Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Combox A'Poppin'!

Christopher Blosser has done everyone in the Christian blogging community a huge favor by compiling the information in his two posts on torture (here and here) that I mentioned the other day. The topic is obviously a controversial one, so it comes as no surprise to find nearly 100 comments in the combox of the second post alone. Sadly, the level of discourse there is not what it could be, and at least part of the reason why lies in the fact that few have taken the trouble to explore the demarcation problem in any depth (this post was my tentative step in that direction, though I must confess that I did not get very far, and I devoted more time to that post than to any other on this blog--it is a remarkably vexed question). This is evident from the fact that the discussion takes the form "When, if ever, is torture morally licit", rather than "What, if any, degrees of violent treatment qualify as acts of torture". For Roman Catholics, torture is never morally licit, but people often disagree on whether a particular act of violence perpetrated against another person ought to be counted as an instance of torture. This might seem like a distinction without a difference, but the fact that the distinction goes unremarked in certain fora ought to raise red flags for anyone who hopes to gain any moral clarity on this issue. When the subject is one of such import (and that it is of great import is admitted by most of those contributing to the Battle of the Combox) it really does pay to be particularly careful in one's formulations, hence just a little philosophical distinction-drawing is in order, whether or not any particular person happens to enjoy the results of engaging in such difficult work.

In his dialogue called Phaedo, Plato has Socrates discuss certain folks who are not interested in the finial details of distinction drawing of this kind, and he characterizes them as misologoi, "haters of reasoning". The word there contains the form logos, the Greek word for, among other things, reasoning. It is no accident that the Divine Logos, Holy Wisdom, pleads with us through the mouth of the prophet, "Come now, and let us reason together...".

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Sometimes killing is not "killing", i. e., sometimes it's 'indirect' and therefore licit.

Sometimes, in some schools of moral theology, lying is not "lying", i. e., a lie is essentially wrong because in justice you must offer the truth; if a persecutor asks for your hidden Jews, his demand for truth is unjust and one may say, "No, Jews here," without lying.

I think perhaps this sort of thing might present an additional wrinkle worth adding to the already vexed conversation.