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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

Connecting the dots--or, I was a teenage nominalist

(Okay, okay, I put the word "nominalist" in the title only because I couldn't think of a better one. Don't shoot!)

There was a time, long ago, when I was young and rather too fond of playing the "There's no connection" game. Here's how the game is played. Person A criticizes some policy or even some use of language. Person B says that the policy doesn't necessarily have the problems that A attributes to it or that the language doesn't necessarily mean what the person takes it to mean. Hence, there's no connection between the two and person A is just hung-up or over-worried. In the area of language, and in Christian circles (I've seen it especially among young Protestants), this takes the form of something like pure nominalism--the idea that it doesn't matter how we use words, because they have no meaning in themselves and refer to nothing essential. I saw it in a conversation not long ago: Person A suggested that it's not such a good idea to connect an important word like "holy" with a distinctly non-holy followup word. Person B scoffed at this as "legalism," because, said B, "People give words their meaning," and since speakers presumably do not wish actually to assert as a propositional matter that the unpleasant substance in question is holy, why then, there is nothing to object to in the expression!

In politics, the "there's no connection" game is particularly evident when liberals are unable to see the "choice devours itself" phenomenon that I have discussed on numerous occasions. Suppose, for example, I were to link this story and connect it to the "choice devours itself" phenomenon. It's obviously an instance. Here is a girl literally being dragged to an abortion facility by her mother to be forced to have an abortion. One might ask why this was even an issue. Hey, all those people at the abortion facility are pro-choice, aren't they? The intimation from the girl that this was against her will would guarantee that they wouldn't perform the abortion, right? Right? So there should have been no fear, no terror, on the part of the girl about being dragged into the abortion clinic as some sort of sinister place, right? Those are all pro-choice feminists in there who just want to help her carry out her choice, right?

Um-huh. Not right. The girl was scared, and with reason. The so-called "pro-choice" operators of the abortion clinic could not be depended upon to refuse the abortion and to make sure it was the girl's choice. And people who have run crisis pregnancy centers will tell you that forced abortions on minors are a reality in America, technically illegal or not. But if I were to cite this as an instance of how choice devours itself, how the rhetoric of choice eventually leads to tacit and even active approval of the very opposite of choice, even for the people (the pregnant women) who are supposed to be granted choice, my liberal commentators would be completely confused. The court granted a restraining order, didn't it? The forced abortion didn't occur, did it? And individual pro-choicers can be found who will condemn the mother's attempt. There is no necessary connection between legalizing abortion and forcing women to have abortions. So move along, folks, nothing to see here. The whole "choice devours itself" phenomenon is just a chimera of a blogger's over-stimulated brain.

The trouble with both of these incidents of "there's no connection," or one part of the trouble, is a refusal to deal with the reality of human nature as we actually find it. Motivated to defend something or other (be it abortion or bad language), the person playing the "there's no connection" game insists that the only connections that count are abstract, logical connections. If it would be possible (for aliens, say) to mean something unobjectionable by a swear word, then we should pretend that all the people around us swearing up a storm mean nothing objectionable by their foul language and that we should not judge them! If pro-aborts needn't logically approve of forced abortions, either in America or in China, of pressure on the elderly by family or government to commit suicide, etc., then there is no connection between approval for chosen death and approval for forced death. The fact that there seems to be a connection in fact, in history, in human nature, is something we are supposed to ignore.

Now, by this time I suspect many of my conservative readers are in full agreement with me. So just to be a bit perverse, I'm going to make a connection to something that, I entirely admit up front, is a less creepy illustration of the "there's no connection" problem: I'm talking about authoritarian sympathies among conservatives and self-styled distributists and their fellow travelers. If one points out the problems we have actually seen with the welfare state (in response to proposals for further government programs or defenses of present ones), if one cites the Acton-esque comment that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, I fear that a certain type of authoritarian-inclined conservative will tell you that there's no necessary connection between, say, government-controlled healthcare, government welfare, government control of education, etc., and the abuse of said powers. This type of conservative imagines a theoretical Christian monarchy or Christian government, endowed with tremendous centralized power but always or at least nearly always using it wisely and benevolently. (I am still planning at some time to write a far more extended post on this topic. You can look for it under the header of "The Kingdom of Frank the Just" in case I ever get around to it.)

The trouble here, too, is an insistence on acknowledging only necessary connections and a refusal to deal with human nature. Acton's dictum is true not because of the facts of immutable logic but because of the facts--which should probably be regarded as immutable in a different sense--of fallen human nature and limited human nature, non-omniscience, etc. Centralized government power rarely works well because of factors like human limitations in knowledge, the near impossibility of overseeing the behavior of citizens without harassing the innocent, and the phenomenon of perverse incentives and the desire of human beings to get a free lunch. What Thomas Sowell calls the tragic vision, in contrast to the vision of the anointed, constitutes wisdom in the political realm because of human nature and human limitations. These are not things that can be overcome by mere good will and Christian benevolence, much less by hereditary authority!

My apologies if, for the sake of a post, I have done what Dr. Johnson criticized in the metaphysical poets and yoked heterogenous elements by violence together. If my readers find themselves stopping to think carefully next time they begin to make heavy weather out of a statement beginning, "There's no necessary connection..." I will have accomplished something of value.

Comments (93)

Lydia, did you read the application for the TRO? Item # 6 states that her parents twice took her to the clinic, twice she refused to have an abortion, and twice she left the clinic with no abortion having been done. Unless you know the girl and have actually talked at length with her, your assertions as to her mental state seem speculative and unjustified.

She seems capable of taking care of herself, her boyfriend seems a stand up guy, the folks at the clinic obeyed the law and respected her choice, and her parents are jerks.This is yet another example of the pointlessness of the "choice devours itself" meme.

Women were forced into abortions when abortion was illegal (i know of a couple of instances) and women will be forced into abortion now that it is legal. I would argue that having things in the open made it easier for her. Had abortion been illegal, her parents task would have been easier and she would have never encountered the anti-abortion activist at the clinic. Note that her lawyers invoked Roe in the application; choice means just that.

the folks at the clinic obeyed the law and respected her choice

Actually, Al, _that_ may well be the over-interpretation. The statement made in the application for the TRO merely says that she refused and that the abortion did not take place. The very fact that she fears that her parents _will_ force her to have the abortion (which is the entire basis of the application for a TRO and is emphasized repeatedly there) indicates that she, they, and the court take this to be a real possibility. It would not be a real possibility if the parents would not be able to find an abortionist to perform a forced abortion.

Moreover, there is this testimony from a sidewalk counselor:

http://bryankemper.com/2010/10/22/16-year-old-texas-girl-goes-to-court-to-stop-her-parents-from-forcing-her-to-abort-her-baby-mom-hits-daughter-in-front-of-abortion-mill/

A couple of weeks ago this girl was driven to the abortion mill by her mother who was trying to force her to kill her baby. The girl immediately went to the sidewalk counselors to ask for help because she did not want an abortion. The mother started screaming at the girl and actually hit her and knocked her to the ground.

So before the girl ever went inside she went to the pro-life sidewalk counselors for help. She thought they would help her and went to them rather than counting on the "law-abiding" pro-aborts inside the clinic. In fact, this account may well indicate that she never went inside the clinic at all on that occasion, in which case the statement that the people at the clinic "respected her choice" is simply not true, as they never got the chance to respect or not respect it, and she wasn't taking the chance.

"In fact, this account may well indicate that she never went inside the clinic at all on that occasion, in which case the statement that the people at the clinic "respected her choice" is simply not true, as they never got the chance to respect or not respect it, and she wasn't taking the chance."

In which case all your statements are speculation and we still have choice undevoured.

"Moreover, there is this testimony from a sidewalk counselor:"

This is from the linked blog and we can't really tell if Liz is a sidewalk counselor and if she is, if she was there and witnessed the assault personally or if she is just repeating something someone else told her. I don't know the Texas law on battery and corporal punishment and abortion coercing but the mother would be in trouble in California, as she should be.

"I just got off the phone with my friend Elizabeth McClung from Austin Coalition for Life, the organization who initially helped this 16 year old girl."

All we know for sure is that the girl's mother dragged her to two different clinics, the girl refused an abortion both times, no abortion happened either time, the girl was able to interact with bystanders exercising their First Amendment rights, she has counsel, and a court enforced her rights to choice under Roe v. Wade.

What is problematic is the apparent failure of Texas law enforcement to deal with the parents.

Well, Al, no one can say that your response here isn't predictable. Since I predicted it.

Which is besides the point, isn't it? Either this "choice devours itself" thing has legs or it doesn't. Either it constitutes serious analysis or it is yet another way conservatives talk amongst themselves in a substance-free bubble.

Folks who have followed these discussions have likely noticed that I, while being pro-choice, have never questioned your consideration of abortion as a serious issue.

In this case the girl exercised her Constitutional rights to personal choice. You have yet to supply a reference to any pro-choice person condoning the abusive and coercive actions of her parents. Also, as the sidewalk counselors were the only witnesses to the alleged assault, why didn't one of them (preferably one who is judgment-proof) do a citizen's arrest and force this into the criminal courts?

As for the Acton thing, health care reform takes power from the almost totally unaccountable insurance companies and race-to-the-bottom states and puts it into a far more visible, and hence accountable, national forum.

BTW, when are you going to post something about the Congressional and Arizona death panels (these are real)?

Al, if pro-choice people of some sort would never condone the coercive actions of her parents, nobody would even be able to talk about their forcing her to have an abortion, because everybody would know that no abortionist would go along with it. This is even an issue because people other than the sidewalk counselors think the threat is credible.

