No. I said that I thought it ought to be used as a last resort. In that respect, abortion fulfils that criteria, because in any case where a woman does not want to share her body, the only option is to kill the child. Were there another option, that fulfilled the woman's desired aim of taking control of her body, then I would likely see killing the child as disproportionate. In that respect, abortion is a proportionate response to the invasion suffered by the woman. Plus you have the issue that it is my opinion that it is disproportionate. I would also query whether something that is disproportionate is by definition unjust, rather than merely wrong.

//Do you think parents are entitled to kill their own starving children for stealing food from the table?//

I would say not. But the comparison with abortion is flawed. A child at a table may be shooed away, a foetus cannot be. Now, if the ONLY way to stop the child taking from the table was to kill her / him, then yes, I would say it was permissible.

//It is not morally wrong (the fox isn't being immoral), so the fox is still innocent//

I think the problem is the definitions of "guilt" we are using are different. A fox that kills chickens is guilty of killing those chickens, in that it is true that it killed those chickens. If "guilt" is taken to be a declaration of whether an agent has performed an action, then a fox that has killed chickens must be guilty of killing those chickens. When a jury says a murderer is "guilty", they are finding that the accused has actually performed the act of killing. It is for the judge to decide on the punishment for the act of killing that the murderer has performed.

I think you are using the term "guilt" as in moral guilt - and I would agree with that. A foetus is no more morally guilty of taking without consent, than a weed is of trespassing on private land. However, I am seeing this in terms of actual guilt, as in actually having performed an action. So, if I tell you something, and I am mistaken, then I am guilty of being mistaken. However, I am not guilty of lying, because lying is the deliberate telling of non-truths, which I did not do. In that respect, your previous comments about the legal definition of stealing is correct.

//then even if the child were stealing (which it isn't) you still wouldn't be able to kill the child, so it seems the legal system is in self-contradiction over abortion, and you cannot appeal to it.//

I would say you ought to kill the child, provided that is the ONLY was to get them to stop taking the food.

//But the mother clearly isn't separate, from the child,//

Ahh yes, but she can be separate and independent. And since she has a right to a separate life, she is striving to separate from the child.

//you seem to be talking about immaterial essences with physical posessions, rather than human beings//

LOL, a curious statement to make from someone believing in immortal souls.

indigomyth said...

//Without that right any other right can be undermined. Unless we are alive we can have no rights, so no one can have the right to take an innocent life. But someone without intention cannot be guilty therefore they cannot be killed without imperilling all human rights. Or to put this another way: I doubt your commitment to freedom.//

You can be alive without the right to life. The right to freedom from aggression requires no right to life. If I were to remove your right to life now, I would not be able to kill you, since you have a right to freedom from aggression. You need to be alive to have rights, but why does life need to be one of those rights? You would be alive either way, with or without the right to life. Or, to put it another way, how can I kill you, if I cannot physically aggress against you?

Indeed, the "right to life" is inherently illiberal since it demands action on the part of others - it makes them slaves to your own existence, which seems rather illiberal to me.

//I doubt your commitment to freedom.//

Whose version, yours or mine? I do not commit to your version of freedom, because I find it not be actually all that free.

//the truth of people like Marie Stope//

Yes, and we now have adverts for the organisation named after her! She left most of her money to a eugenics society, wanted forcible sterilisation, and sent love letters to Hitler. She really was quite quite evil. And people go on about Pius XII, who, I believe, saved many Jews. It is like what you said about Uganda, I suppose - a quiet and effective approach, rather than a loud and ineffective one (you see, I do actually consider things in more than passing detail).

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//"Because I believe that killing a human ought to be a last resort (or proportional punishment), and I do not think that most abortions are preformed in those conditions where it is necessary."

But in admitting that it is disproportionate you admit it is unjust (by definition) in which case, it is wrong in such a way that the state can stop it.//

I realised that my response to this point wasn't all that clear.

What I mean to say is that were I to be in the position that many of these women are, I would not have an abortion, as I personally do not think the inconvenience of being pregnant to warrant expelling the child from my body. So, in that sense I think that most of these women who are having abortions are being very very selfish. However, I recognise that people have different perceptions of the inconvenience of being pregnant, so understand that abortion would be a proportionate response to their reaction to being pregnant, even if I find that reaction to be selfish. And, since there is no alternative to killing the child when it is being removed from the women, the death of the child is an unfortunate coincidence of expelling it from the women's body.

I hope that makes things a little clearer.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Thanks for your comments about Pius XII, as well as saving Jews he also was part of a plot to have Hitler killed - it only failed because the British pulled out. When Pius was a Cardinal in Germany, Hitler called him the "Jew-loving Cardinal". Presumably, those who complain about Pius don't know that Hitler was an anti-semite.

I think we can probably cut through most of the discussion by looking at this statement:

Now, if the ONLY way to stop the child taking from the table was to kill her / him, then yes, I would say it was permissible.

I think that is so outrageous that I can't quite believe you aren't pulling my leg. The only thing that makes me think you aren't is that it does seem to follow from the rest of your position. I would say that proposition is reductio ad absurdum of your moral position.

I think it is obviously unjust as I do think justice and proportion go together. Justice is rendering to someone that which is owed to him. So the fellow who steals your SatNav should be required to replace the SatNav, pay for repairs to your car etc. But you can't kill him for it. You can only demand back from him the damages incurred. This is the meaning of "An eye for an eye" - it is restrictive not prescriptive. What doctrine of justice are you using?

So I think your doctrine of "self-ownership" leads to obviously irrational conclusions. Moreover, it lacks an adequate foundation. I recall last time that you struggled to make it a moral doctrine - you seemed to proceed from only one premise etc.

But oddly enough, it doesn't even guarantee freedom:

If I were to remove your right to life now, I would not be able to kill you, since you have a right to freedom from aggression.

Yes you could, you could, as Feser points out, you could remove all the air from around me with the result that I died. Or if I was a wealthy enough land-owner, I could prevent anyone in a very large area from employing you so you starved to death. If I don't like you exercising your rights, then provided I have the power, I can prevent you having the power to live so that the prerequisite of your rights (your life) disappears.

LOL, a curious statement to make from someone believing in immortal souls.

Considering how highly Rothbard speaks of Aquinas, I am surprised by how little you know about the Angelic Doctor's teaching. You might like to begin with his anthropology - then my statement would not be so curious. Anyway, even if I did believe the fallacious idea that a human being is a soul (with or without a body), you haven't addressed the argument that your anthropology (and therefore the foundation of your doctrine of freedom) seems to fall by the same fallacy. For these reasons, I still doubt your commitment to freedom.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//So the fellow who steals your SatNav should be required to replace the SatNav, pay for repairs to your car etc. But you can't kill him for it.//

Yes, okay, I was being perhaps a tad over reactive in that case. Again, because other options are available to punish or prevent such occurrences. I do believe in an eye for an eye (though, think it should be two eyes for an eye; one eye for restitution, on for punishment - if I steal £1000 from you, then me giving you the £1000 back is not a punishment, merely a restitution. For punishment, I ought to give you another £1000)

//I recall last time that you struggled to make it a moral doctrine - you seemed to proceed from only one premise etc.//

Granted, my foundations are not as obviously grounded as yours.

//Yes you could, you could, as Feser points out, you could remove all the air from around me with the result that I died. Or if I was a wealthy enough land-owner, I could prevent anyone in a very large area from employing you so you starved to death. If I don't like you exercising your rights, then provided I have the power, I can prevent you having the power to live so that the prerequisite of your rights (your life) disappears. //

Well, that is why Rothbard says that someone owning the only oasis in a desert must not be forced to give someone dying of thirst their water. Or, if we take the example of the air, if I was the owner of a Mars station, and I provided all the air, and you refused to pay me for my services of providing air, why should I continue to provide it? I could quite easily stop supplying it (as is my right, as the owner of said air), and you would die as a result. I have not aggressed against you, merely withdrawn my services.

