Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who may punish the guilty?

Was it wrong to shoot Tiller? Yes, yes, yes, I have said, repeatedly and unambiguously. But here’s yet another guy who simply will not take yes for an answer. Because I hold that (1) a murderer loses his right to life and (2) Tiller was a murderer (indeed a particularly heinous murderer), it follows – this guy, like Leiter and Shipley, claims – that I must be committed to saying that it was OK to shoot Tiller. Well, that simply does not follow at all, certainly not from the point of view of natural law theory, which informs my own approach to morality.

It does follow from (1) and (2) that (3) Tiller lost his right to life. But it does not follow that any private individual may take his life. On the contrary, classical natural law theory holds that (4) the right to punish and deter evildoers belongs to lawful governmental authorities alone, and not to private individuals. So if we hold – as I do – that (5) the governmental authorities who have jurisdiction in this case are lawful ones, then it follows that (6) neither Tiller’s murderer nor any other private individual had the moral right to kill Tiller. That the lawful governmental authorities were, because of bad laws and bad court decisions, etc., not doing their job – which need not require executing Tiller in any case but only imprisoning him – does not entail that any private individual can usurp their authority.

But what if a pro-lifer concluded that the governmental authorities in question were no longer lawful or legitimate ones, or, even if generally lawful, were nevertheless so extraordinarily derelict in their duty in the grave matter of abortion that drastic action was called for? Would that not justify vigilantism? It would not. For in that case, as John Zmirak has pointed out in an article I linked to earlier, the would-be vigilante, in opposing the existing governmental authorities, would in effect be putting himself into a state of war with them, denying as he implicitly would be that they have maintained their moral right to govern, or at least their right to stop him and people like him from carrying out acts of vigilantism. But in that case (as Zmirak notes) the just war criteria elaborated by natural law theory kick in. And since (a) those criteria include the requirements that any just war can only be undertaken if there is a reasonable chance of success and if the war will not do greater harm than good, and (b) it is obvious that neither of those criteria are met by any would-be vigilante action, it follows that such action is ruled out, and on moral, not just pragmatic, grounds.

Hence vigilante action of the sort Tiller’s murderer carried out simply cannot be morally justified from the point of view of natural law theory.

No doubt people will want to challenge this or that point of the above. Fine, go at it if you are so inclined. The point is that to anyone familiar with natural law theory, and in particular with the NL approach to governmental authority and just war, it is obvious why a reasonable person could hold both that Tiller was a monster and that it was nevertheless wrong to kill him. Even if someone rejects the line of argument I sketched above – and keep in mind that it is just a sketch, not intended to answer every possible objection – it is unreasonable to claim that no reasonable person could hold it in good faith. Certainly no one unfamiliar with the NL approach to rights, government, capital punishment, just war theory, etc. has any business accusing those who endorse this line of argument of insincerity.

In short, there is no case whatsoever – zip, zero, bupkis – for holding that those of us who regard Tiller as a monster on a par with or even worse than Jeffrey Dahmer must “really” approve of his murder. Anyone who still says otherwise is, I dare say, obviously not trying to understand the actual views of his opponents, but is interested only in smearing them for political purposes. Such a person is himself guilty of the grave moral offense of calumny.

So. Cut the crap, people. It’s played out. Move on to some new talking point.
(Addendum: As Francis Beckwith shows, if these people were consistent, then they would have to count Leiter himself and other shrill Bush critics as "apologists for murder.")

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog. . .great seeing that conservative catholics still exist(and in California of all places!) Your posts are all extremely lucid and well written. Keep up the fight! Franco, U.K.

Ed Rodriguez Jr. said...

"But it does not follow that any private individual may take his life."

Well said. Scripture has given this charge to governing authorities.

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

"It does follow from (1) and (2) that (3) Tiller lost his right to life. But it does not follow that any private individual may take his life. On the contrary, classical natural law theory holds that (4) the right to punish and deter evildoers belongs to lawful governmental authorities alone, and not to private individuals. So if we hold – as I do – that (5) the governmental authorities who have jurisdiction in this case are lawful ones, then it follows that (6) neither Tiller’s murderer nor any other private individual had the moral right to kill Tiller."

