Finishing Finnis

In a recent blog we were discussing the case of Professor Finnis and homosexuality. It brought us up to the question of Natural Law. So let’s try to remind ourselves of what we know about this.

The concept of Natural Lsw is straightforward. Have you got a washing machine? If so I hope that you use it in accordance with its washing machine nature, so that it performs properly and does not break down. You can find out its nature partly by observation and common sense, but more thoroughly through studying the manufacturer’s handbook.

Human beings are subject similarly to their own nature. As an example we can recognise this because we are social animals. So we need to have rules about, say, telling lies or stealing. And of course we have the manufacturer’s handbook – which we call the Bible. In addition we have a service team appointed and guaranteed by the manufacturer to guide us when we need additional help. We call this the Church. And, like the properly used washing machine, we flourish. But there is a difference of degree here: if we break the rules of the washing machine we may have to buy another one; if we break the rules of human nature the sanction can be the weeping and gnashing of teeth into eternity. Best get it right!

Natural Law has been with us for a long time. We need to go back to the Greeks and to the philosophy of Stoicism – which the Romans borrowed from the Greeks, and was readily taken up by the Church, and further developed by moral philosophers. Think Aquinas. There was however an important change in the evidence. For nineteen hundred years after its foundation the Church was able to use biology as a certain source of some elements of the Natural Law. The argument was simple: God had created our biology directly so we could, so to speak, read off his requirements from that. For example, we may never tell an actual lie because the faculty of speech was created for sharing the truth.

Many of the issues here are of course about sexuality, which is necessarily related to biology. The obvious example is artificial contraception. It is easy to see how a condom interferes directly with the nature of sexual intercourse., and so it follows that there can never be a permissible reason to justify it. But here I use the example of homosexuality since this was the major factor in Finnis’s teaching.

No one would try to deny that the male and female sexual organs are the basis of heterosexual activities. So if we use the measurement of biology we must conclude that the homosexual act is evil in itself, and can never be justified. But let’s rephrase that and speak of homosexuality as a mismatch.

A mismatch is ordinarily avoided because it throws up problems as a result. Broadly it is undesirable. But if we suppose that an individual, through no fault of her’s or his, is emotionally ordered towards homosexual desires and away from heterosexual desires, can we find room to excuse a committed homosexual relationship?

Since homosexual promiscuity is a much greater and more damaging mismatch, we might even go further pace Finnis,and formalise committed relationships. I, however, do not think that such relationships should be called ‘marriage’. Marriage is a unique concept and and its identity should not be misused. However I would have no difficulty with a church service which noted, celebrated and prayed for such a relationship. Pope Francis, speaking of homosexuality famously said:”Who am I to judge?” In that context he quoted St John of the Cross “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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44 Responses to Finishing Finnis

  1. John Nolan says:

    Committed homosexual relationships have been formalized since the Civil Partnership Act of 2004. The Catholic Church’s position was made clear by a declaration of the CDF of 3 June 2003, which is available on the Vatican website.

    I would have considerable difficulty with a church service ‘which noted, celebrated and prayed for such a relationship’ since apart from anything else it is in direct opposition to recent and emphatic Church teaching. Even if I were to dissent from Catholic doctrine regarding faith and morals (a serious step for any baptized Catholic) and approve same-sex unions, I would still have difficulties if I saw the Church officially acting in a way which starkly contradicted its own teaching.

    PF’s ‘who am I to judge?’ comment is too often taken out of context and, moreover, comes from a pope who is gaining increasing notoriety for ambivalence and lack of clarity in both deed and utterance.

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes:

    “God had created our biology directly so we could, so to speak, read off his requirements from that. For example, we may never tell an actual lie because the faculty of speech was created for sharing the truth.”