So, I reject the self-ownership proviso that Feser uses, because it over-rides property rights. Also, I would point out that it would as very well apply to blood and organs - indeed, were we to live in Feser's world, people could be forced to give blood, and provide organs, and to be punished by imprisonment if they refused.

//I could prevent anyone in a very large area from employing you so you starved to death.//

Well that is just ostracism from the community, a perfectly reasonable response. Indeed, Rothbard uses ostracism as an example of a non-aggressive punishment that can be visited on those that have or perform abortions.

//if I don't like you exercising your rights,//

But rights are all negative. Indeed, you do not exercise your rights, since your rights are merely a right to unwanted interference from others.

Remember, I said "freedom from aggression" - denying you air, or food, or water, is not aggressive. And, I find the idea of someone justly holding enough land to make that feasible, to be very unlikely.

//you haven't addressed the argument that your anthropology (and therefore the foundation of your doctrine of freedom) seems to fall by the same fallacy. For these reasons, I still doubt your commitment to freedom.//

The anthropology that a human owns themselves?

indigomyth said...

To quote from The Ethics of Liberty:

"Suppose that there is only one physician in a community, and an epidemic breaks out; only he can save the lives of numerous fellow-citizens-an action surely crucial to their existence. Is he "coercing" them if (a) he refuses to do anything, or leaves town; or (b) if he charges a very high price for his curative services? Certainly not. There is, for one thing, nothing wrong with a man charging
the value of his services to his customers, i.e., what they are willing to pay. He further has every right to refuse to do anything. While he may perhaps be criticized morally or aesthetically, as a self-owner of his own body he has every right to refuse to cure or to do so at a high price; to say that he is being "coercive" is furthermore to imply that it is proper and not coercive for his customers or their agents to force the physician to treat them: in short, to justify his enslavement. But surely enslavement, compulsory labor, must be considered "coercive" in any sensible meaning of the term."

-Page 222

Or, on the oasis,

"Suppose, he says, that people had "settled there on the assumption that
water would always be available at a reasonable price," that then other
water sources had dried up, and that people then "had no choice but to
do whatever the owner of the spring demanded of them if they were to survive: here would be a clear case of c~ercion,s"i~n ce the good or service in question is "crucial to [their] existence." Yet, since the owner of the spring did not aggressively poison the competing springs, the owner is scarcely
being "coercive"; in fact, he is supplying a vital service, and should have the right either to refuse a sale or to charge whatever the customers will pay. The situation may well be unfortunate for the customers, as are many situations in life, but the supplier of a particularly scarce and vital service
is hardly being "coercive" by either refusing to sell or by setting a price
that the buyers are willing to pay. Both actions are within his rights as a free man and as a just property owner. The owner of the oasis is responsible only for the existence of his own actions and his own property; he is not accountable for the existence of the desert or for the fact that the other springs have dried up"

Page 221

Albert said...

Okay, well, I think we're coming to a point where all the cards are on the table and we just have to agree to disagree. The interesting thing about Feser and the air is that in his picture it happens in the park, so neither person owns the air and the act seems not to be aggressive - at least it doesn't threaten ownership rights. Does your philosophy allow it?

The anthropology that a human owns themselves?

I meant the idea that I own my body seems to imply (at least as you stated it) that I am distinct from my body. I cannot make sense of that, "my soul is not me" as St Thomas puts it.

Beyond that though, I am (evidently) unconvinced of an idea of self-ownership that results in a situation in which parents could be justified in killing their starving child for stealing food. I think that is wrong and I don't think you can demonstrate an adequate foundation for it.

Thanks for the quotes from Rothbard, here's a brief response:

1. Neither of these involves actually killing someone who violates the self-ownership principle - so I am unclear whether they help with abortion.

2. I think the doctor probably could be coerced, but only because the community had trained him precisely so he could use his skills in times like this (this is where the atomisation of your position seems unreal to me).

3. The oasis, it depends on whether they can afford to pay or not. St Thomas says it isn't stealing if someone who is starving to death takes food that belongs to someone who has abundance as what he takes, belongs to him of natural right. (Perhaps I've now horrified you as much as you have horrified me!)

Quoting Rothbard reminds me that he defends his position on the basis of natural law. I recall you had problems with natural law as you have problems with nature (or at least the unnatural). Rothbard deals with your antiessentialist sentiments doesn't he? (or have I misremembered?)

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//I meant the idea that I own my body seems to imply (at least as you stated it) that I am distinct from my body. I cannot make sense of that, "my soul is not me" as St Thomas puts it.//

Well, I believe that we are, to some extent at least. I am not my fingernail, nor my finger, nor my hand, nor my arm. Yet I own these elements of my body. I may be said to most fully reside in my brain. But, there we reach the limits of my knowledge on neuroscience and the mind/body problem.

//Perhaps I've now horrified you as much as you have horrified me!//

I should point out that I am arguing for what ought to be permitted by the state, rather than what I agree with, and think are moral. I believe that if someone were to perform the actions that they should be allowed to perform, they would be very unpleasant people. I am actually rather a nice person!

//in a situation in which parents could be justified in killing their starving child for stealing food.//

I would be as appalled as you if they did, and would gladly advocate total ostracism from the community (which would have the eventual result, as you noted earlier, of them starving to death). There are many ways of punishing those who have performed morally reprehensible acts - they need not be aggressively violent acts.

//The interesting thing about Feser and the air is that in his picture it happens in the park, so neither person owns the air and the act seems not to be aggressive - at least it doesn't threaten ownership rights. Does your philosophy allow it?//

Well, presumably the park is publicly owned, so the man sitting in the park does at least own the air he has paid for through his taxes. And, he has mixed the air in his lung with his own labour - by the act of breathing in, it becomes his.

//Rothbard deals with your antiessentialist sentiments doesn't he? (or have I misremembered?)//

No, you have remembered correctly. Rothbard is very keen on natural law - indeed it is the foundation of his philosophy. But, from what I see, the natural law he talks of is different to the type of natural law we were discussing earlier, re homosexual activity. I still do not really understand how something that is zoologically natural, can be considered "unnatural". Perhaps I ought to research more on Natural Law?

It is interesting that Rothbard uses natural law so heavily, and indeed relies heavily on Aquinas, and yet it is from his philosophy that my responses originate? Clearly natural rights are not straight forward!

//1. Neither of these involves actually killing someone who violates the self-ownership principle - so I am unclear whether they help with abortion.//

It would be the case if abortion was merely the denial of nutrients to the child. And, is also similar in terms of ejecting someone from your own property.

It is curious that we can agree with the individual morality of abortion, and Marie Stopes, and even Pius XII, yet still be so completely apart on many issues.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I believe that we are, to some extent at least.

You mean you think you are an immaterial substance? Certainly, I am not reduceable to my fingernails or my arms (any more than I am reduceable to my soul) but I am not distinct from my body.

It is curious that we can agree with the individual morality of abortion, and Marie Stopes, and even Pius XII, yet still be so completely apart on many issues.

But this surely is because there is a dichotomy between your personal morality and your philosophy.

I am actually rather a nice person!

I'm beginning to think you probably are - your own morality seems a lot more Christian than your philosophy. But I wonder if that means your own morality is not rationally grounded - is it more sentimental in outlook?

presumably the park is publicly owned, so the man sitting in the park does at least own the air he has paid for through his taxes.

I have to admit you are a great one for biting the bullet! What I have done (and what I did last time we had a long discussion) is to point to the logical conclusions of your position. For most people these would result in a recoiling from them, but you go right with it! This answer I think is quite special in that regard. I ask if it is permissible to kill someone by removing the air from their immediate environment, and you reply with a comment about taxes! So let's sharpen the example still further:

Philosophers have arranged the world such that Fred and Joe are somewhere, where the land does not belong to anyone. Is Joe permitted to kill Fred by removing the air around Fred (i.e. without removing the air from his lungs) or not?

It would be the case if abortion was merely the denial of nutrients to the child.

Except of course, that abortions do not normally work this way. The usually require the direct assault on the child before removal from the women's body. You think this is permissible because you think it is possible to kill as punishment for stealing - a view I think is easily trumped by what I think it is all based on: the value of human life.

