Moral Choices – locating our impasses

On this 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima, visit the @PublicDiscourse archives for debates exploring the ramifications of Truman’s decision.

Tollefsen, calling it “utterly wrong

Miscamble, dubbing it the “least evil option

When another’s ethical approach seems ambiguous, we should charitably presuppose its most orthodox interpretation.

For example, some defenders of the 1945 atomic bombings refer to a “psychotic Japanese civilian resistance” or a kind of “national kamikaze campaign.”

They thereby propose, even if implicitly, that we best reconceive multitudes of ostensible noncombatants as material non-innocents, i.e. not immune from direct targeting.

Such a reconception might well betray an implicit deontological calculus, which, even if inchoate, could rescue their proportionate reasoning from the encroachment of an insidious & vulgar consequentialism.

And this could properly relocate a moral impasse from meta-ethical to other concerns, e.g. evidential, prudential & semantical.

For example, how might we make sometimes facile criteria for distinguishing material [non]innocents much more robust, i.e. semantically coherent, empirically discernable, anthropologically defensible?

These are relevant questions – not only for nuclear, but- modern conventional war & asymmetric terrorism. They extend beyond warfare to all life issues (regarding legitimate self-defense).

So, I offer here no critique or answers to the various stances – only a few of my own questions regarding the proper location of various impasses.

Truth Broadly Conceived

Truth refers – not only to the investigatory, semantical & epistemological “conformity of” one’s thoughts to reality, but – to a reality’s participatory, ontological & axiological “conformity to” adequate thoughts (re various teloi). We know this philosophically & theologically.

Those teloi include:

proximate erotic-agapeistic-eudaimonistic teloi

ultimate telos of condiligentes

The more eros & agape – ascending love & descending love – find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. BXVI Deus Caritas Est

“gratitude for, & the desire to share w/others, the love that we ourselves have received … In the words of the 14th Century theologian Duns Scotus – Deus vult condiligentes – God wants persons who love together w/him.” BXVI Address at Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna 2007

In addition to virtue dynamics, Scotus employs deontological elements.

The “free will” (voluntas libera) can select in conformity w/the affection of justice (affectio justitiae) & the good in itself (bonum in se).

The “natural will” (voluntas naturalis) necessarily moves by natural affection (affectio commodi) & seeks one’s own good (bonum sibi). ~ Anselm via Scotus

Our common sense, evaluative dispositions, moral sensibilities & ethical intuitions may be inchoately deontological.

Morally, when our analytical decisions seem to violate our deepest connatural inclinations, we can inartfully express such choices. e.g. The implicit proportionate reasoning calculus of our inchoate deontology could mistakenly come across as otherwise explicitly consequentialist.

If we encounter an ethical reductio ad absurdum, where we suspect otherwise valid syllogistic conclusions are somehow unsound, we best check our concepts, which may not successfully refer, maybe because we’ve too broadly or narrowly conceived a reality, e.g. material non/innocent.

Soul-making & the Greatest Good as divinely willed ends in an Anti-theodicy

As I have grappled with the problem of evil, I have been rationally satisfied by different logical accounts of the divine economy, all which seem, more or less, consistent with special revelation, some seeming not to be necessarily mutually exclusive from others, none seeming to necessarily be the case.

I view soul-making and the greatest good as divinely willed “ends” for which neither evil nor suffering are divinely willed “means,” which, instead, include, for example, epistemic distance and theosis.

Epistemic distance necessarily introduces finitude and contingency, which, while they can constitute failures to cooperate with grace, merely result from “inabilities.” While moral evil can also constitute such failures, those result, instead, from “refusals” to thus cooperate, in a word, sin.

An anti-theodicy can logically affirm both divinely willed soul-making and the greatest good as “ends,” while denying evil and suffering as necessary “means” in the divine economy? God would never intend evil or suffering but whenever confronted with same could work — not with, but — providentially against and around them and seemingly, perhaps, could even opportunistically exploit every new set of circumstances to bring about the greatest good (Romans 8).

Now, in this scenario, anthropological questions would beg for me about why we wouldn’t necessarily suffer from mistakes, only from sin (but, oh what a better world it would be!) Still, I’d rather remain theologically skeptical, on one hand, about how epistemic distance and theosis, alone, might have (even if somewhat implausibly so) operated in a possible world without evil and sin than, on the other hand, skeptical regarding God’s lack of moral intelligibility vis a vis what might exculpate Her from employing sin and suffering as necessary means (often seemingly repugnantly so).

Did Hugh McCann offer a soul-making, greater good evidential theodicy, arguing — not only “that,” logically, but — “how,” plausibly, sin and evil were “necessary” divine means?

Or did he otherwise recognize that, logically, the realities of sin and evil, even if probable, were definitely not necessary, and could successfully be worked around without overwhelming the divine economy with its eschatological, soteriological, sacramental, ecclesiological or sophiological ends?

As for the uninstantiated “possibilities” for moral evil, as logically entailed by freedom, they would have no ontological status. Arguably, too, sinful choices would result in axiological privations, evil, itself, having no ontological status?

Also, God, in McCann’s acount, appeared to be ontologically authoring, pre-morally, only an indispensable ontic evil (via epistemic distance as finitude not sin), which a proportionate reason would underwrite with the currency of a greater good, but otherwise remained teleologically uninvolved with any intentional agency, who, alone, would have directly intended such an evil, hence, alone, committing a morally culpable act.

Perhaps this is all more consistent with Scotus, who believed that the Incarnation was in the divine will from the cosmic get-go and not occasioned by some felix culpa.

God neither needs nor wills sin. Epistemic Distance requires ontic privations, not deontic depredations.