What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

About

What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Leiter hits new low. In other news, sky is blue, water wet…

In response to the recent shooting of George Tiller, I wrote that “vigilantism is a grave offense against the moral and social order,” that “no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands,” and that “Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.” Brian Leiter, well-known serial liar, reports this by describing me as an “apologist for murder.”

This is the world we live in, folks. Black is white. Up is down. Killing unborn children is compassion. Condemning murder is defending murder. And Leiter is an arbiter of philosophical respectability.

NOTE: Readers coming over from The Liar Distorts who for whatever reason really need any further explanation of why Leiter's accusation is outrageous are invited to take a look at this further reply to Leiter -- posted, incidentally, before Leiter falsely alleged in an update that I had not replied to the "argument" he quotes from Shipley.

UPDATE 6/8: Though he frantically assures us he doesn’t spend his whole day reading blogs, Leiter has now updated his post one more time in response to my criticizing him for not informing his readers of the reply in question. He says he simply hadn’t seen it. I will extend to Leiter the basic courtesy he refuses to extend to me and take him at his word. After hysterically and libelously calling me an “apologist for murder,” Leiter now has the brass to suggest that I “calm down.” I will when you do, pal.

Comments (75)

If Ed had said the killing of Tiller was justified, then Leiter would have said that Ed defended murder. But in fact Ed said that the killing of Tiller is unjustified, but Leiter says that Ed defended murder. So, it turns out that both the affirmation and denial of the proposition demonstrates to Leiter the same conclusion.

That is not the way a serious person engages those with whom he disagrees. Although we all fall short of the ideal, my rule of thumb has always been to give my opponent the benefit of the doubt, for if I don't do that I am treating my fellow human being in a less than dignified manner and I am harming my own soul.

But if, like Leiter, one believes that there are no such things as souls that may acquire virtue, final causes that point us to the good, or that human beings have intrinsic dignity by nature, then it does not take much for one to see others as a mere means to achieve the artificial ends of one's own will. This is why in his visceral, and correct, judgment of the wrongness of murder Leiter harbors murder in his heart against Ed.

The kind of murder Leiter supports wholeheartedly is the murder of a man's reputation, at least if that man is a political opponent. But I don't need to tell you, that, Frank.

What is more disgusting is how many so-called "professional philosophers" sit mum while this vile person spews his bile and his shameless lies day after day -- some because they are afraid of him, some (few, I hope) because they inhabit the same moral and intellectual darkness he does.

Philosophically immature solipsism. No wonder he likes Nietzsche so much!

Continentals are so cra-zay.

I have to agree with Feser's interpretation of what he said originally. In Leiter's defense, though, since I take it he's not a regular reader of this blog, he doesn't realize that according to some in this blog's readership, Tiller's murder was justified. So, Feser's rejection of vigilantism actually is a rejection of a live view among a small part of the readership on this blog. That's why people like Lydia McGrew praised Feser's view for its "balance." I take it that in Leiter's conception of possible arguments in the Tiller case, justification of the Tiller's murder is not one such argument. But in the history of this blog's discussion, Feser's argument is somewhat measured. So much the worse for the blog, perhaps.

I hope Leiter keeps these posts up long enough so what passes in his mind for thought is cached.

Break the union between truth and goodness, and there's no reason to treat truth as a good. Or reason as a good, for that matter.

Hatred of Jesus is hatred of the Truth that sets us free.

In Leiter's defense, though, since I take it he's not a regular reader of this blog, he doesn't realize that according to some in this blog's readership, Tiller's murder was justified. So, Feser's rejection of vigilantism actually is a rejection of a live view among a small part of the readership on this blog.

Clearly, Casey means to say that the Deuce was saying what the lurkers were thinking, since the Deuce is the only one who proffered an actual defense of the attack.

Define "vigilantism."

Is the moral burden you placed upon "vigilantism" an absolute, does it apply everywhere? Can you think of no situation where the private citizen is not just empowered, but obligated, to mete out justice?

And before you answer, please consider where the distinction is between the "vigilantism" you decry, and that of our founding fathers, grouping together, to impose what they deemed to be a "just" order of things.

Justice is linked to righteousness. The state, by its mere presence, does not make an act "just," be the act public or private. Nor does the state by its mere presence impart righteousness to any such act.

What you decry as "vigilantism" is akin to the modern prejudice we see against mercenaries. A fad, a quirk, a modern caprice.

But once subjected to scrutiny, swiftly breaks down.

I praised Ed's post for its balance because he spoke the truth in each direction. He spoke the truth that it was morally wrong to murder Tiller and that the murderer should be punished. He spoke the truth that Tiller himself was a monster. I'm not exactly sure what heavy point my having used the word "balance" for this two-fold speaking of truth is supposed to make. The reason I chose the word is that unfortunately, it seems to me that there are some pro-lifers who are now afraid to say that Tiller was a murderer and a monster for fear of being thought to endorse his murder. In fact, a commentator on the other thread said that some ostensibly "conservative" talk-show hosts are now saying that it's wrong to call abortion murder. (If somebody else can verify this and tell us who these are, esp. if you can provide a link, I'd appreciate it.) Ed was not afraid to speak that truth--that Tiller was a murderer--and realized that he did not need to suppress that truth in order to condemn Tiller's murder unequivocally. That was what I meant by "balance." In case anyone was wondering.

Clearly, Casey means to say that the Deuce was saying what the lurkers were thinking, since the Deuce is the only one who proffered an actual defense of the attack

No Mike T. You initially celebrated it. But any remorse or embarrassment you feel for that fact speaks much better of you than you're raw rhetoric normally does.

No Mike T. You initially celebrated it. But any remorse or embarrassment you feel for that fact speaks much better of you than you're raw rhetoric normally does.

Schadenfreude is not the same thing as defending it. I feel no particular embarrassment, and certainly little remorse for what I said or felt. That's a personal failing of mine that I readily confess. I did not, do not and will not defend his murder. I have even compared his murder to being equivalent to grabbing a random Nazi or Communist prison camp guard outside a bar and beating him to death as an isolated act of "resistance."

I think a good philosopher is someone who

1. loves the good, the true, and the beautiful
2. strives to the best of his ability to understand and respect those with which he disagrees
3. tries to inculcate in her manner and character intellectual and personal virtues borne of her love of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
4. is conversant with the relevant literature on which her writing and research is focused
5. is not afraid of offering what he conscientiously believes is the best argument for the position he defends, even if it is unpopular, unfashionable, and likely to be intentionally or negligently misrepresented by both well-meaning critics and ill-intended prima donnas.
6. loves to teach and teach well, knowing that clarity of word follows from clarity of mind.
7. sees herself as a fortunate soul sitting on the shoulders of brilliant predecessors.
8. realizes that the natural human condition is to be full of s**t. (I credit this last one to Michael Bauman, who says it a bit differently)

I must confess to not really caring that Tiller was murdered. In fact, until he was murdered, I had never even heard of the man. I am anti-abortion as a matter of personal honor, but I do not get involved in pro-life causes. As I said in the other post, I am too jaded to work up much of an emotional response to these things. Besides, the Tiller murder and all the blogospheric hoopla deriving therefrom have given me some not-too-favorable impressions of the contemporary pro-life movement. I find them them, by and large, to be unconvinced and unconvincing.

