Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two monsters

On November 28, 1994, notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison by a fellow inmate. Unspeakably heinous though Dahmer’s crimes were, his murder can only be condemned. To be sure, by committing his crimes, Dahmer had forfeited his right to life. By no means can it be said that the injustice he suffered was as grave as what he inflicted upon his victims. But the state alone had the moral authority to execute him, and no private individual can usurp that authority. Vigilantism is itself a grave offense against the moral and social order, and Dahmer’s murderer merited severe punishment.

The recent murder of another notorious serial killer – the late-term abortionist George Tiller – is in most morally relevant respects parallel to the Dahmer case. It is true that Tiller, unlike Dahmer, was not punished by our legal system for his crimes; indeed, most of those crimes, though clearly against the natural moral law, are not against the positive law of either the state or the country in which Tiller resided. That is testimony only to the extreme depravity of contemporary American society, and does not excuse Tiller one iota. Still, as in the Dahmer case, no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands, and Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

As in the Dahmer case, though, the victim of this crime was himself an evil man and does not deserve our tears.

Do I seriously mean to suggest that Tiller was as bad as Dahmer? No, because Tiller was almost certainly a more evil man than Dahmer was. There are at least five considerations that favor this judgment.

First, Tiller’s victims were more numerous than Dahmer’s.

Second, Dahmer expressed remorse for his crimes. Tiller never did.

Third, and relatedly, Dahmer was apparently fully aware that what he did was evil, while Tiller pretended, to himself and others, that what he did was not evil. Some might think that such self-deception lessens Tiller's moral corruption, but in fact it exacerbates it. A man who knows that what he does is evil but does it anyway is corrupt; a man who has become so desensitized to the evil he does that he can no longer even perceive it as evil is even more corrupt. The sins of the former are likely to be sins of weakness; the sins of the latter, to be willful sins of malice. (Older moralists understood this. The modern cult of “authenticity” and “sincerity” has blinded us to it – and is itself a mark of our own grave moral corruption.)

Fourth, and again relatedly, Dahmer was evidently to some extent acting out of compulsion. This does not exculpate him, and the compulsion was a consequence of his freely indulging his evil for years. Still, his will evidently had become so corrupted that he eventually reached the point where he could barely control himself. The problem was only exacerbated by the fact that his murderous impulses were associated with various sexual perversions – always unruly under even the best circumstances – and that he had learned to indulge his dark desires in secret, free from the fear of exposure and shame that would deter most others afflicted by the same bizarre temptations. Tiller’s murders, by contrast, were committed openly, and resulted from no compulsion at all. It was neither bloodlust, nor sexual perversion, nor any other ungovernable passion that drove him to baby-killing, but the cold and cruel willfulness of the ideologue. If Dahmer was a miniature Caligula, Tiller was a poor man’s Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot.

Finally, Tiller added to his already unspeakable crimes the grave sin of blasphemy, insofar as he was (we now know) a churchgoer who evidently regarded his obeisance to Moloch as fully compatible with the religion of Jesus Christ. To my knowledge Dahmer never had the temerity to claim that a good Christian could be a cannibal.

This side of the grave, we are, mercifully, spared the knowledge of who is in Hell. As a Catholic, I pray for Tiller’s soul, as I pray for Dahmer’s. But it would be foolish to think it at all likely that either man died in a state of grace. Still, I’d give Dahmer better odds than the other, greater monster.


  1. Very nice post. But I would add that I don't think Tiller's crimes are as inexcusable as you make out. We must remember that Tiller was acting within the law and was supported by the activism and arguments of the pro-abortionists. The effects of the law and the arguments would have eased Tiller's conscience and made him believe that what he was doing was not wrong and perhaps even a great service.

    I still believe your other points are salient though, and I do believe that these factors do not excuse Tiller's evil actions. But I do believe they reduce, if only a little, Tiller's culpability in the acts.



