Saturday, September 5, 2020

Scholastics contra racism

Condemning racism (or “racialist prejudice,” as he referred to it), Pope St. Paul VI affirmed that:

The members of mankind share the same basic rights and duties, as well as the same supernatural destiny.  Within a country which belongs to each one, all should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life and benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches.  (Octogesima Adveniens 16). 

This suggests a useful definition of racism, which is best understood as the denial of what the pope here affirms.  In other words, racism is the thesis that not all races have the same basic rights and duties and/or supernatural destiny, so that not all races should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches.

There could be no clearer manifestations of racism in this sense than the institutions of slavery and segregation that once existed in the United States.  The falsity and evil of racism, and thus of those institutions, clearly follows from standard Scholastic thinking about human nature and natural law.  Perhaps the best-known examples of Scholastic thinkers who made this case are Francisco de Vitoria (c. 1486-1546) and Bartoloméo de Las Casas (1474-1566). 

Vitoria’s argument

These thinkers were writing at a time when the Spanish were colonizing the Americas, and were troubled by the harshness with which the American Indian populations were being treated.  Let’s start with Vitoria, who was an important contributor to the development of a Scholastic doctrine of natural rights as grounded in Thomistic natural law, and he hammered it out in the context of arguing for better treatment of the Indians.

The idea of a right in the modern sense is that of a kind of moral power to act in certain ways.  For example, if I have a right to my car, that entails that I am morally at liberty to drive it or not drive it, paint it or keep it the color it is, sell or lend it, and so on.  Others do not have a right to it insofar as they are not at liberty to do these things.  The moral law permits me this range of actions, but it does not permit them to others.

Rights theorists refer to rights in this sense as subjective rights, because they inhere in the individual subject or moral agent, in a manner analogous to the way his height or weight inheres in him.  This is contrasted with the idea of objective right, which essentially has to do with the object or aim of justice being realized.  For example, a society in which people do not murder or steal from one another is one in which objective right, at least to that extent, is achieved.

While the idea of objective right is to be found in a medieval philosopher like Aquinas, the notion of subjective rights is not, at least not explicitly.  As scholars like Brian Tierney have argued (see Tierney’s The Idea of Natural Rights), the notion began to evolve in medieval canon law, and later Scholastic writers like Vitoria essentially grafted it onto the Thomistic understanding of natural law.

The basic idea is this.  What sets human beings apart from non-human animals and the rest of the natural world is our rationality, and the free will that follows from it.  This affords human beings a mastery over their own actions that other creatures do not have, and it is, of course, why we are subject to a moral law that tells us how we ought to use our freedom.  So far this is just standard Thomistic teaching.  But the Scholastic argument for natural rights (in the sense of subjective rights) is that if I am obligated to act in a certain way under natural law, then I must have a right in the sense of a power or liberty to do so.  I must be able to make a moral claim against others that they not interfere with my actions in that particular respect.

Some Scholastic thinkers developed a theory of the natural right to private property on this basis.  The idea is that property is necessary in order to bring our powers to bear on the world in a manner that will allow us to do things like provide for ourselves and our families, which we are obligated to do under natural law.  Hence if natural law directs us to do things that presuppose private property, we must have a natural right to acquire it.  In the same way, we must have natural rights not to be killed and not to have our liberty taken from us (at least if we have not forfeited these rights by committing a crime), since these rights are prerequisites of our acting in any way at all.  (Naturally, there are all sorts of details concerning the institution of private property and the scope and limits of other rights that this doesn’t address.  I’m just trying to convey the basic idea here.  I say more about these issues in articles like “Freedom in the Scholastic Tradition” and “Classical Natural Law Theory, Property Rights, and Taxation.”)

Let’s come back, then, to Vitoria’s critique of the harsh treatment inflicted on the American Indians, which was an argument appealing to the natural rights that the Indians shared with all other human beings.  (See Chapter XI of Tierney for a useful survey of Vitoria’s position.)  Vitoria considers four reasons why some in his day did claim or might claim that the Indians lacked such rights: it might be claimed that they lacked such rights because they were sinners; or that they lacked them because they were infidels; or that they lacked them because they lacked rationality; or that they lacked them because they lacked sufficient intelligence.  Vitoria disposes of each of these arguments.

First, he points out that natural rights are grounded in human nature, and that sinners and infidels have the same human nature as everyone else.  Hence they have the same basic rights as everyone else (such as the right not to be murdered, the right not to be stolen from, and so forth).  Hence, whether the American Indians were sinners or non-believers is irrelevant to their having natural rights, and thus could not justify treating them as if they did not have them.

As to the claim that the American Indians lacked rationality, Vitoria pointed out that this is obviously false given that they had customs and institutions that only creatures with reason have (laws, the institution of marriage, cities, etc.).  He also argues that it will not do to suggest that they somehow have rationality only in potentiality rather than actuality, since (as the old Aristotelian maxim has it) nature does nothing in vain.

His point seems to be that it makes no sense to suppose that a large and ongoing population of human beings would have rationality only potentially rather than actually, because in that case their possession of it would be pointless, which violates the Aristotelian maxim.  If a population has the power of rationality, then over time and across the population that power is inevitably going to be actualized.

In response to the claim that the Indians lacked sufficient intelligence, Vitoria says that though children and mentally ill people lack the intelligence others have, they do not lack natural rights, because they have the same human nature as everyone else.  Hence, he concludes, claims to the effect that the Indians lacked the same mental acuity as the Spaniards could not justify denying that they had the same natural rights.

Vitoria also argues that Aristotle’s notorious argument to the effect that some people are naturally fit only to serve others could not justify chattel slavery.  His view was that this conclusion is ruled out by the circumstance that even such servile persons have the same rational nature as every other human being, so that they have the same natural rights as other human beings.  Hence, even someone better suited to serve others could not justly be treated as property or otherwise less than human.

Las Casas’s argument

Las Casas was even more thoroughgoing and passionate in his defense of the rights and equal dignity of the American Indians.  He argued strongly against any suggestion that the Indians were morally or intellectually inferior to Spaniards, and put special emphasis on the right to personal liberty and government by consent.  Fellow rational creatures, he insisted, have to be appealed to via rational persuasion rather than force.  He also emphasized the brotherhood of man both on Christian and natural law grounds, writing:

All the peoples of the world are humans and there is only one definition of all humans and of each one, that is that they are rational… Thus all the races of humankind are one.  (Quoted by Tierney, at p. 273)

Las Casas developed an especially important argument against any suggestion that Aristotle’s view that some people are naturally servile could be used to justify racial slavery.  First, he noted some problems with claims, common in his day, to the effect that some peoples were “barbarian” races.  What does that mean, exactly?  In the original sense of the term, “barbarian” peoples were those whose language was strange, but in this trivial sense all people are “barbarian” relative to those who speak a different language.  In another sense, a “barbarian” people is one that is especially cruel, but in this sense, Las Casas points out, the Spanish could be said to be barbarians given their treatment of the Indians.  In yet another sense, “barbarians” referred to non-Christian peoples.  But the pagan Greeks and Romans were non-Christians, and yet they were not considered by Christian writers to have been barbarians.

Las Casas argues that a “barbarian,” in the only interesting sense of the term, would be someone who essentially lived the life of a savage, bereft of reason and barely above the level of non-human animals, like a proverbial forest-dwelling “wild man.”  He would for that reason essentially be a damaged human being, his defects of rationality comparable to blindness or lameness.  But now Las Casas makes two key points.  First, he says, even such a person would still be a human being (even if his use of reason was greatly stunted) and would therefore retain the basic human rights. 

Second, he argues, such people would also in the nature of the case be extremely rare and isolated.  There could not, in principle, be a race of barbarians in this sense.  For it simply makes no sense for there to be a race of people who have the basic powers of rationality that other human beings have, with all the duties under natural law that that entails, and yet, generation after generation, are always fundamentally stunted or crippled in their capacity to use those powers.  That would be like a race of people all of whom, generation after generation, are always born blind or crippled.  There would be a kind of perversity in such a scenario that would violate the Aristotelian principle that nature does nothing in vain.  (Here, Las Casas essentially extends the line of argument we saw Vitoria propose.)

What Las Casas gives us, then, is an argument which, on grounds of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics and anthropology, rules out the very possibility of a race that is naturally inferior to others.  And thus it rules out any justification for racism in the sense later condemned by Pope St. Paul VI.

But what about…

Some will ask: “But didn’t the Catholic Church once defend slavery of the kind that once existed in the U.S. precisely on natural law grounds?”  The answer is No, she did not.  To be sure, there were individual Catholic writers who defended slavery of that kind (e.g. with reference to Spanish treatment of the American Indians), but their view died out and the views of writers like Vitoria and Las Casas prevailed.  But it is not true that the Church as an institution defended slavery of that kind.

The word “slavery” is ambiguous.  What we usually think of when we hear the term today is chattel slavery of the kind practiced in the United States before the Civil War, which involved complete ownership of another person, the way one might own an animal or an inanimate object.  This is intrinsically evil, and the Church has never defended it.

There are, however, other practices that were sometimes loosely labeled “slavery” but which are very different from chattel slavery.  For example, there is indentured servitude, which is a contract to give the right to one’s labor to another person for a prolonged period of time – for example, in payment of a debt.  And there is penal servitude, which involves forcing someone to labor as part of a punishment for a crime.  Indentured servitude is essentially an extreme version of an ordinary labor contract, and penal servitude is an extension of the loss of liberty a justly punished prisoner is already subject to.  Now, Catholic theologians have long regarded such practices as so morally hazardous, and in particular as posing a serious enough danger of degenerating into chattel slavery, that in practice they ought not to be employed.  But it is practices of these kinds (rather than chattel slavery), that the Church did not condemn as intrinsically immoral.  Regarding the modern slave trade and the practice of chattel slavery, the Church and the popes have in fact consistently condemned them beginning at least as far back as the 15th century

235 comments:

  1. Professor Feser,

    You argue that racism is when "the thesis that not all races have the same basic rights and duties and/or supernatural destiny, so that not all races should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches."

    However, there are serious problems with this. There has never been a society that has had "equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life" for all individuals. This is because such equality is impossible. So how can we say that such equality is possible for all races?

    Furthermore, the quest for such "equality of opportunity" seems to imply that aristocracy and inherited privileges and wealth is immoral. Would you accept this argument? If so, how is this any different from a communist?

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    1. Mister Geocon,

      There's never been a society without theft, murder, and other wrongdoings, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be striving to achieve a society in which such acts are never carried out. History suggests that ethical perfection in general is impossible for us, but we're still obligated to try to be perfect.

      The question about equality of opportunity seems like a bit of a red herring. The Pope Paul VI quote concerns racial equality, not equality of opportunity in general. Ed may or may not believe, for various reasons, that such things as inherited wealth and privileges are immoral, but that's an entirely separate discussion which doesn't necessarily pertain to race.

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    2. NA,

      Your first point ignores the fact that you can go too far in the other direction - namely, you could end up destroying things in the process of trying to do the impossible. And what I'd say to the person trying to achieve equality of opportunity is that they'd be destroying something precious, namely the regional communities in question, through this blind legal egalitarianism.

      In your second point, you seem to miss the point I'm saying. If privileges and inequalities in inheritance is immoral between the races, then why are they okay for individuals? What distinguishing factor separates them?

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    3. But then you actually have to argue that it's better to strive for these "regional communities", among other goods, than trying to consolidate equality for all races, etc. Simply saying there has never been a society that achieved this equality doesn't help your case anymore than pointing out there has never been a society without murder and theft.

      And then I reckon most people would favor the proposed equality than any goods of "regional differences" which may be compromised (whatever that means). Scholastics definitely should favor the essential equality of all men as individuals of, quite literally, the same identical essence or nature. We are not nominalists.

      And an inflated love for nationalism and regionalism strikes me as petty materialism. These are all miserable contingent matters that follow from creatures that are lower pure spirits; man should strive not for what is characteristically lower in him - the flesh -, but for the higher part of his nature, that of the immaterial intellect.

      I mean, if you were an angel, imagine how embarrassing it would be to see rational creatures obsessing over the spatiotemporal area they were born into (and enclosed by), or colors. That's pretty pathetic.

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    4. Atno,

      I see no reason to treat what is different as if it were the same. Would you have us treat my brother as I would a stranger? That seems utterly wicked to me.

      Your point on angels is also embarrassingly inept. I suppose angels would be embarrassed to find rational creatures defecating, procreating, and doing other things angels do not need to do?

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    5. Mister Geocon, you said "Would you have us treat my brother as I would a stranger?"

      Not sure if this kind of thing carries any meaning for you, but it happens that this was in today's reading at Mass:

      "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."


      My sense is that if you treated your brother and a stranger as Jesus would have you, both might be better off.

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    6. Pl0,

      All true love is directed towards a particular person or community, not some abstract concept like "humanity." I cannot love a stranger in the same way that I can love a man devoted to the same parents and with whom I spent my childhood. Therefore, to demand that I have the same love for strangers that I do for my brother ultimately means that I must regard my brother as a stranger. Not so lofty-sounding when you put it in such stark terms, isn't it? Or would you have mothers treat their own children like they would strangers?

      It's only because of this kind of cosmopolitan liberalism that's infected our discourse that we think that erasing the differences between humans is somehow good and noble. The Church has never embraced such a thing. St. Thomas definitely never embraced such a thing. So why should I?

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    7. "I see no reason to treat what is different as if it were the same. Would you have us treat my brother as I would a stranger? That seems utterly wicked to me."

      No, but a brother is someone who is actually directly related and connected to your family and your natural obligations growing up. Even then, blood/familial loyalty cannot trump over the natural rights of other human beings. Every rational animal has the same equal natural rights by virtue of having the same substantial form with the same basic perfections, and though you ought to care more for your brother than for a stranger, you still have to respect the natural rights of everyone else. As an individual you can care more for your own family, but still all races (all rational animals, in fact - we're all in the same category) should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches.

      "Your point on angels is also embarrassingly inept. I suppose angels would be embarrassed to find rational creatures defecating, procreating, and doing other things angels do not need to do."

      They might find them pitiful, after all these are all lowly expressions of our inferior, bodily condition. We are stuck and enclosed by these awful limitations of the flesh, of only being here and not there, of needing to eat, sleep, defecate, and the like. What an angel would find outright embarrassing, however, is a rational creature becoming so attached to these *limitations* and *contingencies* of inferior, bodily life. We are supposed to pursue and cultivate the higher dimension of our lives, which is the immaterial Intellect, not the lower dimension of bodily life and material accidents.
      Again, imagine how utterly embarrassing and pathetic it would seem to an angel, to see a rational creature - a being capable of transcending matter, space, particularity with its intellect and will - obsessing over the very specific spatiotemporal area he was born into; or colors; or textures. It is pathetic. "Serious" concern with one's race is for beasts, not spiritual beings. As rational creatures, we ought to transcend animality as much as we can, not obsess over it.
      So yeah, I do find inflated love for nationalism and regionalism to be characteristic of beastly materialism. Intellect is not supposed to be staring at the contingencies of this life, its eyes should be fixed on the heavens, the eternal truths, and the like.

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    8. Mr. G,

      "I cannot love a stranger in the same way that I can love a man devoted to the same parents and with whom I spent my childhood. Therefore, to demand that I have the same love for strangers that I do for my brother ultimately means that I must regard my brother as a stranger. Not so lofty-sounding when you put it in such stark terms, isn't it?"

