Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Virtue and its Substitutes: Psycho-Technology: From Cheap Virtue to No Virtue

THE GERMAN EVANGELICAL THEOLOGIAN, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about "cheap grace," billige Gnade, in his book The Cost of Discipleship. In a manner of speaking, psychology and its techniques are "cheap virtue," billige Tugend, "human dependability at reduced cost." Simon, 12. While some of the techniques that psychology has developed have some use, Simon denies that the provide the "final answer to the human condition." Simon, 12.

It's perhaps the difference between a Twinkie and an Éclair.

The techniques of psychology--what Simon calls "pscyho-technology"--are the third modern substitute for virtue, first two being the advocacy of a Rousseauian or Emersonian "natural spontaneity" and a Fourieristic "social engineering". These have some merit and perhaps some limited utility and some limited role in the life of man, but they are not replacements for virtue. Psycho-technology "could well be the most insidious challenge of them all to ethical theory." Simon, 12. It is insidious because, relying on amoral presuppositions (empiricism), it suffers from a sort of creeping usurpation of the moral realm. This amoral, empirical science seems to arrogate unto itself the moral question, thus insidiously infecting all of society with an amoral malaise. John Paul II talked about this as the "loss of the sense of sin." Secular psychology is a significant contributor to this loss of sense of sin, in part because of its arrogation of the moral question, a question, by virtue of its allegedly scientific and empirical basis, it is incompetent to address.

Simon does not reject the psychiatric practice or the techniques of psychology. He acknowledges that, despite "eccentricity, lack of moderation, lack of judgment, and lack of taste," they have offered techniques, treatments that "often work," and "result in complete suppression" of undesirable human tendencies. Psychological techniques, then, may be a part of the human arsenal in achieving human happiness. Simon does not see psycho-technology and moral counsel as mutually exclusive. Even in the middle ages, physical techniques were suggested to overcome certain faults. What concerns Simon is the modern tendency for psycho-technology to elbow out morality and occupy the field of human behavior:

What is new, however, is the better understanding of these [psychological] techniques and their ever-greater sophistication, which has resulted in their becoming the predominant, if not exclusive modern approach to problems arising from human tendencies recognized as harmful to either individuals or society or both.

Simon, 14. What seems to have happened is that the scientific prejudices of such techniques have trickled down to society at large, and so the moral life has been relegated to a minor role. Right or wrong, virtue and vice, the moral questions confronting man are largely forgotten. Is human life really nothing other than "tendencies, inclinations, obsessions, passions, neuroses--not to mention 'hang ups'"? The assumption that human life is nothing other than this is what Simon is disdainful of.
Few people stop to think that beyond the problem of diseased emotions, twisted passions, destructive compulsions, and so on, there awaits the real problem of the use and abuse of healthy tendencies and sound emotions, which is a problem for everyone, those in need of psychological help not excluded. . . . [F]or me the spread of such moral insensitivity represents one of the most serious problems of our time.
Simon, 15.

Moral insensitivity seems to be a danger uniquely associated with the psycho-technology because it has no morally objective mooring. It is like a kite without a string.

An example may show how psychology is incompetent in the area of morality. Until 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified homosexuality as a pathology, as a mental illness or mental disorder. In 1973, however, the APA, under pressure from gay rights groups, decided that such a classification was not scientifically based, but was based upon social presuppositions, and so concluded that, scientifically, it would be classified as a normal variation of human sexual orientation. Here, "science" seeks to justify a human behavior and normalize it. What happened to the moral question? Are homosexual acts consonant with the virtue of chastity? Is "science" driving morals? On what basis does science arrogate unto itself the right to define normalcy? From whence, the APA's competency in defining what is chaste? Isn't this moral usurpation? Isn't this a science creeping into the moral real? Science, which is concerned with what "is," is all of a sudden telling us (and on what basis?), what "ought" to be? This is creeping scientific amorality.

