Thursday, November 02, 2006

And I have answers too

Wow ... someone wonders what somebody else thinks, and that person *asks* him in a direct but non-accusatory and non-loaded way? Who knew that was possible?

Dave Armstrong asks for "agree" or "disagree":
[1] torture is intrinsically immoral yet [do you] grant loopholes according to circumstance and relative ethics

If any act, once properly defined and understood, is intrinsically immoral, then there are no loopholes of circumstance or moral relativity.

This isn't to say though that:

(a) Properly defining and understanding the act might not be very difficult and might not itself require considering circumstances. Theft is intrinsically immoral but sometimes the same action can be made not-theft by circumstances; or
(b) An act's intrinsic immorality ends (or even gets us very far on) questions of what the secular law ought to say or do about them. Abortion, contraception and masturbation are all intrinsically immoral, but I think the law ought to take very different strances on all three -- a distinction I don't think very controversial or un-Catholic.

[2] do you deliberately intend to dissent against what you know to be JPII's teaching.


This isn't to say though that:

(a) I think VS80 (you can toss in GS27 and EV3) can be read as a free-standing proof-text; or
(b) I think some hermeneutic strategies, perhaps even the "common-sense" ones, might not be indefensible

To use one widely-discussed concrete example, what do you think, e.g., about waterboarding? Is it intrinsically immoral? If so, you agree with Mark (and myself). If not, why?

It certainly is "torture" in the colloquial sense that it's some bad shit that I wouldn't want to undergo myself (but I wouldn't want to be imprisoned either, which proves that the Golden Rule is not very relevant on this sort of issue).

Frankly, I'm not sure whether waterboarding is torture. My inclination is to say that it isn't because it doesn't threaten life or limb or do serious physical damage. It clearly does intend to change the person's mind in short order, so it may depend on what the definition of torture is. But I'm very wary of defining "changing a person's mind" apart from "doing serious physical damage" as the essence of torture, for reasons relating to other matters. I'm open to persuasion on this, but I'm totally not-persuadable ("anti-persuadable" might be more like it) by using pictures, piling on adjectives or bald assertions, which is all certain other people do.

But to use Shea's two other favorite examples, "Palestinian hanging" and "cold cells" certainly are torture, particularly if (in the latter case) it risks hypothermia. Which is a judgment call, sure, but certainly one that non-doctors are not fit to make.

And since you ask how I would type myself, I would certainly be a post-V2 neocon Catholic (and an adult revert, if that matters) who considers John Paul II the greatest man of my lifetime.


Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks, Victor. Again, I don't see how anyone could deny that you have been unjustly charged. That is, unless someone thinks you are lying through your teeth here.

Of course I don't think that. I try to approach people with charity and grant good faith and a large benefit of the doubt unless confronted with compelling, overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

God bless,

Dave Armstrong

paul zummo said...

Hey, Victor, sorry to go OT, but you intrigued me by your last comment. You said you would call yourself a neocon. Forgive me if this has been discussed before, but exactly how would you distinguish neoconservatism from conservatism? In other words, I would describe myself as a conservative (or, better put, an unhyphenated conservative), and I consider paleocons and neocons as distinct from plain old conservatives. I've always described neocons as those that are more hospitable to the welfare state, and much less hospitable - actually, just downright hostile to realist foreign policy. Do you have a different working definition?

Victor said...


I consider myself a neocon for the following reasons:

(1) I have no problem with a powerful central government and the post-New-Deal regulatory/welfare state (largely because I think this is what Church Social Teaching requires in our present circumstances ... natch). And while I think capitalism is the best way to pursue economic ends, sometimes its greater efficiencies have to be sacrificed in the name of other ends;

(2) I have no problem with the civil-rights laws properly understood (that same natch above) and have no nostalgia for the official and social racism that was common prior to the civil-rights era and too often defended by many conservatives (and liberals) of that era. I am completely immune to Confederate nostalgia in all its forms;

Or in perhaps the most general terms of all -- I am a neocon because I have no per-se problem with modernity.

paul zummo said...

Or in perhaps the most general terms of all -- I am a neocon because I have no per-se problem with modernity.

Neither do I, but I am not sure I would call myself a neocon. I am in complete agreement on point two, less so on point one. I think that you are distinguishing yourself from paleoconservative thought, but again, to me paleocons and "unhyphenated" cons are not necessarily the same thing.

Anyway, thanks for the clarification.