      I don't think it lofty at all. Love of neighbor is apparently a virtue that Jesus thinks we are all capable of. He did not suggest that we love God with all our strength and yet be too exhausted to care for those around us.

      "St. Thomas definitely never embraced such a thing. So why should I?"

      Aquainas seems a bad choice of example. From my reading, he solemnly renounced his earthly family and joined a community of strangers as a Brother, motivated by the love of Christ.

      He, a saint, was surrounded by many men who were not. He called them Brother also, as I understand.

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    9. Atno,

      This is where I must disagree with you even more vociferously.

      First, my duty to my brother is much stronger than my duty to a total stranger. This is because I am united to my brother in the community of the family. This community is an end in itself because it is an icon of the transcendent good in the material world, similar to how the community of the State or the community of the Church are ends in themselves. You can argue that there is a hierarchy between these, sure. You can also argue that there is a duty I have towards the stranger. But to say that I ought to treat the stranger the same as I would my brother in the way you are arguing for is absurd. Again, it's a monstrous injustice.

      Second, I can see in your critique a kind of dualism, where you believe that the body doesn't matter. I don't want to cultivate just my higher dimensions. I want to cultivate the fullness of the human existence. I also disagree that concern with ones' local community (which is really what you're denigrating here) is somehow on the level of beasts. Realize, you are asking me to disregard the good of the people I live next to when you say this. Fyodor Dostoevsky described your ilk best: you love humanity, but hate actual human beings. To the contrary: loving your particular community with a more fervent passion than some distant one is how to best show your love of humanity, for how can one truly love humanity if the concrete expressions of it that are nearest and dearest to you are denigrated? The moral community is the bridge between man's universal reason and man's spacial limitations.

      Any angel that would express pity towards me for that that is a demon and is therefore beneath my contempt.

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    10. Pl0,

      "I don't think it lofty at all. Love of neighbor is apparently a virtue that Jesus thinks we are all capable of. He did not suggest that we love God with all our strength and yet be too exhausted to care for those around us."

      You don't know where you're going anywhere with this, do you?

      As for Aquinas, he wasn't exactly someone who went off into the Desert by himself, now was he? He was a part of the Church community, and the monks in the monastery was the community he owed particular loyalty to. He was also someone who praised patriotism and familiar loyalty in his writings, if I'm not mistaken. I don't really see what you're talking about.

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    11. Mr. g,

      "You don't know where you're going anywhere with this, do you?"

      Not sure what you are suggesting.

      "As for Aquinas, he wasn't exactly someone who went off into the Desert by himself, now was he?"

      I'm not at all sure that I am following you here. Aquainas obviously renounced his actual family
      in favor of an artificial community - a thing you seemed to imply you could not contemplate, or even that you believe to be inimical to the Catholic faith. You contrast this oddly with going off into "the Desert", and your meaning is known to you alone.

      It seems obvious that Jesus intended us to be in some way more like Aquainas (or like St. Anthony perhaps? A Desert father). Certainly the Church teaches that by renouncing much they could give more to others, and indeed enlarge the circle of claimants on their affections and care. I don't know of Aquainas showing partiality towards his monastic brothers, students, home, nation, race(?), etc., so if you have a good story I'm interested to hear it.

      Admittedly, if you aren't a Catholic, you couldn't be impressed by their example. Thanks for the replies.




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    12. Reading Pio, I was reminded of this saying by the canonical Gospels’ Jesus:

      “And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
      - Luke 8.19-21

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    13. “ We are stuck and enclosed by these awful limitations of the flesh, of only being here and not there, of needing to eat, sleep, defecate, and the like. What an angel would find outright embarrassing, however, is a rational creature becoming so attached to these *limitations* and *contingencies* of inferior, bodily life. We are supposed to pursue and cultivate the higher dimension of our lives, which is the immaterial Intellect, not the lower dimension of bodily life and material accidents. Again, imagine how utterly embarrassing and pathetic it would seem to an angel, to see a rational creature - a being capable of transcending matter, space, particularity with its intellect and will - obsessing over the very specific spatiotemporal area he was born into; or colors; or textures. It is pathetic. "Serious" concern with one's race is for beasts, not spiritual beings. As rational creatures, we ought to transcend animality as much as we can, not obsess over it.”
      - Atno

      A good way of expressing it by Atno, despite the potential of going towards the direction of ancient Gnostics. But it is only a potential; by itself it is not the Gnostic error yet.

      Geocon said “ Atno, This is where I must disagree with you even more vociferously. First, my duty to my brother is much stronger than my duty to a total stranger.”

      But Atno is not denying that there is a stronger duty to one’s brother. Atno has affirmed it but said that the duty to the brother should not be exaggerated and done in a manner such that the natural rights of strangers and enemies are violated. Atno wrote:

      “ Even then, blood/familial loyalty cannot trump over the natural rights of other human beings. Every rational animal has the same equal natural rights by virtue of having the same substantial form with the same basic perfections, and though you ought to care more for your brother than for a stranger, you still have to respect the natural rights of everyone else. As an individual you can care more for your own family, but still all races (all rational animals, in fact - we're all in the same category) should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches.”


      Cheers!
      johannnes y k hui

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    14. Mister Geocon,

      "To the contrary: loving your particular community with a more fervent passion than some distant one is how to best show your love of humanity"

      I sense we all agree that particular community is important. Something in your posts about law gave me the impression that you were suggesting that your race or family as the primary 'community' you belong to, which must be a misread on my part.

      I dont think I personally would claim to know the 'best' way to love 'humanity', but it's likely and more that the confused impressions I have of your thinking would be dispelled if I knew you personally. Goodnight

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    15. Pl0,

      To put it bluntly, I don't think you are a Catholic. Or at least, a very good one.

      First, in Scholastic philosophy, the Church, the Family, and the State are natural communities. We can say that there's a hierarchy between them, in that the Church deserves your loyalty more than Family or State, but it doesn't change the fact that you are supposed to show loyalty to all three. How are you supposed to deny this?

      Aquinas did show particularity towards the Monastic Order and did come up with arguments praising it as the best thing one can do. But some people do not have this higher calling. We are not all meant to be priests.

      Furthermore, Aquinas defended particular loyalty in the 101st Question of the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae

      Man becomes a debtor to other men in various ways, according to their various excellence and the various benefits received from them. on both counts God holds first place, for He is supremely excellent, and is for us the first principle of being and government. On the second place, the principles of our being and government are our parents and our country, that have given us birth and nourishment. Consequently man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one's parents and one's country.

      The worship due to our parents includes the worship given to all our kindred, since our kinsfolk are those who descend from the same parents, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 12). The worship given to our country includes homage to all our fellow-citizens and to all the friends of our country. Therefore piety extends chiefly to these.


      I'm not sure how you can square your radical cosmopolitanism with that.

      My position on this is that ones' loyalty to ones' tribe or local community is an extension of the loyalty one has for their parents. Perhaps "race" is too broad a category for there to be a huge duty towards it, but certainly the particular ethnicities, with their common loyalties, common customs and closer blood ties, do merit some kind of duty towards them. This isn't something you can say is "of the animals" because animals don't have reason and thus cannot demonstrate the virtue of piety. No, this is something only a rational animal, someone with reason that exist in a particular space and time, can demonstrate.

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    16. @Atno,


      There's no need for snobbery. The more perfect doesn't exclude the less perfect. If you open up the book of reality you'll see many real gradations in being - elements, plants, animals to humans - but you'll also see that all orders of being have unique traits that they bring to the table. Elements have various states such as liquid, gas and plasma that many higher orders of being lack. Plants are the only known lifeforms that produce their own food, while many animals have abilities that we don't or are better than us in certain things. God intentionally created a reality where all orders of being have something unique to bring to the table - He gave them these traits for a reason.

      And let's not forget that all finite numbers no matter how large are all finite in comparison to infinity - so all things are in a sense equalised in the light of God (without of course removing the hierarchical distinctions still present among them) precisely because they are all creatures created by God.

      So any angels that do express contempt for non-angelic creation simply because it isn't angelic are those of the fallen variety.

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    17. Mister Geocon,

      Well said.

      The concept of equality before the law is vacuous, at least with respect to how the term is currently used.

      What people mean when they say they believe in equality before the law is that they believe certain features should be deemed irrelevant when determining justice (for instance, race). But in that case, saying that you favor equality before the law is far too vague to have any meaningful, stable content: every person means something different by it. Everyone, liberals and conservatives alike, wants the law to discriminate on the basis of certain features but not on others.

      The law by its very nature must discriminate (you cannot have a law that does not discriminate in one way or another). Equality before the law is too vague for it to do any real work: any given case always comes down to the particulars, where the law discriminates in one way or another based on the particulars of that case. Every single law treats some people differently from others. And every time a law is executed, it is treating the individual against which the law is executed differently from other people because of particular features that differentiate that individual from others.

      The million dollar question then is which features and distinctions matter and which features and distinctions don’t matter? That’s what needs to be debated. The principle of equality itself cannot determine which features should or should not be relevant. One needs a substantive theory of the good and of justice for that.

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    18. @Mister Geocon: "If so, how is this any different from a communist?"

      I'd like to point out that this is a mischaracterization of Communist thought. Communists, believe people are unequal and therefore must be treated unequally, in direct proportion to their inherent differences, so as to equalize the outcomes. One of Marx's most famous texts, "The Critique of the Gotha Program", is all about this, as the Gotha Program was precisely a defense of equalizing opportunities, which he saw as a flawed notion given how different everyone is from everyone else.

      I should add that modern scholarship on the ethics defended by Marx in his writings, however little that may be (he didn't focus much on the theme), show it to be almost entirely based on Aristotle's notion of eudaimonia, a good life. There's a very interesting comparative table, I can search the reference is someone's interested on this, showing that everything Marx criticizes under the term "alienation" corresponds, point by point, to the exact inverse of something Aristotle promoted as a feature of the good life. As such, "alienation" might be defined as the set of vices corresponding to the set of eudaimonic virtues, and, therefore, Marxist dealienation as a process (ideally, at least -- the practice, as we well know, didn't quite work like that, to put it mildly) of bringing someone from alienation into eudaimonia.

      PS.: I'm neither a Catholic (or a Christian, for that matter), nor a Communist, so I have no personal association in either debate. I'm only pointing out what seems to me to be a misunderstanding of their position as a flawed basis for a rhetorical question.

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    19. Mr Gieg, thanks for the detail. But I'd like to ask how much of Marx is really in Communism, as it's developed as a Herrenvolk ideology? How much would Xi, for instance, or I suppose, his Marxist theorists, know (or care) about a teaching of Marx as you describe? Thanks.

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    20. @Raghn Crow: They pay lip service to these concepts but, with the exception of first generation revolutionaries, rarely even try applying them. For instance, Marx believed a socialist revolution could only happen and be effective in a fully industrialized, fully developed, fully capitalist country. Where did any actually happen? On little to no-industrialized countries, with at best a passing resemblance to actual capitalism. So from the get go things seem to have taken a turn for the silly-turned-tragic.

      Case in point, about two years ago the Chinese government began cracking down on actual Chinese Marxists opposed to this or that the CCP was doing, which isn't that dissimilar to how Stalin, as member of the moderate (!) branch of Lenin's party, went on to exterminate all of its left (!) branch.

      Personally, I think there's something deeply wrong with the Aristotelian notion of eudaimonia itself. Not only because communists cause disasters by wanting to put it in practice, Marx himself having been keen on the notion of massacres being employed to make it work, but because if we go back to Aristotle himself, he defended slavery on the grounds it was needed to allow a few to live eudaimonically, this goal being so incredibly worthy that it fully justified submitting an uncountable number of people through extremes of misery and suffering (think slave miners). Marx continues in the same vein, only expanding the goal, and by extension the price worth paying to reach it.

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    21. @Gieg,


      If I recall correctly though, Aristotle's understanding of eudaimonia as related to slavery is crucially dependent on the prior assumption that slave/freeman is a real absolute ontological distinction and that some people are just born to be slaves, which would predate Aristotle by several centuries if not millenia. And if this is false then that way of understanding eudaimonia doesn't go through either.

      Same with Marx - his crucial assumptions depend on a general Hegelian understanding of reality, which if denied also makes his understanding of eudaimonia false.

      So it's not the concept of eudaimonia by itself that leads to these conclusions.

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    22. @JoeD: "So it's not the concept of eudaimonia by itself that leads to these conclusions."

      Maybe not if we distinguish between two different approaches to it, which I'll tentatively call "ad intra" and "ad extra" (I guess Ancient Greek prefixes, suffixes or adjectives would be better, but I don't know the language so these will do for now).

      Let's define "eudaimonia ad extra" as eudaimonia taken as a civic virtue, a societal good that, being a good unto itself, should be pursued, presumably with a higher priority than other societal and individual goods. Conversely, let's define "eudaimonia ad intra" as eudaimonia taken as an individual good, a virtue the person should pursue for their own sake but that doesn't take priority over other social goods.

      Taking those, it seems clear that both Aristotle and Marx's were defenses of eudaimonia ad extra, for if it's societal virtue higher in priority than other societal virtues, then achieving it justifies causing lesser ills if those are unavoidable.

      On the other hand, a Stoic approach to achieving eudaimonia, in which the person works on their own subjective responses to the world rather than on the world itself, would be of the ad intra kind, and therefore not enter into conflict with other societal goods.

      So the question is: can one pursue eudaimonia ad extra *without* falling into evil beliefs and supporting or causing vicious tragedies?

      I may be wrong on this, but my hunch is no, it isn't actually possible.

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  2. I agree with Mister Geocon that the notion of "equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life" for all individuals would seem to naturally condemn other systems based on ancestry, e.g. aristocracy or hereditary monarchy.

    I also think condemning racial discrimination as a denial of basic human rights is sufficient. Expanding the concept to include "equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life" would seem to naturally lead to a system of affirmative action which necessarily involves discriminating against individuals on the basis of racial ancestry.

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    1. Why would you say racial discrimination necessarily involves a denial of basic human rights?

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    2. Is there a basic human right not to be discriminated against on that specific basis? That would seem a little circular.

      But no. I have no problem with HBCUs, organizations like the NAACP, Black Catholic organizations, or racial scholarships, at least in principle.

      I think the problem lies in A) racial discrimination denying basic human rights or B) possible double standards.

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    3. Racial discrimination in housing could be used justly to uphold the cultural integrity of an area. Racial discrimination in public schools would allow different ethnic groups to maintain their cultural identity. Etc., etc.

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    4. Well, you see, he's forced into it. If he didn't admit this he'd have no basis on which to oppose affirmative action. It's not of course, that he, or you, or other reactionaries really care about racial inequity.

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    5. The reactionary basis for opposing affirmative action is that the progressive arguments for affirmative action don't work, so why implement it except as a cynical ploy to bribe Africans into giving your party political support?

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    6. Well, reactionaries oppose affirmative action both on a deontological basis and a pragmatic one. Or so they say, but actually they would oppose it anyway even it DID actually work, so their pragmatic opposition is merely a cynical ploy to bribe Whites (who would otherwise fear being or being called "racist") into giving their party political support.

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    7. GoneFishing,

      Reactionaries would oppose affirmative action on principle even if it was an effective way to ensure racial equality because they don't see racial equality as a desirable goal. They'd rather have racial harmony.