Perhaps I ought to research more on Natural Law?

Yes, but if you want to understand Aquinas on the subject you can't just research natural law. You need to study his metaphysics first. One of the reasons modern philosophers disagree with St Thomas about natural law is because they don't understand his metaphysical assumptions. A good place to start is Feser's book Aquinas which is purely philosophical (so you don't have to get involved in theological matters!). You would also be engaged by Feser's book The Last Superstition. Although the publishers sell it as a "refutation of the new atheism", it isn't really, it's really a serious (and sparklingly polemical) history of metaphysics.

Feser is interesting because, apart from being a very good writer, he used to be an atheist libertarian who converted to Catholicism under the banner of St Thomas. I have never found out how he came to be a Catholic, but judging by his books (Locke, Hayek, Nozick, Mind and Aquinas) he came to see that the philosophical foundations of the modern secular world-view are more assumed than defended (and false, when examined). He is a big fan for example, of saying there is no classical mind/body problem - it is only a problem when one adopts a modern metaphysic.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Indigomyth:"For most people, their political and personal philosophies are identical - for the libertarian, things are far harder."

Albert: "It would be interesting to hear YMB on that."

Probably not very!

One one level, I disagree with Indigomyth, in that my political philosophy flows from my personal philosophy - which basically means from my Christian beliefs. (But then Indigomyth probably knew that - so I'm agreeing with the form of his words, rather than his intended meaning.)

If Indigomyth meant something like "a libertarian will believe that the law should not prohibit actions that he believes to be morally repugnant", I have no problem with that. But Albert will immediately say "But I, in many cases, believe that, too."

What did you mean, Indigomyth?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Is Joe permitted to kill Fred by removing the air around Fred (i.e. without removing the air from his lungs) or not?//

Yes, on balance. Though, of course, your example is of a lifeboat type situation, that rarely occurs in real life. However, Rothbard also addresses a similar issue when he talks about the only lifeboat at sea.

//But I wonder if that means your own morality is not rationally grounded - is it more sentimental in outlook?//

Probably. Rather than the ruthless and harsh political philosophy I have.

//Feser is interesting because, apart from being a very good writer, he used to be an atheist libertarian who converted to Catholicism under the banner of St Thomas. //

Yes, but after inferring the logical conclusions of his argument regarding the distribution of resources, which would result in people being forced to donate blood and organs, I am slightly less impressed.

Also, I was amused to read in the article you provided that he says that theories which concord with common sense are the best ones, then goes on to argue that restriction of speech is actually the most liberal position to take, surely a sentiment that contradicts most common sense?

I have been more impressed with the bits of material I have read of Alvin Plantinga.
---
YMB,

//What did you mean, Indigomyth?//

Just as you say -
//a libertarian will believe that the law should not prohibit actions that he believes to be morally repugnant//

with the added caveat "provided it does not involve aggressive violence".

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Reflecting on the issue, I realise that I agree with the RCC on quite a number of issues, like condoms in Africa (the lower rates of HIV in Uganda), like the nature of the recent "paedophile" scandal being rather a homosexual ephebophile one, etc. However, it is primarily the way it has gone about advocating these things. It seems all too willing to use the law.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

The Catholic Church has had a lot of bad publicity. The publicity is just daft when it comes to HIV in Africa, it is well deserved when it comes to child-abuse. However, it is misdirected in the latter case. There is almost no paedophilia in the RCC (relatively speaking), and the abuse that we do have is far less proportionately than the population as a whole (that lovely line in the Richard Dawkins Downfall video about Newsweek showing priests are no more likely to be abusers than zoologists!). Why I think the outrage is justified though is the way it has (sometimes) been handled, coupled with the fact that the Church should just be different (without being naive). It's also pretty clear the attacks on the Pope are unjust. Certainly, procedures have improved over time, but once you understand what his position was and what the decisions he took actually meant, you can see he is being got at because people are ignorant and don't want to be enlightened.

It seems all too willing to use the law.

Could you give me an example (with a source)?

Yes, on balance. Though, of course, your example is of a lifeboat type situation

You won't be surprised to hear I think that is another reductio moment.

the ruthless and harsh political philosophy I have.

Yes, it is very harsh - it's only in this thread I've come to see what we might call your "sentimental" side. Do you not what to try to integrate your personal morality with your philosophy?

which would result in people being forced to donate blood and organs

I don't think he'd think that's where it went. I think I'd want you to spell out the logic.

I was amused to read in the article you provided that he says that theories which concord with common sense are the best ones, then goes on to argue that restriction of speech is actually the most liberal position to take, surely a sentiment that contradicts most common sense?

But no more so than the libertarian theory that the best way to defend freedom is to allow parents to kill their starving children who take food from the table, or by killing others by removing the air around them. You can only be free, if you are alive.

I have been more impressed with the bits of material I have read of Alvin Plantinga.

Plantinga is a very fine philosopher at the end of a distinguished career. What have you looked at? his epistemology perhaps?

Albert said...

YMB

But Albert will immediately say "But I, in many cases, believe that, too."

Exactly!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Plantinga is a very fine philosopher at the end of a distinguished career. What have you looked at? his epistemology perhaps?//

His arguments for the foundational nature of the assumption of the existence of god.

//Could you give me an example (with a source)?//

TBH, I don't have any particular source. Just the general perception on things like making drugs illegal, prostitution, and homosexuality. But then, perhaps the media has been unfair?

//You won't be surprised to hear I think that is another reductio moment.//

Indeed.

//Do you not what to try to integrate your personal morality with your philosophy?//

No, because I do not agree with aggressive violence, and that is ultimately only what the law and state offers. I would much rather support a pro-life group offering free scans, rather than supporting a political party that wants to make abortion illegal, because that is all the law does - violence. And I am not an aggressively violent person.

//I don't think he'd think that's where it went. I think I'd want you to spell out the logic.//

His arguments about the self-ownership proviso. He talks of a man who owns an island being compelled to rescue someone who is drowning off shore. If they do not, and the man in the sea drowns, then they can be punished by violence. The parallels with the body are evident. If my blood or organs are a match for someone who is dying, then, according to Feser, I have a duty to save them, and the self-ownership proviso means I can be punished by the state if I do not use my resources (body) to save the dying person. In that way, Feser shows that he wants people to be forcibly harvested for organs (or at least punished by imprisonment for not helping). I would also note that his attitude would also mean that smoking around children in a private home would be illegal, since it would involve poisoning the children with the smoke (as he compares it to promotion of homosexuality). Though I find his lack of understanding regarding the relationship between parents and children to be rather shocking.

//You can only be free, if you are alive.//

True. However, life is not more important than freedom. I imagine there are many slave owners that would be highly critical of their slaves committing suicide. Indeed, the act of voluntarily ending your life can be an act of liberation. And, also recall that people have fought to the death for their freedom - they have considered it entirely reasonable to sacrifice themselves, their lives, for their freedom (or their children's).

//the best way to defend freedom is to allow parents to kill their starving children who take food from the table//

Only if it is the ONLY resort, the only option. But thank you for raising this issue with me. Not all political pro-choicers are as consistent as me - will be interesting posing them this question. Of course, many pro-choicers are of the opinion that the foetus is not a "human", therefore does not have human rights.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Albert,

I did tell you that my answer was not likely to be very interesting!

And thanks for the clarification, Indigomyth. (And the addition of "with the added caveat "provided it does not involve aggressive violence".", which I assumed, but sometimes it's best to state such things, just to ensure clarity.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Plantinga is excellent on epistemology. In an age of crude and aggressive evidentialism (courtesy of Dawkins and friends), it is very good to have a front rank philosopher open the way for faith by showing such evidentialism is self-referentially incoherent!

Just the general perception on things like making drugs illegal, prostitution, and homosexuality. But then, perhaps the media has been unfair?

