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Mars and Venus, Sitting in a Tree

In wartime there will definitely be accidental deaths, as there are accidental deaths on the highway every day. We cannot have a modern transportation system without expecting accidental deaths; we can even determine how many we expect to occur. The concept 'accidental' seems very clear to everyone when we speak about the highways, though, and becomes muddled when it comes to war.

I think there is a perverse alliance between hawks and doves when it comes to distinguishing between accidental deaths and on-purpose deaths. Both hawks and doves would prefer to keep the distinction unclear, for different reasons. Doves want to be able to call all deaths in wartime murder; conversely, hawks want to be able to take what is really deliberate murder and categorize it as morally licit collateral damage.

The moral reality is more difficult than either would like to concede. If I use a modern weapon to indiscriminately blow up a whole group of people, some of whom I know are innocent and some of whom are terrorists, the deaths of the innocents are not an accident. I killed them on purpose, precisely because they got in the way, and the technical capabilities of my weapon did not allow me to kill the terrorists without killing the civilians. On the other hand it is not merely permissible but noble and valiant for me to risk death and kill the terrorist himself, to defend the innocent from him. If I drop a smart bomb on his safe house, to the best of my knowledge clear of innocents, that is, clear of individuals who are not engaged in attacking behaviors, then I have done a good and noble deed. If my smart bomb misfires and kills some civilians, it is indeed an accident: the attack did not go according to my plans, and innocents were killed. There is such a thing as morally licit collateral damage.

If my plans for this specific attack entail killing some specific identifiable civilians, even if I wish I could make different plans which did not entail killing those particular civilians, then what I am planning is murder.

So the moral situation is I think tactically far more difficult and perilous than 'realists' would like it to be. 'Realists' would like to move forward unconstrained by the fairly clear moral difference between accidental and deliberate killing, because doing so would in fact make for a more effective war with fewer casualties. These 'realists' want to blame our deliberate murder of civilians on the other guy, because the other guy created and forced the circumstances which made us view it as necessary to murder civilians. Circumstances which make murder a very tempting option do not excuse it though; and it is better for a thousand to die by accident than it is to commit one murder.

Pacifists on the other hand want to be able to condemn violence tout court: to the pacifist every act of killing is murder, and especially even genuinely accidental civilian deaths in wartime are murder.

This results in a perverse obscurantist alliance between the hawks and the doves; which is to say, the obscurity of the term 'accidental' in wartime, compared to in peacetime activities like driving on the freeway, is no accident.

(Cross-posted)

Comments (345)

A couple points come to mind.

1. It is difficult to determine what constitutes reasonable efforts to research targets such that the criteria "to the best of my knowledge" is morally fulfilled. One couldn't simply make a minimal effort to scan a year-old satellite photo for innocents and say one has done one's duty, nor do I think it necessary to go to the other extreme in wartime by demanding minute-by-minute footage and positive identification of all visible persons in the minutes before such a strike occurs.

2. The laws of war distinction, in certain areas of the world and for certain violent parties, between civilian and combatant is less clear today. Commensurate penalties for un-uniformed combatants are just because of the failure of the combatants' moral responsibility to self-regulate in a way that protects civilians. But what of certain areas where such responsibilities are unfulfilled? Is not the failure of a combatant to remove oneself from the proximity of family members--or, more interestingly, the failure of family members to remove themselves from proximity of the combatants--a moral failure that in wartime justifies their deaths, similar to those who do not object or even volunteer to provide themselves as human shields?

These are two issues that trouble me when reflecting on the sad events in the ME.

Albert:

With your first point I completely agree. There is a problem of a reconnaissance duty, if you will, to which I do not have a resolution. But nonetheless hypotheticals can be proposed: we begin the operation, we are aimed at the target, and we see children playing in the gunsight. "Realists" would I think be reluctant to abort the mission at that point; yet abort it we must.

On the second, I think when it comes to culpability, as is often the case, the answer is "both/and" or "joint and several liability". Yes, the terrorist who puts his family or other civilians in danger is fully culpable for their deaths. But that doesn't result in a moral license for me to kill his little girl as part of my means of getting to him. Moral responsibility is like knowledge, not like pennies: it is possible for responsibility to be spread around without in the least diminishing the quantity held by a particular person.

I agree with you concerning the nature of moral responsibility. My concern was to address the fact that in the Middle East, combatants sometimes include "civilians." For example, if a Palestinian wife remains in proximity to her combatant husband, does she not forfeit her civilian status because she chooses to act as a human shield?

I do not think most situations are as easy and clear cut as "children running around," although on that note, I've lately wondered whether our sense of justice as individualistic justice is a modern phenomenon. Has anyone thought about whether there is non-individualistic justice that would apply to non-choice based communities like families? I am uncertain whether the modern preoccupation with the individual will has disordered our sense of obligation and justice.

There are 3 types of killings of civilians in warfare not 2:

1.) There is fortuitous or accidently killing, which is neither foreseen nor intended.

2.) There is unintentional killing, which is foreseen but not intended.

3.) There is intentional killing, which is both foreseen and intended.

Only the third type is strictly forbidden. The second may be allowed in some circumstances under the Principle of Double Effect.

How can it be said that a foreseen killing may be unintended?

Easy.

An intention is that for which an act is done. If the killing is not that for which the act is done, it is not intentional.

I might also add that there are, therefore, four possible positions to take with regard to the killing of civilians:

1.) All types of killing (shown above) are wrong.

2.) Type 1 may be allowed.

3.) Type 1 and 2 may be allowed.

4.) All types may be allowed.

I would argue, of course, that position 3 is the correct one.

Based on reading a few of Zippy's old posts on double effect, I believe he takes the position that anything foreseen is in some significant way intended. So accidental killing is accidental only because it is unforeseen. IIRC, he takes this position because it is so easy for people to rationalize to themselves that they did not intend for such and such to happen, even though it was an easily foreseeable consequence.

I believe he takes the position that anything foreseen is in some significant way intended...
Well, not quite. I foresee that there will be deaths on the freeway today and tomorrow, and can probably even estimate how many by general locale; it does not follow that those deaths are intended.

It is true that there is a very important moral distinction between foreseen and intended; but if a particular person's or group of persons' (identifiable in some particular way, e.g. 'those civilians right there') deaths are part of the planned outcome in a military strike, their deaths are intended in the morally pertinent sense. What I reject is the notion that wishful thinking - "I wish we didn't have to kill them in order to get to him" - baptises the killing as "unintended".

I've lately wondered whether our sense of justice as individualistic justice is a modern phenomenon. Has anyone thought about whether there is non-individualistic justice that would apply to non-choice based communities like families?

I've seen some commentaries on the Old Testament killings performed or ordered by God that take this approach. In those collectivist societies (so the thought goes), people expected their fortunes to rise or fall with that of their leadership. If you had a competent Pharaoh, you prospered. If your Pharaoh picked a fight with I AM THAT I AM, your firstborn son was killed. Both outcomes was considered just.

It's an intriguing analysis, but I haven't studied it in enough depth to know how valid it is.

I'm surprised Zippy didn't pick up on this from George R.: "An intention is that for which an act is done. If the killing is not that for which the act is done, it is not intentional."

It seems false on its face; it sounds as though I could intentionally kill any innnocent under any circumstance whatsoever in order to get the bad guy, as long as that killing was not my primary end, i.e, "that for which an act is done," which would make it indistinuishable from number 3 in his first comment.


it sounds as though I could intentionally kill any innnocent under any circumstance whatsoever in order to get the bad guy, as long as that killing was not my primary end

It may sound that way, Bill, but it is absolutely not the case. Keep thinking about it, though. It'll come to you.

Keep in mind that the killing of civilians can be neither the primary end, nor the secondary end, nor the tertiary end, nor any end whatsover. In other words, it can neither be the end nor the means to that end. It must be entirely incidental -- though it may be entirely foreseen.

...the killing of civilians can be neither the primary end, nor the secondary end, nor the tertiary end, nor any end whatsover.
And further, killing the innocent (or any sort of evil) must not be inherent in the kind of behavior which is chosen, that is, it mustn't be intrinsic to the object of the act. So crushing a tiny baby's body via salpingotomy is never licit, not even to save the life of the mother; and blowing up the body of an innocent civilian is never licit, not even to get the bad guy.

And further, killing the innocent (or any sort of evil) must not be inherent in the kind of behavior which is chosen, that is, it mustn't be intrinsic to the object of the act.

And it would help greatly if you actually specified the kind of behavior that is chosen. In the case of an act of self-defense, the concrete kind of behavior that is chosen is the projection of force against an unjust aggressor to disable his ability to impose risk on innocents. If you target an innocent as a means to projecting force against the aggressor, e.g., targeting a hostage to shoot through him, targeting the hostage to kill him so that he will cease to be a obstacle to your shooting, that is illicit. That is the same sort of act as targeting the fetus in salpingotomy. If your projection of force is targeted at the aggressor (which at least requires it to be the sort of force amenable to targeting, unlike weapons of mass destruction), then it is akin to targeting diseased tissue in salpingectomy, viz., the death of the innocent is no part of the means of your act of self-defense.

If the force is targeted against the aggressor, then killing the innocent is in no sense inherent to the act. No aspect of your action intentionally exploits the presence of the innocent as a means to your act or otherwise makes the presence of the innocent part of your moral object. You don't intend to produce a hole in the person's body to create a path for the projection of force, for example. You have to consider the proportionality of the unintended effect, of course, but it is no part of the specification of the moral object of the act.

The moral reality is more difficult than either would like to concede. If I use a modern weapon to indiscriminately blow up a whole group of people, some of whom I know are innocent and some of whom are terrorists, the deaths of the innocents are not an accident. I killed them on purpose, precisely because they got in the way, and the technical capabilities of my weapon did not allow me to kill the terrorists without killing the civilians. On the other hand it is not merely permissible but noble and valiant for me to risk death and kill the terrorist himself, to defend the innocent from him. If I drop a smart bomb on his safe house, to the best of my knowledge clear of innocents, that is, clear of individuals who are not engaged in attacking behaviors, then I have done a good and noble deed. If my smart bomb misfires and kills some civilians, it is indeed an accident: the attack did not go according to my plans, and innocents were killed. There is such a thing as morally licit collateral damage.

Point taken, but this also assumes that the civilians are not either providing support to the combatants or allowing themselves to be used as human shields. For example, if Hamas were firing rockets from a daycare center filled with children, and the Palestinian civilians did not evacuate their children, the death of the children would be a tragic consequence of war and their death would be the fault of Hamas and their parents.

There is a very practical problem here. If human shields prove effective, they'll be used more often. The most effective way to save lives in the long run is to make it absolutely clear that the government considers human shields to be an acceptable loss. When that happens, the hostage/human shield is worthless to the captor. Then, the captor has two choices: kill everyone and make himself look like an unsympathetic monster to those he would appeal for support or save his bullets for government forces.

I would also be curious to know what militaries have ever been philosophically informed by Just War theory, and also succeeded against an enemy of equal military prowess in a prolonged war.

Well, not quite. I foresee that there will be deaths on the freeway today and tomorrow, and can probably even estimate how many by general locale; it does not follow that those deaths are intended.

It is true that there is a very important moral distinction between foreseen and intended; but if a particular person's or group of persons' (identifiable in some particular way, e.g. 'those civilians right there') deaths are part of the planned outcome in a military strike, their deaths are intended in the morally pertinent sense. What I reject is the notion that wishful thinking - "I wish we didn't have to kill them in order to get to him" - baptises the killing as "unintended".

The nuclear immolation of the Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was most certainly intended as a way to break the will of the Japanese. Our intelligence estimated 1,000,000 dead Americans after invading Japan and 7,000,000 additional dead Japanese, most women and children that would meet our troops on the shores with pitchforks, flint rifles and rocks. The ~200,000 some Japanese civilians wiped out in those strikes proved to be a small price to pay to convince the Japanese to surrender before they would sacrifice many millions more of their people. The only other alternative was perpetual war with Japan and no invasion.

You could say that the ends don't justify the means, but then you'd have saved possibly 200,000 lives so that 8,000,000 could have died in "morally licit" warfare on the beaches and an another generation of Japanese gets wiped out needlessly.

Point taken, but this also assumes that the civilians are not either providing support to the combatants or allowing themselves to be used as human shields. For example, if Hamas were firing rockets from a daycare center filled with children, and the Palestinian civilians did not evacuate their children, the death of the children would be a tragic consequence of war and their death would be the fault of Hamas and their parents.

One bit of clarification here, I think it is grossly unjust and unreasonable to expect Israeli soldiers to storm through the streets of Gaza, into a hostile population, against an entrenched, well-defended position, to save the children of a hostile population that is otherwise not lifting a finger to prevent their children from being killed in the crossfire.

JP:

In the case of an act of self-defense, the concrete kind of behavior that is chosen is the projection of force against an unjust aggressor to disable his ability to impose risk on innocents.
I don't think the word "behavior" means what you think it means. When choosing to blow up a mixed crowd of terrorists and civilians with an indiscriminate bomb, the behavior is "blow up the living bodies of a mixed crowd of terrorists and civilians with an indiscriminate bomb". If killing the innocent is intrinsic to that behavior -- and it is -- then the behavior is intrinsically immoral.

Mike T:

You could say that the ends don't justify the means, ...
I could indeed, and do indeed, say that. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the great consequentialist sacraments of the decadent and declining postmodern West.

Our intelligence estimated 1,000,000 dead Americans after invading Japan and 7,000,000 additional dead Japanese,...

Our intelligence also told us there were nukes in Iraq.

This estimate is disputed, and should not be thrown around without due rigor.

It's always an effective strategy to trump up the danger of the enemy to justify killing his children. But there is no honor in it, and it is, in fact, murder. HST is one of the biggest murderers of all time. May God have mercy on his soul.

I could indeed, and do indeed, say that. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the great consequentialist sacraments of the decadent and declining postmodern West.

I'm sure a Pharisee was saying something similar about the Sabbath when Jesus said that the seemingly unbreakable Sabbath could be broken to save a man's life. If God were to condemn anyone, it would be the legalist who refused to use the nuclear bomb to end the war, not the men who said that it was a necessary price to pay in order to avoid a significantly higher body count on both sides.

Ironically, almost all of the lives saved by that bombing were civilian, and most of them were children, since Japan's plan was to send its civilians to their death.

This estimate is disputed, and should not be thrown around without due rigor.

The number of civilians murdered in the Holocaust is similarly disputable. That it might be plus or minus about 1-2M doesn't fundamentally alter the parameters of the debate. Even if the true number of dead would have been 20% of the official estimate, 1.6M lives saves is still 8x more people who will live than those killed during the nuclear bombing.

Mike T:
You could say that the ends don't justify the means, but then you'd have saved possibly 200,000 lives so that 8,000,000 could have died in "morally licit" warfare on the beaches and an another generation of Japanese gets wiped out needlessly.

First, there's no reason to think that the deaths required to convince the Japanese to abandon the struggle through conventional means would have been that much different than what was required using weapons of mass destruction. Anyone who says otherwise is just guessing.

Second, even if you could cow people to that degree by showing your willingness to butcher innocents with weapons of mass destruction, the reason that it can "break their will" is precisely the reason it would be wrong to do so. Demonstrating that one is an evil monster without any conscience is certainly intimidating, but at the same time, one has to become an evil monster to do it.

Third, the lives that then died for licit warfare are not wasted. They would have died for a reason: namely, so that their opponents could avoid doing something even worse from a moral perspective. Even human lives aren't worth the price of human souls.

I agree with Zippy on this one. I don't know how Hiroshima and Nagasaki were morally justified, although I recognize that there are counter-arguments, including mass conscription of the Japanese population.

Zippy:
When choosing to blow up a mixed crowd of terrorists and civilians with an indiscriminate bomb, the behavior is "blow up the living bodies of a mixed crowd of terrorists and civilians with an indiscriminate bomb".

Bombs don't discriminate; people do. That's why the human behavior is targeting the bomb, not simply exploding. Targeting can be indiscriminate, and if the targeting is indiscriminate to the point of not being able to intentionally aim the bomb at someone (like weapons of mass destruction), then that isn't projection of force against the aggressor. On the other hand, if the weapon can be reasonably directed against an actual aggressor and if it is so directed, then the behavior chosen is an act of self-defense in its moral species that has the unintended consequence of imposing serious risk on bystanders. That risk cannot be ignored, but it doesn't transform the moral species of the act of targeting and firing at an unjust aggressor.

Mike T:

I appreciate it that you are a moral consequentialist, but my beef isn't really with moral consequentialists who embrace their consequentialism. They are, after all, just wrong; and life is too short to chase windmills among the vast crowd of end-justifies-the-meansers.

My beef at present is with folks who think they are not consequentialists but who adopt consequentialist positions nonetheless, and with their odd bedfellows among pacifists.

So, then--it's all about numbers to you? If you can predict an imbalance, you can justify murder? That's all it takes? An imbalance?

Another thing that's missing here is that invading Japan was not our only choice, nor was it inevitable if we didn't have the bomb. *One* choice gives you an imbalance, so that justifies it among all choices?

Targeting can be indiscriminate, and if the targeting is indiscriminate to the point of not being able to intentionally aim the bomb at someone (like weapons of mass destruction), then that isn't projection of force against the aggressor.

The scenario I've been arguing is this: There is a mixed crowd of civilians and terrorists. The option being considered - perhaps the only available option - is to target a bomb at the crowd and blow them all up. The bomb itself is incapable of being targeted more discriminately than that.

Choosing to drop it, I contend, is murder.

Perhaps you've been arguing against some different scenario.

First, there's no reason to think that the deaths required to convince the Japanese to abandon the struggle through conventional means would have been that much different than what was required using weapons of mass destruction. Anyone who says otherwise is just guessing.

Rubbish. The advantage that the nuclear weapons had was that there was almost no defense against them. Certainly none from the perspective of a civilian contemplating armed resistance. The mere threat of nuclear retaliation to armed resistance was enough to make them realize that resistance was impossible for them. Ironically, I believe this is an aspect of Just War theory (don't wage war if you have little hope of winning).

Second, even if you could cow people to that degree by showing your willingness to butcher innocents with weapons of mass destruction, the reason that it can "break their will" is precisely the reason it would be wrong to do so. Demonstrating that one is an evil monster without any conscience is certainly intimidating, but at the same time, one has to become an evil monster to do it.

You assume that it is axiomatically true that such a thing would make us an "evil monster." From the perspective of a militaristic culture like WWII-era Japan, it would be more readily seen as a checkmate by our military against their entire nation. Furthermore, we made it clear to them that we were willing to allow them to immediately surrender, and would only continue attacking them if they continued to resist.

Third, the lives that then died for licit warfare are not wasted. They would have died for a reason: namely, so that their opponents could avoid doing something even worse from a moral perspective. Even human lives aren't worth the price of human souls.

You presume that human souls would be lost in the process. Almost all of the souls lost in reality, would have been unevangelized Japanese. Let's make one point very clear. There is simply no Christian argument that anything other than Hell awaited the vast majority of the Japanese that would have died in the "licit warfare."

But then, I guess the sacrifice of possibly a few million Japanese civilians to "save the souls" of a few dozen men in the federal government was a noble sacrifice.

I appreciate it that you are a moral consequentialist, but my beef isn't really with moral consequentialists who embrace their consequentialism. They are, after all, just wrong; and life is too short to chase windmills among the vast crowd of end-justifies-the-meansers.

My beef at present is with folks who think they are not consequentialists but who adopt consequentialist positions nonetheless, and with their odd bedfellows among pacifists.

I simply realize that morality is not entirely absolute. There is a component that is based entirely on the situation and our discernment. Unlike you, I discern that the consequence of avoiding the nukes, and engaging the remainder of Japan in urban combat is likely to cause significantly greater loss of life, especially among people who are unevangelized.

If you wish to speak about eternal consequences, then let's cut to the chase and point that all non-Christians are damned to hell the moment they die, irrespective of how good they are in this life. In short, every single last one of those emperor-worshipping peasants that you'd have saved from the nuke to be skewered by the bayonet would end up on a one-way ticket to Hell.

That is what horrifies me, since that's the only lasting consequence here.

So, then--it's all about numbers to you? If you can predict an imbalance, you can justify murder? That's all it takes? An imbalance?

Let's turn this around. I'm a member of a commando unit sent to respond to a terrorist with hostages and a possible WMD device. All I have left is a single 0.50 caliber sniper rifle, and one round left. Is it moral for me to take no chances, and shoot through his hostage's chest to get him in the center of his torso and kill him, if I see him reaching for the WMD detonator?

For some reason, I suspect the response to be that the entire population should rejoice in their nuclear immolation and praise God (and hail Mary) that the hostage was momentarily spared (before being vaporized moments later).

Another thing that's missing here is that invading Japan was not our only choice, nor was it inevitable if we didn't have the bomb. *One* choice gives you an imbalance, so that justifies it among all choices?

Sure. Let's just blockade Japan. I'm sure that would have convinced their government to surrender, just like it did in Iraq.

Mike T:

I simply realize that morality is not entirely absolute. There is a component that is based entirely on the situation and our discernment.
Everyone agrees with that though. At issue isn't whether there is ever room for prudential considerations, but whether there are any moral absolutes. If the prohibition against killing the innocent is a moral absolute then you can't justify Hiroshima by appealing to your guesses about the consequences of not dropping the bomb.
...let's cut to the chase and point that all non-Christians are damned to hell the moment they die, irrespective of how good they are in this life.
Oh, I'm a Catholic, so that kind of thing isn't as much of a problem for me. Formal membership in the Church and participation in the Sacraments is the ordinary means of grace through which all are saved by Christ, of course, and without the Church there is no salvation. Anyone who fails to formally become a member of the Apostolic Church under the Supreme Pontiff is taking a terrible risk, counting (wittingly or not) on extraordinary means of grace and invincible ignorance to save the day. But there are rooms full of discussion to be had about what all that means, and given our radically different foundational understandings of the matter it is likely to be significantly less productive as an example subject area for discussing consequentialism than war and freeways.

For some reason, I suspect the response to be that the entire population should rejoice in their nuclear immolation and praise God (and hail Mary) that the hostage was momentarily spared (before being vaporized moments later).
What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

The option being considered - perhaps the only available option - is to target a bomb at the crowd and blow them all up. The bomb itself is incapable of being targeted more discriminately than that.

And what I'm saying is that this isn't indiscriminate targeting. You are targeting the terrorist as narrowly as you can within the limitations of the bomb. Whether it is disproportionate to detonate it is another question, but if you are aiming your weapon at the unjust aggressor as closely as you can, that isn't indiscriminate targeting. Indiscriminate targeting involves cases in which you are targeting some general area that is broader than what you could be targeting or when you are using a weapon that is inherently unsuitable to targeting (e.g., weapons of mass destruction). If the bomb isn't capable of being targeted more discriminately, then targeting it as discriminately as you can is still discriminate targeting.

Everyone agrees with that though. At issue isn't whether there is ever room for prudential considerations, but whether there are any moral absolutes. If the prohibition against killing the innocent is a moral absolute then you can't justify Hiroshima by appealing to your guesses about the consequences of not dropping the bomb.

I would say that God would understand the terrible burden of a leader who is forced to sacrifice some innocents in order to save many more lives.

Oh, I'm a Catholic, so that kind of thing isn't as much of a problem for me. Formal membership in the Church and participation in the Sacraments is the ordinary means of grace through which all are saved by Christ, of course, and without the Church there is no salvation. Anyone who fails to formally become a member of the Apostolic Church under the Supreme Pontiff is taking a terrible risk, counting (wittingly or not) on extraordinary means of grace and invincible ignorance to save the day. But there are rooms full of discussion to be had about what all that means, and given our radically different foundational understandings of the matter it is likely to be significantly less productive as an example subject area for discussing consequentialism than war and freeways.

And all of this directly contradicts the simple, biblical statement that "salvation is by faith, not by works, lest any man should boast." The very fact that you depend on a human institution to make you right with God is the antithesis of faith in the sufficiency of Christ.

What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?

What would it profit God to see a million unevangelized souls handed over to Satan because a man could not do that which was morally little worse than breaking the Sabbath under the Law?

As a Protestant, I have an easier excuse. I can always supposed that maybe John Calvin was right, and those souls were predestined to Hell anyway. What's your excuse for sacrificing them to ease your conscience, rather than following the Apostle Paul's attitude where he said he would sacrifice his soul to see all of his people saved by Jesus?

And for the record, I would sacrifice my salvation, if that were possible, if God told me that it would save many more lives from damnation. If God told me He would call all of America with his Holy Spirit to salvation, I could possibly see a legitimate reason not to do so for the glory of God and the sake of my neighbors.

could not possibly*

Rubbish. The advantage that the nuclear weapons had was that there was almost no defense against them. Certainly none from the perspective of a civilian contemplating armed resistance.

And I suppose that threatening your opponent with helplessness against utter destruction of not only the miliary but the civilian population tends to have that effect.

But then, I guess the sacrifice of possibly a few million Japanese civilians to "save the souls" of a few dozen men in the federal government was a noble sacrifice.

No one would have sacrificed those men but themselves, and they are accountable for it. You can't transfer responsibility for other free-willed people's decisions; you can only take responsibility for your own. And yes, from that perspective, it would be worth it.

If you wish to speak about eternal consequences, then let's cut to the chase and point that all non-Christians are damned to hell the moment they die, irrespective of how good they are in this life. In short, every single last one of those emperor-worshipping peasants that you'd have saved from the nuke to be skewered by the bayonet would end up on a one-way ticket to Hell.

Nonsense. Apart from disagreeing with the premise as a Catholic, when did God stop being in charge of ultimate salvation? And when did people lose individual responsibility before God for their choices? We can't ascribe to ourselves an exclusively divine role and make decisions on that basis. What we can do is what is right in our circumstances, and leave what is beyond our power to God.

What's your excuse for sacrificing them to ease your conscience, rather than following the Apostle Paul's attitude where he said he would sacrifice his soul to see all of his people saved by Jesus?

That doesn't exactly help your position. If the Apostle Paul, a man steeped in holiness himself, recognizes the futility of such efforts, then wouldn't it be prideful to take on that role for ourselves? Again, they are sacrificed by their own decision, and we don't have the power to make that decision for them, much as we would like to do it.

But I am also unapologetic about my position being informed by Catholic moral theology, and what you say isn't at all persuasive to my evaluation of the matter from that perspective.

JP:

If the bomb isn't capable of being targeted more discriminately, then targeting it as discriminately as you can is still discriminate targeting.
I think you are digging a hole under your own position against WMD's.

Mike T:

I would say that God would understand the terrible burden of a leader who is forced to sacrifice some innocents in order to save many more lives.
Well, I might hope that, just as I might hope that those formally outside the Church are all given an ultimate chance to repent. But I would not be so bold as to say what God will actually do, which will doubtless be wiser, more merciful, and more just than anything I could possibly think of.

No one would have sacrificed those men but themselves, and they are accountable for it. You can't transfer responsibility for other free-willed people's decisions; you can only take responsibility for your own. And yes, from that perspective, it would be worth it.

As a Christian, you must consider the eternal prospects of their souls first. You see free-willed actors responsible for themselves, but stop there. I also see men under the influence of Satan who will never have even a chance to hear the gospel before they die. As a result, Satan is glorified by that battle.

Nonsense. Apart from disagreeing with the premise as a Catholic, when did God stop being in charge of ultimate salvation? And when did people lose individual responsibility before God for their choices? We can't ascribe to ourselves an exclusively divine role and make decisions on that basis. What we can do is what is right in our circumstances, and leave what is beyond our power to God.

What part don't you agree with? That you have to believe in the name of Jesus Christ to become part of the body of Christ and be saved?

I think you are digging a hole under your own position against WMD's.

I disagree. Indeed, if the distinction between WMDs and conventional weapons is one of kind rather than degree precisely because it is impossible to meaningfully target an unjust aggressor, then the condemnation of WMDs neatly falls out of my position.

But I am also unapologetic about my position being informed by Catholic moral theology, and what you say isn't at all persuasive to my evaluation of the matter from that perspective.

I'm also unapologetic in my tendency to give Roman Catholic moral theology anymore credence than I do the Talmud.

Likewise, I also tend to find the main difference between Roman Catholicism and Mormonism is the comparative humility of the latter.

...if the distinction between WMDs and conventional weapons is one of kind rather than degree precisely because it is impossible to meaningfully target an unjust aggressor, ...
If that is what you mean by WMDs, then a lot of ordinary munitions in rather ordinary circumstances count, as far as moral evaluation is concerned, as WMDs.
I disagree. Indeed, if the distinction between WMDs and conventional weapons is one of kind rather than degree precisely because it is impossible to meaningfully target an unjust aggressor, then the condemnation of WMDs neatly falls out of my position.

Biological weapons are the only ones that are innately different. Chemical and nuclear weapons are simply a matter of material unleashed upon the enemy. Bunker-busters are the perfect example of a nuclear weapon that is capable of being deployed without indiscriminate loss of life.

Sure. Let's just blockade Japan. I'm sure that would have convinced their government to surrender, just like it did in Iraq.

Choosing a single unimpressive choice among many demonstrates nothing of the weakness of my position. It only demonstrates your willingness to degenerate into cheap shots.

Choosing a single unimpressive choice among many demonstrates nothing of the weakness of my position. It only demonstrates your willingness to degenerate into cheap shots.

Your prior willingness to cite examples was what inspired me. Let's see now...

1) Blockade.
2) Invasion.
3) Nuclear bombing in hopes of surrender.
4) Posture menacingly in international waters.
5) Go home and hope the Japanese let bygones be bygones.

I'd put the usual modern response of "write a stern, angry letter to the Emperor" in there, but I don't think that's a mutually exclusive option.

If you target an innocent as a means to projecting force against the aggressor, e.g., targeting a hostage to shoot through him, targeting the hostage to kill him so that he will cease to be a obstacle to your shooting, that is illicit. That is the same sort of act as targeting the fetus in salpingotomy. If your projection of force is targeted at the aggressor (which at least requires it to be the sort of force amenable to targeting, unlike weapons of mass destruction), then it is akin to targeting diseased tissue in salpingectomy, viz., the death of the innocent is no part of the means of your act of self-defense.

Except, of course when you cannot target the terrorist without also targeting the innocent, and that is where your argument doesn't work in the bombing scenario. You can't target the bomb at the terrorist without also and at the same time targeting the bomb at the innocent human shield, no matter how may times you click your heels and tell yourself in your mind that "I am not targeting the innocent human shield, I am not targeting the innocent human shield, I am not...."

What would it profit God to see a million unevangelized souls handed over to Satan because a man could not do that which was morally little worse than breaking the Sabbath under the Law?

There you have it. The fundamentalists of the Bible are not that far from the fundamentalists of the Koran. They both use them as excuses for murder.

Here now it is worse, though. Step 1) Interpret the Bible under the auspices that the Holy Spirit is under your command to make sure you get it right. 2) Use your interpretation and your assumed infallibility to judge the souls of millions to eternal damnation. (How easily you tread the purview of God.) 3) Use *your* judgment of souls as a way to blame God for forcing you to disobey his command to not kill the innocent. 4) Make grandiose claims about the sacrifice of your soul for the sake of thwarting God's (though it's really yours) judgment.

If I were you, I would be just a tiny bit unsettled.

Your prior willingness to cite examples was what inspired me.

I did not provide prior examples, and I find you listing grossly incomplete, and simple-minded.

If the bomb isn't capable of being targeted more discriminately, then targeting it as discriminately as you can is still discriminate targeting.

I don't really see how that works.

Suppose a bomb has blast radius R. I intend to target a group of terrorists with said bomb. These terrorists are at center point P. But around those terrorists are non-combatants, who fall within the circumference C of the blast. C is a known quantity to me because I know R and I am aiming the bomb that possesses blast radius R at point P. How can I be said not to be targeting the non-combatants within circumference C? How is this any different than trying to argue that I did not intend to shoot a hostage even though I shot through him to kill his captor?