One of the reasons my idea has legs is because people who work with women and girls in crisis pregnancies know that this young woman is one of the lucky ones.

Come on Lydia, not everyone who performs an abortion is pro-choice. Some folks are in it for the money (especially if abortion is illegal). Back in the day, abortions were available to folks of means. Ever hear of "Park Avenue" doctors? Doctors whose patents are of a certain class will want to keep those patents.

Her parents need to be restrained because they have demonstrated their willingness to skirt and probably break the law. You divide the world into pro-choice and anti-abortion. The real world is a little more complicated and scary.

No pro-choice doctor is going to perform a procedure on an unwilling person. The problem which you seem not to recognize is that, just as it is not unknown for some women who picket clinics to themselves present for an abortion (their case is different, of course) so not everyone who possesses the necessary skill-sets to do an abortion are concerned with the theological or philosophical niceties.

The court is recognizing the possibility that her parents might finally beat down her will or that they might do something even more drastic (and illegal), not that, if her parents keep playing clinic roulette, they might find some clinic that will perform an abortion on someone who is refusing one. Remember the TRO was issued against her parents, not every clinic in the United States.

Lydia, you don't need the argument to make your point. Using it weakens your case with the unconvinced as it is so obviously flawed.

not that, if her parents keep playing clinic roulette, they might find some clinic that will perform an abortion on someone who is refusing one.

Of course, it couldn't _possibly_ mean that they were recognizing _that_ possibility.

Lydia

I’m missing background here and it’s not clear to me what ‘choice devours itself’ means so I can’t tell what the case you’re discussing is meant to be an instance of.

I’m not surprised the parents of a 16-year-old may not be exactly thrilled to find out their daughter’s pregnant. But whose choice is it? I don’t know if the parents of a 16-year-old girl would have the legal right to stop her from having an abortion if that’s what she wanted and they disapproved. But I don’t see what doctors’ attitudes may have to do with parental rights; individual doctors can raise conscientious objections but what does the law say? The report you link to is not particularly informative; it has a definite slant and reads like an ad for ADF rather than a factual report. Who’s established the girl’s ‘desire to allow her child to live’? Perhaps what she desires is to spite mum or drop out of school or qualify for a council flat and welfare income to become independent of her parents. That would seem like a more promising line for you to explore.

Oversees, it doesn't matter whether she wants to "spite" her mother. Both according to supposed pro-choice ideology and under American law, the parents aren't supposed to be able to force her to have an abortion. The question is why it even looked like they would be able to, if everybody is so "pro-choice."

Al, I understand: On your view, by definition, anyone who helped the parents force the girl to have an abortion isn't "pro-choice." I get that. But as you're always reminding us, life is more complicated than that. How about the father in this story, for example:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/447epezp.asp

Mr. X doesn't coerce his daughter using such low-class means as smacking her around, like the parents in the story in the main post. No, indeed. He's of a different class-group altogether. Instead, he uses phrases (and techniques) like "staging an intervention," and he then gets to write for the _New York Times Magazine_, of all places, about _his_ experience. (What a narcissist.) After plenty of not-subtle arm-twisting, the girl says, "I don't have a choice."

Is he pro-choice? Well, I'll bet _he_ thinks he is. And I'll bet if you knew him, Al, _you_ would think of him as one of your ordinary, normal, pro-choice friends. Yet he could put this kind of pressure on his 15-year-old daughter and apparently feel fine enough about it to write it all up for a magazine. He even has the gall to portray what she did as her decision! I'm _sure_ he thinks of himself as pro-choice.

So let me connect the dots: Here's how it goes: You start with a choice that a certain type of person thinks it's _really_ important that people be able to make. One of the reasons this type of person thinks it's so important that people be allowed to make that choice is that said choice solves some _really big problem_ (like a pregnancy that is unwanted...by someone). Then it turns out that some people, faced with a situation that the person thinks _should rationally_ be one of those "problem" situations that the choice was supposed to solve, don't want to make that supposedly "rational" choice. They don't, in fact, want to use the freedom that this type of person fought so hard for them to get in the direction that he thinks makes sense and for the sake of which he fought. Ergo, they are being irrational. This provides a perfect excuse for pressuring them to make the choice, going a little further and _really_ pressuring them, or at a minimum not being too bothered when other people pressure them or when governments far away and out of sight outright _force_ them. Because after all, it's a _good_ choice, a _reasonable_ choice, a choice the people _should_ want to make and should value.

I remember once talking with a supposedly Christian young lady about forced abortions in China. Her parents were (I can still hardly bring myself to say this) ostensibly medical missionaries to China, though this must have been an unofficial "missionary" status. I mentioned forced abortions. She agreed that they did take place and said that her mother, a doctor, had been "present" at such an abortion. Then, immediately, she launched into excuses, "But if you understood the population problem they have there..." she said. I can't even remember how she finished the sentence. I don't think she did.

Excuse making. Because the women should have understood the population problem they had there and should have cooperated. Then they wouldn't have been forced. How simple.

Lydia,

I grasp the point you're trying to make, and agree with it to a degree, but I think you were hurt by the means by which you chose to present it. Abortion does apply to the issue of course, but the argument has seemingly devolved into whether or not your example applies to the concept, instead of the validity of the concept itself.

One example that comes to my mind while I'm writing this is that of women working outside the home. Pre-WW2, it was generally frowned upon for a married woman to do so, but you had Rosie the Riveter and the 60s, and by the end, it was perfectly fine for her to do so. However, the dynamic of society changed so much in the process that, for many families, the option of having one parent stay at home is nearly impossible today.

And that was really to be expected, if you think it through. Women entering the labor force as a group effectively doubles the labor pool, which would seriously cut wages. So to maintain the same standard of living, both parents have to work, and the ability to choose between a one or two income family - the original intent - has been destroyed.

It's not exactly the mechanism you were talking about, but I think that it applies at least tangentially. Could you link to one of the articles where you explain the "choice devours itself" argument in more detail?

Lydia

Thanks, but you don’t say whose choice abortion is under American law, i.e. if a 16-year-old girl has a right to consent or withhold consent to a medical procedure, or if the parents exercise this right on her behalf. Of course doctors can object as individuals to parents’ decisions or go to court to override them, but this doesn’t quite make it the doctors’ choice.

If a 16-year-old gives birth, do her parents have financial obligations towards her baby, or does the state take over? It’s not clear if you think it should be the state’s choice or an individual woman’s (or her legal guardian’s if she’s under-age etc) and why, i.e. how rights and obligations match: Re China and the one-child policy, you seem to object that it should be the state’s choice. Of course China is a much more ‘welfare state’ than anything we know, but in Europe having a baby can be a way for teenaged girls to gain independence, get free housing and an allowance from the state and leave a disagreeable household behind; I thought you were concerned about welfare provision becoming an incentive to pursue a certain lifestyle rather than function as a safety net.

Yes, I did answer that question, Overseas. You must have been inattentive. I said that in American law it's illegal for parents to force their daughter to have an abortion. But that doesn't stop them from doing it--as I say, people who work with crisis pregnancies know this.

d-senti, I think my example here is a very good one. The whole idea of the concept is that people start out saying that something is good as a _choice_ and then end up forcing people to make the choice or else ignoring, justifying, or refusing to acknowledge cases in which people are thus forced.

You can search my author page for all my posts on this subject, but here is the first one on this blog:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/01/choice_devours_itselfagain.html

Unfortunately, the link to the post at the old blog Right Reason no longer works, though one could ponderously use the wayback machine to find it.

I have my hesitations about your women in the workforce example, because I tend to use only examples where _people_ are actually deliberately pressuring or coercing the choice. I generally avoid (not only in this context) talk of vague economic pressures that arose only osmotically as forcing people to do things or as something specific people are to be blamed for.

Perhaps an example that would relate to women in the workforce would be a case (I have known one of these) of a politically liberal husband who is irked that his more politically conservative wife doesn't want to work outside the home and who eventually leaves her partly because she isn't enough of a feminist in this regard--because she doesn't exercise the "choice" to work that he thinks she should welcome as such a wonderful freedom.

A good example of this type of phenomenon (which a reader has just reminded me of and which I did use in the 2005 article at Right Reason) is found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/1482371/If-you-dont-take-a-job-as-a-prostitute-we-can-stop-your-benefits.html

In a social and legal milieu where prostitution is treated as "just another job," it turns out, whaddaya know, that women can be directly pressured by threat of loss of unemployment benefits to take a job as a prostitute or in other sexual areas. The story makes it clear that this was not the only case of the kind.

"In a social and legal milieu where prostitution is treated as "just another job," it turns out, whaddaya know, that women can be directly pressured by threat of loss of unemployment benefits to take a job as a prostitute or in other sexual areas. The story makes it clear that this was not the only case of the kind."

Which doesn't seem to be true.

http://www.snopes.com/media/notnews/brothel.asp

From Wikipedia,

"In 2009, the Bundessozialgericht ruled that the German job agencies are not required to find prostitutes for open positions in brothels. The court rejected the complaint of a brothel owner who had argued that the law of 2002 had turned prostitution into a job like any other; the judges ruled that the law had been passed to protect the employees, not to further the business."

Back to abortion.

I don't see the other case as being simple. If folks are free to attempt to persuade others to not have abortions, it seems reasonable to assume that others, especially those whose interests are affected, should be able to make the case for abortion in a given circumstance. Thinking about this, I believe we likely have a certain asymmetry betwixt us here.

In the Texas case I see the parents as clearly being out of line and would make the same judgment if the girl wanted an abortion and the parents wished to stop her. Using that standard, I asked myself if I would find the same behavior described in the article problematic if the shoe was likewise on the other foot and the parents wished her to carry the pregnancy to term and the girl wanted an abortion. I can't automatically categorize it as wrong with the same ease as the Texas case. I believe we have a qualitative difference here.