Dr. Feser makes his position crystal clear.
Now let's just see if that cigar fan is really the bastion of logic he appears to pride himself on.

Ilíon said...

Edward Feser: "... Anyone who still says otherwise is, I dare say, obviously not trying to understand the actual views of his opponents, but is interested only in smearing them for political purposes. ..."

You mean to say that there are in this world persons who are intellectually dishonest? There's a shocker! ;-)

Francis J. Beckwith said...

Ed:

Because NLT involves many subtle and important distinctions that rely on a rich view of the human person, some philosophers are incapable of getting their minds around it. For some of them, any moral theory that consists of elements beyond interests, rights, and intuitions is not even on their philosophical radar. As the saying goes, someone whose only tool is a hammer will see every problem as a nail. This is no less true of some in our profession, and their young and immature sycophants. Many of them are blessed with native intelligence (and far exceed any congenital gifts I may possess), but unfortunately, they have been formed in ways that create blind spots.

In the old days, when there was no internet in which the Leiters of the world could not provide a warm and affirming place for the mob, these types were unsure about the breadth and depth of philosophical traditions that were outside their circle of friends. Thus, modesty and teachability were virtues reinforced and nurtured in the profession. But now such virtues are perceived as unnecessary. It's perfectly permissible nowadays to be slipshod, uncharitable, mean, and inaccurate as long as your snarling bigotry leans to the anti-Christian, naturalist epistemology, Left. It's just the sort of behavior one would expect from philosophers who deny the ontological status of conscience and see all legitimate moral restrains as exclusively external.

J said...

Tiller was a murderer .

Kansas law, and Roe v Wade, allowed for Tiller's late term abortions. So the Kansas legislature, and justices who affirm R v. W must be murderers as well, according to EF. Then, according to catholic dogma, anyone who doesn't imbibe the sacred Ritz on Domingo-day is more or less a murderer, at least of Christ. Yet God also commands all--even apparent evil, like abortions---according to dogma, and everything God commands is good (or at least godly). Moral of the story??

God loves abortionists, and you should too. QED

Hugo said...

And let me say, for the record, that regardless of the great gulf in our respective views, that I honor the distinction between calling someone a "monster" and calling for (or merely condoning) his murder As a good lefty, I've often used that "m" word to refer, for example, to Dick Cheney. But I wish him kept safe for the remainder of his natural life.

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

J,
It's nice to see you squeeze that much misunderstanding into one post.
Everytime I read one of your posts I have that, "oh, there's no WAY he could top this one."
I'd like to say it and mean it this time...
But, you typically prove me wrong. Oh when will I learn?


Also,
Do you really, truly believe that Catholic doctrine teaches that Jesus is being killed over and over again for our sake? That at each and ever Holy Communion he is being killed?
Seriously, do you?

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

Psst...
J,
you know what "imbibe" means, right?
If so, depending on what you are trying to criticize.... you know what a Ritz cracker is, right?

J said...

First Rocky, prove to me the rational or scientific basis of La Misa, or say intercessionary prayer, miracles, Mary-worship, not to say establish the existence of a soul, or Gott himself (oh, that's right. Doc EF explains it all in his recent magnum opus).

Or better, put on some old fashioned papist virtue, and step in a ring, 818 area if you like. Legal, marquess of Queensbury style. Vaya con Dios!

Catholics continually mistake their ancient, archaic Weltanschauung for like reality itself. (then so do most monotheists). The anti-abortion hysteria part of that Big W. Yes, tiller may have committed a few crimes. Compared to like the Iraqi war, or economic crisis, or impending battle between N and S Korea,--or 20th century history--trivial at best.

Edward Feser said...

Thank you, Hugo, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Readers should know, BTW, that this is typical of Hugo. Notwithstanding his usually very deep differences with those of us on the right, he is unfailingly civil even when his criticisms are harsh -- yes, this is possible -- and exhibits a clear sense of honor and fair play. Certain other lefty bloggers should learn from him.

Jeff008 said...

J,

Who committed crimes that caused the recent "economic crisis"? And how are those crimes comparable to the murder or rather homicide of thousands of babies?