To be of sound mind and body does not mean to be also honest, reliable, charitable, truthful, courageous, just, or, in a word, virtuous. And that is why I insist that, over and above what psychological techniques can do for diseased emotions and the maintenance of sound dispositions, the only way to assure human dependability is by acquisition of virtues.

Simon, 16.

In this regard, we might amplify on Simon's concerns by relying on the viewpoint of Dr. Andrew Sodergren. Dr. Andrew Sodergren holds an M.S. and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences and a Masters degree in Theology from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, DC. In an interview with ZENIT, Dr. Sodergren addressed the interplay between morality, specifically, the "loss of a sense of sin," with psychology.
Q: What do you mean when you say that modern man and society have lost a sense of sin? How have secularism and secular psychology in particular contributed to this?

Sodergren: We have been hearing a great deal recently from the Holy Father, various Church leaders and commentators about the growth of relativism.

It is worthwhile to recall the words of Benedict XVI shortly before the conclave that elected him Pope. In that address he accused modern culture of "building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."

This growth in a relativistic mentality would not be possible without a prior weakening of the sense of sin. The "sense of sin" refers to having an accurate conception of sin and an awareness of sin in one's life.

It is part of what is normally understood as "conscience." John Paul II in "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia" wrote of a "sensitivity and an acute perception of the seeds of death contained in sin, as well as a sensitivity and an acuteness of perception for identifying them in the thousand guises under which sin shows itself. This is what is commonly called the sense of sin. This sense is rooted in man's moral conscience and is as it were its thermometer."

Thus, without a healthy sense of sin, man's conscience becomes clouded, and he easily goes astray. When this happens on a large scale, it can be disastrous for society.

Indeed, many writers have commented that "sin" has all but dropped out of modern discourse. John Paul II analyzed this situation and concluded that modern society has indeed lost its sense of sin for which he largely blames secularism. I believe that secular psychology has also had a particularly important role in diminishing the sense of sin.

Indeed, John Paul himself identified secular psychology among other human sciences as contributing to this loss.

Q: Can you explain what you mean by sin, in terms of character deformation rather than mere legalism?

Sodergren: In order to overcome the loss of the sense of sin, it is essential to recover a proper understanding of the nature of sin itself.

Sin is not simply a violation of a norm, rule, or law. Yes, it is that, but it is much more and its effects are far more insidious. It is crucial to widen our understanding of sin and avoid reducing sin to a merely legalistic view.

A renewed sense of sin begins with an acknowledgment of sin in its different manifestations: original sin, actual sin and social sin.

The Church's doctrine of original sin is often neglected today. By choosing themselves over God and thus rebelling from his command, our first parents marred their likeness to God. Their human nature was wounded by this rupture. We are all affected by the deleterious effects of original sin.

Every evil in the world is traceable back to this fundamental disruption at the beginning of time.

Since human nature consists of a unity of body and soul — see the Catechism, No. 365 — and the human soul is a spiritual soul — see No. 367 — original sin has then physical, psychological and spiritual effects.

In addition, man is a fundamentally relational being, which means that original sin necessarily disrupts his interpersonal relationships. Thus, disharmony is introduced between man and God, between human beings, within the human subject, and even between man and the cosmos.

Actual sin refers to the sinful actions that human persons commit. The character of the human person is shaped through his moral actions, which lead to the formation of dispositions. If his actions are righteous, the person develops virtues.

If, on the other hand, man's actions are immoral, his state in the world — already disordered by original sin — is worsened through the development of vices. This condition inclines him to commit further sins thus moving him toward further disintegration.

Seen in this way, sin can be seen as a dynamic, insidious force that is somewhat like a disease or addiction that works to unravel the human person, making him a slave of sin and alienating him from his ultimate end.

"Social sin" is a concept that has received greater attention in recent teachings of the magisterium than in previous times. John Paul II pointed out that there are ways that this term is used that are false. These erroneous meanings absolve the individual of all responsibility and blame solely the larger social forces for the individual's misdeeds.