Here now it is worse, though. Step 1) Interpret the Bible under the auspices that the Holy Spirit is under your command to make sure you get it right. 2) Use your interpretation and your assumed infallibility to judge the souls of millions to eternal damnation. (How easily you tread the purview of God.) 3) Use *your* judgment of souls as a way to blame God for forcing you to disobey his command to not kill the innocent. 4) Make grandiose claims about the sacrifice of your soul for the sake of thwarting God's (though it's really yours) judgment.

If I were you, I would be just a tiny bit unsettled.

1) Never stopped the Roman Catholic Church, especially when it came to violently opposing even good faith disagreements.

2) It's not being judgmental to believe that John 3:16, among other verses, makes it quite clear that in order to have eternal life, one must believe in Jesus.

3) Breaking the Sabbath carried the same punishment, but Jesus' own example showed that there was additional moral consideration here. God judges the heart of every person, and would see that a cop or soldier who shoots a hostage in the scenario I described above had only the motive to save as many innocents as he could. Therefore, God would treat the government agent in question the same way as He would a man who broke the Sabbath to save his neighbor's life.

4) All I said is that if God were willing to let me trade my salvation for the salvation of several more people, I don't see any way that I could refuse that offer since it would bring more souls into salvation and thus more glory to God.

I did not provide prior examples, and I find you listing grossly incomplete, and simple-minded.

I find your inability to detect sarcasm that might as well have been marked with glowing neon <sarcasm> tags to be simple-minded.

Why don't you enlighten me, if you really are holding in reserve several good, viable military options that so far haven't been discussed?

Suppose a bomb has blast radius R. I intend to target a group of terrorists with said bomb. These terrorists are at center point P. But around those terrorists are non-combatants, who fall within the circumference C of the blast. C is a known quantity to me because I know R and I am aiming the bomb that possesses blast radius R at point P. How can I be said not to be targeting the non-combatants within circumference C? How is this any different than trying to argue that I did not intend to shoot a hostage even though I shot through him to kill his captor?

I think this is a practical example of how there are murky waters here that Zippy and others are not acknowledging. The use of any ordnance in an urban area is going to cause a non-trivial possibility of innocent casualties. In a place as densely packed as the Gaza Strip, you might as well stop entertaining the thought that it is possible, in a practical sense, to use anything bigger than typical infantry weapons without causing innocents to die.

Zippy:
If that is what you mean by WMDs, then a lot of ordinary munitions in rather ordinary circumstances count, as far as moral evaluation is concerned, as WMDs.

Quite the opposite, actually. What I am saying is that being able to target an individual within a reasonable blast radius is targetable. Only weapons of such gross destructive capacity as to be entirely unable to target within some reasonable blast radius would qualify; that's a difference of degree and not kind. Just because a weapon cannot discriminate at the individual level between targets does not mean that it can't be meaningfully targeted at all. And if it is targeted within the blast radius on an aggressor (and I mean "aggressor" strictly, as in someone currently imposing a serious and immediate risk or acting in an actual military capacity, not just a "bad guy" at his chalet), that would ordinarily be an act of self-defense, possibly disproportionate, but not intrinsically evil.

c matt:
Except, of course when you cannot target the terrorist without also targeting the innocent, and that is where your argument doesn't work in the bombing scenario.

By targeting the terrorist, I simply mean that the bomb is placed intentionally to have the terrorist within the blast radius, where the blast radius is as small as required to provide a reasonable certainty of catching the terrorist in the blast radius.

brendon:
How can I be said not to be targeting the non-combatants within circumference C? How is this any different than trying to argue that I did not intend to shoot a hostage even though I shot through him to kill his captor?

Because harm to the hostage is being used as means to the end in the latter case, but it is not in the former case. The harm to the terrorist from the bomb is neither helped nor hindered by the harm to the innocent. Obviously, if you have more precise means available and deliberately choose to use others, then that is inconsistent with the intent to harm the terrorist without harming the innocent. But assuming that is the best means that you have available and the harm to the innocent is in no way part of the means of harming the terrorist, then you can't be said to be targeting the innocent.

But assuming that is the best means that you have available and the harm to the innocent is in no way part of the means of harming the terrorist, then you can't be said to be targeting the innocent.

I disagree. Bombs are, by their nature, area of effect weapons. Bombs are not targeted at individual things, they are targeted at the area of effect formed by the circumference of the blast carved out by the blast radius of the bomb around the center point of impact. One cannot use a bomb and then claim they did not truly intend to target some particular thing within the bomb's area of effect because one cannot truly intend something contrary to the nature of the act one takes. Just as one cannot perform an abortion and then claim that one did not intend to kill the child, one cannot target an area that includes non-combatants and them claim that one did not intend to target the non-combatants.

The fundamental problem here is treating bombs and explosives as if they were no different than bullets, arrows &c. But they are fundamentally different types of weapons. The latter target specific things, while the former target areas and everything in them. To claim that one did not intent to target that which one's weapon targets by its very nature is untenable. To use an explosive when known non-combatants are in the explosive's area of effect is to target non-combatants. That is the nature of the act, and no intention, no wishful thinking, will change that. Since the nature of an act that necessarily and intentionally targets non-combatants in war is murder, such acts are acts of murder.

Except, of course when you cannot target the terrorist without also targeting the innocent, and that is where your argument doesn't work in the bombing scenario.

The only time that ordnance can be targeted without including innocent life is on an old-fashioned battlefield. It is unrealistic to talk about using ordnance in urban warfare without accepting at face value that any ordnance you use against any enemy is going to have a high likelihood of killing some innocent people.

Because harm to the hostage is being used as means to the end in the latter case, but it is not in the former case. The harm to the terrorist from the bomb is neither helped nor hindered by the harm to the innocent.

I don't see why your intent would matter. The objective fact is that you are likely to kill some innocent people, and you can reasonably know this. In fact, if you were in an urban setting like the IDF going into Gaza, you'd have to be detached from reality to not take it as a given, that any ordnance used on Hamas doesn't pose a serious threat to the innocents immediately around them, and there most assuredly are many innocents who will be within the blast circumference of most of the ordnance used by the Israelis.

This situation is why I take a consequentialist view of it. The dead innocents can be justified if you took due diligence to seek an alternative or were not given any choice but to act as you best knew how in a split second.

Regarding #1, the Church does not bequeath infallible interpretation upon every reader of the Bible, and to my knowledge the Church uses the Scripture to support her arguments of doctrine, but does not make infallible pronouncements about the explicit interpretations of a given verse. So you seem to demonstrate ignorance regarding the Church and Scripture here. Let alone that it is an obvious deflection from the fact that you are trying to make infallible claims yourself. (Or rather--let's not leave that alone.)

Regarding #2 and #3, it is both ironic and elucidating that in #2 you make a claim about your supposed clear interpretation, while in #3 you demonstrate that Christ himself informed us that even in the face of what appears to be clear interpretations there are additional moral considerations. And again you deflect. In this case it's the fact that you are putting claims upon God's judgment for the sake of thwarting his judgment.

Regarding #4, I think you missed the point. You damn yourself for a hypothetical. You damn yourself under the stipulation that God judges according to your will.

I find your inability to detect sarcasm...

Ah. In other words there is no substance to what you say. Got it.

Why don't you enlighten me,

I'm not simple-minded enough to think it could be covered here, and I don't have the time for that detailed of an investigation. Many things have been proposed, and to think it would entail a single isolated decision is just dumb, and I don't pretend to be any more prescient about how they all would turn out than you can be about an invasion. But the point remains--you treated it like it was the only option, and that is obviously false. Besides, since I can only expect vacuous sarcasm from you--why should I waste my time?

I disagree. Bombs are, by their nature, area of effect weapons. Bombs are not targeted at individual things, they are targeted at the area of effect formed by the circumference of the blast carved out by the blast radius of the bomb around the center point of impact. One cannot use a bomb and then claim they did not truly intend to target some particular thing within the bomb's area of effect because one cannot truly intend something contrary to the nature of the act one takes. Just as one cannot perform an abortion and then claim that one did not intend to kill the child, one cannot target an area that includes non-combatants and them claim that one did not intend to target the non-combatants.

Following this line of thought to its bitter end, all Hamas need do in an invasion of Israel, is grab an innocent child, hog tie them to their chest, and run across the border guns blazing. After all, how could an IDF soldier respond without killing an innocent child, practically speaking.

You can't target the bomb at the terrorist without also and at the same time targeting the bomb at the innocent human shield.

c matt:

If you are aiming to hit a target with an arrow, are you also aiming at the innumerable number of nitrogen atoms that the arrow will inevitably hit in its course? No. Are you aiming at the stuffing inside the target? No. You will hit those other things, of course. But they are incidental to the act because they are outside of your intention which is to hit the bullseye.

At least we are discussing the specific nature of the concrete behavior of dropping a bomb on a mixed group: that is, we are discussing the object of the act, the specific kind of chosen behavior. Baby steps.

is grab an innocent child, hog tie them to their chest, and run across the border guns blazing.

Speaking as someone who actually usually agrees with Zippy about extreme cases (e.g., I think it was wrong to plan to shoot down Flight 93), I've always wondered, quite seriously and with some puzzlement of my own, what he would recommend doing if evil soldiers really did start going into battle with babies tied to their backs. The world being what it is, the scenario is not so very hypothetical anymore.

Speaking as someone who actually usually agrees with Zippy about extreme cases (e.g., I think it was wrong to plan to shoot down Flight 93), I've always wondered, quite seriously and with some puzzlement of my own, what he would recommend doing if evil soldiers really did start going into battle with babies tied to their backs. The world being what it is, the scenario is not so very hypothetical anymore.

Given the low regard that the Palestinians display toward their children, I would not be surprised if they resorted to flinging them into targets in Israel with trebuchets...

...what he would recommend doing if evil soldiers really did start going into battle with babies tied to their backs. The world being what it is, the scenario is not so very hypothetical anymore.
Perhaps if we do the right thing and trust in Providence, the cyborg bug swarm will be able to humanely immobilize such an army.

Hypotheticals are fun, and even useful. But we have to make the decisions we actually face, leaving the rest to Providence. That is the nature of the world; no end of mischief has been wreaked by people who refuse to understand the world in those terms, in real terms.

And it is never OK to kill the innocent, period.

Oh, and I would consider it an honor, an expression of our valour, that our enemies understand that the men of the West will not kill the innocent, will shed our own blood relentlessly on the battlefield and kill our enemies ruthlessly, but will not kill the innocent.

That is, I would consider it an honor if it were true.

I would consider it an honor if it were true.

Amen, brother.

Perhaps if we do the right thing and trust in Providence, the cyborg bug swarm will be able to humanely immobilize such an army.

Hypotheticals are fun, and even useful. But we have to make the decisions we actually face, leaving the rest to Providence. That is the nature of the world; no end of mischief has been wreaked by people who refuse to understand the world in those terms, in real terms.

And it is never OK to kill the innocent, period.

So what you're saying is that all it would take to make you say that an army must automatically surrender to its enemy is for the enemy to cover its vehicles in innocent civilians, and to tie babies to its infantry?

Oh, and I would consider it an honor, an expression of our valour, that our enemies understand that the men of the West will not kill the innocent, will shed our own blood relentlessly on the battlefield and kill our enemies ruthlessly, but will not kill the innocent.

That is, I would consider it an honor if it were true.

It's good for our ancestors that you weren't informing their sensibilities, and the Muslims didn't realize that all they had to do to make good Catholics obediently capitulate is to strap any old random baby to their chest in battle. The only thing that would have stood between Christendom and annihilation would have been the Protestant lands.

Bombs are, by their nature, area of effect weapons. Bombs are not targeted at individual things, they are targeted at the area of effect formed by the circumference of the blast carved out by the blast radius of the bomb around the center point of impact.
...
The fundamental problem here is treating bombs and explosives as if they were no different than bullets, arrows &c. But they are fundamentally different types of weapons. The latter target specific things, while the former target areas and everything in them.

You're confusing the physical act of targeting with the moral act of targeting, which is understandable but wrong. There is a physical limitation with respect to bombs in that they have a certain area of effect, and they are going to blow up everything within the blast radius indiscriminately. There is no question that a bomb cannot be physically targeted more narrowly than what it covers. But that physical limitation is irrespective of the moral purpose to which the bomb is being deployed.

Morally, the species of your act is one of self-defense. What you intend to do (i.e., the morally significant specification of your act) is to render an unjust aggressor incapable of inflicting harm. The physical expression of that act, detonating a bomb, is a suitable means for achieving that end. So the moral object is the act of self-defense, and the means for that act is the bomb. From a moral perspective, your target is the aggressor. From a physical perspective, your target is whatever gets destroyed within the blast radius, but much of that is an unintended effect from the moral perspective, because it has no relevance to the direct moral object of your action.

Your abortion example is actually a good counter-example. One could argue that the "blast radius" of a salpingectomy, for example, is the Fallopian tube and anything in it, since the procedure necessarily as a physical matter removes the tube and the fetus within. But it is recognized that the removal of the fetus is not intended with the removal of the tube, even though both are necessarily removed in the surgery and the fetus will certainly die as a result. This is considered indirect/unintended abortion and not direct abortion, the latter of which is intrinsically evil.

Jonathan,

As I said above, you cannot use ordnance in any urban or suburban environment without having a non-trivial risk of maiming or killing someone you didn't intend to hurt. In fact, you can't even engage in small arms fire in such a setting without having a non-trivial risk of the same. The simple fact is, you cannot engage in combat in a civilian-dense area without having an extremely high probability of running into the moral issue that brendon is wringing his hands over. In fact, a police officer cannot even fire his weapon against any criminal, no matter what they are doing, in such an area without risking the death of an innocent person.

Obviously, neither the soldier nor the cop intend to hurt an innocent party, but it is foolish and academic to have a discussion about using weapons in a civilian-dense area without acknowledging the fact that there is a serious risk of one of them getting killed.

the Muslims didn't realize that all they had to do to make good Catholics obediently capitulate is to strap any old random baby to their chest in battle.

Suffice it to say that this Catholic who strives to be faithful to the Magisterium (good or not I leave to God's judgment) disagrees with Zippy's interpretation and also believes that consequentialism is not necessary to avoid this conclusion. That being said, given your remarks above, I suspect you are simply an ignorant bigot who will think the worst of Catholicism and Catholics no matter what the facts may be, so I doubt telling you that will help much. Indeed, since I have made the position clear on this thread, it is hard to imagine that you aren't being willfully obtuse even at this point.

The simple fact is, you cannot engage in combat in a civilian-dense area without having an extremely high probability of running into the moral issue that brendon is wringing his hands over.

That is why I strongly suspect that brendon is wringing his hands over a non-issue from the moral perspective.

Your abortion example is actually a good counter-example. One could argue that the "blast radius" of a salpingectomy, for example, is the Fallopian tube and anything in it, since the procedure necessarily as a physical matter removes the tube and the fetus within. But it is recognized that the removal of the fetus is not intended with the removal of the tube, even though both are necessarily removed in the surgery and the fetus will certainly die as a result. This is considered indirect/unintended abortion and not direct abortion, the latter of which is intrinsically evil.

I don't think that this example helps draw the distinction you are trying to draw. When performing a salpingectomy the child is never touched by the physical act, only the fallopian tube is. The act only effects the child indirectly, even though that indirect effect causes the death of the child. The bomb example is completely different. The non-combatants are not effected by the act indirectly, but rather directly. They are directly targeted by the ordinance, and thus cannot be removed from the object of the act.

Moral objects must be judged from the point of view of the acting person. When a doctor performs a salpingectomy he is, from the point of view of the doctor as performing this type of operation, removing a damaged fallopian tube. When a soldier targets a bomb he is, from the point of view of the soldier as aiming this type of weapon, targeting some specific area and everything in it. That includes any non-combatants in the area.

That is why I strongly suspect that brendon is wringing his hands over a non-issue from the moral perspective.

I am "wringing my hands" over the issue precisely because I do not see it as a non-issue. And because my own temperament tilts me towards "kill them all, God will know his own." Since I recognize such a position as immoral and spiritually dangerous, I work hard not to simply write of civilian casualties as "collateral damage" without first making sure I am convinced that said damage was actually "collateral."

Suffice it to say that this Catholic who strives to be faithful to the Magisterium (good or not I leave to God's judgment) disagrees with Zippy's interpretation and also believes that consequentialism is not necessary to avoid this conclusion.

Jonathan,

I'd just like to say that I'm a Catholic too, and I agree with you on this issue.

If God told me He would call all of America with his Holy Spirit to salvation...

You mean he is not already doing so???

and kill our enemies ruthlessly,

That would be a good place to start. And I am serious. We shouldn't send our virulent, implacable enemies, enemies who have violated every law of war, to hospitals at our own expense or rescue them from their own weapons smuggling tunnels. I would be willing personally to administer the coup d'grace to any terrorist, er, insurgent, who made use of the innocent unwilling as human shields. No POW status for him if he turns up wounded.

**I am "wringing my hands" over the issue precisely because I do not see it as a non-issue. And because my own temperament tilts me towards "kill them all, God will know his own." Since I recognize such a position as immoral and spiritually dangerous, I work hard not to simply write of civilian casualties as "collateral damage" without first making sure I am convinced that said damage was actually "collateral."**

Well said, Brendan. I'm with you here.

Suffice it to say that this Catholic who strives to be faithful to the Magisterium (good or not I leave to God's judgment) disagrees with Zippy's interpretation and also believes that consequentialism is not necessary to avoid this conclusion. That being said, given your remarks above, I suspect you are simply an ignorant bigot who will think the worst of Catholicism and Catholics no matter what the facts may be, so I doubt telling you that will help much. Indeed, since I have made the position clear on this thread, it is hard to imagine that you aren't being willfully obtuse even at this point.

Actually, I was referring to good Catholics in a snarky way poking fun of Zippy's obviously flawed interpretation of Catholic moral teachings. I am not accusing the Catholic Church of deliberately teaching these things. In fact, I would give it the benefit of the doubt that serious church theologians would be horrified at the crap that the other Catholics are spewing here about your church's moral teachings. The most obvious consequence to such false doctrines about innocent life is that no good man could ever wield a weapon at a time when an innocent might die from his actions, and that would mean, for one thing, that only degenerates would serve in the military or police.

Most of my snide comments about Catholicism have been responses to the smug, unearned moral superiority that is often displayed by Roman Catholics when talking to Protestants. As far as I am concerned, if you cannot back up a moral mandate with a scripture-reasoned argument, you might as well be a Jew browbeating me for not considering the opinion of Talmudic scholars. The one thing I have not seen here is a scripture-reasoned argument that clearly demonstrates how Christians are supposed to deal with this situation, especially since there are other parts of scripture where God actually commands His people to massacre every last "innocent" down to even infants. There is clearly more to this than these simplistic arguments about innocent life.

I am "wringing my hands" over the issue precisely because I do not see it as a non-issue. And because my own temperament tilts me towards "kill them all, God will know his own." Since I recognize such a position as immoral and spiritually dangerous, I work hard not to simply write of civilian casualties as "collateral damage" without first making sure I am convinced that said damage was actually "collateral."

I feel the same way toward drinking alcohol because I come from a family where alcoholism is an extremely serious problem. Where one man may be able to drink on a regular basis and be fine, I won't take the risk. However, it would be wrong of me to project my own, personal struggles onto humanity as though everyone struggled with them.

"it would be wrong of me to project my own, personal struggles onto humanity as though everyone struggled with them."

You misread Brendon (and me, by extension). Immorality and spiritual danger of the type Brendon mentions go beyond "personal struggles," as the last part of his statement implies.

You're confusing the physical act of targeting with the moral act of targeting,

The way I see it, the problem is reversed - you are trying to separate the physical act of what you are doing (the physical targeting) from the moral act of what you are doing, as if they are two unrelated things - as if I could do the physical act of intercourse with someone not my spouse but not commit the immoral act of adultery/fornication.

Mike T: If you only accept a reasoned case from Scripture as a valid argument, that is fine for a Protestant, but to a Catholic you would be playing with only one third of the deck.

As far as I am concerned, if you cannot back up a moral mandate with a scripture-reasoned argument, you might as well be a Jew browbeating me for not considering the opinion of Talmudic scholars.

Are you suggesting that for every particular event that undergoes moral assessment, the positions taken therein by their advocates, in order to be valid and applicable, manditorily requires a scripture-reasoned argument; that logic and the power of natural reason which God had presumably endowed humanity with should all count for nothing?

Are you truly of the moronic breed that actually mistakes the bible as some sort of simple-minded, step-wise operations protocol that must be adhered to verbatim?

What kind of an imbecile do you take God for?

For that matter, how do you manage in your life in the absence of specific instructions with respect to the particulars of certain circumstances not to be found in Scripture?

Do you even require scripture-reasoned arguments for weighty matters as even the proper evacuation of bowels?

When performing a salpingectomy the child is never touched by the physical act, only the fallopian tube is.

If we want to slice the bologna that thin, then one could argue that the innocent likely isn't touched by the bomb either, just a explosive rush of gases and debris created when the bomb explodes. I am therefore unpersuaded that physical touching is the relevant moral criterion. The fetus is killed as a direct physical consequence of the salpingectomy; the innocent is killed as a direct physical consequence of detonating the bomb.

The bomb example is completely different. The non-combatants are not effected by the act indirectly, but rather directly. They are directly targeted by the ordinance, and thus cannot be removed from the object of the act.

Again, ordinance doesn't target people; people target people. In both cases, the death of the innocent is the direct physical effect of the act, so that isn't a relevant moral distinction. The relevant moral question is with respect to the bomb as means to the end. The bomb is quite obviously a suitable means to the end of depriving the aggressor of his ability to inflict harm; that is the moral object, the target of the action. The death of the innocent is legitimately unrelated to the moral object; it is neither the means nor the end of the action. To put it another way, the fact that the death of innocents is a direct physical effect of the explosion doesn't mean that it is directly intended. You can intend something less than the entire physical results of an action, unless the physical action is such that the effect must necessarily be willed as means or end. But many physical effects are neither means nor ends of the action; they are simply unintended consequences.

The way I see it, the problem is reversed - you are trying to separate the physical act of what you are doing (the physical targeting) from the moral act of what you are doing, as if they are two unrelated things - as if I could do the physical act of intercourse with someone not my spouse but not commit the immoral act of adultery/fornication.

That's easy enough. The physical act of intercourse (and indeed, any sexual act) is ordered solely to marital union. Therefore, one cannot possibly have a right will in doing that physical act for any other purpose. To put it another way, a choice of the physical act for another purpose necessarily entails an evil choice.

Detonating a bomb, on the other hand, can be used in a variety of moral acts, one of which is to blow a terrorist into the next life. Thus, it becomes relevant in specifying the moral act not only what the physical nature of the act is, but how it is being chosen as means to an end. Unlike adultery, that choice as means to the end does not necessarily entail another evil choice, because the resulting evil need not be chosen as means or end. "Detonating a bomb with this area of effect" is insufficient to define the moral significance of detonating the bomb, so as a moral act, it must be specified in greater detail. By contrast, extramarital sexual intercourse is trivial, because it necessarily entails an evil will.

No POW status for him if he turns up wounded.

Lydia,
You have failed your simulated combat stress-test. As a result, you will be redeployed to Motherhood, a theatre presently under siege, with limited access to kitchen cutlery. A grateful nation honors you for your service.

Perhaps you don't think that is a legitimate application of Zippy's welcome injunction to "kill our enemies ruthlessly," Kevin, but I'd like to think Zippy does. Frankly, if we were more ruthless with those who are beyond all question guilty, we would give them fewer opportunities to hide behind the innocent and would thus be faced with crisis problems less often.

Jonathan,

It seems to me you are mistakenly providing justification for the elicit bombing of a region filled with innocent civilians so long as the intention is not the elimination of civilians inconveniently situated in the area but rather the targeted enemy.

If the person bombing such a region knows that there is indeed many innocent civilians situated there, but regardless would still execute such action in spite of the inevitable number of innocent causalities is, in all actuality, committing the heinous act of murder.

This is a far cry from Zippy's smart bomb example which is rightly categorized as morally licit.

c matt:

The way I see it, the problem is reversed - you are trying to separate the physical act of what you are doing (the physical targeting) from the moral act of what you are doing, as if they are two unrelated things ...
That is exactly what he is doing. Separating the moral dimensions of an act from the physical dimensions won't fly though, because human beings are irreduceably physical in addition to spiritual/mental beings. This error is anticipated by JPII in Veritatis Splendour in a number of places, e.g.
"This is pushed to the point where a concrete kind of behaviour, even one freely chosen, comes to be considered as a merely physical process, and not according to the criteria proper to a human act. The conclusion to which this eventually leads is that the properly moral assessment of the person is reserved to his fundamental option, prescinding in whole or in part from his choice of particular actions, of concrete kinds of behaviour."
He even points out that, not without irony, because proponents of rightly reasoned natural law do not concede a moral divorce of an act from the actual concrete behavior the acting subject chooses, the charge of physicalism is often falsely levied:
"In this context, objections of physicalism and naturalism have been levelled against the traditional conception of the natural law, which is accused of presenting as moral laws what are in themselves mere biological laws."
Contrary to this attempt to segregate the physical from the spiritual, he tell us that
At this point the true meaning of the natural law can be understood: it refers to man's proper and primordial nature, the "nature of the human person", which is the person himself in the unity of soul and body, in the unity of his spiritual and biological inclinations and of all the other specific characteristics necessary for the pursuit of his end.
Finally, the notion that a person has a 'fundamental option' independent of the choice of a concrete behavior - in this case the behavior of killing a group of people, some of whom are innocent, with a bomb - is explicitly rejected.
To separate the fundamental option from concrete kinds of behaviour means to contradict the substantial integrity or personal unity of the moral agent in his body and in his soul. A fundamental option understood without explicit consideration of the potentialities which it puts into effect and the determinations which express it does not do justice to the rational finality immanent in man's acting and in each of his deliberate decisions.
There is no licit "fundamental option" to choose to blow up the living bodies of innocent civilians without intending to kill them. The concrete choice of specific behavior, as with adultery, cannot be dumped over the side and ignored, no matter what further intentions the acting subject may have in mind.

There is no licit "fundamental option" to choose to blow up the living bodies of innocent civilians without intending to kill them. The concrete choice of specific behavior, as with adultery, cannot be dumped over the side and ignored, no matter what further intentions the acting subject may have in mind.

While I agree with this statement so far as the aforementioned circumstances under discussion is concerned, there is yet the unresolved matter of whether or not there exists the fundamentally licit option of preventing various hijacked planes from crashing onto a densely populated city; the consequences of which entails the horrendous deaths of several innocent civilians on ground should the planes be allowed to continue their course just minutes prior impact.

George R., I'm just getting back to this.

I'd just like to say that I'm a Catholic too, and I agree with you on this issue.

It turns out that you were saying after all exactly what it sounded like you were saying.

The prohibition against intentional killing of the innocent used to be a common inheritance among Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, even if it was sometimes violated in warfare. That has obviously changed (see comments above). Zippy's position finds its origin in a fairly accessible source, St. Paul's dictum that we "may not do evil that good may come." Nor am I aware that he finessed this principle according to circumstantial exigency. I think Zippy once penned his own variation on it when he wrote (approximately) that "you may not intentionally kill even one innocent person to save the world." Or yet again: "...we may not commit any sin, however small, for the sake of any good, however great, and if the choice lies between our total destruction and the commission of sin, then we must choose to be destroyed."

Hard to swallow, isn't it? Those last words are Anscombe's. If I have to choose among Catholics to agree with, I think I'll go with her rather than with you and Jonathan.


...there is yet the unresolved matter of whether or not there exists the fundamentally licit option of preventing various hijacked planes from crashing onto a densely populated city...
I've already (controversially) said my bit there. As with treating an ectopic pregnancy, there are licit options and illicit options. The particular concrete thing we actually do matters; if directly killing the innocent is intrinsic to the specific concrete thing we actually do - (and if directly killing the innocent is not intrinsic to vaporizing his body with an explosive, it isn't intrinsic to any chosen behavior, and there is no such thing as an intrinsically immoral act of killing the innocent) - then the act is morally wrong, no matter the consequences of refraining from doing it. Disable the plane and allow it to crash if the occupants cannot glide to a landing, si. Vaporize the plane and its occupants, no.
Hard to swallow, isn't it?
An important point. Doing the right thing is a Cross, which is why the world can only be redeemed by the Cross.

Aristocles, the scenario you bring up was discussed ad nauseum in these two posts (and others, actually). But to save you reading time, I'd like to point out that your scenario and the "aforementioned circumstances under discussion" are precisely the same.


Aristocles, the scenario you bring up got started here, and then continued in the one Zippy links. But to save you reading time I'd like to point out that your scenario and the "aforementioned circumstances under discussion" are precisely the same.

Lydia, "killing our enemies ruthlessly" has a nice rhetorical flourish. Killing an unarmed combatant- no matter how heinous his own conduct- would result in a charge of voluntary manslaughter and a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military. Erasing the moral and legal boundaries between ourselves and depraved holdovers from the Bronze Age would destroy the last remaining vestiges of civilization.


My impression is that the British navy considered it perfectly legitimate to hang captured pirates from the yardarm. They didn't feel they had to put him in a not-too-bad prison with regular Red Cross deliveries of chocolate squares and letters from his family for the rest of his life or until hostilities were ended, after which he would be "repatriated" so he could start flying the Jolly Roger again. Nor did they feel they had to hand him a sword and kill him only in single combat.

I think it's very important that we distinguish prohibitions we have developed in our military practice for prudential reasons from prohibitions against things that actually are intrinsically wrong. The blurring of that distinction is, in my opinion, one reason that Mars and Venus get into that tree together. People get fed up with playing Mr. Nice-Guy with heinous bad guys and start overreacting and legitimating killing the unquestionably innocent.

Again, ordinance doesn't target people; people target people. In both cases, the death of the innocent is the direct physical effect of the act, so that isn't a relevant moral distinction.

Preposterous. Any outwardly done human act is a physical act by definition. One cannot draw a distinction between the physical act and the human act unless some part of the physical act falls outside of human causality. This happens when errors occur and a bomb goes off course, but it does not happen when a bomb does exactly what the person firing it wills it to do. If I target a bomb at a certain area knowing that there are non-combatants in that area I cannot claim that the bomb's killing of those non-combatants somehow fell outside of my causality. The bomb did exactly what I willed it to do.

The relevant moral question is with respect to the bomb as means to the end. The bomb is quite obviously a suitable means to the end of depriving the aggressor of his ability to inflict harm; that is the moral object, the target of the action. The death of the innocent is legitimately unrelated to the moral object; it is neither the means nor the end of the action.

The death of the innocents is the means to the end of killing the terrorists.

The means I choose to kill these particular terrorists is to drop this particular bomb on this particular area. Within this particular area are non-combatants. Since the means I have chosen to attain my end of killing these terrorists is to destroy everything within this area as known by the bomb's blast radius, then the killing of these non-combatants in part of the means I have chosen to accomplish my end.

It is true that speaking abstractly killing some terrorists with this type of bomb does not involve targeting non-combatants. But in this particular act - killing these particular terrorists with this particular bomb by targeting this particular area and, by necessity, everything in it - includes targeting these particular non-combatants. Destroying everything within this bomb's blast radius, including these non-combatants, is the means by which I achieve my end.

Intention is not relevant here. Double effect cannot be used to justify the act because the act itself is immoral. Who wants to accomplish what doesn't even have to enter the picture because intentions cannot change evil acts into good ones.

The difference between this and a salpingectomy strike me as obvious. The salpingectomy does not kill the child; rather, it results in a situation in which the child will die. The same is not true with the bomb. It is not the result of the bombing that kills the non-combatants; rather, it is the bombing itself.

My impression is that the British navy considered it perfectly legitimate to hang captured pirates from the yardarm

Hell, they employed that and more in India, Ireland and Iraq and lost all three to militarily inferior forces.

People get fed up with playing Mr. Nice-Guy with heinous bad guys and start overreacting and legitimating killing the unquestionably innocent.

That is why Codes of Conduct are both necessary and insufficient. A porno culture coupled with senior officers anxious for results can produce stains on our national honor. There are no short-cuts to justice even though the extreme stress of combat offers that diabolical promise. The spiritually corrosive effects of war are well-known, if often left unspoken. Bestial emotions rise up and good men lose their inner-equilibrium, if not their souls.

