Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Archdruid's latest, In the World After Abundance, called to mind some of the comments for this thread at The Spearhead, Still They Serve, which advocated nuclear energy. We all like our American way of life, the convenience and its easiness. Some would perpetuate it at all costs, dismissing the risks involved as negligible. Some men(?) have even criticized Angela Merkel's decision to move Germany away from nuclear energy as the typical decision-making of a woman, valuing security/safety more than anything else. I haven't done the risk analysis and I question the use of statistics in arguments, but even if safety/health is not the highest good for human beings, can we say that a life of convenience is worth the risk of something really bad happening?

How does the argument from safety against nuclear energy differ from the corresponding argument for gun control/prohibition? Does it follow from whether the fear is reasonable or not? Is inaction therefore justified? (We would then have to deal with the question of risk assessments. Oh, and the commensurability of goods.) Or is it because a gun is not always in use while a nuclear power plant is? The negative effects of nuclear power are always being contained while the plant is in operation. What can the nuclear power plant be protected against, and how many different things could happen to threaten it? Only one bad thing could happen with a gun, its being misused, so in comparison the number of safeguards that are needed for a gun are fewer.

Women are typically more cautious, while men are more willing to take risks.
Each "attitude" or inclination has its place, but one must consider the reasonableness of the inclination by the goods involved. It may be foolhardy to risk death for $50. But for $200 million, if it could help one's family and village?

I haven't really focused on this aspect of moral reasoning before...

(cross-posted at The New Beginning)

The limits of human law

The Western Confucian juxtaposes the view of the state (and law) given by Nicholas Hosford in The Role of the State with John Finnis's interpretation of Aquinas in his SEP article. According to the latter, "coercive jurisdiction extends to defending persons and property both by force and by the credible threat of punishment for criminal or other unjust appropriation or damage[, b]ut it does not extend to enforcing any part of morality other than the requirements of justice insofar as they can be violated by acts external to the choosing and acting person's will."

In his article dealing with the limits of law, Aquinas writes that law prohibits "only the more grievous vices," chiefly grave forms of injustice. But it is not necessarily limited to prohibiting injustice, as Finnis (and liberals) would maintain. Because of the unity of the virtues, one could argue that law can prohibit those "private" vices which could potentially undermine justice and living up to one's obligations to the community. (Is it not the case that disordered desires can lead to the performing of unjust acts for the sake of fulfilling those desires?) Injustice is a direct threat to communal living, but it seems to me that law can be used to protect all that is ordered to virtuous life with others.

One way to counter this is deny this thesis of the unity of the virtues (as Finnis does, I believe - I will have to double-check). One can separate the acquisition of justice from the acquisition of the other virtues. Finnis does this by weakening the notion of virtue to the point that it is simply habitual rule-following. One of his disciples, Robert George, allows for the extent of law to be greater (so that it encompasses the banning of pornography, for example). I will have to see if he diverges from Finnis in his premises. (Making Men Moral and In Defense of Natural Law.)
David Werling, Why Not the Univocal?
A Response to Fr. Cavalcoli in the Ongoing Debate
Regarding Vatican II and the Traditionalist Critique

(Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, Why Not Univocal Indeed!)

Does God command genocide?

Two by Kyle Cupp: Genocide and Divine Command Theory and Authoritarian Ethics. See the comments to the first by Dominic Holtz, O.P. and A Sinner.