Partly. I keep reading things saying the Pope has condemned homosexuality, but when I read the Pope he hasn't mentioned homosexuality. I've only become gumpy about the subject since my freedoms have been shut down to make way for gay equality (equally what?) - Catholic adoption agencies, B&B owners, people in other jobs, evangelists being sent to prison, Catholic school teaching being fiddled with etc. But I won't go on as you and I agree on much of this. I don't know any Catholic who thinks homosexual acts should be illegal, and anyone who did so would need to reconcile their position with the Catholic teaching against unjust discrimination of homosexuals.

As for making drugs and prostitution illegal, I agree with that. Presumably, you would make child prostitution illegal, though I'd be interested to see how precisely you would argue it.

But (to be provocative), why shouldn't Catholics use the law to restrict behaviours they regard as damaging? You gave a great long list of people who you think could have their freedoms curtailed because they act against freedom (mischievously, we could arguably add homosexuals to the list on the assumption that many of the most oppressive laws of late have come from that community!). But of course, they all think they do believe in freedom, it turns out that they just don't believe in your doctrine of freedom. So on your own account the law should curtail the freedoms of everyone who doesn't agree with your doctrine of freedom (which is more or less everyone!).

because I do not agree with aggressive violence

What I meant was, wouldn't you want to ground your personal morality more philosophically?

But what do you mean by "aggressive violence"? It seems to me that your political position tolerates a lot of violence. We have 200 000 abortions a year now - there would be more on your world-view, and they could be late term (what about partial-birth abortion, do you agree with that?). What about abortions when the parents are happy for to have a child in the womb, just not this child because it has Down's Syndrome or a cleft palate, i.e. they are only killing the child now because they won't want it to live after it's been born? Every abortion deprives the child of freedom. You allow for the death penalty for theft, even to the degree that parents can kill their starving children for taking food. You are prepared for state violence to be used against those who do not act according to your doctrine of freedom (which is more or less everyone). It is also acceptable for people to kill others (Joe vs Fred) provided they do not actually lay hands on them and simply alter their environment with a view to killing them. This is actually a pretty violent world isn't it?

The parallels with the body are evident. If my blood or organs are a match for someone who is dying, then, according to Feser, I have a duty to save them

To observe a parallel is not the same as showing something is entailed, so I don't think you have yet shown Feser makes the error you think.

Albert said...

I imagine there are many slave owners that would be highly critical of their slaves committing suicide.

But perhaps only because they believe the slaves are owned by others (themselves, and God for example).

the act of voluntarily ending your life can be an act of liberation

I don't agree.

also recall that people have fought to the death for their freedom - they have considered it entirely reasonable to sacrifice themselves, their lives, for their freedom

But there are problems here. Someone may choose his own death to defend freedom, but you are describing people choosing to kill other who are innocent (as I see it) to defend their freedom. That is always wrong IMO. Second, these persons are not directly killing themselves, they are aiming at something else. Someone who killed themselves in order to secure freedom would be gravely wrong IMO.

I would also note that his [Feser] attitude would also mean that smoking around children in a private home would be illegal, since it would involve poisoning the children with the smoke (as he compares it to promotion of homosexuality).

Isn't he just saying freedom is a much harder doctrine than it appears (we can hardly disagree given the length of this discussion!). It would follow from that that you ought to be careful about curtailing the freedoms of those who do not act according to you doctrine of freedom.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//But of course, they all think they do believe in freedom, it turns out that they just don't believe in your doctrine of freedom. //

Yes, but as we all know, their version of freedom is inconsistent, and ill thought out. Whereas mine is consistent.

//So on your own account the law should curtail the freedoms of everyone who doesn't agree with your doctrine of freedom (which is more or less everyone!).//

Not according to my philosophy of freedom.

And it would be only those that acted in aggressive violence against another person. Not merely for disagreeing with me. For example, I do not think we should arrest neo-Nazis or Islamists for saying "Death to Freedom". However, if they violently aggress against someone, they can be legitimately punished.

But, as I said before, you could apply the same rule to any particular philosophy.

//This is actually a pretty violent world isn't it?//

But not aggressively so. For example, boxing is violent, but it is not aggressively violent, because both participants are consenting. Abortion is not aggressively violent, as it is defensively violent (the woman asserting the jurisdiction over her body and resources),

//there would be more on your world-view//

I do not believe there would be. Because in my world, everyone is educated according to their parents wishes, and most parents do not educate their children about abortion being just. Also, just because I do not believe in making abortion illegal, does not mean that society would not be able to take non-violent actions, like ostracism like we discussed earlier. Would a woman so readily have an abortion if she knew she would be separated from her community forever? I think not.

And, most of the examples that you have given are pretty remote possibilities - interesting thought experiments, but not really of direct relevance. If I ever find myself in a world created by philosophers, on an island that no one owns, with someone with a machine that magically removes all the air from around me, that also does not give me time to get out of the way, then I may be tempted to reassess my views.

//This is actually a pretty violent world isn't it?//

It is also a world without genocide, war, theft, murder and assault. So, not that violent really.

//To observe a parallel is not the same as showing something is entailed, so I don't think you have yet shown Feser makes the error you think.//

Feser believes that someone dying has a greater right to your property than you do; so you do not have the right to use your island the way you want, if it means that someone will drown. We can apply exactly the same rule to the body - if you need a blood transfusion (the man drowning), and I have a matching blood type (the island), then my not allowing you to have my blood (enter my island), and you subsequently dying (drowning) ought to be illegal under Feser's idea.


///What I meant was, wouldn't you want to ground your personal morality more philosophically?//

Not really. I want to be happy, not philosophically consistent - therefore I recognise that I am part animal, and therefore my desires and urges are not wholly rational. I moderate them in an epicurean fashion.

//It is also acceptable for people to kill others (Joe vs Fred) provided they do not actually lay hands on them and simply alter their environment with a view to killing them.//

Okay, I have a question for you.

Say I am a landowner in a desert. I am a racist, and hate the natives. I decide to buy up all the oases in the area, so I can make the locals die of thirst. Ought I be able to try?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//But perhaps only because they believe the slaves are owned by others (themselves, and God for example).//

But that would mean that life is not, of itself, a worthwhile commodity. Rather it is freedom that is most important.

//Someone who killed themselves in order to secure freedom would be gravely wrong IMO.//

See, I believe that would be most noble and heroic.

//Someone may choose his own death to defend freedom,//

Yes, but my point was to show that life, of itself, is not valued as highly as freedom, certainly for many people. The fact that they do not take their own lives, is largely irrelevant. The fact is that they are prepared to die to defend liberty. That clearly demonstrates a hierarchy of priorities, with life being below freedom.

//It would follow from that that you ought to be careful about curtailing the freedoms of those who do not act according to you doctrine of freedom.//

I am very careful! However, you say that I have curtailed their freedom, but I have not, according to my own doctrine. They are still free, just not permitted to physically aggress.

Albert said...

Yes, but as we all know, their version of freedom is inconsistent, and ill thought out. Whereas mine is consistent.

LOL! In fact, I was going to say that consistency is the virtue I do recognise in it. However, I don't think people who disagree can be so easily faulted. Firstly, I think it fails before it starts because it proceeds from only one premise. Secondly, I think the anthropology on which it is based is serially flawed. There is an inherent dualism which I find virtually unintelligble, and there is an atomisation that I think conflicts with facts I find at least as basic as your doctrine of self-ownership. Thirdly, it does not attend to other things that seem as valuable: life and justice. With regard to the latter, your scheme results in extreme injustices. A starving child can be killed for taking a raisin from her own parents (as a last resort of course) and an employee who inadvertently takes a paperclip home may similarly be killed by his employer (again, provided it is a last resort). Finally, anyone who does not act according to your doctrine (because they can make no sense of it) can have their freedoms curtailed (of course, you don't think those are legitimate freedoms, but they do, and regard your curtailing of their freedoms as illegitimate because based on a foundation that is so flawed). In short, it doesn't seem to me that freedom is the key to this doctrine: the only virtue is consistency and that makes it nothing more than an exercise in logic. The fact that it does not form your own personal morality does not inspire confidence!