I am unable to understand the psychology of people who say they are certain that abortion is murder, and that George Tiller committed some 60,000 of these murders, and then respond to his own demise with nothing but condemnation and prayers for his soul. At least admit to a little schadenfreude, like Mike T. It would be more recognizably human (to my simple mind, anyway).

You may pile on me if you will. I am a poor, worthless wretch; the kind of guy who probably spent a pastlife prowling around London's East End, shanking people for gin money. Nobody needs to take me seriously. I am not trying to represent the teachings of Jesus Christ; in fact, I'm not even trying to speak philosophically to the issue. Right now I'm just speaking from the gut, saying what I really feel.

I cannot take the strong pro-life position that says "We believe all human lives to be most sacred, even the life of George Tiller." For me, some human lives are worth a lot more than others, and personally I couldn't give SFA that Tiller was murdered. That doesn't mean I defend the murder; it means I'll be forgetting all about it soon. I think that's the natural, gut-level response to these things. I may be a pagan, but I'm an honest one.

Now, what could possibly be the motivation of the pro-lifers who loudly lament Tiller's murder and insist on praying for his soul? Certainly, some of them are motivated by the earnest desire to do the will of God and work for his redemption, however hopeless. But those people would have to far greater saints than I am, and far greater saints than I suspect the majority of commentators to be. The first difficulty in attaining such a degree of holiness would be to overcome the natural tendency to remain indifferent and to simply look after their own interests. But once a genuine spirituality had awakened inside them, the second (far greater) difficulty would be to overcome their spiritual revulsion of Tiller's heinous acts and to try and love him in spite of them. My patience is growing thin with certain commentators who pretend to the second stage when I suspect they haven't even attained the first. For them, the pro-life cause is a matter of self-interest, grist for their mill, fodder for the punditry jobs that sustain them through life. Not a bad gig, really; but not very meaningful, either.

I don't accuse anybody here of that, of course; but nevertheless, the pharisaical preening and mutual congratulation going on amongst the contributers to this blog is getting a little thick. It is much worse over at First Things, and I plainly informed them just yesterday that I thought their magazine had jumped the shark. If that was supposed to be "religiously informed public policy," then who needs it?

In the broader sense, this is why the Church fails today: It gets handed a material victory in the war on abortion, and it responds by arguing that it ought not to have happened. Are we so pathetic that we can't even take "yes" for an answer? Perhaps the Vatican has lost the knack for statecraft after being divested of the Papal States. But seriously, if we can't even make use of these material victories, then what's the use in trying anymore? It's obvious that there is not the will to win. I doubt that the present American Church, staffed by useless bishops and subverted by whiggish hacks like George Weigel, could achieve any of their stated objectives if you gave them $100 billion and ICBM.

Matt Beck, I think you aren't distinguishing feelings from both positions and from actions. One can take an unequivocal stand that shooting X to death was wrong without having to _feel_ a certain way about X's murder. And one can (if one believes in praying for souls) pray for X's soul without having any particularly fond feeling for X. Saints, actually, understand this better than any of the rest of us.

Prof. Beckwith,

What's with all the feminine pronouns in describing the good philosopher? Are you suggesting that the good philosopher is a broad?

He is really fixated on you Prof. Feser isn't he. He should get a life and win a book award and or have a baby or something. Has he even kissed a girl yet?

Everyone understands Nietzsche was brilliant but had appallingly bad taste (nothing is so hateful of wisdom as excessive cleverness) except for B.L. it seems.

I don't comment on this blog much, but I just wanted to thank Ed (and Lydia, and others) for what they've said about Tiller. To a degree my attitude abortion has been close to what I see Matt Beck's as being - I'm personally against it, but I've never gotten very involved in the pro-life movement. In part because it sometimes seems as if some self-described "pro-lifers" aren't very sincere - and I rather expected that Tiller's death would have stoked a universal "pro-life" reaction of praising Tiller as a conflicted soul, a basically (perhaps even especially) moral but tragic man, a great human being who who they just happened to have a deep disagreement with, etc.

Seeing Ed and others show a willingness to talk frankly about Tiller - no, vigilantism is not right, but yes, Tiller's actions were reprehensible and morally abhorrent - has inspired me to be more active in the pro-life cause. First, because it energizes a portion of my heart and soul - the part that believes abortion is murder, that our abortion laws are foul, and that feeling strongly about such doesn't mean a person is merely "spirited", but that they're reacting to a clear and obvious evil.

Second, oddly enough, has been the responses of pro-choice people to Ed. Maybe it's because they're shocked that people aren't acting according to the script (Say nothing directly negative about Tiller, assist in elevating him to saint-martyr status, etc), but their reactions have been weak. Shockingly, almost amusingly weak. Talking sternly about Tiller's abundant care and compassion and his "compassionate works" while seeming downright allergic to talking frankly about what those "compassionate works" are (murdering children inside and possibly outside the womb.) Twisted logic whereby Ed is an 'apologist for murder' despite explicitly condemning vigilantism, even when the murder victim made slicing up infants his life's calling.

As a newly energized pro-lifer, I'm no longer going to mince words on this subject. Abortion is murder. When someone tells me they are pro-choice, I'm going to insist they spell out which "choice" they are "pro" regarding. (Has anyone noticed the strangeness of 'A woman's right to choose', with that final word - 'Abortion', aka 'Killing her baby' - mysteriously left off? What if slaveowners described themselves as pro-ownership, and supported "A man's right to own."? Would that be cause for suspicion?) When someone asks my opinion on abortion, I'll tell them flatly and politely that I view it as murder - and if they react with shock at my language, I will happily explain abortion in detail to them if they require such and defend my language.

Put simply, I'm not going to pretend being pro-life is something to be ashamed of or coy about anymore.

Dr. Ed writes:

"What is more disgusting is how many so-called "professional philosophers" sit mum while this vile person spews his bile and his shameless lies day after day..."

Well, indeed. I hope the day will come when some who have written to me privately on this topic will be ready to speak up publicly. But I'm not holding my breath.

Casey: I suspect that Brian is a fairly regular skimmer of this blog. Because Ed Feser is here, and because Frank Beckwith is here. And because Ed Feser & Frank Beckwith are two of the brightest lights of Christian philosophy today. And because Brian is an absolutely classic, ole-time, New-York style, Red-Diaper-Baby, who won't rest until every last trace of Christianity is extirpated forever from the earth.

Ed and Frank,

I thought that one or both of you might want to look into the notion that Leiter violated the Ten Commmandments (#6) by attempting to "murder" Ed's reputation, as Ed himself hints at above. The idea is mentioned briefly by a blogger I like over at "The American Scene":

http://theamericanscene.com/2009/05/28/%D7%90%D7%A0%D7%95+%D7%9E%D7%AA%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9F+%D7%9C%D7%94%D7%AA%D7%A4%D7%9C%D7%9C+%D7%A2%D7%9D+%D7%94%D7%A2%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%9D

More generally, there is probably a lot of good rabbinical commentary on the OT that might be interesting and useful for Christians interested in learning more about their faith before Christ came along.