The Chinese policy is simply beyond the pale, of course.

"The whole idea of the concept is that people start out saying that something is good as a _choice_ and then end up forcing people to make the choice or else ignoring, justifying, or refusing to acknowledge cases in which people are thus forced."

The problem being that women were forced to have abortions or carry unwanted pregnancies to term when abortion was illegal and hence, in theory at least, there were no choices. By your standards, did we then have "no choice" devouring itself? If anything, it would seem to me that Roe improved the situation. it hardly seems fair to assign to "choice: that which predates it.

The problem being that women were forced to have abortions or carry unwanted pregnancies to term when abortion was illegal and hence, in theory at least, there were no choices.

That's a damn lie.

Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly enough then, Lydia, because I was trying to establish whether you’re saying that a girl or a Chinese woman is ‘forced’ just in case you disapprove of the parents’ or the state’s decision about what’s in whose best interests, but not otherwise. One question is the level at which the decision to continue or abort any particular pregnancy should be taken, e.g. the individual or the state, and another question is what the decision ought to be in any particular case: China’s population might be no different e.g. whether they pursued a one-child policy or a pot-of-luck policy which allowed half the women to have two kids and the rest none.

By your standards, did we then have "no choice" devouring itself?

By no means. What makes you even think that question carries any weight? Having no (legal) choice to murder a baby is not something that, of its own nature, tends toward, or conditions us toward, being immoral or hypocritical in other ways. If it did, then the general law against murder, and the laws against theft, and assault, and fraud, etc would all be conditions where good behavior imposed by law is evil and hypocritical. Which is absurd.

If there ought to be any law at all, then laws which protect people from grave injustices by proscribing gravely unjust acts against others are not social conditions which "devour" anything at all. If anything, one might suppose that such laws "devour" a freedom, but the so-called freedom that they devour was imaginary anyway, since the "freedom" to steal or assault someone is a false sense of freedom to begin with: anyone who "exercises" such a freedom cannot be acting in a way that will truly satisfy human happiness, though they may imagine otherwise. To make a law proscribing theft is not to devour some self-referential human good.

Of course, at back of all this is the truth that an unborn child is a human being and no just law may even permit, much less coerce, its extinction by medical means. The fact that our positive law fails to reflect this truth is simply a moral indictment of our positive law.

The parallel with slavery is obvious. For decades American lawyers and polemicists and thinkers carried on at great length in disputation about the nature of the property rights that inhere in a slaveholders human chattels. This stuff went up and down the courts and bewildered and agitated American politics for several generations, eventually culminating is a terrible sectional war, etc.

Yet despite all the energy exerted in the arguments, all the opinions from judges and fulminations from orators, at back of the whole thing was the plain truth that it is unjust to hold human beings as property. No positive law, no matter how subtle or ancient, can make a human into property; only force or fraud can accomplish this wickedness, as in the cases of both slavery and abortion.

I am glad to see Al's halting steps toward recognition of all this:

I asked myself if I would find the same behavior described in the article problematic if the shoe was likewise on the other foot and the parents wished her to carry the pregnancy to term and the girl wanted an abortion. I can't automatically categorize it as wrong with the same ease as the Texas case. I believe we have a qualitative difference here.

Indeed we do.

Overseas, when I say "forced," I mean "forced." I have no problem using the term "forbid" if parents do not permit their daughters to have abortions, though I believe that all states in the union have a judicial over-ride provision for such cases anyway.

A woman is forced to have an abortion if she is made to have one against her will. She is pressured to have one if she doesn't want to but various threats or things like the "intervention" I mentioned above are put upon her to do so. And so forth.

There are girls whose parents force or attempt to force them to have abortions, even in America where this is formally illegal in all the states I know of. In China there are women who are forced to have abortions by the state.

But I think it's interesting that you don't seem to have much of a problem with China's policy. At least that's what it looks like. You'd better watch that or you'll be a prime example of how liberals who claim to be in favor of choice really aren't.

Al, thanks for your take on the case of Mr. X. I think it's very interesting, because the girl did say, "I don't have a choice."

I, of course, don't claim to be "pro-choice," so I would make no bones about saying that parents should be able to forbid their minor children to have abortions. But you're supposed to be in favor of choice, so that "I don't have a choice" line should bother you, though not for all the same reasons that it bothers me.

The Snopes article is typical of Snopes. The original news article was clear enough and not deceptive. I understood it. Notice that while the Snopes piece refers to "a hypothetical," actually the claim was that there were _specific, real_ cases of women being pressured in this direction--e.g., the woman (whom the story wasn't even chiefly about) who was told by an employment agency that she had to go for an interview as a nude model and report back. Snopes does not "debunk" this case at all. The 2009 ruling is much more interesting. As of 2005, it appears that the matter was legally gray. The 2009 ruling may have settled the matter, though a) the Snopes piece didn't discuss it (that I saw) and b) it's unclear to me whether the 2009 ruling applied to other "work" such as the nude modeling, which is a clear case of treating it like just another job and pressuring a woman to do it.

Al, I think you are too smart to try that "no choice devouring itself" line. If no choice devoured itself, that would (if we could make sense of it at all) mean that people who claimed to believe in no choice actually turned out to believe in lots of choices in the very areas where they supposedly believed in no choice! (By parallel with "people who claim to believe in choice turn out not to have much of a problem with coercion and pressure in their supposedly important areas of 'choice'.") Which--"no choice devouring itself"--I suppose shouldn't be bad from your perspective. From my perspective, it would depend on what the choices were that they turned out to believe in. It could simply mean that people who appear not to believe in "choice" can be seen as the true lovers of freedom! Not that I'm trying to make that case, but since you tried to bring up some odd parallel...

Hi folks,
sorry for posting this here - but I'm reading Chesterton's book "What's Wrong with the World".
I was looking for a site that helped a person understand that book and stumbled across this blog.

Could anyone help me out?

Thanks.

"That's a damn lie."

Based on what? Parents like the ones referenced in the articles came into existence only after Roe? I knew a woman whose then husband took her to a friend who was a doctor for an abortion every time she became pregnant except for the one time she was able to conceal her pregnancy until she was too far along. Or the neighbor who drove her teenage daughter to Tijuana for an abortion. You seem to have led a sheltered life, William.

"I have no problem using the term "forbid" if parents do not permit their daughters to have abortions..."

Except, of course, that the fact of the pregnancy renders any such "forbidding" irrelevant and out of line. We shouldn't forget that "forbid: equals "force".

"I think it's very interesting, because the girl did say, 'I don't have a choice'."

As I see it, the meaning of "choice" is under-determined given the context available to us. It could mean, "i give up, I don't want an abortion but you all win" or it could mean "now that I have a lot more information and have thought about it, there is no way I'm ready for this". Likewise things may work out well for our 16 year old Texas woman or she may in a couple of years totally regret her decision.

it could mean "now that I have a lot more information and have thought about it, there is no way I'm ready for this".

Yah. Sounds like it means that.

My experience in the pregnancy center at which I worked was that "I don't have a choice" means that the parents/husband/boyfriend have bullied the young lady and threatened her with isolation and financial abandonment to such an extent that she feels that she has no choice. i guess you could find some nuance there if it makes you feel better, but it is always pretty cut and dried when we see it. In my three years working in a pregnancy center that saw more than 5,000 women a year it was not a rare occurrence either. Neither was it rare to have the parent/husband/boyfriend right there in the building making it known to all who would listen and explicitly stating in the counseling sessions that the abortion was going to happen and that there was no way to stop it. When the rare young woman who could endure this emotional abuse stood up to those coercive forces we could find her a home and financial help get started when her family followed through with the threat, but much more often than not the threats were enough to get the deed done.

The young ladies were spiritually and emotionally defeated, but I guess you could say they had a choice. If you choose to get the abortion your closest and most cherished love relationships will stay intact and you will continue to be supported. If you have the baby you will lose those relationships and face almost certain financial ruin. That is choice at its best and as long as she does not protest at the doctors office it is all legal and ethical from the doctor's view. You see enough young ladies go through this and you cannot help but get a little cynical about the empowering nature of choice.

How does it make it harder to coerce abortions in this manner now that abortion is accepted, legal, and easily available? How does it make it less likely to happen when instead of breaking the law and violating medical ethics to coerce abortions one must merely bully a young girl to keep her mouth shut at the state sanctioned and community approved medical abortion facility? That will take a bit of unpacking for me.


Thanks, Jay.

The case of the PP worker that I cited in my first "choice devours itself" post shows something else: Medical workers can suspect even if the girl is quiet that the activity is taking place against her will. In that particular case, the blogger (who worked at PP) *actually suspected* that a 12-year-old girl was engaged in a dubiously consensual or even entirely non-consensual sexual relationship with a much older man, but she did nothing. I find it very difficult to believe that something similar does not happen with girls and abortion.

Let's remember too that plenty of minor girls do not even know that they can legally refuse an abortion if their parents demand it. I once spoke with a woman who said outright that when she was a teenager her parents had "made her have an abortion." I suspect that at the time--whether she knew better later or not--she believed that as a minor she had no right to refuse. Evidently no one disabused her of this notion at the clinic, either!

The young ladies were spiritually and emotionally defeated, but I guess you could say they had a choice.

I rarely agree with much that Al says, but I would enter a comment here: Suppose that the parents say to an 18 year old girl: "If you don't have this abortion, you will have to leave home and take care of your own finances. You can't stay here." And the boyfriend says: If you don't have this abortion I will leave you and you will have to raise this baby yourself."