    But by the less rigorous and far more forgiving logic of the modern secular mind, speech was not created, but evolved, and evolution, being an impersonal and mindless force, can have no goals. If you don’t start with the premise that a creating and judging god exists, you’re free to conclude anything. And, of course, that’s what the modern secular mind does. Theories pop up, are supported by arbitrarily chosen statistics (to the modern mind, nothing matters but numbers), live for a little while, and are modified or supplanted by other theories. The process is endless. From this free-floating, nonjudgmental perspective, speech exists for lying and dissembling as well as for telling the truth. By extension, homosexuals are free to do anything they like, whether they are compelled to it by their genetic configuration or not. The only judge of the good or evil of anything – the only excuse for erecting any social constraints – is the consensus of the people in power at any particular moment. It’s all about feelings and inclinations and politicians and power. And that’s pretty awful.

    • milliganp says:

      David, I realise the difficulties presented by ‘modern thinking’. However, God seems to have chosen to use the mechanism of evolution in the ongoing act of creation – so I believe we should, with due caution, admit some of the insights we obtain from science. Similarly, psychology gives us insights into the formation of the human character.
      The traditional language of sin sees us as fallen and defective because of original sin. Might we not explore the possibility that we are not fully formed and that some of the things we label as sin are actually defects or mere differences.
      I realise we run the risk of starting down a slippery slope but I’m not sure how else we can come to engage with those whom we currently describe as ‘intrinsically disordered’.

      • David Smith says:

        Points taken. Thanks.

        Ultimately, though, humans, I believe, need some black-and-white precepts to guide their thought and behavior. The human mind falls quickly into rationalizing convenient attitudes and behavior. If we believe nothing firmly and accept no limits, we’re likely to think whatever pleases and to do whatever we can get away with.

        Yes, it’s pleasant to be able to converse civilly with people with whom we disagree, but indulging in civil discourse and setting guides that control our thought and behavior are very different things. I may have a civil and even respectful conversation with a homicidal tyrant, but, hopefully, I won’t feel a need to compromise my fundamental beliefs in order to do so.

        The language of sin is, therefore necessary, sin being what I know I ought not to do. The language of punishment, when the punisher is neither visible nor tangible and the inevitability of punishment cannot be proved, is trickier. It depends on belief, and that always is or always should be self-chosen.

  3. Nektarios says:

    David Smith

    I could not agree more in general with you David.

    Concerning ‘speech’, does it not say mankind all spoke the same language, that is until they built the Tower of Babel, then the Lord confused the language of mankind for what reason?. The Lord said He confused language to slow mankind down lest they destroy themselves before the time. Consider the modern day Babel tower – the Internet and what confusion is being sown there?
    The media, with what lies and confusion are there. Politics, the Big Tech companies and what lying and deceit, not to mention anti-Christian and anti-humanity it all is while posing ‘ we are bringing people together’.

    Man is on a self-destructive course, but not before God’s timing of things.

  4. Iona says:

    Is there any problem with saying that creation can occur by means of evolution?

    • ignatius says:

      Hi Iona,
      Some would say that the process of evolution technically speaking has to be one of random selection. This means that there is no ‘creative’ force. Personally speaking I tend to think we have got to where we are by this process of ‘evolution’ which is itself the ‘actualising’ of God’s word ..the Word becoming flesh through time.. if you like.

      • Nektarios says:

        Ignatius

        I wonder if you noticed your argument for evolution is really contradictory. You wrote,
        “the process of evolution technically speaking has to be one of random selection. This means that there is no ‘creative’ force.’ This is a typical evolutionist speak, get God out of His creation.
        We are not in a process of evolution relative to what you say, rather one of rebirth and learning.
        One cannot have as you wrote, ‘ ‘evolution’ which is itself the ‘actualising’ of God’s word’… the Word becoming flesh through time. Quite contradictory.

    • Nektarios says:

      Iona
      There is no problem, apart from one, ‘with saying creation can occur by means of evolution’ and that is, the Word of God spoke and brought the universe into being.
      One cannot have a creation without a Creator.

      When it comes to Man, it does not say He created like He created the earth and the universe.
      But says concerning Man, He made Man out of the dust of the earth. He goes on to tell us we are made in His image. He blew into man’s nostrils and Man became a living soul.