Joseph A., thanks. I appreciate your comment very much. Blogging is one of those things about which one occasionally wakes up and thinks, "Why do I do that? Is it even healthy? Is it a good idea? What's with this 21st century world where I'd never even _heard_ the word 'blog' ten years ago and now talk about 'communities' of bloggers? Am I losing my mind?" So a comment like yours helps keep it all in perspective.

Is the moral burden you placed upon "vigilantism" an absolute, does it apply everywhere? Can you think of no situation where the private citizen is not just empowered, but obligated, to mete out justice?

One thing I just realized that had been troubling me about this is that based on the arguments that were used to condemn Roeder's actions, if Roeder had caught him in the act of performing a partial birth abortion, it could have been morally licit to kill Tiller under a traditional reading of Christian theology on the use of force. Frank, Lydia, Ed, show me where I'm wrong, as I am kind weirded out by this, but have no reason to suspect that I am wrong at this point:

1) If he caught him in the act, his action would have directly resulted in the saving of an innocent life. The proximity requirement would have been met.
2) If he gave him a chance to lower the scissors/scalpel, and Tiller refused, he'd have sought a peaceful resolution, but found that his opponent only accepted a violent outcome. The requirement that he seek a peaceful resolution would have been met.
3) If he shot him to render him incapable of harming the child, but not with the intent of shooting him dead, he would have met the requirement of using minimal force.

Personally, I would not want to ever risk having to explain to God why I killed someone who didn't deserve to die, but I am curious to know your opinions on this.

To summarize that question so that certain dense parties can't so easily misconstrue it, what is the difference between Roeder shooting Tiller during the act of performing a partial birth abortion and shooting Tiller in the act of jamming a pair of scissors or a knife into an infant that's already been delivered? If Roeder caught him in the act, told him to stop "or else" and Tiller refused, what, if any, is the moral difference between Roeder using reasonable (by traditional Christian theological standards) force to stop Tiller from carrying out the PBA, and Roeder doing the same thing to stop him from jabbing any old sharp object into a random infant's head?

I'm curious how the vigilantism issue works there.

I suspect that Brian is a fairly regular skimmer of this blog. Because Ed Feser is here, and because Frank Beckwith is here. And because Ed Feser & Frank Beckwith are two of the brightest lights of Christian philosophy today. And because Brian is an absolutely classic, ole-time, New-York style, Red-Diaper-Baby, who won't rest until every last trace of Christianity is extirpated forever from the earth.

It blows my mind that someone of Leiter's stature, accomplishments, and pedigree would care a lick about me. If I were him, and he were me, I wouldn't care about Frank Beckwith and his work. In fact, if I were him, I would not want others to entertain the possibility that I was insecure by my picking on such a philosophically inferior specimen. After all, if you're the Michael Jordan of philosophy, why challenge the crippled kid to one-on-one?

I guess I should be honored by the attention. But it does kind of creep me out. I feel like a homely maiden being stalked by George Clooney. It just doesn't make sense.

In fact, a commentator on the other thread said that some ostensibly "conservative" talk-show hosts are now saying that it's wrong to call abortion murder. (If somebody else can verify this and tell us who these are, esp. if you can provide a link, I'd appreciate it.)

I respect the particular talk-show host in question and debated about whether I should have mentioned him by name. Anyway, the talk-show host was Michael Medved and it was on either his June 3 or June 4 show. Unfortunately, you have to pay for the podcast. His reasoning appeared to be that if abortion is murder then millions of women should be on death row, but it is absurd that millions of women should be on death row, therefore abortion is not murder.

What is, I might ask, the reason for the following quote from Feser's comment? Why does Feser state the wrongness of murder, yet say the following immediately afterward? Here is the quote:

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

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

If we take a normative slant, say simple act utilitarianism, then it would seem that Feser is saying while murder is entirely negative, yet we can maximize the better state of affairs that said person is no longer violating the moral law (which is akin to just saying that no more fetuses will be terminated by abortion and equating that with the negative state of affairs). What can only be the motivation but to give a stamping seal of approval even though the rhetoric preceding this comment says murder is wrong.

Leiter's comments follow in light of that point. WHat is the motivation? One consistent interpretation is to be an apologist for the deed, yet there could be others. What can it be? It's that implicit connection between the transition that we're not really given a reason, and that's the source of Leiter's accusation. So, Feser owes us what he is doing there...WHat's up Edward?

Lydia,

For these reasons (and there are probably others I haven't thought of), I regard the person in the situation you describe as also being a vigilante.

Based on your arguments there, I would say that Roeder would have been a vigilante only insofar as his breaking and entering into the clinic. I think there are a few points which have little to do with the morality of the use of force:

1) The permission of the mother.
2) The fact that the child is in utero. In fact, the child usually is partially delivered during a PBA.
3) The legality of abortion.

Would you take basically the same position if the legal right was the Pater Familias right of a father to throw his infant daughter into a river to drown her if he didn't want her? Pater familias met criterias 1 and 3 above.

I suppose a key part of it revolves around #3. I think Frank and Ed are of the opinion that the government is able to create and enforce not just unjust laws, but blatantly evil laws as part of it being the established authority. I remain unconvinced of that point.

I'm not try to justify what Roeder did, but rather point out that if he caught Tiller in the act, and he met the criteria I mentioned in the last comments, it would be far harder to condemn his use of force from a Christian perspective since, in my opinion, your points are more along the lines of technicalities.

The persecuted Christians of the early church did not accept Caesar's right to do whatever he wanted, but rather chose martyrdom as a way of remaining blameless. If a government does evil and a man aggressively seeks to defend his rights, he can be killed as a rebel. If a government does evil, and the target chooses martyrdom, then there is no justification in the eyes of decent people regardless of their religion. So the early church did not choose martyrdom as a compromise between the government's "legitimate right to do evil, unjust things" and obeying God, but as a way of obeying God and rebelling in a way that utterly condemned the government's behavior.

If we take a normative slant, say simple act utilitarianism, then it would seem that Feser is saying while murder is entirely negative, yet we can maximize the better state of affairs that said person is no longer violating the moral law (which is akin to just saying that no more fetuses will be terminated by abortion and equating that with the negative state of affairs). What can only be the motivation but to give a stamping seal of approval even though the rhetoric preceding this comment says murder is wrong.

Dr Feser is not a utilitarian, which should clear up your confusion.

Mike T, you could _take the child out of the river_ and hide it. Sort of like Moses in reverse. I'm to some degree introducing something akin to a just-war criterion here for applying a "defense of the innocent" category: the probability of success in saving the innocent life. That is _tremendously_ complicated by the fact that the innocent person is literally physically attached to a much stronger person who can have the innocent one killed. I'm not saying at all that a) parents have a right to kill their children or b) the morality of abortion is bound up with the fact that the child is in utero. I'm saying that the fact that the child is in utero and that the mother is complicit in seeking its death, together with the legality of the procedure, make actually saving the child's life outside of the law virtually impossible.