  2. Prof. Feser,

    How would you respond to the pro-choice advocate who plays the personhood card by saying that Tiller did not kill persons, while Dahmer did?

    Also, you write:

    "Finally, Tiller added to his already unspeakable crimes the grave sin of blasphemy, insofar as he was (we now know) a churchgoer who evidently regarded his obeisance to Moloch as fully compatible with the religion of Jesus Christ."

    Are you suggesting that Tiller's crimes would not have been as evil, (though still extremely evil, of course), had he been a secularist?

  3. "the victim of this crime was himself an evil man and does not deserve our tears."

    I didn't realize it was your job to separate the sheep from the goats.

    The last time I checked, members of the Church to which you claim to belong were supposed to love their enemies, even the evil ones. In part this is just because God does, and so should we, but in part it's also because God did it for us despite the fact that we don't deserve it any more than the evil ones do. It's quite possible to acknowledge and accept all of this without obliterating the distinctions between good and evil. So I don't know why you don't acknowledge and accept it. Perhaps you need to read the Gospel a bit more, Thomistic commentaries a bit less?

    Perhaps late-term abortionists don't deserve our tears, but they do deserve our pity, our prayer, and our hope -- and not simply in the self-congratulatory way in which some people like to "pray for sinners," but in the way in which we would pray and hope for ourselves.

  4. Why are you so confident that Tiller "knew" that what he was doing was wrong? As a Thomist, you likely agree with St. Thomas that we can quite easily have mistaken beliefs about what is right, and you likely agree with him that we act badly in acting against our judgment of what is right even if that judgment is mistaken. I know you think everything in morals and philosophy is obvious and easy, but you'd be self-deceived yourself to think that everyone who disagrees with you is simply self-deceived. So why not show a little epistemic caution before pronouncing what you can't know, anyway? It isn't enough to say that he should have known, because that's a condition of his being responsible for the act at all (and we can agree that he was that). Your claim is that he did know. But unless it's impossible to have an honest but mistaken belief on this subject, then you have no good reason to suppose that Tiller was self-deceived rather than genuinely mistaken.

    Your failure to consider the ends for which Tiller and Dahmer acted is inexcusable for a self-proclaimed Thomist. Tiller mistakenly believed that he was doing good for women, for society, and perhaps even for the children he killed. Dahmer just liked to eat people. That makes an obvious difference.

  5. I've thought instead of Dahmer, Tiller was more in line with Dr. Mengele who, protected by the laws of the Nazis, conducted unspeakable horrors on the innocent.

  6. "but you'd be self-deceived yourself to think that everyone who disagrees with you is simply self-deceived."

    But you see it's worse than that.

    From TLS:

    Only a (certain kind of) religious view is rational, morally responsible, and sane; and an irreligious worldview is accordingly deeply irrational, immoral, and indeed insane.


    So, if you don't believe what Feser believes, then you are just nuts.

  7. Great post, Ed, with some minor quibbles.

    And frankly, anonymous, I'd agree to a point. Yes, we shouldn't pray for Tiller in some sneering way (or for Dahmer, for that matter) - and I'm no fan of presuming to know Tiller's exact thoughts. On the other hand, Tiller's acts were despicable and objectively disordered. I don't want to lay odds on whether he or Dahmer has a better chance of salvation - but I also don't want to take the other extreme, and either ignore the actual evils he committed, or pretend he was just some 'good man trying to do what he thought was right' and write off his murders as something we should all agree to disagree about or something equally inane. (I notice one anonymous chastises Ed for acting as if he knew Tiller's thoughts - then immediately turns around and mentions knowing that Tiller believed he was doing good for women. Go figure.)

    The only real difference I'd have with Ed here is that I would have more explicitly stressed that we can't know Tiller's thoughts - but we certainly can and should talk about attitudes and dispositions that relate to culpability. And maybe we should be a bit skeptical of the idea that any given person can 'really believe' any particular act is actually moral and good. Maybe there IS a natural law written on our hearts that we willfully violate rather than sincerely disagree about. Possible, no?