You propose (with a more than a bit of justification, in my opinion), that these comments from the girl's love relationships are abusive emotional pressure. Would it matter if, each time they said these things, they added this: "We believe that you would be making a terrible, grave mistake about your own welfare, an error rooted in your own false sense of pride, and we cannot cooperate with such wrongful behavior. In concern for your own welfare, we cannot remain silent about that" ? Does it still remain emotional abuse?

Now, to use Al's technique, put the shoe on the other foot: A second girl's parents say: "If you have an abortion, you cannot remain living in this house, you will have to move out and support yourself. Those who live here live by our rules, rules that were given by God. If you are not willing to do that, then you are not willing to remain in community with us." And the boyfriend says "if you have an abortion, I will move out and you will be on your own. I cannot remain in a relationship with you if you can treat a baby that way."

Are these emotionally abusive comments also?
Or, to ask it a different way: does the determination of whether it is emotional abuse depend on whether the people pointing out "consequences" and "ramifications" are RIGHT? And, does it matter whether the consequences they are pointing out are objective facts that are valid regardless of the participants roles, versus results rooted in the participants' further choices, versus sheer moral principles? Was it emotional abuse when God told Adam and Eve: On the day that you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will surely die"?

There was certainly pressure. We often refer to pressure as "forcing" certain behavior. There are so many senses of these terms, that it is difficult to be clear and accurate and do the reality justice. The things we tell people as advice are designed to urge them toward one action rather than the opposite. This urging cannot but be felt emotionally. Urging that opposes one's preferences cannot but be felt as emotional "pressure." When does that become abuse?

I would be more content to attack the parents' role here as wrong mainly because the option they were urging was intrinsically immoral: it is inherently wrong to urge immoral behavior, even if you are not emotionally abusive in doing so. This stance does, in fact, require taking a position on whether abortion should be legal, but so be it.

For what it's worth, "choice" devours itself because "choice", as it is currently manifested, is a culture of death position, and the whole culture of death is self-immolating. It does no good to say that "choice" merely represents a proposal for freedom: there is nothing that is properly, humanly freeing about intentionally killing an innocent person. There cannot be, not when one understands human nature and freedom. Therefore, "choice" in this sense is a false image, cartoon facade on a form of slavery to the culture of death.

Tony, I don't think I really disagree with you that we should be careful about trying to talk about this in a contentless way.

The only thing I would add is that pressure should be acknowledged to be pressure, and that threatening to throw your daughter out of the house is pretty major pressure--hence, one has to be careful about justifying it. Moreover, if the pressure of such a threat is exercised to try to get her to have an abortion, the "pro-choicer" needs to be willing to admit that this is _at least_ as much contrary to his supposed principles as it would be if the same pressure were exerted against her having an abortion--an action that I would probably applaud (depending on circumstances) but that the pro-choicer would presumably consider an outrage.

Not glorying in choice as my be-all and end-all, my slogan, I face no charge of inconsistency if I applaud parents who put pressure on a daughter not to have an abortion. And that is true aside from the valid points you are making about who is right and who is wrong.

The pro-choicer faces a specific type of consistency problem because of the supposed core of his position if he makes excuses for Mr. X and company. Let's put it this way: It's one thing for a pro-lifer, who never claimed to be "all about choice," to say--"Darned tootin' parents should be able to forbid their child to have an abortion. That would be murdering their grandchild, and it shouldn't be an open choice." That's why we're _not_ called "pro-choice." The pro-choicer looks like he's been unmasked as not really being a pro-choicer, though, if he says, "Darned tootin' parents should be able to threaten their daughters with being tossed out of the house if they don't have an abortion. Having the baby would be such a terrible, irrational choice that the parents should be able to put all _kinds_ of pressure on the girl short of outright physical force to try to twist her arm into the rational abortion." That just isn't even remotely pro-choice anymore.

Tony, on Ed’s ‘Spider’ post you comment that

“Ed Feser raised this point quite some time ago: for some ideas proposed, to argue them down is to grant them far, far more weight than they deserve and more than is good for the listener to the debate. An argument that proceeds by logic to prove that logic is imaginary would, it appears, to be just such a risible case.”

I submit that if so, the above must then hold when ‘logic’ is substituted with ‘choice.’

Lydia, Let’s play the ‘there’s no connection game.’

Suppose a girl from a strict religious household utterly fears the harsh judgement that will come from her parents should she become pregnant, and the pressure not to abort and to take responsibility for it if she does.

She knows with all the certainty a 16 yr. old can have that she does not want to ever get pregnant and have a child. She therefore wants a tubal ligation. Knowing she can’t get that procedure on her own, in a senseess act, she overdoses on anti-depression meds and dies..

You said: “There is no necessary connection between legalizing abortion and forcing women to have abortions. So move along, folks, nothing to see here.”

It must then be said that “There is no necessary connection between the taking of a life and forcing women _not_ to have abortions. So move along, folks, nothing to see here.”


An argument that proceeds by logic to prove that logic is imaginary would, it appears, to be just such a risible case.

Converted:

An argument that proceeds by choice to prove that choice is imaginary would, it appears, to be just such a risible case.”

Huh? Well, probably an argument that proceeds by choice to prove anything at all would be risible.

Suppose a girl from a strict religious household utterly fears the harsh judgement that will come from her parents should she become pregnant, and the pressure not to abort and to take responsibility for it if she does.

Or, let's suppose that a person who calls himself a Christian in the daylight watches porn all night long and works at an abortuary. This proves that Christians are hypocrites and cannot be trusted with matches, since some so-called Christians blow up abortuaries. And lets suppose that he realizes the nihilistic futility of his life, and kills himself. Therefore, Christianity devours itself.

Pure deflecting, Tony. Hopefully Lydia can counter-argue w/o doing the same.

Perhaps of interest--a fine theological/literary examination of the modern notion of choice by the redoubtable Anthony Esolen:

http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-08-042-f

My response wd. start, J.T., by pointing out that nothing in my essay nor in any of my posts is ever meant as an endorsement of consequentialism--let us do evil that good may come, or let us do evil in order to avoid some other evil.

Based on what?

On the fact that a law against abortion no more restricts one's legitimate choices than does a law against rape.

My response wd. start, J.T., by pointing out that nothing in my essay nor in any of my posts is ever meant as an endorsement of consequentialism--let us do evil that good may come, or let us do evil in order to avoid some other evil.

Lydia, I am not ashamed to say that I do not understand this response to what I said to you.

Might you elaborate?

Well, J.T., my point about "no necessary connection" is only relevant when we aren't talking about refraining from intrinsically evil acts. So, for example, take my rather odd connection at the end to some conservatives' taste for a more authoritarian government. It's legitimate to criticize that by pointing out that, human nature being what it is, their proposals are _highly likely_ not to work out well, even though there is no _logically necessary_ connection between their proposals and the problems that the critic expects to result from them.

If, however, the conservative authoritarian were to say that it is _absolutely morally required_ that he enact those policies, that it would be _intrinsically wrong_ for him not to enact those policies, that would change the entire dialogue. Then, if he were right, he would have to try to enact those policies even if they would be a dismal failure in some respect, even if they would be a dismal failure in exactly the way that I, the critic, predicted. That, of course, is hypothetical. I don't know any conservatives of that sort who would say that their policy ideas are _absolutely morally required_. I think they would agree that we are working in the realm of prudence, etc., which makes my criticism at least relevant.

Now, your attempted criticism seemed to amount to saying that a prohibition on abortion might lead to some teenager's committing suicide. (Though I must admit that your hypothetical _seemed_ to envisage a rather promiscuous teenager, which made it hard for me to have much sympathy for her. But waive that.) Apparently your criticism was supposed to lead me to admit that there is something wrong with my position that abortion should be prohibited, because even if there is no necessary connection between the prohibition and some teen suicide, still, if it is at all likely to happen, I should admit this as a matter of "human nature" and take it as an argument against prohibiting abortion.

However, I _do_ believe that abortion is intrinsically evil, is in fact murder, and therefore that it is _absolutely morally required_ that we should seek to have it outlawed. If you tell me that some teenager will commit suicide as an indirect consequence of outlawing abortion, this will not change my mind, for a much simpler reason than a "there's no necessary connection" argument. The simple reason is that I am not a consequentialist and that, since I regard abortion as an intrinsic evil and a regime that does not protect the unborn child as intrinsically unjust, such a consequence is not going to be, from my perspective, a relevant criticism. I'm not going to reconsider making it legal for women to have their children murdered because some woman might commit suicide if she can't have her child murdered.

Hence, my previous answer: Nothing in this or any post of mine is meant as an endorsement of consequentialism. Intrinsically evil acts are intrinsically evil acts.

Lydia, thanks for that. You said clearly and logically what I was trying to mime in imaginative fiction. Since I am not a mime, I am not surprised I could not get my thought across that way to JT.

That elucidation is helpful, Lydia.

Obviously though, by injecting the premise that abortion is intrinsically evil, there can’t be much else to say in a debate, can there?

But, O.K., let’s say abortion is illegal:

In my extreme example, a promiscuous teen experiences great stress over the possible consequences of her lifestyle, even to suicidal dispair as her two major options for dealing with unwanted pregnancy (abortion and tubal ligation) are out of her reach.

Most cases are likely not so desperate. A 25 yr young woman has the option of tubal ligation, so surely she faces little angst over unwanted pregnancy. Well… at her age, such a drastic act makes for extremely hard decision-making; if she does opt to do it, it might really cause painful consequences in future relationships w/r rasing a family.