My concern is larger than whether or not Feser is a utilitarian, and I raised one of the simplest normative theories to fill the space as to why the transition between judging murder wrong and then the text. Using utilitarianism was a way to show reasons for the implicit reasoning that is not shown to us in Feser's post. Ultimately, this can only be answered by Feser.

This is something of a change of topic, so if you think it shouldn't be posted, just delete it. But I would really like to know the answer to the following question:

Do we know for a fact that, of the 60,000 babies Tiller killed, some of them were fully healthy (or Down's syndrome) babies whose mothers wanted to kill them for frivolous reasons?

I know, 60,000 babies is a lot. So, some would think that it's quite likely that some would fall into the category of fully healthy or Down's syndrome. But I'm not so sure. After all, Tiller was one of the few people in the USA who would perform these abortions. So it doesn't seem unrealistic to me that he murdered only (1) babies whose coming to term would end the mother's life; or (2) severely developmentally disabled babies.

Obviously, from certain pro-life perspectives, (1) doesn't matter. After all, many (pro-choice, even) philosophers would say that it's impermissible to kill an innocent person in self-defense. But many would say that it is permissible to kill an innocent person in self- (or other)-defense. I don't think that, if you favor this latter option, it follows that you are more evil than Jeffrey Dahmer, or even evil at all.

As for (2), I think few philosophers would say that it's permissible to kill a severely developmentally disabled adult. Therefore, it's very bad, and possibly evil, depending on your intention, to kill a severely developmentally disabled baby. So, to the extent that Tiller killed lots of severely developmentally disabled babies, he is a mass-murderer. But I'm wondering if anyone has the numbers here.

Leiter's comments follow in light of that point. WHat is the motivation?

Leiter's comments follow because he never misses an opportunity to smear someone he dislikes. There's nothing more to it than that, as his history shows.

As far as my "motivation" is concerned, it was explained in the original piece and is explained again at greater length (for willfully uncharitable readers) in my latest post "Leftist lawyers for libel": It was to show why recognition of the wrongness of Tiller's murder should not least us to minimize the scale of Tiller's evil.

Mike T, you could _take the child out of the river_ and hide it. Sort of like Moses in reverse. I'm to some degree introducing something akin to a just-war criterion here for applying a "defense of the innocent" category: the probability of success in saving the innocent life. That is _tremendously_ complicated by the fact that the innocent person is literally physically attached to a much stronger person who can have the innocent one killed. I'm not saying at all that a) parents have a right to kill their children or b) the morality of abortion is bound up with the fact that the child is in utero. I'm saying that the fact that the child is in utero and that the mother is complicit in seeking its death, together with the legality of the procedure, make actually saving the child's life outside of the law virtually impossible.

Au contraire. The fact that the mother is complicit in her own child's death renders her a fully guilty party in the act of aborting the child. Ergo, she has no presumption that her life be spared under the criteria specified above anymore than the doctor would. Furthemore, let me point out to you that if there were a theoretical third party there with a gun and a will to use it in defense of the child, or even a willingness to beat them to death with a blunt object if necessary, it would be easy for that third party to bring to bear a sufficient threat of force as to coerce the delivery of the child.

In the scheme of things, it may be technical violations of the law, but there is precedent in the Gospel itself of openly breaking serious laws in order to save a life. I would remind you that the law to honor the Sabbath carried far greater weight to God than the pettier statutes of the Mosaic Law, yet Jesus said that anyone may break the Sabbath at will to protect their neighbor or their neighbor's property. So in that context, I don't find it the least convincing that God would bring down fire and brimstone for breaking a law against trespassing or being armed in an abortion clinic with the purpose of preventing a partial birth abortion from happening since the act is against one of God's most serious laws.

Again, this isn't directed at you, but rather to certain reading-impaired commenters, I am not defending vigilantism, but pointing out that most of your arguments against using force to stop a PBA in the act are based on technicalities, not hard theological barriers. Of course, that perception of these as being technicalities and not hard theological barriers may be the difference between my mostly Presbyterian background and the Catholic background of most of WWwtW's contributors. I know that what you cited above would not be considered sins of any merit among the Presbyterians I've known.

Bobcat, I know quite definitely that one girl was taken from my own state to Tiller to have her child killed where as far as I was able to ascertain, the only reason for the abortion was that it was a case of brother-sister incest that was not discovered until late-term. That is to say, as far as I know there was no separate determination that the child was severely disabled. Rather, the parents had merely not suspected until the third trimester, they wanted the daughter's child aborted (horrified by the fact of the incest, she was a teenager, etc.), they had trouble finding anyone to do such a late-term abortion here in Michigan, so they went to Tiller. Not, again, that it would be right even if severe disability had been discovered.

I need to rephrase part of that for clarity. If a 3rd party caught a PBA in the stages before the infant was harmed, the mother would have no presumption of innocence. Rather, in the Judao-Christian tradition that started in the Torah, going down to the Gospel, she would be equally engaged in an act of homicide with the doctor. Ergo, it would not be incumbent upon the 3rd party to do more than use minimal force to stop her.

Actually, Mike T, I wasn't making any comment about the guilt of the mother. But however guilty she is or is not, the child is physically within her and dependent on her, so that an attack on her is ipso facto an attack on the innocent child. I would point out, too, that it is best for a child even relatively late-term not to be delivered early deliberately. Preemies are at risk of various problems. The child should be carried to term and delivered normally. But given the assistance the mother will receive in preventing this, it is close to impossible to coerce this, even if one succeeds in stopping one given attempt at harming the child.

Abortion is not murder, it's tantamount to murder. An important distinction.

Now as for Tiller, the abortions he conducted were murder, because of the late term nature of the abortions, and because the babies he obliterated were viable.

So Tiller is a mass-murderer.

And the law, or rather the "law," protected the mass-murderer, protected his property interests in his business, and helped him kill, and kill and kill, all the while raking it in.

In any healthy society, Tiller would have been dealt with by a mob and a rope. Just like predatory homosexual men forcing themselves on teenage boys. A mob and a rope often solved many a problem, and often dispensed rough and ready justice. Rough and ready to be sure, but nonetheless justice. And anyone here who has a prob with that, I suggest they put themselves in the shoes of the parents of Sam Manzi. Just type it in, a modern New Jersey horror story, all made possible by the decadence of a society that doesn't understand that mobs can get things wrong,and then again, they can often get a great deal right.

The formality of a court setting imparts nothing in a moral sense.

A mob could do what a court does, without the egos present, without egos run amok. Did the DA in the Duke rape case pursue justice?

How many times have we all seen and heard of DA's run amok, pushing cases for their own political advancement, and letting real cases go unpursued.

However, I'm still waiting for some here to define vigilantism.

We need a real definition, instead of the vague positioning and preening that has, heretofore, characterized the "dialogue."

Was morality served by the OJ case?

We all know the details, it was a murder case, a good deal of evidence existed, but the evidence available was open to manipulation.

Did the court there advance or hinder justice?

And I'm not talking here precisely about the outcome, I'm talking about the entire farce otherwise referred to as "the OJ trial." It's a toss-up who were the biggest jerks in the drama, the defendant, the wimpy judge, the prosecutors or the defense attorneys.