      Creation is not a matter of evolution which presupposes that it started and developed. The evolutionists have got no answer, for the fact of the matter is growing old with all that that implies.
      Creation had a beginning, has a middle and an end. Do you have a problem, Iona, with what I have laid out before you? If you do, you would have no understanding of the truth about yourself or your place on this planet, this universe, or indeed what you are in relation to Creation and to your Creator? Evolution does not provide any answers.

    • David Smith says:

      Iona writes:

      “Is there any problem with saying that creation can occur by means of evolution?”

      Problem? How do you mean that?

      • Alasdair says:

        “Is there any problem with saying that creation can occur by means of evolution?
        No. Few reasonable people these days image God painstakingly crafting each species and each individual. God established the process through which living creatures and Man eventually emerged. We normally refer to this process as evolution. As christians though we generally believe that evolution is not random and chaotic but that God knows/knew the outcome.

  5. ignatius says:

    Nektarios,
    You really do need to pay attention to other people’s posts. Try to read them carefully before spouting off. For example notice in my last ‘contradictory’ post the use of inverted comma’s which would tell most people that I was not using those terms in any direct or affirmative sense.

    • Nektarios says:

      ignatius

      What you said in your posting regardless of inverted comma’s, or using those terms in any direct or affirmative sense is still contradictory.

    • John Nolan says:

      Ignatius, talking of inverted commas, please don’t use an apostrophe for a plural. It’s what is known as the ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ (potato’s, tomato’s etc.) Possession and contraction only, if you please.

  6. milliganp says:

    Quentin, I’m always a little concerned when using a natural law approach that we make the mistake of feeling that we fully understand what it is to be a human being. Before going any further, natural law thinking does not rely on revelation, though it can be illuminated by it. Thus we may have an imperfect understanding of what it is to be human and be creating moral absolutes by misreading our nature.
    Your natural law analogy comparing human speech or sexuality to a washing machine is, perhaps, a little simplistic. Sometimes it is correct not to tell the truth.
    As someone married for 46 years I realise that sexuality is not merely for procreation, there is the unitive dimension which moral theologians always tend to put in second place. Although the procreative dimension can be spoken of in the abstract, the unitive is entirely a matter of experience. The relationship and love for my wife that was built as a young man now sustains me as I grow older. The unitive work is mainly done, my marriage is firmly set – but it needed the passion and carefree attitudes I had as a young man to get here.

    • David Smith says:

      “I’m always a little concerned when using a natural law approach that we make the mistake of feeling that we fully understand what it is to be a human being.”

      Humans can never fully understand anything. Our minds don’t work that way. Thank heaven. At the same time, we are usually compelled to act as though we do, in order to stay sane, in order to avoid becoming immobilized by uncertainty. All our certainties are provisional.

      “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

    • David Smith says:

      “Sometimes it is correct not to tell the truth.”

      I wonder how you mean that. Do you mean, for example, that it can be morally blameless to tell a bald-faced lie? Or are you saying, for example, that there can be instances in which there is no shame in dissembling or in deliberately omitting the truth while intentionally giving the impression that you’re telling the full truth? Is your “sometimes” instance a rare thing, or is it likely to occur often?

      It can, I think, become easy for many if not most of us to rationalize our way into forming a habit of lying for simple everyday convenience. That’s a slippery slope.

  7. Nektarios says:

    Quentin

    On the issue of Natural Law, I question it, seeing it not as something written in stone, more a philosophy of acquired knowledge of the world in which we live. It has some merit, but excludes God, apart from religiously when it suits one.

    Also, Natural Law, if we were consistant, has been abused, corrupted and demonstrates not only our sinful tendencies, especially towards God, and our partial if not large ignorance of Natural Law in Nature and how it works and in ourselves.

    Yes, using our acquired information, in these last days as Scripture teaches, knowledge has been increased. But it seems to me, the lessons of Natural Law has not been respected and is leading to Man seeking to destroy as many as possible of our kind. It does not bode well for mankind, Scripture foretells that too. Time to look up for our Redemption is drawing nigh!