*I, too, will take the liberty to inject a personal conviction. As an animal lover, and one who thinks society and particularly its churches must come to the awareness that non-human, higher order animals' subjective experiences should be considered sufficient cause to treat them as ‘persons’ in the theological sense. In line with Hartshorne’s reasoning concerning the continuum of living organisms, a fetus, even a newborn baby, is nowhere near as rational or loving as a dog, or, even more so, a dolphin that is perhaps solving analytic geometry problems just to piss off DesCartes.

Such enlightenment is more likely in a society that is not dogmatically anthropocentric. In such a society, illegal abortion of humans would obviously stand in great conflict with legal euthanasia of unwanted pets by animal control authorities.

*I really doubt anyone here wishes to take this aspect of illegal abortion seriously. But I do not see abortion as evil, O.K.

Of course there are also the usual problem consequences posed by rape, incest, threat to mother, etc.


So, for anti-consequentialism, the morality of an action is _ not _ to be judged solely by its consequences.

It is nevertheless the case that the morality of an action can in part be judged by its consequences.

And is government really the place to deal with morality?

And is government really the place to deal with morality?

Good grief. Come on. If you're "just thinking" at all, you know the answer to that.

Gee, if a substantial part of the population wants to rape people or honor-kill daughters, I guess we shouldn't outlaw it, because maybe government isn't the place to "deal with morality." It would just be imposing our morality on them, etc., etc.

If "I don't think we should legislate morality" is the highest your discourse level can rise to, it ain't worth it.

Good stuff, just thinking.

[WARNING: DANGEROUS LEVELS OF SARCASM HAVE BEEN DETECTED IN THIS COMMENT. PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION.]

Look guys,

As I noted, there is no debate possible when the topic, once considered illegal but no longer, is considered by its opponent to be evil.

My initial comment here addressed the 'There is no necessary connection' idea. Instead, we deflected straight to abortion and evil.

The worst that can happen is that Aquinas was wrong about there being no human soul in the fetus, and the horrific act of abortion then instantly brings the new soul into fellowship w/ God.

Can't debate evil...I haven't even seen a good definition. It's like evil devours itself.

Hi Tony!

I think you did a really good job in your comment of 2:45pm; philosophers may talk of ‘intuition pumps’ and ‘thought experiments’, but they probably lack your sense of humour if not imagination.

Lydia,

If ‘choice devours itself’ means that if one’s a deontologist then there are no moral choices and ethics is a one-way street etc, I think I get it. But, as far as policy goes, it all hangs on the Kantian succeeding where Kant failed. And whilst there are good arguments against abortion, there are good arguments for its permissibility also: It’s not self-evident e.g. that a pregnancy of a non-viable foetus ought not be terminated even if the pregnant woman will die unless it is.

You seem to dislike the one-child policy not because the Chinese government is authoritarian but because you believe they got their ethics wrong. But if you don’t take your policy ideas on abortion to be ‘absolutely morally required’, presumably because we can all get things wrong and not just the Chinese, you should be able to live with abortion being legally permissible and allow women to make their own mistakes rather than possibly impose yours on them; so you needn't have any problem in principle with just thinking it seems to me.

What other issues of morality are on your legislative agenda?

Oh, gee, I dunno, J.T. We could start with keeping our laws against pedophilia and sex slavery and enforcing them (unlike in some countries), keeping our laws against putting a pillow over the face of a disabled child (to the dismay of one murderous would-be pundit who recently ran off her mouth in England), and so forth. I would also keep laws that would enable Muslims to be prosecuted for bumping off _you_. These are all "issues of morality" enshrined in law. You got a problem with that?

No, those laws are good to have.

And I do appreciate your sincere concern for my safety, Lydia.

I get it about abortion as emblematic of your Ultimate Concern. I have my Tillichian focus on awareness of animals as theological persons – especially dogs. The difference is I do not ridicule yours, but for many bloggers I run into on philosophy/religion sites, that is about all I get. And it is the very religion you appeal to for morality that thwarts my pet moral argument (sorry ‘bout the pun).

There are others who passionately foster their Ultimate Concerns. Those who say our over-consumptive society is responsible for the continued plight of the third world. Those who are against WTO, nuclear energy, anti-war, anti-immigration…But when they start accusing others of evil, they ‘ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.’

You’ll keep plugging along with your concern, I mine, and them, theirs. What else can be done. But unless we listen to one another, we really are wasting time.

JT-

According to Aquinas (and the Catholic Church), an aborted child with a soul is unbaptized, and therefore would go straight to the Limbus Infantem, not Heaven. It is, at best, a state of natural happiness, and nothing compared to the joys of Heaven.

A definition of evil is easy: subversion of purpose. Therein lies the problem of morality for atheists, who ascribe no objective purpose to anything.

I think that the point made by Tony, above, is correct as regards pressure. Pressure to do what is moral is a good thing; pressure to do what is evil is an evil thing. Seems pretty simple to me.

Also, as per your "dogs are persons" idea:

Dogs are never even potentially capable of higher thought. Fetuses are potentially capable of higher thought. The nadir of being a dog is still being a pure animal, and since the potential for rational thought doesn't exist within them, they are qualitatively different than a fetus, who has that potential.

JT, you said Tony was "deflecting." I answered you straight-up, and you tell me I'm doing _something_ vaguely illicit, though I still haven't figured out quite what it is. (This, btw, isn't to say that I agree that Tony was "deflecting," just that if you wanted an unambiguous and straight answer, mine should satisfy that criterion.)

If liberals are going to say that girls being forced to have abortions (for example) shouldn't make the slightest difference to their policy position because it is intrinsically immoral not to support the legality of abortion, they should come right out and say so.

But frankly, I was under the impression that most political liberals didn't believe in deontological moral absolutes anyway.

I think that I was trying to make the point that 'there is not necessarily a connection' can be used by everyone. Isn't this a big issue in what remains of the legacy of analistic philosophy?

Your taking exception on the basis of being anti-consequentialist vis-a-vis evil threw me off. That is how I remember it.

Sissy says Hi!

d senti,
Right, dogs are not capable of higher thinking. But that means not much more than that they are neither men nor angels. It does not mean they are not persons. Both Testaments, you'll remember, call animals "souls." Animals are are soulish beings, and on that point I agree with JT and his concern for their proper treatment and our obligations toward them.

Best,
MB

OHHH My God, Michael, I have been searching so long to hear this outside the confines of the dog community.

The Peaceable Kingdom Theology of the Revelation in Scripture is certainly a topic for debate, BUT IT IS A SERIOUS TOPIC!

Best, indeed.

What other issues of morality are on your legislative agenda?
One issue will probably not be granting personhood to animals. Once you start taking the personhood of the unborn as seriously as that of a dog, she might be able to take you seriously.

...dogs are not capable of higher thinking...It does not mean they are not persons.

Really, Michael, I love dogs, but please...

d_senti, I think there is actually an asymmetry there: all pressure to do an evil thing is evil. It is not true, though, that all pressure to do a good thing is good. There are 2 distinct ways that pressure towards the good can be bad. One is when the pressure seeks to have you do the right thing for the wrong reason. For instance, urging you to go to Church Sunday because there are pretty girls there to meet and seduce. The second way is is to apply pressure in an undue degree, even though you are urging the right thing. For example, a father saying: if you don't obey me and wash the car, you're going to go to hell. Even if the boy ought to be obedient, and even if it is good for him to fear going to hell, using THAT level of threat is undue for such a trivial matter.

JT, just because you, or I, or Lydia, have set up X as one of our highest political concerns doesn't mean it cannot be defended rationally in debate with people who do not share it as one of their highest political concerns. I can be convinced of a need to change how we treat dolphins, even if I don't think they are theological persons. It may be possible that we should treat some animals with a higher mode of respect than hogs deserve, even if they are not persons. I have not seen a really solid discussion of it, though. Further, it is theoretically possible to convince me of their personhood, if satisfactory evidence is put forward. Merely claiming it is not an argument, but this isn't really the place for it.

Lydia's meme about 'choice devouring itself' is about a kind of incoherence: the rationale that the choice crowd puts forward for legalizing abortion (among other evils) is that they are for letting people decide their own choices. However, it is incoherent for this to be their primary motivation if, in those instances where the actors on the choice stage SUPPRESS free choice for life, the rest of the choice crowd makes a positive point of hiding the story, or worse still, defending it on fairly specious grounds, instead of being outraged that their primary objective (freedom) is being rent and damaged. It may be the case that certain people opposed to abortion are incoherent about the way that they deal with offenses against life in their own pro-life ranks. I can think of some myself. But I seriously doubt that a comparable story of an pro-lifer activist found exerting pressure on a daughter to have an abortion would be suppressed by the conservative media, nor would the pro-life pundits work hard to justify it. Anyway, incoherence by pro-lifers would not redeem or justify incoherence by choicers.

Right, dogs are not capable of higher thinking. But that means not much more than that they are neither men nor angels. It does not mean they are not persons.

Now I've seen it all.

Tony -

Right. I thought it implied that when it comes to doing the right thing, that would imply both for the right reason (otherwise it's not the right thing, but another wrong thing, as per your example) and in due proportion. The first I think is implicit to the right thing, but the second isn't, so it's good to clarify it.

I think there is always an asymmetry between good and evil, though. Good is of a higher order by definition, and the conditions for good are met only when every element of that thing in question is correct. Otherwise it's evil/not good. So there are a million ways to commit a sin of lust, but only one way to perform the virtue of chastity (be chaste).

MB/JT -

Actually, personhood as it is commonly understood DOES require both intellect and will. Moreover, a person is someone who is (at least categorically) able to think rationally and has moral responsibility. You can call a dog a person when you're willing to send them to jail for biting the mailman. :)

You wouldn't, however, because they can't think and therefore are not morally responsible for their actions, just as we don't send children to jail for stealing. The children, however, will eventually develop that capacity, so even then they are still very different.