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

J,

1st, why so angry about this?
If you think this is such a foolish set of beliefs; why the consistent and passionate emotions directed towards it?
So much that, like a child, you mock the ideas by "witty" (I guess) phrasing (Ritz).
That in itself is weird. You might think the beliefs are weird, but certainly not as weird as the mocking critic.

"First Rocky, prove to me the rational or scientific basis of La Misa, or say intercessionary prayer, miracles, Mary-worship, not to say establish the existence of a soul, or Gott himself"

Rational? Okay, if there truly exists a God (which many believe and have believed) who has the ability to create a universe (which many, even non-Christians, believe) then why would it be beyond His purview of abilities to ordain supernatural components to natural actions?
And if the Holy Bible is a reliable, historical collection of documents then it would be quite rational for an adherent to hold to the Church's teachings on the matter.

Scientific? Oh, you mean that method that was established by rational human beings under the assumption that reality is a cosmos - orderly and intelligible.
Will you account for the scientific method in the context of your world view?
Agents that aren't really agents. Ends that aren't really ends. Intelligibility that you condemn yourself to never being able to apprehend.


"Or better, put on some old fashioned papist virtue, and step in a ring, 818 area if you like. Legal, marquess of Queensbury style. Vaya con Dios!"

Only if you'd meet me in that ring. But, from my experience... boxing and training.... atheists (anyone who doesn't have something "more" to believe in) are the worst prospects and the biggest waste of time. No offense to you in particular. It's just that when the chips are stacked against you and your type, you appear to lack that extra "something" that allows boxers of that sort to rise above.
Seen it play out many times.


"Catholics continually mistake their ancient, archaic Weltanschauung for like reality itself."

How do you apprehend reality, J?
How do you know that reality isn't in accord with the Catholic view?

"The anti-abortion hysteria part of that Big W. Yes, tiller may have committed a few crimes. Compared to like the Iraqi war, or economic crisis, or impending battle between N and S Korea,--or 20th century history--trivial at best."

Trivial to butcher, in utero, defenseless & innocent children.
J, I don't think much more needs to be said than you've got a warped mind.
Oh... heaven forfend that Catholics believe some wacky (from your vantage) things. Butchering an innocent life, oh yeah... that's okay though.

J said...

I didn't say I was necessarily atheist--. Another typical non sequitur. Tho' according to most papists, simply refuse La Misa and you're more or less ranked along with Judas Iscariot.

The usual hypothetical doesn't mean jack. If God existed, then....... If God existed, he would probably want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of psychotics, whether left or right. So He either doesn't exist, or He's powerless, or part of a committee of gods (mostly corrupt apparently).

And yes, I meant like in a ring. Mano a mano. 200 lbs, shade under 6 ft. I bench about 400lbs. Consider it like Luther meeting the papists of his time.

Bobcat said...

If you want to fight a Catholic, J, maybe you should fight Georges St. Pierre.

Anonymous said...

INTERNET TOUGH GUY ALERT

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton said...

Can't believe I'm actually being challenged to a boxing match on a philosophy blog.

5'7...
148 lbs.
No idea what I can bench, because it's useless in a boxing match.
Kind of funny priding yourself on your bench when you reference boxing. A 400lb bench in boxing is about as useful as a 400lb bench in swimming.... or, to put it another way.... about as useful as your insight on these comments.

I just can't get over how pointless benching 2xs your body weight is.


I'll do it if you insist.
But I'm curious. What made you jump so quickly to wanting to fight me? You referenced Marquess of Queensberry rules pretty quickly.

J said...

Must have been that xtian name, "Hitman."

And you're even mistaken re benchpressing, which does build up back arms, tri's, etc--along with other upper body muscles--which increases punching power. Bada ............ bing. Name a place, valley-way, macho man for Jeeezusss.

"The anti-abortion hysteria part of that Big W. Yes, tiller may have committed a few crimes. Compared to like the Iraqi war, or economic crisis, or impending battle between N and S Korea,--or 20th century history--trivial at best."""

Trivial to butcher, in utero, defenseless & innocent children.


Yes, compared to like world war, trivial. For that matter, the women themselves consented--nay, demanded. So the crusaders should include them, the Kansas legislature, and judges, in the cart along with Dr. Tiller.