They were ALL a pack of jerks who were making a joke of our legal system.

So let's cut the crap about the pristine justice system we have here.

We have laws that protect murderers, we have a "media/court industrial complex" that transforms important issues and cases into sound bites, and all the while we have creatures parasitic upon it all hoping to become the next talking head du jour.

That's our present system.

Our justice system, like most of our laws, is riven with a dry rot.

And we need real change, and not the stale and sorry socialism pushed by a egomaniacl false messiah.

Spelling errors there, but you guys got the gist.

Oh, and reaching way, way back...

Martin wrote: "Everyone understands Nietzsche was brilliant but had appallingly bad taste..."

On the contrary. Nietzsche had *by far* the best taste, especially in music, of any of the great philosophers. His various writings on Wagner deserve to outlast Wagner himself.

Dr Feser,

I wasn't question your own motivations. I have great respect for you. I was speaking of another certain idiot who continues to libel me and whom I did not want to mention by name (but his initials are "Mark Shea").

No prob, Matt, thanks.

Indeed, Steve. And what do you think Nietzsche would have thought of a pathetically status-obsessed egalitarian university professor whose "living dangerously" consisted of firing off nasty blog posts from the comfort of an office building, and only ever targeted at people he thought couldn't hurt him professionally?

Ecce homo, Brian Leiter, the Last Man.

I agree with Steve Burton on Nietzsche. And what's more, although an atheist, Nietzche had too much good taste (and honesty) ever to become a liberal.

Actually, Mike T, I wasn't making any comment about the guilt of the mother. But however guilty she is or is not, the child is physically within her and dependent on her, so that an attack on her is ipso facto an attack on the innocent child.

That is not true in most cases. In the 3rd trimester, the child is only at worst partly dependent on the mother's body for survival. It is nothing that modern technology is incapable of solving with minimal invasiveness. Furthermore, if she died during the process, it would not kill the child.

would point out, too, that it is best for a child even relatively late-term not to be delivered early deliberately. Preemies are at risk of various problems. The child should be carried to term and delivered normally. But given the assistance the mother will receive in preventing this, it is close to impossible to coerce this, even if one succeeds in stopping one given attempt at harming the child.

I doubt that it would have been even remotely close to impossible for someone like Roeder to convince someone like Tiller to force her to go into labor instead. I would imagine that Tiller would have no doubt in his mind that Roeder would kill him if he went through with it rather than delivering the child.

My point still stands. You are defending your points based on technicalities, not principles. The medical issue might have been true 30 years ago, but it isn't today with the technology that we have. I think a few sincere pistol whips would have convinced Tiller to comply with performing a C section or inducing labor.

Not that I am advocating vigilantism, but rather I am merely pointing out that these arguments against stopping it in the act rest on technicalities that will have no bearing on one's salvation or the morality of the act. At least, not according to Protestant traditions.

In any healthy society, Tiller would have been dealt with by a mob and a rope. Just like predatory homosexual men forcing themselves on teenage boys. A mob and a rope often solved many a problem, and often dispensed rough and ready justice.

I'm as much of a Confederate apologist as the next Southron, but damn...

Lydia,

I think it comes down to the issue of blamelessness. That is the best argument for why Christians should not get involved with efforts to interfere with abortions as they occur. As the evil increases, so does the room for God's grace. Our interference would only at best delay the inevitable, and at worst strengthen the evil by giving it faux legitimacy in the eyes of its supporters. However, I maintain that a Christian may break the laws of man to save an innocent life, so long as the way that they comports himself is in keeping with the way that God expects them to behave.

Lydia,

Do you happen to know more about the case? Names, etc.? Or a place I can go to find out information about Tiller's abortions?

Feel free to email me privately.

Oops. I should have said, "Please email me privately." But actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure it's any of my business to know. I'll just take your word for it.

What's wrong with public hanging?

It was good enough for NAZI war criminals, wasn't it? Modern society seems to get real shy like about dispensing justice, and this reflects an erosion of their confidence that their is a truth, a "justice," that they can objectively determine, determine egregious violations thereof, and mete out a healthy and vigorous response thereto.

Previous generations didn't suffer from such a misplaced sense of scruples, and that's being awfully charitable in describing the modern sense of justice.

Sixtus V, {I think it was Sixtus V...} said "As I live, the criminals must die." Now he was Vicar of Christ on Earth, successor to Peter, Bishop of Rome, holder of the Keys. And yet with utter and supreme moral confidence he started a campaign of stringing up criminals. And not one or two. Sixtux V strung up over 20,000 criminals just around Rome, and he had rather a brief tenure in office.

Here's another interesting case.

Richelieu, {sp?}.

On his death bed, a priest asked him if he forgave any of "his enemies." The dying Cardinal asked "What enemies?" Then he went on to make a distinction that is wholly lost on some here, and especially throughout the West. The great Cardinal said "I have no enemies, SAVE those of the state."

And against those enemies, those of the state, he as an agent for the state, went after with a vengeance. And of course he tortured not a few of those he captured.

Who here presumes to delude himself that he has a greater understanding of the Roman Catholic faith than the great Cardinal?

Whatever.

Q

Again errors, I really ought to give some time to reading it once before firing it off.

It's an exercise in humility to read errors that get posted in the absence of a summary check. It serves to cause one to give those publications of genuine import a searching review.

You left out what the Pope said upon news of Richelieu's death: "If there is a God, then Cardinal Richelieu has much to answer for; but if there is not, why then he has lived a successful life."

Edward Feser responded in kind to my query about the motivation. He puts his motivation as follows:

As far as my "motivation" is concerned, it was explained in the original piece and is explained again at greater length (for willfully uncharitable readers) in my latest post "Leftist lawyers for libel": It was to show why recognition of the wrongness of Tiller's murder should not least us to minimize the scale of Tiller's evil.

This is what I was afraid the point is. If you maintain that his murder was wrong and then try to show that Tiller's murder should not affect how we see him as "evil", then the motivation was to rationalize murder. In seeking to prevent seeing Tiller as a victime of murder and portraying him as evil, you attempt to defend that we should feel towards Tiller evil rather than the more appropriate way, as a victim of murder. This is the wrong way to feel for anyone murdered (Of course, the implicit premise here is that a key to proper aretaic judgments of someone's character is how we respond to the unfortunate suffering of others, and a phronimos would never feel the way you have indicated that others should feel, even at the expense of disagreeing with their politics). Given the above, there's no other interpretation really available (which I thought might be available) and Leiter is right. You are an apologist for murder because you forget the normativity that governs our affective responses to each other. You come off as motivated for showing it as a proportionate response to Tiller's alleged evil (I say alleged because you haven't really given an argument for that determination of his character, which I think you mistake at the level of an act).

Best,

HQ

Bobcat, I don't know the name, but I remember that it was an Indian family, and the case was in the news. It would have been approximately five years ago.