As for saying that animals have "souls" in the Bible, that's specious at best. A more accurate translation would be "life" or "spirit." Medieval theologists and those that came before them used the word soul/anima in a broader sense, moreover, just as people once used worship and ghost more broadly. What we mean by soul today is what they would call the rational soul, as opposed to the vegetative or sensitive.

There is no mention of a proper soul of animals in the Bible, nor any mention of animals having an afterlife. There is no history of it in Christian/Catholic theology or in Judaic thought which preceded it. And pretty much every philosopher worth his or her salt sees that there is a qualitative difference in the minds of men compared to that of animals.

It's not a serious topic for debate.

It's interesting, though not exactly surprising, how often the Bible shocks folks on this website, how foreign the Bible is to their allegedly Christian thinking, and how much they resist even its most casual categories, teachings, and conclusions.

"Nephesh," soul, is used both of humans and of animals in the OT, and sometimes in the same passage. For example, "nephesh" is used of animals at least three times in Genesis 1 alone. In that same context, "nephesh" is used also of human beings. That doesn't mean that humans and animals are equal; it does mean they are both soulish creatures made by God and, as such, are worthy of our respect, concern, and proper usage. They are the living, and soulish, handiwork of God. The same holds true for the NT usage of the word "psuche," which parallels the use of "nephesh" mentioned above, and does so in multiple passages.

Put differently, dogs have personality -- are persons -- they are just persons on a lower, less highly developed, level than are humans. One need not be either an angel or a human being in order to be personal, in order to have personality. Dogs think, though in a fashion more primitive than we do; they choose, they emote, they remember, they bond, they grieve, they exult, they communicate, etc. When both Testaments use the word "soul" regarding them, the Bible is articulating in its own way truth of this sort.


Additional point to D Senti:

As for animals in the eschaton: The lion lies down with the lamb, my friend, and the lamb is not inside the lion when it happens, which implies that the animals will undergo a change in their nature as part of the future redemption of creation, much they way they now endure the curse under which all creation (animals included) now groans, a curse that came as result of human sin, a curse under which the nature of nature was changed. That nature will be changed again, animals included, when the world is reconciled to God, and when Christ becomes all in all. The restorative grace of God will be found as far as the curse is found, and that extent, on both counts, both the cursing and the blessing, is as wide as creation, and includes animals.

Michael-

That's exactly what I said above, that the word would more accurately be rendered "spirit" or "life" than "soul," because soul has a different meaning today. So it's ridiculous that you talk about people on this site being "ignorant." I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but to give context, but I personally have read the entire Bible, and large portions of it dozens of times. I've researched it and read the NT Vulgate and some of the original Greek. I don't know Hebrew/Aramaic so that's not an option for the OT, but I've still studied it in detail (with the assistance of the Haydock Commentary).

And I'm quite certain that I am not the only one here who's done that much (or more, for many). Saying that anyone who doesn't agree with your improper translation is ignorant is itself quite ignorant.

Equating "personality" with personhood is poor logic. Ascribing personality to animals is largely anthropomorphizing them, since it's rather subjective to say they have it. And all those traits you mentioned them having (besides choice, which you really can't speculate about them having in the sense of free will) are ascribed to the sensitive soul, not the rational.

As for your eschatological comments and speculations, this is precisely the problem with private interpretation. It lets anyone believe whatever they like. The lion and lamb verse is obviously metaphorical. Does it also apply beyond that, to the literal? Couldn't say.

Will there be animals in the new creation? I honestly couldn't tell you, as the Bible doesn't say, but Aquinas leans toward no (Summa Contra Gentiles IV). Regardless of the answer, however, it has no bearing on whether animals have souls. There may well be rocks in the new creation; does that mean they have souls?

Part of the problem here, however, may have to do more with definitions than anything else. I define "soul" in the common sense as "intellect and will, the rational soul of human beings which is aeviternal and subsists after death." I think that's the most widely held definition, and it's also clear that animals do not have that, no matter how much you love your dog.

Personhood, in the strictest sense, would simply be the quality of possessing an intellect and will, which again, animals don't have. Does this mean that we can do whatever we like to them, regardless of any consideration? No; we are bound to respect God's creation. But if we have a good use for them (including for food), then yeah, we can do what we like. God gave man dominion over the animals and the earth.

Was just reading some Aquinas online and wandered across this on whether animals have a soul, btw:

http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gc2_82.htm

Okay, we're not going to get into a debate about whether or not dogs have souls. Don't let JT--who thinks it's okay to tear unborn infants apart but worries about the souls of dogs--derail you.

Whether there will be animals in the eschaton is irrelevant to the issue. If God wants them there for man and the angels, then they will be there. Nothing about that would require that they be rational.

Put differently, dogs have personality -- are persons -- they are just persons on a lower, less highly developed, level than are humans.

Sorry, calling animals "soulish" or, more properly, ensouled, does not lead to a conclusion that they are persons. A person is a subsistence of a rational nature. In order for your conclusion to even have a chance, you have to show that being ensouled implies rationality, but clearly it does not. Not when the meaning of soul in this context has to do with the character of animate life.

When we say that dogs have personality, we are not using the word "personality" in the sense we mean when we say that babies are persons, and angels are persons, and God is persons, as d_senti rightly points out. We mean that they display individuality about things that, in our common experience, we also see persons display individuality. Part of my personality is composed by the fact that I don't like chocolate. (I know, I am handicapped.) Dogs, too, have individual senses of taste, individual preferences. Individual persons display preferences for certain people over others. Dogs, too, display preferences for certain people. But these sorts of "personality" characteristics do not imply a rational soul, and therefore do not imply personhood.

Dogs think

There may, in fact, be some sense in which it is right to say that dogs think. I believe that the jury is still out on what sense that should be. But the jury is NOT out on whether there is evidence that dogs think in a fashion in which they think thoughts of immaterial being. That is, they are not capable of thinking propositions that refer to universals. THAT kind of thinking requires a spiritual, rational soul, and THAT is the rational soul that makes one a person. There is no evidence for claiming that dogs are rational, and therefore there is no basis for calling them persons.

Personalism is being discussed here because of its centrality to abortion and to all existing higher-order animals. See Hartshorne, for starters - you need not agree with all his views. I can direct you to a paper correcting his somewhat cold arguments.

I hesitate to discuss it here, as I see too much a priori resistance, typical but ironic analistic philosophy using undefined terms, lack of knowledge (but not of opinions) on the subject, and apparent lack of interest in obtaining an informed viewpoint. I also hesitate to provide you with references, as what I just said was recently borne out on another W4 thread.

Still, I will direct you to the work of two modern theologians: you can read the paper “The Chief End Of All Flesh” by Stanley Hauerwas and John Berkman, and the tome of Stephen Webb, _ On God and Dogs _.

As for definition, I am seeing a lot of opinions as to what personhood means, but other than Professor Bauman, not one has hit the mark. And for sure, everyone will define intellect and will uniquely, as they will also define love.

To be a Person is existentially relational – at a minimum, it takes two to have at least one. (Here we see the most important exemplification of ‘the many and the one’.) Prior to intellect and will, there is love. My passion for dogs comes from me and my wife’s daily life spent with ours. Laugh if you wish, (I do not ridicule your interest in the unborn, I share it), but first read Webb. And unlike many of you with political axes to grind, my Ultimate Concern is not about politics.

If you wonder over my definition of personhood, especially theological personhood, Google the works of the most recent 2 Popes and get some knowledge on.

I challenge you to see intellect and will in a fetus, a newborn, a comatose individual, or one severly autistically mentally challenged. In this, they clearly fall short in comparison with a healthy, happy dog. But unlike most of you, here, I will grant personhood to all of these. Why? In the case of the humans mentioned, there is someone else in relation (parent, grandparent, social worker, psychologist, physician), loving the person despite deficiencies w/r reciprocation.

In the case of the dog, the love is likely two-way, but even in the absence of the human response, the dog is perpetually engaged in seeking a loving relationship – like the Hound of heaven, for poetry fans. No? Take a walk down the aisle of dogs at the shelter and see how they are reaching out to relate with us, to be loved. Dogs who are – worse than being jailed for thinking and willing something, as one of you commented – on death row because no human wants them. No one cares for them, yet they love unto death. Recall the story of one of DesCartes horrid casualties – a dog nailed to a board while being cut open alive, writhing in terror and pain, yet he still licks his murderer (may he be where DesCartes went).

It is anthropocentric to grant personhood only to mankind: what of angels, of God, or of dogs?


JT, I'm not interested in the opinions on these topics of someone who only kindly grants personhood to disabled humans--"a fetus, a newborn, a comatose individual, or one severly autistically mentally challenged"--because (or if) there is someone else in relation loving that human being. Yet you are "pro-choice" on abortion, if I'm understanding correctly? And I'm getting the impression, given your repeated Christian allusions, that you think of all of this as some sort or version of Christian ethics? That's sick, and this is my blog thread, and you know what? In the circles you move in, your views may pass for high-order intellectualism, perhaps even "theological" intellectualism, but they don't here. This isn't Professor Singer's faculty lounge. Now, enough. Let's discuss something like the main post, or shush.

Hi just thinking!

Lydia’s right that your definition of personhood is contingent and conditional: Most fertilised eggs are naturally aborted without any human knowing they’ve been there in the first place. Followers of the tradition going back to Aristotle or Aquinas may not be bothered that much, but if you are then I think you’d need to pull God out like Descartes did.

