What Justification?

Socrates was a troublemaker like this.

The man is a liar, too.  He tells you in the first few minutes that he is a Jew, but he is in fact an Evangelical Christian.

I'm not particularly interested in the last few minutes of the video, though, where he goes fishing for men.  I'm interested in the substance of his argument about... well, watch and see.  The important part stops about the 23rd minute.  There's a real problem in the analogy he's making, and I'm curious if you'll see it.


douglas said...

Well, at first thought on this, there is certainly an acceptable situation for killing a "baby in the womb"- when the mother's life is threatened, it becomes self defense. Even the Pope agrees with this. I don't think that's the problem you were looking for though.

Grim said...

Does the Pope agree with that? I remember reading a Catholic philosopher who did -- indeed, he was the one who convinced me of the argument -- but I wasn't aware it had Vatican endorsement.

You're right that I'm looking for something else. That's a problem, but it's really a problem with their answers rather than with his questions.

MikeD said...

He might not be lying that he is Jewish when he is a Christian, as Jewish can also be an ethnicity, and not just a religion.

What I want to know is where the hell did he find all those people who didn't know who Adolf Hitler was. That's an embarrassment.

MikeD said...

Found his error. Or AN error I suppose. His quotation of the Sixth Commandment. It has never been, "Thou shalt not kill". It was always "Thou shalt not murder."

It drives me nuts when people confuse that.

E Hines said...

It has never been, "Thou shalt not kill". It was always "Thou shalt not murder."

It's a common enough confusion: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/command.htm

One conflation that I see, although it may not be Grim's, is the attempt to match the deliberate, organized butchery of a collection of madmen with the individual acts of, for the most part, well-meaning individual persons, however poor we might consider their judgment.

Eric Hines

douglas said...

Well, Eric, he does questions that by asking 'what if everyone rising up to stop something is about individuals acting individually to stand up for their values as individuals?'. To him, the argument is that it's all individual action that's at the root, even if it results in an organized movement. Now, if I may suggest, the 'pro-choice' movement in America is quite organized and deliberate. To me there is little difference in that regard.

E Hines said...

Yeah, but in the case of Hitler and his NAZIs, it was a case of top-down and a push for the deliberate extermination of whole peoples, of which the Jews were the most prominent, but not the only target.

In the case of organizations like the various pro-choice groups, the goal is not extermination of of whole peoples, but an emphasis on dealing with individual situations one at a time, while collectively trying to keep government out of it.

Further, in the one case, it was government policy; in the other, it is closer to grass roots building up for quite a different end.

It's true enough that all groups, including governments and the nations they govern, are collections of individuals acting together, but it's easier to resist the group when it's a (more or less) grass roots group than it is when it's a government being resisted. The legitimacy of making the choice to go along is unchanged whether it's the government or the smaller organization, but human nature does play its role.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

The sixth commandment thing bothered me too, Mike, but what I was actually thinking of comes elsewhere.

He's making an analogy between Jew-killing Nazis and baby-killing abortions. So here's a test to see if the analogy holds:

A member of the Einsatzgruppen shoots a Jew in front of numerous people, and is later caught and brought for trial. He has broken no laws -- what he did was perfectly legal in Germany. Should he be punished? If so, how?

A woman in your neighborhood has an abortion. What she has done is perfectly legal in America. Should she be punished? If so, what should be her punishment?

The problem of enforcement seems to me to be where this breaks down. There is a question, though, as to just why it breaks down. Are we being irrational in asserting that the cases are different enough to justify a radically different approach to enforcement? If so, why?

douglas said...

Ah, should he be punished? Yes. We won the war, and that was our demand for settling the peace (or at least part of it). I think another thing that justifies it is that he was a member of a state organ which was also involved in foreign operations, making it part of the war effort directly, as opposed to, for instance, a local police officer who did the same. I don't think we would have taken it upon ourselves to try the police officer, even thought we'd have thought the behavior immoral. In fact, had the Nazis done all this in Germany, and never forced expansion, we probably would have stood aside and maybe commented on the immorality of it, but done nothing. I'd like to think that's not the case, but history tells me otherwise.

I think a person having an abortion is in a similar situation to the police officer. Also, as members of this society, each of us almost certainly knows someone, perhaps several someones who have had abortions (though we may not know about it), and I don't think we could imagine that they should be held accountable in the sense of legal punishment. We can relate to them on some level, but most people couldn't relate to the SS officer who walked around with the power of life and death at his disposal. That makes him an easier target. I'm not sure the added scope of responsibility doesn't also add to the weight leaning in favor of punishment. So I think, for our neighbor who may have had an abortion, whether or not they should be punished? I think in most cases, that is to be decided elsewhere, by a higher authority.

douglas said...

Grim, as to the Pope and abortion in self-defense, it's a very, very narrow scope, explained well here:

"III What if, in order to save the life of the mother, independently of her pregnant condition, a surgical intervention or a therapeutic treatment is necessary which would have as an accidental consequence, in no way desired nor intended, the death of the fetus?