Feser believes that someone dying has a greater right to your property than you do

But the category mistake here is to regard one's body as property in no different sense from property that is not one's body. I think that's just another example of your philosophy being careful to be consistent, at the expense of rich realities it is seeking to describe and govern.

Because in my world, everyone is educated according to their parents wishes, and most parents do not educate their children about abortion being just.

Yes, but it is just on your world-view. Therefore, parents would educate children in this way, if (which God forbid), anyone ever attempted to put in place your political philosophy.

It is also a world without genocide, war, theft, murder and assault. So, not that violent really.

Well yes, if everyone abides by your position and I accept that none of the actions that are permitted are murder (which I don't, abortion is murder). If everyone accepted the teachings of Jesus and lived by them, there would be no genocide, war, theft, murder and assault either. Does that make you want to convert?!

Say I am a landowner in a desert. I am a racist, and hate the natives. I decide to buy up all the oases in the area, so I can make the locals die of thirst. Ought I be able to try?

Perhaps try, but not able to succeed.

But that would mean that life is not, of itself, a worthwhile commodity. Rather it is freedom that is most important.

I wasn't defending their position, just indicating that I didn't think your previous point was pertinent.

Yes, but my point was to show that life, of itself, is not valued as highly as freedom, certainly for many people.

Yes, and my point was to say it is irrelevent what people subjectively value. Objectively, life is logically prior to freedom because you cannot have freedom without life.

They are still free, just not permitted to physically aggress.

As you define it!

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//But the category mistake here is to regard one's body as property in no different sense from property that is not one's body. //

See, I view it as such, largely because, for a Rothbardian liberal, all rights extend from basic property rights.

Hmm curiously, we have an interesting difference here, because if you view the body different from other property, then (would I be so inclined) it would be logically possible to show that abortion is acceptable, where shooting dead a child that steals from a laden table, is not. Because the one involves taking of property that is not in the same class as another. Also, I do not see Feser making any such distinction in his writing. You have read more of him than myself, does he make that distinction else where?

//Does that make you want to convert?!//

Well, as you observed earlier, I am quite Christian at the moment.

//Objectively, life is logically prior to freedom because you cannot have freedom without life.//

I absolutely agree. However, just because something is a pre-requisite for something else to occur, does not make the initial thing a right, of itself.

//As you define it!//

Granted, granted.

//Perhaps try, but not able to succeed.//

But, I believe that in my world, they would not succeed, because of a huge number of other factors. Other people donating water to the natives, for example.

Considering the situation, I have racked my brains trying to think of a situation where a just property owner (rather than an absolute monarch who does not own a land by a just action) has committed genocide or mass murder against a population. Or where an individual has been killed by being suffocated without being physically restrained. Or, in fact, of a situation where a child has been shot because they took some food to feed themselves, rather than being allowed to by the property owner? I cannot think of any. Can you?

It seems Feser is rejecting the principles that I am working on, largely on the basis of some immensely unlikely circumstances.

Anyway, I have certainly thought in new directions in the course of this discussion. Thank you for raising the point about a starving child at a table, and the only way to get rid of them is to kill them. It brings into sharp focus the reality of abortion.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

A further thought occurs to me.

If you hold life to be your highest value, then why do you not support the forcible harvesting of blood and organs from people, in order to keep others alive?

Surely, if life is the highest value, then the value of someone else's liberty, and indeed the inviolability of their bodies, is subservient to the life of someone else. So, even if someone does not want to donate a kidney, or give blood, if not doing so would mean the death of someone else, then, using the idea of life being the highest value, why is it not permissible for the state to hunt down those with matching blood / organ types, forcibly sedate them, take them to the operating theatre, and take their organs (provided doing so does not kill them)? Indeed, it would be quite morally permissible, under the ideology of life as the highest value, for the donor's life to be made much much worse, even if it meant that the recipient's life was extended only marginally?

Haven't you admitted the morality of the position above by arguing against abortion? By doing so you are saying that the woman's right to her body, her blood, does not exceed the child's right to life. Well, in that case, why ought that principle not apply to every other person? What makes my sovereignty over my blood superior to a mother's sovereignty over her blood? If you are prepared to say how the latter's may be used, why not the former's?

I imagine that you would advocate the state punishing someone who allows a child to starve to death at their table (chronic neglect)? Is that not what someone is doing when they are denying blood or organ donation? They are denying the very thing that could save the other person?

Indeed, would not your ideology of putting life above all else mean that people ought to be forcibly treated for diseases, even if they have no wish to be?

indigomyth said...

Albert,

Once again, in support of my above comment, another extract from Rothbard:

"The anti-abortionists generally couch the preceding argument in
terms of the fetus's, as well as the born human's, "right to life." We have
not used this concept in this volume because of its ambiguity, and because
any proper rights implied by its advocates are included in the concept of
the "right to self-ownershipf'-the right to have one's person fiee from
aggression. Even Professor Judith Thomson, who, in her discussion of the
abortion question, attempts inconsistently to retain the concept of "right
to life" along with the right to own one's own body, lucidly demonstrates
the pitfalls and errors of the "right to life" doctrine:
In some views, having a right to life includes having a right
to be given at least the bare minimum one needs for continued
life. But suppose that what in fact is the bare minimum
a man needs for continued life is something he has no right
at all to be given? If I am sick unto death, and the only thing
that will save my life is the touch of Henry Fonda's cool hand
on my fevered brow, then all the same, I have no right to be
given the touch of Henry Fonda's cool hand on my fevered
brow. It would be frightfully nice of him to fly in from the
West Coast to provide it. . . . But I have no right at all against
anybody that he should do this for me.
In short, it is impermissible to interpret the term "right to life," to
give one an enforceable claim to the action of someone else to sustain that
life. In our terminology such a claim would be an impermissible violation
of the other person's right of self-ownership. Or, as Professor Thomson
cogently puts it, "having a right to life does not guarantee having
either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued
use of another person's body-even if one needs it for life itself.'"

- Page 99

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

If you hold life to be your highest value, then why do you not support the forcible harvesting of blood and organs from people, in order to keep others alive?

Rothbard is right to point to out that "right to life" is a rather ambiguous term, and I don't think I have used it. What I said was it was logically prior to freedom, so that to take life is necessarily to oppose freedom in that case. The principle I would defend can be expressed thus:

1. It is always and everywhere wrong for anyone, directly and deliberately to take innocent human life.

curiously, we have an interesting difference here, because if you view the body different from other property, then (would I be so inclined) it would be logically possible to show that abortion is acceptable, where shooting dead a child that steals from a laden table, is not.

I think the death penalty in either case is wrong because in both cases it is disproportionate and unjust (unless, in the case of the mother, the child (as opposed to the pregnancy) is a direct and immediate threat to her life - as opposed to a real foreseen risk). Additionally, the child is innocent - certainly in the case of the abortion.

Further, on the question of the right to life, it is useful to recall the principle of double effect - Catholic in origin, yet widely used in secular Medical ethics. The fact that sometimes an unborn child's life will be terminated as an indirect result of a morally good and proportional action, indicates that the right to life (as Catholics understand it) doesn't result in the absurdities you imply and isn’t quite the doctrine you think it is.

Albert said...

I haven't read much of Feser on the question of property rights. I know he doesn't think much of Rothbard. Though what he says is that he doesn't rank him highly as a philosopher, rather than that he disagrees with him. His argument is interesting because what he does is argue that Rothbard's argument for self-ownership requires a false dichotomy. Feser effectively gives various other alternatives.

Given St Thomas' view that stealing is not in fact stealing if the "thief" is dying of starvation, my guess is that Feser would want to say that property rights are not without boundaries. This would allow him to defend the unborn child and the drowning man.

In effect, I think we need to be careful to distinguish between the three cases you have put forward, as it seems to me that morally there are different issues at stake. In the case of the drowning man (Fred) the guilt of the person who could have saved him (Joe) is less than the guilt of those who procure the abortion. For in the latter case, they actually perform an action to kill, in the former it is the tragic circumstance that does the killing. This difference is important, as it means Joe does not have to save Fred in all circumstances – only when it is reasonably within his power and without reasonable risk to himself. In contrast the abortion will always be wrong (provided it is not double-effect).