"And the boyfriend says: 'If you don't have this abortion I will leave you and you will have to raise this baby yourself'."

And the court will order him to pay child support.

"Are these emotionally abusive comments also?"

Yes.

"Or, to ask it a different way: does the determination of whether it is emotional abuse depend on whether the people pointing out "consequences" and "ramifications" are RIGHT?"

No.

Tony, if your point is that the presence of emotional abuse isn't dispositive, I'll agree with you. After all, locking up Hanibal Lector and restricting his diet was emotionally abusive.

However, to use your 2:45 example above, what if the parents or boyfriend locked the woman up in their house until she delivered?

Now, I must harvest my fava beans.

Al, you almost got my point, not quite: the presence of emotional pressure, whether abusive or not, is not absolutely dispositive or whether the girl was "forced".

Tony: "Are these emotionally abusive comments also?"

Al: Yes.

Tony: Was it emotional abuse when God told Adam and Eve: "On the day that you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will surely die"?...Or, to ask it a different way: does the determination of whether it is emotional abuse depend on whether the people pointing out "consequences" and "ramifications" are RIGHT?"

Al: No.

Al, you can't cavalierly, across the board say "yes" to the first, and no to the last question, without registering any qualification, unless you are willing to have it be understood that what God said was, also, emotional abuse. I, personally, would walk many, many miles and submit to many unpleasantries before I proposed that God was emotionally abusive, that's why I proposed 3 possible ways of qualifying emotional pressure to help distinguish whether it is abusive. I have had this discussion with a brother, who thought that my father was abusive for enforcing Christian morality within the family, and thinks that rearing a child with a religion is child abuse.

I've noticed that it's a common tactic of the left to, instead of engaging in rational debate, simply claim everyone else is too "prejudiced" or "ignorant" to understand what they're talking about. If your arguments are valid and convincing (that is, not composed of "they're a person because I love them so so much"), then there's no reason to say those kinds of things. It's only to protect one's own ego.

And one last thing: the handicapped are categorically capable of rational thought (sharing in every way the same nature as those who have it), and therefore possess rational souls that are simply interfered with by a defect of the body. The fact that I even have to explain that disgusts me, though.

Sorry for the diversion of the thread, but I do think that the definition of personhood does factor into the debate, for obvious reasons. As per the "choice devours itself" thread, I would have to agree with what's been said before. After all, choice devouring itself wouldn't be a concern outside of the context of a moral dilemma.

That would mean that one would have to first accept that abortion IS a moral dilemma, which would make it of limited use in debating with pro-choicers. It's still an interesting thought though, and certainly business as usual for the left. Anyone who doesn't accept their views is either ignorant or bigoted, anyone who doesn't exercise their "rights" where they would is trapped by social convention or backwards, and every issue is seen in the context of their limited worldview.

If you want to develop a pro-life left, in other words (as mentioned I believe on a different thread), claim that it's a form of class warfare. :) It's a way for the bourgeois to cull the numbers of the proletariat so they can maintain the eviiiil capitalist ways!

Hey, d-senti!

You haven’t quite explained what being ‘capable of’ means; but if it disgusts you to try, I won’t ask you to!

Of course there are differences between political and philosophical debate, but Lydia’s already mentioned several issues over which there’s far greater consensus than there is over abortion: Pretending that there is consensus where there’s none doesn’t necessarily strengthen one’s negotiating position.

A woman who aborts her nth+1 pregnancy because she cannot provide n+1 kids with the standard of living and opportunities she can provide n kids may be making a pretty ‘Chinese’ decision, albeit as an individual. I agree that people unwilling to put their hands in their pockets to fund a welfare state may well have an interest in women being able to abort that nth+1 pregnancy legally and at public expense; what’s more difficult to understand is people who object to abortion on moral grounds refusing to put their hands in their pockets to finance a welfare state.

Overseas-

Hello. If you look at what I said, I stated that they are _categorically_ capable of rational thought, meaning they belong to the particular genus of individuals that possess rational thought (humans).

Not quite sure what you're getting at with the issue of consensus.

People engaging in sex know that the consequence of it is sometimes conception. If one is unable to provide for children, one shouldn't be engaging in the activity that produces children in the first place. Saying that the state is responsible for repairing the negative consequences of people's poor choices is ridiculous.

If I gamble away money I can't afford to lose, there's no moral obligation for the state to pay for my basic needs; similarly, if I impregnate my wife when we are utterly incapable of caring for a child, there's no moral obligation for the state to support that child.

That's not to say that the child, who is innocent, should have to pay for their parents' mistakes either, but this "something went wrong, therefore the state has a duty to fix it" mentality is absurd. If the parent(s) really can't care for the child, there is adoption, the support of churches and family members, etc.

The important thing to realize here, though, is that the state is NOT the de facto solution for any dilemma or injustice that one endures. That's the problem with the nanny state today; everyone expects it to act like their parent, and so we've all become petulant children. If I get fired, the state "must" give me money. If I get cancer, the state "must" pay for my medical care. If I get too old to work but didn't save up for retirement, the state "must" provide for me.

What a crock. Choices have consequences - the state's job is not to undo the negative consequences of your bad decisions.

Overseas

...what’s more difficult to understand is people who object to abortion on moral grounds refusing to put their hands in their pockets to finance a welfare state.

This is precisely the issue that came to my mind when I asked

What other issues of morality are on your legislative agenda?

I really should have emphasized your the first time to have made my point more clearly. Your, here, refers to any individual or politically active group.

There are consequences to welfare, abortion, and indifference to animals. But your Ultimate Cincern may vary.

Lydia, I resent your (and here, I mean you) clairvoyance w/r to my convictions. What I have said here is meant only to indicate that I hold the theological personhood of dogs with the same urgency and moral profundity as you ascribe to ending abortion.

I do not hope for or expect government to make my Ultimate Concern a reality.

d-senti

Hi again! I do appreciate your efforts; but many philosophers think that being ‘capable of’ e.g. rational thought involves a trickier concept than may seem at first sight: If we’re in a realm where things are different to how they are, then why would a dog not be ‘capable of’ rational thought? If we can ascribe ‘possession’ of what there’s no actual evidence of one possessing, then why not? Perhaps dogs are rational creatures with a life-span shorter than would be required to exhibit rational thought, say. Don't worry about consensus though. I thought you claimed that admitting an issue is controversial or entering into debate is already some concession to the other side; but perhaps that’s not what you meant.

Re consequences, people riding in cars know that the consequence of it is sometimes a road-accident. Why people don’t always walk everywhere is a good question, but even pedestrians can get involved in road-accidents as long as some people ride in cars; so here’s an analogy with being raped.

There's some tension in your views re the role of the state: Why does the state have a moral obligation to stop a citizen from terminating a pregnancy resulting in offspring the citizen can’t support, if the state has no moral obligation to support a citizen’s offspring? The state’s choices have consequences too; and if it’s not the state's job to undo the negative consequences of individual citizens’ bad decisions, why is it the citizens’ job to undo the bad consequences of the state’s decisions?

My claim was conditional. To put it another way, if one’s e.g. against the death penalty then it seems unreasonable for one to also oppose taxation to support a prison system. Yet, convicted criminals seem to get a better deal compared e.g. to the people you mention, who get fired or fail to save enough for retirement, because they scraped to bring up that nth+1 kid perhaps. I bet that fewer people serving a jail sentence go to bed hungry or die of untreated cancer than children go to bed on an empty stomach or die because they lack healthcare. Is this the intended consequence of a policy that seems fair to you? Of course we could abolish spending on prisons e.g. by legislating the death penalty for any offence whatsoever; but then, it's just not self-evident how to tell a good choice from a bad decision.

just thinking,

OK, so let's see what d-senti thinks.

I hold the theological personhood of dogs with the same urgency and moral profundity as you ascribe to ending abortion.

That's nuts.

Would a real heaven not have dogs and horses?

Overseas-

You say that "many philosophers" think that such a stance is a slippery slope. I would argue that's not true at all; I'm sure a few do, but I can't think of any well-known philosophers who don't think the handicapped have souls. I feel the point has already been sufficiently proven, and that you are beating a dead horse as it were so as to work out a way in which dogs have souls. Again, dogs belong to a category of creatures that have NEVER expressed rational thought in any circumstance or any capacity, ever. Humans have. Nothing more to say, really.

I never said that engaging in debate is conceding something to the other side. Someone else did. I think that when someone is sincere and appears rational, engaging them in debate on any issue is a good thing. If, over the course of the argument, they demonstrate they are insincere or irrational, then there's no merit to continuing. I would say the "dogs have souls" argument has reached that point.

I honestly haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about re car accidents and rape.

The most fundamental obligations of the state is this: provide for the common defense, both from external and internal threats. It IS the duty of the state to protect the lives of its citizens. Abortion is killing one of their citizens (or potential/future citizens, if you prefer). This is simply enforcing the most common and fundamental of a state's requirements for legitimacy; by making abortion illegal, they are preventing people from engaging in murder. Whatever the consequences are to the person doesn't matter. Saying "my life will now be worse because I can't kill someone - I demand compensation!" is downright absurd.

I think our prison system is too lenient, and that the people inside should be required to work (if able) to help pay their way. Call it slavery if you like, but it's prison slavery, not race-based slavery, and I'm fine with that. Regardless, as wards of the state, a minimum level of care is necessary on their part, as their welfare IS the duty of the state in that particular case.

Economically, the state should simply provide a level playing field. Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity; liberals believe in equality of outcome.

JT, I don't give a plug nickel whether or not you resent my reasonable conjecture that you are pro-choice w.r.t. abortion. There are a bushel-full of not-so-subtle clues in your comments, and I asked it as a question in any event, which you were free to answer as you wished.

