Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Aphorism X

Being anti-Scylla does not make one pro-Charybdis.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is a bystander who simply watches a rapist proceed to rape his victim without performing any action whatsoever to prevent the rape merely a bystander?

brendon said...

No, he is a coward.

However, if he intentionally kills the rapist to save the woman, then he is a murderer, mitigating circumstances or no.

One does not have to be pro-murder to be anti-rape.

Anonymous said...

"However, if he intentionally kills the rapist to save the woman, then he is a murderer, mitigating circumstances or no."

So you don't believe in self-defense to the point of killing the assailant in order to save the victim?

I take it then that Police officers and the like who do so are but murderers as well?

I take it, then, that if you had a daughter, if she had to kill her assailant in order to save herself from being raped; you would actually condemn her for being the murderer she was for actually killing the guy?

In other words, better your daughter be raped and perhaps even killed, for that matter, than for her to take the life of the rapist?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bremlar,

What seems all the more disconcerting is the implication that if you were yourself the bystander and the victim your daughter; you wouldn't go so far as to kill the rapist in order to save your daughter from being raped and even killed.

brendon said...

So you don't believe in self-defense to the point of killing the assailant in order to save the victim?

That is not what I said. I believe that proportional self-defense is allowable and that in some circumstances the proportional use of force may entail the use of lethal force. But I used the words "intentional" for a reason. A private citizen has no right to intentionally kill another human being. A private citizen cannot will the death of another human being as a means to an end or as an end in itself.

I take it then that Police officers and the like who do so are but murderers as well?

Police officers are representatives of the authority to which care for the commonweal has been given. Such authority may wield the sword for the common good and intentionally take a human life when justice allows for it. The word "bystander" implied a private citizen, since an officer of the law is more than a bystander.

In other words, better your daughter be raped and perhaps even killed, for that matter, than for her to take the life of the rapist?

It would be better for such to happen rather than for her to intentionally take the life of her attacker, since such an act would be murder, a mortal sin. To quote St. Dominic Savio: "Death, but not sin." But it is a false dilemma to posit only the options of intentional killing or doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

Brendon,

You Wrote: "It would be better for such to happen rather than for her to intentionally take the life of her attacker, since such an act would be murder, a mortal sin. To quote St. Dominic Savio: 'Death, but not sin.'"


Surely, you're not the same Brendon that wrote the following posts and actually justified even the use of a handgun against such offenders, no?


http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/06/not_the_common_good.html

Now, if I owe it to those I am in these relationships with to defend them, the question arises as to what means I may employ to do so. Justice seems to demand that the means must be proportional to the type of threat that exists or may develop. It strikes me as absurd to say that handguns are disproportional. It is an empirical fact that any number of threats to one's family and society at large are armed with handguns or worse. It seems an obvious and gross injustice to remove such a necessary and proportional means of defending one's family and community when there is little to no chance that the numerous threats to them will be so disarmed.

Or does this reasoning depend too much on "Enlightenment theories of individuality, asserted over against the common good"?

Posted by brendon | June 27, 2008 6:00 PM


But since God's law allows for personal self-defense and the execution of offenders for the protection of the commonweal, this statement it irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

Posted by brendon | June 27, 2008 6:49 PM


I merely suggested that justice allows for me to defend my life and the life of my family, friends and neighbors. Law enforcement personnel cannot do this for me because they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. There is no justice in letting a neighbor be brutalized because the police have not arrived.

Posted by brendon | June 27, 2008 8:49 PM

brendon said...

I am the same Brendon and have no problem admitting that I wrote the quoted statements, since nothing I wrote here contradicts any of what I wrote there. Did you perhaps miss the following sentences in my response to these comments?

"I believe that proportional self-defense is allowable and that in some circumstances the proportional use of force may entail the use of lethal force."

"Police officers are representatives of the authority to which care for the commonweal has been given. Such authority may wield the sword for the common good and intentionally take a human life when justice allows for it."

Anonymous said...

Brendon,

Allow me to re-assert the following hypothetical once again:

[I]f you were yourself the bystander and the victim your daughter; you wouldn't go so far as to kill the rapist in order to save your daughter from being raped and even killed[?]


What then would be the purpose of your handgun? Was it merely to show it off to the assailant with no intention of using it?

This doesn't jive at all with your latter comments at W4.

brendon said...

[I]f you were yourself the bystander and the victim your daughter; you wouldn't go so far as to kill the rapist in order to save your daughter from being raped and even killed[?]