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    8. GoneFishing, it sounds like by "reactionaries" you mean "classical liberal" or "neoconservative". I'm pretty sure a true "reactionary" would have no problem with the concept of racial discrimination. After all, wasn't the admissions policy of Harvard pre-1965 simply affirmative action for white gentiles/WASPs? And "racial inequity" isn't a traditional concern for reactionaries.

      If reactionaries oppose affirmative action, it's either for pragmatic reasons or because they differ in societal goals.

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    9. Racial discrimination "could be used justly to uphold the cultural integrity of an area."

      "why implement it except as a cynical ploy to bribe Africans"

      Yep...we've got a racist on our hands.

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    10. @Mister Geocon: "Racial discrimination in housing could be used justly to uphold the cultural integrity of an area."

      No, it could be used *un*justly to uphold the cultural integrity of an area. What could be used *justly* to uphold the cultural integrity of an area would be a cultural criteria, as race doesn't equate to culture or the other way around. Their correlation is accidental, so judging one by the other will unavoidably incur in injustice, that is, accusing a person with culture X of having culture Y only because of their race, rather because of their... culture.

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    11. @Alexander Gieg unless culture stems from race, which is what the science suggests.

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    12. @Anonymous: I wonder what science you refer to.

      Let's look at one, History. If we go with that one, then we have, in the last several millennia, whites, specially Northern European ones, holding a culture of murder, slaughter, mass rape, pillaging, and all out destructiveness. Then that "racially-stemmed" bizarrely giving way to the much gentler Late Middle Age one, which for all practical purposes basically ended slavery, with occasional wars here and there but nothing on the scale old timer barbarians used to go for. Then these same guys going having a relapse of their old murder / slaughter / rape / pillage / destroy / enslave ways. Then partially healing from that and deciding that having get rid of slavery once was actually awesome, and therefore should be done again, except this time worldwide. Then relapsing again twice over the last century or so, but getting back on their foot.

      Therefore, which of these two cultures is white's "racial" one? The first? The second? Both? Neither?

      For another curious example, look at Japan. If you read travel logs of Westerners who visited it in the mid 19th century, their descriptions talk about an unruly population that lacks a strong work ethics, refuse to be punctual, and many other references that look similar to much of what a current white supremacist says about blacks in general, and African-Americans in particular. Compare that to current Japanese culture. So, again, which of these two cultures is yellow's "racially-stemmed" one? The first? The second? Both? Neither?

      What the sciences suggest is that all human cultures stem from human nature. They're variations around the same set of 20 or so traits, with differences between them coming from which traits have higher priority of which ones at any moment. All human beings can repriorize these so as to change their own cultures or, on an individual scale, to change from a culture to another. That's all there is to it, and it's already huge enough that way.

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    13. @Gieg:

      "Let's look at one, History. If we go with that one, then we have, in the last several millennia, whites, specially Northern European ones, holding a culture of murder, slaughter, mass rape, pillaging, and all out destructiveness"

      It is terribly ironic that when people with your ideological bent try to disprove these claims, you end up reaffirming them without even a hint of self-awareness. See if you can follow me here: if ethnic groups, or races, or whatever you'd like to call them, are illusory, as you say, then how the hell are you able to partition off what you describe as "Northern Europeans" and ascribe to them the level of barbarity that you claim they engaged in, without affirming the kind of thinking you're adamantly against? I thought we were supposed to think of people as purely individuals, entirely divorced from their ethnic history, identity, etc.? So why is it that when these topics are brought up, you work up a lather at the mouth describing white people as murderous, genocidal, destructive heathens compared to, say, the East Asians (note, you people never seem to mention other Asiatic groups in these comparisons), who were nothing less than utopian, peace-loving hippies before the evil white men showed up? Why do you get to engage in identity-discourse in proving your point, but kick the ladder away when other people do it?

      "Then partially healing from that and deciding that having (sic) get rid of slavery once was awesome.."

      Literally the dumbest thing I've ever read. It's amazing how something so obviously true can reduce you people to this level of blather, honestly. It's sad.

      "If you read travel logs of Westerners..."

      So what? They were wrong on the matter. What does that have to do with the argument that culture isn't just geography + a quasi-platonic reality bestowed on people by sheer luck? The fact that people change is not even in question, but that they change on the level of kin cannot be denied unless you're willing to say that Golden Retrievers and Pitbulls are the exact same animal whose differences are purely visual, which is a level of denial I can't even imagine a person taking honestly unless they were educated into it, or unless they had some kind of chip on their shoulder to begin with.

      "What the sciences suggest is that all human cultures stem from human nature."

      Gobbledigook. Good enough for a Community College essay, not good enough for real life, which is what you're having trouble with. Science suggests that traits, including personality traits, are at least partially influenced by biology and genetics. That is in no way in contravention of what Aquinas or Aristotle has taught, and as a matter of fact, it reinforces it. God did not create humanity as some kind of gnostic, undifferentiated bio-mass whose differences are purely illusory or socially constructed, and whose souls are exactly the same in every way. That is pure dualism, denialism, and cope, and the traffick of it into modern political discourse is leading to policies that hurt everyone and help no one. We are different individually, groups of people are different, and cultures are downstream from the people that create them, not the other way around.

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    14. @Anonymous:

      a) "people with your ideological bent"

      Oh? What would that bent be?

      b) "if ethnic groups, or races, or whatever you'd like to call them, are illusory, as you say"

      Did I say that?

      c) "and ascribe to them the level of barbarity that you claim they engaged in"

      Actually, who ascribed and claimed that were early medieval Romans after the Vandals and other Germanic tribes went around doing to the Romans what the Romans had previously done to others, so it's actually all in the family.

      d) "you people never seem to mention other Asiatic groups in these comparisons"

      I'm quite curious about who this people of mine would be, but here's the reason I myself refer to whites in my example: because my interlocutors tend to be white, so it hits. When talking with other kinds of prejudiced people I use their own groups in examples. And examples abound.

      e) "Literally the dumbest thing I've ever read."

      Oh? So you disagree that the British Empire was responsible for ending slave trade worldwide on their own after intense Christian pressure prompted them to do so?

      f) "They were wrong on the matter."

      Who was wrong on what matter?

      g) "The fact that people change (...) on the level of kin cannot be denied"

      True, it cannot be denied.

      h) "Gobbledigook. Good enough for a Community College essay, not good enough for real life, which is what you're having trouble with."

      I suggest you discuss this with Dr. Larry Arnhart from "Darwinian Conservatism" fame, as I'm basing my take on his notion of 20 human desires:

      https://darwinianconservatism.blogspot.com/2016/04/stephen-sanderson-and-twenty-natural.html

      i) "God did not create humanity as some kind of gnostic, undifferentiated bio-mass whose differences are purely illusory or socially constructed, and whose souls are exactly the same in every way."

      Well, I don't know about that I'm not a monotheist nor an onthologist, preferring rather to go with a mix of Butlerian classic polycentric polytheism and Buddhist meontological realism, so I don't think we'll be able to find a simple common ground on which to discuss *this* aspect of the subject matter.

      Be as it may, a suggestion: when replying, try to reply to what your interlocutor actually said, not to what you believe they'd have said to unspecified unasked questions. ;-)

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  3. "But it is not true that the Church as an institution defended slavery of that kind."

    Yes, it is true.

    Dum Diversas, issued by Pope Nicholas V to King Alfonso V of Portugal in 1452:

    "We grant you by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property [...] and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude."

    And a few years later by that same Pope to that same King in Romanus Pontifex (which not only condones slavery but also complete military invasion and plunder)

    "... since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso – to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit.."


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    1. Monarchies do have *subjects* (aptly named). Are monarchies synonomous with slavery?

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    2. I would be hesitant to equate a single Papal document as an official position of “The Church”. It is possible for the Pope to err (assuming that quote is in proper context) on his pronouncements, otherwise, the Church has some major problems with Pope Francis.

      The point is, has there been a consistent teaching upheld by the Church of the legitimacy of chattel slavery?

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    3. the Catholic Church did have a dark past with slavery, as did all religions, but it is unfairly treated especially when you consider how strongly it also condemned slavery many times; bulls such as Sublimus Deus, for example. It made mistakes but it also fought against slavery to great many extents, and over time developed a consistent abolitionist position. In my country, jesuits were extremely important at preventing natives from being enslaved, for instance, and they strived to stop the practice.

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    4. Sure, I agree with all of the above, but the point is that the claim that historically the Church never, at any time, defended slavery is false.

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    5. Gonefishing, so what though? We have had Catholic priests joining organizations like NAMBLA - I am certain that for every possible issue the church could take a stand on, you will find motivated Catholics on both sides, and occasionally in schism over. That's human nature for you. Should Catholics ever expect otherwise?

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    6. I don't think slavery was in question; it was just accepted as default and did not necessarily have the bad conotations it does today. That might seem strange to us now, but we owe the Enlightenment for our developed understanding of individual rights such as they are. Prior to that, collectivism reigned supreme.

      Also, we tend to think of slavery as necessarily including physical abuse, torture, etc., but that need not always be the case in every situation.

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    7. @T N,


      Something similar was the case for ancient Greek/Roman slavery, where belief in the ontological reality of slave and free was so deeply rooted that even those who fought for freedom wanted to be masters themselves. Which is why undermining it took the shape of declaring that there is neither slave nor freeman in Christ, and that everyone should be each other's servant.

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  4. I would also like to quibble with your definition of "slavery". While I agree Catholics have never recognized the ability to deny basic human rights on the basis of slave status (e.g. denial of marriage, legalization of murder), I don't think the acceptable categories of slavery can be reduced to "indentured servitude" and "penal servitude". The Bible condones inherited slave status (Exodus 21:1-4). This was also the practice under the Roman Empire.

    It also seems that "chattel slavery" (which is the consideration of the slave as property of the master) existed in ancient Israel, ancient Rome, pre-modern-to-medieval Europe, and the many Catholic colonies and countries of the Americas.

    While it's true the many popes you cited condemned both unjust reduction to slavery (kidnapping) and denial of basic human rights, they never condemned slavery as an institution itself, which is simply the ownership of the fruits of another's labors.

    If I remember correctly, the Vatican was still affirming that slaves could be morally owned or sold as of 1866.

    Indeed, Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical celebrating the end of slavery in Brazil (In plurimis 10), offhandedly mentions the Church Fathers were in agreement that "the rights of masters extended lawfully indeed over the works of their slaves".

    In other words, a Catholic could/should say slavery is a societal evil and is to be avoided but hold that slave-holding is not inherently evil. That is a position held by many slaveowners themselves, e.g. Robert E. Lee.

    This may sound like nitpicking but I think it is important because slavery is an issue where the previous judgment of the Church and Christendom is pretty clear and it is hard to wiggle out of. It's an issue that liberals (both Catholic and not) use to argue against the infallibility of the Church or the impossibility of changing her doctrines (along with usury, religious liberty, etc.).

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    1. @Edmund,

      What reasons are there for thinking that chattel slavery existed in ancient Israel?

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    2. JoeD, That slavery wasn't purely for penal servitude or indentured servitude. Chattel slavery is defined as the treatment of the slave as the personal property of the owner and there is little against this in the Bible. Slaves were inheritable and alienable and could even be born as slaves.

      The children of slaves are the property of the master, suggesting an inherited servitude. (Exodus 21:1-4) Perpetual servitude and inheritance was in place for non-Israelites (Lev 25:44-46). In Matthew 18, the parable details a master selling the unforgiving servant and his wife and children as well. Suggesting, of course, that this was possible for the Jews of the time.

      Also chattel slavery was the norm in pre-modern societies, including the near and middle east. So it would be highly unique for Israel to reject it and I see no evidence that they did, except for native Hebrews who could be freed after a term of years. It would have been the institution which prevailed when Israel was ruled by Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans, etc.

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    3. @Edmund,


      Thanks for explaining. With regards to these verses there are some things to point out:

      First, even before considering the meaning and function of inheriting servants/slaves, it's just unlikely that the Israelites regarded their slaves as their actual property because they didn't even regard their ownership of land in Israel as something that was their own property.

      Leviticus 25:23 basically has God saying that the land is not to be sold permanently because it is His and the Israelites are foreigners who live in it. This means that ownership even of land actually meant more that the person only rents the land and has rights to the land's productivity, and with regards to slave owning this means having the right to another person's labor, not that person itself full-stop, and verse 50 of the same chapter explicitly says that the redemption price for a servant is based on the rate a hired worker is paid in an amount of time.

      Second, the inheritence of servants/slaves by itself doesn't imply that they were actual property. If someone became a servant due to paying a debt, and the master happens to die before the debt is payed, then the debt is transferred to someone else - the family of the master who are influenced by the debt is a good example. If someone were in a situation where they couldn't go anywhere else and life-long servitude is the only practical option for them (which would be the case for foreigners who would most likely be exiled from their homeland, or had to leave for other serious reasons, never to come back basically), then inheritence of the still-living servant when the master dies to the rest of the family makes perfect sense in that context.

      Similar considerations apply to the Matthew 18 parable - the key issue is payment of due debt to a higher authority, and if the person can't pay it by himself then in principle a higher authority could make the person's family members become indentured servants to pay off the debt if that is necessary.

      In short, none of this requires that the servants are viewed as chattel slaves/property.

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    4. Leviticus 25:23 basically has God saying that the land is not to be sold permanently because it is His and the Israelites are foreigners who live in it. This means that ownership even of land actually meant more that the person only rents the land and has rights to the land's productivity,

      Rents from whom? Pays rent to whom?

      If there was a person who was entitled to receive the rent, what future event would automatically act to EVICT that person from holding the property and the rights to the rent? If nothing would do so, then his right was perpetual, i.e. ownership.

      I know of the jubilee practice of quashing all debts on the 50th year. This would limit long-term contracts for debt, including for land/home purchase, but ALSO for debt servitude; and apparently Hebrew slaves also were supposed to be freed on the 50th year. I have very strong doubts that either the 7-year cycle for leaving the land fallow, and the 50th year jubilee release of debts and slaves was followed faithfully by the people (i.e. the vast majority), but I would delight to be proven wrong.

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    5. One reason why I think the jubilee was not well observed: a developed commerce will include many contracts for debt, and the Israelites were no different in that regard. But "developed" here would imply at least some long term debt. If everyone gets used to things like a 20-year loan to build a house or a ship, as you get closer to the jubilee year, nobody will accept any long-term debt contracts. That portion of the commercial structure will deflate altogether, and the economy related to them will stagnate. The jubilee practice would be (as far as I can tell) a permanently leveling device forcing a culture to start almost from scratch every 2nd generation.

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    6. The idea for the jubilee year makes sense if you consider how loans grow compared to the real economy, even in a society that already practices low interest rates for religious reasons. The very nature of loan contracts makes it so that, given time enough, the total amount owed FAR exceeds the existing wealth, meaning strictly impossible to payback. Add to the mix indentured servitude as punishment for defaulting and, after enough decades have passed, you'll have the entirety of the population enslaved to a tiny number of wealth individuals. The jubilee prevents that by establishing a hard wall that periodically resets the economy, realigning interests accrued and new wealth created so they'll start diverging from a new basis all over again, and also by forcing lenders to keep that in mind all the time and thus to adjust their practice to minimize long term financial damage to themselves.

      IMHO, the world would be a relatively better place if modern countries adopted the idea and put it into place, as most economic bubbles would be forcibly burst way before they managed to grow and bust on their own, causing much greater damage.