Nonetheless, there are legitimate notions of "social sin" that have, in fact, been incorporated into the official teachings of the Church. Because of a greater appreciation of the relationality of man and the solidarity of all human persons, these teachings of the Church express a great sensitivity to the myriad ways in which one person's sins affect others, the Church and the world.

In other words, my sins not only wound myself, worsening my own condition, but they also harm other people around me, the Church as a whole, and even drag down the human race through what John Paul II called the "communion of sin."

Another valid aspect of the notion of social sin is that social situations arise as a result of sin that inflict harm on others and incline them to sin as well. These social structures that can lead people into sin have been termed "structures of sin."

Thus, when sinful actions become accepted by a society, structures of sin can emerge, which tend to push others toward committing sinful acts. This does not absolve the individual of responsibility, for he will still be judged according to his personal free acts. Nonetheless, it does give a richer view of how the sin affects others and can indeed lead them to commit sin as well.

Q: What is it in the content of certain secular psychology theories that denies the sense of sin?

Sodergren: Secular psychology has produced many theories of personality. These theories have contributed to the loss of the sense of sin in two ways: by their secular view of the person and by their misconceptions regarding human freedom.

Dr. Paul Vitz has noted many times that all of the major theories of personality in psychology are secular in nature. In other words, they attempt to give an explanation of human existence, development, fulfillment, and obstacles to that fulfillment without any reference to divine or sacred realities. These theories focus on the immanent happiness of the individual without any reference to the transcendent or to objective truth.

They portray a humanism totally without God. Thus, these secular theories of the person reduce one's sense of God. As John Paul II and others have pointed out, the sense of God is closely related to the sense of sin. When the former withers, so does the latter.

The other way in which these theories of personality undermine the sense of sin relates to how they conceive of human freedom.

Many psychological theories conceive of the human person in a deterministic fashion. That is, they regard the human person and his actions as pre-determined results of his childhood experiences, his genes, his neural circuitry, the pressures of environmental reinforcements and punishments, and so on.

Within a deterministic framework, human freedom soon disappears, and if man lacks freedom, moral notions such as sin likewise become meaningless.

Other psychological theories absolutize human freedom conceived as autonomous choice. These theories deny the reality of original sin stating that the human self already possesses everything it needs to be self-actualized. It only needs to be freed from any constraints placed on it by external forces.

The problem with these theories is that they embrace an ethical subjectivism that denies the existence of moral absolutes other than, perhaps, the "commandment" to self-actualize. Duties and obligations toward others are secondary at best. With this mindset, any sense of sin quickly vanishes.

Q: How does secular psychology define mental illness, and how can this be related to the reality of sin? Is it significant that psychology's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been rapidly expanding as the sense of sin has been diminishing?

Sodergren: This is a very subtle and complicated but important issue.

The application of a purely secular disease model to the realm of mental disorder and its treatment has served to undermine the sense of sin. How could this be the case?

John Paul II again points us in the right direction: "Another reason for the disappearance of the sense of sin in contemporary society is to be found in the errors made in evaluating certain findings of the human sciences. Thus on the basis of certain affirmations of psychology, concern to avoid creating feelings of guilt or to place limits on freedom leads to a refusal ever to admit any shortcoming."

Many scholars from psychiatrist Thomas Szasz to sociologists P. Conrad and W.S. Schneider to psychologist O.H. Mowrer and more have observed that as the field of clinical psychology with its classifications of mental disorders has grown, so has the tendency to "medicalize" human behavior.

My faults and foibles, my internal or interpersonal struggles, my bad habits and the like are no longer my responsibility but rather symptoms of an illness that needs medical treatment.

As the notion of "mental disorder" has gained prominence, it has been stretched to include more and more areas of human thought, feeling and acting.

In the book "Rethinking the DSM," published by the American Psychological Association, several secular authors criticized the expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and how more and more phenomena today are considered a diagnosable mental disorder.