Eric said...

Here's why J says he can bench press 'about' 400 lbs: He had an accident when he attempted 400+...

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton said...

No J,
Benching that much is useless in boxing.
There is no reason what so ever to be able to bench that much.
The few boxers I know personally and the more that I know of who actually weight train with that goal in mind are cardiovascular wrecks.
Bench press doesn't help squat. And it most certainly doesn't help punching power. Tall lanky guys typically have greater punching power than meatheads. And they have better wind.
Julian Jackson, Tommy Hearns, Kelly Pavlik.
But it won't help your punching power, it will bog your reflexes (Shannon Briggs, Dominic Dokiwari & Michael Grant) and it's an endurance drain because so much of that will be doing little more than needing nutrition.

Anonymous said...

DUDES I CAN BENCH 400 LBS I AM RIPPED

MOST POWERFUL SKEPTIC IN TOWN DAWGS DIG IT I CAN LIFT THE ENTIRE WORKS OF HUME IN BOTH HANDS AT ONCE

MAN GONNA GO OUT LATER AND BLOW ME SOME PAPISTS

WAIT I MEAN GONNA BEAT UP SOME PAPISTS

DAMNIT WHY DO I KEEP DOING THAT. GUESS ILL NEVER KNOW MAYBE MY MAKING OUT WITH DUDES IS JUST UNCAUSED.

-- J.

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton said...

"Yes, compared to like world war, trivial."

To paraphrase Mother Teresa....
if it is okay to butcher the unborn in utero, then what could possibly be wrong about a war (or any other injustice)?

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNXWYM-L2LA

Skinny, tall & lanky Julian Jackson.

Darius said...

According to natural rights theory, a person does not "lose" his natural right to life by being murdered. The right is inalienable, i.e., cannot be "lost." It can, however, be violated, which is the nature of the offense and precisely the reason why we would say that "murder is not right."

J said...

To paraphrase Mother Teresa....
if it is okay to butcher the unborn in utero, , then what could possibly be wrong about a war (or any other injustice)?


Begging the question. The women who sought Dr Tiller's help did so for health reasons. Health problems may arise that were not known in early stages. So in some cases, it's either abortion, or butcher the mother. For that matter, many an abortion (hopefully in first few weeks) prevents an unwanted child raised in poverty, with no parents, foster homes, etc. Abortion, then, may in many cases reduce the sum total of suffering. Late term abortions are problematic--if it's just for "psychological reasons" (say a divorce, whatever) the pregnant mother should be held accountable (perhaps a fine, if not criminal charge). Yet even then, probably preferable to unwanted, unloved, expensive child.
Not as simple as the O-reilly-ites and christian sentimentalists make it out to be.

Benching 400 is not that unusual, ese. (That's not a work out weight, but max). Im not suggesting Schwarzenegger like dudes will always win (though I imagine most heavyweight boxers bench over that) And I wager even a Tommy Hearns can do that . And it does build up key upper body muscles, like tris, pecs, etc. Perhaps you want a demonstration.

(Hume's cold analysis does tend to frighten the Dominican mafiosi, has them barking insults, doing the Vinnie Barbarino schtick).

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

There is double effect if the mother's life is at risk.
And many of the women using Dr. Tiller's 'services' were doing it because of convenience.

Life has inherent value, J. You're trying to weigh that value against the inconveniences of allowing it life. That's warped.

And you know much less about boxing (or comparable).
No, most heavyweights aren't going for a max bench. And those that do aren't maxing out at 400lbs.
In Hearns prime he was fighting at 155 (give or take 5lbs). You are seriously going to wager that he could bench two and a half times his weight? You are a fool if you think that.
Benching 400lbs isn't easy. It isn't something that most heavyweights practice or even max out at. It's still useless for boxing because strong muscles don't have anything to do with the power of a punch or the place it's planted.
Springing into a punch (Jack Dempsey/Max Baer) increases a punches power. Increase the muscle mass, decrease the nimbleness needed to spring into a punch.... limit the body's acceleration.

Today's heavyweights are significantly bigger than heavyweights from the past: Nicolai Valuev (7'1 - 315lbs), Vitali (6'7) & Vladimir (6'6) Klitschko (both 240+), Kevin Johnson (6'3 240+)....
The vast majority of them can't.