  8. Ricky 'The Hitman' HattonJune 3, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    "Tiller mistakenly believed that he was doing good for women, for society, and perhaps even for the children he killed."

    I think this is laughable.
    Like any abortionist, I'm sure he knew quite well the anguish that would surface in these women years down the line. That story plays out well too many times. The few women I know that have had abortions are emotional wrecks - either frantically trying to justify it or dreadfully ashamed because of it.

    And regarding the children he killed - how would he ever know that their unlived life was better than the potential that he prevented from actualizing? We all know that it is the struggles and hardships in life that provide some of the raw materials for us to grow & develop the most. To help us see what we are really made of.
    You think Tiller wouldn't have been familiar with this?

  9. "We must remember that Tiller was acting within the law."

    Not really. Kansas law is fairly strict on the circumstances under which post-viability abortions can be performed. Tiller never turned away anyone. He was able to get away with it because of cozy relationships with the local prosecutor and other State officials (chief among them being our new HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius).

    Here's what a former employee of his had to say the objectivity of their viability assessments:

    "I was required to falsify the medical records. But not just that, related to that, I was required to lie to the women over the phone. And the way [Dr. Tiller] would explain it to me was, without coming right out and saying it, these are really third trimester abortions, but we're going to tell them they're only in the second trimester. They would say, well, I've already had a sonogram, and my bpd was 7.8 or 8.3 or whatever. He said, when they tell you that, don't turn them away as being too far along. Tell them to come in, and we'll do our own sonogram, and it will show they're not that far along. Tell them that sonogram reading is an art, not a science. He explained to me that the bpd is a measurement of the angle of the baby's head, where at that angle, the baby's head is roughly egg-shaped. The usual way that you measure the bpd is from the top of the egg to the bottom of the egg, which is at the widest point. But we measure it from side to side, at the narrowest point."

  10. Damien wrote:"Tiller was acting within the law and was supported by the activism and arguments of the pro-abortionists." As were Nazi officers when they ran concentration camps. Every adult has both a duty to obey the law and a duty to recognise when a law is wrong. This is not only a principle set down in God's law but also features in the jurisprudence of most legal systems and in ethics. You cannot hide behind the law when you know what you are doing is wrong.

    Let's not forget that those who perform abortions are better informed as to the humanity of the fetus than most people.

  11. Edward Feser: "... But the state alone had the moral authority to execute him, and no private individual can usurp that authority. Vigilantism is itself a grave offense against the moral and social order, and Dahmer’s murderer merited severe punishment."

    My quibble is with absolutizing a proper revulsion of vigilantism.

  12. Just in case anyone is interested in reading yet another opinion about this, here is mine: Safe, Legal, and Rare

  13. Madeleine

    Perhaps I didn't make myself as clear as I should. My point was not that Tiller was morally excusable for his actions. Far from it! Rather, my point was more nuanced; that he held less culpability because his position was supported by so many people. But Dahmer's crimes were found to be morally reprehensible to almost everyone.

    This surely gives Tiller more excuse than Dahmer. But lessoning moral culpability is not to remove it! My last paragraph should have made this clear.



  14. That's a good point ... and when there is widespread support for the vigilante executions of abortionists, then ... ?

    Or is that a nuance too far?

  15. What is the response to the following argument?

    No private individual may usurp the state's authority to execute murderers, but can't a private individual use force -- even lethal force if necessary -- to protect another individual from being murdered. At the time of his killing, it was morally certain that Tiller would continue to murder children in the womb. Therefore, his killing was a licit as an act of defense by one individual on behalf of another.

  16. Decker: "What is the response to the following argument? ..."

    I'm not going to directly answer your question, for two reasons:
    1) I myself reject the claim your argument is against,
    2) I wish to show the reader that the claim (and its background argument) which you are arguing against cannot actually be defended rationally:

    The response to the assertion-and-background-argument ("No private individual may usurp the state's authority to execute murderers") which you are denying with your argument is that in absolutizing a socially useful rule, one of the rules-of-thumb which *generally* acts to facilitate living together in working and workable and humane societies, as though it were a bedrock principle of morality, one has reasoned improperly; one has come up with a "moral principle" which one cannot sustain without resorting to intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy.