Using the phrase from St Pauls' "may not do evil so that good comes out of it" to argue that this or that military action is illicit seems to be a fundamentalist, Protestant, Koranic even disingeneous reading of the passage. For it is clear that St Paul was making the point that althoug Jesus Christ's Death and Resurrection has saved mankind from bondage to sin and its consequences, we are not thereby to take it as a pass to sin some more seeing that Christ's saving grace is so efficacious. Anyone listening to St Paul declaiming that the Law cannot save is not thereby given a free pass to fornicate more for example. Or worse still some may think that since they live (in their lights) God fearing middle-class lives, they should go out and get a few sins under their belts since otherwise they wouldn't be worthy of such a great Sacrifice. This is the sense in which any sinner would read that passage : don't sin more in order to magnify Salvation, don't tempt fate. This is how I read it years ago, don't screw around ( ie do evil) just because you can then get the grace of Confession (so that good can come of it). As it stands the passage has no relevance at all to military matters unless one takes the view that Simon de Montfort, Hernando Cortez, Curtis LeMay, Arthur Harris dispatched their enemies in the sure hope that they all find Salvation in Christ. In which case of course they would have been sorely mistaken.

You're a confusing and name-calling exegete (fundamentalist, Protestant, Koranic even disingeneous). It's the 'disingenuous' that really hurts.

Anyone listening to St Paul declaiming that the Law cannot save is not thereby given a free pass to fornicate more for example. Or a free pass to blow up innocents.

As it stands the passage has no relevance at all to military matters

But that's not the sense I've gotten from others (like Anscombe), St. John Chrysostom, the Catholic Catechism, or even John Wesley, whose formulation I rather like: "So the apostle absolutely denies the lawfulness of doing evil, any evil, that good may come." He almost sounds like Anscombe. So I'm still inclined to think that military action is not exempt from a moral principle universally held by Christians from the beginning.

But I must say that it's a strange form of argument which tries to interpret a scriptural passage into irrelevance rather than claiming that it doesn't apply for the simple reason that the evil under discussion here isn't really evil at all.

Are you suggesting that for every particular event that undergoes moral assessment, the positions taken therein by their advocates, in order to be valid and applicable, manditorily requires a scripture-reasoned argument; that logic and the power of natural reason which God had presumably endowed humanity with should all count for nothing?

I am not suggesting, but outright saying that any reasonable Christian would recognize a few basic things about human nature from scripture:

1) The heart is deceitful above all things. That includes your own, scripture-free power of reason, on issues related to God and morality.

2) The only morality that can be firmly laid down as a universal mandate on the body of Christ is that from revelation by the Holy Spirit or that which can be logically based on such revelation.

3) The practice of bringing in outside moral systems into the church is exactly the sort of act which made Jesus condemn the Pharisees as sinners before God for their elevation of the Talmud to the level respect that only the Torah deserved.

There is a good reason why Martin Luther responded to the Catholic argument you made by retorting that reason is the devil's whore. Reason itself provides no morality. It is nothing more than a series of algorithms for processing data, and it is at the mercy of the one using.

Are you truly of the moronic breed that actually mistakes the bible as some sort of simple-minded, step-wise operations protocol that must be adhered to verbatim?
What kind of an imbecile do you take God for?
For that matter, how do you manage in your life in the absence of specific instructions with respect to the particulars of certain circumstances not to be found in Scripture?

I manage through discernment. I read the Bible, and try to reason out what would be the best approach based on what I know are God's revealed truths to us for situations where there is no immediate, obvious answer. This is precisely why I look at the (hopefully) false interpretation of Catholic moral teachings on display here regarding war with utter contempt.

Do you even require scripture-reasoned arguments for weighty matters as even the proper evacuation of bowels?

How do you manage to even pretend that you are a Christian when you need a human institution to even open your Bible for you?

"How do you manage to even pretend that you are a Christian when you need a human institution to even open your Bible for you?"

And now, my friends, we cut to the chase. Although I'm not Catholic, but Orthodox, I'm convinced that the root of the problem here is not epistemology but ecclesiology. To Mike T, the church is merely a "human institution," which we as isolated individuals (to his mind) need to open the Bible for us. Thus, the error in ecclesiology results in errors not only in epistemology but also in anthropology.

This is what comes of attempting to interpret Scripture outside the mind of the Church.


Mike T: If you only accept a reasoned case from Scripture as a valid argument, that is fine for a Protestant, but to a Catholic you would be playing with only one third of the deck.

I wonder what the other two thirds would be, then, since Protestants accept reason when its inputs are scripture. Where we differ is that we do not accept reason and philosophical arguments that are free of the blessing of revelation. That was the mistake that the Jews made with the Talmud that made Jesus condemn them for choosing the traditions of men over the revealed word of God.

This actually helps to keep Protestants in check on issues like the one here. I could never take such a firm, unyielding position on the killing of noncombatants as displayed here by some Catholics because in the Old Testament, God ordered the genocide of the Canaanites. Let me repeat that... God ordered the genocide of the Canaanites. If God could do such a thing, it certainly shows that God has a more nuanced view of war and civilian deaths than He is given credit for.

People like aristocles will, no doubt, tell me to just kindly ignore this and follow some superior moral reasoning. I'll take the simple-minded approach here and point out that once again, scripture shows up to prove that the picture is bigger than it's given credit for being.

And now, my friends, we cut to the chase. Although I'm not Catholic, but Orthodox, I'm convinced that the root of the problem here is not epistemology but ecclesiology. To Mike T, the church is merely a "human institution," which we as isolated individuals (to his mind) need to open the Bible for us. Thus, the error in ecclesiology results in errors not only in epistemology but also in anthropology.

This is what comes of attempting to interpret Scripture outside the mind of the Church.

If the institutional church were truly as authoritative as you suggest, then every patriarch and Pope would be an avatar of the Holy Spirit.

Preposterous. Any outwardly done human act is a physical act by definition. One cannot draw a distinction between the physical act and the human act unless some part of the physical act falls outside of human causality.

Brendon,

An act is specified by its end, i.e., the object of its intention. This is basic St. Thomas. To suggest that an act is specified by human causality and not by the object of human intention is to subvert the very foundation of Catholic moral theology.

Nevertheless, in defending the rights of civilians not to be blown to smithereens at least you show you care, which is all that counts for most people.

I suppose this is where I would put forth my hypothesis that Lollard-rooted anti-reason forms of sola scriptura Protestantism can be viewed as an offshoot of Islam as much as a break from the Church founded by Christ. After all, unlike the Christian Scriptures, the Alcoran of Mahomet explicitly expresses the doctrine of sola scriptura about itself; Islam's own traditions asserted sola scriptura as a doctrine w.r.t. the Alcoran for centuries before the same heresy so much as occurred as a possibility to any Christian; Wyclif and his associates Chaucer and John of Gaunt were clearly influenced to some extent by Islam; Luther commissioned the first translation of the Koran from Arabic and heaped praise on the practices and doctrines of the Mohammedans; etc. (In reality I suspect that the fundamentals of Luther's break with the true Church founded by Christ were more traditional: "I want to have sex with my girlfriend; the Catholic Church says I mustn't have sex with my girlfriend; therefore the Pope is the antichrist".)

But rather than getting into that I am just going to state that, although re-fighting the Protestant Revolt is a recurring theme in some W4 comboxes, it isn't on topic in any of my threads. So further posts on that subject will be deleted or at least redacted.

An act is specified by its end, i.e., the object of its intention.

Nonsense. (The "i.e." is a completely false characterization of what is meant by the 'object' of the act in Catholic moral theology).

Pope John Paul II writes in Veritatis Splendour:

The object of the act of willing is in fact a freely chosen kind of behaviour. [...] Hence human activity cannot be judged as morally good merely because it is a means for attaining one or another of its goals, or simply because the subject's intention is good. [...] ...the consideration of these consequences, and also of intentions, is not sufficient for judging the moral quality of a concrete choice. [...] The reason why a good intention is not itself sufficient, but a correct choice of actions is also needed, is that the human act depends on its object, whether that object is capable or not of being ordered to God, to the One who "alone is good", and thus brings about the perfection of the person. [...] One must therefore reject the thesis ... which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its "object" — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made ...

Intrinsically immoral behaviors - such as killing the innocent or adultery - are absolutely immoral apart from the intention for which the choice to kill the innocent or commit adultery was made.

I suppose this is where I would put forth my hypothesis that Lollard-rooted anti-reason forms of sola scriptura Protestantism can be viewed as an offshoot of Islam as much as a break from the Church founded by Christ.

The anti-reason forms are not the ones practiced by the majority of reformed churches or even most of the Baptists or Methodists I've met. Perhaps you are thinking of some of the Pentecostals and similar groups?

But rather than getting into that I am just going to state that, although re-fighting the Protestant Revolt is a recurring theme in some W4 comboxes, it isn't on topic in any of my threads. So further posts on that subject will be deleted or at least redacted.

Then you should either say that this site is Catholic and Orthodox only, or start requiring Catholics and Orthodox to respond more substantially than "our church's teachings say this." Furthermore, trollish comments like aristocles' one above should be at the top of your list to censor if you are going to censor anything.

Mike T:

I was thinking of you, and your Luther quote. By "anti-reason sola scriptura protestantism" I meant to capture the kind of Protestantism you are arguing for in this thread.

In fairness to you I will leave your last post standing; but there will be no more posts in this thread re-fighting the Protestant Revolt.

An act is specified by its end, i.e., the object of its intention. This is basic St. Thomas. To suggest that an act is specified by human causality and not by the object of human intention is to subvert the very foundation of Catholic moral theology.

And this happens to be a view we can all (theoretically) agree on, Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic. It is indeed murder if a military goes on a killing spree against civilians. It is not murder if a military intends to target enemy combatants, but either the combatants are fighting from civilian areas or civilians unfortunately get caught in the crossfire.

If intent were not at the heart of God's judgment of our conduct, then God would only judge us by our works.

I was thinking of you, and your Luther quote. By "anti-reason sola scriptura protestantism" I meant to capture the kind of Protestantism you are arguing for in this thread.

I was merely trying to point out that making a fetish of reason can lead to colossal errors. Surely you would not disagree that our culture's obsession with reason as a means AND an end unto itself is deeply disturbing, especially since it leads so many toward atheism because the only input they have around them is what they can immediately see.

That said, I will leave the protestant revolt for another day, provided that you have the courtesy of keeping others here (*cough*aristocles*cough*) from firing the theological equivalent of qassam rockets on my position.

And this happens to be a view we can all (theoretically) agree on, Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic.
Again, George R's characterization is completely wrong. In the Christian Tradition, and under binding Magisterial Catholic doctrine, there are in fact moral absolutes. That is, there are some kinds of behavior or specific acts - e.g. killing the innocent or committing adultery - which it is always wrong to choose, no matter why one chooses them.

Certainly in many cases - cases of non-intrinsically-evil behaviors - an act can be judged good or evil based on many factors, including especially intentions. Not so in the case of intrinsically immoral acts. Intrinsically immoral acts are always morally wrong, no matter why a person does them.

"If the institutional church were truly as authoritative as you suggest, then every patriarch and Pope would be an avatar of the Holy Spirit."

That is, frankly, ludicrous and shows a profound ignorance of the nature of Church authority regarding doctrinal issues. May I suggest a reading of Florovsky's "Bible, Church, Tradition" for an Orthodox view of the thing. Catholics have their own recommendations, I'm sure. And with that, as Zippy requests, I'll leave off this subject.

Mike T:
FWIW, I began considering what to do to keep things on topic when other commenters began taking the bait.

And yes, rationalism always looms large as a danger in our modern culture, and our intellects are darkened by conscupiscience. On the other hand the embrace of a radical irrationalism with respect to morality - to quote you above:

"Reason itself provides no morality. It is nothing more than a series of algorithms for processing data, and it is at the mercy of the one using."
... seems to me to be a kind of equal and opposite error. We do know what is right and wrong through the natural light of reason. St. Paul even tells us as much, so we know - by revelation in addition to reason - that we know right and wrong through the natural light of reason. It is not reason per se which is the great danger but our misuse of it, or our mistakes or deliberate distortions of reason. Indeed, to the extent that some things are mysteries inaccessible to reason unaided by grace and revelation the reasonable thing to conclude is "this is a mystery inaccessible to reason unaided by grace and revelation".

Anyway, there is a lot more to say on the subject, including my occasional hobbyhorse tirades against positivism; but the medium is limited.

Again, George R's characterization is completely wrong. In the Christian Tradition, and under binding Magisterial Catholic doctrine, there are in fact moral absolutes. That is, there are some kinds of behavior or specific acts - e.g. killing the innocent or committing adultery - which it is always wrong to choose, no matter why one chooses them.

Certainly in many cases - cases of non-intrinsically-evil behaviors - an act can be judged good or evil based on many factors, including especially intentions. Not so in the case of intrinsically immoral acts. Intrinsically immoral acts are always morally wrong, no matter why a person does them.

Going out of your way to kill innocents is indeed wrong, but what about a case where a government must use a nuclear weapon to prevent an extremely virulent contagion from spreading? Would it be wrong for the government to hit the center of the infection with a tactical nuke because the only realistic alternative is that you will face an epidemic that threatens to kill off the entire nation? I don't think it would because there is the equal moral absolute that a government must always seek to protect its people from that which threatens to kill them.

... seems to me to be a kind of equal and opposite error. We do know what is right and wrong through the natural light of reason. St. Paul even tells us as much, so we know - by revelation in addition to reason - that we know right and wrong through the natural light of reason.

Revelation provides the correction to our own fallen reason and natures. Reason when left to its own devices, unaided by revelation, has lead to countless fallen systems.

It is not reason per se which is the great danger but our misuse of it, or our mistakes or deliberate distortions of reason.

And making a fetish of reason, wherein it goes from being just a means to an end unto itself is a very quick way of coming to that situation. Reason is a very powerful, useful tool, but it is just a tool, as is faith, for living as we ought to live.

In fact, most modern economics are badly flawed because they are built on the premise that man is a rational animal, rather than a rationalizing animal.

Would it be wrong for the government to hit the center of the infection with a tactical nuke
Yes, absolutely, it would be wrong.
Reason is a very powerful, useful tool, but it is just a tool, as is faith, for living as we ought to live.
If reason is just a tool (as opposed to what?), just a means to whatever ends we decide to pursue, and does not lead us with some reliability - though fallibly - to objective truth, then on what grounds can you conclude that reason is just a tool?

It isn't clear to me what implications this "reason is just a tool" idea has, nor is it clear that it is even coherent. Beyond that, it isn't clear that when you and I say "reason" we are talking about the same thing at all.

If reason is just a tool (as opposed to what?), just a means to whatever ends we decide to pursue, and does not lead us with some reliability - though fallibly - to objective truth, then on what grounds can you conclude that reason is just a tool?

Reason by itself is just a system of rules. A good system of rules with bad data will produce bad results. That is the problem with the fetishizing of reason. Few of the Defenders of the Reason-Faith acknowledge the simple fact that "garbage in, garbage out" applies to reason as much as it does to software. The New Atheists show this almost every time they open their mouths.

Reason by itself is just a system of rules.
Now I know that you and I don't mean the same thing by "reason".
The New Atheists show this almost every time they open their mouths.
Ditto.
Now I know that you and I don't mean the same thing by "reason".

So now you know that I have not been arguing for fideism, but rather define reason in a more concrete, less grandiose manner.

Most Christians are in the West don't know what it is like to have lived with a mostly secular heart, and see the world as someone who truly believed that abiogenesis and natural selection explained the origins of mankind. I can assure you, that from that perspective, divorced of the Christian tradition, a lot of what you think naturally comes to someone as a matter of reason does not occur. In fact, quite the opposite. The Christian tradition is easily perceived as irrational.

I can assure you, that from that perspective, divorced of the Christian tradition, a lot of what you think naturally comes to someone as a matter of reason does not occur.
No doubt; but that perspective is not at all reasonable. Perhaps you haven't yet fully left it behind.

Also I might understand the perspective from the inside better than you suppose. I'm a cradle Catholic of a sort, raised mainly in the 1970's - the big controversy at my Confirmation Mass was whether we would sing "Stairway to Heaven" or "Bridge Over Troubled Water", and the resolution did not hinge on theology, sacredness, etc but rather on the putative 'fact' that StH was a 'drug song' and BoTW was supposedly not -- sail on, Silver Girl. But also I was lapsed for quite a long time, and I'm a science and technology guy myself. I am well acquainted, firsthand, with a deep grasp of science and technology coupled to philosophical ignorance/indifference.

I haven't read Professor Feser's book The Last Superstition on the subject yet, though I plan to. (I wish it was in the Sony Bookstore and available for the Sony Reader. I'm not a Kindle guy yet; maybe I'll become one with a new version that doesn't look like the worst designed piece of consumer hardware ever). I've read some of his other stuff though, including his book on the philosophy of mind, and based on that you might find The Last Superstition helpful.

If secular Dawkinsian atheism is something you see as reasonable, that is, as conforming to right reason, then you aren't referring to reason when you use the term "reason". If secular Dawkinsian atheism is irrational, though, (and it is), then you can hardly blame reason for the fact that people are often irrational.

If secular Dawkinsian atheism is something you see as reasonable, that is, as conforming to right reason, then you aren't referring to reason when you use the term "reason". If secular Dawkinsian atheism is irrational, though, (and it is), then you can hardly blame reason for the fact that people are often irrational.

I'm not blaming reason. I'm saying that it is not debatable that people can and will abuse reason for their own ends. There are many truths which are spiritually discerned, and to a person who has no capacity to discern spiritual things, like most atheists, those things simply don't exist except in the realm of the hypothetical or absurd.

I see their point of view as reasonable insofar as I have been in their position, and realize from that experience that a lot of people literally are born with no faculty for discerning spiritual things. Appealing to things they cannot experience is like appealing to a blind man who also doesn't know his blindness is abnormal.

I'll also add that I'm not surprised that you take these things as a given. That's common among children of believers. The vast majority of the people I've met who really understand this issue are converts to Christianity.

I'm saying that it is not debatable that people can and will abuse reason for their own ends.
That is uncontroversial though. People will be unreasonable. We know this. Some people by background are more likely to be reasonable than others. We know this too.

It does not follow that right reason is per se incapable of apprehending true moral norms.

It does not follow that right reason is per se incapable of apprehending true moral norms.

Is right reason, without being influenced by Christianity, capable of reaching the highest moral conclusion which is to love the Lord with all of your strength? I doubt it, since the world didn't even realize that Yaweh existed for a long time.

One indisputable point for all Christians is that the highest moral calling we have is to love the Lord with all of our strength. That point is repeated in clear, unmistakable language by Jesus. In order to show that reason is capable of reaching to true morality, it must include a recognition of the truth of Jesus' words about how the highest commandment is to love the Lord.

Is right reason, without being influenced by Christianity, capable of reaching the highest moral conclusion which is to love the Lord with all of your strength?
But nobody that I know of claims that the light of natural reason can comprehensively reveal every moral truth. We divide moral norms into the natural law, which is accessible to the natural light of reason, and the Divine law, which can be known only with the assistance of the particulars of Christian revelation and the Church. Submission to the authority of the Church established by Christ is an example of part of the Divine law; the immorality of contraception, adultery, and killing the innocent are examples of the natural law. The latter are knowable to natural reason, just as physics and software programming are knowable to natural reason.
Would it be wrong for the government to hit the center of the infection with a tactical nuke because the only realistic alternative is that you will face an epidemic that threatens to kill off the entire nation?

This is the kind of line that makes me simply stop. I would charitably, but strenuously encourage you, Mike T to stop and just pray and meditate on this for a while. Is this really what you would suggest?

But nobody that I know of claims that the light of natural reason can comprehensively reveal every moral truth. We divide moral norms into the natural law, which is accessible to the natural light of reason, and the Divine law, which can be known only with the assistance of the particulars of Christian revelation and the Church.

Jesus made it abundantly clear that the highest commandment was to love the Lord, and didn't draw a distinction there between divine and natural law. So, technically reason cannot arrive at the highest moral commandment that Lord burdens the entire world with, and make no mistake, every unbeliever is required to love Lord even if they disobey out of complete ignorance.

Submission to the authority of the Church established by Christ is an example of part of the Divine law; the immorality of contraception, adultery, and killing the innocent are examples of the natural law. The latter are knowable to natural reason, just as physics and software programming are knowable to natural reason.

But what is adultery? Without the gospel, you wouldn't know that God considers the simple act of lusting after a woman to be adultery. So without the gospel, a man may know that having an affair is wrong, but he won't know that it is likewise wrong for him to even seriously entertain the thought. Since he will be fully accountable by that higher standard on his day of judgment, "natural reason" is limited in utility for making sure that you're truly behaving as you ought to behave. Not useless, just limited.

Going back to the case of killing the innocent, natural law also tells us that parents and communities have a natural moral burden to protect their community and children from violence and aggression. That is not hampered or negated by the proximity or use of innocent lives by the aggressor. It's naturally unreasonable to condemn a parent whose risks the life of an innocent person to protect their children from an aggressor who is close to the innocent person or using them as a human shield because you have two equal moral responsibilities at work here (don't kill the innocent and actively defend your child's life from an attacker).

...technically reason cannot arrive at the highest moral commandment that Lord burdens the entire world with ...
Again I agree, and no Christian I know of disputes, that the Divine law comes to us through revelation. (Though the term "burden" makes me cringe. At the end of the day the Divine law is more a gift than a burden, though it can certainly seem to be a burden at times).
This is the kind of line that makes me simply stop. I would charitably, but strenuously encourage you, Mike T to stop and just pray and meditate on this for a while. Is this really what you would suggest?

I would absolutely suggest that it would be forgivable for a government to nuke a civilian population center to control a plague if it met a few criteria:

1) Extremely high rate of infection (well over 50%, probably starting at at least 75%)

2) Near certain risk of death from it once infected.

3) Highly infectious.

4) New a location which made its spread to larger communities a realistic possibility.

One moral issue you haven't considered is bioterrorism. If a group deployed a weapon that met the criteria of a serious plague on one city, the government would have a period of time in which it could prevent the terrorist attack from being spread to other regions by the use of a quarantine at first, and a nuclear bombing as a last resort. Obviously you would want to quarantine first, but if the government could not maintain the quarantine, like in a case where armed civilians shot their way through government lines and risked spreading the contagion to other cities, it would be criminally negligent for the military to allow that fate to behalf other innocents. Given the nature of the attack, that would be dangerously similar to knowingly allowing an additional terrorist attack to happen.

What would you label someone who knowingly breaks quarantine and starts infecting others? I'd call them a murderer and say that any citizen or government agent would be morally justified in shooting them dead on sight.

Again I agree, and no Christian I know of disputes, that the Divine law comes to us through revelation. (Though the term "burden" makes me cringe. At the end of the day the Divine law is more a gift than a burden, though it can certainly seem to be a burden at times).

Ahhh, but the point is that natural and divine law are ultimately human distinctions, since it will all come down together as one big list of crimes on the day of judgment. The moral issues that truly matter, that save us from judgment, are simply not discernible by raw natural reason. If they were, Dawkins would be roasting marshmallows over the flames of his oeuvre burning in a bonfire.

aristocles:
It seems to me you are mistakenly providing justification for the elicit bombing of a region filled with innocent civilians so long as the intention is not the elimination of civilians inconveniently situated in the area but rather the targeted enemy.

If the person bombing such a region knows that there is indeed many innocent civilians situated there, but regardless would still execute such action in spite of the inevitable number of innocent causalities is, in all actuality, committing the heinous act of murder.

Well, then let us remove all doubt about this seeming difficulty. I have not addressed that case specifically, but there are certainly two implicit premises that would rebut the conclusion. First, I have relied on the notion of an "act of self-defense" (abbreviated from self-defense or defense of other innocents), and there is certainly a point at which it would be unreasonable to conclude that one's action is reducing the risk to innocent life more than it is raising it. A simple case would be if you posed more immediate danger to innocents than the terrorist did (e.g., a hostage situation where the only people in any immediate danger and the ones in the building). Second, I am only responding to the assertion that intentionally causing the death of an innocent person is intrinsically evil, which is what I deny. However, what is not intrinsically evil may certainly still be evil by disproportion, which I suspect would capture the remaining cases that you have in mind.

An act is specified by its end, i.e., the object of its intention. This is basic St. Thomas.

Well, since I've been studying the thought of St. Thomas for the past 6 years under a number of different Thomist scholars, at least one of whom is world renowned, I have some familiarity with texts of St. Thomas. You are utterly wrong. The object is formal cause of the act and thus part of the act itself irregardless of why one chooses it. That which is intended, the reason one chooses to act, is the final cause of the act. They are two different things. If the act is evil in itself, i.e. in the object, in its very form or nature, then the intention of the actor is irrelevant.

To suggest that an act is specified by human causality and not by the object of human intention is to subvert the very foundation of Catholic moral theology.

To say that the moral evaluation of human acts begins with the act itself and only afterwords takes into account intentions and circumstances is to stand firmly within the Catholic tradition of moral theology, a tradition most recently reiterated by Servant of God Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor.

If the person bombing such a region knows that there is indeed many innocent civilians situated there, but regardless would still execute such action in spite of the inevitable number of innocent causalities is, in all actuality, committing the heinous act of murder.

Depending on the stakes, it could also be self-defense. If the aggressor moves several mobile nuclear missile launchers into a town, and the only way to prevent them from wiping out your country is an air strike, then any civilian that dies is the fault of the aggressor who positioned himself for a devastating strike on your people from inside a civilian population. The greater the threat of violence, the greater the act of self-defense that is acceptable.

But nobody that I know of claims that the light of natural reason can comprehensively reveal every moral truth. We divide moral norms into the natural law, which is accessible to the natural light of reason, and the Divine law, which can be known only with the assistance of the particulars of Christian revelation and the Church. Submission to the authority of the Church established by Christ is an example of part of the Divine law; the immorality of contraception, adultery, and killing the innocent are examples of the natural law. The latter are knowable to natural reason, just as physics and software programming are knowable to natural reason.

Zippy, Well done.


The morals implicated should properly be understood as transcending Christianity. The moral law imprinted on the hearts of men (i.e., natural law) is what is involved here.

Natural law is that which is imprinted on the hearts of all men, and it is reflected in all the major religions, although only in the Catholic faith perfectly.

Yet, there is that distinction between the natural and the divine, which Zippy has rightly provided further explication in the matter as reflected in the above dialogue.

To a large extent, while natural law may well tell all of us that human life is important and should not be relegated to the status of an instrument or means to an end, why that is is important in understanding what we mean by human, and that may well be grounded in Christian morality rather than natural law as such. Indeed, the many fine points are probably not written on the hearts of men.


Speaking of which, one exemplary Christian who was a beacon of Reason himself, Richard John Neuhaus, had just recently passed away this morning.

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5312

Neuhaus, a Lutheran convert to the Catholic Faith, had once been named as one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" by Time Magazine.

The man will certainly be missed.

I'm assuming the air strike isn't a systematic carpetbombing of anything that moves, but rather one that unleashes enough force on each individual target to render them completely harmless.

Brendon:

You are utterly wrong. The object is formal cause of the act and thus part of the act itself irregardless of why one chooses it. That which is intended, the reason one chooses to act, is the final cause of the act. They are two different things. If the act is evil in itself, i.e. in the object, in its very form or nature, then the intention of the actor is irrelevant. Brendon,

Well done, and I cede the point. So I have mistakenly identified the object with the end. The object is the formal cause. And the end, or that which is intended, is the final cause.

However, as Thomas taught: "The superior cause is always formal with respect to the inferior." And as you well must know the final cause is the supreme cause. Therefore, the final cause, or that which is intended, is the cause that informs the inferior causes (the agent, object, and matter). In other words, that which is intended specifies the act, just as I said above.

Zippy:
That is exactly what he is doing.

This from the one who considers putting words in his mouth a great offense, particularly when I am being accused of deliberate, even willful, disregard of Magisterial teaching that I have read many a time over. Evidently, irony was not reserved to the late Pope in your post. LOL!

But let me respond to the substantive assertion:
Separating the moral dimensions of an act from the physical dimensions won't fly though, because human beings are irreduceably physical in addition to spiritual/mental beings.

It does not follow from that that our moral responsibility extends to everything that we knowingly and intentionally cause with our bodies. What follows is that the specification of the moral act cannot exclude the bodily aspects of that moral act as defined with respect to human nature. But the moral act itself is defined according to the natural union between the purpose of the mind and the action of the body, which is why John Paul II said that the natural law pertains to the nature of the human person, that is, "the person himself in the unity of soul and body, in the unity of his spiritual and biological inclinations and of all the other specific characteristics necessary for the pursuit of his end."

I am not separating the physical and mental aspects of the act; rather, I am pointing out that moral acts are the union of the mental and physical aspects of the act. And in the specification of that act, one cannot exclude either the moral or the physical aspects of the act, but must look to their union. The "fundamental option" folks (that is, those who give the term a heterodox interpretation) break the union between physical and mental aspects entirely, asserting that a mental state that cannot possibly be united with the physical behavior (say, extramarital sex) can still somehow change the character of the act. They effectively deny that an act can be evil solely because of essential incompatibility between mental and physical act. But I am not doing that. What I am saying is that there is a coherent and complete union of mind and body in an act of self-defense that may have accidental physical consequences that do not pertain to the essential nature of the act viewed according to human nature.

To rebut that position, you would be required to say that knowingly and intentionally using one's body to physically cause the death of an innocent is intrinsically incompatible with a proper union of body and mind. But that is clearly rebuttable by at least two examples. Removing heroic, life-saving measures most certainly can physically cause the death of an innocent person, but it is licit for sufficient reason. Performing a salpingectomy most certainly can physically cause the death of an innocent, but it is licit to save the mother's life. So the fact that a bomb knowingly and intentionally is used to cause the death of an innocent person alone cannot be the dispositive factor in concluding that the act is intrinsically evil, because if it were, the same would be true of these examples. And let us not be sophistical as to say that the underlying disease or exposure to the atmosphere or the like is the ultimate cause of death, because there is clearly an act undertaken to remove the protection from those factors that results in the death. Moreover, if the person's causal role in these circumstances did not create moral responsibility for them, then the Magisterial guidance on the subject would be nearly meaningless.

In both cases, what makes the death of the innocent permissible is that there is a completed moral act, an entire union of mind and body, involved in the action. In the case of removing heroic measures, there is another good associated with the removal, such as allowing the person to live (perhaps very briefly) in a relatively natural or unburdened condition. In the case of salpingectomy, there is the intent to preserve the health of the mother. They are both acts that are complete moral acts in pursuit of a good end in spite of knowledge and certainty that they will physically cause the death of an innocent. And because they are essentially complete moral acts, the remaining physical causal effects, no matter how foreseeable or necessary, can legitimately be regarded as accidental.

I fail to see any persuasive distinction in the causal power of a bomb that makes any salient moral distinction between the cases. And if a complete moral act of self-defense stands alone as such, using the death of the innocent as neither means nor end to stopping the aggressor from harm, then I see absolutely no reason that is should be intrinsically evil.

brendon:
One cannot draw a distinction between the physical act and the human act unless some part of the physical act falls outside of human causality.

That is absolutely untrue. Taking someone off a ventilator definitely doesn't fall outside of human causality, unless you take the absurd view that exposing someone to life-threatening circumstances is not within the scope of human moral responsibility. But one draws a distinction between the certainly foreseeable effects of the physical act and the essential human act in that case. Besides, on that definition, the explosion of the bomb falls outside of human causality, since it isn't directly caused by the body of the bomber. "Falls outside of human causality" is a meaningless distinction for purposes of this analysis.

If I target a bomb at a certain area knowing that there are non-combatants in that area I cannot claim that the bomb's killing of those non-combatants somehow fell outside of my causality. The bomb did exactly what I willed it to do.

As noted above, physical causality does not define the scope of the moral act.

Since the means I have chosen to attain my end of killing these terrorists is to destroy everything within this area as known by the bomb's blast radius, then the killing of these non-combatants in part of the means I have chosen to accomplish my end.