I should add that I have seen quotations of Tiller's own web site (which you can try googling and see if you can find--it may still be up), and that he advertised his specialty in late-term abortion. I have no reason whatsoever to believe that he _restricted_ his abortions to severely disabled children (if this mattered). The legal "thing" he had to get around was the "health of the mother" claim, _not_ a claim that the child himself was severely disabled. As you probably know, there has been some legal action on that latter point with claims of collusion (which were not upheld in court) with the second doctor who claimed to verify the health of the mother claim for Tiller's patients. The whole thing is rather a farce under Doe, though, because _whatever_ Kansas law may say, Doe holds that "health" must include psychology, youth, and financial circumstances, etc. So the Kansas law (requiring an actual maternal _physical_ health issue in the third trimester) has always been a paper tiger, and Tiller's standard second doctor could "verify" a health of the mother "need" on a conveyor belt.

"This is the wrong way to feel for anyone murdered."

It may have been 5 or so years ago when an enraged father shot dead in a court house the man who had molested his son many times over many years. It is clear that what the father did was morally unjustified, and thus murder. What if I were to say: the victim in this case is a despicable child molester, though his death was murder. Is this judgment wrong? It seems that it is according to what you are suggesting. But it does not seem wrong. It seems perfectly coherent to make a negative moral judgment about someone who himself was the victim of an injustice.

Where have I gone wrong in this analysis?

On his death bed, a priest asked him if he forgave any of "his enemies." The dying Cardinal asked "What enemies?" Then he went on to make a distinction that is wholly lost on some here, and especially throughout the West. The great Cardinal said "I have no enemies, SAVE those of the state."

And against those enemies, those of the state, he as an agent for the state, went after with a vengeance. And of course he tortured not a few of those he captured.

Who here presumes to delude himself that he has a greater understanding of the Roman Catholic faith than the great Cardinal?

I would like to think Richelieu was no more of a paragon of Catholicism than Oliver Cromwell was of Protestantism.

Dishonest Questioner writes:

If you maintain that his murder was wrong and then try to show that Tiller's murder should not affect how we see him as "evil", then the motivation was to rationalize murder.

This is so absurd that, IF you seriously believe it (and are not just pretending to, in a desperate attempt to shore up your already refuted position), I'm not sure it's worth responding. You are in that case impervious to reason. But here goes anyway.

I suppose you agree with me that murdering Dahmer in prison was wrong. OK, now suppose that after his murder people starting saying that we shouldn't talk about Dahmer's crimes anymore, of that what he did was not so bad after all, or even that it was good. I think you would in that case insist that we needed to acknowledge his evil for what it was, and that your doing so would not in any way be motivated by a desire to encourage vigilantism.

Now suppose for the sake of argument that the pro-life view is correct, and that someone who takes it also believes that killing Tiller was wrong. Then go read what people like Hugo Schwyzer were saying about Tiller. IF you can't understand after doing so why a pro-lifer who sincerely condemns Tiller's murder would nevertheless emphasize how evil Tiller was, then, again, you are impervious to reason.

Furthermore, as I have said already, even if you think that my position is mistaken, why not just say "I think your view is mistaken, incoherent, is based on a bad analogy, has implications you don't want to see etc."? This would be false, but at least not dishonorable. But no, you have to jump the shark and insist, libelously and with no justification whatever, that I intended to encourage acts like the murder of Tiller. Why?

Here's one possibility: You, like the Leiters of the world, see in the Tiller murder an opportunity to score a major PR victory against pro-lifers, and maybe a legal victory too if only you can smear them as a bunch of potential terrorists. And given your perverse pro-choice pseudo-moralism, you think libel is a justifiable means to that ignoble end.

Am I right? Just, you know, "honestly questioning"... you phony SOB.

"Honest Questioner" writes:

"If you maintain that his murder was wrong and then try to show that Tiller's murder should not affect how we see him as 'evil,' then the motivation was to rationalize murder."

So if I were to say: "Jack Ruby was wrong to murder Lee Harvey Oswald, but that doesn't change the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was a bad guy," would
I then be rationalizing Jack Ruby's murder of Lee Harvey Oswald?

Or if an anti-torture absolutist were to say: "it was wrong to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but that doesn't change the fact that Kalid Sheikh Mohammed is a monster," would he then be rationalizing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

Or if an anti-capital-punishment absolutist were to say "it was wrong to execute Timothy McVeigh, but that doesn't mean we should see him as some sort of martyr: the wrong that the state did to him was as nothing compared to the wrong that he did to so many innocents," would he then be rationalizing the execution of Timothy McVeigh?

Sorry, but I just don't see how you can "honestly" believe such silliness.

You continue: "In seeking to prevent seeing Tiller as a victime of murder and portraying him as evil, you attempt to defend that we should feel towards Tiller evil rather than the more appropriate way, as a victim of murder. This is the wrong way to feel for anyone murdered."

Sigh. Where to begin? With your murder of the English language?

Nah, that would be petty.

So how about with this: to argue that someone can be both (a) a victim of murder and (b) a perpetrator of mass murder, and that (b) should not be forgotten or minimized in light of (a), just is not to seek to prevent seeing said someone as (a). Period. End of story. You could have avoided intellectual dishonesty here simply by inserting the word "primarily" between "Tiller" and "as" in the quote above - but then, that would have drained your line of all rhetorical force, no?

Your position here seems to be that being murdered ought to wipe anybody's moral slate clean, in the eyes of all onlookers - that being murdered ought to be enough to convert a moral monster into a martyr.

Sorry again, but this is just more silliness. And it doesn't get any less silly because you try to spice it up with gratuitous invocations of Greek philosophical terminology.

You conclude:

"...there's no other interpretation really available...and Leiter is right. You are an apologist for murder..."

I conclude: you can't read, you can't write, you can't think, you can't argue...

...and you're not an "Honest Questioner."

You are, however, precisely the sort of ally that Brian deserves.

Just posted this on WWWtW as the entry,

The Leiter Reports, an apologist for murder?

If I understand Brian Leiter's criticism of Ed Feser correctly, a person, X, who makes the moral judgment that person Y is a murderer, and Y is subsequently harmed by another, W, who claims he committed the deed because he too, like X, concluded that person Y is a murderer, therefore, X is an apologist for Y's harm. But if this is the case, then Leiter as well as the Code Pink and Moveon.org activists were apologists for the man who carried the grenade that was meant for President Bush in a 2005 visit to the former Soviet republic of Georgia. In 2004, Leiter referred to Bush as a "criminal war-monger." In that same year, Leiter predicted with great confidence the imminency of a national military draft and claimed that President Bush was destroying the United States. Six months later in early 2005 he again claimed the draft was imminent. (Imminence, apparently, can procrastinate on occasion, or perhaps confirmation of the draft's reality was awaiting the arrival of the black helicopters). Also in 2004, Leiter claimed that Bush illegally disenfranchised black voters in Florida. On Bush's second inaugural, Leiter writes on January 20, 2005: "Very dark days lie ahead for humanity. On the most charitable (and implausible) interpretation, the talk about freedom is genuine. Even so, the idea that a single country would take it upon itself to "free" all those countries ruled by tyrannies would promise a global holocaust and bloodbath of unimaginable proportions." (my emphasis)

Writing several months after the grenade attempt, Leiter compares the Bush administration to the propagandists of Hitler's regime and elsewhere declares">http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2006/04/i_would_love_to_1.html">declares of Bush's White House

: "most people in the world (having apparently learned the Golden Rule as children) consider the U.S., quite correctly, to be `the major threat to global peace' based on its currently unparalleled record of actual aggression and murder in the last couple of years."

