Thursday, November 24, 2011

James Chastek, Defining torture

There seems to be some sort of silent agreement on both sides that this is an impossible thing to do. I’m missing something here since the action doesn’t seem that hard to define: the use of physical pain to break the will of another, where “breaking the will” (which can mean more than one thing) means “breaking ones self possession”. The definition manifests why such an action would be intrinsically evil, since to be in possession of ones own power to choose or of ones own will is necessary for human dignity. A man is a lord of his action, so much so that to attempt to break this lordship is, in a very real sense, worse than murder. It is the attempt to kill what is most of all human in a human being.

Puzzling, as this is a definition that those adhering to a "liberal" version of Natural Law might accept, but it's a poor one, as far as I can tell -- how does one distinguish torture from the deterrent effect of law or legitimate coercion, for example police officers using pain compliance on those actively resisting arrest? (See my previous posts on this topic.)

Torture (or fear) does not destroy voluntariness (see the treatment of voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary) , though in some instances fear can diminish responsibility.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Zenit: Theological Commission to Continue Social Doctrine Study
Also Considering Monotheism and Theological Method

English Catholics to Pray for Queen
Bishops Approve Text for Her 60th Anniversary

Obligation of the Liturgy of the Hours
And More on "For Many"

Feast of Blessed Miguel Pro, November 24

A page for Blessed Miguel Pro.

Eastern Christian Books: Ecclesial Hierarchy

Eastern Christian Books: Ecclesial Hierarchy

Eastern Christian Books: Oxford Handbook of the Trinity

Eastern Christian Books: Oxford Handbook of the Trinity

Eastern Christian Books: Books for Christmas: Some Recommendations

Eastern Christian Books: Books for Christmas: Some Recommendations
Revenge of the Neo-Cats by Hilary White

If they have heard of the Oath Against Modernism they hate it and will frequently tell you that Pope (St) Pius X, while he might have had his heart in the right place, was too heavy-handed about the Modernists and accomplished nothing but to drive them underground. (That is if they will concede that Modernists ever existed at all and were not merely the product of the paranoid fantasies of popes given to overreaction, cf: Freemasons, leprechauns and Soviet infiltrators.)

They did a lot of good work in the 70s, 80s and 90s, particularly with founding universities and colleges that more or less teach Catholicism as if it were true. Christendom and TAC are the best examples, with Franciscan U at Steubie bringing up the academic rear. They are often very articulate about the evils of contraception and abortion, but frequently fall into the various intellectual traps designed for them because of their determination that Catholicism and democracy are inherently compatible.

In brief then, neo-Catholics, or neo-conservative Catholics are people who like to think of themselves as conservatives both politically and religiously, who are terrified by the idea of looking like a fanatic, who like to talk a great deal about how the Church has "a place in the public debate". Though they object to being called "moderate", they secretly love the term to be applied to them, and feel like they are at last being taken seriously by The Big Kids at the New York Times, the BBC and CNN when they are invited to comment on debate programmes. In general they are mostly an American phenomenon, with a bit of spillage over the Canadian border. Interestingly, they are almost unknown in Britain, where the divisions are much less ambiguously between Trads and the insane heretics running the show.

Writing a taxonomy for something non-substantial (rather an aggregation of accidents) is difficult, and I don't think faculty members of the small Catholic colleges, who might be "neo-Cats" in other ways, balk at taking the Oath against Modernism. Not all "Neo-Cats" are "theocons (Catholic neo-cons, the biggest examples being Neuhaus and Weigl). They do tend to be ardent Republican part members, though perhaps some are slowly becoming disgusted with the party and are supporting Ron Paul. (I think he gets more support from traddies than mainstream conservative Catholics.) I do think that the rest of the characterization applies, but only because Catholics are culturally Americans, and so they have imbibed certain ideas about feminism, "free market" capitalism, and so on. A failure of catechesis to produce counter-cultural Catholics...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The tyranny of possession

I'm not a grammarian or logician, so this is probably in need of correction.

In English, and in other languages, one can predicate one thing of another through "to be" but also "to have." "My hair is black" vs. "I have black hair" -- how different is the meaning of these two sentences. But is thinking in terms of possession potentially dangerous because it may be coupled with an erroneous understanding of dominion or ownership?

I have a body. --> I own my body. --> I can do with it as I please.

One can make the first statement about physical reality without having a wrong attitude of self-ownership. But isn't it the case that our moral attitudes can distort our understanding of physical reality, and not just of the ethical life?

What is it to have something? To be able to use or control it, but also to have the first claim (not necessarily an exclusive claim) to its use? To be able to use or dispose of it at will? It is mine, and not yours. To define it in terms of "ownership" does not clarify, since our understanding ownership follows having and is not prior to it?

"To have" may be in different ways, but the problem is to understand it only with reference to absolute sovereignty?

This is related to an ethics grounded upon the good. It can make a significant difference between conceiving of the good as something to be done as opposed to something that is possessed. Striving to possess something as opposed to acting well (or virtuously) -- having God vs. living or being in union with God. Thinking in terms of habitus may foster too much of a subjective conception of happiness that exacerbates self-love?
Daniel McInerny, Moral Absolutes and Foyle's War
The Word on EWTN

Documentary on the new translation of the Roman Missal.