All of that is true. But the death of the innocent is not the means by which you kill the terrorist.

Intention is not relevant here.

Intention (in the sense of means and ends) is *always* relevant, even if simply to demonstrate its incompatibility with the concrete behavior. What is not relevant for intrinsically evil acts is further intention, viz., what beyond the scope of the act itself you hope to accomplish with the act.


Mike T, I wasn't inviting further discussion. It sickens me-and I don't say that in order to characterize you, it simply does. I strenuously encourage you to pray and meditate on it. You seem like you want to do Christ's will, so this, in my opinion, is a job for Him, not me. I don't think argument will reach you after reading your rationalization for mass murder of innocents to save yourself. Just stop, and pray. I have nothing more to say to you in the matter.

Therefore, the final cause, or that which is intended, is the cause that informs the inferior causes (the agent, object, and matter). In other words, that which is intended specifies the act, just as I said above.

Exactly. Something which is defective with respect to neither means (the concrete formal union between body and mind) or end is not morally evil.

All of that is true. But the death of the innocent is not the means by which you kill the terrorist.

Then there is no moral problem with firing a bullet through a hostage to kill a terrorist. The injury or death of the hostage is not what kills the terrorist, it only follows along with the physical act taken to kill the terrorist. This is perfectly acceptable under double effect as long as there are proportionate reasons.

... and it is impossible to choose to blow the living body of a person to bits with a bomb without intending to kill her. Just as with a salpingotomy it is impossible to crush the living body of the embryo without intending to kill her. In each case it is impossible to choose that particular concrete behavior without having that evil intention.

Jonathan Prejean: As in other foras, I have come to appreciate many of your substantive contributions to matters such as this. However, I would advise that you please consider being a bit more tactful in your responses to Zippy. I ask not only for Zippy's sake but also in order to preserve & maintain your privilege to make any and all future contributions on this and other subsequent matters on this blog, which I personally believe to be beneficial and, in some cases, may prove enlightening.


Zippy: I would implore you to bear with Christian patience what might be perceived by your person as Jonathan's rather impudent comments in his most recent above communication. It is hoped that he will herewith observe greater vigilance & restraint over any such future remarks, as I'm sure his code of honor is not unlike your own, and would not let any reasonable request go unheeded.

I am just anticipating his inevitable banning, which I believe may be a disservice to all parties concerned, as in the last blog such altercation took place between the both of you.

In any case, my advanced thanks to you both regardless for, at least, the consideration.

This is perfectly acceptable under double effect as long as there are proportionate reasons.

Welcome aboard, Brendon.

Zippy, I didn't see you respond above to this so, I'll ask again. How do you propose that a defender may engage in modern warfare, since all modern warfare will involve the killing of innocents that you classify as murder due to its close proximity to civilian populations? This is not the 18th century, and there are few opportunities for pitched battles away from the cities anymore. How can a modern, legitimate military force wage war in this day and age, since most battles will take place near and in places where any reasonable use of military force will likely cause innocents to die?

Or just simply this, as it would be an illustrative example. How can Israel ever defend itself in a meaningful way against Hamas and Hezbollah aggression, when any Israeli response is likely to have to hit enemy fortifications and positions that are purposefully situated so as to cause civilian casualties?

Based on what you've written, I can't imagine that you could seriously argue that any component of the Israeli military could be legitimately used except their infantry.

Assuming ius ad bello has been met, I am engaging enemy combatants. Since ius ad bello had been met, it is just for me to intend as my end the death of these enemy combatants.

The genus of the act I am going to take is good. If the species of the act I am going to take is also good, then my act is, leaving aside any other necessary consideration of accidents, i.e. circumstances, a good act.

The species of my act is determined by the form or nature of the act itself, i.e. its object.

The act I am going to take is targeting an explosive so as to kill the enemy combatants. In so doing I know that, due to the type of weapon I am using, a number of non-combatants in the same general area as the enemy combatants will be killed by the same fired weapon as the enemy combatants.

It is true that it is human persons who target. But human persons target using weapons. This weapon is designed to be an area of effect weapon. It is designed to be used to target everything in a specific area. I cannot intend to target only some things in said are with this weapon because its nature is to be used to target an area, not a particular thing.

To say that I can intend to only target particular objects with this weapon is to cease talking about the actions of a person, body and soul, and to begin talking about the actions of a disembodied mind. Such a mind can certainly view the using of this weapon apart from physical reality and attempt to justify itself by the counterfactual claim, "If these non-combatants were not present, then they would not be killed by my using this weapon," and thus holding that the death of the non-combatants has no causal relation to the death of the combatants.

But the fact is that this is false from the perspective of embodied reality. The means I choose to achieve the end of killing the enemy combatants is using this weapon to kill both the non-combatants and the enemy combatants. Thus, when the act is viewed not from the perspective of pure, abstracting mind but from embodied reality, the death of the non-combatants is recognized to be part of the means by which I achieve my end of killing the enemy combatants.

Since the means I have chosen to achieve my end involves the killing of non-combatants, and since this killing of non-combatants is necessarily intended by my choosing this means, and since the killing of non-combatants in war is murder, then the species of said act is murder. But murder is an evil act. Thus my act is evil, since being good in genus cannot change that which is evil in species to that which is good in species.

Welcome aboard, Brendon.

My statement was not my position, but rather an argument by contradiction. Jonathan had already tried to draw a moral distinction between bombing a crowd to kill enemy combatants, which he has argued is morally acceptable, and shooting a hostage so as to kill a terrorist, which he has held to be morally unacceptable. I am attempting to demonstrate that if I hold the distinctions he seems to hold, then both acts are different only in scale, not in kind. Thus if one is moral, so to must be the other and vice versa.

...and since the killing of non-combatants in war is murder...

This should read:

...and since the intentional killing of non-combatants in war is murder...

To say that I can intend to only target particular objects with this weapon is to cease talking about the actions of a person, body and soul, and to begin talking about the actions of a disembodied mind.

More accurately, I would say, it is to abstract the essense of the act from its particular accidents. No?

Thus, when the act is viewed not from the perspective of pure, abstracting mind but from embodied reality, the death of the non-combatants is recognized to be part of the means by which I achieve my end of killing the enemy combatants.

If this is true, it is difficult to see how the Principle of Double Effect, which assumes foreseen evil effects, can ever apply, since these foreseen evil effects should always be seen as "part of the means."

...since all modern warfare will involve the killing of innocents that you classify as murder due to its close proximity to civilian populations?
Really? Every modern military task, tactic, and operation involves choosing to deliberately kill civilians as part of its operational plan?

Someone who thought that would of course have to conclude that modern warfare is simply impermissible morally. And of course if it were true, we would all have to conclude that modern warfare is simply impermissible morally, and we would all have an obligation to become pacifists, at least as far as warfare is concerned. Indeed it is because of this conclusion that pacifists and hawks together collaborate in the confusion of our moral understanding of warfare: hawks so they can claim "morality, shmorality", an unfettered license to wage war to win without moral qualm or restriction; and doves so that they can claim that there is a moral obligation for everyone to be a pacifist.

But it is a rather different picture from what our military itself, the most modern ever, paints for us. Is our military lying to us?

Really? Every modern military task, tactic, and operation involves choosing to deliberately kill civilians as part of its operational plan?

Obviously not every one, but every full scale battle in or very near a civilian population center does. So far, that is precisely where most modern battles have been fought. This applies to what Israel deals with with Hamas and Hezbollah, wherein Israel is almost always forced to fight those groups in places like the Gaza Strip which are very densely populated. In those cases, Israel cannot fire off a missile or use any other explosive ordnance without knowing that their actions are very likely to cause innocent civilians to die because they will be too close to the enemy when the ordnance detonates.

Someone who thought that would of course have to conclude that modern warfare is simply impermissible morally. And of course if it were true, we would all have to conclude that modern warfare is simply impermissible morally, and we would all have an obligation to become pacifists, at least as far as warfare is concerned. Indeed it is because of this conclusion that pacifists and hawks together collaborate in the confusion of our moral understanding of warfare: hawks so they can claim "morality, shmorality", an unfettered license to wage war to win without moral qualm or restriction; and doves so that they can claim that there is a moral obligation for everyone to be a pacifist.

And once again, you wax eloquent without addressing the point. Answer the question, clearly. Can a modern military like the IDF engage in a full scale battle with an enemy like Hamas, when Hamas is fighting from within a civilian-dense region like the Gaza Strip? If so, can Israel use explosive ordnance in that situation? I can't see how you could argue that, since in such an area, no matter how grave the risk to the lives of the Israeli soldiers, any attack with ordnance will almost assuredly kill innocent civilians.

But it is a rather different picture from what our military itself, the most modern ever, paints for us. Is our military lying to us?

Our military has never claimed that you can wage modern warfare without killing innocent people. In fact, our military tends to regard a lot of the killings you consider murder as unfortunate aspects of war.

Once again, answer the question. What would Israel have to do to fight a morally licit, full scale battle against Hamas in a place as densely populated as Gaza, and what weapons could they realistically use to stay in moral clear?

If this is true, it is difficult to see how the Principle of Double Effect, which assumes foreseen evil effects, can ever apply, since these foreseen evil effects should always be seen as "part of the means."
Two things:

1) The principle of double-effect does not apply to intrinsically immoral acts. At all. If the chosen behavior is intrinsically immoral, the PDE is off the table completely.

So for example suggesting that the death of the civilian doesn't cause the death of the terrorist is irrelevant. Such appeals only make a moral difference when the chosen behavior itself is not intrinsically immoral. If the chosen behavior was not intrinsically immoral it would matter - under the PDE - whether or not the intended good effect is caused by the bad effect. But for intrinsically immoral behaviors all of the (remaining) PDE criteria are irrelevant.

2) There are plenty of obvious scenarios where double-effect clearly applies. One example I've given any number of times is when a commander orders his men to attack, morally certain that many or all of them will be killed by the enemy. So the issue isn't that it is hard to imagine how the PDE would ever apply in general; the issue is that it becomes hard(er) to imagine how the PDE could apply to particular acts that you want it to apply to.

...but every full scale battle in or very near a civilian population center does.
Only if being near civilians requires one to deliberately (as opposed to accidentally, contrary to operational plans) blow them to bits with bombs. Again, I think our military would beg to differ with you on the point.
many or all of them

Doesn't the "or all" make it too much like dropping a bomb on a bunch of civilians combined with terrorists?

Only if being near civilians requires one to deliberately (as opposed to accidentally, contrary to operational plans) blow them to bits with bombs. Again, I think our military would beg to differ with you on the point.

Our military would first and foremost find most of your views on display here to be a suicide pact when facing any enemy remotely willing to use civilians as cover.

I think the reason you are reluctant to address the issue of Hamas is that you know that based on your standards, Israel has almost no legitimate means of defending itself short of sending only infantry into Gaza, and refusing to provide them any support from armored units, artillery or the IAF because it will be operationally almost impossible for such things to be used without willfully including civilian noncombatants in the crossfire.

In short, the only way for a country like Israel to defend itself today would be to risk a repeat of the incident in Mogadishu.

Then there is no moral problem with firing a bullet through a hostage to kill a terrorist. The injury or death of the hostage is not what kills the terrorist, it only follows along with the physical act taken to kill the terrorist.

No, the bullet kills the terrorist precisely by boring a hole in another person's body. To put it another way, if the bullet doesn't bore the hole through someone's body, then the means don't accomplish the end. That's why I say you can't treat human beings as obstacles to be cleared away, because that makes clearing them away a part of the means to your end. But in the case of the bomb, your act, if completed, reaches the terrorist entirely irrespective of the harm done to the person.

But the fact is that this is false from the perspective of embodied reality. The means I choose to achieve the end of killing the enemy combatants is using this weapon to kill both the non-combatants and the enemy combatants. Thus, when the act is viewed not from the perspective of pure, abstracting mind but from embodied reality, the death of the non-combatants is recognized to be part of the means by which I achieve my end of killing the enemy combatants.

Ditto what George said. A part, yes. An essential part? No way. It's accidental; if everything stays the same but for the one factor of the bystander not being hit by the blast, then the bomb still succeeds. Contrast the case of the bullet: if all the circumstances of shooting through the person are the same but for the hole being successfully drilled in the person's body, then the act fails.

It's like I said before. You can be morally certain that a bomb will kill people, just as you can be morally certain that removing a ventilator from a patient dependent on it to life will end his life. But in neither case is the death essentially intended in the act. If the damage isn't done, you would still have accomplished your underlying act.

So for example suggesting that the death of the civilian doesn't cause the death of the terrorist is irrelevant.

If disabling the terrorist from inflicting harm on the innocent is your end, then what doesn't cause the death of the terrorist can't be means to that end. Consequently, this necessarily entails that the death of the civilian is not a means to the end of disabling the terrorist from inflicting harm on the innocent. That is the key to determining whether the death is accidental or essential to the act.

Such appeals only make a moral difference when the chosen behavior itself is not intrinsically immoral.

Precisely. It is clear that knowingly and deliberately causing the death of an innocent person is not always evil. I fail to see why that principle suddenly changes when applied to the context of defending human life against unjust aggressors.

Lydia:

Doesn't the "or all" make it too much like dropping a bomb on a bunch of civilians combined with terrorists?
It is still a fundamentally different case, because killing them is someone else's act not my act. I use that counterexample because it is straightforwardly distinct from an intrinsically immoral act, which is always my act, not someone else's act. (Mind you, none of this implies that it is definitely licit: just that its liciety is evaluated under the principle of double effect, assuming that the commander does not share in the enemy's intention to kill his men, that is, that he is not formally cooperating with their acts).

Mike T:

In short, the only way for a country like Israel to defend itself today would be to risk a repeat of the incident in Mogadishu.
If that is what it means, that is what it means. I have no intention to argue the point, because the point is irrelevant. We may not do evil in order that good may come of it, and deliberately killing the innocent is always morally wrong under all circumstances and intentions.

Jonathan:

It is clear that knowingly and deliberately causing the death of an innocent person is not always evil.

Knowingly &Deliberately causing the death of innocent(s) is evil regardless.

Moreover, I find it quite ironic that even the requisite conditions of what basically amounts to a mortal sin seemed to have escaped you in your above formulation.

Knowingly &Deliberately causing the death of innocent(s) is evil regardless.

I don't buy that either. If I remove a ventilator from someone who is dependent on it to breathe, I knowingly and deliberately cause his death. That is not intrinisically evil, and if done for prudent reasons, not even evil by disproportion. That alone is disproves knowing and deliberate causation of the death of an innocent as a sufficient condition for the act to be intrinsically evil.

There's this principle being asserted that killing an innocent is intrinsically evil unless it results from circumstances beyond your control or from your lack of knowledge. That is, as far as I can tell, a false assertion. There are clear cases where knowingly and willfully causing the death of an innocent person through circumstances under one's control is not intrinsically evil (or evil at all).

Jonathan: Am I right in my reading of your comments as some form of justification for mercy-killing?

Am I right in my reading of your comments as some form of justification for mercy-killing?

Well, if you call withdrawal of heroic life-saving measures "mercy killing," then I suppose it is that. I would think of the death as an unintended effect (in the moral sense) of removing an undue burden (in the form of being hooked up to complicated, life-saving machines) on the person's life.

Jonathan: I didn't think you were a proponent for euthanasia. Was this always the case or is this a rather recent development? I'm sure you're well aware of the ecclesiastical condemnation against it and its place in the Culture of Death. I would advise that you reconsider. I find it quite disconcerting that a person of your standards would condescend so.

If that is what it means, that is what it means. I have no intention to argue the point, because the point is irrelevant. We may not do evil in order that good may come of it, and deliberately killing the innocent is always morally wrong under all circumstances and intentions.

Thank you. You have just ceded the point to me that it is almost impossible under your interpretation of Catholic doctrine for a modern state to properly defend itself in practice. You have, consequently shifted over into a functionally pacifist position because the very nature of modern warfare makes it extremely difficult to find a war in which it would be moral to wage any meaningful level of armed combat in its defense. That is, of course, assuming that your position is true.

You would have to speak from a position of naivete to seriously believe that given the very urban nature of modern warfare, that your position doesn't amount to a castration of every decent-minded military man.

According to the position that Zippy has made clear here, the following things are now issues:

1) No modern military may seize control of territory occupied by civilians using armored units because the use of any tank or equivalent vehicle carries the serious risk of willfully inflicting casualties on non-combatants; tanks are entirely for show now, except on open fields.

2) Artillery may simply never be used to support ground forces whenever engaging enemy forces in or very close to a civilian population center.

3) Strategic bombers are completely out of the question except on open terrain.

4) Gunships must slowly pick off enemy combatants, risking being shot down, lest their chain guns chew up innocent civilians.

5) Infantry may never use rocket-propelled grenades whenever innocent civilians are around, even if the infantry are under attack from armored units.

6) Nuclear weapons can never be used unless the battle is taking place completely on a civilian-free field.

7) All an invader must do to exterminate the native defenders is to occupy a city, fortify it, and launch an unrelenting attack on the government forces.

In short, pursuant to Just War theory, Zippy has just rendered any modern government incapable of waging a credible defensive campaign, since its only reliable military assets are naval forces (which most states can't have due to their geographic position or wealth) and infantry. He has, created a de facto Pacifist mandate for defenders in a significant number of realistic war scenarios.

You have just ceded the point to me that it is almost impossible under your interpretation of Catholic doctrine for a modern state to properly defend itself in practice.
No I haven't. And your list is flat wrong. Silence, as we explored in another recent thread, does not imply consent.

Of course, the alternative is that you could use all of these assets, but then, according to Zippy, you would risk sending all of your soldiers to Hell because there would be so many cases where they may "commit murder" according to his interpretation of Catholic moral teachings. In short, if Zippy's views are taken seriously, the only spiritually safe path is a path that castrates the defensive capabilities of any modern state, rendering it incapable of launching a credible defensive campaign against an aggressor that has no qualms about exploiting Zippy's interpretation to use the full strength of its modern military on the defending army that has foregone using most modern technology. This being the case, the only way for the state to wage a credible defensive campaign so that it can wage war under Just War theory, is to risk damnation.

No I haven't. And your list is flat wrong. Silence, as we explored in another recent thread, does not imply consent.

Actually, it's entirely correct, based on the way that you take the position that intent has no bearing on the morality of the outcome. None of those weapon systems can be safely used, by your standards, around civilians in a time of war.

You just don't like the fact that I made it clear to the casual observer, that your extremist view on this subject has, by the nature of modern war, rendered you incapable of waging a Just War against any reasonably powerful military in most cases.

Ari:

Removing a ventilator is not euthanasia.

At bottom the specific question here is straightforward: is it possible to deliberately blow a person to bits with a bomb without intending to kill her. I say not, indeed obviously not; ultimately it is a question of fact about the nature of the behavior and the nature of man.

I think it is possible to withold extraordinary medical care without intending to kill the patient. In fact I think the two behaviors are obviously, radically different in their intrinsic nature qua behavior.

Mike T:

Although I believe that in certain cases, Zippy may err in rather seemingly rigorist (and in unique instances, even downright draconian) interpretations of Catholic moral teaching; in this particular instance, however, that doesn't appear to be the case.

Looking over your above list, it seems to me you are misinterpreting what Zippy has said in the course of this thread.

Perhaps it would be best for you to review what he has written?

Mike T:

Your ignorance and lack of imagination do not translate to an intellectual commitment on my part. What is more, you are not welcome to impute things to me that I do not in fact hold to be true, and further posts where you do so will be redacted or deleted.

Mike T
I respect Zippy and the sincerity and skill with which he habitually articulates and defends his views. But, on this issue, I think you are right. I think his case overreaches, largely because he has too broadly defined murder and, as a result, too widely applied it to actions that do not deserve it.

If ideas have consequences, and if bad ideas have bad ones, you have identified some of the bad consequences that follow from this faulty definition.

I didn't think you were a proponent for euthanasia.

As Zippy correctly notes, removing a ventilator is not euthanasia, because it is not an act of killing except by double effect. What is not at all clear to me is why the removal of a ventilator bears an obvious or radical difference from the case before us, given that in both case, one likely knows to a moral certainty that an innocent life will almost certainly end as a direct causal result of one's act. If one cannot be justified, then it would seem that the other cannot be.

The difficulty may be stated succinctly in this manner.

Zippy said, "I think it is possible to withold extraordinary medical care without intending to kill the patient."

I concur, and I think that it is possible to drop a bomb on a terrorist knowing that an innocent person will be killed without intending to kill the innocent person for precisely the same reason that I agree with this assertion, namely that my causal action can end an innocent man's life where that death is a double effect (with all of the usual caveats). What I do not understand is Zippy's reason for thinking that a life can be knowingly and deliberately ended.

I'm really not sure what to say when the myriad concrete differences qua behavior between deliberately blowing someone to bits with a bomb, on the one hand, and removing a ventilator from an unconscious dying patient, on the other, are not conceded. It seems unlikely that words are an efficacious instrument for resolving that problem.

If ideas have consequences, and if bad ideas have bad ones, you have identified some of the bad consequences that follow from this faulty definition.
Imaginary bad consequences in hypothetical worlds, at any rate. The proof in the pudding is in the eating, and part of being a Christian is doing the right thing in this world, and trusting in Providence that things will work out. There is certainly such a thing as being too naively idealistic, to be sure; but there is also such a thing as being slave to a crass pragmatism which does not trust God to make things right in the long run when we do the right thing now.

Of course the sting comes out of that criticism if I'm wrong, and trust in Providence in a context of doing the right thing is not coextensive with trust in Zippy's judgments about what the right thing is. But counterfactuals have their due limits.

A part, yes. An essential part? No way. It's accidental; if everything stays the same but for the one factor of the bystander not being hit by the blast, then the bomb still succeeds. Contrast the case of the bullet: if all the circumstances of shooting through the person are the same but for the hole being successfully drilled in the person's body, then the act fails.

This is why I find your argument obviously flawed.

I abstract out the situation of the bomb and posit, counterfactually, that if the non-combatants were not present, then I would not kill the non-combatants to kill the enemy combatants, and this justifies my using the bomb even with the non-combatants actually being present and targeted by the nature of the weapon.

But if I do the same in the situation with the terrorist and the hostage and posit, again counterfactually, that if the hostage was not present, then I would not kill the hostage to kill the terrorist, and this does not justify my shooting the terrorist through the hostage.

You are making the same abstract and counterfactual claim in both cases, i.e. if these people weren't here, then I could use this weapon as the means to kill the people whose deaths are my end. It cannot work in one case and not the other. It is glaringly inconsistent.

Zippy,
I disagree that what you oppose ought to be called "pragmatism," much less "crass pragmatism." I think it is morally justified self-defense.

You know the scenario: If Hamas militants launch rockets into Israel from a Palestinian schoolyard, the Israelis face a serious choice: They can retaliate against that enemy position, or they can decline to retaliate against that enemy position.

If they decline to do so, they make a choice that they can reasonably expect leads to civilian deaths -- in this case, Israeli deaths. If, instead, they retaliate against that enemy position, they can reasonably expect civilian deaths, in that case, Palestinian deaths. They don't want civilian deaths in either case, but they cannot avoid civilian deaths, no matter what they do. No matter what they do or don't do, they can reasonably expect their choice to lead to civilian deaths.

The choice they face is not if civilian deaths will happen, but which civilian deaths will happen. Naturally, we cannot reasonably expect the Israeli military to choose their own citizens for death. Indeed, they have a moral obligation to protect those citizens, not to stand by while more of those citizens get killed because the enemy employs a human shield for protection while launching rockets into Israeli neighborhoods.

The real question the Israeli military faces is how to go about retaliating against the enemy position. They can do it with rockets or air strikes of their own, or they can do it by ground assault.

While the ground assault has the moral advantage of being possibly more likely to save some of the civilian deaths that will happen in the schoolyard, it has the distinct disadvantage that it entails the greater likelihood of even more civilian deaths on the way to the schoolyard as the Israeli troops make their way through one of the most densely populated regions on earth -- a tactic that probably results in far more civilian deaths than would result from their own retaliatory rocket strike. This is, of course, an uncertain calculus. They simply cannot make a precise calculation ahead of time. The ground assault also has this additional problem: It likely entails more deaths among the Israeli military, something the commanders are morally bound to avoid if they can.

So, the Israeli military decides that the best thing to do, the most moral thing to do, is to launch an air strike against the enemy position. It's the path of least death, and the path of the most effective self-defense. They have no option open to them that is more moral or more effective. They are doing the morally justified thing -- they are practicing moral self-defense while holding down as much as possible the death and casualty toll on both sides. Given how densely populated Gaza is, the number of civilian deaths in this conflict is surprisingly low. The Israeli tactic seems to be saving lives.

What the Israelis are doing is neither "murder" nor "pragmatism," two words you have wrongly employed against them. What they are doing is principled self-defense and proportionality -- proportionality being the use of the least force that can reasonably be expected to eliminate the threat to one's self and to one's fellows.

I think his case overreaches, largely because he has too broadly defined murder and, as a result, too widely applied it to actions that do not deserve it.

I think he has defined it quite narrowly: You may not deliberately kill the innocent.

What is being broadly defined is the liberty to engage in such killing.

Michael, thanks for the feedback. Just to reiterate, I am not discussing the Gaza conflict or particular events within it at all. I am discussing in the abstract what it is and is not licit to do with a bomb as a weapon. Applying that to specific conflicts I leave to others. And I reject the thesis that deliberately and directly killing the innocent can ever constitute legitimate self-defense.

William,
Perhaps we can reach common ground by a different path. At least I'll give it a try.

Would you agree to this definition?:
Murder is not the same as killing. Murder is unjustified killing.

If so, the question, in this case, becomes "May the Israelis justifiably kill non-combatants?

I have argued that, at least in some cases, they may. If you think I am mistaken, can you show me precisely where, in the scenario traced out above at 1/9 12:54 AM, I have gone off track? At the moment, it seems to me that the Israelis are doing the right thing, and with proportionality.

Zippy,
Got it. Thanks.

I abstract out the situation of the bomb and posit, counterfactually, that if the non-combatants were not present, then I would not kill the non-combatants to kill the enemy combatants, and this justifies my using the bomb even with the non-combatants actually being present and targeted by the nature of the weapon.

As George pointed out, that's called reason: abstracting forms from concrete situations, discerning substance and accident, etc. Maritain's _The Degrees of Knowledge_ is an excellent work on this subject.

What you are criticizing is a standard piece of double effect reasoning: the "if by a miracle" test. The test is normally stated as "If, by a miracle, this effect of the action were removed from the causal chain, would your act still ultimately succeed?" That's not to say that it is particularly trivial to do this, because if you aren't careful, you can specify the "if by a miracle" condition too broadly (as you did with saying "the bystander isn't there"). But you can't just pick anything to remove; it has to specifically be the causal effect of your action within the concrete causal chain (otherwise, you've gone beyond the analysis of your concrete action to an entirely different situation). That's not abstracting away the situation; rather, it is analyzing the effects of that action through hypothetical reasoning to determine what is essential to the action in that situation and what is accidental.

So you are entirely wrong that I am attempting to abstract away the bystander. What I am doing is to abstract away the particular effect on the bystander from the chain of causal effects and then to determine whether the action is still completed or not, which tells me whether that particular effect is essential to the action as means or end. This is entirely routine analysis for these cases, and it is even presupposed in Magisterial teaching on intent and action. Note, for example, the definition of intrinsically evil contraception in Humanae Vitae:
Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

In the case of the bullet, the causal chain of events is something like this: I direct the barrel at the target, I squeeze the trigger, the bullet emerges from the barrel, the bullet impacts the bystander, the bullet bores a channel through the bystander, the bullet emerges from the channel, and the bullet hits the terrorist. What I am saying is that if the particular causal effect on the bystander is removed, then the causal chain is broken; therefore, the causal effect is essential (as means) to the completed act.

By contrast, with the case of the bomb, the harm to the terrorist has no essential causal connection to the harm to the innocent bystander. Simply put, the causal chain for the act of self-defense is simple: I detonate the bomb with the unjust aggressor in the blast radius, the bomb disables the unjust aggressor. Now, there are all sorts of other destructive effects of the bomb. I could (and indeed would) remove ALL of them if there were a better means that did so, meaning the effect is not directly intended. But my concrete choice is probably limited to a bomb; it is the only means I have available to disable the terrorist.

It's the same reasoning that one might go through with certain treatments (e.g., hysterectomy) on a pregnant woman. Note the questions and conclusion in the following article:
"Since, as natural law theory holds, one may never directly intend to kill an innocent human being, under what circumstances and conditions is it morally permissible: (1) for a woman to undergo an abortion procedure; or, (2) for a physician to help one of these innocents to live, by means of other and different morally legitimate medical actions, and yet permit or allow the other, unfortunately, to die?
...
In short, a pregnant woman who is faced with the grim reality of impending death short of the use of, e.g., chemotherapy or hysterectomy, may use these and other morally licit medical treatments an procedures for the reasonably grave reason of saving her life, as long as the death of her unborn child is not directly intended as the end (or purpose) of using these procedures, or is the means by which her life is saved, but only allowed or permitted o happen as an accidental by-product of these medical actions, and no other reasonable medical treatment is available."
http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_08natlaw.html

I hope this makes clear why I have a burr in my saddle re: analysis that implies that directly causing the death of an innocent is always intrinsically evil, whether by bomb, by surgery, or by disconnection of a ventilator. It foregoes an entirely legitimate Catholic moral analysis regarding death of an innocent that is not directly intended and raises the spectre of chilling good moral acts. And I cannot see why the death of an innocent bystander in the case of using a bomb in an act of self-defense is directly intended (viz., intended as means or end) in the relevant sense. You can call the reasoning "preposterous" or "abstract" or whatever you like, but at the end of the day, this is the only way to think clearly enough to determine the difference between direct and indirect intent in situations that are extremely complicated from a moral perspective. Thus, it is essential to doing right in these very real situations.

I think he has defined it quite narrowly: You may not deliberately kill the innocent.

I would edit this to be "deliberately and knowingly kill the innocent," but I think your description is correct. Unfortunately, that is actually considerably broader than the prohibition of the natural law, which is accurately stated in my previous post: "one may never directly intend to kill an innocent human being."

There are numerous cases in which one deliberately kills the innocent but does not directly intend (viz., as means or end) to kill the innocent. Thus, if you are correct in your assessment, then far from defining it "quite narrowly," he has defined the prohibition far too broadly.

BTW, just to confirm that the Magisterial teaching and the teaching of the natural law are entirely identical on this point, I take the following statement from Evangelium Vitae:
"Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral."

Look at the use of the word "direct" in that document, which is used in exactly the sense that I have made clear above (viz., intending the death as end or means).

What you are criticizing is a standard piece of double effect reasoning: the "if by a miracle" test.
The "if by a miracle" test is a double-effect test: which is to say, it is only valid once we have already established that the concrete behavior chosen is not evil in itself. IOW, it is only a valid question with respect to external effects which are not intrinsic to the behavior chosen. So for example it is valid to ask "if by a miracle all my men survive storming the beach, will my act still succeed?" because ordering my men to storm the beach is not an intrinsically immoral behavior in itself. It is not valid to ask "if by a miracle God proclaims us married, even though she is really married to someone else, will my objective of having a child with her still succeed?"

Folks are attempting to "back door" double-effect tests into intrinsically immoral behaviors. That doesn't work. It is invalid to apply double-effect tests unless the chosen behavior has already been established to be at worst morally neutral. Double-effect tests do not apply to intrinsically immoral behaviors.

At the end of the day, the question is whether choosing to blow an innocent person's living body to bits with a bomb qua behavior is directly and voluntarily killing them. I think it is quite obvious that it is, and that attempts to assert that it is not are obviously invalid.

The "if by a miracle" test is a double-effect test: which is to say, it is only valid once we have already established that the concrete behavior chosen is not evil in itself.

No, it is a test to *determine* whether this is a case where double effect can be applied, which really means that it is a test to *determine* whether an action is intrinsically immoral. It is a test to identify the accidental and essential elements of the act itself, viz., to define what the act is.