So, to employ Leiter's own logic to his own comments, if Dietrich Bonhoeffer was justified in attempting to assassinate Hitler, then did not Leiter provide the grounds by which a citizen would have been justified in assassinating Bush? After all, according to Leiter, Bush was, among other things, a racist "criminal war-monger" who was destroying America, and whose plans "would promise a global holocaust and bloodbath of unimaginable proportions" for which he would institute (imminently, twice) military conscription. (emphasis mine). That's the sort of apocalyptic talk that would make a fire and brimstone dispensationalist preacher blush.

Thus, Leiter, according to Leiter's own hermeneutics of political and moral discourse, was an "apologist for murder" during the Bush administration.

Of course, he could respond: "There is nothing inconsistent with claiming that Bush is a murderer, a racist, and a criminal war-monger while at the same making the judgment that it would be morally wrong to assassinate him." At that point, ironically, he would be offering the same sort of argument offered by Ed Feser, which Leiter dismisses as unpersuasive. But, unlike Feser who condemned the assassination of Dr. Tiller, I could not find anyplace in which Leiter condemns the possible assassination of President Bush as immoral, even though his incendiary language would seem to lend philosophical assistance to those who (however crazy and unbalanced) might have felt compelled to commit that act. But even if he did explicitly condemn that assassination as immoral, it would only mean that he and Feser are exactly in the same position.

Wow.

All of you, including Feser, took insult to injury in ways that violate at least several informal fallacies. I regret it had to be that way.

HQ.

Wow. All of you, including Feser, took insult to injury in ways that violate at least several informal fallacies

Guess actually naming some of them just slipped your mind.

And how does one "violate" a fallacy, anyway?

Like, wow, man.

Ed,

Here is a case for you regarding vigilantism and law enforcement. In this case, a man was half beaten to death by a New Jersey cop for the sole crime of standing on a street corner with an unzipped jacket.

Vigilantism is fueled, in no small part, by the public's perception of how well the system works. In many jurisdictions, the police are no more than armed gangs with a stamp of approval from a crooked government. For that reason, Christians in the government need to be virtually ruthless in dealing with this sort of corruption.

Here is another interesting case involving vigilantism. The local police conspired with the Sheriff to violently intimidate the supporters of the opposition. The locals, a lot of whom were WWII vets, took up arms and fought a battle against the local badged thugs and drove most of them out of the town. It was a spontaneous revolt, and interestingly enough, the state government ruled in favor of the locals saying that their act of vigilantism against a systematically corrupt local law enforcement apparatus upheld the state's law.

Vigilantism is not always cut and dry. In this case, these people were closer to vigilantes than people fighting under a lawful authority, but their purpose was to uphold the laws of their state against an inferior jurisdiction's willful, violent violations of the state's law. Personally, I think their act of vigilantism was entirely justified and would not fall into the sort of rebellion that Paul condemned in Romans 13.

Mike T:

Clearly, Casey means to say that the Deuce was saying what the lurkers were thinking, since the Deuce is the only one who proffered an actual defense of the attack.

I guess I'm going to have to qualify my position here. I'm not a vigilante myself, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I've got a family, and needlessly getting myself in trouble with the state would jeopardize my responsibility to it.

Second, I find the "just war" argument here to be pretty persuasive. That is to say, killing abortionists is tantamount to an act of war against the state (though the state is unjust here), and that is not something to enter into lightly, and can't be justified without reasonable chance of success and a reasonable hope that the lives you will save, and the betterment you are likely to bring, outweighs the lives that are likely to be lost, and the chaos that you are likely to cause, by your actions.

Killing people is the sort of action that, when in doubt, you should err on the side of not doing. For that reason, I couldn't encourage another person to engage in vigilante justice either.

That said, I am glad that somebody did it. Let me repeat that: I am not the least bit upset that Tiller was brought to justice. On the contrary, I am happy about it. Killing the weak and defenseless innocent is about the most heinous thing you can do. Contra several people, this is no tragedy of any sort. The tragedy is that Tiller engaged in such practice in the first place, not that he was shot. I am happy that he was not allowed to go about his life as a whitened sepulcher, cleaning the blood off his hands each day while keeping the money he got for it, and posing as a fine, upstanding member of his community while attending his worthless "church".

I think most of the arguments that people have offered for why this was horrible are crap. Steve Burton asked Mike T if he really wanted individuals to usurp the state's rightful duty to dispense justice. With all due respect, Steve, that's not possible. You can't usurp a power that the other party has already willingly forfeited. The state hadn't dispensed justice to Tiller or any other abortionist, and wasn't getting around to doing so. It was either vigilante justice or nothing.

Others have asked if we would really prefer to have vigilante "justice" over the rule of law. I'm not the right person to ask that question. As a software engineer, I have no ability to maintain the rule of law, and I'm not a vigilante either. The people to ask that question are the judges. Would they prefer to impartially provide rule of law, or do they want to create vigilantes? Because refusal to do the former is sure to create the latter. Clearly, they've chosen option 2 when it comes to abortion.

Given that the courts have refused to dispense justice, the real question is, would you prefer to have the illegitimate, judicially imposed injustice of a lawless state, or the lawless, partial "justice" of anti-abortion vigilantes run amok? While not willing to engage in vigilantism myself (for the reasons outlined above), I can honestly say that the state option doesn't obviously appear to me to be the lesser of the two evils. If abortionists were to start getting shot on a daily basis, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

And frankly, under a lawless, unaccountable state that resolutely refuses to do anything to abortionists except perhaps subsidize them, I am *happy* that at least a few abortionists are brought to justice nonetheless. If this sort of thing were to happen often enough that abortionists seriously had to fear for their lives, such that less people decided to go into the profession, I would consider that a positive development. They shouldn't be allowed to live comfortable lives, flaunting their infanticide-for-profit out in the open while hypocritically posing as upstanding model citizens and serving as ushers in their "churches".

Oh, and finally, a word to Casey:

Casey, your livid, sputtering moral indignation has been one of the few joys to me throughout this whole discussion. I must admit to laying it on a bit thick, just to see you go into further conniptions. By what principle do you condemn Tiller's killing as beyond the pale, and others for reveling in it? Because you consider human life to be so intrinsically valuable? I'm also amused at how you make much of the fact that Tiller was killed in his "church". Why? Because you believe that churches are sacred, and you take the sacred so gosh-darned seriously? Give me a break. You can make no moral claim that applies to me or anybody else, and we have no reason to take you seriously. You're just mad because you're pro-abortion, and it upsets you that any abortionist could be brought to justice despite the best efforts of the courts to prevent it. Your ox was gored, and you don't like it. Well, too bad. Your little child-killer is dead, few people care that he's dead (and many probably feel a little bit satisfied that some measure of justice found its way to him), and there's nothing you can do about it.