    • David Smith says:

      Nektarios writes:

      “But it seems to me, the lessons of Natural Law has not been respected and is leading to Man seeking to destroy as many as possible of our kind.”

      Two thoughts: Mankind is never satisfied with what it has, and progress is always destructive.

  8. John Nolan says:

    For a Christian, Natural Law is God’s law, nothing less.

  9. G.D says:

    Milligan P. said ‘ Might we not explore the possibility that we are not fully formed and that some of the things we label as sin are actually defects or mere differences.’ …. i’d go so far as to say that is the definition of ‘sin’. Separation from ‘Perfection in God’. ( Morality or, rather lack of, being a consequence, not a cause). Evolution is the ongoing (cyclic?) creative process (for all creation) to regain that perfection.

    • Nektarios says:

      G.D

      You wrote: Evolution is the ongoing (cyclic?) creative process (for all creation) to regain that perfection. No, it is not evolution, but an act of God, quite extraordinary. It called regeneration, rebirth, and from that a babe in Christ leading to maturity in Christ.

      • G.D says:

        You say tomato i say tomatoe …Eevolution is regeneration and rebirth … every time it get’s closer to the perfection of God. It’s just lables for a process … wherever it comes from.

      • G.D says:

        And this is why tomato & tomatoe isn’t acceptable to both and all …. from Laurance Freeman …
        “Much more often, our image of God is related not to those experiences of love, of joy, or of union, but it’s related to experiences of authority and punishment. ….The idea of God as Father carries with it, therefore, this sense of control, this sense of dominance. And where there is punishment or this kind of relationship to authority, there is usually fear. We fear being punished, we fear being sent to hell.” …… and we must reject, with a knee jerk reaction, anything we don’t ‘understand as true’ because of it. Please stop giving God a bad press.

      • Nektarios says:

        G.D
        No, no G.D.
        You wrote below: evolution is regeneration and rebirth … every time it get’s closer to the perfection of God. It’s just labels for a process … wherever it comes from.

        What you say is simply nonsense.

        Regeneration or rebirth is not a patch up of a Fallen creature, nor is it a label.
        Nor is regeneration or rebirth a process but an instantaneous act of God, bringing the very life of God to that soul that was dead in trespasses and sin.

        You then go on to write: The idea of God as Father carries with it, therefore, this sense of control, this sense of dominance. And where there is punishment or this kind of relationship to authority, there is usually fear. We fear being punished, we fear being sent to hell.” …… and we must reject, with a knee jerk reaction, anything we don’t ‘understand as true’ because of it. Please stop giving God a bad press.

        G.D, God is personal. He tells us what he is like in John 3:16 concerning this world and its inhabitants. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son……

        God is a thrice Holy God. Why do we fear of punishment and hell?
        You provide a sort of answer yourself which is not true:…… and we must reject, with a knee jerk reaction, anything we don’t ‘understand as true’ because of it. Please stop giving God a bad press.

        Mankind has already rejected God, is a sinner and a rebel and spiritually dead. It is not a case of rejecting God for who He is, but what we are.

        So you see G. D I am not giving God a bad press, just a little something of what He has lovingly revealed of Himself and also what we are by nature; and something of God’s remedy for man’s sin, the source of all man’s problems.

  10. Iona says:

    David – my question referred back to your post of February 3rd (2:38 a.m. – maybe you’re posting from a different time zone!), when you said “evolution, being an impersonal and mindless force, can have no goals”. I suppose what I was really asking was: Does one have to see evolution as an impresonal and mindless force which proceeds by being pushed here and there rather than moving towards a goal or goals? It seems to me that the concept of evolution is compatible with living beings developing in a particular direction.

    • David Smith says:

      Iona writes :

      “Does one have to see evolution as an impresonal and mindless force which proceeds by being pushed here and there rather than moving towards a goal or goals? It seems to me that the concept of evolution is compatible with living beings developing in a particular direction.”

      Oh, I agree. When I wrote –

      “But by the less rigorous and far more forgiving logic of the modern secular mind, speech was not created, but evolved, and evolution, being an impersonal and mindless force, can have no goals.”