It may surprise some that modern psychology and psychiatry do not have a settled vision of what mental health is.

With this lack of a clear norm, how can a valid system of mental illness be constructed?

This is a problem of which John Paul II was well aware: "The difficulty which the experts themselves in the field of psychology and psychiatry experience in defining satisfactorily for everybody the concept of normality is well known. In any case, whatever may be the definition given by the psychiatric and psychological sciences, it must always be examined in the light of the concepts of Christian anthropology."

Not only has the sense of sin subtly been undermined by this emphasis of clinical psychology, but at times it has also been forthrightly attacked.

As the reasoning goes, if this medicalized view of human behavior is correct, then any residual guilt feelings regarding my own condition or that of someone close to me must themselves be symptoms of psychological disturbance.

Despite the attempts of a few marginal thinkers to restore a sense of moral responsibility and thus a sense of sin to the psychotherapeutic milieu, the psychiatric establishment has largely been unaffected. Thus, the sense of sin continues to wither under the powerful influences of psychology.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Virtue and Its Substitutes: Social Engineering

YVES SIMON FINDS ANOTHER SUBSTITUTE FOR VIRTUE in something he calls "social engineering." He focuses one of the fathers of this notion, the French socialist and utopian Charles Fourier (1772-1837). If nothing else, Fourier may be said to have been a visionary, an odd one to be sure, but one without the spirit of the prophet since the seas did not turn to lemonade as he predicted. Reacting against the real social problems ushered in by the Industrial Revolution, Fourier tried to offer some solutions for addressing solving them, but like many do-gooders, he made the mess worse. He wrote numerous books on the subject of social science, beginning with this first book published (anonymously) in 1808 entitled Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées générales, or Theory of the Four Movements and the General Destinies. He caught the imagination of peoples, if for nothing else the sheer audacity of some his projects and some of his predictions, and the hubris of some of his self-accolades, such as believing himself to be the Newton of a new social science. But he was really nothing more than a "petit bourgeois with the wildest of imaginations." Simon, 10. Yet Fourier had impact. among his contemporaries and posterity. He shows up, for example in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment summarized and excoriated by Razumihin:
I'll show you their pamphlets. Everything with them is 'the influence of environment,' and nothing else. Their favorite phrase! From which it follows that, if society is normally organized, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to protest against and all men will become righteous in one instant. . . . The living soul demands life, the soul won't obey the rules of mechanics, the soul is an objection of suspicion, the soul is a retrograde. But what they want though it smells of death and can be made of india-rubber, at least is not alive, has no will, is servile and won't revolt! And it comes in the end to their reducing everything to the building of walls and the planning of rooms and passages in a phalanstery! The phalanstery is ready, indeed, but your human nature is not ready for the phalanstery . . . .
Simon, 9 (quoting Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (New York: Modern Library), 251-52).

Charles Fourier by Jean Francois Gigoux

Fourier made himself an easy target for lampooning. Included in some of his outlandish predictions, which may have been the use of ill-advised hyperbole, were that the seas would turn to lemonade if only his social reforms were introduced! In his novel, The Blithedale Romance, a story centered on an experimental community called Blithedale which is reminiscent of the Brook Farm Transcendental group with which the author Nathaniel Hawthorne had briefly been associated in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Hawthorne seizes upon this very notion to caricature him through a discussion between Miles Coverdale and Hollingsworth:
I talked about Fourier to Hollingsworth, and translated, for his benefit, some of the passages that chiefly impressed me.

"When, as a consequence of human improvement," said I, "the globe shall arrive at its final perfection, the great ocean is to be converted into a particular kind of lemonade, such as was fashionable at Paris in Fourier's time. He calls it limonade à cèdre. It is positively a fact! Just imagine the city-docks filled, every day, with a flood-tide of this delectable beverage!"