IOW, it is only a valid question with respect to external effects which are not intrinsic to the behavior chosen.

This misunderstands the test; its purpose is to identify which effects are intrinsic to the act and which are extrinsic to the act.

So for example it is valid to ask "if by a miracle all my men survive storming the beach, will my act still succeed?" because ordering my men to storm the beach is not an intrinsically immoral behavior in itself. It is not valid to ask "if by a miracle God proclaims us married, even though she is really married to someone else, will my objective of having a child with her still succeed?"

This also misunderstands the test. As I stated above, the "if by a miracle" test only applies with respect to removing effects within the causal chain of the action under those particular circumstances. There is no way that I can causally affect the marital status of someone who is already married, so it is not a legitimate application of the "if by a miracle" analysis to eliminate it, since it does nothing to illuminate the nature of that particular act in those particular circumstances.

Folks are attempting to "back door" double-effect tests into intrinsically immoral behaviors. That doesn't work. It is invalid to apply double-effect tests unless the chosen behavior has already been established to be at worst morally neutral. Double-effect tests do not apply to intrinsically immoral behaviors.

The remark is inapposite, since the "if by a miracle" test is one to determine the essential and accidental causal effects of the action in order to determine whether double effect could apply. To put it another way, it is a test to determine whether the act is or is not intrinsically immoral.

At the end of the day, the question is whether choosing to blow an innocent person's living body to bits with a bomb qua behavior is directly and voluntarily killing them.

That is true in the technical sense of "directly," meaning willed as an end or means.

I think it is quite obvious that it is, and that attempts to assert that it is not are obviously invalid.

It is by no means obvious to me, because you're basically arguing that blowing an innocent person's living body to bits cannot be an indirectly intended effect. But depending on the end, it seems clear that blowing up the innocent person's living body would be neither end nor means. What you would have to demonstrate is that blowing up the innocent person's living body is necessarily either an end or a means to the end in the scenario you describe, and you haven't.

No, it is a test to *determine* whether this is a case where double effect can be applied, which really means that it is a test to *determine* whether an action is intrinsically immoral.
Obviously we just disagree. You can only analyze something as an effect under double effect if it is in fact an effect in the morally pertinent sense, that is, if it is not intrinsic to the chosen behavior.
It is by no means obvious to me, because you're basically arguing that blowing an innocent person's living body to bits cannot be an indirectly intended effect.
No, I am arguing that killing a person cannot be an indirectly intended effect of a behavior which intrinsically, that is, in the nature of the chosen behavior itself, blows her body to bits.

Someone asked me a question about this, so I figured I'd run it by you, Zippy, so you can make your position clear:

Based on your position, stated in the blog post above, how do you account for the moral issues that would arise in a time of war if a party to the conflict exploited your definition of murder by making it official government policy to use human shields to protect all armored units, and force-marched human shields into battle along with the infantry?

It would certainly be the case that you could never fire a shot at their armored columns without knowingly blowing up innocent civilians in the process.

It would certainly be the case that you could never fire a shot at their armored columns without knowingly blowing up innocent civilians in the process.

Let me make another point clear here. There is no weapon that can destroy a modern American, Russian or Chinese-made tank that wouldn't necessarily entail the death of any human shield in the vicinity of or on the tank. Modern tanks are simply too heavily-armored.

Although this has been a heated discussion at times, it there has been light alongside the heat. As I wrote in the last thread, the position Zippy has articulated puts enormous emphasis on the killing/letting die distinction. If a mass murderer has strapped a baby to his back, you can't shoot him even if he's in the process of murdering scores (or thousands) of other babies. I think it is correct that the impact of this position on the ability to resist evil is enormous.

A question from a non-Catholic about the Catholic position on a quasi-analogous case. Suicide is impermissbale. But what is catholic doctrine on self-sacrifice. Let's say the person strapped to the mass murderer is *me.* Can I jump off a ledge (committing suicide) in order to drag the mass-murderer with me, and thereby save scores of other victims?

Folks are attempting to "back door" double-effect tests into intrinsically immoral behaviors.

The first thing to examine is whether blowing an innocent person to bits with a bomb is intrinsincally evil. The "if by a miracle" test removes the wrong person - the question to be asked to test for intrinsinc evil isn't if the bystander were gone, is it ok to drop the bomb, but rather if the terorist were gone, could you drop the bomb on the innocent?

1) Is it agreed that it is intrinsincally evil to drop the bomb on the innocent without the presence of the terrorist?

2) Is it agreed that PDE does not apply to intriniscally evil acts?

If 1 and 2 are true, how can you use PDE to convert the act to not evil when the terrorist is there? In other words, how does the terrorist's presence, without invoking PDE (b/c that does not apply to intrinsincally evil acts), render the act not evil? That is what I am having a difficult time understanding.

As George pointed out, that's called reason: abstracting forms from concrete situations, discerning substance and accident, etc.

I know what abstraction is. And I also know it can be done invalidly, such as someone abstracting the act of fornication into nothing more than its physical act. Thus fornication goes from being an intrinsically evil human act to a human act of sex that is evil only by its circumstances. Then the justifications begin. I know, since I've had this argument numerous times with any number of people.

That example is one of reducing all actions to the purely physical. The error at the other extreme is "angelic thinking," the removal of the bodily and physical as something unimportant. It has been done over and over again in this thread.

What I am doing is to abstract away the particular effect on the bystander from the chain of causal effects and then to determine whether the action is still completed or not, which tells me whether that particular effect is essential to the action as means or end.

Which is invalid in this situation because the weapon that is being used, by its nature, effects both the combatants and non-combatants together. There are not two effects, one on the combatants and one on the non-combatants. To remove the effect on the non-combatants would also remove the effect on the combatants because it is the same effect. Thus the act is not complete if you remove the effect on the non-combatants.

I do not know why you keep stressing "as an end or as a means." I completely agree with this. My argument is that the use of the bomb kills the non-combatants as a means and the method you are using to argue otherwise is invalid as you are applying it to the concrete situation.

In the case of the bullet, the causal chain of events is something like this: I direct the barrel at the target, I squeeze the trigger, the bullet emerges from the barrel, the bullet impacts the bystander, the bullet bores a channel through the bystander, the bullet emerges from the channel, and the bullet hits the terrorist. What I am saying is that if the particular causal effect on the bystander is removed, then the causal chain is broken; therefore, the causal effect is essential (as means) to the completed act.

But this passes the "if by a miracle" test easily. As far as the shooter is concerned, he is aiming at the terrorist, not the hostage. "If by a miracle" the hostage moves or is moved in just the right way at just the right moment when the trigger is pulled, the terrorist is still hit and killed. The causal effect on the bystander can thus be removed without breaking the causal chain.

I hope this makes clear why I have a burr in my saddle re: analysis that implies that directly causing the death of an innocent is always intrinsically evil, whether by bomb, by surgery, or by disconnection of a ventilator.

Not really, since I do not think that either removing a ventilator or performing a salpingectomy directly causes the death of an innocent. The direct effect of removing a ventilator is to remove artificial assistance to respiration. This is not an intrinsically evil act and it is not what kills the person; rather, they are killed by an underlying condition. The direct effect of a salpingectomy is to remove a damaged fallopian tube. This is not intrinsically evil and it is not what kills the child; rather, the child dies from being placed in an environment in which it cannot survive - something that, in an ectopic pregnancy, was already the case to begin with. The direct effect of a bomb is to deliver lethal explosive force to everything in its blast radius. Insofar as there are non-combatants in said blast radius, they are killed directly by the act of bombing, not by some foreseen aftereffect further down the causal chain.

In fact, perusal of the literature again and again points to the fact that salpingectomies are morally permissible specifically because the are the indirect taking of a life rather than the direct taking of a life.

The following is from Wikipedia on the Principle of Double Effect:

War

The principle appears useful in war situations. In a war, it may be morally acceptable to bomb the enemy headquarters to end the war quickly, even if civilians on the streets around the headquarters might die. For, in such a case, the bad effect of civilian deaths is not disproportionate to the good effect of ending the war quickly, and the deaths of the civilians are side effect and not intended by the bombers, either as ends or as means. On the other hand, to bomb an enemy orphanage in order to terrorize the enemy into surrender would be unacceptable, because the deaths of the orphans would be intended, in this case as a means to ending the war early, contrary to condition 2. [emphasis added]


to use human shields to protect all armored units, and force-marched human shields into battle along with the infantry?

Trusting in Providence, I would think such a tactic would be highly impractible for the attacking army (they would be moving awfully slow), opening up possibilities for morally permissible counter measures. However, having absolutely no military background, I can't provide particulars. I would think the "sin makes you stupid" corollary that "evil means tend to backfire" would kick in.

Trusting in Providence, I would think such a tactic would be highly impractible for the attacking army (they would be moving awfully slow), opening up possibilities for morally permissible counter measures. However, having absolutely no military background, I can't provide particulars. I would think the "sin makes you stupid" corollary that "evil means tend to backfire" would kick in.

The speed assumption is not true for the armored units. A M1A* Abrams tank weighs ~67 tons. Adding half a ton of civilian bodies on top of it would barely phase its engine.

This is why I want Zippy's opinion on this. There are actually countries which have sufficiently low regard for human life that they would employ this tactic against an enemy they knew held Zippy's stated beliefs. China, North Korea, Iran and much of sub-Saharan Africa are good examples based on the way that they have behaved in previous modern wars.

The reason I won't resort to trusting in Providence is that simple natural reason shows me that once this theory gets applied to the real world, the outcome is obvious. Saying that you should rely on God here is more aptly compared to snake-handling than the case of Saul taking the sacrifice into his own hands.

c matt,

Suffice it to say, if your enemy is rushing you with several thousand modern main battle tanks, covered in non-combatants, and you subscribe to the definition of murder that Zippy used in the main post, it would immediately fall into the category of "if by a miracle" that your forces don't get soundly massacred by the armored units attacking them. I'll also point out that there are several countries that could easily bring that scenario to pass right now, including the United States, Russia, China and a combined force of the Arab states.

Again, I contend that Mike T's real-world reasoning is spot on. And unless one reasons for the world that is, unless one serves the present age, one probably does not serve at all, even if one means to.

Obviously we just disagree. You can only analyze something as an effect under double effect if it is in fact an effect in the morally pertinent sense, that is, if it is not intrinsic to the chosen behavior.

I'm not sure that we disagree so much as that we are talking past each other. "Effect" is a causal term; it is morally neutral. The determination of whether some effect is intrinsic to the chosen behavior qua chosen behavior is whether the causal effect is being chosen as either means or end, which is the "morally pertinent sense" of effect. If the causal effect is neither means nor end, then it might be a legitimate "double effect," but that is a separate question. The threshhold question is whether that effect is being chosen as means or end.

No, I am arguing that killing a person cannot be an indirectly intended effect of a behavior which intrinsically, that is, in the nature of the chosen behavior itself, blows her body to bits.

I agree, if it is in the nature of the chosen behavior, which is identical to saying that the chosen behavior necessarily depends on the physical effect chosen as end or means. There is a difference between "behavior" (in the general sense of whatever it is you do willingly and knowingly with your body) and "chosen behavior." The "chosen behavior" refers only to those aspects of the behavior that are chosen as means or ends. It's not a question of wishing the causal effects away; rather, it is a question of choosing a bodily act that does not make use of them either as ends or means.

Bizarre as it sounds, the scenario described by Mike T was in fact contemplated by Saddam Hussein in the run-up to Gulf War I.

Samarai was a lifelong military officer. He had advised Saddam throughout the long war with Iran, and he had seen him develop a fairly sophisticated understanding of military terminology, weaponry, strategy, and tactics. But Saddam's vision was clouded by a strong propensity for wishful thinking—the downfall of many an amateur general. If Saddam wanted something to happen, he believed he could will it to happen. Samarai kept up a steady stream of intelligence reports as the United States and its allies assembled an army of nearly a million soldiers in Kuwait, with air power far beyond anything the Iraqis could muster, with artillery, missiles, tanks, and other armored vehicles decades more advanced than Iraq's arsenal. The Americans didn't hide these weapons. They wanted Saddam to understand exactly what he was up against.

Yet Saddam refused to be intimidated. He had a plan, which he outlined to Samarai and his other generals in a meeting in Basra weeks before the American offensive started. He proposed capturing U.S. soldiers and tying them up around Iraqi tanks, using them as human shields. "The Americans will never fire on their own soldiers," he said triumphantly, as if such squeamishness was a fatal flaw. It was understood that he would have no such compunction. In the fighting, he vowed, thousands of enemy prisoners would be taken for this purpose. Then his troops would roll unopposed into eastern Saudi Arabia, forcing the allies to back down. This was his plan, anyway.

source

Michael Bauman,

Here's another example for you. What happens when the enemy straps infants to their paratroopers? All we'd have to do is raid an orphanage, strap the kiddies to the 82nd airborne division's armor, fly them over the enemy capitol and government buildings, and woo! Instant occupation!

Although I should add that all the Iraqi generals thought Saddam's plan impractical and absurd...

"If by a miracle" the hostage moves or is moved in just the right way at just the right moment when the trigger is pulled, the terrorist is still hit and killed. The causal effect on the bystander can thus be removed without breaking the causal chain.

But that is a change if circumstances, which is precisely what the "if by a miracle" test does not allow. You only get to modify the parts for which you are causally responsible.

In fact, perusal of the literature again and again points to the fact that salpingectomies are morally permissible specifically because the are the indirect taking of a life rather than the direct taking of a life.

Yes, but the term "direct" in the context of moral theology means "used as an end or a means." That is literally the definition of the term. What you mean by "direct" in terms of physical causation or direct touching is not the same thing. I agree that salpingectomies are permissible because they are indirect, that is, they are not using the death of innocents as ends or means.

From a Catholic Website:


www.trosch.org/phi/dbl-efft.htm

In modern warfare the principle of the double effect is frequently applicable. Thus, in waging a just war a nation may launch an air attack on an important military objective of the enemy even though a comparatively small number of noncombatants are killed. This evil effect can be compensated for by the great benefit gained through the destruction of the target. This would not be true if the number of noncombatants slain in the attack were out of proportion to the benefits gained, as is clear from the fourth condition explained above. Furthermore, if the direct purpose of the attack were to kill a large number of noncombatants so that the morale of the enemy would be broken down and they would sue for peace, the attack would be sinful because the third condition for the lawful use of the principle would not be fulfilled. It would be a case of the use of a bad means to obtain a good end.

In modern warfare the principle of the double effect is frequently applicable. Thus, in waging a just war a nation may launch an air attack on an important military objective of the enemy even though a comparatively small number of noncombatants are killed. This evil effect can be compensated for by the great benefit gained through the destruction of the target. This would not be true if the number of noncombatants slain in the attack were out of proportion to the benefits gained, as is clear from the fourth condition explained above. Furthermore, if the direct purpose of the attack were to kill a large number of noncombatants so that the morale of the enemy would be broken down and they would sue for peace, the attack would be sinful because the third condition for the lawful use of the principle would not be fulfilled. It would be a case of the use of a bad means to obtain a good end.

God help you if they move their surface-to-air defenses on top of their public schools, hospitals and orphanages. The destruction of a few such batteries could never be sufficient under that criteria to justify the loss of life. The enemy, however, would be free to shoot down all of your non-stealth aircraft with impunity.

Although I should add that all the Iraqi generals thought Saddam's plan impractical and absurd...

Probably because they knew that our patriotic servicemen would rather die than be used as human shields and our military would honor that wish.

But that is a change if circumstances, which is precisely what the "if by a miracle" test does not allow. You only get to modify the parts for which you are causally responsible.

But the theoretical survival of non-combatants in the bombing scenario can only be due to changes in circumstances, such as this particular weapon behaving in an unexpected way due to some minor variation or flaw, or the non-combatants moving before the weapon strikes.

Yes, but the term "direct" in the context of moral theology means "used as an end or a means." That is literally the definition of the term.

I know and have stated as much.

I am arguing that the use of the bomb in scenario we are discussing involves killing non-combatants as a means and is thus direct killing. This is because the type of weapon being used is an indiscriminate area of effect weapon, and thus is impossible to use in this scenario without targeting for death both combatants and non-combatants together. Any survival of non-combatants does not result from the choices the actor has causal responsibility for; rather, the survival of non-combatants would be due to circumstances such as an unknown flaw in the particular weapon used or the non-combatants moving before the weapon struck. Thus the act directly kills the non-combatants and is an act of murder.

To be more clear:

No way. It's accidental; if everything stays the same but for the one factor of the bystander not being hit by the blast, then the bomb still succeeds.

Due to the type of weapon being used, the only way that the bystanders would not be hit by the blast would be if this particular piece of ordinance had some unknown variation that caused it to perform unexpectedly, if something else in the blast radius was made of an unexpected or strange material that caused it to be effected unexpectedly, if the bystanders moved before the weapon struck &c. But all these are circumstances. If "you only get to modify the parts for which you are causally responsible" in the "if by a miracle" test, then this example fails because what is modified depends upon circumstances, over which the actor has no control or causal responsibility.

I am arguing that the use of the bomb in scenario we are discussing involves killing non-combatants as a means and is thus direct killing.

Brendon,

This is absurd.

Means are necessarily prior to the end because the end is dependent on them. But the killing of the civilians and the end (killing of the enemy) would be simulteneous.

In reality, of course, it is not the the killing of civilians that is the means to the end, but rather that which causes the killing of the civilians, i.e., the exploding bomb. And the exploding bomb is not immoral per se.

George R. has characterized Brendon's statement as absurd.

However, if an aggressor were to hide behind an innocent individual and I were to shoot through the innocent in order to accomplish the end of eliminating the aggressor, then the killing of the innocent would indeed have served as a means to the end.

It is the height of absurdity to think otherwise.

The case immediately before us would appear analogous.

However, if an aggressor were to hide behind an innocent individual and I were to shoot through the innocent in order to accomplish the end of eliminating the aggressor, then the killing of the innocent would indeed have served as a means to the end.

That would serve to create a pacifism mandate if one faced an enemy willing and able to exploit that.

It also raises an interesting theological situation. Would the genocide of the Canaanites that God ordered have been morally licit according to your model if the Canaanites had hidden behind imported human shields?

That would serve to create a pacifism mandate if one faced an enemy willing and able to exploit that.

Oh, I see, that's right, because the only method of eliminating the enemy is through murdering the innocent and the only other option besides this is not engaging him at all.

That there remains still other means is simply out of the question since killing the innocent is part of the desideratum.


It also raises an interesting theological situation. Would the genocide of the Canaanites that God ordered have been morally licit according to your model if the Canaanites had hidden behind imported human shields?

Sorry to disappoint you but I do not adhere to the mindlessly simplistic fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture that you seem to be espousing here, a discussion of which would venture beyond the current topic at hand and, therefore, out of respect for Zippy, I shall not engage into an exegesis of the particular passage since to do so would merely distract from the subject discussion.

But the theoretical survival of non-combatants in the bombing scenario can only be due to changes in circumstances, such as this particular weapon behaving in an unexpected way due to some minor variation or flaw, or the non-combatants moving before the weapon strikes.

I mean "circumstances" in the sense that many documents on moral theology use the term, which is to say something outside of the causal effects of the act. The hypothetical analysis for the "if by a miracle" analysis is essentially the question of whether some particular effect in the causal chain, if it miraculously failed to happen and nothing else changed, would terminate the causal chain to the end. So if the bullet somehow fails to penetrate the bystander's body, the causal chain would be interrupted. The "miracle" part is design to exclude all of the sorts of changes of circumstances that you mentioned; it means that literally nothing changes but the failure of the particular effect in the causal chain. The hostages are not moved, the bomb goes off as expected, etc., etc., but it just so happens that the effect miraculously fails to happen.

Thus, if the bystander through whom you are trying to shoot miraculously becomes bulletproof, your intended shot doesn't hit the terrorist. By contrast, if the bystander miraculously becomes bombproof, then you'd be thrilled.

I know and have stated as much.

Then you aren't defining the term "means" correctly. "Means" refers to the causal effects in the causal chain to the end. Some particular means may produce all sorts of other causal effects, but the only causal effects relevant to the means qua means are the ones that bear a causal connection to the end. You are thinking of "means" as the thing itself, but the means are specifically those effects of the thing that causally relate to the end. For example...

I am arguing that the use of the bomb in scenario we are discussing involves killing non-combatants as a means and is thus direct killing.

But you haven't shown any causal chain between the causal effect of killing the non-combatant and the end of disabling the terrorist. For the effect of killing the non-combatant to be part of the means, you have to show that if the non-combatant miraculously becomes bomb-proof, the end of disabling the terrorist would not be reached. Otherwise, the effect of killing the non-combatant is not being used as a means to the end of disabling the terrorist. And if the killing the innocent is not being used as means, then it is not direct killing.

This is because the type of weapon being used is an indiscriminate area of effect weapon, and thus is impossible to use in this scenario without targeting for death both combatants and non-combatants together.

The indiscriminate physical nature of the weapon simply means that you will likely have a lot of effects that you are not intending. "Targeting for death" is not intrinsically evil, only using death as means to an end (viz., targeting in a moral sense).

If "you only get to modify the parts for which you are causally responsible" in the "if by a miracle" test, then this example fails because what is modified depends upon circumstances, over which the actor has no control or causal responsibility.

You're misunderstanding the point. The "miracle" part addresses the lack of control or causal responsibility. What I am saying is that the miracle can only be invoked to cause the miraculous failure of a causal effect that you would otherwise produce.

However, if an aggressor were to hide behind an innocent individual and I were to shoot through the innocent in order to accomplish the end of eliminating the aggressor, then the killing of the innocent would indeed have served as a means to the end.

It is the height of absurdity to think otherwise.

The case immediately before us would appear analogous.

The key difference, a real physical one, is that the bomb's force doesn't have to go through the innocent person's body to reach the terrorist. That's one of those real, concrete physical differences between the cases that can't be disregarded, because it changes the causal chain. The bullet injures the terrorist by first injuring the bystander and then by exploiting the injury to reach the terrorist. The bomb doesn't causally depend on the injury to the bystander to achieve the end. To say that the injury to the bystander is the means of injuring the terrorist in both cases disregards the concrete chain of causality, which is different between the two cases and which is essential to defining the act.

Oops! Mixed up on the italics. Only the last paragraph was mine in the previous response.

Sorry to disappoint you but I do not adhere to the mindlessly simplistic fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture that you seem to be espousing here, a discussion of which would venture beyond the current topic at hand and, therefore, out of respect for Zippy, I shall not engage into an exegesis of the particular passage since to do so would merely distract from the subject discussion.

That seems to be your MO. Name calling, pathetic insults and stereotypical Catholic regard for Protestants as spiritual untermenschen.

The key difference, a real physical one, is that the bomb's force doesn't have to go through the innocent person's body to reach the terrorist. That's one of those real, concrete physical differences between the cases that can't be disregarded, because it changes the causal chain. The bullet injures the terrorist by first injuring the bystander and then by exploiting the injury to reach the terrorist. The bomb doesn't causally depend on the injury to the bystander to achieve the end. To say that the injury to the bystander is the means of injuring the terrorist in both cases disregards the concrete chain of causality, which is different between the two cases and which is essential to defining the act.

What happens when the shockwave first goes through a civilian to get to a terrorist? Why is it immoral to aim a missile at a civilian surrounded by 20 terrorists, but morally acceptable to aim one at 20 terrorists with a civilian next to them (assuming in both cases, all 21 people are in the blast circumference)? In this case, I'd have to agree with Zippy, as there is no difference between these situations that any judge would recognize as morally significant.

Jonathan,

Both are analogous in that, for one, they both require the destruction (indeed, the very murder) of the innocent in order to achieve the common goal of eliminating hostile forces.

The unintentional, accidental killing of the innocent due to a bomb blast I find excusable; what isn't is knowingly & deliberately murdering the innocent since they inconveniently happen to reside where the enemy is.

I find it distinctly and overwhelmingly reprehensible that you might even find it morally acceptable (and perhaps even a necessity) to bomb a school filled with innocent children if there happens to be contingents of enemy forces residing there all to achieve the end of eliminating the enemy.

This is not Christian; on the contrary, it is downright evil & consequentialist.

Such repugnant, morally objectionable views are contrary to what I would find in a gentleman of your stature, Jonathan.

Once more, such actions are far from being morally acceptable; they are horrendous crimes, to say the least.

Mike T:

That seems to be your MO. Name calling, pathetic insults and stereotypical Catholic regard for Protestants as spiritual untermenschen.

You have mistakenly (even arrogantly) assumed that your particular views are generally that of any and all Protestants.

There are Protestant theologians I know of who, in fact, do not subscribe to your particular interpretation of Scripture.

I don't have a terrible amount of interest in this (to my mind) overly detailed type of moral argumentation, but it does seem to me that there is a lot of sophistry going on here with the intent of ultimately declaring "all's fair in war." I mean, seriously, if you have to jump through all these hoops, cross all these t's and dot all these i's in order to declare a certain action during a war "unjust," isn't there a point being missed somewhere?

I once had a debate on this subject (specifically it was on Sherman's march) with a blogger who happened to be both a Christian and a military analyst. He was making some of the same types of arguments I'm hearing here, but eventually he filtered it all down to, "the only bad thing you can do in a war is lose." Unfortunately, that's the same kind of thing I'm hearing now.

Nothing else to add...just sayin'

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled debate).

Rob G:

"I mean, seriously, if you have to jump through all these hoops, cross all these t's and dot all these i's in order to declare a certain action during a war "unjust," isn't there a point being missed somewhere?"


Allow me to make things simple:

Murdering the Innocent in order to get to, defend against or eliminate the Guilty is WRONG.


It would take some twisted mental gymnastics (evil, even) to justify the bombing of a school filled with innocent people, including children, down the street just because there are any number of attacking hostile forces diabolically situated therein.

"Murdering the Innocent in order to get to, defend against or eliminate the Guilty is WRONG"

My thoughts exactly, Aristocles. Why then all the hoops, t's and i's from the opposition?

Rob G.

My thoughts exactly, Aristocles. Why then all the hoops, t's and i's from the opposition?


Good question.

There are perhaps many reasons why folks may want to rationalize and even justify the murdering of the Innocent all for a utilitarian purpose.

What I find atrocious and disturbingly tragic is the fact that it is fellow Christians who are doing so.

He was making some of the same types of arguments I'm hearing here, but eventually he filtered it all down to, "the only bad thing you can do in a war is lose." Unfortunately, that's the same kind of thing I'm hearing now.
Yep. That is indeed what you are hearing. The simple and manifest proposition "you cannot deliberately blow a living person's body to bits with a bomb without intending to kill her" spawns a thousand objections by people who feel threatened by the lack of a moral license to blow an innocent person's body to bits with a bomb.
My thoughts exactly, Aristocles. Why then all the hoops, t's and i's from the opposition?

Because for one, there is no bright line test that would allow people to gauge what risk is acceptable. Furthermore, there are serious military issues with some of these arguments. In fact, they generally assume that the only wars will fight henceforth are against terrorists and insurgents who we can pick off, rather than engage in wholesale battle.

As I pointed out above, all a foreign aggressor like China would have to do is conquer a city like Los Angeles and hold its population hostage, and we would suddenly find ourselves incapable of waging a credible ground campaign against such a large, increasingly modern military. You cannot seriously argue that once they turn much of the West Coast into a hostage staging ground, that we can invade with the full might of the United States military to liberate our own people, without using weapon systems that we know in many cases will cause innocent people to die.

I suppose you could "trust in Providence," but then you'd be like the Jews who tested God by relying on him to send his angels to battle the Roman Army.

If you think the Air Force could pick off their major defenses at will, then I have news for you. Not only has no war been won primarily by air power, but there are several major countries that have their own air forces that are more than capable of doing serious damage to ours in defense of the positions they have conquered.

Such repugnant, morally objectionable views are contrary to what I would find in a gentleman of your stature, Jonathan.

I am certainly of no gentlemanly stock, but by "stature," I hope you mean an established reputation for orthodox thinking. In that case, please keep the impression in mind when I outline the following response.

I find it distinctly and overwhelmingly reprehensible that you might even find it morally acceptable (and perhaps even a necessity) to bomb a school filled with innocent children if there happens to be contingents of enemy forces residing there all to achieve the end of eliminating the enemy.

I certainly do not believe in it simply because there happen to be enemy forces there that one could invoke the reasoning I gave above. Rather, it must be a case where enemy forces are there actively waging war from that location or presenting a serious and immediate danger to innocent lives outside the building, and the use of force legitimately reduces or eliminates that risk, when on balance the risk removed is greater than the risk being posed to the innocent lives in question. But if what you find objectionable is that I would approve of blowing up an innocent child in certain cases as (foreseeably certain) collateral damage to eliminating that kind of risk, then I must regretfully own that you do think less of me for the position that I actually hold. I would hope to persuade you that it is consistent with Catholic teaching on the point, but if we must disagree, so be it.

The simple and manifest proposition "you cannot deliberately blow a living person's body to bits with a bomb without intending to kill her" spawns a thousand objections by people who feel threatened by the lack of a moral license to blow an innocent person's body to bits with a bomb.

Then I consider myself fortunate that I am not advocating the contrary position. Rather, what I am saying is that you can deliberately blow a living person's body to bit with a bomb without directly intending to kill her, which is a drastically different proposition. Likewise, the only threat I perceive is a threat that Catholic moral teaching might not be taught truly, which is probably a small thing compared to the concerns that motivate those who want moral license to retaliate against wrongdoers. But it is important to me nonetheless.

Murdering the Innocent in order to get to, defend against or eliminate the Guilty is WRONG.

Come to think of it, that is an excellent summary, if "in order to" means "as a causal means to the end of getting to, defending against, or eliminating the guilty." That's really not a bad definition of direct intent.

For the effect of killing the non-combatant to be part of the means, you have to show that if the non-combatant miraculously becomes bomb-proof, the end of disabling the terrorist would not be reached. Otherwise, the effect of killing the non-combatant is not being used as a means to the end of disabling the terrorist. And if the killing the innocent is not being used as means, then it is not direct killing.

Were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki evil acts? And if so, why? I ask, in all seriousness, because answering these concrete questions will better help me understand where you are coming from.

Michael, I've been away all day.

Would you agree to this definition?:
Murder is not the same as killing. Murder is unjustified killing.

Yes.

If so, the question, in this case, becomes "May the Israelis justifiably kill non-combatants?"

Yes, depending on the circumstances. They may not take them as their target.

At the moment, it seems to me that the Israelis are doing the right thing, and with proportionality.

This may be so. It is not obvious to me that there is anything in your scenario (I'm thinking of the schoolyard) to which Zippy would necessarily object. It depends on what the Israelis know beforehand. If they know that the retaliatory weapon they're about to use cannot take out the rocket battery without also wiping out school children, then they can't do it. I'm talking about knowing to a moral certainty. If they suspect there might be children in the vicinity, but the urgency of the response time doesn't allow them to know for certain, I'm not sure the Israelis are morally obligated to ascertain every possible ramification of a situation into which the enemy has put them. (Maybe Zip would disagree. The difficulty he is describing usually arises when attacks are planned well ahead of time, and intelligence about the target is more thorough.) But if a pilot comes roaring in to take out the battery in the schoolyard, and children suddenly come pouring out of the school, and he knows that taking out the battery means taking them out as well, he must pull away. If they come pouring out of the school after he's already pulled the trigger, then that is an accident. But some of your sympatico commenters on this thread want to be able to take out that battery and any schoolchildren in the vicinity if they happen to be there, and then claim that they didn't intend to kill the children. You're making common cause with some (Mike T, I suspect) who would defend the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maybe you'd defend it too, but I'd be sorry to hear it.

But some of your sympatico commenters on this thread want to be able to take out that battery and any schoolchildren in the vicinity if they happen to be there, and then claim that they didn't intend to kill the children. You're making common cause with some (Mike T, I suspect) who would defend the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maybe you'd defend it too, but I'd be sorry to hear it.

Actually, what I want to know is how you intend to argue that a war can be waged with a reasonable chance of success when one side is perfectly willing to use human shields.