"(Hume's cold analysis does tend to frighten the Dominican mafiosi, has them barking insults, doing the Vinnie Barbarino schtick)."

Okay, so that's why you're barking.... but why does it frighten you?

Craig Duncan said...

I'm not going to challenge the sincerity of Ed Feser (and others) when he (and they) disapprove of Tiller's murder.

The more interesting question to me is whether one can rationally conjoin that disapproval with the view that abortion is murder, morally on a par with my killing you or your killing me.

Consider the following thought experiment. In the United States of Schmamerica, imagine, murder has been legalized, subject to some regulations.

If you succeed in dragging someone you want killed through the doors of a Killing Clinic, they will (for a fee) kill this person for you. Of course, this is controversial, but the Constitution of the USS guarantees a right to pursue happiness, imagine, and the USS Supreme Court has determined that this entails a legal right to kill people who make you unhappy.

Hence the USS government protects killing clinics, prosecuting those who interfere with their operation, and demanding that protestors allow "customers" to enter unheeded.

Several decades of trying to change the makeup of the Supreme Court, in order to overrule this decision, have proven fruitless. Moreover, the political party that seeks this change is currently out of power (and likely to be out of power for quite some time), and the current administration is likely to place one or two more young pro-killing Supreme Court justices in place, ensuring that in all probability the legal regime of killing will continue for decades more.

In such circumstances, would it be obviously morally wrong to assassinate killers who work at the Killing Clinics?

The appeal to Just War Theory, in order to justify an answer of "Yes, it would be morally wrong", is an interesting one. But is it right?

Would such an assassination really be an act of war? Or would it be a case of "other defense" (as opposed to self-defense), rather than an act of war? If it is not an act of war, Just War Theory becomes irrelevant or of only indirect relevance.

Feser links to a post by John Zmirak as a source of this Just War argument. According to Zmirak, "[w]hen the State allows an activity, and you use force to prevent it, you are declaring war on the State." Prima facie, that makes nearly every act of vigilantism an act of war. Is that a helpful way of looking at things? Or, by overlooking differences between vigilantism and acts of war, does it obscure more than it clarifies?

Suppose Mr. X, who assassinates Killer Y in the employ of a killing clinic, says this: "Yes, I am aware that my assassinating Killer Y will not bring about a regime change and so will not lead to a re-criminalization of murder. But that was not my intent; I am not a failed revolutionary. My rationale instead is this: surely some individuals who would have been killed by Y will now live, and maybe (owing to fear)there will be fewer other people who decide to work in killing clinics now, thereby saving even more lives. So was my killing Y so wrong? After all, he had forfeited his own right to life and was a monster worse than Jeffrey Schmahmer! And by killing him I saved the lives of many innocent others...."

Two caveats:

(1) I'm not saying this is what Feser really thinks. I can't read minds and I will take his word that he accepts the Just War argument. I'm just voicing some doubts as to whether the Just War argument he rests his case on is up to the task, at least not without a lot more elaboration.

(2) Just to be clear, so I am not misunderstood: I am myself pro-choice; I do not regard every abortion as morally on a par with murder. So I do not view abortion clinics as morally on a par with the killing clinics of the above example. So I am not condoning the murder of Dr. Tillman. Instead, I condemn it.

J said...

I'm not with the Dominican mafia. You izz. That explains your frightened barks .

You don't understand the point on abortion: think "cost-benefit" (since Bentham probably beyond ya). Abortion in many cases does reduce suffering (of mother, and potential suffering of fetus), and prevents a great deal of misery. (and adoption not always a positive)

I am for legal first trimester, but if there are health risks, then late term should be allowed. At same time, the late term as birth control does raise some problems--yet I don't think the O Reilly like hysteria justified. Make late term a misdemeanor with stiff fine. 2nd offense, felony and sterilize.

A bit too pragmatic for padres and co, but that's the way to do it without resorting to vigilantism---- or theocratic solutions.

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

J,

I can't think of a thing about you that is frightening. So don't flatter yourself.