"Why did not the Frenchman make punch of it, at once?" asked Hollingsworth. . . . "Take the book out of my sight!" said Hollingsworth, with great virulence of expression, "or, I tell you fairly, I shall fling it in the fire! And as for Fourier, let him make a Paradise, if he can, of Gehenna, where, as I conscientiously believe, he is floundering at this moment!"
Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (Stilwell: Digireads, 2007), 28.

Fourier's lemonade theory is much more sophisticated than Hawthorne portrays it, and for its sophistication even more absurd. The reasoning of Fourier begin to seem like retrogression into philosophical theories of the Four Elements:

[Fourier] propagated the idea of a boreal fluidum that was the agent of a beneficient change of the earth and its oceans, a change which would be effected concurrently to the transformation from social chaos to universal harmony. One of his rather fantastic theories was that the boreal fluidum would effect a change in the taste of sea-water causing an increase of the boreal citric acid and thus dissolve or precipitate the aniline particles of the sea-water. Together with the salt, the boreal fluidum would give the sea-water a taste similar to lemonade, which Fourier called aigre de cèdre.

Betsy van Schlun, Science and the Imagination: Mesmerism, Media and the Mind (Galda: Wilch Verlag, 2007), 103.

For Simon, Fourier's significance lies not in his theories of boreal fluidum, but in his being a representational character of the "greatest aspiration of his time, which was to produce a reliable science of society patterned after the science of nature." Simon, 9. Attracted by Newtonian theories of physics, Fourier developed his own analogous law of gravitational attraction in the area of social relations, positing a theory of "passional attraction," l'attraction passionnée. The world must take cognizance of these laws that Fourier had discovered, and not work against them, but work with them. This theory, in Fourier's febrile mind, was his grand discovery. These laws of passional attraction he opposed to any matrix of traditional morality. Traditional morality--and this would include any traditional notion of the virtues--was oppressive in that it sought to chain, suppress, inhibit the "passional attraction" against the very laws that governed them. It was, in Fourier's view, to kick against the pricks. As he puts it:
The learned world is wholly imbued with a doctrine termed MORALITY, which is a mortal enemy of passional attraction.

Morality teaches man to be at war with himself, to resist his passions, to repress them, to believe that God was incapable of organizing our souls, our passions wisely; that he needed the teachings of Plato and Seneca in order to know how to distribute characteristics and instincts. Imbued with these prejudices regarding the impotence of God, the learned world was not qualified to estimate the natural impulses or passional attractions, which morality proscribes and relegates to the rank of vices.
Selections from the Works of Fourier (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1901), 55 (Julia Franklin, trans.)

The passions, which Fourier classified religiously and which would have impressed Carl Linnaeus, were "all natural, they were all good, they were all providential." Simon, 10. So traditional morality and the virtues was working, in Fourier's morally anomalous view, against God himself.

Patently, Fourier is an enemy of traditional morality and the virtues. He seeks to replace them with something entirely different. Indeed, he views traditional morality as an ancien régime which ought to be entirely overthrown and replaced by a nouvelle régime based upon supposed "scientific" principles. By working with instead of against the passions, as Fourier's "scientific" laws advised, the current "Age of Civilization" would be replaced by an "Age of Harmony." Part of his recipe was to unleash women from traditional roles--Fourier is said to be the coiner of the word feminism (féminisme)--and reconfigure all of society in the form of phalanxes which lived in Phalansteries (Phalanstère).

There is, as Simon notes in The Definition of Moral Virtue, a superficial similarity between Fourier and the pantheism/naturalism of Rousseau and Emerson. But there is a world of difference between them. They stood on the opposite ends of Janus.* In a manner of speaking, one may classify Rousseau and Emerson as looking backward to a time where nature was uncorrupted by society. Fourier, on the other hand, looked forward, to a time where nature would no longer be corrupted by society. Rousseau and Emerson had a spirit of Epimetheus. Fourier had a spirit of Prometheus.** It is perhaps the difference between nostalgia and reform.