I would point out that you said in your own voice what your reason is for granting personhood in your ethical system to "a fetus, a newborn, a comatose individual, or one severely autistically mentally challenged":

In the case of the humans mentioned, there is someone else in relation (parent, grandparent, social worker, psychologist, physician), loving the person despite deficiencies w/r reciprocation.

That speaks for itself, in itself. It's reprehensible as a reason for considering someone to be a person. That is neither _the_ reason nor _a_ reason for saying that any of these people is a person.

And anybody who gives the same moral urgency to the "theological personhood" of dogs as I give to making it illegal to dismember live human infants in their mothers' wombs is ethically insane, as Bill Luse has trenchantly pointed out.


Arguably, most of you are holding to dogmatic scholastic definition of humans as rational and with a will (self-determination). This is A-T straight up. It can clearly create problems that blur insight in cases such as I mentioned, and for definitions in euthanasia and or abortion issues. Moderns will disagree – there it is.

Also, saying reason and self-determination are the defining characteristic of creatures worth ensouling, Why do you think dogs do not reason or exercise self-determination in their subjective experiences. Cognitive scientists know it, natural philosophers like Hume, Darwin and Whitehead acknowledged it, and dog lovers interact with it daily. And note, of all creatures, dogs are the most socially attuned to humans.

But Lydia,

I have a right to set the record straight w/r unsubstantiated conclusions as to my beliefs, and misrepresented statements I actually did make.

JT, I'm not interested in the opinions on these topics of someone who only kindly grants personhood to disabled humans--"a fetus, a newborn, a comatose individual, or one severly autistically mentally challenged"--because (or if) there is someone else in relation loving that human being.

It was stunning that that a philosopher would so refuse to consider a basic tenet of a well-respected, long-standing school of theological thought, personalism, based on her misrepresentation of what is stated.

In first responding to the chorus of comments positing that in order to be human, a creature must have intellect and will (reason and freedom of self-determination), I specifically chose four exemplifications of humans that clearly do not possess these traits. I could have stopped it there to argue potentiality, or some dogma or other about exceptions. Instead, I used the examples to point out that the classification of a ‘theological person’ is not ultimately determined on the basis of rationality, but on relationality, and on that basis, abortion opponents have solid theological ground for their belief.

Yet you are "pro-choice" on abortion, if I'm understanding correctly? And I'm getting the impression, given your repeated Christian allusions, that you think of all of this as some sort or version of Christian ethics? That's sick…

And that is an uncharitable insult based on complete misrepresenting of what I first said and just restated above, as well as an unsubstantiated conclusion of my political makeup. I am a political conservative, who does not like abortion, but believes that government is the wrong venue for opposing its practice.

and this is my blog thread, and you know what? In the circles you move in, your views may pass for high-order intellectualism, perhaps even "theological" intellectualism, but they don't here.

Undeserved contempt from someone who knows better, I think.

On relationality. In the instances I gave, none of the 4 SPECIFIC EXAMPLES was capable of reason or self-determination. Without other persons giving, caring, and loving them, they are gone in days.

In relating, the theological person, esp. in cases of the least among us is a gift that allows the recipient to flourish. I have noted the innate compulsion of dogs to so relate to us.
The prophesy of the Peaceable Kingdom describes our bringing about evolutionary advance in relating to all creatures.

I am a political conservative, who does not like abortion, but believes that government is the wrong venue for opposing its practice.

In my book, if you think that the murder of unborn children should not be "opposed" in the same way that we would oppose the murder of you, you are not a social conservative. I have no idea of your economic or other views on issues commonly considered to fall within the "conservative" ambit, of course.

But how in the world can you tell me that it is an "insult" to call you "pro-choice on abortion" when you yourself say merely that you "do not like" abortion and also that you do not think it should be "opposed" as a matter of law? That _is_ the pro-choice position. It was President Clinton who said "safe, legal, and rare." There are pixels upon pixels all over the place of pro-choicers who will go on calling abortion an "agonizing decision," who will say even that they "hate" it, and the like. It has been de rigeur among pro-choicers for a long time to insist on their dislike of and distaste for abortion. (Not all do, but it has been a common pro-choice position.)

You think it should be a legal choice. You are pro-choice on the issue as a political matter. I have not insulted you at all. In fact, my inference from your many statements was not only justified but also true, rendering it knowledge. (TJB definition of "knowledge" and all that, since you seem to want to talk about what "a philosopher" would say.)

You can say all you like, piously, about "the least among us" as "a gift" that "allows the recipient to flourish." Charming. But for some of those human gifts, you think it should be legal to tear off their arms and legs and crush their skulls. You "do not like it," but there it is... I am distinctly unimpressed. That's faux Christian ethics. The biblical allusions don't make it anything else.

I meant that 'relating to yhe least' is a gift.

Yet you are "pro-choice" on abortion, if I'm understanding correctly? And I'm getting the impression, given your repeated Christian allusions, that you think of all of this as some sort or version of Christian ethics? That's sick…
And that is an uncharitable insult

You know, I can kind of see now how all this talk of relationships among persons would seem irritating to you.

Since 3 in 10 women have had an abortion, be careful in starting up conversations like ours the next time you go out in public. There are probably laws prohibiting such behavior.

He's still not denied that he's pro-choice. (Pro-abortion, in other words, liberal, in other words.)

Would a real heaven not have dogs and horses?

Maybe, but I hope not, al.

Would a real heaven not have dogs and horses?

Maybe, but I hope not, al.

Seriously, Why do you say this?

I just cannot get my head around the common Christian anthropocentric claim to exclusive claim on the Kingdom of God. What is at the heart of the extreme animus that is so often displayed.

What do you feel you lose if the claim is not exclusive to humans?

Your answer may shed insight into similar anti-abortion animus.

I can’t think of many philosophers who believe in souls, d-senti, human or canine! Anyway, philosophers would want to distinguish between souls and rationality or personhood; it may seem like nitpicking but it’s part of the job description.

If you think abortion is murder and should be criminalised, would women who have abortions be executed or serve a prison sentence? I don’t see how your proposal for making the prison system less lenient helps with the argument: ‘Call it slavery if you like’, but being guaranteed a government job sounds like a privilege to me! The woman who aborts that nth+1 pregnancy becomes a ‘ward of the state’, while the woman who carries that nth+1 pregnancy to term is left to fend for herself and her n+1 kids. The n kids of the woman who opts for an abortion become ‘wards of the state’ - whether mum’s executed or sent to prison - while the n+1 kids of the woman who carries to term are left to go hungry or die. So the state provides women who break the law and their dependents with the housing, maintenance, healthcare and secure jobs it denies people who don’t break the law. How is that not absurd?

William,

My apologies - I misread your response to al.

My second question still holds merit for some others.

Overseas,

The question of sentencing the mother of an aborted fetus really does raises a plethora of strange scenarios w/ no clear answers.

It is for just such consequences of government involvement in this matter that so many people respond with the Hindu vote, mu - neither yes or no. We are not anti-abortion or pro choice.

There are probably laws prohibiting such behavior.

Excuse me, what? That had better be a joke.

I can’t think of many philosophers who believe in souls, d-senti, human or canine! Anyway, philosophers would want to distinguish between souls and rationality or personhood; it may seem like nitpicking but it’s part of the job description.

Quite right, Overseas.

My ultimate concern over animal personhood is not so much that I believe with certainty that they must have souls, only that should it be the case that we have souls, I am then certain that dogs do too.

I cannot suffer any religion that insists with certainty to the contrary – such a faith is unjustifiably anthropocentric. Here I stand, I can do no other.

I found this today. http://www.jp2forum.org/events/Selner-Wright.htm

Take out all the outmoded essentialist talk from A-T, and lose the anthropocentric bias that dogs are not rational, and you have a theology I can support. (There is some good stuff in this article for pro-lifers, too.)

There are probably laws prohibiting such behavior.


Excuse me, what? That had better be a joke.

Right, you are. The irony I wanted to point out is that the government that can legislate political correctness is not the one I would look to for resolving issues that are matters of conscience in a contentious society.

Did you look at the article I linked above?

Okay, JT, you're really starting to annoy me. I'm willing to believe that this is partly a problem of my being in a bad mood. I realize that the main post is a bit diffuse. (Though we never even got a chance to discuss the conservative aspect of it.) And I realize that it's become in some measure a discussion of abortion. But you dragged in the whole "do dogs go to heaven" thing gratuitously and have kept it up with a pompousness that is unpleasant. Your Buddhist zen shtick when talking about the murder of infants is disgusting. Your implication that calling abortion murder in conversations in public is _illegal_ is un-funny (and I can't even tell whether it was meant to be funny), your pseudo-royal "we" is laughable, and your repeated comments about what you "can suffer" (cum Martin Luther reference, no less), where it's all about dogs and theology, for crying out loud, coming from a person who makes meaningless noises (neither "yay" nor "nay") about the murder of innocent human children, is incredibly wearying.

Let's try this again: I like dogs. I've even written a whole post of my own on this very blog on the interesting question of whether dogs go to heaven. But given your position on actual pro-life issues, I DON'T CARE AT ALL what you can "suffer" and what you "can't," I'm incredibly bored with your self-aggrandizing talk about dogs and theology, it is OT for this thread, and I want you to BAG IT. Please do so, starting now.

I'm rather inclined to close comments on the thread simply because they have become so sidetracked, silly, and centered on such a frustrating commentator.

Lydia -

I agree. That's why I stopped posting. For my part, I apologize for drawing this conversation out with JT (and to a lesser degree, Overseas). It's quite ridiculous, and not worth responding to.

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