      – I meant that the anti-religious mind sees evolution as mindless. Unfortunately, we’re living in a time in the West when the anti-religious mind determines the cultural orthodoxy.

  11. Alan says:

    It’s unnatural. It perverts nature’s intent. It’s ordained/commanded/declared wrong. It’s harmful to those practicing it. It’s disgusting. It’s intrinsically evil.

    Individually or in combination, these things describe a number of actions and behaviours that I don’t necessarily consider wrong. I do not have any particular objection to the “unnatural” or to “perversions” of what nature’s laws seemingly intend.

    “It’s wrong/evil” is merely a statement without explanation. No more informative on their own than “It’s wrong to have a blood transfusion” or “It’s wrong for women to be seen in public without covering their hair”. I would question the basis for them whether I thought they came from God directly or his spokesmen.

    Personally harmful, unhealthy and risky behaviour is common. This might make me question the wisdom of a choosing to do them, but I’ve some tolerance for it – as does most everyone else.

    I find a number of things that people do disgusting. I’d like to live in a world where no one ate sushi … but what I find disgusting cannot possibly be the measure of what is right and wrong.

    I find this last one particularly interesting. In a discussion with a not particularly religious colleague who commented on two men walking hand in hand down the street I was told that this was precisely the reason that homosexuality was wrong. His disgust, he claimed when pressed, was THE standard for determining right from wrong. That instinctive reaction to something we don’t like is strong. I think the person I was speaking to demonstrates how unreasonable an attitude it can lead to.

    • Coconuts says:

      “It’s wrong/evil” is merely a statement without explanation. No more informative on their own than “It’s wrong to have a blood transfusion” or “It’s wrong for women to be seen in public without covering their hair”.

      At least in the classic natural law tradition that Quentin references in the OP humans are a particular kind of natural substance whose activity is ordered towards the realisation of a particular set of ends; these ends are the final causes of their various behaviours.

      In this kind of tradition morality is about what kinds of behaviours and choices humans aught to adopt to fully realise their nature.

      I think saying things are right and wrong in the context of this tradition would be more informative than straightforward unsupported assertion.

    • Alan says:

      Conconuts,

      This does explain more about the relationship being suggested between things we aren’t biologically well suited to or “designed” for and things supposedly wrong/evil. But I find it hard to see this as the whole story (or even an important part of it). As individual ordered biological entities there are a host of different activities and behaviours we engage in and there seems little relationship between how physically suited to them we are and how evil they are thought to be – either by me or by various religions. If the activity I’m not designed for is 1. (relatively) harmless, 2. not considered disgusting by many, or maybe even 3. has some positive impact on our wellbeing, then there seems to be little or no objection to how unnatural it is to our biology. These other factors look to be what actually tips the scales one way or the other – even if biology is claimed to be significant.

      I have the same concerns that George raises on this topic.

  12. Iona says:

    St. Catherine of Siena held a lengthy dialogue, apparently, with God the Father. I quote (from The Catholic Thing):

    Chapter 124 is a chapter devoted to sodomy among clerics, a vice which, says the Father, even the devils find distasteful:
    It is not its sinfulness that displeases [the devils], for they like nothing that is good. But because their nature was angelic, that nature still loathes the sight of that horrendous sin actually being committed. It is true that it was they who in the beginning shot the poisoned arrows of concupiscence, but when it comes to the sinful act itself they run away.

  13. John Nolan says:

    Alan

    So are you arguing that good and evil, right and wrong, are purely relative and subjective judgements? Such a view would certainly simplify moral philosophy.

    It’s also intellectually lazy.

    • Alan says:

      John,

      I am only detailing the problems I see with the reasons given for this particular behaviour being wrong/evil. They seem inconsistent. Applied selectively where it suit the subjective opinion of the person employing them.