Watercolor of a Phalanstery of Fourier
Early Socialism at its Weirdest

One of Fourier's concepts was therefore to structure the social arrangements in accordance with his "laws of passional attraction." His concept was to form "phalanxes," social groups composed of 1620 people (810 males and 810 females of each "type" of person per Fourier's classifications) which, carefully selected in accordance with the "laws of passion," were to gather together in specially designed communes housed in buildings called Phalansteries (Phalanstères), and there live their harmonious life to usher in the new age. So, those who loved to play in trash, would, naturally be trash gatherers, and so on. Phalansteries could be further divided upon whether one's ruling passion was monogamous marriage, polyandrous marriage, no marriage at all, or other kinds of sexual relations. Fourier was a hippie before hippie was cool. The Phalansteries were, though they had some life especially in the United States, as might be expected, abject failures.

Unfortunately, there is one aspect of Fourier's thought that seems, despite is rather curious, bizarre, and anomalous beginnings, to have continued, and that is the notion that "social engineering" can fix a whole slew of problems that relate to mankind and his social arrangements, and can do so without the need of inculcating virtue. Having to suffer the onslaught of the application of pseudo-scientific, social "technology" advanced by social designers, which is the engine behind a whole slew of government programs, campaigns, social and sex education, etc., etc., instead of working with the traditional ways of life which pass through family and kindred and allied institutions, and which have been largely forgotten, is the bane of modern life. The loss of organic institutions, and their replacement with dictats from above based upon notions of social engineering and the thoughts and ideologies of a small cadre of self-anointed periti, is a significant feature of modern life. It is why we are without roots. It is why there are parts of modern life not sweet like lemonade, but as bitter as lemons.

*The Roman god Janus is typically depicted with two faces, one looking backward, the other looking forward in time.
**Epimetheus (from Greek, Ἐπιμηθεύς, which means "hindsight" or "afterthought") was brother to Prometheus (from Greek, Προμηθεύς, which means "foresight" or "fore-thought") were Titans, sons of Iapetus. One could only look forward, the other could only look backward.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Virtue and its Substitutes: Emerson: Virtue is as Plant Does

RALPH WALDO EMERSON HAD A PRODIGIOUS TALENT: Writing. "He is a gifted writer, who can take a blank page of pager, pick up his pen, and as if by a miracle the page is soon covered with intelligible sentences," Simon admits. (One might also say some unintelligible sentences are part of intelligible sentences.) But Emerson suffered from prodigious intellectual and moral lapses: an unsound theology (pantheism), a lack of organization and system in both thought and in writing, and an absolutely disastrous moral recipe (spontaneity) based upon his pantheistic theology which divinized self, and de-divinized God, making us all God or each of us gods.

To encapsulate Emerson, to grasp his thought in the area of virtue, is almost hopeless as catching a sprite with a mousetrap, or taming a drop of water on a hot, greasy skillet. To read Emerson is to enter into a circular river, with shallows, shoals, rapids, and waterfalls, going deliciously round-and-round but not ever really getting anywhere. For Emerson it seems to be movement and not end that is important. Emerson is therefore as self-defeating, self-imploding, self-contradictory as a Buddhist Christian. He may be called Liberalism's (pan)theologian.

Emerson's notion of virtue is Thoreauian, but it comes with the additional twist of rank, proud pantheism which informs all that Emerson writes about moral virtue. Simon notes that Emerson also sports the Rousseauian "novel meaning of 'virtue'", but "makes this natural spontaneity proceed directly from a divine cause." Simon, 4. Spontaneity is the virtue of virtues for Emerson, because it is the spark of divinity in us. It is God in us that seeks to come out an express itself. Any curbing of such spontaneous self-expression--even by something like a traditional virtue or traditional dogma--is squelching God in Emerson's view. Society, in particular, is a wicked demon, and "is everywhere in a conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members." Simon, 5 (quoting Emerson) His recipe for virtue: non-conformity and inconsistency.

