Category Archives: Good people disagree

Who is my neighbor?

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In the preface to Luke’s parable of the “Good Samaritan” [1], Jesus is challenged by the crowd, during a discussion of the deontological Jewish Law, to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” His answer was that the stranger who responded with compassion to the injured man lying alongside the road was his “neighbor,” even though the benefactor’s ethnicity was despised. [2]… Read more »

Ends, means and the banality of evil

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For each of the different types of ethical/moral systems that this blog has been exploring lately, I have been asking the question, “Is this ethical system sufficient for making moral judgements and ethical decisions?” This post looks at the “end-based” models of recent discussion, such as teleology and consequentialism. Two of the “fatal flaws” that render these moral systems as… Read more »

Monday morning quarterbacking and unintended consequences

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) A major flaw in the “teleological” (end-based) ethical models I have been presenting in recent posts is that how you intend for the ethical dilemma to turn out, and how it actually does turn out, may well be two different things. In my earlier… Read more »

Iowa, abortion and ethical nuance

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With the signing of a draconian, and likely unconstitutional, anti-abortion law by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, I want to share the view of a different group of women on the subject. In an earlier post, I mentioned getting to know, as a non-Catholic, a group of anti-war nuns while doing graduate study in ethics during the first Gulf War in… Read more »

Telos: Seeking the “good end”

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“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” (Matthew 6:33-34 KJV) While many strains of philosophical and theological ethical thought lie roughly down a vector of deontology’s focus on rules… Read more »

Nuns, Gina Haspel and forgiving ourselves

On September 12, 2001, the day after the horrific act of terror in New York and Washington, the collective morality of the United States changed in regard to torture. Nearly seventeen years later, some people know this was a bad thing to do. And some people don’t. I’ve been experiencing severe déjà vu watching the confirmation hearings of Gina Haspel for CIA… Read more »

Primal morality and torture

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The morality of torture is back in the news with the confirmation hearings for Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, a woman with ties to post-9/11 secret rendition sites. In short, on September 12, 2001, the general moral consensus of the United States reverted to what I call “primal morality,” throwing out a couple of thousand years of rule-based,… Read more »

Are rules and duties sufficient?

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Deontology, which is the view that ethics and morality should be based on rules and duties, is the viewpoint that dominates a lot of conservative Christian and political thought, and it has been the focus of the last several posts in this series. [1] In its many forms and interpretations, deontology has long held a central role in ethical theory…. Read more »

If it’s not illegal…

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One of the great logic errors in ethical discussions is committed by people who shrug off a moral question by saying, “If it is not illegal, then it must be okay to do.” We see a lot of this thinking even among supposedly-conservative defenders of the current leadership in America. The corollary to that error tends to come from religious fundamentalists,… Read more »