    It's not that I mean to toot my own horn, again, but has the reader considered the thought-experiment I posted in: Safe, Legal, and Rare? Now, IF it were, in fact, a truth of morality that no private person may ever morally usurp the State's authority to execute murders, THEN, in my thought experiment all persons desirous of living in accord with morality must sit back and watch, year after year, as children are turned over by their parents to State-supported monsters who will randomly murder some of them. But, is this not absurd?

    Or, if a person prefers something real-life, rather than (so far) hypothetical, consider the 'July plot' on Hitler's life. Can there be any doubt that had the plot succeeded Hitler's death would have met the legal definition of murder? Can there be any doubt that the actors in the plot were attempting to usurp what is allegedly the sole perogative of the State to execute murderers? Can there be any doubt that the plotters were acting as traitors with respect to the legal government to which they were subject?

    In response to the real-life case I've brought to the reader's attention, the typical defender of the false belief that the State is supreme over the Individual, will attempt to decree that in pointing to Hitler I have shown the bankruptcy of my thought. Such persons are fools ... intellectually dishonest, hypocrites with respect to reason ... and we can justly and safely ignore them (safely, at any rate, with respect to reasonable argument).


  17. [continued]

    The more sophisticated attempted counter to what I've said above, that of the person who is at least attempting (to this point, at any rate) to reason properly will be someting like that made here -- to wit, that "First of all, [the plotters'] mission to overthrow the Fuhrer was philosophically supported by the similar objectives of a concert of nations in the war effort. [The plotters] didn't act as a lone agent of justice, but rather cooperated with a consensus of justice-seeking governments, individuals and organizations bent on ending the evil plot of the Third Reich (a mission created by one individual leading a nation and abusing his power to coerce the extermination of entire races, as well as taking over sovereign nations through acts of war)."

    There are at least three things wrong with the above argument:
    1) It asserts that morality is a matter of concensus, of nose-counting
    2) It implies that morality derives from human government
    3) And, the fact remains that the July Plotters were subjects of the Third Reich, AND, since they were plotting to execute the head of state of the Third Reich, they were traitors to the government to which they were subject.

    Pointing out that other States (and individuals) were attempting to overthrow the Third Reich (and, even if not admitting it, to kill Hitler in the process), and asserting that by aligning themselves with the ends of these other States the plotters were off the moral hook which the argument asserts exists does not actually solve the problem, and, in fact, introduces vastly more problems (for instance, Lee Harvey Oswald or any other citizen/subject of the western States who aligned himself with the Soviets). These new problems can be solved only by the sophistry of later denying the very argument which gave rise to them.

    Better to realize that the argument itself is flawed; the July plotters were on no moral hook because there was none; the alleged moral difficulty of their act and actions is merely an artifact of flawed reasoning. Better to realize that when we reject the initial flawed reasoning, we don't have to engage in even more flawed reasoning to justify what we know to have been moral acts and actions.


  18. [continued]

    But, let's ignore that; let's pretend that we can't think of any problems at all with the argument itself or of any further problems which its application generates. Let's turn our attention to the history of the United States (*) and their continuous double-dealing with and murders of the Indians.

    Now, IF the above argument were sound, since the Indian nations had no State(s), and since there was no State or alliance of State defending them against the aggressions of the US, does it not stand to reason that a citizen of the US who cold-bloodedly killed an Indian did not actually commit a murder? But, is that not absurd? And, does it not stand to reason that some other individual (whether an Indian or another citizen of the US) who, in moral outrage that the State winks at the killing of the Indian, takes it upon himself to execute the killer of the Indian has immorally usurped the allegedly sole prerogative of the State to execute murderers? Is that *really* what a moral person will assert? Is it *really* the case that the general indifference of the US (both of the government and of the citizens) to the fates of the Indians was moral, or at worst morally neutral, simply because there were no other State actors defending the Indians?