      Subjective morals as a whole are problematic. But I have tried to explore the idea of objective morals that have something to do with a God too. It always seems to lead me to a meaningless dead end. A dead end that quite a few philosophers still find difficult to resolve or agree on even after thousands of years of effort. The answer does not appear to be obvious or simple. I am interested in this subject to a degree but there are limits! That said, I feel more unable to grasp the ideas rather than unwilling/lazy.

      • Coconuts says:

        Subjective morals as a whole are problematic. But I have tried to explore the idea of objective morals that have something to do with a God too. It always seems to lead me to a meaningless dead end. A dead end that quite a few philosophers still find difficult to resolve or agree on even after thousands of years of effort. The answer does not appear to be obvious or simple.

        This makes morality similar to many foundational philosophical questions. It’s hard to avoid holding some kind of view on them though without ending up reduced to Aristotle’s ‘sceptical vegetable’; in that state someone ends up having nothing to contribute to the conversation.

      • Alan says:

        I’m not familiar with that vegetable. A sort of sceptical paralysis? If so then I can understand the concern, but “nothing to contribute”? A flaw in a wrong answer might be apparent and worth pointing out whether anyone has the right answer or not I would have thought.

  14. Nektarios says:

    If morality or morals were a matter of philosophy or evolution, it is not surprising the world is in the state it is right now.
    God has placed his Law within our hearts, unlike the old covenant where it was external to man had had to be merely externally and ceremonially obeyed.

    The tragedy is, whether we are taught or not because God has placed His Law within our hearts Man knows when he is breaking that Law in some aspect.

    Philosophy or a philosophic approach is utterly useless. Evolution, as some believe the theory, is not required either, for God has placed His Law within.

  15. Alan says:

    Naktarios – “… it is not surprising the world is in the state it is right now.”

    There have been a few posts here in the past that have said much the same thing. They criticise the “state” of the world or some aspect of it (“pretty awful” Dave called it). “It could be better” I assume is the message – otherwise it’s obviously as good as it can be. This modern secular morality is being judged on its results.

    Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to anyone else? The consequentialist/utilitarian morals are resulting in relatively bad consequences?!

    • Nektarios says:

      Alan
      Quite so.

      A secular moralty is really a political moralty as they see it, that is obeying the law of the land as decided upon in in Parliament for we the plebs, but increasingly does not apply to them. They forget it is God that puts people in power to fufil His purposes and all fail though Parliament by laws try to curtail the worst excesses of immorality.
      If modern secular morality is judged on its results, clearly it has failed.

      What morality then can a sinner render?

      So the question therefore arises what is a true morality, how do we get it and can we keep it? Philosophy does not provide an answer to that just a man-centred opinion. Politics does not provide an answer either, so what does? Does mere external religion do it? Clearly it doesn’t as the long history of the Church shows.

      There are good people, kind people, law-abiding people and they think that is a true morality but it falls far short of that standard.

      A true morality is the life of Christ in us. That is the morality that is well-pleasing to God for it acts accordingly and does so, not to appear moral before men per-se, but pleasing to our heavenly Father.

    • David Smith says:

      Alan writes:

      “This modern secular morality is being judged on its results.

      Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to anyone else? The consequentialist/utilitarian morals are resulting in relatively bad consequences?!”

      My sense is that the modern secular Western mind judges actions as much by their stated purposes as by their consequences. That is, if the intentions were pure, any negative consequences can be overlooked. For example, the current disaster of Venezuela will be excused by many because the stated intention was to create a socialist/communist paradise. That the consequences of the government’s actions have fallen disastrously short of the proclaimed ideal hardly seems to matter. Humans rationalize constantly, of course, but some do so much more drastically and blindly than others. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot meant well. Hitler is condemned now because his ideology was discredited by an ignominious military defeat, but in his lifetime, when Germany was riding high, he had many influential public apologists. Stalin is condemned now, but the condemnation is far less severe than that heaped on Hitler because there are still many opinion makers who believe that he meant well and his goals were ideologically pure, but that he may have just broken a few too many economic and human eggs while trying to construct his communist omelet. Pol Pot, another leftist dictator and mass murderer, has been practically forgotten, largely, I suppose, because his excesses were committed in the name of communism, which is still very popular in some influential places.

