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The bishops offered various policy goals to guide Catholics as they form their consciences and reflect on the moral dimensions of their public choices. They made the point that not all issues are equal, that their stated goals address matters of different moral weight and urgency, some even involving matters of intrinsic evil that can never be supported. In that category, they listed policy goals regarding abortions, euthanasia, assisted suicide, the destruction of human embryos in the name of research, the death penalty, imprudent resort to war, the definition of the central institution of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Other policy goals included comprehensive immigration reform, poverty, development assistance, debt relief, international trade, health care, forms of discrimination, care for creation, human rights, religious liberty and economic justice.
Giving Curran the benefit of the doubt, he was not trying to caricature the bishops' position regarding the term intrinsic evil . The point of his critique is that the bishops did not say enough to make clear that the term was a moral term and not a legal term, especially given that they employed it about a dozen times on different pages in many different paragraphs of their document. This distinction is crucial because, while prudential judgment does NOT apply to intrinsic evils, it manifestly DOES apply to legislative, legal and political strategies regarding those very same evils, especially in pluralistic societies where perfect legislation remains way out of reach. Prudential judgment thus applies to ALL of the bishops' "policy" goals even though it does not apply to all of the moral objects addressed by those policies. The bishops have not said enough to disarm all of the single-issue voters, who have grounded their positions in the confusion caused by failures to distinguish between the relevance of intrinsic evil to moral versus legal realms vis a vis its prudential judgment implications.
quote: Originally posted by Phil: I'm still not seeing how one could be Catholic and pro-choice, however; what kind of nuancing would allow for that?
1) One would assent to the magisterium's teaching regarding the moral reality, while (faithfully and responsibly) dissenting from it's prudential judgments regarding practical strategies. That's the least problematical way.
2) One might also faithfully and responsibly dissent from the magisterium's moral teaching by invoking probabilism, especially if they've established a doubt of law, speculatively, perhaps less so if 3) entertaining a doubt of fact, empirically, regarding the teaching.
4) One might find the teaching wholly unconvincing but still choose to obey the magisterial teaching, personally, but, sincerely believing that they are unable to advance a convincing argument in the public square, choose not to impose one's own obedient stance on others since one's position is essentially grounded religiously and not philosophically vis a vis the natural law approach that is transparent to human reason.
5) One might find the teaching wholly unconvincing from a natural law perspective but, because of deeply felt aesthetical sensibilities, evaluative posits and ineffable intuitions, choose to obey church teaching, although, as in the foregoing example, sincerely believing that they are unable to advance a convincing argument in the public square, they choose not to impose their own obedient stance on others since their position is essentially grounded noninferentially and religiously rather than philosophically vis a vis the natural law approach that is transparent to human reason.
Finally, because human rationality has so many integrally-related "methodologies," some more vs less formal, one's relationship to the magisterium might sometimes be described with the Facebook Option: It's Complicated
The temporal relationship between a human individual's past and future has most often been viewed symmetrically, whereby human identity can be attributed to a being whether it is viewed in its transition from past to present (as in your approach, where a subject endures a succession of predicates) or if
it is viewed in its transition from present to future (as in Hume's approach, where there is no personal identity, as if our account of reality could be exhausted in terms of a unitary intraobjective identity). Between these extremes of radical continuity (of essentials vis a vis accidentals) and discontinuity of self (shades of Buddhist thought when misapproriated), Hartshorne proposes a nonstrict identity, specifically, a nonstrict, temporally asymmetrical identity, wherein it would make sense to claim that a person in a later state includes that person in an earlier state, but not vice versa. This is consistent with the emergence paradigm, which does seem so very consistent with evolutionary biology and also consistent with ordinary human language (e.g. our use of pronouns and tenses), which is also truthindicative. Either of the other extremes are subject to parody and reductio ad absurdum. This is my summary of Daniel Dombrowski's Hartshorne, Metaphysics and The Law of Moderation, Process Studies, pp. 152-165, Vol. 21, Number 3, Fall, 1992, which one can read here: http://www.religiononline.org/showarticle.asp?title=2833
The future human individual, as a moral agent, will indeed have emerged as the identical past human individual will have undergone a developmental process, which will have taken that individual through latent, incipient, sentient, sapient and nascent stages of human life. What your approach well establishes, in my view, is the incipient reality of an individual human life, and, as you say, it is grounded in empirical science. The justice implications or deontologies that flow from that ontology (even if phenomenological, not metaphysical) per your approach (the life that grows in the womb has just as much a right to live as its mother and father) are more controversial because, axiologically, humankind has long distinguished between objects by assigning them moral significance, moral patiency and moral agency. I think most ethicists would agree that the "ought" that inheres in the "is" of your account is the assignment of moral significance. Others would add more criteria, however, before assigning moral patiency.