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    7. PS: According this, the jubilee year was regularly observed at least until then 6th century BCE, and maybe for a time afterwards too, until it ceased being observed entirely:

      https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/513212/jewish/When-Is-the-Next-Jubilee-Year.htm

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    8. JoeD,

      Even in real estate, there are various types of estates in land besides the fee simple, including ones limited by time. A leasehold is considered property, for example.

      Property does not mean that there are no conditions on the use of a thing. But the ability to control and direct the labor of another and enjoy the fruits of that labor without further compensation would seem to be nothing else than a property right to me. The Bible even gives the right of punishment to masters: “Tortures and fetters are for a malicious slave: send him to work, that he be not idle” Sirach 33:28

      Addendum: even indentured servitude or debt bondage have, both historically and currently, been considered as forms of slavery.

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    9. @Edmund,


      Nevertheless, this doesn't change the fact that God is described as owning the land absolutely speaking, so it mustn't be sold permanently.

      As for property, your point just seems trivial. If you want to view having rights to another person's labor without compensation (i.e. when paying a debt or being punished etc) as a property right, then you can do so. It's just not the same as actually owning the person as such as property.

      Heck, anyone who joins the army foreits certain rights and is even considered the legal property of the state - but the understanding of "property" in that context clearly isn't something anyone calls chattel slavery or immoral.

      And so what if slaves/servants can be punished? The very verse you're citing is explicitly referring to malicious slaves - unless you're saying that having the right to punish others makes that person chattel-like property? In that case, children are their parents' chattel property, and prisoners are the state's property - which could work, but the meaning of property then completely loses it's slavery-related bite in that case.

      And really, receiving punishment was par for the course in that social world - basically everyone got to know the rod in those days, including those of the higher-class. It's not something unique to slaves/servants.

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    10. JoeD, I'm at a loss for the importance of your point at property then.

      In what way were slaves in the American South or Catholic Americas "property", but not in ancient Israel, Christian Rome or medieval Europe?

      In none of those situations did a master have a right to kill his slave. Miscegenation, whether bond or free, was illegal. Fornication was also illegal.

      Even so, the right to destroy a thing or to use it in whatever way you wish is not a universal for property rights.

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  5. Any argument that purports to show that one race is inferior to another can be shown to be incoherent by dispatching all affirmative claims. What is left is the proposition that rights inhere in human nature (a realist conclusion). The defender of racism must then renounce his position or cling to it from mere obstinance.

    Defending abortion is exactly parallel: the right to life is anchored in human nature because all arguments to the contrary are incoherent (in fact, most of them are downright obtuse). When you can find someone willing to engage in an honest, good-faith discussion, the realist conclusion is impossible to avoid.

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    1. The fact that Aristotle and Aquinas themselves differentiate between different peoples, their characteristics and dispositions, and the social orders that they find themselves as a consequence developing naturally this means that they develop different systems of law for themselves in confrontation with different political problems according to their own nature. I mean, Dante famously proved Roman supremacy using Aquinas and Aristotle.

      1) Different peoples have different natures. For there to be real distinctions, real differences as well as real similarities within groups, Any a realist would have to hold to as much.

      2) This means that there are real differences between human subgroups qua their material causal similarities and differences.

      3) Objects of different kinds require different treatment considering that they have meaningfully different natures and dispositions.

      Thus, where there are significant disparities between racial groups, they should be treated according to how they are specifically not as just according to the fact that they fall under the genus "human", because they fall under other genuses too.

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    2. ‘Different peoples have different natures.”

      Then what are you referring to by the word “people” if you wish to deny a common nature?

      “significant disparities between racial groups”

      Cultural behaviors exist. Physical differences exist (skin color, eye color, etc). If you want to say that we interact with groups based on cultural behaviors/differences, that’s fine with me. But tell me what “race” is without appealing to either physical differences or cultural behaviors. In other words, tell me what the essence of “race” is. I claim it doesn’t exist.

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    3. Mister Geocon,
      Differences between races exist, but the Church and Catholic societies never gave these differences the absolute character they acquired under the influence of Darwinian theories and modern ideologies. Human nature is of course the same everywhere, as are its basic rights. This doesn't translate, as you say, into meaning that everyone can be expected to behave the same way, even given the same opportunities.

      The practice of the Church and the Crown in the Americas and the Philippines is interesting. Different peoples (indigenous, European, mestizo and of African origin, were recognised as such, the indigenous experiencing a large degree of autonomy. To form part of this system properly, only the Catholic Faith was necessary. Movement from one caste to another was extremely common, but also gradual. After several hundred years, the castes were still entirely recognisable. However, despite racial differences, the main determinant among the castes was cultural.

      The mission system was given so much autonomy that some modern nations like Paraguay and the Philippines were produced by it, and survived the departure of the missionaries.

      The United States in the past followed a very approach,by making movement from the Afro-American caste into the "mainstream" almost impossible, even to those who racially and culturally were not so dissimilar.

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    4. The very different approach in the US led to today's situation where "afro-Americans" are defined in absolute terms. Someone like Barak Obama, south of the Rio Grande, would have been classified as part of the "mainstream", not because they are "colour-blind" there (they are not), but because culturally, that's what he is. The hermetic sealing up of castes in the former US system is just as much to blame for "identity" politics as the BLM type mentality today.

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    5. Caste systems and ghettos are two of the ways in which multiracial societies have been organized, but both require a large amount of discrimination. Also, while the differences between the races aren't absolute, they are pretty significant, I think. At least, they are significant enough to be recognized as such by the legal system.

      However, Southern Segregationism was a terrible way of trying to get the races to live peacefully together. I mean, segregated water fountains? Really? What purpose does that serve other than sheer humiliation?

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    6. TN,

      This article (written by a friend of mine who is a Thomist) makes this case: https://middleearthmag.com/on-race-and-the-magisterium/

      That racial differences are not reducible to social constructions should be uncontroversial for any devotee of scholastic philosophy, really. The soul, as per the Council of Vienne, is not a Cartesian ghost-in-a-machine but is the form, or immanent active principle, of the body. Because of this, hereditary characteristics that are passed on generationally diversify according to the disposition of matter receptive to the soul. Those material dispositions will therefore modify how the soul and its faculties, psychic and otherwise, will be expressed in concrete existing individual persons. One does not even have to appeal to experimental genetic science to establish a thoroughly Catholic philosophical framework to account for this. To imply otherwise would be to drive a wedge between the intimate unity of soul and body the Church has repeatedly insisted upon. Now what is true for the individual can also be applied to group dynamics, as is explicitly affirmed by Pope Pius XII in his Address to the International Society for Blood Transfusion, and this only follows logically from what has already been established. The more proximately related the group, the more similar their heritable material dispositions will be, and the more remotely related the group, the more dissimilar their heritable material dispositions will be.

      Delete
    7. Mister Geocon, if your friend is saying something other than human children have a lot in common with their human parents I'm not sure what it is. I don't see anything controversial in the claim that human races differ. But that's not racism.

      Delete
    8. Mr. Geocon,

      So why are people with green eyes not a different race than people with brown eyes? Surely the “material dispositions will therefore modify how the soul and its faculties . . . will be expressed”. No?

      Again, what are you referring to by the word “people” if you wish to deny a common nature?

      Delete
    9. "Race" is common ancestry. This is even in the etymology of the word. Thus why one can speak of the "Celtic race', the "Caucasian race" or the "human race" with the same word. These are groups united by common ancestry.

      That being said, ancestry does correlate pretty strongly with appearance. A trained scientist can even discern the racial origin of an individual by looking at his bones. Self-identification in America, for instance, almost always is backed up by genetic analysis. It's not that hard unless one wishes to play the continuum fallacy.

      Delete
    10. Edmund,

      So race is an arbitrary categorization that has nothing to do with the essence of what it is to be a human person. I agree.

      Delete
    11. Don,

      If human races differ (and remember, my friend establishes on the basis of hylemorphism that the kinds of physical differences between the races will affect how their soul's characteristics manifests concretely), then they can be said to have different natures from one another. Objects of different kinds require different treatment considering that they have meaningfully different natures and dispositions. This undermines the idea that everyone has to have “all races should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches,” even if we were to accept the idea that all races have equal basic rights.

      TN,

      I'm not denying a common human nature. Only that humans ought to be treated equally. Also, I think it's disingenuous to treat the differences in eye color as significant a difference as the difference in race.

      Delete
    12. Mister Geocon, that quote from Pope St Paul VI seemed to be refering to humans as humans. This is what unifies mankind. Race is one of countless accidental properties unique to each individual. I don't see the justification behind isolating it. We all have unique "natures" hylemorphically bc we all have unique matter. As TN has pointed out a few times, that use of the term "nature" is not the same as that of "human nature." In your last reply to me you could replace every instance of "races" with "individual" and it would equally apply. We're all different. Seems obvious enough. I guess it's not clear to me what meaningful conclusions you're drawing from this.

      Delete
    13. Mister Geocon, I don't think the argument holds up, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding the basics.

      I am a short person. In my race (alas) are many tall people. In your friends theory, is my soul more like my forebears or more like other short people?

      And in what quality?

      Delete
    14. Don,

      Do you think that we ought to treat all human beings as if they were the same in some way? If not, then we cannot justify guaranteeing that “all races should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches." What is different ought to be treated as though it were different, and it's clear to me that the differences between (say) a Nigerian and an Anglo-Saxon ought to be at least accounted for by our legal system. Otherwise, you're basically justifying racial communism.

      Pl0,

      My argument is that the legal system should treat different people differently. Say (for instance) that short people on average make less money than tall people for whatever reason. Applying Feser's logic to short people, we'd be justifying an extensive wealth redistribution scheme (and indeed, the entire edifice of affirmative action and the like is justified by these sorts of unequal outcomes between groups!). Now, the differences between White and Black are greater than the differences between White and Black. Indeed, the different races of humans are analogous to different dog breeds. Furthermore, they are RATIONAL animals, meaning that they have different physiological and psychological traits, they also have different histories, traditions, customs, etc. that are arguably more important than the physical differences. Therefore, we ought to have a legal system that takes this into account these differences, even at the expense of some kind of "equality" (which is arguably a ridiculous goal at any rate).

      Delete
    15. PIO, T N, Don: I hardly think ancestry can be reduced to an accidental property with no outward significance. Neither by philosophy or by Christian theology.

      I am reminded of what St. Thomas Aquinas on the subject, who connects patriotism to the virtue of piety, as that reverence due to our kindred. This being a natural outgrowth of the Fourth Commandment.
      "The worship due to our parents includes the worship given to all our kindred, since our kinsfolk are those who descend from the same parents, according to the Philosopher."
      I think his answer to the objection is on point. Simply put, we owe a greater duty to those close to us than we do those further away.
      "The relations of a man with his kindred and fellow-citizens are more referable to the principles of his being than other relations: wherefore the term piety is more applicable to them."

      Delete
    16. Mister Geocon, I believe we ought to treat all human beings as if they were human beings. Of course a 5 year ought to be treated differently than a 55 year old; but they should be treated as a 5 year old human being and a 55 year old human being. I honestly agree with everything you're saying as I understand it. I just don't get you're emphasis on race. Each individual is unique and so, in agreement with you ("What is different ought to be treated as though it were different"), each individual ought to be treated uniquely--as unique human beings.

      Delete
    17. Don,

      If you believe that we ought to treat Blacks as Black human beings and and Whites as White human beings, then we're in agreement. My contention is that treating every human being like a human being shouldn't require everyone to be "equal before the law" and having "equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life, or benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches."

      Delete
    18. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    19. Edmund:

      The burden is to show that there is essential difference between races, not that there are differences in cultural behaviors.

      Delete
    20. Mr. Geocon:

      You wrote: “I'm not denying a common human nature.”

      Earlier you wrote: “Different peoples have different natures.”

      That people should not be treated equally (meaning people do not have equal merits) was never in dispute.

      Delete
    21. Mister Geocon, the equality would be as human beings.

      Delete
    22. TN,

      No, the burden is to show that there is essential uniformity between human races. There's no reason for to believe this.

      Don,

      I don't believe treating everyone as human beings requires treating them equally.

      Delete
    23. Edmund, I never said or suggested race or ancestry has no outward significance. (I didn't see Pl0 or TN suggest that either but I don't want to speak for them.) I'm assuming by outward significance you mean the same thing as outward appearance. If not please clarify.

      Also I don't see anything I said as incompatible with patriotism or familial reverence.

      Delete
    24. Mr. Geocon,

      "the burden is to show that there is essential uniformity between human races."

      “I'm not denying a common human nature.”

      Well,there ya go.

      Delete
    25. TN,

      By your logic, there's no substantial differences between the different dog breeds. They're all dogs, so there's no reason to look at them as being different in the slightest! Would you agree to this logic? Or are you going to admit that this shared universal of "human" doesn't guarantee the kind of essential uniformity between the human races that you need there to be?

      Delete
    26. Mr. G:

      "Short people on average make less money than tall people for whatever reason."

      Good example - we do! In my employment there is a definite correlation between height and earnings actually, all other things being (as they say) "equal".

      I don't ask for a wealth distribution scheme, of course, or any kind of positive discrimination from my colleagues. I expect only that my unimpressive size not be used to measure my soul or my bearing read back into my culture. Seems like a reasonable request, which as far as I can tell, is honored generally.

      I disagree that people are analogous to dog breeds - for the obvious reason that dogs are bred over many generations to some (often frivolous) purpose, and people are not. If your analogy goes farther than this, I don't see it yet.

      Edmund, I also don't think ancestry insignificant - but I don't think race determines or indicates culture (or the possibility of culture) to any degree. To your other point, I agree. We owe a duty to those nearby us and with whom we are in community, which we should not dispense with simply because our cultural, religious or familial affinities lie elsewhere.

      Delete
    27. Ironically, there couldn't be a better illustration supporting the notion of conservatives being racist than this whole comment thread...

      Delete
    28. Mister Geocon, I think we agree but have a different understanding of the phrase "treat equally as a human being". I don't mean treat the same in all respects. I mean that as a human a person is due, for example, not to be thrown away like trash. This and other things all humans are due as humans. Given that, then each individual can be treated differently as needed; but the "that"--those things due to all humans because he or she is a human--is the "equally treated" part of the equation.

      Delete
    29. P10,

      In the context of common decisions about individuals, I agree that you ought not use race as an excuse to be a bigot anymore than you should use short height. But when we're talking about facts about different groups and how they ought to be treated, I don't think just treating them the same would be just.

      Surely, you know about natural selection though, right? Even if you are a Young Earth Creationist, it's acceptable to believe in microevolution - the idea that a species can change over time in accordance with their environment. The different races have adapting to their particular environments for thousands of years. Why should we believe that there are no differences between them whatsoever?

      Anonymous,

      Go away, troll.

      Delete
    30. Don,

      Indeed, I do agree with the end result of the article - that human beings ought not to be treated poorly. But I think the premises and argumentation used to get to this end result are wrong at best and sloppy at worst, for the kinds of reasons I've been pointing out.

      Delete
    31. Anon, what's conservatives have to do with this thread? Are you saying all conservatives are racists? What's your point and why's it ironical?

      Delete
    32. Mr. Geocon,

      It seem that you don't know what terms like "essence", "nature", and "substance" mean.

      "the burden is to show that there is essential uniformity between human races."

      What is the root of "essential"? (hint: it's a synonym of nature)

      You wrote: “I'm not denying a common human nature.” (which is the same as saying there is essential (the root is "essence") uniformity between races.

      Evan as earlier you wrote: “Different peoples have different natures.”

      And yet you think I'm goofy. Whatevs.

