Monday, June 24, 2019

What Is And What Is Not

     Discourse can illuminate...sometimes. But it can also obscure, occlude, and confuse. The latter effect is nowhere more evident than when discourse approaches metaphysical fundamentals.

     A relevant sidelight: For anyone who isn’t already drearily familiar with my affiliations: I’m a Catholic. Catholic scholars have a long history of exegetical interpretations of sacred writings. They’ve done a lot of quarreling over variations in interpretation of Scriptural passages, sometimes over individual words. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to be familiar, not with the Bible alone, but with the totality of the intellectual, moral, and social context in which each book of the Bible was written. The writers were not always motivated solely by dedication to the will of God. Indeed, in some cases they were more interested in telling an entertaining story. (If this be heresy, as Bible literalists would insist, make the most of it.)

     But the will of God isn’t something authoritatively recorded in a human-readable form. The Bible does not express it; it expresses what various persons proclaimed to be the will of God. Perhaps some of those proclamations were correct, but in all cases it’s vital to remember that what we read in the Bible are the words of men.

     Arguments in metaphysics are like that, too. Metaphysics is the study of what precedes all human concepts and discourse: fundamental reality, “what is and what is not” above and apart from all our opinions about it. All symbols and concepts are attempts to associate abstractions with such fundamentals, so we can think about them in an orderly fashion. Metaphysics is our struggle to reason about the very stuff that makes reasoning possible in the first place. Douglas Hofstadter would call this a Tangled Hierarchy: the most tangled of all.

     Metaphysical discourse cannot change what is and what is not, any more than Bishop Berkeley’s subjectivist-idealism could soften the rock Samuel Johnson kicked when he said “I refute it thus.” But a pseudo-metaphysician can infect the naive listener with a disease of the mind. That sickness consists of the replacement of what is by something that is not. It can be fatal; indeed, it often is.

     Murky stuff, eh? Well, if you’re a regular Gentle Reader, you should know what I’m like by now. Especially on Mondays.

     From the above you might think I have some extraordinarily abstruse (not to say obtuse) point to make that would require a doctorate in philosophy to unravel. Really, it’s just a preface to what’s lit my boilers for today, calibrated to give you a sense for the sort of thoughts I percolate after encountering an outrage. And Bubba, do we ever have an outrage today:

     London, England, Jun 21, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- A British judge has authorized doctors to perform an abortion on a pregnant Catholic woman with developmental disabilities and a mood disorder, despite the objections of the woman’s mother and the woman herself. The woman is 22 weeks pregnant....

     Doctors at the trust wished to abort her pregnancy and argued that, due to her diminished mental capacity, the abortion would be less traumatic for the woman than giving birth, especially if the baby would then be placed in foster care.

     The woman’s mother made clear to doctors and the court that she would assume care of her grandchild.

     So here we have a woman in the sixth month of pregnancy, admittedly of diminished mental capacity but otherwise healthy, whose mother is willing to take responsibility for the child. But a “Court of Protection” – whose protection, pray tell? – is ordering the death of that baby. Why?

     [Court of Protection Justice Nathalie Lieven] said she did not believe the woman understood what it meant to have a baby.

     “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” Lieven said.

     Lieven also said she did not believe the woman's mother, who already helps care for her daughter, would be able to offer care for a grandchild at the same time.

     Allowing the child to be born and then removed from the woman’s home and placed into foster care or adoption would be against the woman’s own interests, the judge concluded.

     “I think [the woman] would suffer greater trauma from having a baby removed [from her care],” Lieven said, because “it would at that stage be a real baby.”

     Lieven has characterized her ruling as “compassionate.”

     Take a few moments over that, Gentle Reader. I need a few, myself.

     A few days ago I wrote a piece about moral fundamentals that specifically addressed the right to life / the wrongness of murder. Needless to say, the pro-abortion crowd would have none of it; it transgresses against their most hallowed sacrament. But moral fundamentals aren’t a matter of opinion. Either they exist or they don’t.

     If moral fundamentals are real, they are metaphysically given preconditions for human existence, written directly into our natures. No amount of clever discourse can set them at naught. No teleological rationales can do away with the consequences from violating them. Those consequences will be as malign as the violations themselves. Perhaps more so.

     There is no middle ground. Either humans possess a right to life – i.e., our lives are morally protected against unjustified invasion by others – or we don’t. In the former case, “Justice” Lieven is complicit in the murder of a helpless infant; in the latter, our lives continue only by the willingness of others to permit them.

     There are many, these days, who hold to a collectivist variation on the solipsist thesis. It’s called “social construction of reality.” In essence, this thesis holds that if a sufficient number of persons agree that “X is real,” then X is real – and that the inverse is also true. Belief supersedes and displaces the metaphysically given. Legislation can nullify the right to life. A plebiscite can set pi equal to three.

     I feel a need to label these folks. They’re not quite subjectivists, as they require ratification of their “reality” by a majority of like-minded. Neither are they solipsists, for the same reason. Let’s go with “soliptitarians.” An ugly thesis should be served by an ugly neologism, don’t you think?

     It must be a heady feeling to believe that your will, at least when united with a sufficient number of others, can determine the fundamentals of existence. But no more than fifty years ago the soliptitarian would have been locked into a room with soft walls. We don’t do that anymore. Perhaps it’s because so many of them have positions on university faculties.

     Soliptitarians would tell you – probably in chorus – that the authority of “Justice” Lieven’s “Court of Protection” is wielded “for the common good.” Power-worshippers whip out that shibboleth whenever they need to disguise an atrocity. Thaddeus McCotter has some thoughts about that:

     But what can one expect from this “justice” who, prior to reaching the bench, represented the British Pregnancy Advisory Service—an Orwellian name for an abortion provider—and argued British women should be able to have abortions at home rather than a hospital?

     What can one expect from this “justice” who, prior to reaching the bench, argued restrictions in “Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were a violation of the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act” and claimed they were “akin to torture.”

     Yes, what can one expect from this “justice” who now feels her eugenicist decree that a pregnant woman must endure a forced abortion and de facto sterilization is compassionate—and, of course, for the common good?

     Nothing good. Pray for Europe.

     Perhaps prayer will help. The soliptitarian will have none of that, of course; Prayer offends against the “reality” he and his fellows have “constructed,” in which what is and what is not depends upon their whim. But for treating their disease of the mind, nothing known to modern medicine will suffice.


Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

I will say a prayer for this fetus, the woman and her mother but especially to the sick individuals who have chosen to force this upon her.

glasslass said...

A couple of years ago I read an article by an English Esthetic that made my blood run cold. He postulated that a parent should be able to kill a baby before the age of three months. Article with all his theory's was horrifying and I naively believed this could never happen. So fast forward to NY passing the ok for abortion while in the last month. My first reaction was well I guess the English guy got it almost right. I can't believe the killing of a 2 month old will ever happen but I've been proven wrong so many times that it feels like waiting for the next shoe to drop. And this is an excellent example of what's happening in our time. Life is no longer valid or sacred anywhere. And that it starts in the womb. Will pray for this family.

Oldfart said...

Want to find a life that is valid, sacred or protected? Try threatening that of Court of Protection Justice Nathalie Lieven!