Just in case anybody is still unclear on the concept…

Just in case anybody is still unclear on the concept… April 18, 2012

consequentialism is evil.

“But I really really want to do some good thing! I just need to cut some moral corners to do it!”

Yeah. Everybody says that when they want to do something evil. Everybody. What? You think Hitler got up in the morning and said, “How can I do something Evil today?” Nope. All the great monsters of history have always told themselves that it was the great goodness of their Ultimate Goal that justified the evils they must commit “in the short term”.

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  • victor

    Actually, you could walk through any prison and easily find more than a few people who do evil things simply because they like doing evil things, not because they have some grander purpose in mind.

    • Matthew

      This is contrary to Aquinas the entire Catholic theological and philosophical tradition regarding sin and evil. Notice that your post includes within it its own denial: “the like doing evil”. Pleasure is good. But contrary to consequentialism we may not seek pleasure by any means. I think the issue is not necessarily some “grander purpose” but merely some good goal even if only pleasure.

    • Mark Shea

      The goal doesn’t have to be grand. It’s merrely some good. Pleasure and power are both goods. Sadists generally seek both.

      • So…what you’re saying is in order to stop my kids from eating donuts for breakfast, I *shouldn’t* eat the donuts instead???

    • Ted Seeber

      I just responded in the original article to the same point in a different way:

      Never forget that old saying, that no creature so accursed can be, that in which a loving eye some good can see.

      To that, I’ve got to respond to a different point:
      ” That’s because every sin, whether venial or mortal, is committed in the disordered attempt to achieve some good end. ”

      I think you’re missing the sins , whether venial or mortal, that are committed in invincible ignorance to achieve no end at all, due to our inability as a species to correctly foresee the future.

      • I think you’re missing the sins , whether venial or mortal, that are committed in invincible ignorance

        I submit to you that such an act is not a sin at all. Sin requires knowledge. Invincible ignorance grants that no such knowledge is present.

        • Ted Seeber

          Which erases the culpability for the sin, but not the sin itself; does it matter to the person run over by a car if the person intended to run them over or merely was falling asleep after working too many hours?

          • Andy, Bad Person

            Who cares if it matters to the person? The victim is hurt whether it was a pure accident, an act of negligence, or an act of malice.

            Ignorance can indeed diminish or erase culpability for a sin, but please provide backup for your claim that sin itself is still committed in cases of invincible ignorance (your words).

            • Maiki

              I think an “evil act” was still committed, but not a personal sin. In the olden days, the word for “evil act” was material sin, while the word for a personal sin was “formal sin”. Hope this clears up confusion.

              • Andy, Bad Person

                Sure, I can get on board that explanation. It actually would clear up why the language “material sin” was altered to the clearer (to me) “evil act.”

              • Ted Seeber

                That works for me, thanks.

  • Very true, but…there is a fallacy lurking on the other side. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, doctor of the Church, nothing is just unless it is also prudent (I’m paraphrasing). In other words, those who seek to act justly must consider the consequences of their actions. I fear we often forget this, and give full credit for “good intentions” to those (we approve of) who do not ask very carefully “what is the likely consequence of this action, given the circumstances?” I have a rather full discussion here, in the section “Prudence, the Morality of Human Action, and Aquinas”: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/c-white4.1.1.html

  • Chad Myers

    Just read Mein Kampf (on second thought, don’t). It’s full of reasons why the greater good would be served by doing horrible things.

  • MikeTheGeek

    I’m not sure this even makes it to the level of consequentialism. It equates (deliberately) shooting children with shooting Germans in ’44. Or – perhaps more to the point – bombing Japan in ’45 during the war to bombing Japan for the hell of it in ’46.

    • Mark Shea

      No. It equates incinerating German and Japanese children in their beds with killing Norwegian children. It’s only complicated if you want it to be.

      • The best argument I’ve ever read against consequentialism is the Hunger Games trilogy. Divine Providence has spectacular timing in its publishing department.

  • “And it is pity we live in the country which sets the standard for terrorists.”

    That’s true. The world had never even heard of terrorism until we bombed Hiroshima. I wish more people woudl get that through their thick skulls.

    • Ted Seeber

      I can think of a personal terrorist hero of mine who acted a good 400 years *before* Hiroshima- Guy Fawkes (I plan on using his image this year to promote people to vote against the Tyrant).

      • I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. There’s a great big difference between encouraging people to vote against the Tyrant and encouraging them to bomb the Tyrant (like Guy Fawkes).

        • Ted Seeber

          It’s more as a symbol of Catholic resistance to moral relativism. Though, given what has been going on in America, it would be an interesting, and from the words of Thomas Jeffereson himself, fitting result.

    • Ted Seeber

      2nd reply- Guy Fawkes proves that one man’s terrorist is another man’s revolutionary hero.

    • MikeTheGeek

      “The world had never even heard of terrorism until we bombed Hiroshima.”

      Congratulations – that may be the most preposterous statement I’ve ever come across, and I’ve come across some doozies.

      • Mark Shea

        Tongue in cheek.

        • Ted Seeber

          And as a good Aspie, I totally missed that. We need to standardize [sarcasm] tags.

  • Kirt Higdon

    All terrorists are somebody’s revolutionary hero. A just violent revolution is even more rare than a just war.

  • godescalc

    “No-one does evil simply because it’s wrong. Even the Devil has his alibi, and every man thinks his own the most important…” – Lucifer, from Imre Madach’s Tragedy of Man

    • Ted Seeber

      In the original article, the discussion has devolved to me claiming that all potential war-ending actions at the end of World War II were objectively and intrinsically evil, though not equal.

      I’m the only one arguing that standpoint, all the rest think their own solution (some more imaginable than others) has an alibi.

  • Observer

    So, the defining point of sin becomes ommited for convenience (or when it is an obstacle.)

    What is sin? Isn’t sin separation (the inclination of the fall) from God? And since God is love (eternally), doesn’t sin suffer a soul as an eternal consequence (because God’s love – particular for man – means so much and is uncondional/eternal)?

    Take account of Genesis, he created out of nothing. Love can only bring something out of nothing. What of Mother Theresa of Calcutta who exemplified this by pulling every human being should could out of the gutter (loving as perfect as her Father Who art in Heaven)? What of the sinner who has particularly reasoned to do wrong because there is an apparent good (which they feel their sin is ordered to)? Isn’t the sinner stuck in the greatest vaccuum (themself – their ego)? So, when people choose to do something for an apparent good by their ordered reasons to do evil so that good may come out of it (apparently for convenience), aren’t they living in the vaccuum and institution of their mind?

    Every saint has had a time travel to Genesis all the way leading through the Gospel when they realize God is love and we are nothing. Of course we mean alot to God. But, how much we mean to him isn’t the same thing as much as we mean to ourselves (we take ourselves seriously, while God takes seriously on account of his love for us. God is love; he made us out of nothing (or out of the very dust/clay of the earth.) God gives existence. Christ directed the servants (at the wedding feast in Cana) to bring the water for washing feet to become wine. Love see’s the best (the optimum and par excellence) where people see nothing.

  • Observer

    Therefore, I add, love does not decieve. And, therefore again, lying for Jesus is not true. You cannot lie for the truth and say you love your neighbor.