      I'm just going to stop responding to people.

      And, yes, this tread does illustrate why leftists find conservatives easy fodder for claims of racism.

      Delete
    33. "I don't think just treating them the same would be just."

      I enjoy travel. I would not enjoy travelling within societies that reserved rights and refused justice to me in accordance with the legal theory of a race code (or religion, for that matter). Certainly not when my race were recognized by the society at large as inferior! Since every majority following your theory would have strong incentives to acclaim themselves superior - as long as they could maintain their numbers - this seems to guarantee unhappiness for the natives and heartburn for the visitors. Certainly there are many places in the world that -enforce- laws according to your theory, and they are sad to visit. You know all this though.

      In any event, I still don't see any way to get from microevolution to politics - or any reason to go there. I'm neither a biologist or a political economist, so it's hard to imagine how a society with race laws could come to be by common consent, or maintained with amity among all. And if not, why bother?

      Delete
    34. "The different races have adapting to their particular environments for thousands of years. Why should we believe that there are no differences between them whatsoever?"

      Not sure what differences of environment could be relevant to the discussion? Could you give me an example, please?

      Delete
    35. T N, the point of the Aquinas quote is to show I don't have to show different races have different "natures". I don't have to show the different "nature" of my kinsmen to the rest of humanity to treat them differently than I do the rest of humanity.

      Ultimately, I think there are very few who would dispute this, from Pope Francis to your local parish priest to probably Ed Feser himself. People will condemn "racial discrimination" when in reality they mean "unjust racial discrimination" (hence my examples of HBCUs or scholarships, which very few consider unjust).

      Also to PIO, I agree race does not determine culture.

      Delete
    36. TN,

      I was using those words very loosely, I will admit. But you're not acting in good faith. Leftists will always call what they don't believe in racist/sexist/homophobic because they are bigots who hate anything and anyone that goes against their worldview. The concept of racism only makes sense if you are operating under a liberal framework. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense.

      P10,

      I don't believe in consent of the governed, so it doesn't really matter if "race laws could come to be by common consent." I mean, our current liberal order maintains race laws (affirmative action) in spite of a lot of people being against them.

      Delete
  6. Dr Feser, did you see Mark Shea's article comparing the death penalty to the Church's alleged change of view towards slavery?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ick. Shea has been rabid on this issue for a long time, but this goes still further.

      Delete
  7. This post is just performance and nothing more. You're not fooling anyone, Feser. Your support of Trump, the Republican party, sharing links that criticize people like Ibram Kendi, and the fear-mongering of "woke tyranny" proves you don't care about fighting racism at all. Last time I checked lying and hypocrisy were sins.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I fight racism and I'm firmly against Ibram Kendi. Hes quite anti intellectual.

      It is crucial that the fight against racism includes shinning a light on these charlatans.

      Delete
    2. Feser isn't "fooling" anyone you lunatic; he wrote a pretty clear text on how scholastics should condemn racism. In any case, he doesn't (and shouldn't) care about what radical lefties think of him.

      Delete
    3. Asserting that Prof Feser, Trump, the Repubs, etc., are "rascist" is propaganda, a vile lie designed to move a Marxist argument for revolution (modern Marxists use race today as their parent tried to use economic class). True racism, to be anything other than utterly abstract, has to be -- like charity -- personal. It is not charity to have the gov rob Bill to pay Bob's healthcare, and in the same way, true racism can only occur/actualize, when Bill doesn't hire Bob because he's of another race. "Systemic racism" is a catch ohrase, a "meme" or a "narratve" used when no examples of actual, i.e. personal, racism exist.

      The U.S. is today (regardless of the past) the most successful multiracial experiment in all of human history. Marxists seek to destroy it. In pursuit of that goal, the Marxists lie. They "bear false witness" in pursuance of their program, which is only the enthronement of envy and the legalizing of murder, theft, and their would-be "Herrenvolk" rule.

      Delete
    4. "'Systemic racism' is a catch phrase, a 'meme' or a 'narratve' used when no examples of actual, i.e. personal, racism exist"

      I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you saying that systemic racism and personal racism are mutually exclusive? Or that systemic racism can't exist? Or just that it doesn't now exist?

      Delete
    5. Just a humble request, fellow posters:

      Can we forego the argumentum ad Trumpum, at least for the time being?

      Delete
    6. AKG,

      Do you have the same definitions as Feser does of racism?

      Delete
    7. @Rageh Crow,

      Y'know before you mock the concept of systemic racism, keep in mind that it was discussed and explored by people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, y'know civil rights activist who not only experienced racism in its brutal forms but fought against it, which is something you can't even dream of facing. I suggest you learn a thing or two before you mock something you don't understand.

      Delete
    8. AKG,

      Of course, you can also say that, because they explored this ridiculous concept that Malcolm X, MLK, et. al. are also deserving of ridicule.

      Delete
    9. You've been drinking heavily from that guilt by association well haven't you?

      I wonder if you were on those overturning tables and screaming 'white silence is violence'. Such a lovely boy, he only wants to do the moral thing.

      Delete
    10. Raghn Crow,
      Asserting that Prof Feser, Trump, the Repubs, etc., are "rascist" is propaganda, a vile lie designed to move a Marxist argument for revolution (modern Marxists use race today as their parent tried to use economic class).

      Nothing beats the fear drum like cries of Marxism and socialism.

      True racism, to be anything other than utterly abstract, has to be -- like charity -- personal.

      When red-lining didn't allow black people access to the same types of mortgages that white people could get, it was personal to the people who couldn't get the mortgages, and it was also systemic. When black people were forced into the back of the bus, denied a place to sit, etc., it was personal and systemic. When the resumes of people with ethnic names associated with black people get passed by, that is personal and systemic. When you are more likely to be stopped while driving, searched, arrested, prosecuted, etc., that is personal and systemic.

      Delete
    11. Don, I mean "systemic racism" is a slogan used by Marxists (One Brow, forgive me for "beating the drum" about an ideology that murdered over 100 million people in an 80-year period) to further the Marxist agenda. Even when a formal system of racism exists (Jim Crow, etc.), morally, the sin is when actual individuals are discriminated against by actual people. Otherwise, it is a mere thought policing by shallow, sel-righteous moralists. "Thought policing" can not end well.

      Delete
    12. Raghn Crow, maybe that's true about Marxists. I don't know. Marxist might also might speak of gravity. They're use of a term doesn't invalidate the reality.

      I don't disagree with your point about personal actions. But laws, though not in the same sense as people, can be unjust; and one way by which they can be unjust is they can be racist. It seems we agree about this based on your comment about Jim Crow laws.

      Delete
    13. It's worth noting that the concept of systemic racism is not testable and is not observable in the way that gravity is. Also, as far as I can see it is used in such a way as to include much more than racist laws and explicitly racist policies. It's supposed to include unconscious and implicit attitudes and behaviours that the holders are not even aware of having and which they cannot consciously choose to change. (A development and expansion of the Marxist idea of 'false consciousness').

      Delete
    14. Thank you,FZM; you write what I am failing to express. Indeed, a "false consciousness" seems to have taken hold of about a third of the U.S. population, because, of course, it's been implanted there by Marxists in Academia. These folks damn the rest of us for our "unconscious and implicit attitudes" and they clearly think they need to deal with the problem we pose to them by force. (That is why Communists killed 100 million people, of course.) Thought crime, in other words, will get us shot.

      Delete
    15. Don, I seem to be nitpicking, but are laws "unjust"? I mean a law has no moral agency. A law can't sin. People have to create the law (unless we believe in Divine Law), and then people enforce it. People operating as a society encourage individuals to conform to the law. Yet, it's the individual people who are moral agents. Individual Nazis were hanged after WWII, not the German nation. What I'm getting at is Marx and Antifa and BLM and the Left in general find INDIVIDUALS innocent, guitless, born sans Original Sin, but they damn "the system" -- therefore the system must be burned down, and thus ironically the people in it need erased because the system has already ruined them. Just cut them off. They are "tainted" with that sin. This is why Communism murdered 100 million people and will murder 100 million more, if given the chance.

      "Racism", whatever it means, is the current excuse. The Nazis used the same excuse, from the other end. They used their ideology to murder 6 million Jews and 5 million others to impose their rule, while the Left today will impose their, what, unracist? Woke? ruler ideology to murder us -- because we're collectively guilty of "systemic racism."

      Delete
    16. Raghn Crow,
      One Brow, forgive me for "beating the drum" about an ideology that murdered over 100 million people in an 80-year period

      Had you asked forgiveness for unfairly and misleadingly characterizing a movement about justice with one of the worst insults that could be had, perhaps. As it is, you're still
      engage in dishonest characterizations, so no.

      I understand you're scared of losing your white privilege, but it really won't be that bad.
      ) to further the Marxist agenda. Even when a formal system of racism exists (Jim Crow, etc.), morally, the sin is when actual individuals are discriminated against by actual people. Otherwise, it is a mere thought policing by shallow, sel-righteous moralists. "Thought policing" can not end well.

      Delete
    17. FZM,
      It's worth noting that the concept of systemic racism is not testable and is not observable in the way that gravity is.

      It's so easy to test and observe that you can run a couple of experiments yourself. You can put out resumes with near-identical information in to a job site, but have one named "Shaquille Shabazz" and the other "Chad Whiteman", and which one gets more responses and the types of positions offered.

      With a little more money, you can do all kinds of studies. Renting, hiring in a face-to-face interview, shopping, etc., and they have been done.

      Then there are the observational studies. If a person is found with x grams of substance y, are they more likely to be arrested? Charged? Charged for a more serious felony? Sentenced differently? Etc.

      All of these studies have been done, for those who care to know about them.

      Delete
    18. Raghn Crow,
      What I'm getting at is Marx and Antifa and BLM and the Left in general find INDIVIDUALS innocent, guitless, born sans Original Sin, but they damn "the system" -- therefore the system must be burned down, and thus ironically the people in it need erased because the system has already ruined them.

      Doesn't sound like the BLM movement, nor like many antifa. Most are more interested in reforming the system than destroying. However, that does sound the the fear-mongering you get from various Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube circles.

      Delete
    19. Raghn Crow, I think I understand your viewpoint better now. I can't comment on it because I don't know enough about the organizations you mentioned.

      I would only add that laws can be unjust even if not as moral agents. As an example, the law that you alone must give all your income to the state would be an unjust law. Also there are definitions of racism (e.g., "prejudice based on race") that are understandable and divorced from any political/social organization.

      Delete
    20. One Brow,

      It isn't testable the way that gravity is.

      The kind of systemic racism concept I was talking about involved unconscious or implicit bias. You would be talking about a test to distinguish between unconscious bias and conscious bias, stereotyping rooted in experience and non-racial factors like class that was as reliable and objective as the experimental tests of gravity.

      As soon as a concept like pervasive unconscious bias or false consciousness is introduced the results of any study are going to be moot.

      Delete
    21. One Brow doesn't know what he is talking about. Anti-fa are anarchists who explicitly believe in Marxist notions of class struggle. It is also hilarious to see them touted as believers in reform. You mean reform like smacking anyone they disagree with over the head or trying concrete police into their precints and mass murdering them with fire bombs? It's one thing to defend BLM, but it's amazing to see someone openly defend Anti-fa. I suppose it's good see leftists being honest about their sympathies.

      BLM are most complicated, but there are definitely strong Marxist influences. One of the founders spoke about this.

      Delete
    22. Weirdly, from a Leninist perspective Antifa and violent BLM probably count as a kind of lumpenproletarian socialist movement, with strong decadent bourgeois elements. They would be more a symptom of the decadence of capitalism than a revolutionary force.

      The danger they represent would be that of establishing some kind of retrograde gangster regime which was all about dividing up spoils.

      Delete
    23. Y'know the fact that all BLM want is for black lives to matter equally as white lives and you guys are attacking them, and trying to justify not supporting them or misconstructing it to be a threat to deny the legitimacy of their claims and goals , speaks volumes....

      Delete
    24. AKG, you do know what begging the question is right? And what persuasive definitions are? And false dilemmas? Every time I see you post you casually engage in these kinds of fallacies and more, hoping that constant indignation somehow overcomes the logical mess of your arguments.

      Many here don't accept that's all BLM want. That's part of what is in dispute.

      Delete
    25. Oh spare me the propaganda. If you paid attention to them, and actually listened them you'd see that's what they want. The problem is you don't accept their goal of equality, simple and plain, which is why you try to misconstrue it to justify not supporting or attacking it. You say stuff like "they should be peaceful" but when people like Kaepernick kneel peacefully you attack him too. No matter what they do you'll always find a way to not support them, because at the end of the day you're against racial equality, simple as that. You're no different than the people who claimed that MLK, Malcolm X and the Civil Right's movement had some sort of hidden American destroying agenda or whatever, and and used that as an excuse to alway attack them when in reality it was racial equality they were against.

      Tell me something if you really care about racial equality. How should BLM go about achieving it since their methods and rhetoric are 'wrong' according to you.

      Delete
    26. Are you trying to pack as many fallacies into as short a space as possible? Why do you bother with these tirades? Are you just unhinged?

      Delete
    27. Has this ranting and raving actually won over a single person, or even made them more sympathetic to your views? Serious question.

      Delete
    28. FZM
      It isn't testable the way that gravity is.

      The kind of systemic racism concept I was talking about involved unconscious or implicit bias. You would be talking about a test to distinguish between unconscious bias and conscious bias, stereotyping rooted in experience and non-racial factors like class that was as reliable and objective as the experimental tests of gravity.


      Well, no two distinct patterns of behavior are testable in the exact same fashion.

      However, unconscious bias is exactly what my little experiment is proposing to test. I doubt that many recruiters are deliberately excluding people based on their name. Rather, what happens is that they see the name, and that alters their perception of the rest of the resume.

      As soon as a concept like pervasive unconscious bias or false consciousness is introduced the results of any study are going to be moot.

      Tests of implicit bias are easy to conduct, by controlling for all the explicit factors.

      Last I checked, Harvard was conducting multiple implicit bias tests, where you can see your own reactions via a web app.

      Delete
    29. Commies suck,
      One Brow doesn't know what he is talking about. Anti-fa are anarchists who explicitly believe in Marxist notions of class struggle.

      I know that's not true. Antifa are a loosely collected group with a single goal of fighting fascist behavior. There is a lot a room in governmental style, you don't have to choose fascism or communism.

      It is also hilarious to see them touted as believers in reform. You mean reform like smacking anyone they disagree with over the head or trying concrete police into their precints and mass murdering them with fire bombs?

      I looked for evidence that the one police precinct was actually cemented, and couldn't find it. It would be a stupid plan to begin with, even quick-drying cement takes hours to fully congeal. It reminds me of the lies about cement milkshakes from a couple of years ago.

      It's true that antifa don't back down from a fight, but they rarely attack someone who isn't just as eager to bash some heads.

      BLM are most complicated, but there are definitely strong Marxist influences. One of the founders spoke about this.

      What does that mean, to you? If they are looking for universal health care, if that "Marxist influences"?

      Delete
    30. @AKG: "You say stuff like 'they should be peaceful' but when people like Kaepernick kneel peacefully you attack him too."

      Did you watch or read Mr. Anonymous attack this Kaepernick person (not sure who that is, I read about what goes on over there in the US but not into much detail) for kneeling? Ditto for the other accusations you levied against them? If not, isn't that false testimony and false accusation?