And yes I do understand the point on abortion.
I, as opposed to you, hold that all life has inherent value. And that value trumps the cost of bringing that life into the world.
You brood over the quality of life as if anything less than silver spoon is a tragic existence.
I'm guessing that I, as well as most of the people I interact (friends/family) with, are made of a tougher metal than you.
Or a more flexible mind. Tougher or more flexible in the sense that we understand and appreciate that it is the obstacles in life that defines and helps develop a person's character.
I can attest (from suffering from depression and having a mother that was raped, who went on to become an alcoholic, who eventually overcame her dependence on alcohol and yet who still died at too young of an age) that the more that has been placed in front of me, the more chances I have to develop into the person that I, and hopefully God, wants me to become.

Sure, we don't all have the luxury of being a self-absorbed gym rat whose tests in life amount to max bench work.... but I think that's a good thing.

The difference between you and I:
I see the hardships and obstacles and think "opportunities to test myself and see what I'm made of", you see those same hardships and think "how miserable.... what would be the smoothest way to slink around this issue. I've got a cushy existence I'm trying to maintain."
You say I'm frightened. But I'm not. I've looked down much worse than arguing with an online meathead who flaunts a veneer of knowledge only to come up broke.
You're the one who quakes in his boots when the thought of himself (or others) having to suffer surfaces. So much so that you'd prefer to just end the life before it gets a chance to rise above your limited/weak view.

J said...

You'd be frightened, that is, if you stepped in a ring, punk. You don't even understand what abortion debate involves. The Opus Dei act might work in the barrio: not online where some people know what like a valid argument (ie non dogmatic) consists of. Many christians in fact support first term abortion: so the usual judas goat insinuation (not to say the usual Feser veiled anti-semitism) won't fly. Even people who don't take La Misa have rights, ese.

Don't pretend to be a catholic either, hitman. There are, btw, real catholics watching this site, Doc Feser, and you.

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton said...

For me, your posts are just getting more and more incoherent.
And I'm not saying that to be a jerk.
Some of parts of your posts make sense.... the other portions read like emotional outbursts to take shots at me. I can deal with it, no biggie. But for your sake, why?

J said...

For me, it's quite obvious you, Senor Hitman, have never bothered reading one non-dogmatic piece of writing in your life.

Let's start with Hume on the fact-value distinction--a nice (if challenging) change of pace from St Maria of the Blessed Cruz, or the abridged Summa, etc. Hume more or less shows that rational ethics (ie the sort of endless appeal to Justice on high) is really not rational. When one discusses, or proscribes certain ethical or moral standards, obligations, quotes scripture, or demands Justice one expresses something, something even important, perhaps. But one is not doing logic or science.

Hume might not care for the Tiller. Yet he would certainly agree that for many women (and men/fathers as well), their best interests were served by legal late term abortions, however unsettling they may be to the pious (or pseudo-pious).

J said...

That said, I don't think Hume is necessarily the final word on rational ethics. His views may not jibe with many human's intuitive sense of "Justice" whatever that is. Perhaps you can offer your counterargument to the infidel Hume's fact-value distinction, or update Plato, and show us the Justice realm on high, Senor Ricky.

Edward Feser said...

To repeat what I said in the Trinity thread:

J, I have tolerated your logorrhea for some time because I prefer as far as possible to moderate with a light hand. But you're testing my patience.

So, J, please, keep your comments (a) on topic, (b) more brief, and (c) less frequent, or they may have to end alogether.

J said...

That's cool. Btw, do you have a link to your refutation of Hume's point on fact/value distinction, or is that just a bit too tasteless, or "logorrheic"
for you. Funny, for a supposed logician, your pathos generally outperforms the logos (or ethos)

John W. Loftus said...

I think, distinctions notwithstanding, your post was and is represensible.

Ilíon said...

Loftus: "I think, ..."

You seem to know the words, but you clearly don't know the tune.

Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton said...

Was it John Loftus that made a fake JP Holding "hate blog" and then on his "real" blog he made mention along the lines of, "it looks like there's another blogger out there who doesn't like JP Holding....blah blah".

Wonder what extreme Loftus would be pushed to?
He finds this reprehensible.... but I'm sure he would agree (before being caught) that his actions were reprehensible.