My objection to Zippy's position is that there will be many, many cases in a heated ground battle where in a split second, soldiers will have to make a decision that they know will probably kill civilians. They cannot know for certain because they don't have time to calculate the resulting forces, but they can no within a reasonable certainty in that moment how much damage their attack would inflict.

As I have maintained all along, and no one has provided a well-reasoned against, is that in a crowded urban warzone, the burden will be so high on the side willing to fight by these strict rules will probably not be able to win because it will be spending too much time trying to deliberately avoid any shot that will most likely result in the death of a civilian. I have also pointed out that based on even the formulation you used above, an enemy could move nuclear weapons platforms on top of the school, while locking all of the kids inside during the launch sequence, and the side that was getting attacked would simply have to accept its nuclear extermination. All so that a school full of kids wouldn't be blown up.

Further complicating things for Zippy is that he is basing his arguments on what is possible to do from his point of view, based on the actions and views of militaries that don't share his views. Our military and Israel's military are quite willing to kill civilians as collateral damage if that's what it takes to win. They will seek to minimize the damage, but it has never, to my knowledge, been the position of either military that troops were to absolutely go out of their way, risking their own life, to not take any chance of using tactics that could be reasonably foreknown to cause civilian deaths.

So he has said that our military maintains that it is possible to fight a war with minimal civilian casualties, and that is true from their perspective. However, our military has shown through history that it is not in the least bit squeamish about committing "mass murder" by Zippy's definition when its commanders feel that that is what is needed to complete the mission.

My objection to Zippy's position is that there will be many, many cases in a heated ground battle where in a split second, soldiers will have to make a decision that they know will probably kill civilians.
That isn't an objection to my position, because my position specifically and only addresses a case of full foreknowledge with moral certainty. Once we agreed to what is morally licit in a context of full foreknowledge with moral certainty we might be able to move on to discuss cases where there is ambiguity in what we know; and in point of fact I think there is pretty wide moral lattitude in that kind of case, the kind of case where we legitimately don't know if the bomb will kill an innocent person (see Bill's schoolyard scenario above). But if you are criticizing a position predicated on epistemic ambiguity over whether or not the innocent is within the fatal blast radius of the bomb you are not criticizing the specific position I've laid out in this post.

And my response to the imaginary scenario of babies in backpacks, which we've discussed at W4 before IIRC, is, again, "so what". When the things in your imagination actually happen get back to me. No real world situation has ever occurred, or ever will occur, in which deliberately killing the innocent is either eschatologically necessary or morally acceptable. Do whatever is proximately necessary within the bounds of the moral law; when something occurs which seems to tempt you toward violating the moral law, place the outcome in God's hands -- which is where it is anyway - and do not do evil in order that good may come of it. If your imagination tempts you toward violation of the moral law in your mind, reform your imagination. In my experience reality never, in complex circumstances, behaves just exactly as we imagine it will behave. And we are not pagans, we are Christians: "Or can we say-as some people slander us by claiming that we say-'Let's do evil that good may result'? They deserve to be condemned!" (Rom 3:8)

All so that a school full of kids wouldn't be blown up.

Yes, seems painfully fastidious, doesn't it?

Since, innocent civilians will naturally be killed during any military assault on their neighborhoods and homes, we should attribute their deaths to "natural causes."

When all the sophistry and rationalizations fail, the troubled conscience (I don't mean you Michael T.)can always resort to manipulating and abusing language. Helps to calm the finger on the trigger.

Were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki evil acts? And if so, why? I ask, in all seriousness, because answering these concrete questions will better help me understand where you are coming from.

I believe that they were, as noted above, because I believe that nuclear weapons near populated areas are inherently incapable of distinguishing between innocent bystanders and aggressors to any non-negligible degree. Since they lack any capacity of targeting near populated areas, they are different in kind and not degree from ordinary munitions. All ordinary munitions have some non-negligible degree of distinguishing between bystander and aggressor, although this will have some limits. But in the case of nuclear weapons with no functional targetability of any degree, it would be intrinsically evil to use them near populated areas because they cannot possibly embody any intent to distinguish between bystanders and aggressors.

Ordinary munitions, on the other hand, can embody that intent to some degree, even though that degree might be limited to some extent. Consequently, one may use proportionality to determine if the limitation of targeting ability is justified in view of the overall danger to innocents being reduced or eliminated. That proportional analysis automatically fails in the case of nuclear weapons, because there is no degree of targetability to balance, meaning that the intention to hit innocents is intrinsic to their use near populated areas.

I believe that they were, as noted above, because I believe that nuclear weapons near populated areas are inherently incapable of distinguishing between innocent bystanders and aggressors to any non-negligible degree.
In the scenario in question, the weapon is inherently incapable of distinguishing between the terrorist and the hostage.

But some of your sympatico commenters on this thread want to be able to take out that battery and any schoolchildren in the vicinity if they happen to be there, and then claim that they didn't intend to kill the children.

With respect to my own view, I am saying that he need not directly intend to kill the children, which is a different thing. The cases you provided were as follows:
If they know that the retaliatory weapon they're about to use cannot take out the rocket battery without also wiping out school children, then they can't do it.
...
But if a pilot comes roaring in to take out the battery in the schoolyard, and children suddenly come pouring out of the school, and he knows that taking out the battery means taking them out as well, he must pull away.

It is clear from my analysis that if "he must pull away" is a categorical statement intended to indicate that the act is intrinsically evil, then these statements are clearly false. In neither case is the death of the school children directly intended. It is particularly obvious that it is not directly intended in the latter case, because the plan was quite clearly made for serious reasons before anyone even knew that the children were there. Thus, their presence was quite clearly being used as neither ends nor means of the act. Accordingly, you have proved conclusively in this case that the killing of the innocent was not directly intended.

In the scenario in question, the weapon is inherently incapable of distinguishing between the terrorist and the hostage.

That doesn't mean it is incapable of distinguishing between the class of terrorist and bystander within the civilian populated area in principle, only that it is incapable of distinguishing between terrorist and hostage to that degree. It is clearly capable of distinguishing within the populated area between terrorist and bystander lack this capability entirely, and thus capable of embodying an intent to disable aggressors in order to protect bystanders to some degree.

JP:

It is particularly obvious that it is not directly intended in the latter case, because the plan was quite clearly made for serious reasons before anyone even knew that the children were there. Thus, their presence was quite clearly being used as neither ends nor means of the act. Accordingly, you have proved conclusively in this case that the killing of the innocent was not directly intended.
That is just ludicrously silly. If a man plans to have sex with his wife, and discovers that the woman in his bed is not his wife, it does not follow that it is therefore licit for him to proceed because his original plan was to have sex with his wife. If a pilot plans to blow up a mortar position manned by soldiers, and discovers that kindergartners are crawling over the mortar position, it does not follow that it is therefore licit for him to proceed because his original plan was to blow up just a mortar position without children on it. Imagination is not reality.

To wit:

Although the [Catholic moral tradition] did witness the development of a casuistry which tried to assess the best ways to achieve the good in certain concrete situations, it is nonetheless true that this casuistry concerned only cases in which the law was uncertain, and thus the absolute validity of negative moral precepts, which oblige without exception, was not called into question. - Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendour
Combox warriors are often inventing "27 ninjas" scenarios as a means of polemically undermining moral clarity on such fundamentals as the absolute prohibition against killing the innocent.
Such theories however are not faithful to the Church's teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behaviour contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. - Ibid.

JP:

That doesn't mean it is incapable of distinguishing between the class of terrorist and bystander within the civilian populated area in principle, ...
A nuclear bomb is not incapable of distinguishing between combatant and civilian in principle, which is to say in all conceivable circumstances. It is precisely the same kind of weapon as the one we are discussing here. The only pertinent difference is blast radius.

Zippy,

A nuclear strike on a city would generally fail the test of proportionality, according to Jonathan. So might, by the way, any strike similar to the scenario we are debating. But that a strike must be proportional is already stipulated by both sides in this debate (with the possible exception of Mike T.).

Proportionality, therefore, is not at issue. What is at issue is the intrinsic nature of the act itself.

Going in reverse, because I think the latter case illuminates the former:
A nuclear bomb is not incapable of distinguishing between combatant and civilian in principle, which is to say in all conceivable circumstances.

No, but the incompatibility with the essential intent of self-defense (i.e., the intent to harm an aggressor and save bystanders) is in principle incompatible with a device having no capability to distinguish between the classes in those particular circumstances (IOW, the conflict is one in principle, not merely a matter of judgment). IOW, there is a conflict in principle with the concrete act in question embodying the essential intent of the action. I am not saying that deploying a nuclear weapon is necessarily incapable by its physical nature of distinguishing between bystanders and aggressors, because there could be a remote military installation nowhere near a populated area where the risk posed by fallout would be negligible to human life (Mike T's bunker buster case, for example). This is also not to take such a myopic view that one must have an intent to distinguish between each and every individual aggressor and terrorist, but rather, to suggest that at least within some particular populated area, there must be some ability to distinguish between those you would protect in that locality and those you would disable, which distinction concretely embodies the intent to disable the aggressor and protect the innocent. If there is not under the particular circumstances at issue, then deploying that weapon is incompatible in principle with embodying the essential intent for protection of the innocent.

If a man plans to have sex with his wife, and discovers that the woman in his bed is not his wife, it does not follow that it is therefore licit for him to proceed because his original plan was to have sex with his wife.

That is, like the case of deploying nuclear weapons in a populated area, a conflict in principle between the requisite intent of the act and the concrete circumstances of an act. Sexual acts can only be properly done with a simultaneous intent to unite with one's spouse and to be open to procreation. Consequently, if the woman isn't your wife, the concrete circumstances of your act conflict in principle with the essential intent for the act.

But here's where you've lost the argument...
If a pilot plans to blow up a mortar position manned by soldiers, and discovers that kindergartners are crawling over the mortar position, it does not follow that it is therefore licit for him to proceed because his original plan was to blow up just a mortar position without children on it.

You are correct that it is not automatically licit to proceed. But what it shows is that the presence (and thus death) of the innocent was not being used as a means to the end, since the end hasn't changed (disabling the mortar position) and the presence of the children was never (and still is not) being used as means to that end. This demonstrates that the death of the innocent is not being used as means to the end; rather, it is a side effect. Because it is a side effect, it is intended indirectly and not directly. Since only directly intended killing is intrinsically evil, there is not a conflict in principle between the essential intent for self-defense (disabling the aggressor from harming the innocent) and the concrete circumstances of the act. While it might not automatically be licit, there is at least no conflict in principle between the intent and the embodied behavior. This can therefore be contrasted with the case of those acts given above which the concrete act conflicts in principle with the essential intent of a licit act.

George:

Proportionality, therefore, is not at issue. What is at issue is the intrinsic nature of the act itself.
I agree. But Jonathan seems to think (though it is difficult to disentangle what he thinks for sure from the verbal spaghetti, so I can't tell for sure) that there is something intrinsically wrong, not merely disproportionate, in nuking a civilian city with an in-itself legitimate military target inside the blast radius. That view is incompatible with thinking that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with dropping a daisy cutter on a mortar position (known with certainty to be) crawling with kindergartners.

So Jonathan: was the Hiroshima bombing intrinsically immoral, or immoral merely in being disproportionate? I don't need a big explanation of why at this point; in fact that would probably leave the matter obscure. Just which one: was Hiroshima wrong because intrinsically immoral, or wrong because disproportionate?

but the incompatibility with the essential intent of self-defense (i.e., the intent to harm an aggressor and save bystanders) is in principle incompatible with a device having no capability to distinguish between the classes in those particular circumstances (IOW, the conflict is one in principle, not merely a matter of judgment). IOW, there is a conflict in principle with the concrete act in question embodying the essential intent of the action.
Right. And the same is true of dropping a diasy-cutter on a mortar position crawling with kindergartners.

Just which one: was Hiroshima wrong because intrinsically immoral, or wrong because disproportionate?

It's intrinsically immoral on my interpretation, because the weapon cannot be targeted at the scale of the local population to distinguish between aggressor and innocent.

That view is incompatible with thinking that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with dropping a daisy cutter on a mortar position (known with certainty to be) crawling with kindergartners.

It's hard to imagine that a "daisy cutter" would be the least destructive ordnance available (though it does lack radioactive fallout, at least). But even in the extreme case with which you are trying to saddle me, the blast radius isn't on the scale of the local population.

And by the way, you've erred in stating my position. I have never claimed that there is "nothing wrong" with doing so, because there might well be evil by disproportion. I have said there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the case.

Sorry about the previous post. After re-reading the second remark, I realize that I probably misread it. I thought you were suggesting that I was saying that dropping a daisy cuttter on kindergarteners was necessarily licit, but I realize not that you were speaking of the conflict in principle with the intent. But as I stated above, ordinary munitions are reasonably targetable within the population as a whole, and nuclear weapons are not.

You are correct that it is not automatically licit to proceed. But what it shows is that the presence (and thus death) of the innocent was not being used as a means to the end, since the end hasn't changed (disabling the mortar position) and the presence of the children was never (and still is not) being used as means to that end. This demonstrates that the death of the innocent is not being used as means to the end; rather, it is a side effect.

Then Hiroshima could not have been intrinsically evil.

Hiroshima was a legitimate military target because of its manufacturing, communications and military infrastructure, which was vital to Japan's ability to make war.

The death of civilians was not intended, which is demonstrable by the United States having dropped leaflets warning civilians to evacuate potential target cities before the bomb was dropped. (Information on the leaflets is available here, the actual text of the leaflets is available here.)

Thus the death of civilians was not intended as either the means or the end. The end (destroying infrastructure important to Japan's ability to make war) wasn't changed by the presence of civilians, and the presence of the citizens was never being used as the means to the end, since their deaths were not causally necessary to achieving the desired end; rather, their deaths are a side effect.

JP:

It's intrinsically immoral on my interpretation, because the weapon cannot be targeted at the scale of the local population to distinguish between aggressor and innocent.
OK, but that is also true the way I have defined the present case. The weapon is incapable of being targeted in such a way that it distinguishes between the terrorist and the human shield, or the solders and the kindergartners or whatever. Both innocents and combatants are indiscriminately mixed inside the target area of the weapon, and if everything goes according to plan they will all be killed.

So I'm not even sure we disagree: when the nature of the killing weapon is such that it is incapable of distinguishing between combatants and innocents in the particular circumstances, it is intrinsically wrong to fire the weapon and kill the innocents-and-combatants. I realize that there is history which makes you and I temperamentally predisposed to disagree; but perhaps at bottom we don't disagree on this particular kind of case, at least.

It's hard to imagine that a "daisy cutter" would be the least destructive ordnance available...
Well, an armed aircraft has the weapons on board that it has. Assume that the pilot's only ordinance is a 500 pound bomb or whatever, which is inherently incapable of discriminating between innocent and aggressor in the target area given the current circumstances. Do we agree that it is intrinsically wrong for him to, with full knowledge and no ambiguity, bomb the mortar-plus-kindergartners?

Sometimes it is intrinsically wrong (and not merely disproportionate) to use even the least effective weapon available to us at the moment. I think this is what accounts for much of the resistance on the 'hawkish' side of the rhetorical marriage-of-convenience between hawks and doves that I discuss in the post. The idea of having a physically effective weapon, an unequivocal grave threat, and yet being prohibited from taking the shot for moral reasons is something many modern people simply will not accept.

Let me first agree with the last:
The idea of having a physically effective weapon, an unequivocal grave threat, and yet being prohibited from taking the shot for moral reasons is something many modern people simply will not accept.

I enthusiastically agree with this proposition. Honestly, I only want to make those prohibitions as clear as possible so that there is little serious doubt about their application.

For that reason, I'd like to go through the whole causal chain working backward, so that there is no ambiguity. The ultimate end of any moral action is God. In this case, the proximate end is the protection of the specific lives of some group of innocents within the local area, which are sacred as the supreme dignity of God's creation, and causal means are chosen for the protection of their lives.

Working backwards through those means, the most immediate causal effect producing the end is the disability of the unjust aggressor imposing the risk, which is an effect of an explosion, which is an effect of detonating a bomb, which is an effect of locating and triggering the bomb, which is the original concrete bodily act performed by the agent. "Direct" and "indirect" effects can be identified by being inside or outside of that causal chain relating effects of the means to the end. What is an essential element in that chain is necessarily directly intended in performance of the act; everything else may be indirectly intended.

The ONLY effect of the bomb that is directly intended in the case I have in mind is its effect on the aggressor (likely death). That is a permissible, directly intended harm because the aggressor has unjustly imposed the risk on innocent lives. No other effects of the bomb are directly intended, because no other effects bear any essential causal relationship to the end of protecting the innocent (viz., they are not means to the end). Now there might be particular circumstances incompatible with these other effects being indirectly intended, most notably if there were equally effective means for protecting the innocent that did not involve this side effect. But the causal chain at least effects are not necessarily directly intended, meaning that this act can at least in principle be licit.

Now let me outline the problem with nuclear weapons.

The problem with a nuclear weapon is that it is physically incapable of concretely embodying the intent to protect the innocent within a local area that I outlined, because it likely kills everyone in the locality, and in any case it produces fallout whose effects are essentially uncontrolled and indscriminate. But a conventional bomb, even a very large one, can in most cases distinguish between targets in a locality, so it can, at least in principle, concretely embody the intent to protect some local group of persons from harm by an aggressor within that same local area.

Thus, I can state a narrow but important distinction between our positions.

I say that it is permissible to use weapons that are indiscriminate within a target area, so long as they are discriminate within the area in view of the defensive action, i.e., the area endangered by this particular aggressor. In other words, it has to discriminate between some local group of innocents actually endangered by the aggressor and the target zone that includes the aggressor. If it can, then it can concretely embody the intention to protect those local innocents in danger but outside the blast radius, and it can concretely embody the licit intent to protect innocent life that I outlined above.

In short, what defines the morally relevant area within which the targeting must be discriminate is not the physical resolution of the weapon but rather the exclusion of some definite, identifiable, local group of innocents endangered by the aggressor from that area. Otherwise, the act cannot concretely embody a will to self-defense.

Just which one: was Hiroshima wrong because intrinsically immoral, or wrong because disproportionate?

It's intrinsically immoral on my interpretation, because the weapon cannot be targeted at the scale of the local population to distinguish between aggressor and innocent.

That's funny. The answer says that bombing Hiroshima was intrinsically immoral because it was disproportionate. He gets to have his cake and eat it too.

All intrinsically immoral acts are by definition disproportionate to the good end they wish to achieve, and to the good of the person who violates the prohibition against committing them. Proportionality is more often used to examine acts that at least in theory are permissible. For example, the death penalty is permissible, but might be disproportionate if applied to a criminal for a particular transgression, such as hanging him for adultery. In warfare, I wouldn't think that proportionality comes into play until it's already been determined that the means we wish to employ are not intrinsically wrong. Proportionality simply puts a limit on the degree to which we may wield those means. Bombing Hiroshima was not wrong because nuclear weapons are disproportionate, but disproportionate because we intended to murder the innocent. The same applies to the schoolyard scenario. If you know for a fact that firing on it will result in the deaths of the children, and you choose to do it anyway, and the children indeed die, then you have chosen, "directly intended", to murder the innocent as a means to your end. You can stick 'directly' in front of 'intended' all day long, but this amusing redundancy won't change what you knew would happen, and what you chose to make happen. I call it the 'dictatorship of intention' syndrome, the primary symptom of which is a desire to escape blame for what we know we are going to do because we wish we didn't have to do it. It's a malevolent form of wishful thinking. There might be a cure, but I'm not in possession of it.

JP:

But a conventional bomb, even a very large one, can in most cases distinguish between targets in a locality, so it can, at least in principle, concretely embody the intent to protect some local group of persons from harm by an aggressor within that same local area.
Not in the case we are examining here it can't. And in some cases a nuclear bomb can distinguish between targets in a defined area, i.e. a locality: it only becomes intrinsically immoral to use it when it is being used to kill the innocent, just as it is intrinsically immoral to use the 500 pound conventional bomb to kill the kindergartners at the mortar position. Your whole casuistry rests on a nonexistent distinction, as far as I can tell.

Bill:

I call it the 'dictatorship of intention' syndrome, the primary symptom of which is a desire to escape blame for what we know we are going to do because we wish we didn't have to do it. It's a malevolent form of wishful thinking.
"Dictatorship of intention" is a great term for it.

Mr. Luse:
That's funny. The answer says that bombing Hiroshima was intrinsically immoral because it was disproportionate. He gets to have his cake and eat it too.

What part of "unable to concretely embody the intent to protect a definable group of local innocents" do you not understand? You don't know what you're talking about.

All intrinsically immoral acts are by definition disproportionate to the good end they wish to achieve, and to the good of the person who violates the prohibition against committing them.

To put it another way, they cannot be oriented to God as ultimate end.

Proportionality simply puts a limit on the degree to which we may wield those means.

I agree, and what I find ironic is that you preserve the definition of means as being means to some end right up until the point you reach the analysis of my position, at which you abandon the notion of means as the causal effects directly related to the end. You say "wield those means," but it appears to me that your position takes "those means" to be "every effect caused by those means," even the ones that have nothing to do with the stated end.

Bombing Hiroshima was not wrong because nuclear weapons are disproportionate, but disproportionate because we intended to murder the innocent.

Let me state this for the n-th time, and if anyone can deny it, then let him do so:
1. Intending the death of particular innocents simpliciter
is not intrinsically wrong (or murder, which is the more general term for wrongful death of the innocent), and no Magisterial teaching has ever declared it intrinsically wrong.
2. DIRECTLY intending the death of an innocent is condemned by Magisterial teaching.
3. Blowing an innocent up with a bomb used to attack an aggressor is not necessarily directly intended, since the causal effect of the bomb does not depend on the death of the innocent to reach the end. It is a side effect.
4. Therefore, blowing up an innocent with a bomb used to attack an aggressor is not necessarily intrinsically evil.

Please stop dancing around with psychoanalysis, and answer the argument. Where is the error in any of 1-4?

I call it the 'dictatorship of intention' syndrome, the primary symptom of which is a desire to escape blame for what we know we are going to do because we wish we didn't have to do it. It's a malevolent form of wishful thinking.

None of premises 1-4 depend on what I wish about the circumstances, so your assertion is specious. You might as well be calling someone a "poopy-head" for as much sense as this makes.

And in some cases a nuclear bomb can distinguish between targets in a defined area, i.e. a locality: it only becomes intrinsically immoral to use it when it is being used to kill the innocent, just as it is intrinsically immoral to use the 500 pound conventional bomb to kill the kindergartners at the mortar position.

If there is such a weapon, then it does not seem to me to be intrinsically immoral. I am using "locality" somewhat advisedly to refer to a space on the order of a town, village, or relatively small city (the area in which the aggressor poses a real risk for immediate harm), not a metropolis or megalopolis, which would take as far too remote a view of immediate danger from the aggressor. As far as I know, every nuclear weapon also has uncontrollable toxic by-products in the form of radioactive fallout inconsistent with this intent. It's the same reason that chemical and biological weapons are intrinsically immoral, so that would be an independent basis for concluding that nukes are intrinsically immoral under my analysis. But I don't think the additional distinction regarding area targetability can be disregarded either.

Like all philosophical distinctions, the distinction being argued must be justified, and the natural place to look for such a justification is the specification of the act of self-defense. Self-defense is frequently specified collectively with regard to groups or classes of innocents, so there is no reason to think that the discrimination between classes needs to be absolute at the individual level to discriminate perfectly between each and every individual innocent and each and every individual aggressor and innocent, which is what your standard appears to implicitly require. Rather, it needs to be able to separate meaningfully between "protected" and "targeted," where there must be a group threated by the aggressor in the protected class and the aggressor himself within the targeted class. My point is that if you can't make a local distinction between "protected" and "targeted," then you cannot even muster the requisite intent to separate between classes required for self-defense. If that is a meaningless distinction, then it would seem to be because the act of self-defense itself is meaningless at the collective level. If so, then pacifism would seem to be a necessary conclusion.

What troubles me about the diagnosis of a "syndrome" by both you and Mr. Luse is that it is completely tin-eared to the end that people have in mind. It is, at the very worst, motivated by a sincere desire to protect human lives, which is surely a laudable motivation even with a poor choice of means. We aren't excused from choosing means poorly, but an error with respect to ends is surely worse than an error with respect to means, since it is more clearly and directly opposed to God as final end.

Proportionality means using the least force that can reasonably be expected to end the enemy threat. It does not mean using the same kind of force, or the same level of force, used by your enemy against you.

On that basis, Nagasaki and Hiroshima were not only proportional they were the greatest and most effective life-saving actions of WWII. By using the bomb, Truman saved countless thousands, perhaps even millions and millions, of Japanese civilians, Japanese soldiers, and American soldiers from a protracted land battle where Japanese devotion to the emperor would mean men, women, and children fighting to the death in defense of a culture that valued, even honored, the kamikazis and their tactics. Judging by the casualties endured on both sides as the allies made their way slowly and painfully through the south pacific islands, a full-scale invasion of the Japanese mainland, where progress would be marked inch-by-bloody inch -- and at the greatest possible cost in lives and property -- Truman saved more lives with his action than did any American president in any war. For that, I applaud him.

Would that he had been so resolute against the Chinese and North Koreans later with Macarthur. Had he done so, he would have become the greatest political liberator in history, freeing the more than one billion persons now living under Asian communism, and avoiding the disaster in Viet Nam and the killing fields afterwards.

Paul Fussell was exactly right: "thank God for the atom bomb."

By using the bomb, Truman saved countless thousands, perhaps even millions and millions, of Japanese civilians, Japanese soldiers, and American soldiers from a protracted land battle where Japanese devotion to the emperor would mean men, women, and children fighting to the death in defense of a culture that valued, even honored, the kamikazis and their tactics.

I sympathize with that argument, but frankly, it seems to put causally remote results of the action above the proximate effects to the targeted locality. Much as I would like to be able to accept that reasoning, I just can't see any reasoned way to do it. Causally remote effects protecting the innocent can't justify an action that has no proximate protective effect.

The only arguments that I have seen that might be effective are the argument that the entire Japanese adult population had been conscripted, so that the entire country was effectively one large military installation. But even so, it is clear that not every resource was being used for military purposes despite the conscription, so I think it distorts the concrete circumstances to say that the entire country was a military installation. And as far as suggesting that the entire population was "the military," the military can only be attacked qua military (that is, at military installations, not at their civilian homes). Finally, there is no argument that any local class of innocents being protected, since there clearly was a class of local innocents (specifically, infants) that were not being protected or discriminated by denotating the atomic bomb.

So while I am reluctant to label it in this fashion because I love my country and because there was no doubt a tremendous good effect in terms of possibly millions of innocent lives being preserved that otherwise would have ended, the nuclear detonations over Japan strike me as the largest single acts of terrorism ever perpetrated by any government in human history.

Jonathan,
Based on your own criteria, why is it not disproportionate to bomb a classroom of innocent children to take out a few enemy combatants? I happen to agree that there is a protected collective class which is entitled to defense, but crowd jeopardy is often not specific enough to correctly evaluate the proportionality involved (assuming we agree that indirectly killing 10 innocents to save 5 innocent lives is twisted). In a few cases where there is accurate, current information it may allow for this sort of analysis to be made, but that is more the exception than the rule.

Furthermore, there is a propaganda aspect that you should consider as well. The use of area effect weapons that include innocent victims, even if not intended in a direct sense, becomes a public relations victory for the opponent, making their side seem far more sympathetic and your side seem far less virtuous. War is a bloody business and it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to remain pristine, but providing excuse for the mass deaths of innocent civilians which could be avoided is a bit vampiric, no?

JP,
It sounds like your objection to Truman is that the thousands, perhaps millions, of lives he saved fall into the wrong category: "causally remote."

Based on your own criteria, why is it not disproportionate to bomb a classroom of innocent children to take out a few enemy combatants?

It's simple, Step2: he didn't intend to kill the children, even though he knew he was going to do it and went ahead and did it. That part was an accident. He intended, "directly", to kill only the combatants, even though he knew he'd kill the innocents too. And chose to do it. Got it?

A Roman Catholic I know had the following observation about Zippy's arguments:

As I see it Zippy and Co confuse intention with consequence; If someone knows that what they are going to do has a bad result, then by their definition, someone has intended a bad result and therefore is guilty of sin.

So if for example, a man undertakes an action which will knowingly entail his death, he must have willed his death and therefore been responsible for it. So a man who knowingly sacrifices his own life for his friends is guilty of suicide. The concept turns the whole concept on of Christ's death on the Cross upside down. Instead of his death being a sacrifice, it becomes a suicide. This is heresy of the first order, masquerading as official doctrine of the Church.
So while I am reluctant to label it in this fashion because I love my country and because there was no doubt a tremendous good effect in terms of possibly millions of innocent lives being preserved that otherwise would have ended, the nuclear detonations over Japan strike me as the largest single acts of terrorism ever perpetrated by any government in human history.

By your own estimation, it is reasonable to say that millions of lives were saved by this act. To my knowledge, no one in the federal leadership at the time disputed that there would be millions of Japanese civilians killed while invading Japan. On that basis, it's easy to see why they would have chosen this route. Japan's resistance was based out of pride, not military capability. They were essentially sending barely qualified people to attack us at that point, since they had already lost most of their experienced servicemen. It was just a suicidal effort to keep us at bay. Truman figured that the nuclear bombs might actually give them a new perspective on how hopeless their actions were, and make them capitulate. He may have been misguided, but it's hard to argue that these men had any sinful desire to harm Japan rather than bring it to its senses before it destroyed itself.

As Michael Bauman pointed out above, given the Japanese devotion to their emperor, the Japanese would most certainly have destroyed themselves. It's also likely that most of the 200,000 people we killed in those bombings would have taken up the sword in a ground war. That may not be an argument in favor of the bombing per se, but it certainly is a consideration for the military to consider.

Where is the error in any of 1-4?

Here: 1. Intending the death of particular innocents simpliciter is not intrinsically wrong...

I don't know what you're trying to accomplish with 'simpliciter', but it's a poor substitute for 'accidental' or 'uinintended', which the Magisterium has certainly not condemned. If you ever intend the death of an innocent, under any circumstances whatsoever, it is condemned. It's called formal cooperation with evil.

And here: 2. DIRECTLY intending the death of an innocent is condemned by Magisterial teaching.

There you go again, putting 'directly' in front of 'intended', drawing a distinction without a difference. I'm sure you'd also agree that the Magisterium condemns not merely intending the death of an innocent, but actually choosing to kill one. On purpose. Directly. Such that killing the aggressor can't be accomplished without killing the innocent, and you choose to do both at one and the same time. You don't want the deaths of the innocents considered as the means to your end, but they are. You knew you would kill them and you did, and that you couldn't get to your end without doing so. It was a single act, and they were your target. You're trying to parse your intentions into those with effects you do like, and those with effects you don't. The ones you do like you call 'directly intended'; the ones you don't you call 'simpliciter' or 'indirect' or you say odd things like "the causal effect of the bomb does not depend on the death of the innocent to reach the end. It is a side effect." When obviously it is not. It was a direct effect of your intention to take out the rocket launcher and to kill combatants and innocents alike. One act, one chosen behavior. One intention.

(A side note: What part of "unable to concretely embody the intent to protect a definable group of local innocents" do you not understand? Your occasionally garbled syntax has made many of your utterances difficult to understand, but I think I deserve some congratulations for soldiering on.)

You don't want the deaths of the innocents considered as the means to your end, but they are.

If I choose to sacrifice my life to save others, why is that not suicide? I have chosen to make my death the means of their escaping death. Why is this noble, but choosing to kill some innocents to kill a proportionate number of aggressors is not even merely acceptable in any situation?

Mike T:
Your Catholic friend is wrong. I've given examples of things a man can do which knowingly result in his own death or the deaths of innocents without intending those deaths. Someone who characterizes my argument the way he supposedly did has not grasped my argument.

Your Catholic friend is wrong. I've given examples of things a man can do which knowingly result in his own death or the deaths of innocents without intending those deaths. Someone who characterizes my argument the way he supposedly did has not grasped my argument.

