Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm willing to acknowledge credit where credit is due, Seamus ...

In that I'm glad that Mark no longer holds Michael Ledeen responsible for the situation at the Iraqi orphanage. No word yet on linking Ledeen with the victims of communism, but I am still more than happy to acknowledge progress where it occurs.

In the case of the latter, two possible explanations were offered to explain what Mark was trying to say. The first of these were in our own combox:
Mark wasn't saying that Ledeen supports Communism or is responsible for 100 million deaths, only that Ledeen shares the underlying philosophy of the Communist apart from Communism's accidental features like state ownership of everything and the color red. That philosophy, for lack of a snazzier term, is Evilism.

So, according to Mark:

1) Communist butchers believed in Evilism, which allowed them to kill 100 million people.

2) Michael Ledeen believes in Evilism, as can clearly be seen from his work.

3) Therefore it is a good idea to link to this article about Communism killing 100 million people with a Ledeen quote expounding Evilism.

I think that Victor answered it pretty well, so I will repost his response:
Yes, but because "evil" is (1) not an ideology or a program; and (2) comes in so many mutually incompatible flavors, "evilism" is not a meaningful term of political discourse. You might as well use the equally capacious term "politics" and so smear everyone who practiced politics from Pericles to Hillary with every sin ever committed in the name of "evilism/politics."

I am right in assuming that the ridiculousness of this child-like Shavian thought [sic] process [sic] that had to be you point, correct?

Actually, reading anonymous's comment again, I'm not sure that I was ironic/sarcastic. I mean this ...


Mark [said] ... only that Ledeen shares the underlying philosophy of the Communist apart from Communism's accidental features like state ownership of everything and the color red.

... reads disturbingly serious.

What "underlying philosophy" would that be?

It cannot be "evilism," particularly coming from a man who loudly insists that he realizes that nobody practices evil for its own sake. On these very terms, there can be no essentialist ideology as "evilism," distinguished only by accidental opinions like nationalism, history, property, religion, classes, institutions and all the rest of the things that distinguish the various ideologies from one another, whether good, bad or indifferent.

Nor can the "underlying philosophy" be "the end justifies the means," because that presupposes that there are in fact ends. Consequentialist philosophy is not an ideology in itself for that very reason. Even on Shea's kindergarten caricature terms, consequentialism does not, cannot, tell you what consequences are desireable (only that, once you've determined that, all means are acceptable).

State ownership of everything is not an "accidental feature" of Communism (certainly not as the color red is accidental). If anything can be called its "underlying philosophy," collective property ownership would be it.

Mark offered his own explanation over at Blosser's:
I merely note that his consequentialist arguments are identical with those of the Duranty "you must break eggs to make omelettes" school of apologetics. Anybody can be a consequentialist, not just a Communist. And consequentialist moral reasoning leads to great evil. I think you can figure that out.

Except, as Victor notes, consequentialism is a philosophy rather than an ideology. I also don't think that it is nearly as self-evident as Mark does that Ledeen is a consequentialist (he has written columns against torture, for instance), but then I don't subscribe to the worst possible view of the man as the source of all that now ills Iraq who seeks to murder prisoners at every turn.

Moving on, I would note that Mark's jihad against fans of 24 continues apace. No word as to whether or not that degree of scorn applies to Jimmy Akin, who has himself used 24 when discussing the issue of torture as it relates to moral theology.

7 comments:

Bubba said...

I wonder how many actual omelettes have been made without the breaking of eggs.

I think the philosophy of consequentialism can be more moral or less moral depending on what consequences are desired: a consequentialism in the name of individual liberty is far preferable than one done to line the treasury of a despot.

And, since this is an imperfect and fallen world, we must reckon with unpleasant facts: no system of criminal justice system can overcome fully our limited knowledge and sinful tendencies to ensure no miscarriages of justice. In fact, the very measures that ensure that we don't wrongly convict the innocent inevitably make it more difficult to rightly convict the guilty. It seems to me that a consistent Mark Shea would criticize one who acknowledges this and nevertheless supports a flawed system despite its flaws.

Bubba said...

And, Mark writes:

And consequentialist moral reasoning leads to great evil.

Isn't this looking at the consequences of consequentialism itself a form of consequentialist moral reasoning?

Anonymous said...

Isn't this looking at the consequences of consequentialism itself a form of consequentialist moral reasoning?

No. Just because some things are intrinsically evil, and thus can never be justified, doesn't mean that consequences are irrelevant. For example, it is morally acceptable to drink, but not to do so right before driving (particularly down a windy mountain road at night). Doing so is immoral not because drinking alcohol is inherently immoral, but because it is likely to have the consequence of getting you and who knows who else killed.

Anonymous said...

Though I should note that the quoted argument about consequentialist moral reasoning leading to great evil isn't in itself a valid argument against consequentialism being true, though it is a decent supporting argument once that's established (or among those who assume it).

Bubba said...

I didn't say consequences don't matter: I just don't find an argument from consequences to be a very compelling rebuttal of consequentialism.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say consequences don't matter: I just don't find an argument from consequences to be a very compelling rebuttal of consequentialism.

Why? Because both words come from the same root? Semi-clever rhetoric, perhaps, but hardly a valid objection.

The problem with using the argument from consequences as a proof isn't that it smacks of consequentialism, since both consequentialists and non-consequentialists alike think bad consequences can make an action bad, but because consequences have nothing to do with determining the truth. Even if one were to lay Nazism at the feet of Darwin, it would say nothing about whether Darwin was right or not. Even if believing in the Ptolemaic system would usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity, that wouldn't make it any less erroneous.

Anonymous said...

To make it even clearer, let's imagine an alternate reality in which matters of truth can be determined through ethical reasoning, i.e., by determining whether it is wrong to believe them or not. In that world, both consequentialists and non-consequentialists would accept as valid the argument that consequentialism is wrong because it leads to great evil. Where the difference would come in would be if one were to argue that consequentialism is right because it leads to great good. In that case the consequentialism would accept the argument as valid while the non-consequentialist would not, assuming he saw believing consequentialism as inherently wrong.