The question of organs is a third kind of case, because, here the "recipient" (or his agents) must commit an act in order to get hold of the organs, and since an act to injure the bodily integrity of an innocent person without their consent, and without the intention to do good to the person harmed is wrong, it cannot be justified because "it is not licit to do evil that good may come of it" (Pope John Paul II Veritatis Splendor, 79).

We can express the differences thus:

1. Drowning man – agency of violence: sea
2. Abortion – agency of violence: those who procure it
3. Organ donation – agency of violence: those who seek to take the organs

These differences are crucial in Catholic thought because it is the act considered as a whole, and not the outcome considered in isolation that it morally significant. This is why I think our mortal enemies are not libertarians but utilitarians.

I have racked my brains trying to think of a situation where a just property owner

Yes, but the nature of philosophy is to generalise, and the purpose of creating unreal situations is to help us to isolate the moral principle and see if it works in all conceivable situations.

Well, as you observed earlier, I am quite Christian at the moment.

That’s good to know. If you want to change the topic of conversation to something more religious, I’m happy to go with it.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//1. Drowning man – agency of violence: sea
2. Abortion – agency of violence: those who procure it
3. Organ donation – agency of violence: those who seek to take the organs//

I think that there is an error here, surely it ought to be:

//1. Drowning man – agency of violence: sea

3. Organ harvesting – agency of violence: the disease killing the patient//

What Feser is saying is that is acceptable for Fred to have his agents (the state) force Joe to save Fred's life, even if he does not want to (or punish him, if he does not).

In the same way, he is also arguing (by citing as his example Thompson's violinist) that someone's organs can be appropriated for another person's use, even if the donor is not willing and consenting. He actually says words to that effect in the article you cited - he argues that the innocent man, hooked up to the violinist, must not be allowed to detach himself, because it will result in the death of the violinist.

Let us imagine that Fred's kidneys are being destroyed by a disease. The parallel would be Fred drowning at sea. What you are arguing is that Joe must be forced to help Fred, at sea, if it is safe and within his power to do so. Now, imagine Joe is an exact match for Fred's kidneys. We live in a modern society, with very low risk from surgery, so the threat to Joe is minimal (and, of course, if we imagine it as blood transfusion, the threat is even less). Taking that into account, and considering what you have said about the drowning man, why should Joe not be forced to donate his blood or organs?

//The question of organs is a third kind of case, because, here the "recipient" (or his agents) must commit an act in order to get hold of the organs,//

But that is also the case if Joe does not want to rescue Fred - it requires force to compel Joe to rescue Fred (or punish him if he does not). How are the agents of Drowning Fred acting any differently to the agents of Kidney-failure Fred? Both agents need to use violence, or threat of violence, to compel Joe to save Fred.

//This is why I think our mortal enemies are not libertarians but utilitarians.//

Rothbard was similarly critical of utilitarians.

//indicates that the right to life (as Catholics understand it) doesn't result in the absurdities you imply and isn’t quite the doctrine you think it is.//

Yes, but the nature of philosophy is to generalise, and the purpose of creating unreal situations is to help us to isolate the moral principle and see if it works in all conceivable situations.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

A further example occurs to me (and in the vein of unreal situations):

Imagine that Joe, the world renowned Olympic swimmer, has as company on his island, Bob, who is in a wheelchair. Suddenly they espy Fred drowning in the millpond smooth sea. Bob is armed with a gun. Bob, acting as Fred's agents threatens Joe to swim out and save Fred. Fred needs Joe's abilities as a swimmer to save him. Is it right (and legal) for Bob to threaten Joe, to save Fred's life? (Bob is standing in for Feser's
State).

And, just for clarity:

Imagine that Joe, the type Q blood type, is a perfect match for the dying Fred, who only needs a little blood to restore his life. Fred gets Bob, the blood transfusion bouncer, to threaten Joe with a gun, so that he donates blood. Is it right (and legal) for Bob to threaten Joe, to save Fred's life? (Bob is again standing in for Feser's State)

I fail to see the substantial difference in these two cases.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

I think that there is an error here

Okay, but I was trying to show that in the case of the drowning man, there is no (human) agency of violence, whereas with both abortion and the harvesting of organs there is a human agency of violence.

Also in both the latter cases, the agency assaults the innocent without doing any good to them and in violation of their consent.

In other words, for Fred to drown, no one needs to do anything. For the child in the womb to die, someone must kill it. For the organ harvesting, someone must assault the man with a knife.

Conversely, part of the my suggestion that Joe may be obliged to rescue Fred, was the condition that it not unreasonably endanger Joe - I take as tacit that it not unreasonably harm him, I also stated earlier that there was a difference between external property and one's body.

In the abortion the child is clearly unreasonably harmed (s/he gets killed and perhaps for no better reason than to spare a woman's figure), in the case of the organ donation, the "donor" is cut up and has part of his body removed. The hardest case for me to answer then is the blood donor - but I think the difference between my external property and my body deals with that. In addition, there is the fact that the assault on the blood "donor" does him no good whatsoever.

This reminds me of a problem I have with your position. I have said that I think your position fails to take account of justice and proportionality (the idea of giving to each what is owed to him). This is violated because it is not owing to a starving child who takes a raisin from his parents to be killed for it, or an employee who inadvertently deprives his employer of a paper-clip to be killed for that misdemeanor. These are obviously disproportionate.

So having violated the principle of justice and proportion, you then wish to establish everyone's right of self-ownership in proportion to the degree that they feel and think they own their own bodies. It is owing to them because they feel and think they own their own bodies. So the very principle that is being violated in killing the child or employee is in fact the same principle that is being invoked to kill them. IOW, in addition to my worry that your position proceeds from only one premise (from which nothing follows), but also, I worry that it results in a contradiction later on. And since the foundation of your claim is so slender, surely the justice question will have to be resolved in favour of the (unborn) child.

Yes, but the nature of philosophy is to generalise, and the purpose of creating unreal situations is to help us to isolate the moral principle and see if it works in all conceivable situations.

Cheek! You know full well that my point was to say that the kind of conclusion you were drawing was not entailed by the Catholic doctrine when properly understood.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//Okay, but I was trying to show that in the case of the drowning man, there is no (human) agency of violence, whereas with both abortion and the harvesting of organs there is a human agency of violence.//

What about Bob threatening Joe, the Olympic swimmer; is he not a human agency of violence in precisely the same way that those harvesting the organs are? Is not Bob assaulting the innocent (Joe) without doing any good to him and in violation of his consent. Is not swimmer Joe equally "guilty" of non-action as Joe the blood or organ donor?

//I also stated earlier that there was a difference between external property and one's body. //

In which case, why can a woman not deny her unborn child nutrients? If one's body is in a different class of objects to all others, then why can she not defend it. If your body really is extraordinarily yours, in a way unlike external property, then why can it not be defended extraordinarily, through abortion?

//in the case of the organ donation, the "donor" is cut up and has part of his body removed. //

In the case of the woman, she may suffer from hours of agony being in labour (rather like recovering from surgery), she may have to be cut open (life surgery), she may suffer from depression (rather like someone who has been forcibly cut open).

You also ignore the fact that Feser argues that you do not own your own body - indeed, his entire adoption of the self-ownership proviso is based on that very idea. He argues that Thompson's violinist has to remain attached to the unwilling patient - that the organs of the innocent can, and must, be used to save the lives of the dying.

//For the organ harvesting, someone must assault the man with a knife.//

Only in the cases where the man is unwilling, in which case I may very well say that "to get an unwilling man to swim out to save someone on a calm sea, they must be threatened with physical violence".

indigomyth said...