I [hope I] would not intentionally kill the rapist. I would [hopefully] use the proportional force necessary to protect my daughter, or any woman, from the assault of the rapist. This would include, if it was necessary, the use of lethal force.

It is indeed possible to use lethal force, when it is proportional and necessary, without intending to kill anyone. When one intends to kill someone their death is one of the causes of the particular action. When one does not intend to kill someone but uses proportionally allowed lethal force, the death is not a cause of the action but is only an unintended consequence. These moral distinctions go back at least to St. Thomas Aquinas. The end intended by the will can change the goodness or malice of an act. This is all I am saying.

Anonymous said...

Brendon,

Thanks for the clarification!

It's just that I don't think in the immediate event of such an imminent attack on the victim by the attacker, the bystander can easily enjoy such a choice in judgment.

That bystander can perhaps only see the assailant lunge at the young girl with such ferocious violence, he has not time to think of preserving the life of that attacker but simply kill him off in order to prevent the attack.

Still, I don't see how in the other scenario, you wouldn't find it justified should your daughter have killed her assailant in the case of such a violent attack.

brendon said...

It's just that I don't think in the immediate event of such an imminent attack on the victim by the attacker, the bystander can easily enjoy such a choice in judgment.

No, which is why it is important to cultivate virtue. A virtuous man would intend to stop the attacker but not to kill him. This does not mean that the virtuous man would not kill the attacker, only that he would not intend to.

That bystander can perhaps only see the assailant lunge at the young girl with such ferocious violence, he has not time to think of preserving the life of that attacker but simply kill him off in order to prevent the attack.

He might need to act in a lethal manner to save the girl's life. But if he were virtuous he would not intend that the attacker die, only that he be stopped and the girl be protected.

This is why the formation of moral character is one of the most important parts of the rearing and education of children. There are situations were we do not have time to think and our habits, our second nature, must take over. A well formed individual will act morally in such situations even without any time to reflect.

Still, I don't see how in the other scenario, you wouldn't find it justified should your daughter have killed her assailant in the case of such a violent attack.

I never said she wouldn't be justified in killing him, only that she wouldn't be justified in intentionally killing him.

Anonymous said...

Brendon,

You seem to be operating on a step-wise method beginning with intention and manifesting in the action; however, it is not so in the immediate case.

For instance, in the case of your hypothetical daughter; in the heat of such a violent attack, she cannot help but intend the death of her attacker in order to preserve both her dignity and her life.

Keep in mind intent + act happens simultaneously as a natural matter.

In the preceding case, when she is being attacked, say with a huge knife or something of the sort; there is no such time to engage in such a step-wise process so as to begin with the intention of "not killing" and procedurally only commit into action only that which preserves the life of the attacker.

The latter seems not only impractical in the heat of such violence but frankly ludicrous.

brendon said...

For instance, in the case of your hypothetical daughter; in the heat of such a violent attack, she cannot help but intend the death of her attacker in order to preserve both her dignity and her life.

Well, yes, she can. This seems manifestly obvious.

You seem to be confusing intention with consequences. The entire doctrine of double effect is based upon the fact that they are different. Justice may allow someone to act towards their defense or the defense of another by using lethal force when lethal force is the only proportional means to such a defense; i.e. justice may allow the death of the attacker as a consequence. But justice does not allow a private citizen to intend the death of the attacker as an end, i.e. as a cause of their actions.

Keep in mind intent + act happens simultaneously as a natural matter.

No, they don't. There are any number of examples that demonstrate this to be false.

For example: I intended to go to work today even before I got in the car to drive there.

The latter seems not only impractical in the heat of such violence but frankly ludicrous.

Which is what the whole discussion of virtue was about. The point of forming the habits called virtues is to habituate oneself to intending and acting rightly as a second nature.

Anonymous said...

Brendon:

No, they don't. There are any number of examples that demonstrate this to be false.

For example: I intended to go to work today even before I got in the car to drive there.


Please note that in the case you have alluded to here, there is the luxury of time and planning involved, which in the case of an immediate and violent attack by an assailant; the victim has not the benefit of such luxury. All s/he can think of is preserving her/his own life and not that of her/his assailant.

Although, I can see where I failed in my statement here; I had made that particular statement more with respect to this case rather than in the conventional sense you have demonstrated above.

brendon said...

Please note that in the case you have alluded to here, there is the luxury of time and planning involved...

The intention, i.e. the willing of the end, is always prior to a voluntary action. If intention is in some way lacking, then volition is in some way lacking. This can mitigate the seriousness of an action, though instinctively acting in a vicious manner points to a failure to properly form virtue and moral character, something which can, in itself, incur culpable guilt.