This is, of course, as foolish as a teacher of chefs suggesting that to his students that they cook Sunday morning pancakes not by following any recipe, but by following their spontaneity, so that if a particular student gets the urge to fix some flapjacks using rubber, hot sauce, and curdled milk: he ought to go right ahead and do it. He is a great chef, and anyone who tells him otherwise, including those retching on his pancakes, are in a conspiracy against him. After all, to be a great chef is to be misunderstood, for "to be great is to be misunderstood." Simon, 5 (quoting Emerson). But this is pure Emerson:
And so it goes: a commonplace followed by genuine insight followed by a half-truth followed by sometimes arrogant, sometimes unperceived contradictions.
Simon, 5.

This lack of system in Emerson clearly frustrates Simon, and it does suggest a sort of flippant lack of responsibility, a will-o'-the-wisp attitude to truth on the part of Emerson. But you won't find systems, or even the desire for systems in someone who says something like Emerson does in his famous essay on "Self Reliance":

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you, in your private heart, is true for all men, that is genius. . . . Great works of art have no more affecting lessor for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good humored flexibility the most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side.

Simon, 4-5 (quoting Emerson)

In the area of virtue, Emerson appears to have one overriding or characteristic doctrine: he opposes the spontaneous to the voluntary. Spontaneity is placed opposite will. Spontaneity is sacrosanct "intuition," will and reason are "tuition." To "involuntary perceptions," "a perfect faith is due," but not so for the "voluntary acts of his mind." Simon, 6 (quoting Emerson). In his essay on "Spiritual Laws" Emerson states that "our moral nature is vitiated by any interference of our will." Simon, 7 (quoting Emerson). Clearly, for Emerson, the will (and reason) is only something that is used to curb spontaneity. If spontaneity is the sole human good, it follows that the exercise of will is, by definition, evil. It seems unquestionable that Emerson deifies spontaneity as the moral principle:
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal self, on which universal reliance is grounded? What is the nature of the power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independent appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct.
Simon, 6 (quoting Emerson) This is quite clearly a recipe for disaster. It is like giving the keys to the Porsche to a drunk teenager and suggesting he try to see fast he can drive it on a winding and treacherous mountain road in icy conditions. Emerson is cavalierly irresponsible. His doctrine represents a collapse of the notion of virtue:

People represent virtue as a struggle, and take to themselves great airs upon their attainments, and the question is everywhere vexed when a noble nature is commended, whether the man is not better who strives with temptation. But there is no merit in that matter. Either God is there or he is not there. We love characters in proportion as they are impulsive and spontaneous. The less a man thinks or knows about his virtues, the better we like him.

Simon, 7 (quoting Emerson). This, of course, means we should like the dissolute, the dissipated, the intemperate more than the steady self-imposed discipline of the Roman Stoic, or more than the dedication of love and purity of the Saint who governs his life and exhibits full compliance with all natural and theological virtues. In short, this is to reverse standards: Emerson is calling black white and white black, virtue vice and vice virtue. This is the devil talking, only talking through smooth Emersonian prose.

Spontaneity in Virtue: Proving Emerson False

(One might note, also the false Emersonian opposition between spontaneity and virtue. The good in some spontaneous impulse is measured with reference to the natural law and virtue; spontaneity is not the standard. And so spontaneity may, in a particular case, be horribly evil, and in another particular case, give rise to wonderful good. Moreover, to suggest that the Saints are not spontaneous is travesty. One could look through the annals of hagiography and cull out countless spontaneous acts of generosity and charity which mark the life of the Saints. Three which come immediately to mind: St. Martin of Tours offering his military cloak to the beggar, St. Francis of Assisi's kiss of a leper on the lips, and St. Maximiliam Kolbe offering his life in exchange for the life of the Jewish father and family man , Franciszek Gajowniczek at Auschwitz. I'll bet none of Emerson's spontaneous acts came close to achieving such tremendous moral beauty.)

