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quote: Originally posted by Phil: My concern here has more to do with understanding what the bishops are saying in their document on politics and conscience formation than on the morality of abortion itself. The bishops' teachings are very clear about that; they believe it to be gravely evil and they can never accept as legitimate a Catholic being pro-choice. Voting for a pro-choice political candidate is another matter, however; it doesn't necessarily imply that one is pro-choice, nor that one agrees with the candidate's position on abortion rights. I realize that this is a much more nuanced statement than some of the teachings that have been given on this matter. I think you represented what the bishops have said succinctly and fairly. What they've said about all of this has evolved over the past four decades or so. For a chronology of this evolution, see US Catholic bishops and abortion legislation: A critique from within the church by Charles Curran. You may remember Charlie, who was scheduled as a guest lecturer when we were at LSU in the 70's. Curran sets out the bishops' position statements fairly, I think, and then well demonstrates how their latest iterations are in error, setting out to prove the thesis that the bishops have claimed too much certitude for their position on abortion law based on four separate arguments: 1) the speculative doubt about when human life begins; 2) the fact that possibility and feasibility are necessary aspects involved in discussions about abortion law; 3) the understanding and role of civil law; and 4) the weakness of the intrinsic evil argument. One of the most articulate and, in my view, enjoyable authors on so very many things both Catholic and philosophical is Peter Kreeft. I think he best sets forth the philosophical undergirding for most of the bishops' (like Archbishop Chaput's) moral and legal stances on abortion: Human Personhood Begins at Conception. Kreeft's arguments turn on his philosophical defense of essentialism using nominalism as a foil. It is beyond the scope of this thread, but my (devastating!) critique of Kreeft, is that the essentialism-nominalism dichotomy is false because human evolutionary epistemology is more consistent with a fallibilist, pragmatic, semiotic realism. Carol Tauer demonstrates how the Magisterium has been inconsistent in her article THE TRADITION OF PROBABILISM AND THE MORAL STATUS OF THE EARLY EMBRYO. In summary, you are correct, in my view, that the bishops consider a prochoice stance illegitimate. There are pro-choice stances (moral, legal and/or political)that would not be inconsistent with the Catholic moral tradition per Curran and Tauer, whose arguments I find far more compelling than Kreeft's and those who employ his philosophical grounds.
[johnboy snipped here] quote: Originally posted by Phil: I wonder how much the sex-abuse scandals in recent decades have contributed to a credibility gap between the Magisterium and the laity? The scandals certainly hurt their credibility but, where the magisterium's moral doctrines and church disciplines intersect gender, sex and life issues, the bigger problem, in my view, has not been bad form (poor pedagogy, credibility gaps, etc) or an unreceptive audience (non-docile spirits, non-deferential laity, intractable disobedience) but bad substance (flawed logic, erroneous presuppositions, flawed metaphysics, poor epistemology). A greater problem might be how this authoritative lapse could then scandalize the faithful who'd then question essential dogma and faith practices. There is much room for hope, though, really no room for despair, because the very methodologies that could improve the magisterium's gender, sex and life deliberations (re: doctrines and disciplines) are already established, time-honored and wellrespected worldwide, both within and without the church: the church's social teachings, which are par excellence. REGARDING HUMAN CONCEPTS Emotions, maternal instincts, paternal feelings, evaluative dispositions, visceral reactions and other such moral sensibilities, all play important pre-rational and nonrational roles which combine with our rational and supra-rational propositions to inform our human moral calculus. So, more holistic appeals sound right-headed. The propositional aspects, themselves, present many angles, too. The human moral subject is more complex than many treatments of this topic seem to recognize. The way most people actually behave and poll, and the way most legislatures codify abortion-related issues, suggest a more complex moral object, too. Abortion, even for those who agree regarding its moral status, is thus a much more complex legal and political reality than can be captured by such facile labels as pro-life and pro-choice. Among Catholics, the American gap between magisterial teaching and lay assent & behaviors is not unique, comparable even to the gap in other Catholic countries where abortion has been criminalized, quite begging the issue of the efficacy and jurisprudence of legislative strategies and political remedies. Most people seem to invest a greater moral status to the human embryo-fetus as gestation advances and moral, legal and political consensuses thus seem to build, too. Because authoritative metaphysical pronouncements have not been and are not likely to be made regarding human personhood, ontologically,
moral determinations will not easily flow, deontologically, in a universally compelling manner. The weight of nonrational appeals also seems to increase as gestation advances, militating against merely essentialistic, deontological arguments regarding the moral significance, for example, of blastocysts and earlier embryos. Returning to the political crux of the opening post, the complexity of this moral reality should at least construe against facile indictments of others' moral character based only on their legal and political stances regarding abortion, even their moral stance, especially if conscientiously nuanced. The question then would turn on what relevant practical outcomes might be pursued and successfully so. We would then be in the realm of prudential judgment, now, for example, such as questioning how prescient a POTUS has ever been regarding the future judicial practices of SCOTUS appointees or whether turning things over to the states would make a difference here vs there. Or asking whether maybe increasing access to contraception might advance the cause. Or whether the probability of neoconservative misadventures at war are far more likely with one candidate than a change in other life issues might be for another, for example, such as with abortion issues, which have been in political limbo for decades. I won't relitigate these matters here in 2012 as I contributed 6 pages worth of posts in 2008 that I could only improve on through silence.
Huma concepts are loaded, fraught - with implicit meanings. The practical, aesthetical, relational, existential, evaluative, imaginative, participative, abductive and other informal and/or nonpropositional horizons of concern are integrally related to the human valuerealizations that we also pursue empirically, inductively, logically, deductively, normatively, formally and/or propositionally. Additionally, the concepts that humans employ in reference to our manifold and multiform value-realizations across these different horizons reflect varying degrees of epistemic warrant and normative justification in terms of their negotiability status within and across different cohorts of inquiry - semiotic (non-negotiable), theoretic (negotiated), heuristic (in-negotiation) and dogmatic (non-negotiated). A concept's negotiation status depends on a variety of factors, such as which root metaphor one employs for one's metaphysic, e.g. substance, process, etc and which approach one takes toward metaphysical necessity e.g. essentialist, nominalist, pragmatist, etc and whether one subscribes to an idealist or realist approach to epistemology and/or ontology. In other words, without a basic philosophical agreement re: epistemology and ontology, there's little chance for successful negotiation and consensus re: a concept's status, such that it could be
employed in the various forms of human reasoning. Without shared definitions, then shared logic and shared premises will still not yield shared conclusions. Also, without shared aesthetic and moral sensibilities, shared conceptual definitions will not likely result, even from philosophies that otherwise share both an epistemology and ontology. This is because epistemic warrant, normative justification, evaluative eco-rationality and interpretive impetus, all methodologically-autonomous, comprise our holonic-like concepts, which are axiologically integral.
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