"Deliberately We have always used the expression 'direct attempt on the life of an innocent person,' 'direct killing.' Because if, for example, the saving of the life of the future mother, independently of her pregnant condition, should urgently require a surgical act or other therapeutic treatment which would have as an accessory consequence, in no way desired nor intended, but inevitable, the death of the fetus, such an act could no longer be called a direct attempt on an innocent life. Under these conditions the operation can be lawful, like other similar medical interventions - granted always that a good of high worth is concerned, such as life, and that it is not possible to postpone the operation until after the birth of the child, nor to have recourse to other efficacious remedies." Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, Nov. 26, 1951. (17)"

Reading this (and the other points at that webpage), and as one who thought your piece "On the Virtues of Killing Children" was correct, this raises some interesting questions for those of us trying to be good Catholics.

DL Sly said...

"In the case of organizations like the various pro-choice groups, the goal is not extermination of of whole peoples,..."

I would beg to differ with you on this point, and in doing so I submit that there might be more of a connection with the Nazi mindset.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of the PPA, was indeed trying to exterminate a whole race of people - namely negros. [She stated such in a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, southern regional director for Birth Control Federation of America: "Sanger answered Gamble on Dec. 10. 1939, agreeing with the assessment. She wrote: "We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."]
She also was indeed trying to create a "race of thoroughbreds" through her eugenics program of birth control. [Birth Control Review Nov. 1921] One means of creation of her idea of a *super race* was the elimination of those she deemed to be 'feebleminded',. "In her "Plan for Peace," Sanger outlined her strategy for eradication of those she deemed 'feebleminded'. Among the steps included in her evil scheme were immigration restrictions; compulsory sterilization; segregation to a lifetime of farm work; etc." [Birth Control Review, April 1932].

Now, while today's practitioners of abortion services may not (or may) be proponents of Ms. Sanger's beliefs, the origins of abortion lie within something much more sinister than simply the women's liberation meme of "a woman's body = a woman's choice". When the ideology is rooted in evil, can the fruit it bears really be sweet?

And does anyone else think it interesting that both of these *ideas* came from the same generational timeframe?

Grim said...


I'm not sure I understand your police officer analogy. While it's true that police who helped round up Jews for the Holocaust were not punished in the same way as the SS (indeed, especially the Jewish police units specially created to help round up their fellow Jews -- these were exempted by Israeli law from punishment), I am not sure how the analogy is supposed to work.

The key thing I find confusing is exactly how the woman and the policeman are analogous. What is it about the policeman that limits his responsibility? How is the woman like him in that particular way?

Grim said...


I was interested by this quote from your link:

Are Catholic stocks . . . genetically inferior to such non-Catholic libertarian stocks and Unitarians and Universal . . . Freethinkers? Inferior to non-Catholics in general? . . . my guess is that the answer will someday be made in the affirmative. . . and if the supposed differentials in net productivity are also genuine, the situation is anti-social, perhaps gravely so.

We might feel that we can be safe from such foolishness insofar as this pseudo-science has been set aside. Yet even without the false genetics, the core of the argument is very dangerous.

The core argument implies that any difference in people that leads to "differentials in net productivity" is "anti-social," and therefore should be fixed. This is the argument of Kelo v. New London, whereby an entire neighborhood was destroyed simply because a corporation promised higher productivity -- for the government, in tax revenues.

These most intimate things, our lives and families and neighborhoods, are the things that the government is meant to protect. These are what society is. Yet they managed to find a way to claim the right to destroy those very things, by terming them "anti-social."

douglas said...

I knocked that out pretty quick- lets see if I can rescue it.
The policeman is different from the SS officer, as the local policeman has layers of authority above him, and is answerable to many- so if he operates under the law, and if the law allows such things, you could consider some mitigation for him- not to say there was any good in his actions, but perhaps they were understandable (I was interested in the video in those people who answered that yes, they'd drive the bulldozer forward to bury possibly live Jews to save their lives- I think they were being painfully honest, and respected that, even though they were admitting they would do something they clearly knew was evil.)
This differs from the SS officer, who was answerable to very few (the organization itself answered only to the highest levels of the government, so in most cases, an SS officer had carte blanche. Also, civil punishment has legal ramifications, and since the SS was involved in combat, and involved in the aggression of the German nation, they are culpable in that as a group, and so there is the entry to what allows us, as the victors, to punish them under our values.

The weakest part of that is that the woman who has an abortion (or man who participates) isn't as powerful or responsible as a policeman in most senses. Still, compared to an SS officer, they're both relatively powerless. I was more interested in justifying the punishment of the SS officer than in analogizing an aborting woman to a 1939 German constable.

Come to think if it, I could have said this more succintly- Local vs. International involvement.

Certainly, it's not about excusing the abortion procurer.

Grim said...

A problem with the analogy, though, is that the policeman is actually less guilty: his role is to take the Jew to the place of death, but he is not deciding to kill anyone. What happens once he has turned over his prisoner to the proper authorities is out of his competence.

The woman is not only conducting the child to the abortion facility, but is actually the one making the decision to kill. Yet we have a strong intuition that she should not be killed in return, even those of us who are very strongly opposed to abortion.

douglas said...

You know, the whole thing works better if I make no connection between the police officer, and the woman getting the abortion. I was mainly out to justify the punishment of the SS officer, where you were really asking the question to get to why we would be sympathetic to the woman. I don't think I've got a terribly enlightening point on that, outside of that it's tough to condemn someone who is out neighbor, and seems nice the rest of the time, and perhaps it's also that we feel partly culpable since we are members of the community which has failed to make abortion in most cases illegal. Perhaps a German citizen of the era might be less harsh with our hypothetical policeman than we would be, on a similar basis.