//This is violated because it is not owing to a starving child who takes a raisin from his parents to be killed for it, or an employee who inadvertently deprives his employer of a paper-clip to be killed for that misdemeanor. //

Death would only be a justifiable act if it was the ONLY way to prevent a violation of this property. There would be punishments if someone did act disproportionately. So, for example, the employer could not executed the employee on the basis of accidentally taking a paper clip, since there are other ways to resolve the issue - like asking for it back, threatening them with being fired, etc. However, as I argued earlier, abortion is a unique case, because the ONLY way for the woman to evict the foetus, is to kill it. Were there another way to get rid of the foetus in as prompt and timely a manner as the mother desired (perhaps by beaming it directly to an artificial womb), then I would probably consider abortion, as a first resort, completely disproportionate. However, currently, for the end result of the woman not have her organs hijacked, abortion remains the only way of stopping that, and therefore is not disproportionate to what is, after all, the woman's complete sovereignty over her body (which you have argued is unique and distinct from external property).

//The hardest case for me to answer then is the blood donor - but I think the difference between my external property and my body deals with that.//

But then what about the pregnant woman's blood? Does she not have an exactly equal right to dictate how her blood may or may not be used? You have admitted the right to refuse to give blood to a dying child, and so to let him die, yet you do not grant that same right to a woman who is pregnant?

//In addition, there is the fact that the assault on the blood "donor" does him no good whatsoever.//

I could get into a long quibbling match about whether pregnancy and child birth do woman any good whatsoever (especially given the fact that prior to the modern medical age, the primary cause of death among women was child birth), but let us not start another huge topic.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Briefly, as I'm about to go to bed:

abortion is a unique case, because the ONLY way for the woman to evict the foetus, is to kill it

It is that very uniqueness that is my point. Because, in order to defend her body she must directly kill the unborn child, it is unlike any other case, and you cannot infer from those other cases to justify the action. This case is unique, because it requires the direct and deliberate killing of an innocent which is both disproportionate (unless her life is immediately threatened) and wrong in itself.

You haven't answered my point about justice, I don't think.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//You haven't answered my point about justice, I don't think.//

Well, in what sense? Legal justice, moral justice, divine justice?

//This case is unique, because it requires the direct and deliberate killing of an innocent which is both disproportionate (unless her life is immediately threatened) and wrong in itself.//

Okay, so what if the woman purposely stops her blood flowing to the placenta? In that instance, there is no direct physical assault taken against the baby, as the placenta is empirically the woman's flesh. In what way would that not be permissible using your ideology? The foetus is not being assaulted.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

so what if the woman purposely stops her blood flowing to the placenta? In that instance, there is no direct physical assault taken against the baby, as the placenta is empirically the woman's flesh. In what way would that not be permissible using your ideology?

That's rather like Joe's machine to remove the air from around Fred. A problem is that the act aims at directly killing an innocent. Such actions, whether by commission or omission are inadmissible.

Legal justice, moral justice, divine justice?

Well, which model of justice are you using when you think self-ownership is owing to someone and that undermining that ownership is not.

indigomyth said...

Albert,

//That's rather like Joe's machine to remove the air from around Fred. A problem is that the act aims at directly killing an innocent. Such actions, whether by commission or omission are inadmissible.//

Ah, no it isn't! In your example the air was not owned, however, in this case it most definitely is owned, totally and completely by the woman. It is more akin to someone not giving food to a starving man (or to my Mars space station example)? DO you think that ought to be against the law? And how is the woman denying the foetus her blood, any different from the Joe denying Fred his blood or kidney? If you are going to make that argument, then you have to show why the woman does not have the right to deny the child her blood, whereas Joe does. In both cases, no direct harm is being done to the child, but the results are identical. Let us say that the ONLY reason that Joe is not donating his blood or organs to Fred, is to see Fred die. Perhaps Fred is a Jew, and Joe is a non-aggressive Nazi. In that case, the very aim of Joe not giving Fred his blood, is to see Fred die. In that circumstance, ought the state compel Joe to give blood or organs to Fred?

You also have not answered by point about the violence done to Swimmer Joe in order to make him save Fred.

Further, in the example above, provided by Rothbard, it was Henry Fonda's cool touch that was saving the woman's life? In that case there is certainly no risk to Henry Fonda. Does that mean that you think that the state ought to compel Henry to save the woman?

indigomyth said...

//Well, which model of justice are you using when you think self-ownership is owing to someone and that undermining that ownership is not.//

Both moral AND legal justice. I would consider it personally immoral for me to violently aggress against someone, even if I thought it would be for the best. That is why I support the decriminalisation of drugs - I believe it to be moral to allow someone to kill themselves by drug use, rather than by force, stop them. I would try and persuade them to stop, but would not physically try and stop them.

And, since libertarians see the State as bound by the same rules that govern individuals, I think the State ought to be bound to the above convention also.

So legal justice is merely that which defends an individuals liberty, or punishes transgressions against that liberty. That is not to say that the State takes from the individual the right to self protection (such as owning guns etc), but rather the State is there to protect the liberty of those that have no mechanism for defending themselves from aggressive violence.

So it, for exactly the same reasons why it would be unJust for me to forcibly stop someone taking drugs, so it is unjust for the State to do the same. You seem to be making the error of thinking that the State has a moral entitlement above and beyond the individual - your advocacy of state violence against Swimmer Joe, but not (yet?) if carried out by Disabled Bob.

I do things, like donate to charity, because I think that they are good things to do, and they are "Just" in the same way as it is "Just" for me to allow someone to kill themselves.

Now, the State acts in a completely different way to me, so while I advocate that the State do some "Just" things (like punish the violent), I do not suggest it does other "Just" things. The reason being the method by which the State must always operate - and that is by aggressive violence. That is, fundamentally, the only form of act the State is ever capable of. So when the State decides to send £100 million to Africa to save starving children, that is an unjust act, because that £100 million is not its own money, it is taken, under threat of violence, from taxpayers. For me, it is exactly the same as a mugger taking £100 from me, and then giving it to charity. The act of charity to which he puts the money, which would be considered "just" if done with his own money, is unjust because he has stolen it from me. In that way, the State is forever bound to do the very least.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

Ah, no it isn't!

I only said it was like, I didn't say it was the same.

It is more akin to someone not giving food to a starving man (or to my Mars space station example)? DO you think that ought to be against the law?

I think it is against the law, because it is provided by taxation. I think that is just because I think a man who is starving is not stealing if he takes from another, but simply claiming his own.

And how is the woman denying the foetus her blood, any different from the Joe denying Fred his blood or kidney?

Because she is acting, Joe is not. Therefore she does the killing, Fred is killed by the disease. Moreover, to obtain the organs one would need to assault Joe, but the woman is not assaulted by the child.

Let us say that the ONLY reason that Joe is not donating his blood or organs to Fred, is to see Fred die.

That would be wicked, for a good or indifferent act, done for an evil cause, is itself evil.

You also have not answered by point about the violence done to Swimmer Joe in order to make him save Fred.

I do not believe Joe can be forced at the end of a gun because I do not believe in the death penalty or the threat of the death penalty.

Does that mean that you think that the state ought to compel Henry to save the woman?

I think that goods in creation are ordered for the good of all. Therefore, if Henry can reasonably save the woman in this way, she has a just claim to be saved. So it would depend on the details of the scenario.

Both moral AND legal justice. I would consider it personally immoral for me to violently aggress against someone, even if I thought it would be for the best.

I meant what is the principle of justice by which you get from "people feel and think they own their own bodies" to "therefore it is owing to them not to aggress them"?

You seem to be making the error of thinking that the State has a moral entitlement above and beyond the individual

Why is that an error?

indigomyth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
indigomyth said...

//Because she is acting, Joe is not. Therefore she does the killing, Fred is killed by the disease. Moreover, to obtain the organs one would need to assault Joe, but the woman is not assaulted by the child.//

Ahh, but she is not acting. Her body is acting in support of the child. Therefore, her stopping the blood flow would be merely the ceasing of action. I would also argue that the child is assaulting the woman; the child is using the woman's organs and blood without her consent - how is that not assault?

//That would be wicked, for a good or indifferent act, done for an evil cause, is itself evil.//

Does that mean you think it ought to be illegal?