    (*) Let it also be understood that most living Americans are descended from people who were still in Europe at the time, or from people living in the long-settled east who as individuals had nothing directly to do with what was happening on the ever-shifting fronteer, and that many others are like myself, descended from both the settlers and the natives. Let it be understood that the persons who did the deeds are dead. And let it also be understood that the Indians *were* savage and were savages and were frequently no better in their dealings with the whites than the more numerous whites were with them; they were outnumbered and outgunned, this does not equal holding the moral high-ground.

  19. One man's monster is another person's hero. Dr. Tiller performed compassionate operations on women with severe medical need. Anyone who does any research on the physician and his patients can find that out.

    I find it appalling that you would take the occasion of his murder to condemn his compassionate work. I think attitudes like yours encourages the dehumanization of suffering women and, eventually, the murder of their caretakers.

  20. MomTFH,

    "Compassionate operations"? He killed babies. In the most gruesome ways.

    No matter how many times you call it compassionate, no matter how delicately you try to put it, that's what it comes down to. He was a butcher for hire. The "compassion" he provided was something he had no moral right to provide - no more than the government deciding which invalids in a hospital are wretches enough to be put down.

    Granted, perhaps you could see something admirable in Herr Tiller ridding the world of those useless eaters - the cripples, the malformed, the morons, the criminally inconvenient. And perhaps you think he should be praised for sacrificing such petty barbarisms as "morality" and "basic human rights" and not letting such inane concerns get in the way of cleaning up our gene pool, keeping the number of subhumans low, and helping our glorious state economy.

    Beg pardon, I disagree - and I see nothing compassionate about throwing murdered infants into trashcans. You need better heroes. I suggest ones who are not monsters.

  21. Jeffrey Dahmer was a sadist. His goal was to cause excruciating suffering for no other purpose than his own pleasure.

    Dr. Tiller, on the other hand, was a man of principle. His purpose was to help women who were suffering. He endured a shooting, threats of violence, vandalism, demonization, and legal harassment in order to serve his patients.

    You may not agree with Dr. Tiller's principles but there is no denying that he put his own pleasure, convenience, and physical safety aside in order to do what he perceived as the compassionate thing for his patients.

    There is no comparison here.

  22. Another observation: In pro-choice circles, you often here it pointed out that the woman's needs are erased in the "pro-life" conversation. I think this post may be a classic example of that.

    In writing this post, Professor Feser overlooked the needs and the suffering of the women involved. Indeed, to read the post, you wouldn't think there was a woman involved at all. Professor Faser therefore overlooked the key distinction between Dahmer and Dr. Tiller -- the distinction that one acted entirely for the purpose of reveling in the torture of others, and that the other acted to reduce suffering of women in dire situations.

    The complete lack of concern for these women (if these women are even thought of at all!) in these discussions is chilling.

  23. It's downright amusing how the first defenses of Tiller in this thread were chastising Ed for daring to speculate about Tiller's personal thoughts and motivations. That didn't work, so now the utter opposite route is taken - now we are CERTAIN of what Tiller was thinking. He absolutely had no qualms about what he was doing (Killing babies), he was certain he was doing something morally right, he was motivated entirely by compassion.

    First off: What a load of nonsense. As if people only engage in acts that they believe are good - no one ever does something despicable while realizing it's despicable. It's perfectly possible that Tiller built his career on killing infants and throwing their corpses into the trash and did it largely because he was A) Twisted, B) Enjoyed the press from the 'right' political groups, and C) otherwise. If you feel free to speculate in one direction, I shall feel free to speculate in the other.

    Second - "Suffering of women"? Tell me, ladies - just how many female babies did Tiller have a hand in murdering? How many abortions did he perform because "Well, frankly, we were hoping for a boy"?