      Alternatively, maybe you're using "you" in the plural. In that case, I suppose "you" refer to the people writing on this thread. That being the case doesn't change the question though, as it just multiplies the questions by the number of posters, once for each. Or, to put it another, to ask: "All of us?"

      "Tell me something if you really care about racial equality. How should BLM go about achieving it since their methods and rhetoric are 'wrong' according to you."

      There have been academic studies on the short and long term political effects of different protesting strategies. The gist of them is that when protests are peaceful, protesters appealing to the sense of justice and fairness of the neutral majority, the majority develops compassion for them and in the next electoral cycle vote for candidates whose platforms address that injustice. On the other hand, when protests are violent, the emotion this generates in that neutral majority is fear, so that the next electoral cycle they vote for candidates whose platforms promise, first and foremost, law, order and security.

      This pattern has been verified several times, and is well known by incumbent political strategists, who are keen to promote false flag operations within non-violent protests precisely to cause the second reaction. Evidently, if protests are already violent, they don't need to do that.

      Therefore, what any protesting group should do *if* they want to follow a data-proven, consistently-successful strategy, is to do peaceful protests, keeping them peaceful *no matter what*, which includes ostensibly expelling violent elements that appear and publicly denouncing them in the media. This includes not reacting in case of police violence against them, as that's been shown to increase pro-protesters voting even more.

      Oh! And in their message protesters should always stress, in addition to the themes of justice and fairness, that of social unity. This specific rhetoric, of the "we're all together in this", attracts even more positive voting turnout than any rhetoric stressing a divisive "us vs. them" message.

      There are other effective strategies too, but they're only suitable for cases in which peaceful appeals to justice and fairness fail due to the very morality of the oppressors rejecting such values, but those are better discussed when and if that's actually the case.

      Delete
    31. One Brow, as I said you don't know what you are talking about. Or perhapsyou do and are just lying. You are a gaslighting, terrorist supporting bullshitter. Get out of here.

      Anti-fa are expressly anarchist. That's why they use the colours of the anarchist-communist flag.

      You are lying about the cement. Typical for an apologist for these terrorist scum :

      https://mynorthwest.com/2114190/rantz-rioters-burn-seattle-police-alive-sealed-door/

      They attack just about anyone they consider right of Bakunin. They attack in mobs because they are cowards.

      It is interesting I pointed out the founders of BLM talk expressly of Marxist influences and you switched to asking me what this means to me. Are you always such a sophist and a liar? It may explain your apologies for leftwing terrorism. Sort yourself out.

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    32. Commies suck,
      One Brow, as I said you don't know what you are talking about. Or perhapsyou do and are just lying. You are a gaslighting, terrorist supporting bullshitter. Get out of here.

      Well, I guess we're not having an exchange of ideas after all.

      Anti-fa are expressly anarchist. That's why they use the colours of the anarchist-communist flag.

      Which flags is "the anarchist-communist flag", and why do you think that one is the official one? As for the colors, you mean red, white, and black? I see a lot of black, but not too much white or red. Could the black signify something else? How do you know if not's the flag of Germany?

      You are lying about the cement.

      You really believe someone put watery cement on a vertical surface? How gullible are you? Have you ever worked with cement?
      They attack just about anyone they consider right of Bakunin.

      Protests are not attacks.

      They attack in mobs because they are cowards.

      If 5 Proud boys were trying to hit me, I'd be pretty damn scared.

      It is interesting I pointed out the founders of BLM talk expressly of Marxist influences and you switched to asking me what this means to me.

      If I don't understand what you mean by the terms, I don't know if you're right or wrong. What does "Marxist influences" mean here? I mean, anyone who read Marx is influenced for or against his positions by it.

      Here's their position page:
      https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/

      Could you identify the elements you say are Marxist?

      Are you always such a sophist and a liar?

      Some people think so. Sometimes, AFAICT, they're just labeling me because I refuse to conform to their pre-conceived notions.

      It may explain your apologies for leftwing terrorism. Sort yourself out.

      Of the three types of terrorism active in the US (right-wing, Islamic, and left-wing), left-wing terrorism is the least active and has the fewest incidents of violence.

      Thanks for the advice. I'm not sure if you are someone I trust with life advice yet.

      Delete
    33. Commies suck you are being a bit harsh to One Brow here. He obviously just assumed the cement that they are recorded as using was a matter of DIY. Anti-Fa are clearly just Guerrilla-DIYers. What better way also to strip out the previous furnishings (and owners) than firebombs?

      And obviously he can be forgiven for thinking that violently setting upon police and anyone else is protesting. It's pretty easy to get these things mixed up, especially if you want to...

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    34. However, unconscious bias is exactly what my little experiment is proposing to test. I doubt that many recruiters are deliberately excluding people based on their name. Rather, what happens is that they see the name, and that alters their perception of the rest of the resume.

      I am not in the US but we have a similar thing where surnames can suggest things about the social class and origin of the individual. But the influence of this does not seem to be unconscious, it is something most people are aware of.

      Tests of implicit bias are easy to conduct, by controlling for all the explicit factors.

      Last I checked, Harvard was conducting multiple implicit bias tests, where you can see your own reactions via a web app.


      Unconscious bias is supposed to pervade and determine all interactions between people of different races in every context (so, design of implicit bias tests as well) within a systemically racist culture.

      How are Harvard designing tests for this?
      Appeal to experiment and quantitative testing itself can be a manifestation of white supremacy and unconscious eurocentric bias.

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    35. @FZM: "Appeal to experiment and quantitative testing itself can be a manifestation of white supremacy and unconscious eurocentric bias."

      Nowadays this is usually addressed by getting extensive input from the affected groups. Besides, while bias may never be completely eliminated, there's always hope that by becoming more and more acquainted with its workings, one may go asymptotically reducing it in oneself, as well as in the groups one's associated with.

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    36. Even one of the designers of the Harvard unconscious tests admits they are bs.

      Delete
    37. @Anonymous: Could you please provide or link to that quote? I'm curious to know who it was, and what they said.

      Delete
  8. The system in the Catholic Americas until the 1830s wasn't so much a multiracial system as a society of different legal entities based upon culture and nationhood. The system of the "two republics" (indigenous peoples and settlers) discriminated, if anything, more against the settlers, because they were not permitted to settle in indigenous territories under the crown, while Indians could relocate to European areas. Non-Europeans and people of mixed ancestry could often re-classify due to changes in circumstances because the entities were cultural, not racial, primarily. So there are many Indians with European ancestry, and vice versa. The criterion was culture and society, not race. I don't think you will find nations defined racially in the history of Christendom, until modern ideologies and Darwinism. Regardless of how clearly it was discerned that different races existed. If one looks at reasons for mutual hatreds, culture and religion have always played a bigger role.

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  9. It's not the dictionary or the pope that defines the meaning of "racism", but it's rather the Cathedral, and its servants, that decides what it means on a case by case basis. (See "AKG" above). The meaning of anti-racism that seems to be at them end of the slippery slope might be the following: a single, universal society (where society is nothing but a power structure), with its slots filled by entirely interchangeable agents (humanoid, cyborg, or robotic). For only something like this could avoid being based on a common ancestry. It seems like we need regulation of genetic content aswell, for if the state rules over our genes, then our relationship to the state is more fundamental than our relationship to our parents (since the state would then decide if you're created and when, and what your characteristics would be).

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  10. We interrupt your usual combox brickbat hurling to bring you good news: Critical Race Theory given the heave-ho in Federal agencies: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-ends-critical-race-theory-training-federal-employees

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    1. Yes, but Biden, or rather whoever is the real power behind the poor senile old fellow, will reinstate it.

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  11. Until very recent history, slavery was as common as iPhones made in a Chinese sweatshop. It is very easy to moralize about the subject, but it is not easy to grapple with the complexities in real life: equivalence of outcome is not possible nor desirable. Once that is admitted, at what point along the continuum does inequality become injustice? Also, chastising those in the past who “failed” to stop slavery immediately becomes an expectation of the impossible; one cannot simply stop social inertia on a dime.

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  12. I believe in the Categories (or maybe the Metaphysics) Aristotle states that the only thing of which equal and unequal can be predicated is quantity. It is unclear how rights could be considered a quantity, so at best predicating equal and unequal of them is done analogously.

    But the analogy either doesn't work, or is so prone to misconception (in the sense of demanding the exact same subjective rights rather than the exact same objective rights) that its use seems to be at best dangerous and at worst deeply irrational. I think the way that "equal rights" are bandied about to justify all sorts of contradictory things is evidence of the latter.

    I think where talk of rights in general go wrong though is in separating them from the concomitant obligations. The natural right to life is simply the flip side of the moral obligation not to commit murder, the natural right to private property is simply the flip side of the moral obligation not to commit theft, etc.

    With respect to racism, it seems then that the concomitant obligation would be the obligation to refrain from considering a man to be a barbarian based solely on the fact that he is this race rather than that one. Likewise, the concomitant moral obligation for the natural right of liberty seems to be the obligation not to enslave another as one's property; and I think this obligation should be the primary point of attack against slavery rather than the natural right to liberty for the same reasons that equal and unequal should not be predicated of rights: it is at best dangerous (due to its propensity to be used in irrational ways) and at worst deeply irrational.

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  13. The Syro-Phonecian woman approached Jesus and asked Him to heal her daughter.

    Jesus said, "It is NOT right to give the food of the children to the dogs". He said, His gifts are FOR HIS PEOPLE.

    This shoots your whole argument to shreds, Dr. Feser.

    Jesus here not only shows the Virtue of Righteousness, that He is FOR HIS people and His Ministry is FOR His people but he also uses a racial epithet.

    Jesus here does exhibit Racism. Furthermore, The Bible, the Word of God sanctioned slavery, "to take from the surrounding nations".

    Dr. Feser, What God has Sanctioned---Let NO Man call evil.

    You are wrong on all counts Dr. Feser. And if Segregation is Wrong---then there is NO Hell. Hell is the ultimate Segregation. God commands segregation as in the Leprosy Laws in the Bible. What do you think the word "Holy" means---it means to withdraw, it is segregated Holy from the Unholy.

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    1. "And if Segregation is Wrong---then there is NO Hell."

      Why waste your time writing this kind of thing here? Life is short.

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    2. I think you are entirely correct, Lindsay. But couldn't someone like myself say "since Hell exists, then segregation is not wrong"? This wouldn't imply that segregation is always right either, but it wouldn't make it inherently evil.

      I do think that your comments on racism and slavery are wrong-headed. Mainly because you lack the nuanced view on slavery found within Christianity and because racism is an inherently meaningless word designed solely to facilitate a political agenda.

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    3. ...racism is an inherently meaningless word designed solely to facilitate a political agenda.

      I don't agree with this. Racism points to a concept that has a coherent meaning. Because of an understandable reaction to the false and malicious uses of the word by left, there is a temptation for some on the right to play at postmodernism by denying that it does. This temptation ought to be resisted.

      The blogger Zippy had a good definition of racism: injustice motivated on the basis of race.

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  14. AKG and Lindsay Wheeler ought to hang out together. They look at the world in basically the same way -- only the uniforms are different.

    Anyway, I invite them to take their crap and post it elsewhere. Any more of this kind of stuff from either of them will be deleted.

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    1. The logic behind slavery is Psychopath:

      MASTER: I own your labor.
      SLAVE: Why?
      MASTER: Because I am that I am.

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  15. One tiny little comment: I believe that the ancient Greeks, when they used the term "barbarian", meant primarily those whose "cultural" millieu was primitive enough that it had not yet arisen to the level of a polis. Lacking a polity, it could not properly be the subject of a common good in its highest sense, either. They were ruled in the form of merely tribes (i.e. extended families), hence their rulers were no more than paterfamilias, hence they were not constituted as citizens of a polity aiming at the truly noble. And therefore missing the "life of reason" in its highest plane, that which ultimately sets man apart from the rest of the animal world.

    This may have been a very biased view by them, but it would not have attached to most "outsider" groups merely because they were not Greeks.

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    1. Actually, the Greeks explicitly referred to the Persians as barbarians, so no, it had nothing to do with a primitive cultural milieu. Nice hypothesis, but it doesn’t stand the tets of evidence.

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    2. Tom, I thought about the Persians, and wondered. At least going by Herodotus (I cannot say whether he was typical), the Greek view was that (a) the Persian empire was an empire of slaves of outlying nations subject to the central Persians; and (b) the Persians themselves were little better than well-bred slaves to the king. They didn't have the dignity of citizens.

      I dare say that it would have been easy to use "barbarian" of all disliked outside groups, either from pure ignorance or from bias, regardless of the actual facts about what they were like. And all the more so for enemies. If the term originated from the seeming "babble" of how a foreign language sounds like baby-talk, it could easily keep that original thread of meaning while evolving into additional meanings by accretion (and other mechanisms).

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    3. "Barbarian" comes from the Greek word "barbaros," which means "stammerer." The Greeks used it to refer to anyone who didn't speak Greek, regardless of their level of civilization. It was an onomatopoeic word. Non-speakers of Greek made weird bar bar noises. It did have connotations of cultural inferiority, since the Greeks believed their language and culture were the pinnacle of civilization, but it didn't necessarily have the connotations of savagery and brutishness it does today.

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  16. As to the rest: What Dr. Feser upheld - treating those who are the same in their human nature as having human nature and what flows from that - does not in the least dispute the principle that Geocon is urging: to treat those who are different in aspect X differently when issue X is critical to treatment. It makes no sense to issue bras to all recruit soldiers at boot camp because some of them need bras. It makes no sense treating an infant as a criminal because he has not paid the poll tax. It makes no sense to treat ALL people like we treat murderers, putting them behind bars. Where differences matter, people who are different should be treated differently. But not all differences matter to all treatment, most are irrelevant.

    As is often the case, there is room for in-between answers here. There is nothing wrong with Italians having one cultural norm for how they organize their day's meals, and for Nigerians to have a quite different one. If the two approaches are wholly incompatible, then it would cause vast friction for them to live intertwined side-by-side as if they were one unified country, and this would mean it is better for the two cultures not to live intertwined to that extent. But that does not mean it is wrong for an Italian to move to Nigeria and take on Nigerian customs about a day's organization, or a Nigerian to move to Italy and take on Italian customs on it. Or for a few immigrants to do so. Or even, up to a degree, for a few immigrants to move in and NOT adopt the surrounding culture on daily organization in all respects, but only some...as long as they don't thereby disrupt their hosts' community. And accommodating the cultural framework of the vast majority, (where it is not immoral) is part of charity. (And the "up to a degree" above refers to admittance to a sorites issue here: there is such a thing as "too far" even if it is hard to specify just where.)

    The same sort of no-one-size-fits-all can also apply to race relations: there is room for more than one satisfactory way to co-exist: as long as those human rights that belong to all in virtue of their human nature exist in fact as well as in theory, there can be more than one solution to what remains of the differences between people. It would be silly to demand that blacks wear the same amount of sunscreen that whites need at the beach. At the same time, it would be idiotic to demand that a movie director making a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. to be "color blind" in casting the lead character and pick a white actor.

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    1. Tony, I can't come up with any racial characteristic (cultural, certainly) sufficiently maladaptive to modernity as to require permanent legal accomodation. I also can't think of any 'superior' quality in a single race which demands a legal prerogative. Maybe this isn't what you are getting at?

      Also, how to speak of when a host country majority, of its own accord, changes norms or revises its legal theory - institutes Sharia, legalizes abortion, celebrates the Sabbath on a Friday, etc.?

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    2. Maybe this isn't what you are getting at?