      On the other hand, I do agree that after the fact, actions are today far too often judged by how well they achieved an apparently acceptable end than by how intelligently and humanely they were planned for. That’s very Jesuitical: if the plan seems to have worked, let’s overlook both how the results were come by and all the unintended negative consequences.

      • ignatius says:

        I think that Stalin and Pol Pot are largely forgotten because the results of their Frankenstein creations, though documented, have been largely left alone and out of the collective Western eye. The holocaust is still before us now. Also I guess Poland is closer than Siberia and much quicker visited.

      • Coconuts says:

        Stalin is condemned now, but the condemnation is far less severe than that heaped on Hitler because there are still many opinion makers who believe that he meant well and his goals were ideologically pure, but that he may have just broken a few too many economic and human eggs while trying to construct his communist omelet.

        It’s true that Communist ideology was much more in tune with the ideals of the Western European left in the post war decades. Then a good level of reliable documentation about Soviet crimes has only emerged since 1992, which is quite recently.

        Also the Soviet Union under Stalin was an ally of the Western democracies in WW2 and played the major role in defeating the Nazis and there’s been some level of gratitude for that.

        The Soviet system had greater longevity than the Nazi one and transformed society in a deeper and more thorough going way in some respects, so that nowadays the people whose families might have been the victims of the system may also have ended up supporting or complicit in it. The people who dominate the current post-Soviet semi-capitalist societies were usually the products of the Soviet system whose grandparents were raised from peasants/labourers to university academics, engineers, army officers etc. during the Stalin era.

        There is a greater awareness in countries where the Soviet Marxist education system existed of problematic aspects in the history of the development of Western capitalism during the Imperial era (for example, in Britain’s case, the role of slavery and massive famines in India and Ireland induced by liberal free trade policies in the 18th/19th centuries). One of my wife’s uncles was an ideology lecturer in the Red Army for 40 years so he knows about some of this stuff which, when I check against other sources sometimes turns out to be accurate.

  16. ignatius says:

    Alan,

    “..Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to anyone else? The consequentialist/utilitarian morals are resulting in relatively bad consequences?…”

    Hi Alan,
    No, it doesn’t seem ‘odd’ to me at all. But I’m not quite sure I understand your sentence!!

    My thoughts on morality are moulded by 5 or 6 years in prison chaplaincy and so may be a bit partial!
    Firstly I don’t think the world is in an especially bad state and I would like to think that,, in the day to day of life the good greatly outweighs the bad. I believe strongly that the world is good even though it is fallen.The world was made good in the beginning and goodness persists (No, I’m not a fundamentalist! )
    Secondly I do agree that , overwhelmingly, when human beings speak of morals they are in fact discussing social more’s and emotional reactions to likes and preferences…nothing more but even these attitudes are often seasoned with goodness in the form of kindness, charity, compassion, etc
    Thirdly: the reactions expressed in (2) are ,if you like a shadow of an underlying reality. There is ‘good’ and there is ‘bad’ and evil does exist on the face of the earth (even if it is only the absence of good)

  17. George says:

    “No one would try to deny that the male and female sexual organs are the basis of heterosexual activities. So if we use the measurement of biology we must conclude that the homosexual act is evil in itself, and can never be justified.”

    I hope I am a faithful Catholic and do not dissent from the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. But I find this argument unconvincing. The principle seems to be that it is sinful to interrupt biological processes which have naturally evolved. For example when I eat an apple, I am taking a fruit which evolved for the purpose of seeding other apple trees and instead appropriating it for my own pleasure. If I enjoy the taste, I will buy more of that variety and encourage the apple-grower, again acting against natural processes, to take a cutting of the tree to clone it, to produce more apples of that variety. If the above principle were true, I would be guilty of grave sin, I hope not!

    I suppose one response would be that human biological processes are somehow special. So somebody who trains his or her body to obtain pleasure in an unnatural way is sinning. For example roller-skating is pretty unnatural. But surely not sinful!

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