...the victim has not the benefit of such luxury. All s/he can think of is preserving her/his own life and not that of her/his assailant.

If the victim is thinking of preserving their life and thinking neither of preserving nor taking their assailant's life, then their intention would be to preserve their life. There is nothing wrong with this. If the situation is one in which the preservation of their life requires force that may be lethal, then such force can be justly used.

But nothing in the situation as described is equivalent to intentionally willing the death of the assailant.

Anonymous said...

...though instinctively acting in a vicious manner points to a failure to properly form virtue and moral character, something which can, in itself, incur culpable guilt.

Not necessarily -- consider, if you will, that a natural part of human nature is this life-preserving instinct that's engrained in us.

This is why I was particularly concerned with how you seemingly dressed things within the context of our discussion beginning with intending not to kill the assailant; for in the case of such an attack as I had described above, I would think that the girl, with the rush of adrenaline and considering the heat of the moment under the threat of attack, would be thinking more so along the lines of "I need to kill this guy or else he'll kill me".

brendon said...

Not necessarily...

Which is why I said "can" rather than "does."

...consider, if you will, that a natural part of human nature is this life-preserving instinct that's engrained in us.

Such factors may mitigate guilt. But one can no more completely excuse the intentional killing of another human being because of hormones than one can completely excuse fornication because of hormones. Factors such as physical and mental state may mitigate guilt, but they do not change evil actions into good actions.

Human beings are more than just animals. They have intellect and will. They can thus choose freely how to act and habituate themselves to acting in a manner that conforms to the natural law.

...I would think that the girl, with the rush of adrenaline and considering the heat of the moment under the threat of attack, would be thinking more so along the lines of "I need to kill this guy or else he'll kill me".

Then in such a situation the girl would be objectively guilt of committing an evil action. The fact that such a judgment may be difficult to accept does not change whether or not it is true.

Anonymous said...

Then in such a situation the girl would be objectively guilt of committing an evil action. The fact that such a judgment may be difficult to accept does not change whether or not it is true.

So, when the assailant is right on top of her with a huge knife about to viciously rape her and perhaps even kill her; you would actually fault her for thinking thus?

whatchu talkin' bout Mr D? said...

It's like the cyclorama - it feels like it's going somewhere, but then you end up at the same place you were when you started, and you say, whoa.

whatchu talkin' bout mr d? said...

What if its a really really big shiny knife? and the guy is all big and hairy? and did I mention the knife? Hang on, let me get a paper bag and take a breath.

Anonymous said...

Hey -- don't knock it.

Asking the same question tends to be a revealing method of ascertaining truth.

brendon said...

So, when the assailant is right on top of her with a huge knife about to viciously rape her and perhaps even kill her; you would actually fault her for thinking thus?

Yes, insofar as thinking, "I need to kill this guy or else he'll kill me," is demonstrative of intending the death of the attacker as an end, i.e. as the final cause of the action, I would hold the the victim at fault, insofar as "fault" means "believe she committed a morally evil act." I would also note that continuing to describe the crime in more and more vivid detail appears, at least to me, to be an appeal to emotion, which is a fallacy.

I do not enjoy the fact that what I believe to be the correct moral judgment may sometimes lead to unpalatable consequences. But the fact that such conclusions are unpalatable does not make them wrong. My mind is, however, set at ease by the fact that the best of both the ancient pagan and the Catholic moral traditions hold that it is worse to commit evil than to suffer it. Moreover, my mind is set at ease by the fact that most situations that people lay out as do evil or suffer horribly are in fact examples of the fallacy of the false dilemma. The reduction of the available options to murder, i.e. unjust intentional killing, or suffering a gruesome assault and violation is just one example of said fallacy. Or, to put it another way, being anti-rape does not require one to be pro-murdering rapists.

I should also note that I have mentioned more than once that there are any number of factors that can mitigate guilt. I have no problem recognizing that any number of said factors might exist in the cited example, factors that might even remove all, or at least most, of the intended victim's guilt. None of these, however, change either the formal cause--i.e. the object--or final cause--i.e. the end--of the act itself. If either of these are evil, the act is evil. In this case, intending the death of the attacker as an end would be evil for reasons already explained. Thus this act would be an evil act, however much guilt could or could not be imputed to the agent due to the given circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Brendon,

Thanks; indeed, you are both a Gentleman & Scholar.

Nice touch in putting things in seemingly Aristotelian terms.