    Here's something often talked about in "pro-life" circles: People who defend abortion and men like Tiller noticeably go out of their way to never discuss what he actually does - which is, he kills babies. That is his "compassion", that is how he "helps people". You're defending murder - you see chopping a six month old baby in his/her mother's womb as "something compassionate people sometimes do".

    In short, you're all defending baby-butchering as a means to an end. The fact that you have to butcher words so awkwardly in order to defend your "women's issue" only illustrates your lack of moral and intellectual fortitude. Why not just refer to abortion as "making cotton candy"? Hey, so long as it sounds nice, it isn't morally depraved - right?

  24. For the sake of argument (and ONLY for the sake of argument), I am ACCEPTING the premise that Dr. Tiller was doing something immoral. The issue posed by Professor Feser is whether that makes him worse than Jeffrey Dahmer. That is what I am addressing.

    We CAN indeed look at the evidence and make inferences about a person's intentions and motivations. We do it all the time in the criminal justice system. To prove a crime, the prosecutor has to prove both the act and the intent. The defendant's motivation may be relevant as well, particularly at the sentencing stage.

    Intent and motivation are huge components by which we judge culpability in our legal system. I definitely think they are relevant here.

    The evidence shows that Dr. Tiller acted out of principle. Otherwise it would not make sense for him to endure the threats and harassment he did. As an educated man and an accomplished doctor, he had many other options in life. It was fairly obvious that he had a high chance of being murdered eventually, yet he persisted.

    He persisted despite the cost to himself because of his belief that he was serving his women patients. I have read numerous accounts by his patients of Dr. Tiller's kindness and compassion towards them. Dr. Tiller was likely encouraged in his belief by the fact that his actions were lawful and that he was supported by the pro-life community.

    In contrast, there was no possible benefit to anyone of Jeffrey Dahmer's actions. He was getting off on other people's suffering for his own pleasure. He reveled in suffering and promoted it for its own sake. Big difference.

  25. On a different issue, and at the risk of thread derail, I will address this comment by Crude:

    Second - "Suffering of women"? Tell me, ladies - just how many female babies did Tiller have a hand in murdering? How many abortions did he perform because "Well, frankly, we were hoping for a boy"?

    From a pro-choice perspective, this isn't some big "gotcha." The pro-choice premise is that no one need give over the use of her body to someone else against her will. For that reason, I am not required to donate bone marrow to someone who will die without it. I am permitted to defend myself physically against a rapist, even if it means killing him. And, for the same reason, it is the woman's choice whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

    Now, as a feminist, I certainly would deplore the sexism that might lead a woman to abort a baby girl based on sex (or a baby boy for that matter). But my belief that a baby girl should be valued as much as a baby boy does not give me the right to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will.

  26. Tiller wasn't a murderer, the man who assassinated him was a murderer. Language like this in this comment section emboldens assassins. Assassins who kill health care practitioners performing legal, compassionate procedures.

    There are only 100 post viability abortions per year in the United States (less than 1% of all abortions), and these are done on fetuses that are not compatible with life (and, by definition, not yet alive, medically) or desperately sick, or done on rape victims who are 9 or 10 years old.

    Anyone who ignores this and pretends Tiller was someone in the wrong is supporting terrorism. There is a reason why there is a new National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Workers. There is a reason why federal marshalls have been sent out to clinics. Because of proud, angry zealots like the ones on this thread.

    There are plenty of ways to reduce all abortion. Support birth control access and affordability. Support comprehensive sex education. Support health care for women and their children. Support better maternity leave and public support of poor families.

    Get to work, baby lovers. I'm waiting. You will affect a helluva lot more than 100 probably severely damaged or dead fetuses that way.

    There isn't much we can do to decrease late term abortions except prevent the rape of young girls and improve earlier detection of severe defects. Ranting about compassionate doctors being murderers online doesn't. It just gives people who want to control women's bodies feel power in front of their computer screen.