      PLO, that's exactly what I was getting at, just without any certainty whether any racial (or other) characteristic warrants legal accommodation. I don't know enough about the biological differences to know whether any racial characteristics might warrant such, but it's theoretically possible. For instance, might the disposition toward sickle-cell anemia in blacks warrant some accommodation in some narrow context? It's not utterly impossible. It would be foolish to deny the possibility of some racial distinction or other being germane to some legal construct, just because we can't think of one right now.

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    3. Also, how to speak of when a host country majority, of its own accord, changes norms or revises its legal theory - institutes Sharia, legalizes abortion, celebrates the Sabbath on a Friday, etc.?

      A great deal depends on the actual facts. Is the change slow, or fast? Is the change something that bears on you mandatory, or discretional? Is the change for good reason or bad reason? Is the change one of morals, or not? ETC.

      If a cultural feature changes over the course of 1 generation, not having to do with morals, and for a good reason, (say, instituting daylight savings time) then arguably you should at least TRY to conform yourself to it: its good reason bears on you as much as on others. If for bad reason but it is a discretionary matter, you are free repudiate it and/or fight the change: e.g. men wearing pants that end 3 inches above the shoe. If it is a moral matter, society itself has a due obligation to stay with former tradition or have a solid good reason to change, and if it has a bad reason (e.g. no longer expecting a guy and girl to marry before living together) but is discretionary, you are by not obliged to conform yourself to it, rather the reverse. These are all part of the landscape of normal moral determinations we make every day - I am not suggesting anything unusual.

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    4. Tony, I agree with treating humans as humans while also treating each differently where warranted. I just don't get the emphasis on race. There are countless (and more significant) ways individuals differ from one another other than race. Hitler has much more in common with Stalin than with Dirk Nowitzki

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    5. Tony,

      Another possible example: pygmies. African pygmy women go through puberty younger and more quickly than women of other races and menopause begins at 35-37. Teaching these women typical Western attitudes to reproduction; i.e. delay having children into your 30s in favour of a career, could be harmful to them. Laws or other strong guidance might be needed to prevent this.

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    6. I agree with both Don and FZM: the differences that can matter to law need have nothing at all to do with race. They can related to wealth (higher tax rates on the wealthy, for example), on successful education (getting a license to practice medicine depending on a medical degree), on blood type, on hair color, on ANYTHING that a specific law regards as a significant criterion. It's just that on the whole, race won't matter for basic human rights that belong to all persons because they are human.

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  17. Regarding the modern slave trade and the practice of chattel slavery, the Church and the popes have in fact consistently condemned them beginning at least as far back as the 15th century.

    If they did condemn chattel slavery itself, why did the Church have chattel slaves? as she did for the entire early modern age? This just makes no sense.

    AFAIK, what the Church historically condemned was unlawful reduction to slavery (that is, the enslavement of people captured in a war that has not been formally declared a just war by the competent authority). Acquisition of people presumably unlawfully enslaved by others (and this would be the case with buying people from the African chieftains who had enslaved them) was a bit of a gray zone but tolerated on the grounds that those people were already slaves anyway and by being acquired by Christians they would be christianized and thereby benefit. Slavery itself has not been condemned.

    Look at the Brumley article linked in the OP.

    1 - Pope Eugene IV condemned "the enslavement of peoples in the newly colonized Canary Islands". Not slavery - the enslavement, which was illegal.

    2 - "A century later, Pope Paul III applied the same principle". . . "attached a latae sententiae excommunication remittable only by the pope himself for those who attempted to enslave the Indians". Again, the problem was not slavery, but illegal enslavement.

    Incidentally, the Spanish forbade enslaving Indians very early on. This was already ordered in Queen Isabella's will and was given some teeth in the New Laws of the Indies of 1542. What the Spanish established was the encomienda system which was NOT slavery and which was generally milder than the forced labour regulations of the earlier Aztec and Inca empires. (The New Laws of 1542 are also the first legal code to establish a maximum 8-hour working day - for the Indians - until the 19th century). And of course Bartolomé de Las Casas rather famously joined support for a milder treatment of the American Indians with a defense of increasing reliance on African slaves - so any argument that he was opposed to slavery itself (in general) or even racialized slavery (specifically) is bunk.

    3 - "the Holy Office of the Inquisition was asked about the morality of enslaving innocent blacks" . . . "Slaveholders, the Holy Office declared, were obliged to emancipate and even compensate blacks unjustly enslaved". Once again, slavery was not condemned but illegal enslavement. Are you seeing a pattern here?

    4 - "Pope Gregory XVIs 1839 bull, In Supremo, for instance, reiterated papal opposition to enslaving Indians, blacks, or other such people". By now you know the drill.

    Within a country which belongs to each one, all should be equal before the law, find equal admittance to economic, cultural, civic and social life and benefit from a fair sharing of the nation's riches ~ Paul VI

    If that is "the Church's" position, it clearly reversed itself. Or maybe the prelates charged with enforcing the limpieza de sangre (google it) laws of Spain never told Rome anything about it for four centuries, thereby misleading the Successor of Peter into granting the title of "Most Catholic Kings" to the people who created those laws. Yeah, right.

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    1. Sorry, just to clarify your position. What reason do you suppose the Church has for not allowing people to enslave others?

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  18. The limpieza de sangre laws, despite the name, were concerned with conversos and moriscos backsliding, not with race per se. The idea was that the nearer and greater proportion of the cultural influences from former religions in given families, the less such individuals should be considered for sensitive roles in officialdom and society. That the laws were sociological, not racial, in sense, is shown by the consideration "Old Christian", given to children of converted women Muslims (married to "Old Christians"), but not to those of converted men (married to "Old Christian" women").

    The rationale was the understanding that in mixed marriages involving Muslims (or ex-Muslims of doubtful standing), children tended to follow the religion of the father, not the mother.

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  19. Came across an interesting essay by Steve Martinot on the topic of race on Counterpunch site. It is titled Race Is Not a Noun, It Is a Verb.

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  20. I think harmony between the races pleases the Lord very much, much as does harmony between the sexes.

    And just as harmony between the sexes is not based on eliminating, minimizing, or ignoring their differences, but by embracing them in complementarity, I think something similar can be said about the races.

    And, just as the Christian ideal of harmony between the sexes is something totally above human nature, only possible for us by grace, while the natural state of man is so far imperfect that Aquinas, for example, can only say of polygamy that it "partly is, and partly is not" against the natural law... I think racism is natural in the same way, and only the unity of Pentecost, not any laws or social engineering schemes, can overcome the confusion of Babel.

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    1. And, just as the Christian ideal of harmony between the sexes is something totally above human nature, only possible for us by grace,

      Actually following human nature as originally designed by God is impossible without grace, because by the Fall our nature was damaged and we incline toward sin. Harmony between the sexes is in human nature by design, as marriage itself testifies. Grace allows us to overcome the damage of sin and live the way our natures call us to live.

      polygamy that it "partly is, and partly is not" against the natural law... I think racism is natural in the same way, and only the unity of Pentecost, not any laws or social engineering schemes, can overcome the confusion of Babel.

      I think that polygamy is referred to as compatible with the primary precepts of the natural law as regards marriage (since it conduces to procreation) but is incompatible with the secondary precepts of the law, inasmuch as it is not equally conducive toward the rearing and education of children, and the permanence and fidelity of marriage. Since men apprehend the primary precepts of the natural law more readily than the secondary, it may be said that polygamy seems to be compatible with the natural law.

      While no society of man will be wholly successful in living the life God intends without the grace of Christ, it is possible to move a society forward toward that end through making it more comport with the natural law in full than only in part. And it is possible to make the case that under the natural law the proper harmony between the sexes only fully exists with permanent, faithful, monogamous marriage fully supported by the social norms. We can, at the same time, push for conversion of those who are not yet Christian, to bring them the grace by which they can then live most fully the natural law and also live the supernatural law of charity. It's not either / or.

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    2. Thank you for your insights!

      In thinking that the harmonies involved must be the result of grace, I am influenced by a talk I listened to by Fr. Hardon which has really stuck with me, where he emphatically insists that "Christian chastity" is uniquely Christian, that it was never heard or thought of before Christ, and never practiced or even idealized outside of Christendom since.

      I think it would be strange if such a lofty and unheard-of height of virtue turned out to be, after all, just the fulfillment of the natural law written on the hearts of all men. It would be strange, right?

      And, I agree we can move closer by improving our compliance with the natural law, but I think of it on the analogy of a person. Grace or charity is the like the life or soul, and the natural level is like the body. If the body is alive, if it has grace, then improving the natural makes it stronger, healthier; if it has no grace, it is a corpse, and any energy spent on improving it on the natural level is equivalent to dressing up a corpse. Not necessarily wasted effort, but it will have use if and only if the corpse comes back to life... Am I far wrong?

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  21. An interesting article to read,, Introduce me to promote the best blogs that write content about Catholic Daily Devotionals Blog.
    to read visit blogevan.com. Jesus Bless You. Thanks.

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  22. I have not seen a response by the author to the Dum Diversas argument. Am I missing something?

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    1. I certainly would not defend it, but it's not a counterexample to what I said. It is clearly talking about what Pope Nicholas thought of as a just war, and about penal servitude as a punishment for the enemy in such a war. So it is consistent with the letter (even though not the spirit) of what his predecessor Eugene IV and his successors Paul III, Gregory XIV, Urban VIII, et al. said in condemnation of enslaving innocent peoples.

      Naturally someone could object, rightly, that the kind of penal servitude Nicholas had in view is bound in practice to differ little from what his predecessor and successors condemned. And naturally one could challenge the justice of the war he was authorizing, and the assumption that penal servitude was justifiable in the first place in this case (or any case, for that matter). The point, though, is that he was not in fact disagreeing with the condemnations that his predecessor and successors had issued.

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    2. I remind you that he used the term "perpetual" servitude, which is hard to unclench from the idea of chattel slavery.

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    3. I wonder if that's so hard, in fact.

      We know that chattel slavery was not the default form of servitude on the books in Portugal (the king of which realm being the addressee of Dum Diversas), nor any other realm of Catholic Christendom we know of.

      Nor did the Portuguese crown actually enslave - not even in the sense of non-chattel slavery of the Iberians - the population of, say, Tangier, captured in 1471 (fifteen years after Dum Diversas), or that of Goa, Hormuz etc. Neither did the Spanish monarchy enslave the conquered populations of the New World and the Far East

      Given that the Muslims to be conquered could not plauibly become subjects/сitizens of a Chrstian kingdom in the proper sense, "servitus" seems to be an apt term to describe their desired relation to the Portuguese crown; after all, the Pope is not addressing private contractors, but a sovereign monarch aiming to permanently add lands in Morocco to his realm.

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    4. Again "invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property [...] and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude"

      It's the perpetual that begs to be understood as chattel slavery.

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  23. [Las Casas] argued strongly against any suggestion that the Indians were morally or intellectually inferior to Spaniards, and put special emphasis on the right to personal liberty and government by consent.

    I don't know if Las Casas was referring here specifically to the case of the Indians and the Spaniards, or if he had a more general principle in mind, i.e., that no people is morally or intellectually inferior to another.

    If the latter, I'd like to see that elaborated on to understand exactly what is meant by it. I would think that God has given different peoples different gifts and abilities, so it would seem natural to think that a certain people might be more or less intellectually gifted than another.

    Regarding morality, I think most would say that the Germans of the 1930s and '40s were morally inferior to many other peoples. Or that modern Americans are morally inferior to earlier generations of Americans. One could argue that the white race is the most morally wicked race at the present time, as the prime supporters and advocates of abortion as a right, 'homosexual marriage', and its exportation of godless liberalism to the rest of the world.

    Perhaps the key word here though would be natural. The reason one people might be more wicked than another is not because of something in their inferior nature, but because of choices they and their ancestors have made that have resulted in a wicked society.

    Also, I wonder what Las Casas means by government by consent. He seems to be writing before this became a standard liberal doctrine, so he may mean something different by it than what we moderns might mean by it.

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  24. What we usually think of when we hear the term today is chattel slavery of the kind practiced in the United States before the Civil War, which involved complete ownership of another person, the way one might own an animal or an inanimate object.

    I'm not going to defend American slavery - I believe it to have been immoral - but is it true that it involved complete ownership of the slave? Was a man permitted to murder his slave with no legal consequences, in the same way he would be permitted to destroy an inanimate object he owned?

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    1. I googled a little and found this quite interesting "it depends" book. I haven't read it, just the few available paragraphs in this link, but it seems to boil down to yes, no, or and something in between, depending on place and situation:

      https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1g2km8v

      I think I'll read it sometime myself.

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    2. Short answer: no. Recalling the infamous "Whipped Peter" photo, the overseer who administered that brutal beating was immediately dismissed and could have been (I've never looked what happened to him specifically) to serious criminal charges including jail time. You can read about the legal web in slavery in Eugene Genovese's Roll Jordan Roll. Fair warning, he wrote it when he was still a neo-Marxist, so there's lots of eye-rolling when interprets facts and quotes Gramsci all the time but, to be fair, his facts are on the whole correct.

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    3. Alexander and Scottgun: thanks.

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  25. I'd like to know about one very specific point I've searched but couldn't find. In addition to condemning racism and slavery generically, has the Catholic Church explicitly condemned, censured, or thoroughly excommunicated a racist or slaveholder for knowingly violating one or both of these general condemnations?

    If it has, could you please provide a few names? I'd like to research about if, specially if the condemned/etc. was a noble or monarch.

    And if it hasn't, what's the reasoning, motivation or justification for it not having done so?

    Thanks!

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  26. Would someone take a moment to discuss the impact of social Darwinism of the 5-Races with respect to the implementation of chattel slavery? I recollect that the social science established Caucasians at the pinnacle with negros and aborigines on the bottom rung while social scientists debated if these races were the missing link if human at all.

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    1. Given that origin of Species was published in 1859 and The Descent of Man in 1871, I thought Social Darwinism was something that emerged mainly in the later 19th century. This would be some time after chattel slavery was ended in the British Empire and would also be after the Civil War in the US.

      Hereditarian ideas were around before then but I've read that in the 18th century, at the height of the British slave trade, the common ideas about racial difference were more Lamarckian, with the idea that their environment produced racial differences in humans after birth.

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  27. Usually the term "racism" today is used to refer to beliefs or practices other than the legal subordination of some people, on the basis of race, to others, as in chattel slavery. It's often instead used to refer to the belief in the existence of discrete races of men, or in the belief that these racial distinctions should carry with them political significance. I would be interested in hearing what your view is on this account of 'racism,' since it's what is politically salient on the left today.

    Classical Theist ("CT"), a prominent Catholic apologist online, has written what I consider to be an excellent article on the Catholic Church's historical attitudes on race, available here: https://middleearthmag.com/on-race-and-the-magisterium/

    CT admits that there are forms of "racism" that are clearly morally objectionable from a Catholic perspective (e.g. the chattel slavery you discuss in your post). But he also argues that Catholic teaching in no way points to modern liberal attitudes on race, which (a) deny biological distinctions among human population groups, (b) deny political significance to (biological or cultural) human population groups.

    He argues, on the contrary, that there is a prima facie reason to believe that (a) is justified, or at least *explicable*, on Thomistic metaphysics, and in no way contradicts Catholic teaching. He also argues (and here his point is thoroughly substantiated by the historical evidence he cites, I think) that the Catholic Church has long recognized the value of distinct national (ethnic, cultural, racial) communities, and their prima facie right to political preservation.