//I do not believe Joe can be forced at the end of a gun because I do not believe in the death penalty or the threat of the death penalty. //

I never said Bob was threatening death. Maybe just a shot in the knee? Would that be permissible? Is it better or worse than the state imprisoning Joe for not rescuing Fred?

//Why is that an error?//

Because it would mean that the State has rights in the same way individuals have rights, and I find that to be completely contradictory, given the way the State operates (by violence). And, since the State is just a group of individuals, I fail to see how they can have a class of rights apart from individuals. Just as a family cannot aggress against another family, so just because a group of people band togther and call themselves a "government" does not mean that they get any more right.

//Therefore, if Henry can reasonably save the woman in this way, she has a just claim to be saved. So it would depend on the details of the scenario.//

So it may be permissible for the State to use violence against someone who has done no active wrong?

You agree with the principle that someone can be punished for not acting if they can reasonably save somone's life? In which case, why is the racist organ donor different to the reluctant swimmer? In both cases Joe is being subject to violence to get him to do something he does not want to do. Swimmer Joe is being forced to use his body to rescue Drowning Fred, Donor Joe is being forced to used his body to rescue kidney failure Fred. Your point about the violence done to Donor Joe ignores the violence done to Swimmer Joe in order to get him to save the Drowning Fred. If, as above, Joe is a racist, and wants Fred to die as a result of not getting a kidney transplant, then your criteria about there being no threat to Joe's life does not come in to effect - it is merely his desire not to give his organs. In which case, may the state use force to take Joe's organs from him? Yes, that will mean doing violence (or threatening violence) to Joe, but you have already the permissibility of that in the case of Swimmer Joe, in order to compel him to swim out and rescue Fred. 

//I meant what is the principle of justice by which you get from "people feel and think they own their own bodies" to "therefore it is owing to them not to aggress them"?//

Because to me it is a foundational truth (thanks Plantinga). Just as I believe that the Earth exists, and I am standing on it, so I believe that violent aggression is wrong.

Albert said...

Indigomyth,

May I just put in a little caveat before going any further. As we move into questions of social teaching, jurisprudence etc. I become less and less clear on Catholic teaching. I wouldn't want you to think that the opinions I express are those of the Catholic Church. Of course, I aim for them to be such, but I am not in a position to judge with any authority.

Therefore, her stopping the blood flow would be merely the
ceasing of action.


The blood flow is natural, it happens automatically as it were. Therefore, to stop the blood flow, she must perform some kind of act.

I would also argue that the child is assaulting the woman

I find that unintelligble - does a boulder falling down a hillside assault the person it hits? In any case, her body is providing the means by which this happens. Although it is not a moral act, providing nutrition for the child is something she is doing. If this were not the case it would be impossible for you to speak of her stopping the blood etc. going into the child. It is not an assault, it is something that both the child and mother's bodies are naturally cooperating in.

Does that mean you think it ought to be illegal?

You can hardly legislate for motives in such circumstances - the physical act is not evil in itself.

I never said Bob was threatening death. Maybe just a shot in the knee? Would that be permissible? Is it better or worse than the state imprisoning Joe for not rescuing Fred?

I really don't know, though not killing or maming. I would recommend a state to be very slow in inflicting punishment in such cases, but in principle, I can see no moral objection, but I can see reason to defend such a punishment.

I find that to be completely contradictory, given the way the State operates (by violence)

Well let us suppose the Freda is starving her child, Josephine, to death. I turn up with a bunch of nasty, pro-life Catholic heavies from the Catholic Women's League to compel her to take care of her child. Fortunately for Freda, you and a bunch of enlightened libertarians are on hand to defend Freda's right to starve Josephine to death. Would you defend Freda from us, and if not, who could? and how could she be defended? On your worldview who is allowed to inflict just punishment on wicked pro-life Catholics who are such enemies of freedom that they prevent libertartians such as Freda from depriving her child of the opportunity to exercise her freedom by starving her to death?

So it may be permissible for the State to use violence against someone who has done no active wrong?

Do you think there are no circumstances for someone to be guilty (and therefore punishable) by neglect?

In which case, why is the racist organ donor different to the reluctant swimmer?

I think I have already given a range of reasons. Swimmer Joe is only being expected to save Fred if he can reasonably do so and without reasonable risk of harming himself. Chopping Joe up to take a kidney is obviously an act of harm and therefore a person aiming at such an act would need the Joe's consent first.

Because to me it is a foundational truth (thanks Plantinga).

What I was asking for was for you to give me the principle by which you moved from one premise to a conclusion. I think what you have done is give me (what you take to be) the epistemic status of that principle, without telling me what that principle is.

indigomyth said...

//Would you defend Freda from us, and if not, who could?//

Well, my first question would be why are you not offering food directly to the child? However, putting that aside.

//On your worldview who is allowed to inflict just punishment on wicked pro-life Catholics who are such enemies of freedom that they prevent libertartians such as Freda from depriving her child of the opportunity to exercise her freedom by starving her to death?//

It would entirely depend on how these pro-life Catholics went about their activities? If it involved sneaking food to the child, or asking the child to runaway from Freda to join a family who will support them, then they are perfectly within their rights to do so.

Let us say that you intend to threaten physical violence (not suggesting you would, but taking it to the extreme), I would say that Freda if obviously within her right to defend herself against assault. She is also perfectly at liberty to deligate this action to a freelancer, so she could privately hire body guards to protect her. If not, then the State may step in to defend her liberty (or punish to an appropriate extent those that have abused her).


//Do you think there are no circumstances for someone to be guilty (and therefore punishable) by neglect?//

Absolutely. If a care worker has been employed to care for someone, and they fail to fulfil their end of the contract, then they may be justly punished. They have effectively stolen from the people that have paid to have the person cared for.

//I think I have already given a range of reasons.//

Except really in the case of blood donor. All you said was because of the difference between the body and external property.

//I find that unintelligble - does a boulder falling down a hillside assault the person it hits? //

In a certain sense it does. However, this still fails to address the issue as to why a woman does not have the authority to say how her blood may flow. It belongs to her!

//I think what you have done is give me (what you take to be) the epistemic status of that principle, without telling me what that principle is.//

I was referring to the fact that I believe that people own their own bodies; that is foundationally true to me. I was perhaps not all that accurate when I spoke last time.

I think we are getting to the point where this becomes futile. For me it is impossible to understand how a woman does not have the just authority to dictate how her body may and may not be used, and I do not think that you have provided very good reasons. I cannot see the difference between compelling a woman to carry a child she does not want, and forcing someone to donate their organs. Yes, the latter action is overtly violent, but the former is also violent, because it is the using of the body against the will of the owner. And in both the case of Joe refusing to donate organs, and the woman refusing to bear the child, the result is the same - a dead child. Its a completely alien way of viewing the world - that someone can be forced to carry a child that they do not want. It would also need me to accept that one person has the right to take a possession without consent.

Both circumstances involve terrible overiding of body sovereignty. Also, from what I have read of Feser, he would support organ harvesting. Besides which, the sun is shining, and all this talk of death and abortion is hardly cheering!

Albert said...

I think you are probably right, we have gone round this and there are some points which we will not agree about but which seem axiomatic to each of us. Partly, I think we have quite different understandings of what constitutes an act, and this prevents a meeting of minds.

Besides which, the sun is shining, and all this talk of death and abortion is hardly cheering!

Quite! but I am a little sunburnt, so some time in front of the computer hasn't been totally harmful. Anyway, shall we call it quits for now?

indigomyth said...

//Anyway, shall we call it quits for now? //

I think so. In any case, for the most part we want the same things from the State, it is just we justify them in quite different ways.

Anyway, I am sure that we will end up talking again! Until then, enjoy your summer.

Albert said...

Yes, thanks Indigomyth and also to YMB. It's been a great discussion, which I've enjoyed and found very stimulating. Indigomyth, you have achieved one thing that no one else ever has: you've made me want to study the Church's teaching on Social Doctrine, in particular, its philosophical roots. It's also been interesting how much we have found in common - we have sometimes had to invent quite extreme cases to bring out the differences.

Best wishes for the summer to you too.