    Go volunteer in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) sometime if you want to see some horrifying procedures. Physicians don't throw fetuses in the trash. Tiller developed techniques specifically to help these women mourn and hold their sick, wanted fetuses after he compassionately ended the pregnancy. And all the reactionary commenters on here want to do is spit in their face and call them murderers.

    I am almost happy that the silver lining of this brutal assassination is that the general public, who is horrified by this, sees the anti choice crowd for the raving, heartless bunch they are.

  27. Is it true there are only 100 post viability abortions per year? What did that study consider to be post viability? I would love it if there were a way to hyperlink to our sources in here because I'm sincerely interested in the source and dates.

    From all that I've read, post viability isn't defined or agreed upon by most in the field. Many sources say after 12 weeks, others say after 16 weeks and lately some are saying it's only after 20 weeks. Furthermore, in the US we don't have precise abortion statistics at all. It's a little silly to even rely on what's published. However, if I were only considering late-term being past 24 weeks (which I don't, but just for the sake of discussion), then I'd look only at those "estimated" numbers only. The last numbers I found for US abortions past 24 weeks were estimated by the Guttmacher Institute (affiliated with Planned Parenthood) to be well over 1,000 per year about a decade ago. Have abortion numbers dropped that dramatically since then?

    If you consider post viability to be only past 12 weeks then it's more like 12-15 times that number of post viability abortions. Thousands and thousands. And of those having "late term" (I'm assuming after 24 weeks) abortions, Guttmacher Institute's found only 2% claimed it was for a diagnosis of a fetal problem.

    I'd sincerely like to see the numbers that identify all late-term abortions as being solely for 9-10 year old rape victims and severe fetal problems. I don't think anyone would "ignore" these numbers if hard evidence supports them. I imagine more commenters on this post would be inclined to consider Dr. Tiller's actions as compassionate if we had proof that all 12-40 week abortions were primarily for these reasons. Yet I also assume that most posting here aren't only considering abortions conducted after 12 weeks as murder.

    I agree that sex education, access to birth control, and early detection for fetal issues are vital to the issue of late term abortions. I also believe that health issues for pregnant women (or those conceiving) are vital since those lead to fetal issues, as well.

  28. Tiller murdered infants, my dear. That was his compassion - and not so many people share your twisted view of compassion (Love is... reaching into a mother's womb with knives and vaccuums, chopping her infant to pieces, and disposing of its corpse in the trash), despite the unfortunate Culture of Death style case of Tiller's murder.

    Face it: Abortionists are murderers. And sadly for you, when you butcher language, you don't kill truth - no matter how many times you harpy-wail about "Women's Rights!" and what a nice child-choppin' fellow Tiller was, at the end of the day the fact is that he did what all abortionists do. He killed infants (In Tiller's case, apparently killing ones even other abortionists hesitate to kill), for whatever reason desired. "This baby will have blonde hair, and that means it won't match my living room color scheme" is legal justification for an abortion.

    I do love, by the way, how you use "baby-lovers" as some kind of insult. Belated Happy Mother's Day to you, by the way! :D

  29. "Tiller wasn't a murderer, the man who assassinated him was a murderer. Language like this in this comment section emboldens assassins." MomTFH

    No, it does not do so. You're free to apply and argue over definitions and it's not the language I would choose, but a reasonable and in fact a responsible definition of moral murder could readily include late term abortions.

    Or, from another perspective, one wherein you're own unargued assumptions are taken at face value, it does not do so any more than your own language emboldens a Molochian ethos and practice throughout society.

  30. Ricky 'The Hitman' HattonJune 8, 2009 at 2:30 PM

    Funny to see someone with "mom" in their name argue for abortion.
    MomTFH, I think your position is disgusting.

  31. This post has nothing to do with philosophy and everything to do with Catholic dogma. The "personhood" of the fetus is contested, which makes the morality of Tiller's actions contested. This, perhaps we can agree on. If Mr. Feser cannot distinguish between sadism and actions that are morally contested (virtuous by one set of agreements/ evil by another), then he has no place anywhere near college students.