I think Leiter has been given more attention than he deserves by now. In light of his updates to his original post, he seems either unable to or, more likely, uninterested in responding to any criticisms of it. I'd wager he just wanted to get his potshot in and wasn't expecting much of any response, much less one as extensive as he got.

I think most of the arguments that people have offered for why this was horrible are crap. Steve Burton asked Mike T if he really wanted individuals to usurp the state's rightful duty to dispense justice. With all due respect, Steve, that's not possible. You can't usurp a power that the other party has already willingly forfeited. The state hadn't dispensed justice to Tiller or any other abortionist, and wasn't getting around to doing so. It was either vigilante justice or nothing.

I am more of a results-oriented person, whereas Steve and others here are process-oriented. I regard the result here as damaging to a process of seeking justice which is still generally functional. I am open-minded to both sides.

As I have explained on my blog, I think Romans 13 needs to be understood in the context of Paul stating that we must obey the authorities when they seek to do what is good, just and lawful. In a case like the one shown above, if the cops told a stranger to back away as they beat that man half to death for no lawful reason, I don't think Paul would tell a Christian to obey the human law, but rather to be a good neighbor and defend his neighbor from attack. Romans 13 is a commandment to obey lawful authority that does not conflict with God's law, not a commandment to be slavishly obedient to any use of authority that doesn't transparently conflict with God's law.

Jesus was also results-oriented, not process-oriented. He told His followers it was fine with God to break the Sabbath, a capital crime, to save their neighbor or his property from harm. By comparison, a man who allowed his neighbor to die out of a slavish devotion to the Sabbath was condemned as a sinner in the eyes of God.

Mike T:

As I have explained on my blog, I think Romans 13 needs to be understood in the context of Paul stating that we must obey the authorities when they seek to do what is good, just and lawful. In a case like the one shown above, if the cops told a stranger to back away as they beat that man half to death for no lawful reason, I don't think Paul would tell a Christian to obey the human law, but rather to be a good neighbor and defend his neighbor from attack. Romans 13 is a commandment to obey lawful authority that does not conflict with God's law, not a commandment to be slavishly obedient to any use of authority that doesn't transparently conflict with God's law.

Hi, Mike, I agree with this. It's important, when reading Romans 13, to understand the context of what Paul was responding to. There were Christians who reasoned along the following: "Hey, we're members of the Kingdom of God now. That means we're no longer members of the human government, so we don't have to obey the law anymore!"

Paul responded to that, quite reasonably, by saying "No, you still have to follow the law, because God put the government in place to do good, to punish the guilty, and to maintain peace and prevent chaos." You know, the answer you would give to any would-be anarchist who tried to use Christianity to promote lawlessness.

In other words, he was responding to the claim that Christians are not bound to the law in general, and so gave a general answer.

He was *not* responding to the claim that the government can sometimes be illegitimate, or that it can sometimes commit such monstrous evil that it must be fought. If he had been, he would've answered quite differently. He wouldn't have said that just by virtue of someone having the most guns and power (and therefore being "the government"), they are automatically "good", and that you must obey them no matter what monstrous things they come up with. I'm quite certain that he wouldn't have said that because it's absurd an unjust, and Paul wasn't an idiot.

UPDATE 6/8: Though he frantically assures us he doesn’t spend his whole day reading blogs, Leiter has now updated his post one more time in response to my criticizing him for not informing his readers of the reply in question. He says he simply hadn’t seen it. I will extend to Leiter the basic courtesy he refuses to extend to me and take him at his word. After hysterically and libelously calling me an “apologist for murder,” Leiter now has the brass to suggest that I “calm down.” I will when you do, pal.

Wait till he finds out about you know what. :-)

Paul responded to that, quite reasonably, by saying "No, you still have to follow the law, because God put the government in place to do good, to punish the guilty, and to maintain peace and prevent chaos." You know, the answer you would give to any would-be anarchist who tried to use Christianity to promote lawlessness.

I'll also add that we should show grace and mercy toward those in authority, as they are sinners attempting to do a righteous being's job. We have to be merciful to the judge who is too lenient or too harsh (within the bounds of reason). We need to let slide the occasional indiscretion from politicians, such as sending home a little pork that they shouldn't.

Vigilantism is only problematic in the sense we are becoming like a state unto ourselves. As I have pointed out elsewhere on WWwtW, all of the basic arguments (proximity, likelihood of saving an innocent, minimal use of force, etc.) that are used to condemn Tiller (and rightfully so, IMO, given where he chose to act) could be used to defend someone who follows those criteria to stop a PBA from happening. The problem with Tiller's action, from a Christian point of view, is that he carried out vengeance, rather than stopping a morally criminal act in progress.

Dr. Feser,

Your tone is insolent, and I would prefer to restore civility to discussion. Our conversation is over, perhaps before it even started. I was hoping for something more insightful from you. You ask how does one "violate" an informal fallacy.

Well the name of the fallacy is ad hominem, see below for an example of what I mean, and one violates by definition of the verb when one "fails to observe said rule." I assume that informal fallacies are to be avoided in philosophical discussion always. If in the blogosphere, you don't think that such a rule is tenable, then I'll keep that for myself.

Let me assure that you need not take a surfer-wow-dude tone with me.

This conversation is weird because it involves aretaic judgments about one's character (yours in particular) from the beliefs one has written. In this case, we have been determining if it is just rhetorical nonesense what Leiter wrote, or that your character is called into suspect. I noted this by asking you of your motivation between the post where A) you said the act of murder is wrong and b) maintained that Tiller is evil. Defending B) had the consequence of rationalizing A) away. That's where we stand, I think.

Of course, if you ever took that tone with me at an APA meeting, I'd forget the civility I am showing you now.

Finally, let me assure you that I am no fan of Leiter. If there is bias in philosophy, it is against Continentals for sure, as I am one of them. But even more biased is the fact that someone does philosophy of religion. Analytic department would rather hire me than you, and that says something. What it says, I'm not too sure.

Good luck defending a metaphysically and ethically moribund system of beliefs that are epistemically impossible to justify.

Best,

HQ

HQ swoops in to tell me I'm an insincere apologist for murder and then get's hurt because I'm not civil enough to him.

And when I say "wow" in response to his "wow" -- yes, I really did that, readers, if you can believe it -- he calls me on it. For you see, I was taking the dreaded "surfer-dude-wow tone" with him. And dammit, it just doesn't get nastier than that.

"HQ swoops in to tell me I'm an insincere apologist for murder and then get's hurt because I'm not civil enough to him."

That's got to be the threadwinner! I'm just happy I wasn't eating or drinking while I read it! If this pithy line doesn't show HQ and his ilk how ridiculous they sound, nothing will. The sad thing is, they sound brighter than Leiter does -- at least they're attempting (poorly, of course) to make arguments...

We have reached the point of diminishing returns on this thread, and comments are now closed. I have also done what I should have done from the start and deleted the nastier off-topic personal remarks. Two among the several people who made them have expressed regret in private emails, and one asked that his comments be removed altogether. So it seemed best just to delete the whole sorry sub-thread.