Personhood is a concept that retains a great deal of moral relevance. Perhaps it need not be defined metaphysically in terms of ensoulment; proceeding phenomenologically, perhaps bioethicists will be able to one day stipulate to a "psychic" sense of person, although such a consensus will, itself, be problematical, to be sure. For example, Carol Tauer has suggested that, lacking precise empirical knowledge, policy makers could attribute psychic personhood at the time of earliest brainstem activity, that is, during the seventh week of fetal development. (In my view, this well takes into account that our notion of "mind," including memories, is no longer tightly localized in
the brain but distributed throughout our central and peripheral nervous system and even our endocrine system. See abstract below.) Daniel Dombrowski emphasizes sentience as a criterion for moral patiency, hence offers the fourteenth week of pregnancy, when a central nervous system has better developed.
Others, as you know, look for an even more robust, sapiency-approaching psychic sense of person that could not be realized until the end of the second trimester, but discussions like that ... well, let's just say, really violate my moral sensibilities. At any rate, all of this talk is consistent with the way many dynamically view the moral status of the embryo, as increasing through gestation. Long before I get sympathetic with any phenomenological or philosophical views, I get deeply and viscerally empathetic with the moral sensibilities of all of the beautiful women in my life, first grandmothers, mother & sisters, then my spouse, now my daughter, who indeed look to those bishops to articulate, inferentially, what they already hold, intuitively. Not to say that I do not then view the more academic accounts, both phenomenological and philosophical, sympathetically. Those accounts move me to give the benefit of the doubt to many of the well reasoned and sufficiently nuanced positions of others --- morally, legally and politically, as long as their dissent is loyal and responsible.
My chief objection is that, there is so little consensus regarding the moral status of the embryo vis a vis advancing gestation, from conception on ... well, abortion is too vague a term for us to ever be calling it "akin to murder."
Carol A. Tauer, Ph.D., Personhood and Human Embryos and Fetuses, J Med Philos (1985) 10 (3): 253-266.
Abstract Public policy decisions concerning embryos and fetuses tend to lack reasoned argument on their moral status. While agreement on personhood is elusive, this concept has unquestioned moral relevance. A stipulated usage of the term, the psychic sense of ‘person’, applies to early human prenatal life and encompasses morally relevant aspects of personhood. A ‘person’ in the psychic sense has (1) a minimal psychology, defined as the capacity to retain experiences, which may be nonconscious, through physiological analogs of memory; and (2) the potential to become a person in the full sense. Psychic personhood merits attribution of moral
personhood because (1) the experience of a ‘person’ in the psychic sense has continuity with the experience of a full person; and (2) this experience begins to determine the development of the personal psychological characteristics of that individual. Psychic personhood is a rationally defensible boundary for invasive research involving human embryos and fetuses. Lacking precise empirical knowledge, policy makers could attribute psychic personhood at the time of earliest brainstem activity, that is, during the seventh week of fetal development.
Metaphysical Doubts & Practical Evaluations
often, there are no formal philosophical work-arounds, especially when reality, at its margins, confronts us with epistemic, ontic and semantic vagueness, which some, perhaps in their inability to tolerate ambiguity or because of their anxiety when presented with paradox, try to overcome with metaphysics, saying more than we can possibly know, telling untellable stories and, finally, proving too much ergo, when analyzing a concept, for example, zygote, in order to determine whether or not it successfully refers to an ontologically identical reality as some other concept, for example, person, one must analyze --- not only the relevant descriptions of both concepts, but also --- the evaluations, norms and interpretations that a community of value-realizers uses when pragmatically cashing out each concept's value (iow, observing how this society actually behaves in all contexts toward that reality to which the concept is alleged to refer) this might better take us beyond the confusion introduced by the false essentialism-nominalism dichotomy, which arises both from the conflation of logical and efficient causation (e.g. sorite paradox) and from the weak modeling powers of our competing metaphysics (static vs dynamic, substance vs process), where a vague phenomenology of emergence will otherwise suffice to account for reality's dis/continuities and novelty, where a pragmatic semiotic realism might, at least, help further reduce the conceptually meaningless to the patently absurd (not a wholly formal philosophy, i know, but it must often do because, tutttutt, it looks like a reign of uncertainty) toward such ends, Hartshorne's notion of 'nonstrict identity' contributes much value, seems to me See Hartshorne, Metaphysics and The Law of Moderation by Daniel Dombrowski at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2833
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