  32. Hey,

    How many of you guys are going to start shooting up abortion clinics?

  33. Who knows, Chuck. When do you plan on turning into a rational human being?

  34. This post of yours is simply reprehensible.

  35. llion I am a rational human being. I don't know if you are. If I believed the embodiment of Dahmer were on the loose I would believe it perfectly justified to kill such a pig if he were being protected by the law. I don't think shooting up abortion clinics is good or righteous but, I do think it is a logical implication of rhetoric that chooses to equate abortion doctors with serial killers.

  36. I find it hard to believe that someone with this mentality is allowed to shape the minds and futures of young students. Mr. Feser is, to put it bluntly, bereft of morals and profoundly ignorant.

  37. Loftus: "This post of yours is simply reprehensible."

    Michael: "... Mr. Feser is, to put it bluntly, bereft of morals and profoundly ignorant."

    Oh, look! Two silly persons who appear to know some words, but clearly have never even heard the tune.

    Is there anything more amusing, in the sense of absurd, than an 'atheist' making moral pronouncements?

  38. llion,

    I question your understanding of morality.

    If I knew of a person more evil than Jeffrey Dahmer who was allowed to practice his crimes because he was protected by the law and I did not reject that law in said person's elimination then I couldn't be viewed as anything other than immoral (or cowardly).

    It seems to me that Mr. Roeder's actions were consistent with the beliefs that Mr. Feser argues and as such had an internal logic and even a consistent morality.

    It would be akin to judging Boenhoffer as immoral for his plans to murder Hitler because he perceived Hitler to be able to legally kill innocent Jews.

    Mr. Feser seems to be presenting the Right to Life's case, pro-choice advocates and doctor's offering abortions are really supporters and practitioners of genocide, yet he then says that anyone who holds that perspective should not do whatever is necessary to stop these people.

    I question the integrity of this argument and the courage of Mr. Feser's convictions.

    If you find someone practicing genocide and being protected by the legal structure yet do not take action to stop that person by whatever means necessary then I would find that immoral.

    I of course don't believe Dr. Tiller equal to Dahmer nor Hitler and therefore view Mr. Roeder's actions as homicidal and Mr. Feser's argument as complicit to the homicide but, if you do agree with Mr. Roeder or Mr. Feser and don't go shooting abortion doctors and the citizens who vote with a pro-choice conscience and the lawmakers who uphold Roe V. Wade then I can only see you as the moral equivalent to a Nazi sympathizer.

    llion, go get your gun and wield the righteousness of the Lord and kill some of those baby killers!!!

  39. The kind of moral logic you employ here, comparing a doctor to a predatory sexual serial killer I find bizarre to say the very least. I'm just grateful that you now have a president who would be less inclined to see the world in such distorted shades of black and white.

  40. Mr Feser, these fools are merely playing the game you choose to give them.

  41. Pray llion, which fools are these?

    Do you envisage Edward Feser as some Socratic purveyor of multi-layered moral discourse? What he has said on this blog is deeply immoral on face value. I have taken it at face value. No wonder unbelief is on the rise with advocates like these.

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  43. Why, Prey of Demons, by 'fools,' I of course mean persons such as willingly choose to write comments such as:

    "The kind of moral logic you employ here, comparing a doctor to a predatory sexual serial killer I find bizarre to say the very least. I'm just grateful that you now have a president who would be less inclined to see the world in such distorted shades of black and white."


    "This post of yours is simply reprehensible (Edward Feser Should Be Fired From His Teaching Post!)."


    "I find it hard to believe that someone with this mentality is allowed to shape the minds and futures of young students. Mr. Feser is, to put it bluntly, bereft of morals and profoundly ignorant."

    Really, Prey of Demons! Are you trying to tell me that you're not a fool, after all, but that you're merely too stupid understand such a basic thing as why someone would state that such persons as authored the above are fools?