That's not what he said. Jesus fully intended His death to be the means to an end. A sailor onboard a sinking ship who makes room on a lifeboat for others by going down with the sinking ship uses his death as a means to the end. That is precisely the point here. These people fully intend to die so that others may live, and are fully, morally aware of the ramifications of their actions. It's not unintentional, but extremely intentional.

In short, Jesus and that sailor intended to die and use that death as the means to an end that saves lives every bit as much as the commander who chooses to sacrifice 5 kids to kill 50 heavily armed combatants chooses to do so ostensibly to save lives.

Mike T:
Obviously neither you nor your friend understand the first thing about the meaning of the term 'intention'. I recommend Anscombe's short book entitled (oddly enough) Intention as a primer.

Well, I temporarily set aside part 3 of my "end of white America" stuff to check out this thread.

Big mistake. Catholic casuistry meets protestant intransigence, and never the twain shall meet.

So it's back to the "end of white America" for me.

P.S. to Mike T: you're a better man than I am.

Obviously neither you nor your friend understand the first thing about the meaning of the term 'intention'. I recommend Anscombe's short book entitled (oddly enough) Intention as a primer.

Obviously you could have written a thoughtful, if pithy, response showing where you disagreed with my comment, but instead you chose to play the condescending intellectual.

The distinction between the scenarios I cited above is not sufficiently significant to make a difference when it comes to the underlying issue of whether or not the heart of the matter contains even the mere taint of sin.

given the Japanese devotion to their emperor, the Japanese would most certainly have destroyed themselves. It's also likely that most of the 200,000 people we killed in those bombings would have taken up the sword in a ground war.

History, like traditional Christian ethics, is not on your side. Truman originally wanted the Emperor treated as a war criminal as part of the terms for unconditional surrender. Having shown the world, the Soviets in particular, that we possessed the atom bomb, Truman dropped this condition. Hirohito stepped down and the Japanese did not destroy themselves. You are aware that Truman's Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy, as well as Eisenhower and MacArthur were against dropping the atom bombs, right?

Jesus...intended to die and use that death as the means to an end that saves lives every bit as much as the commander who chooses to sacrifice 5 kids to kill 50 heavily armed combatants chooses...to save lives.

Wow. For your commander to be truly Christ-like, he would have to sacrifice his life, not the lives of other innocent bystanders.

These threads would be more beneficial, if visuals from a place like Gaza accompanied the commentary. Makes the whole thing less ivory towerish and more real.

http://www.slide.com/r/hKZqIwZ1zT9G9bl3oGJYFwb-JdkvQNIe?previous_view=TICKER&previous_action=TICKER_ITEM_CLICK&ciid=72057594261634515

Well, I temporarily set aside part 3 of my "end of white America" stuff to check out this thread.

Big mistake. Catholic casuistry meets protestant intransigence, and never the twain shall meet.

And with good reason. We do not agree on issues ranging from salvation, to the relationship of sin to humanity. Where Zippy sees a God that is primarily concerned with actions, I see a God who cares even more for the motivation, and will reject even the most righteous action as though it were sin if the heart behind it is not equally righteous.

Wow. For your commander to be truly Christ-like, he would have to sacrifice his life, not the lives of other innocent bystanders.

The point I made was that one can fully intend one's death to be the means to a good end, and have it not be regarded as the sin of suicide to God. Likewise, a military commander could kill innocents to achieve a higher goal that saves as many or more lives, and God would not declare that murder. If it takes 200,000 dead to convince 7,000,000 to lay down the sword they were planning on taking up, that would be an acceptable end for justifying the means.

How about this one:

-Aggressor is moving most of its forces into a city, and has been killing very large number of the citizenry as it proceeds to take more territory.
-Most of the civilians have successfully moved out of the area, but their evacuation is slow and precarious
-Some small percentage of noncombatants have refused to leave.
-The Army cannot provide any protection to the fleeing civilians because it is engaged on other fronts.

Is it morally licit for the air force to raze the entire area behind the fleeing civilians in a scorched earth campaign to help them escape, if it means that some of the holdouts will die, and the air force knew that they are there if that is the only way that the air force can conduct an effective campaign to defend the lives of the fleeing noncombatants?

"if it takes 200,000 dead to convince 7,000,000 to lay down the sword..."

Thank God this nation typically produces warriors with a less elastic definition of swordsmen or combatants.I could see you going straight from the recruiting center to the Hague Tribunal.

Truman originally wanted the Emperor treated as a war criminal as part of the terms for unconditional surrender. Having shown the world, the Soviets in particular, that we possessed the atom bomb, Truman dropped this condition. Hirohito stepped down and the Japanese did not destroy themselves. You are aware that Truman's Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy, as well as Eisenhower and MacArthur were against dropping the atom bombs, right?

First, the US wasn't demanding that Japan surrender unconditionally in the way most people think of the term. The terms laid out by the Potsdam Declaration laid out that the Japanese Home islands would eventually revert back to Japanese control after the Japanese people had chosen a form of democratic government and Japan had been demilitarized. In other words it laid out the surrender terms that the Allies would accept. Second, Japan had been trying to surrender in the sense that it wanted to keep all or most of the territory it had conquered and keep the emperor. After the bombs were dropped Japan only asked to keep the emperor. This was accepted with the caveat that the emperor would be under the authority of the Allied commander. Even then, many considered that unacceptable. Also, after dropping two bombs, there was still an attempt at a coup by some in the military to prevent the surrender.

Hirohito never stepped down but was forced to admit he was not a god.

The Japanese were only able to survive because they were beaten so badly. Had we left the job undone, so to speak, they would have come back at the first opportunity. Their being forced to surrender in the face of such superior weaponry, allowed them to save face.

Leahy isn't a good cite here because he believed the blockade and conventional bombing was doing the job. Of course the blockade and bombing killed more civilians than the atomic bombs.

Interestingly the people who hold the "must intentionally kill an innocent person" never answer the following questions. How much responsibility must be assigned to the people who put the innocent people at risk to begin with? What amount of risk is allowed for unintentionally killing the innocent? From the AA gun reference far above, it seems rather convenient to say that it is okay to kill civilians in some random way because it achieves a military end and then cry when one civilian is killed to prevent the deaths of many. The situations are the same except the latter is more concrete. So it must be the random chance factor, right? Well, I want to know what chance the civilian has to have before it is okay to put their life at risk.

hank God this nation typically produces warriors with a less elastic definition of swordsmen or combatants.I could see you going straight from the recruiting center to the Hague Tribunal.

This may come as a surprise to you, but my own personal tendencies lean closer to pacifism than militarism. The reason I never considered the Marines or Army when I was considering military service before I met my wife is that while I defend many practices you find abhorent as I recognize that they may be necessary, I make no pretense that I could personally carry them out. I would make a terrible infantryman because in my heart I believe in the Calvinist notion of total depravity to some extent, and regard the only difference between them and me as the grace of God. Furthermore, I don't believe in purgatory, and as I have said repeatedly here, I am constantly aware of the fact that those unsaved souls are going to Hell if I kill them because there is no second chance for those who die without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps that is the fundamental difference. You don't believe that those unsaved will automatically go to Hell. I do. For me, like most Protestants, when I see 200,000 dead versus 7,000,000 dead, I see "200,000 souls who will probably go to Hell" versus "7,000,000 souls who will probably go to Hell." Knowing that Japan is a pagan country, largely unevangelized changes the equation for me. The war must be stopped, as soon as possible, no matter what, so that they can hear the gospel and hopefully be saved. They may be responsible for their willingness to wage war, but as a Christian, I am responsible for doing whatever I can to give them a chance to come to the Lord and avoid Hell.

The Japanese were only able to survive because they were beaten so badly. Had we left the job undone, so to speak, they would have come back at the first opportunity. Their being forced to surrender in the face of such superior weaponry, allowed them to save face.

Yet another variable that is very relevant. Those who unconditionally condemn the bombing don't seem to realize how much pride played into the Japanese defiance. We were the first country to successfully take over Japan and put its neck under our military's boot. China never accomplished this, and not for a lack of trying. That might have something to do with the fact that for most Japanese back then, they would rather die than see Japan under foreign occupation. What the atom bomb did was it allowed us to up the ante by saying, "keep that attitude up, and your pride will end Japan itself." Those who formulated Just War theory and similar doctrines never anticipated a country like Japan.

First, the US wasn't demanding that Japan surrender unconditionally in the way most people think of the term.

In addition to the threat of utter devastation, Potsdam included the stipulation that surrender "eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest [sic]..."Stern justice would be meted out to all war criminals." Pretty unconditional to me.

The Japanese were only able to survive because they were beaten so badly.

So total war was justified? Note the tyranny within your logic; its for your own good that we reign complete devastation down upon your civilians. Chilling.

Leahy isn't a good cite here because he believed the blockade and conventional bombing was doing the job.

No, like many others within the Cabinet and military, he found both the Casablanca and Potsdam conferences morally problematic from the beginning. Roosevelt originally agreed with Stalin that Germany should be stripped of all industrial capability and reduced to an unarmed agrarian state. Leahy rightly though the conditions dictated to the Japanese flowed from the same mind-set. As far as Hirohito consenting to his de-deification and a foreign authority, that seems like stepping down to me.

Those who formulated Just War theory and similar doctrines never anticipated a country like Japan.

They did anticipate thinking like yours.

"In addition to the threat of utter devastation, Potsdam included the stipulation that surrender eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest [sic]...Stern justice would be meted out to all war criminals. Pretty unconditional to me."

Tough terms are not unconditional terms. I guess we were to accept the continued military rule of Japan and accept their conquests as a condition of peace so that we could fight the war again in 20-30 years. Anyways, I doubt that the war crimes language held up the surrender. If the US had said return all Allied territory except for your conquests in China, Manchuria, and Korea and turn over these 100 war criminals we probably would have had a negotiated peace. Of course, we would hear about the Japanese celebrating the annual anniversary of the 100 who committed ritual suicide to win the war over the US. That is of course unless we were at war with them again.

"So total war was justified? Note the tyranny within your logic; its for your own good that we reign complete devastation down upon your civilians. Chilling."

First, I only claimed that it was about the only way to get Japan to surrender on acceptable terms and with much fewer casualties than any other sensible option. Yes Total War is justified when you are in a Total War. This wasn't some war fought over a dispute over an island. Japan, much like Germany, had a racial belief in their absolute superiority over the rest of the world. The only way to stop them was to force them to surrender on our terms.

"No, like many others within the Cabinet and military, he found both the Casablanca and Potsdam conferences morally problematic from the beginning. Roosevelt originally agreed with Stalin that Germany should be stripped of all industrial capability and reduced to an unarmed agrarian state. Leahy rightly though the conditions dictated to the Japanese flowed from the same mind-set."

You seemed to have missed my point that Leahy didn't seem to mind starving or conventionally bombing the Japanese. Does the speed of the killing change the morality of it?

Where Zippy sees a God that is primarily concerned with actions, I see a God who cares even more for the motivation, and will reject even the most righteous action as though it were sin if the heart behind it is not equally righteous.
I don't disagree with the latter. Either an evil intention or the choice of an intrinsically evil behavior can render an act evil: that is, it is not possible to do good without both a good intention and the choice of an objectively righteous behavior.
I guess we were to accept the continued military rule of Japan and accept their conquests as a condition of peace so that we could fight the war again in 20-30 years. Anyways, I doubt that the war crimes language held up the surrender.

The Japanese were seeking terms of surrender for almost a year and vanquished by the summer of 1945. Their resolve was protecting a mythic deity from an ignoble demise, not retaining lands already lost. While, there was, as you alluded to earlier, a bitter-end faction willing to violently derail an inevitable surrender, they were a minority movement that lost all strength once it became clear that Hirohito was not to be tried with the military leaders. A lot of suffering could have been avoided if that was clearly communicated prior to August. The whole war again in 20-30 years scenario is a attempt to justify an action we know deep down in our hearts to be heinous. Ultimately, it is our own conduct, not that of the enemy's, which determines our eternal destiny. Hence the great gift of Just War Doctrine.

Michael B.:
It sounds like your objection to Truman is that the thousands, perhaps millions, of lives he saved fall into the wrong category: "causally remote."

Yes. And I know that sounds cold-blooded and/or overly rationalistic, but the proximate/remote distinction is absolutely essentially to determining the morality of all sorts of actions. I can't make an exception arbitrarily, no matter what the stakes. And by the way, I would like to do it.

Mike T:
By your own estimation, it is reasonable to say that millions of lives were saved by this act. To my knowledge, no one in the federal leadership at the time disputed that there would be millions of Japanese civilians killed while invading Japan.

I personally don't think that it is reasonable to think it likely, although I think there is at least a remote possibility that this is true. It appears indubitable, in any case, that more lives were saved than taken by the act.

Truman figured that the nuclear bombs might actually give them a new perspective on how hopeless their actions were, and make them capitulate. He may have been misguided, but it's hard to argue that these men had any sinful desire to harm Japan rather than bring it to its senses before it destroyed itself.

Yes, and for that reason, I'd be disinclined to saddle them with a huge amount of subjective guilt for the action. The act was objectively one of terrorism. But their motives and ends were far better than those who ordinarily use terrorism as a means, so Truman can't remotely be equated with bin Laden or people like that. How many terrorists are seriously concerned about the lives of the *target* population?

Zippy,

Below is a partial transcript from a speech given by Msgr. William Smith on the position of the Church with respect to nuclear weapons. Msgr. Smith is a professor of moral theology.

After stating that he considered the strategy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) to be immoral since it directly targets civilian populations, he goes on to say:

You might consider the counter-force strategy, which seems to me moral, willing only the destruction of combatants, allowing, or even foreseeing, indirect or collateral damage to some civilian situations. But it seems to me a limited nuclear war is possible if we adhere to the [rule of] no direct destruction of non-combatants indiscriminately.

This statement perfectly dovetails with my reading of the Principle of Double Effect and is at variance with yours. The reason for this, I believe, is that my interpretation is the traditional one, and yours is a pacifistic innovation.

In any event, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to require that you come up with at least one instance of an expert in moral theology applying your reading of the principle to a scenario similar to the one under discussion.

I'll have to delay responding to Mr. Luse, but suffice it to say that there is an essential difference between "direct" and "on purpose."

George:

You might consider the counter-force strategy, which seems to me moral, willing only the destruction of combatants, allowing, or even foreseeing, indirect or collateral damage to some civilian situations. But it seems to me a limited nuclear war is possible if we adhere to the [rule of] no direct destruction of non-combatants indiscriminately.
This statement perfectly dovetails with my reading of the Principle of Double Effect and is at variance with yours.
It isn't at variance with mine. I think limited war is possible in general if we adhere to the rule of no direct destruction of non-combatants indiscriminately. This includes the possibility of licit use of nuclear weapons in principle. The only morally significant differences between nuclear weapons and conventional bombs, as weapons of war, are blast radius and fallout.

(It is odd to be accused of being a pacifist when one of the things that follows from my thoughts on war is that the sniper is among the most moral of actors in wartime).

It isn't at variance with mine.

So you believe that a nuclear strike with foreseen civilian casualties could be morally licit?

So you believe that a nuclear strike with foreseen civilian casualties could be morally licit?
I believe that a licit nuclear strike with "...indirect or collateral damage to some civilian situations..." is possible in principle. That is the language you quoted as supposedly incommensurate with my position. So for example a nuclear strike on a strictly military target while foreseeing the possibility of damage to remote civilian situations by fallout might be morally licit. A nuclear strike with civilians in the blast radius would be intrinsically immoral.

Mr. Luse:
With respect to your last set of remarks to me, they were so far off of the issues that I am tempted to invoke Wolfgang Pauli's famous characterization "not even wrong." To be wrong, you have to at least understand what is being discussed, and your last remarks indicate that you aren't there yet.

I don't know what you're trying to accomplish with 'simpliciter', but it's a poor substitute for 'accidental' or 'uinintended', which the Magisterium has certainly not condemned.

Simpliciter in this context is used to mean "all by itself" or "without further conditions." (1) is just the proposition that an innocent person being killed is not by itself a sufficient condition for intrinsic evil.

If you ever intend the death of an innocent, under any circumstances whatsoever, it is condemned.

That's not what Magisterial teaching says. What Magisterial teaching says is that if you directly intend the death of an innocent (i.e., the "direct and voluntary killing of an innocent"), under any circumstances whatsoever, it is condemned. "Direct" or "directly intended" (equivalent terms in this context) is a term of art in moral theology meaning "intended as an end or serving as a causal effect in a chain of causal effects producing the end," the latter chain of causal effects being referred to as the "means" to the end. You can use the term however you like, but in the context of moral theology, that is what it means.

It's called formal cooperation with evil.

If you are suggesting that you are in some way cooperating with the aggressor endangering the innocents, that would again require some causal connection between the actions, which is not present.

There you go again, putting 'directly' in front of 'intended', drawing a distinction without a difference.

The distinction is between which causal effects are intended as end or used as means to the intended end (in the sense defined above). Obviously, the terms "end" and "means" are not vacuous in moral theology, else they would not be used. You're simply confused about what "direct" means in the context of moral theology. Moreover, you can't ignore intention, because that defines the end (and thus the moral object) of the action.

I'm sure you'd also agree that the Magisterium condemns not merely intending the death of an innocent, but actually choosing to kill one. On purpose. Directly.

The Magisterium condemns a directly intended, voluntary, knowing choice to kill an innocent. The Magisterium does not condemn an indirectly intended, voluntary, knowing choice to kill an innocent. Both of those choices are "on purpose" in the sense that you actually mean to do the thing that kills the innocent, but one is direct killing and the other is indirect killing. Just go back and read EV: the term "direct" is right there in the solemn definition alongside "voluntary." They don't mean the same thing. Voluntary and knowing killing of the innocent is not necessarily direct killing of the innocent.

You don't want the deaths of the innocents considered as the means to your end, but they are.

What I *want* is irrelevant. The physical facts of the case make clear that the causal effect on the innocent just plain does not lie within the chain of causal effects reaching the end. You can try to wish away the physical distinction all you want, but the physical fact is that the bomb does not causally depend on harming the innocent is still there. But then you are the one trying to wish away the physical constraints on causation, not me; I am taking the circumstances as I find them. It is simply the case that there is no causal chain between the harm to the innocent and the harm to the terrorist.

You knew you would kill them and you did, and that you couldn't get to your end without doing so.

You're equivocating with the term "couldn't get to your end without doing so." The killing is only direct if one means "couldn't get to your end without doing so" in the very strict sense that if the particular causal effect failed it would break the causal chain to the end. If you mean "couldn't get to your end without doing so" in the sense of a side effect that is not part of the chain, then the effect could still be indirectly intended. So "couldn't get to your end without doing so" is not by itself a sufficient test to distinguish between direct and indirect intent.

It was a single act, and they were your target.

Again, "target" doesn't distinguish "direct" and "indirect" intent, so it isn't adequate to demonstrate your point (if you actually have one).

You're trying to parse your intentions into those with effects you do like, and those with effects you don't.

No, I'm trying to parse the intentions in order to determine the end so that I can identify which causal effects fall of necessity within the causal chain to that end and which ones do not (the latter being "side effects" or "collateral"). What I "like" has nothing to do with it. What matters is the physical necessity of particular effects to the end, which separates "direct" (necessary effects in the causal chain) from "indirect."

The ones you do like you call 'directly intended'; the ones you don't you call 'simpliciter' or 'indirect' or you say odd things like "the causal effect of the bomb does not depend on the death of the innocent to reach the end. It is a side effect." When obviously it is not.

Apart from the gaffe on what the term simpliciter means, what I am saying simply pertains to the physical facts of the case. It is a physical fact that the bomb does not depend its effect on the innocent to achieve its effect on the terrorist. Take the obvious case where the terrorist is closer to the bomb that the innocent is, so that the terrorist is hit by the blast first. Clearly, there is no such thing as retro-causation, so that the harm the the innocent couldn't possibly have caused the harm to the terrorist in any sense. There is nothing "odd" in that statement; it's a fact of physical causation that parallel effects of the same cause don't cause each other. Parallel effects have the same cause does not mean that parallel effects have any causal dependence on one another.

What you are basically saying is that the two effects have the same cause (i.e., the bomb). But so what? What matters for direct and indirect intent is the relationship between the effects, which determines whether they are related as means, not whether they have the same cause.

It was a direct effect of your intention to take out the rocket launcher and to kill combatants and innocents alike. One act, one chosen behavior. One intention.

Again, so what? The question isn't whether it is a "direct effect" in the loose sense that it was caused by your action, but whether it is a directly intended effect. The one intention is to disable the terrorist; the effect on the terrorist is directly related to that intention; the effect on the innocent is indirectly related to that intention.

Your occasionally garbled syntax has made many of your utterances difficult to understand, but I think I deserve some congratulations for soldiering on.

I would not mean to suggest otherwise. But recognize that some of my "garbled syntax," like the idiosyncratic, technical use of the term "direct," comes directly from Magisterial documents. I would have loved, for example, if the late author of EV would have used the term "directly intended as end or means to the end" in place of "direct" or "further intention" in place of "intention," since this would have greatly improved the clarity of those documents for laymen. So part of that "soldiering on" is grasping the technical terminology, which is why the question I asked above wasn't sarcasm, but rather a serious question about what terms it is that you aren't getting. It seems to be "direct" being used as shorthand for "directly intended" and "means" being used specifically to refer to the physical, causal relationship between two effects. You're using those terms outside of their technical meaning in moral theology.

JP:

What Magisterial teaching says is that if you directly intend the death of an innocent ... under any circumstances whatsoever, it is condemned
And you can't deliberately blow the living body of a person to pieces without directly intending her death. Choosing that behavior necessarily entails that direct intention, independent of any further end you may have in mind, or claims about physically causal connections to that further end.
The physical facts of the case make clear that the causal effect on the innocent just plain does not lie within the chain of causal effects reaching the end.
Acts are not merely physical, and reducing them to the merely physical in order to beg the question of the applicability of double-effect is exactly what is condemned by Veritatis Splendour.
I would have loved, for example, if the late author of EV would have used the term "directly intended as end or means to the end" in place of "direct" or "further intention" in place of "intention," since this would have greatly improved the clarity of those documents for laymen.
Maybe you mean you would have loved that because it would make it easier for you to claim that your own (in my view false and question-begging, though shared by any number of moral theologians, which is to say, any number of people who, expressly not speaking as or on behalf of the Magisterium, are thinking about moral theology and stuff), that your own interpretation is the right one.

You could say that the ends don't justify the means, but then you'd have saved possibly 200,000 lives so that 8,000,000 could have died in "morally licit" warfare on the beaches and an another generation of Japanese gets wiped out needlessly.

Amazing.

The stench of utilitarianism all over this blog from so-called "Christians" (as if St. Paul had never preached or, for that matter, Jesus Himself had never lived) would go to the extent of justifying these heinous acts of murdering thousands of innocent people but, even further, would unwittingly provide justification to our terrorist enemies that one need not distinguish between civilian or military and that all territories regardless are fair game in war!

By using the bomb, Truman saved countless thousands, perhaps even millions and millions, of Japanese civilians, Japanese soldiers, and American soldiers from a protracted land battle where Japanese devotion to the emperor would mean men, women, and children fighting to the death in defense of a culture that valued, even honored, the kamikazis and their tactics.

I'm certain that Jesus himself would have been particularly proud of Truman over the act of snuffing out the countless lives of innocent Japanese civilians, especially given the unmistakable likelihood of civilians turning into military combatants!

Why, perhaps these and all other such assuredly unmistakable and highly-principled opinions reflect but the quintessential aspects of Christian morality as well as unassailably intelligible refutation against those insane terrorists who would target civilian populations within our country since they, too, consider them a threat!

If I choose to sacrifice my life to save others, why is that not suicide? I have chosen to make my death the means of their escaping death. Why is this noble, but choosing to kill some innocents to kill a proportionate number of aggressors is not even merely acceptable in any situation?


Was this a serious question?

One is incapable of appreciating the fact that in the former, one has chosen to give his own life so that others may live whereas in the latter, one has chosen to murder the innocent?

So, here we learn that Jesus had committed suicide and that murdering the innocent is in every way an act just as comparable.

Ari,
On this one, we disagree.

The moral equivalence you want to draw between Truman and Islamic terrorists is simply mistaken.

Atta and his henchmen weren't flying planes into the World Trade Center in order to end a World War quickly and in order to save millions of civilian and military lives -- on the other side. Hamas doesn't fire rockets indiscriminately into Israel in order to save Israeli lives. Nor, unlike Truman, do they succeed in saving them.

And you can't deliberately blow the living body of a person to pieces without directly intending her death.

So there is no difference between "direct" and "voluntary" then? That would apparently come as news to Pope John Paul II, since he used both terms as modifiers in his solemn definition.

Choosing that behavior necessarily entails that direct intention, independent of any further end you may have in mind, or claims about physically causal connections to that further end.

I am not talking about "further ends." I am talking about the proximate end of the action, i.e., of the direct intention.

To talk about "direct" intention without physically causal connections is simply to exclude the physical from the moral consideration, in violation of VS. "Means" involves a physical, causal analysis with respect to the intended in, because that's what "means" are: the physically causal connections between the bodily action and the end. "Direct" is measured by the end and those means. If you aren't talking about physically causal connections to the proximate end, then you simply aren't talking about the concrete human behavior in question.

Acts are not merely physical, and reducing them to the merely physical in order to beg the question of the applicability of double-effect is exactly what is condemned by Veritatis Splendour.

I'm not reducing them to the merely physical. Rather, I am identifying the relevant physical aspects to the intended end, and the way that I identify those relevant physical aspects is by tracing the chain of physical causation from the intended proximate end to my bodily action, which identifies the means of my action toward that end. If I were reducing the aspects to the physical, then my intended end would not matter. Any analysis that disregards either the intended end or the epistemic state of the agent is physicialist, but I am not disregarding either. You at least appear to be disregarding the intended end in analyzing direct intent.

Maybe you mean you would have loved that because it would make it easier for you to claim that your own (in my view false and question-begging, though shared by any number of moral theologians, which is to say, any number of people who, expressly not speaking as or on behalf of the Magisterium, are thinking about moral theology and stuff), that your own interpretation is the right one.

No, I mean that I would have loved it because that's what he intended, and I don't have any particular desire to see anyone's words used in a manner against the author's will. As to the begged question, let us consider the evidence of the use of the term "direct."

I cited above Paul VI's use of the term "direct" and "specifically intend ... as ends or means" in a way that supports the notion that the terms are being used equivalently in the context of intrinsically evil actions. From Humanae Vitae:
"Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it —in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.
...
Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)."

Your counter-"interpretation" is that, no, despite the internal evidence that "direct" and "voluntary" are being used as separate qualifiers in John Paul II's own words, despite the external evidence of the use of the term "direct" by Paul VI in exactly the way I have described, and despite the opinion of moral theologians, and even of Prof. Anscombe, whom you cited approvingly, that "direct" in this context means intended as end or means to an intended end, we should ignore all of that evidence because you, and you alone in the entire world, have discerned the secret key of the late Pope's mind to give the interpretation of "direct" that just happens to agree with you and those who fall on your side in these particular online conflicts. That is an "interpretation" in the school of Derrida, perhaps, in the sense of a game played with language to persuade people to your side, but it can be nothing more.

Look, if we've gotten to the point where we are acting as a sort of reverse Humpty Dumpty, so that whenever you read a word, then it means whatever you say it means, then what can I say? But if you've misread "direct" in "direct and voluntary killing of an innocent," then you've been wrong all this time, and catastrophically wrong to the point of falsely condemning people for disregard of Magisterial teaching. I have no problem with you being wrong; people make mistakes, and it would be one thing if you were accusing people of unwitting mistakes. But the accusations you have made go far beyond mere mistake to intentional misrepresentation of Magisterial teaching and to bad motives, wishes, and desires. If you are going to make the accusation, you had better be awfully sure that you are right, and in your shoes, I can't imagine being so sure of that on the record that I've seen. Understand that if we are "temperamentally" inclined to disagree, it's because you have done something that I consider grossly intemperate on the strength of an interpretation of "direct" that seems justified by far less than a reasonable investigation.

I can keep at this for the rest of my life if people can continue questioning me for that long, but at some point, there is just a right answer on what "direct" means. One of us is right, and one of us is wrong, and I don't see any serious basis for controversy about who it is.

Michael,

Are you saying that if the terrorists were to wipe out a sufficiently large civilian population such that the results thereof would mean military victory for their side, effectively preventing larger scale causalities in an alternative drawn-out, all-out war between both sides; that this would actually justify such a horrendous act of murder?

Sorry, but such logic that would seek to rationalize and, even further, justify the deaths of thousands of innocents all for the sake of victory (whatever that means) twisted, if not, evil.

To call the murder of 200,000 innocent people "saving countless lives" is a hideous rationalization of the facts and its justification repugnantly consequentialist.

You're made of better stuff than that, Dr. Bauman.

Jonathan,

Yes, and for that reason, I'd be disinclined to saddle them with a huge amount of subjective guilt for the action. The act was objectively one of terrorism. But their motives and ends were far better than those who ordinarily use terrorism as a means, so Truman can't remotely be equated with bin Laden or people like that. How many terrorists are seriously concerned about the lives of the *target* population?

Amen. I don't disagree in the least that it was an act of terrorism, but terrorism can, at times, be the only option available. From Truman's perspective, he had three choices:

1) Starve the Japanese to death through the blockade.
2) Invade and risk losing a million Americans and possibly several million Japanese civilians-turned-combatants.
3) Strike out with a level of devastation that might scare the Japanese so badly they surrender.

Ari,
No, I didn't say that.

The terrorist cause is not justifiable, even if, contrary to their long historical record, they sometimes acted to save lives in the pursuit of their terrorist ends. Do I want terrorists to save lives? Yes, I do. Would that justify their terrorist ends? No; all of which has nothing to do with Truman.

Truman saved lives, ended a world war and, through Macarthur, remade Japan into a better, freer, and more prosperous nation, one that has not gone to war since that time. That is not terrorism.

I am not saying that ends justify means. I am saying that Truman was right to end the war quickly and to save millions of civilian and military lives in the process. If you think he could have saved more civilian and military lives in the process some other way, I'd be happy to hear the argument and to assess the alternative proposed. But, so far as I can tell from a distance of more than 6 decades, given the options then available, Truman saved the most lives possible.

Further, what Truman did was not murder, and it is not blot on my character to defend Truman's action, any more than it's a blot on yours to disagree. You are a committed and serious Christian, Ari. I am fully (and happily) convinced of that fact, even if, like all of us, you make a mistake on this or that political/ethical issue. I'd say the same about myself, mistakes and all. It's not about you or I being "made of better stuff." We all are made of fallen stuff, and, under the providence of God, we must do the best we can with it. When it comes to assessing a fallen world with fallen minds, its easy to be wrong. On this issue, that might be me -- or you.

To call the murder of 200,000 innocent people "saving countless lives" is a hideous rationalization of the facts and its justification repugnantly consequentialist.

To potentially allow 7,000,000 to die instead is hardly the moral course of action either. The very reason why the nuclear bombing was considered an option was because our military had every reason to believe that there would be a very fluid relationship between combatants and noncombatants if they set foot on Japanese soil while Japan still had a fighting spirit.

One is incapable of appreciating the fact that in the former, one has chosen to give his own life so that others may live whereas in the latter, one has chosen to murder the innocent?

What I am appreciating is the fact that in any normal case, taking an action you know will lead to your death is suicide, and thus a sin. The fundamental issue is where is the dividing line between sin and virtue. In the case of self-sacrifice, it has to do with the intent, which is to save lives and affect a noble end pleasing to God. Truman was motivated by the exact same intent, which was to save as many lives as he could.

You seem to forget that you have no more right to kill yourself than you do your neighbor.


So, here we learn that Jesus had committed suicide and that murdering the innocent is in every way an act just as comparable.

What a distortion of my stated position! What I said was that killing noncombatants may be justified as a means of ending a war and/or saving lives. I am saying that the nuclear bombing of Japan was moral precisely because it was the most powerful and effective means of forcing the surrender of the Japanese, while costing the fewest lives of the known, viable options. I am also saying that there is no moral difference between a blockade and a nuclear bombing when it comes to the moral outcomes to the civilian population. Every civilian who starves to death under the blockade is a death attributable to the hostile naval force. You do not put up a blockade as a means of sending a country to the national version of "time-out." You do it to inflict suffering and death on the nation until it capitulates.