    This is the reason for the unique wrongness of genocide: genocide aims at the destruction of a community, which is valuable in itself, in a way that the murder of a random aggregate of individuals does not. When, e.g. populist parties urge that their governments adopt restrictive immigration policies to support national cohesion and preserve their indigenous cultures, they are arguably guilty of "racism," but it's far from clear that this is in tension with traditional Catholic teaching (in fact, it seems to be very much in line with, perhaps positively commanded by, Catholic teaching).

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  28. Mr Feser's piece is interesting and informative and is no doubt correct in its way but I have to point out the fact that the controversy over race in the secular world at the present time is quite different.

    The nature of the controversy can be learned from reading such books as 'How to argue with a racist' by Adam Rutherford 2020 (ISBN 978-1474611244).
    Merely saying that members of all races have the same rights privileges and responsibilities is not enough. It has been decreed to be an article of liberal faith that members of all races are, on average, of equal intelligence. Or at any rate any differences in intelligence which may appear are entirely due to environment, culture and history and other such external factors (which can in principle be fixed) and may on no account be attributed to any inherent or essential quality such as genes or inheritance (which cannot be fixed).
    To question this claim is to be considered a racist even though our present state of knowledge does not warrant making such a claim on scientific grounds.
    Does this matter? I would argue that it matters greatly.
    Certain groups consistently fall behind in terms of intelligence and achievement whereas certain other groups forge ahead despite inhabiting as far as anyone can see an environment which does not significantly differ from that of the underachievers. Who is to blame for this? If you take the 'racist' view that it is down to the genes of the groups in question then all you need to do is arrange for equality of opportunity (which is challenging enough). If you take the 'non-racist' view in the Adam Rutherford sense then the underachievement is the fault of 'society' which must perpetually appease, accommodate, bribe and flatter the underachieving element, so as to atone for its undetectable and imperceptible crimes.

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    1. Hank Marginis,
      Certain groups consistently fall behind in terms of intelligence and achievement whereas certain other groups forge ahead despite inhabiting as far as anyone can see an environment which does not significantly differ from that of the underachievers.

      Some people are blind to differences that arise even from the same classroom. Once we remove these differences, and give it a couple of generations to see the result, at that point perhaps we can see if there are any innate differences or not.

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    2. Hank Marginis, I don't see why we should care one way or another. (I'll grant the idea that race can be clearly defined such that person A can be said to be of a certain race--which I don't actually believe to be the case.) If we take all people of race A and all people of race B, why does it matter whether their collective or average intelligence levels are or are not identical? Why do it for race and not for height? Or eye color? Maybe some factor other than race has a higher correlation to intelligence. And why intelligence in the first place? And if we're not utilitarians and intelligence (among all the attributes of a person) doesn't determine the worth of a person then why should we care? And if the average or collective intelligence of a race doesn't necessitate the intelligence of a specific indiviual of that race (individual A of the generally less intelligent race can be more intelligent than individual B of the generally more intelligent race) then again who cares?

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    3. @Hank Marginis: Any difference in any trait may or may not be grounds for any policy in any direction. An example, to take from white supremacists preferred go to argument:

      1) Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that blacks are, as white supremacists like to argue, on average "less intelligent" than whites. What policies come from this?

      Policy "a" might be to let markets decide on the basis that reality is how it is, so that as a result average blacks would earn less due to having lower capability for higher paying jobs.

      Policy "b", equally derivable from the same raw data, might be to socially offer blacks much more educational resources compared to whites, so as to cover the gap as best as possible and thus equalize things.

      2) Let's suppose, on the contrary, that, as anti-racists argue, that there's no inherent difference in average intelligence between blacks and whites, and that any such difference observed in data stems from how society is organized. What policies come from this?

      Interestingly enough, with minor variations we can derive from it the exact same policies "a" or "b", only slightly changing the reasoning: policy "a" on the grounds currently living whites have no personal guilt on the matter, policy "b"on the grounds of fixing a historical injustice.

      Which is all another way to say, with Hume, that from an is we cannot derive an ought, as they're mostly orthogonal to each other.

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    4. @Don

      It would be important to someone interested in group equity and/or blank slate ideas. Hank suggested how this could play out in his post if blank slate was false and human general intelligence and other capabilities were at least partly hereditary and not distributed equally between either racial categories or bio-geographic ancestry groups.

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    5. @Alexander
      "Policy "b", equally derivable from the same raw data, might be to socially offer blacks much more educational resources compared to whites, so as to cover the gap as best as possible and thus equalize things."

      Sorry, not everyone is capable of being an electrical engineer, a doctor, or a legal scholar, no matter how much money you throw at their education. Not everyone even wants to be those things. You don't have to be a "white supremacist" to recognize this. You just need to be open to the facts. In fact, the failure to face these facts has done tremendous social damage to our nation, as the fact that there still aren't as many black physics phds as whites (let alone Asians) has been attributed to either moral failure on the part of blacks or malice on the part of whites. It's neither. A good Humean should be open to the empirical data.

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    6. David T.,
      Sorry, not everyone is capable of being an electrical engineer, a doctor, or a legal scholar, no matter how much money you throw at their education.

      However you measure it, the difference in intelligence between black and white people is less than the a standard deviation (that is, less than the typical difference between two white people), and slowly closing over the last few decades. So, why the hurry to decide there are innate differences?

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    7. FZM, Ah, I see. Then we should question why group equity or blank slate ideas are relevant outside of the curiosity of a specialist. If intelligence equality is all that matters it can be achieved by making the smarter race dumber or getting rid of 1 of the races altogether. (But then within the 1 race leftover maybe tall people tend to be smarter and an infinite narrowing begins until only the single smartest individual remains.) As long as all humans are recognized as equal as humans, I don't see why we should be in anyway concerned with equality in all accidental properties--intelligence, eye color, height, weight, personality, etc.

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    8. @OneBrow "However you measure it, the difference in intelligence between black and white people is less than the a standard deviation (that is, less than the typical difference between two white people), and slowly closing over the last few decades. So, why the hurry to decide there are innate differences?"

      There's no hurry. What makes you think there is? Far from rushing to embrace the idea, it is still largely forbidden to even entertain it. Charles Murray is still persona non grata in polite circles, 25 years after briefly mentioning the idea. Even your acknowledgement that IQ differences in races have some empirical basis will get you denounced as a racist most everywhere.

      Your one standard deviation makes a big difference in the tails of the distribution - where the engineers, doctors and legal scholars are. Or should we just go on indefinitely having recourse to magical explanations like "racism" to explain intractable outcomes?

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    9. @David T.: These are different subjects, each requiring their own treatment. For example, in regards to engineers, while it's factually true that a population with more high-IQ individuals will result in more engineers than a population less high-IQ individuals (whether those populations are racially distinct or not is accidental to the argument), that still doesn't imply which policy the society of which those two populations should take in regards to "producing engineers". That society may:

      a) Consider that engineering is undesirable and actively discourage individuals from either population from pursuing it as a career, which will result in few engineers even if population A still have a higher representation within the small class of professional engineers that society will tolerate;

      c) Consider that engineering is desirable and actively encourage individuals from both populations to pursue it as a career, while being neutral about who receives this training, which will result in the maximum raw number of engineers, the professional class showing a higher proportion of engineers from population A engineers compared to those from population B;

      c) Consider that maximizing raw number of engineers isn't a good end goal, as that would results in more engineers from population A than from population B, as that would bias engineering projects, as well as the class profession as a whole, in the direction of population A interests, preferring instead to target policies and incentives so that a similar raw quantity of engineers are formed within each population;

      d) Target for reduced overall costs, deciding the raw number of engineers population A alone produces are enough to supply all societal needs, and therefore provide engineering training resources only to population A, withholding it entirely from population B;

      e) Ditto, but in reverse, so that only population B forms engineers, with population A being prevented from doing so;

      f) Or a wide range of other alternatives.

      So, irrespective of how or why population A, all other things being equal, naturally produces more engineers than population B, social mores may disregards that entirely and go for *any* other balance it wants. Each of which, evidently, will have different practical outcomes down the line, but whether that factor enters into the social decision making or not is *also* a decision that may go one way or another.

      What matters, therefore, isn't the raw fact, but a proper, real understanding of the actual consequences arising from each possible line of action, so that any decision is fully informed, and those consequences not only accepted but in fact actively sought for.

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    10. David T.,
      There's no hurry. What makes you think there is?

      You've made a decision on the position in the present, when we are still see the effects of decades of wealth transfer from black areas to white areas by redlining the resultant flight of the wealthy from the cities.

      Far from rushing to embrace the idea, it is still largely forbidden to even entertain it.

      Is someone trying to arrest you for it?

      Charles Murray is still persona non grata in polite circles, 25 years after briefly mentioning the idea.

      Perhaps if he had avoided using racist data sources, he would have been taken more seriously. I mean, we all disapprove of bad science, even if we personally support the results, right?

      Even your acknowledgement that IQ differences in races have some empirical basis will get you denounced as a racist most everywhere.

      You have quite the persecution complex. I've never shied away from acknowledging the difference in IQ scores, and I never get accused of racism by those who who are not trying to prove some point.

      Or should we just go on indefinitely having recourse to magical explanations like "racism" to explain intractable outcomes?

      We don't have intractable outcomes. As the IQ scores have narrowed, we have seen greater representation in medicine, engineering, etc.

      If you are going to base your position on a false worldview that is hurtful to a significant portion of humanity, perhaps you should receive some admonition for it.

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  29. Apologies my first line above should read 'Dr. Feser'.
    Always read through what you have put. Et cetera.

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  30. Interesting that today is the feast day of St Peter Claver (1581 - 1654)

    My daily office app says this of him:

    He was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).

    He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.

    He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.

    Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.


    At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.


    When I read all that, I had a (perhaps naughty) thought that Oh, I bet he was canonized post-V2 for woke bucks but no, beatified 1850 and canonized 1888.



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  31. @Alexander

    "1) Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that blacks are, as white supremacists like to argue, on average "less intelligent" than whites. What policies come from this?"

    The white IQ is 100 and the black IQ is 85. Whites are therefore an average smarter than blacks.

    It's not a question of "white supremacy" it's a question of the date. The only question is whether there is a non-trivial genetic component to the gap. The most recent poll of experts on intelligence (Rinderman 2020) shows that a majority of experts believe there is a non-trivial genetic component.

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    1. IQ measure the ability to detect patterns. This measurement is correlated to intelligence as a qualia, as well as to other aspects such as impulsiveness, long term planning, professional success in a society with high demand for pattern detectors and, for values below the average, with a broad class of mental issues. But it neither encompasses intelligence-as-qualia as a whole, neither, as an "is", dictates any "ought", unless, of course, you could show reasons for why in this specific case it should.

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    2. BalancedTryte's Law: In any forum populated by Trump supporters, the probability of racial differences in IQ being mentioned approaches 1, at which point discussion ends.

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    3. What we usually think of when we hear the term today is chattel slavery of the kind practiced in the United States before the Civil War, which involved complete ownership of another person, the way one might own an animal or an inanimate object. This is intrinsically evil, and the Church has never defended it.

      I believe this is a bit too facile. As Edmund says above, "If I remember correctly, the Vatican was still affirming that slaves could be morally owned or sold as of 1866."

      He's referring to the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office issued on June 20, 1866 to the Vicar Apostolic to the Galla (in what is now Ethiopia, and which can be found here: https://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb11338728_00729.html (starting on page 715). Selections, together with an English translation, is found in Appendix C of Joel S. Panzer's The Popes and Slavery (New York, 1996).)

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    4. steve jackson,
      The white IQ is 100 and the black IQ is 85. Whites are therefore an average smarter than blacks.

      You're out-of-date. Between 1972 and 2002, average black IQ rose by 5+ points to just over 90.

      What makes you think this difference won't disappear with economic equality?

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  32. According to the Sacred Congregation, "Although the Roman Pontiffs have left nothing untried by which servitude be everywhere abolished among the nations, and although it is especially due to them that already for many ages no slaves are held among very many Christian peoples, nevertheless, servitude itself, considered in itself and all alone (per se et absolute), is by no means repugnant to the natural and divine law, and there can be present very many just titles for servitude, as can be seen by consulting the approved theologians and interpreters of the canons. [It would have been nice if the Sacred Congregation had cited a few by name.] . . . [i]t is not repugnant to the natural and divine law that a slave be sold, bought, exchanged, or given, as long as in this sale, or buying, or exchange or giving, the due conditions which those same approved authors widely follow and explain, are properly observed. Among these conditions those which are to be especially looked at are whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the seller does nothing by which the slave to be transferred to another possessor suffer any detriment to life, morals or the Catholic faith. Therefore, Christians . . . can licitly buy slaves or, to resolve a debt, receive them as a gift, as long as they are morally certain that those slaves were not taken from their legitimate master or reduced to slavery unjustly. . . . If . . . they have been unjustly reduced to slavery, then one must determine whether they are unwilling to be sold or given to Christians or whether they consent to it. . . . If indeed, after they have been fully taught that freedom belongs to them by right and which they lose only by injury to others, they spontaneously and by their own free will, as masters of themselves, present themselves to Christians to be received by them and held in servitude, by a prudent plan in order to be freed from the harsh present servitude, from which they have in no way the ability to free themselves, and choose a milder servitude in the hands of Christian buyers and with whom they are easily able to persuade themselves that they can come to a knowledge of worshipping the true God, and of confessing Him to the inestimable advantage of their sols; in such circumstances it is permissible for the Christians, especially when they act in favor of the Faith, to purchase such captives for a just price, and to take and retain them in their own servitude, as long as they are of the mind to treat them according to the precepts of Christian charity, and take care to imbue them with the rudiments of the Faith so that, if it is possible, they may be freely and happily led, this being done by no compulsion, but only by opportune persuasion and encouragement, through their conversion to the True Faith into the liberty of the sons of God which is found only in the Catholic Church."

    The requirement that the slave cannot have been unjustly deprived of his liberty might be thought to exclude most instances of actual slavery. However, the loophole that allows Christians to buy and hold in slavery even those who have been unjustly reduced to slavery, provided that the slaves themselves consent is large enough to permit a great deal of chattel slavery. After all, it's quite conceivable that many slaves, unjustly held in bondage by heathens, might well decide that freedom isn't a live option for them, and that it would at least be preferable to be the slave of a Christian master, who is bound by their faith not to mistreat them.

    I believe it's very important to come to terms with this Instruction, especially if we are going to take the position of Feser and Bessette in "By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed" (as I think we should) that the Church cannot teach A at one time and Not-A at another.

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  33. Here is a PDF of John Maxwell's "The Catholic Church and Slavery" (Chichester and London, 1975), which provides a pretty thorough compendium of Catholic teachings on slavery from the earliest days through the Second Vatican Council: http://anthonyflood.com/maxwellslaverycatholicchurch.pdf

    Maxwell maintains that Vatican II held slavery to be intrinsically immoral, but that this teaching contradicts long-standing Church teaching holding that slavery can be, under certain circumstances, morally licit. He acknowledges that, in the 18th and 19th centuries, popes and other Church authorities clearly wanted to see slavery eliminated, but suggests that (like Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI with regard to capital punishment), they did not believe they could directly contradict the long-standing teaching on the subject. Thus, they taught that people could not be reduced to slavery unjustly (and hinted that the circumstances under which people could justly be reduced to slavery were "very rare, if not practically non-existent," as John Paul II said about capital punishment).

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