. The very reason why the nuclear bombing was considered an option was because our military had every reason to believe that there would be a very fluid relationship between combatants and noncombatants if they set foot on Japanese soil while Japan still had a fighting spirit.

Japan had already passed a law pretty much drafting every able bodied man and woman into the military as part of the homeland defense. One could argue that that made Hiroshima primarily a military istallation.

And, aristocles, the question of whether or not the ends justify the means is always a moral consideration. We use that all of the time as a time-honored method of gauging whether or not the use of force was justified at the level it was used in case of violent crime. If I choose to end a fight by shooting you in the head, you would certainly say that "the end did NOT justify the means" by which I ended the fight. However, if I chose to grab a golf club and break your arm, and you stopped attacking me, the end would most certainly have justified the means.

"The ends justify the means" has gotten a somewhat undue reputation for being inherently immoral, when in fact it is how we have always gauged the appropriateness of the use of force.

Your pose of superior knowledge nothwithstanding, I understand you perfectly, Jonathan. For example, Moreover, you can't ignore intention, because that defines the end -(so far so good) - and thus the moral object of the action, which latter tells me that you don't understand what VS means by 'moral object'. It is a very specific, chosen behavior, in this case your choosing to blow up innocents along with terrorists. You did it, directly. You intended to do it, directly. It was not an accident. You did it on purpose. The innocents had no means of escape or even the possibility of escape, and no chance of survival. But you chose to do it anyway. It was your moral object.

The one intention is to disable the terrorist; the effect on the terrorist is directly related to that intention; the effect on the innocent is indirectly related to that intention.

If that's your understanding of intention, it's an obscene one. But as I said before, once it gets a grip on someone, it becomes a dictatorship.

Michael,

You already know I have but such high regard for you or else I would not have been so frank in my communication to you. I continue to hold the same high respect, although I admittedly disagree with your opinion here to a substantial degree.

I am not saying that ends justify means. I am saying that Truman was right to end the war quickly and to save millions of civilian and military lives in the process.

Yet, the latter of your statement with all of the other comments you've made thus far seem indeed to invoke the mistaken principle that the ends justify the means; that it was right to murder 200,000 innocent Japanese civilians since the outcome of such dastardly acts (referring to Hiroshima and Nagasaki) was a swift end to the war which would have otherwise been prolonged (or so it is often assumed).

You are, in effect, calling the evil act of murdering the Innocent “good” so long as such acts have their seemingly auspicious consequences.

Had the situation been reversed and it had been 200,000 innocent American casualties, I highly doubt you would be singing the same tune.

In any case, precious in the eyes of God are the deaths of the Innocent regardless of sides, and I highly doubt that Jesus Himself would be well pleased at their heinous murders.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)."

So it is licit to use contraception as long as the specific intent is to prevent disease transmission (which is surely a worthy goal in places where the HIV epidemic is rampant). That becomes the only standard upon which to morally judge the act and defines the ends and means, as opposed to side effects and indirect fully known consequences. I am very cool with that but I strangely suspect you might disagree.

You seem to forget that you have no more right to kill yourself than you do your neighbor.

Quickly, two things:
1. Concerning the Murdering of the Innocent: "Thou Shalt Not Kill", as in the Decalogue
2. Regarding Laying down One's Life for the Sake of Others: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

You seem to forget that you have no more right to kill yourself than you do your neighbor.

But is every act you take that will likely result in your death necessarily suicide? Suicide seem to involve (physically) the act of taking your own life - i.e. being the immediate agent of your death (swallowing the pills, slicing your wrists, or having someone do it to you at your direction ala Kevorkian).

Performing an act that will result in your death, but your death is not the instrument of your own hand (i.e., taking a bullet you did not fire for a friend, jumping on the grenade you did not throw) seems to be a different act - you allow your death to happen, but the circumstances causing your death are not of your making. It may not necessarily be suicide (I suppose it might be, in the sense of a "Joe vs. the Volcano" way - you only do the sacrificial act because you believe you are terminally ill anyway, so why not make your suicide productive).

If that's your understanding of intention, it's an obscene one.

Bill,

I think it would help if we considered a morally neutral example:

Suppose I am in the house and there is an important package for me in the mail box out by the road. There is also a foot of snow on the ground. I know that if I go out to get the package my shoes are going to get wet. But I need the package, so I decide to go out.

Question 1: Do I intend to get my shoes wet?
Answer: In a way, yes. In a way, no.

I do intend to perform the act that I know will result in my shoes getting wet. However, getting my shoes wet is not reason I do the act. The act which results in my shoes getting wet is not at all for the sake of getting my shoes wet.

Question 2: Do I intend to get the package?
Answer: Yes, in an unqualified sense.

I intend to perform the act that I know will result in get the package, and getting the package is the reason I do the act. The act that results in my getting the package is for the sake of getting the package.

From this it should be clear that getting the package is directly intended, while getting my shoes wet is only indirectly intended.

The same principles applies in matters of life and death.

Ari,
We disagree that they were murdered.

On a related point, I'm guessing that you would not label as murder the deaths of all the neighboring men, women, and children (and cattle) at the hands of Old Testament Jews. But, those children, those women (and those cattle -- wink) were non-combatants.

To me, that implies that the intentional deaths of non-combatants is not always murder. If it were, God would not command it, and He would not severely punish his people, as He did, for not carrying out the full-scale annihilation of a neighboring nation.

If you think the deaths of non-combatants is always murder, I am sincerely interested in your take on those OT texts.

Moreover, you can't ignore intention, because that defines the end -(so far so good) - and thus the moral object of the action, which latter tells me that you don't understand what VS means by 'moral object'.

No, what VS excludes is "further intention," which is not meant to exclude the proximate intended end of the act.

It is a very specific, chosen behavior, in this case your choosing to blow up innocents along with terrorists.

It is indeed the behavior qua chosen, which is to say qua intended as end or means to the end. In this case, blowing up the innocents is neither end nor means to the end. You are excluding the proximate intended end of the act from your analysis, which is incorrect.

You did it, directly. You intended to do it, directly.

No, you did it indirectly, and you intended to do it indirectly, because it was neither your intended proximate end nor your chosen means to that end. Repeating an error does not make it true.

It was not an accident. You did it on purpose.

"Not by accident" and even "did it on purpose" are not equivalent to "chose it as a proximate end or used it as means to the proximate end," the latter of which is the definition of the term "directly."

The innocents had no means of escape or even the possibility of escape, and no chance of survival.

I'd say they had some chance of survival, but probably a very miniscule one, and I'm willing to stipulate that one can know they would die to a moral certainty.

But you chose to do it anyway. It was your moral object.

There's a difference between the causal effects of an act and the moral object of the act. I chose to cause all of the effects, certainly, but that doesn't mean that all of the effects are the direct object of my choice.

If that's your understanding of intention, it's an obscene one.

You mean the idea that I don't directly intend every effect that I voluntarily cause? How is that obscene? And where do you think I got the idea?

So it is licit to use contraception as long as the specific intent is to prevent disease transmission (which is surely a worthy goal in places where the HIV epidemic is rampant). That becomes the only standard upon which to morally judge the act and defines the ends and means, as opposed to side effects and indirect fully known consequences. I am very cool with that but I strangely suspect you might disagree.

I assume you mean condoms. That argument has been made, but it is not licit because it achieves its effect just by disrupting the unitive function of the act, i.e., by preventing what is ejaculated by the man from reaching the woman. Sexual acts that are intentionally thwarted in their unitive function are also intrinsically evil.

Note the following from HV 12:
"This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called."

As I see it, the problem here isn't the contraceptive effect but thwarting the unitive effect of the sexual act as means, which is also intrinsically evil.

I wrote:

And you can't deliberately blow the living body of a person to pieces without directly intending her death.
Jonathan replied:
So there is no difference between "direct" and "voluntary" then?
I didn't say that. I said that you can't deliberately blow the living body of a person to pieces without directly intending her death.


Jonathan wrote:

If I were reducing the aspects to the physical, then my intended end would not matter. Any analysis that disregards ... the intended end ... of the agent is physicialist... . You at least appear to be disregarding the intended end in analyzing direct intent.
You appear to be saying that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil the deliberate choice to blow up a mixed group of combatants and noncombatants with a bomb apart from consideration of the intention for which the choice is made.

Veritatis Splendour:
One must therefore reject the thesis ... which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its "object" — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made ... .


Jonathan wrote (without quoting me at all on the point):

But the accusations you have made go far beyond mere mistake to intentional misrepresentation of Magisterial teaching and to bad motives, wishes, and desires. If you are going to make the accusation, you had better be awfully sure that you are right, and in your shoes, I can't imagine being so sure of that on the record that I've seen. Understand that if we are "temperamentally" inclined to disagree, it's because you have done something that I consider grossly intemperate on the strength of an interpretation of "direct" that seems justified by far less than a reasonable investigation.
I'm temperamentally inclined to revoke your posting privileges in this thread. If your very next comment begins with an appropriately obsequious apology I might read the rest of it, if I am in the mood, and, depending on its content, let it stand. If it doesn't, I'll delete it without reading it.

Michael,

On a related point, I'm guessing that you would not label as murder the deaths of all the neighboring men, women, and children (and cattle) at the hands of Old Testament Jews. But, those children, those women (and those cattle -- wink) were non-combatants.

To me, that implies that the intentional deaths of non-combatants is not always murder. If it were, God would not command it, and He would not severely punish his people, as He did, for not carrying out the full-scale annihilation of a neighboring nation.

If you think the deaths of non-combatants is always murder, I am sincerely interested in your take on those OT texts.

While it would make for interesting discussion (especially somebody with your background), I don't think it would serve the thread any good to delve into the matter, especially since we come from seemingly opposing camps on the subject. Perhaps if the thread was specifically dealing with the subject, we can engage in such talks. Right now, it would merely result in a tangent from the relevant discussion at hand.

Suffice it to say, I'm sure you're well aware of the Mosaic Law which values innocent human life so preciously that the only sufficient form of retribution for the murderer is death?

Zippy,

I'm temperamentally inclined to revoke your posting privileges in this thread. If your very next comment begins with an appropriately obsequious apology I might read the rest of it, if I am in the mood, and, depending on its content, let it stand. If it doesn't, I'll delete it without reading it.

While it is your every right to manage the thread as you would deem fit, would it be possible to allow Jonathan Prejean's continued comments on the thread so as to obtain a certain diversity in thought on the subject, so long as it is not so brazenly offensive?

I believe Jonathan provides a unique perspective especially given his background.

Just a thought. Thanks.

Jonathan,
Pulling more intrinsically evil rabbits out of the hat won't change my worthy specific intent. I do grant your distinction between indirect and direct intent, but you should also be willing to grant how fine a line that is when so many other factors are identical and how easy it is to blur that line such that collateral damage becomes a euphemism for terror tactics (as amply demonstrated on this thread).

Ari,
Good point.
Thanks.
Best,
Mike

...would it be possible to allow Jonathan Prejean's continued comments on the thread so as to obtain a certain diversity in thought on the subject, so long as it is not so brazenly offensive?
Sure it is possible. I specified the conditions under which it is possible.

c matt,

But is every act you take that will likely result in your death necessarily suicide? Suicide seem to involve (physically) the act of taking your own life - i.e. being the immediate agent of your death (swallowing the pills, slicing your wrists, or having someone do it to you at your direction ala Kevorkian).

I don't think that there is much of a difference between allowing yourself to be killed and doing it yourself. In either situation you have the power to stop it. I think an appropriate analogy would be a mafia hit. Is a mafia don not morally responsible as a murderer himself for the hit he ordered as though he did it, even though he was not the agent that actually carried it out? How about if he said something that could be reasonably construed by his enforcer as ordering a hit, he knew the man took it that way, and took no action to stop his man from carrying it out?

I don't think that there is much of a difference between allowing yourself to be killed and doing it yourself.

In other words, in Mike T's opinion, Christ committed suicide.

While it would make for interesting discussion (especially somebody with your background), I don't think it would serve the thread any good to delve into the matter, especially since we come from seemingly opposing camps on the subject. Perhaps if the thread was specifically dealing with the subject, we can engage in such talks. Right now, it would merely result in a tangent from the relevant discussion at hand.

Why? In the case he cited, you have a serious theological issue with the argument that it is not morally licit to knowingly target non-combatants. If God Himself ordered a massacre of such non-combatants, it does raise serious issues with the argument that it is murder, since God would never order someone to murder another human being.

Suffice it to say, I'm sure you're well aware of the Mosaic Law which values innocent human life so preciously that the only sufficient form of retribution for the murderer is death?

That is certainly true, but the Mosaic Law also calls for execution on issues that most Catholics would find morally horrifying. There are about 16 offenses that carry that as the punishment.

In other words, in Mike T's opinion, Christ committed suicide.

With all due respect, you clearly have reading comprehension issues, as I have stated above that the fact that this is not suicide shows that to God it is the intent and final end of the act (as intended, anyway) that makes such issues ultimately sinful or righteous to God. Jesus' death was not suicide, but self-sacrifice. Likewise, a commander who bombs a city for no reason is a criminal, but a commander who knowingly sacrifices some civilian lives to deal a crippling blow to the enemy so as to stop the war is behaving righteously in that instance. The reason the former is sin is because the death of the civilians serves no righteous end, and cannot be justified based on the true spirit of the divine law as it violates both of the highest commandments as he is motivated by laziness or bloodlust, not a desire to save lives and bring peace.

Mike T,

I believe that my discussion with Dr. Bauman would necessarily entail a long-drawn out discussion outside the sphere of the immediate topic since it would inevitably involve not only a presentation of our own individual views (which alone could prove contentiously extensive given our respective theological differences) about the specific passages in Scripture but would also mean engaging intimately in scholarly sources that would merely prove all too constipating, to say the least.

Further, if you should adamantly subscribe to the mistaken notion that because, to you, God had seemingly engaged in the activity of murder, this gives you license to likewise do the same and murder the innocent; I strongly suggest that you re-evaluate.

Further, if you should adamantly subscribe to the mistaken notion that because, to you, God had seemingly engaged in the activity of murder, this gives you license to likewise do the same and murder the innocent; I strongly suggest that you re-evaluate.

I said:

it does raise serious issues with the argument that it is murder, since God would never order someone to murder another human being

We know from God's nature that He would never say "hey, go slit your neighbor's throat because he gave you a sour look when you went to pick up the paper." God does not tell men to murder. Whenever God tells someone to take a life, it is as a matter of justice or according to His plan.

Yet... somehow you got the idea that I said that God engaged in murder out of that, and that I was thinking it gave me a license to go around slitting throats...

Breaking news: we are not God.

George,

You crack me up sometimes so I'll treat of your example. Getting your shoes wet while retrieving the package is eqivalent to the pilot of the plane which carries the bomb getting his wings wet when he passes through a cloud. Does he intend to get dew on his wings? In a way yes, in a way no. It's sort of an unavoidable fact of life. When he drops the bomb, does he intend to kill the innocents along with the others? Yes, in an unqualified sense.

I suspect you want me to line up "getting your shoes wet" with "killing innocents", and "retrieving the package" with "killing combatants." Those are the two effects - one good and one bad - that result from what particular behavior? You don't say. There's no dropping of the bomb. Or did you want me to line up "getting your shoes wet" with dropping the bomb, and "retrieving the package" with "killing combatants and innocents"? If so, where are the two effects -one good, one bad - that result from retrieving the package?

Morally neutral examples might be beneficial in some cases, but here, besides lacking the two effects, there is that greater absence of gravitas that comes from knowing you won't have to answer to God for getting your shoes wet.

Zippy:
I apologize sincerely and wholeheartedly for any offense that I may have given, any wrong that I have done to you intentionally or unintentionally, any misinterpretation of your intent that I may have made, and any failure on my part to reach the standard of charity required for my brother in Christ (e.g., Eph. 4:1-3).

FWIW, I care a great deal about you personally as a fellow Catholic with whom I am in communion. The fact that I say anything here and the fact that I said anything at Mark Shea's blog is motivated by nothing but concern and worry, and that is the honest truth. I try to make a habit of praying for people I know from the Internet at Mass, even those like you whose name I don't know, and I said much of what I said following those prayers. So if anything I have ever said is inconsistent with that intention in any aspect, then I repent of it and retract it to the extent I can.

I had some hope that the limitations of the medium described in Lydia's earlier post (http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/12/does_silence_give_consent_or_w.html) might nonetheless be overcome to allow my writing to better convey my intent. I had scrupulously avoided posting here (or reading this blog at all, until it was linked at Mark Shea's blog) to avoid the risk that I would misread an opportunity to say something, but I erred in thinking that the occasion of having something to say to Mark might also provided a better occasion to say something here. Now I realize that I should not have even said anything to Mark under those circumstances, reserving it to the chance I hope to have to speak to him face-to-face in a couple of weeks. Much stronger still are the reasons that I should have kept silent here. Again, know that I am doing my best to do what I do in love, and if I am poor at doing it, it is because I am a miserable sinner who can do nothing good apart from the grace of God, and this is what my own efforts produce in the attempt.

Jonathan:

You surprise me, though that is doubtless my own fault, since I have no excuse for not knowing from our past interactions that you are a Christian gentleman. For my part I apologize for any offense, and if I ever said or implied anything imputing bad motives rather than or in addition to intellectual disagreement I retract it unreservedly.

Zippy,

I'm not trying to be obtuse, but I don't think I get the import of your statement about our not being God.

I don't think Mike T's post assumed an equivalence between us and God. It was arguing that if the death of non-combatants at the hands of ancient Israeli fighters was not murder, then perhaps we ought not call the death of non-combatants at the hands of modern Israeli fighters murder.

Like Mike T, I wonder the same thing, especially because God does not command us to do unrighteous deeds, or punish us for not doing them. Because the ancient Israelis were given the command by God to wipe out the surrounding pagan nations and their livestock, then it might well be that such activities are not necessarily murder. If they are not, we'll have to figure out when to use that label in reference to the death of non-combatants and when we must not.

I am not sure, so let me ask: Are you arguing that such activities were not murder then because God commanded them, but would be murder today because He has not? If that is what you mean, are you thinking perhaps that while God does not permit child sacrifice, He commanded it in the case of Abraham and Isaac, and it would have been moral for Abraham to carry put the command, though absent any such command today, we had better never do it?

... I don't think I get the import of your statement about our not being God.
The morality of acts depends in part upon the basic nature of the acting subject, and indeed our subject matter here is the natural law. If I were God it would be problemmatic to characterize any of my acts as "murder", because I would be both responsible for the person's existence in the first place and perfectly capable of re-instantiating the person at any time and in any place, including a paradise, etc. (This is leaving aside the whole issue of hermeneutics, a discussion of which would probably result in ten times the comments we have in this thread and would be far less informative in the sense of introducing people, including me, to viewpoints we may not have seen before). The bottom line is that God's ways are not human ways -- and that itself is a very, very good thing.

This isn't to put forth a particular theory of God and morality, mind you. I expect that God's goodness is something which transcends our understanding; so it does not make a good foundation for building syllogisms about the natural law, except of the form "God's goodness is a mystery literally beyond our capacity to comprehend, so therefore ...". The natural law to which human beings are subject presupposes nature, and specifically human nature. So saying "God ordered or did thus and such, therefore it can't be always morally wrong for us to do this similar thing" reflects an anthropocentric view of God's goodness. It is essentially meaningless in a discussion of the natural law, and I do mean essentially meaningless, because the divine nature is essentially different from human nature.

Does he intend to get dew on his wings? In a way yes, in a way no. It's sort of an unavoidable fact of life. When he drops the bomb, does he intend to kill the innocents along with the others? Yes, in an unqualified sense.

Bill,

You are begging the question. You are assuming that killing the innocents is immoral, then, from this, concluding that killing the innocents is directly intended.

If that is what you mean, are you thinking perhaps that while God does not permit child sacrifice, He commanded it in the case of Abraham and Isaac, and it would have been moral for Abraham to carry put the command, though absent any such command today, we had better never do it?

Do you really think that Yahweh actually wanted Abraham to murder his son?

If you actually think that this was indeed his intent, the whole message of Faith has been entirely lost on you.

In addition, again, I still do not see how it helps the discussion that since God had seemingly commanded the murder of the innocent in the Old Testament, that such acts of murder is permissable regardless, even absent of any such command presumably dispensed by God.

I, for one, believe in the God of Mercy, as revealed quite sufficiently by the Sacrifice of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

To paint God in such a demonic manner just to justify acts of murder is manifestly the ultimate horrible mischaracterization one can engage in.

I sincerely hope that you gentlemen are not of the aforementioned opinion.

This is why I find such fundamentalist (and I don't mean the term to refer to any such Protestant denomination -- I use the term in the general sense; indeed, there are even some nominal Catholics who tend to hold a few) interpretations quite distasteful for there are those who would, as Fr. Corapi himself puts it, rely on such mistaken interpretations to justify outright murder.

Zippy & Jonathan Prejean,

I am quite glad (relieved, even) that you two have finally come to mutual resolution and have ultimately put aside your differences and move beyond past squabbles. I don't think you two know just how much value the both of you bring to matters as this. With both of your respective knowledge and acquired expertise, peppered with the wisdom gained from your personal backgrounds and experience, it is these that give much weight and sustenance to many substantive contributions you two continue to make on these types of topics.

I hope to continue to enjoy more and more of these, even in spite of disagreements.

Ari,
I'm saying none of things you interpret me to say.

Because Zippy's point was unclear to me, I was asking him about his views, and trying to see where they might lead and what they might imply. I wasn't saying what I think with regard to the Abraham/Isaac passage. I specifically said that God does not command us to do evil actions.

Best,
Mike

Michael,

God does not command us to do evil actions.

Amen.

Now that I can agree with.

Mike


Michael Bauman,
The quest to find a loophole always ends in a noose, as demonstrated by the inevitable trotting out of the "voices in my head made me do it" defense; Whenever God tells someone to take a life, it is as a matter of justice or according to His plan. Uh, huh.

Much of what has been written here is deeply disturbing, so it must appear extremely shallow to make an issue of your signing off as Mike. Yet, others also take exception to your recent and ill-conceived attempt at personal re-branding.

I reject the truncated version of your name just as I would refuse to address Pope Benedict XVI as "Ben", or refer to Mother Teresa as "Teri". It has nothing to so with some antiquated preference for stiff formality either. "Aristocles", will always be Ari. At least to me. Is there really any need to elaborate on the reasoning?

I hope you see the wisdom guiding those who continue to address you by your more fitting appellation and wish you hadn't needlessly sought out yet another area of dispute between us.

For Pete's sake, George, I address your example, think I see holes in it, and you don't address a single question I put to you.

I'll try one more time. I assume that the example was intended to effectively demonstrate how an act might fall under the principle of double-effect. For that to happen, the act in question, your chosen behavior, must result in at least two effects, one good and one bad, the bad being unintended, or "indirectly intended" as some would have it.

I don't see this in your example, so let's put it aside as lacking the necessary moral ugency in any case. In order to qualify as "not directly intended" (and therefore to fall under double-effect), an act must also fall outside those kinds of acts that are always and everywhere forbidden. That is, acts which no circumstances or intentions can make permissible. I will assume that you agree that there are acts of such kind. Murdering the innocent is one of them. You want to say that the killing of the innocents in our bombing scenario is not "directly intended." To do this, you need to show that killing them was not a morally certain outcome of your chosen behavior, that it was no part of the "moral object" of your act. But with that moral certainty in hand, I don't see how you can do that. There are all kinds of circumstantial scenarios that you could invent to show that the deaths of the innocents were indeed "not directly intended", and with which I would agree. But the scenario we've been discussing is not one of them. We can also make all kinds of speeches about what our real intentions were without changing one iota the nature of what we've actually done. In a comment above, Zippy supplied a useful quote from Veritatis Splendor, which I had hoped you would take to heart, and which said in effect that "certain kinds of behaviour or specific acts" can indeed be pronounced condemnable "apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made". In other words, it might be truer to judge my intention by what I do, not by what I say about it.

Kev,

I'll sign off any way I please, and it has nothing at all to do with "re-branding." Your insinuations are simply astonishing -- and false.

I've been Mike to my friends all my life, and prefer it to Michael, even if some pretentious and over-weaning prigs think it "a recent and ill-conceived attempt at personal re-branding." That anyone would actually concoct such a cynical theory, that they would be offended by me using my own name, or that they would think it manipulative, is shamefully small minded and pathologically suspicious. That they would offer it publicly is brazenly stupid.

If memory serves, Frank Beckwith, a friend for 25 years, almost always refers to me here and elsewhere as Mike. In so doing he is not engaged "in a recent and ill-conceived attempt at personal re-branding" any more than he is when he signs off on some of his own comments as Frank, or I am when calling him Frank instead of Francis. In a quarter century, I doubt that I've ever directly addressed him as Francis. In all that, nothing untoward is happening.

For my information, have you posted a public objection to Frank signing off as Frank, and do you suppose that, when he does so, people are offended and suspect him of manipulation?

As for loophole hunting, I don't think that anyone in this entire thread has been doing that. It seems to me that on all sides of the debate people are trying to figure out the truth about an important, thorny, and timely issue.

MIKE

Mike, geesh - I was kidding about the name, as the references to B16 and Mother Teresa would suggest. Then again, calling me Kev and putting your name in caps, was pretty funny too.

As for the loophole hunting, there has been an endless concocting of absurd scenarios (enemy soldiers with babies on their backs and strained examples from the Old Testament) justify policy views on modern warfare.

The death toll in Gaza is now 1000 with the civilian casualties estimated at half that number. The tired, worldly moral calculus that rationalizes the shedding of innocent blood will only shorten the distance between ourselves and barbarians of all stripes.

In addition, again, I still do not see how it helps the discussion that since God had seemingly commanded the murder of the innocent in the Old Testament, that such acts of murder is permissable regardless, even absent of any such command presumably dispensed by God.

Where it calls your point of view into question is that we know from God's nature that God does not ever order one person to murder another. Therefore, if God ordered the Israelite army to commit genocide, then it was clearly not murder in the least. Consequently, we can see that God has a more nuanced view on how noncombatants can be treated than you do.

I, for one, believe in the God of Mercy, as revealed quite sufficiently by the Sacrifice of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I believe in the God that Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6: one who is a God of Mercy to the repentant, and a God of Justice and Vengeance to the unrepentant.

To paint God in such a demonic manner just to justify acts of murder is manifestly the ultimate horrible mischaracterization one can engage in.

Here you assume that you are correct, that it is murder, then you assume that we are justifying murder, two very big assumptions indeed which are not backed up by the arguments we are making. It's as if you simply cannot even process our statements about how this very well may not be murder, despite your assumptions.

The death toll in Gaza is now 1000 with the civilian casualties estimated at half that number. The tired, worldly moral calculus that rationalizes the shedding of innocent blood will only shorten the distance between ourselves and barbarians of all stripes.

There has never been much of a difference between the barbarian and the civilized as groups, aside from the latter's more advanced means of behaving in ways normally associated with the former. You can blame sin for that.

There has never been much of a difference between the barbarian and the civilized as groups, aside from the latter's more advanced means of behaving in ways normally associated with the former. You can blame sin for that.


The blame falls squarely on those who freely chose the sinful utility of indiscriminate and immoral force against civilians and in so doing squandered the spiritual sustenance that was their only means of survival. The final autopsy of the Western cadaver will read "they placed their faith in things and in things they were repaid"

I believe in the God that Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6: one who is a God of Mercy to the repentant, and a God of Justice and Vengeance to the unrepentant.

It's as if you simply cannot even process our statements about how this very well may not be murder, despite your assumptions.


Because there is nothing more deserving of vengeance for Mike T than the innocent children who happen to be in the way! Such is not murder but, quite rightly, fitting punishment!

http://www.slide.com/s/tAOmaOGu6T-KBBMudcv-GnYd2BypI2lk?dir=1


To be sure, even Jesus Himself would be proud -- notwithstanding, of course, distinct passages in the synoptic Gospels which uniformly read that "for of such is the Kingdom of God"!

Ari, that's the same link Kevin put up. Pictures of the wounded, dead and mutilated don't tell me anything about how they got that way, or why. They don't tell me anything about the kind of "soldiers" who launch their war efforts from a neighbor's backyard. Other entries by the same poster have titles like "Jewish terrorist settlers in Hebron", "Israel terrorism", and "Gaza holocaust continues."

Yessir, the Jews as the new Nazis. That'll sway hearts and minds. The poster is clearly a Jew-hater and you're calling him in as an ally. But he's not mine.

Posting pictures of the Soviet prison system culled from Kremlin archives does not make one a Communist-sympathizer. The horrific photos from Gaza were likely taken by a Palestinian since the international press is banned from doing so, for reasons which are all too obvious.

The pictures remove this debate out of the realm of academic discourse and allow us to guess as to the consequences that will flow from this battle; a badly traumatized population of Gazans filled with hate and thousands of Israeli soldiers suffering from the psychic toll caused by this experience. Some road map to peace, or do we even pretend that is the goal anymore?

William Luse:

I just discovered those pictures rather recently from Zippy's devoted compatriot, who I shall leave unmentioned.

However, I do find your mistaken inference entirely atrocious.

Do you mean to say that if one were to post horrific pictures revealing the brutal torture occurring (and have occurred) at Gitmo from similarly hostile sources, such a person would, in your opinion, necessarily be an advocate for the terrorists?

Suffice it to say, the pictures posted were meant to bring to light the horrible reality of what's actually going on, since it seemed to me, folks here were indulging in fantasy rather than reality and treating people in the awfully sterile abstract.

And as to your malicious insinuation, I regard the source as no ally of mine neither.

Though I find it quite disturbing that you should seem to suggest that so long as one is defending one's people against a malevolent force, all manner of attacks, including the murdering of the innocent, is rightly excusable, if not, the very right of the defender.

Ari:

I'd ask what the heck you are talking about (Zippy's what?), but I probably don't want to know.

Though I find it quite disturbing that [Bill] should seem to suggest that so long as one is defending one's people against a malevolent force, all manner of attacks, including the murdering of the innocent, is rightly excusable, if not, the very right of the defender.
Here you are really showing your ignorance of Bill's position and history. He's been fighting the good fight against consequentialism and killing the innocent in war for decades (the letter in this 2004 article was first written 17 years earlier). I wish I could claim the same for myself.

Zippy,

Concerning Mr. Luse, this was the impression his following remarks seemed cavalierly to convey at my having presented its intended audience such graphically tragic scenes that go on to reveal the mutilated, dismembered, and dead consisting of even infants and innocent young children:

Pictures of the wounded, dead and mutilated don't tell me anything about how they got that way, or why. They don't tell me anything about the kind of "soldiers" who launch their war efforts from a neighbor's backyard.

I unreservedly extend humblest apologies should I have been mistaken as to his actual position on the matter and applaud him for his work on behalf of the Innocent, which is a genuinely noble work of mercy not to go unnoticed by Our Lord Himself, pursuant to the passages of Matt 25.

A 3 year long embargo topped off by a bloody invasion killing 1000 civilians and this is the result;

"Hamas is now our army, the only ones fighting to defend the Palestinian people," said Gaza resident Ahmed al-Sultan, standing outside the rubble of the north Gaza City home his family has lived in for 40 years...Eighteen months ago, Mr. Sultan fought against Hamas during the group's bloody takeover of the coastal territory."

How many more disasters will it take before men like this finally formulate policy?

Col. Zakai's says Israel doesn't understand that the battle against Hamas is a battle in which winning hearts and minds—or preventing Hamas from winning them— is as important as tactical victories on the battlefield.

"We just keep creating bigger problems," he said. "Military power alone is not enough. We should be the first ones on the ground helping to rebuild Gaza and making sure Hamas isn't."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123226304628993811.html

I concede that the support for the atomic weapons use was unjustified in light of the following information from the US military circa 1946:

"There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan's unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan's disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. "
- The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, July 1, 1946

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