Clearly, Emerson, like Rousseau, uses the word "virtue." But he does not mean "virtue" as traditionally understood. He takes the word virtue and uses it to his purposes. He jerry rigs the word virtue, sort of like the TV show character MacGyver who is able to improvise all sorts of things with the common place. Virtue's MacGyver, Emerson is able to improvise virtue from everything else but virtue! Unfortunately, what might work with gadgets in the unreal world of Television, does not work will with morality in the real world. So Emerson may say: act virtuously; but what he really is saying is: act viciously.

Perhaps, cutting to the quick, the best comment is Simon's observation that, though unquestionably stated in a "powerful way," Emerson's "spontaneous" morality based on pre-will, pre-rational instinct, is really advocating that we abide by "essentially the same force by which a plant grows and all things exist." Simon, 7.

Removed of its literary trappings, Emerson's doctrine is theological babble. He says, "ye are gods." But what he really means is "act like plants."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Puer Natus Est Nobis

Felix Nativitatem
Merry Christmas

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:

et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus

A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us:

Whose government is upon His shoulder:

and His Name shall be called, the Angel of Great Counsel.

Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit.
Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because He hath done wonderful things.

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:

et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.

A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us:

Whose government is upon His shoulder:

and His Name shall be called, the Angel of Great Counsel.

Notum fecit Dominus salutare suum:
in conspectu gentium revelavit iustitiam suam.

The Lord has made known his salvation;

to all nations he has revealed his justice.

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:
cuius imperium super humerum eius:

et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.

A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us:
Whose government is upon His shoulder:

and His Name shall be called, the Angel of Great Counsel.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Virtue and its Substitutes: Rousseau and Natural Impulse

“THE NATURAL LAW IS THE ORIGIN and principle of all virtues and their acts," says William of Auxerrre in his Summa aurea. For the next various blog postings we will focus on the concept of virtue, relying on the French philosopher Yves R. Simon's The Definition of Moral Virtue (New York: Fordham University Press, 1986). This slim book was edited by Vukan Kuic, and its basis is a series of lectures given by Professor Simon at the University of Chicago in 1957. As William of Auxerre suggests, virtue ethics and the natural law are closely aligned; indeed, traditionally, it was impossible to conceive of one without the other. Modernly, virtues--like the natural moral law--remain largely out of favor, although they have some signs of resurgence, spurred by the works of Alasdair MacIntyre, especially since the publication of his works After Virtue and his Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry. Their modern rebirth in secular Academia may be laid at the feet of two women: one a Catholic and the other an atheist: G. E. M. Anscombe (in particular her 1958 essay, "Modern Moral Philosophy" (originally published in the journal Philosophy, vol. 33, no. 124 (January 1958)), and Philippa Foot, who published a collection of essays entitled Virtues and Vices in 1978 (recently republished by Oxford University Press). Virtue was also popularized by William Bennett, U. S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan who wrote his bestselling book, The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories (1993). Of course, within the moral tradition of the Catholic Church, and within cultural conservatives, the notion of virtue, which is fundamentally human, never lost favor.

Simon identifies virtue with one of its fundamental indicia: dependability or a lack of conditionality. Virtue has staying power, a staying power which human nature as we find it, with its impulses, its foibles, its emotional flux does not. Virtues, are, of course, also part of human nature and support it, but in a manner of speaking they are imposed over those predispositions or tendencies in us which tug against moral right, sort of like a muzzle over a biting dog. They are acquired; they are obtained a posteriori, by habitually learning and doing right, as it were, not a priori, as if innate and spontaneous. Viewed positively, virtues may be considered a sort of dampener which resists the downward dug or bad and temporary impulses. Viewed negatively, the virtues may be considered as a sort of insulating boundary between an errant impulse and objective right. But before we look at virtue, we begin by focusing on modern replacements for virtue, for just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the absence of virtue create a vacuum in the moral man. Something, a substitute, sometimes one which shares at least superficially in some of the qualities of virtues, but which is yet a counterfeit, will step in. Simon identifies three such substitutes or rival versions of what is required to perfect man and take him to happiness: the theory of natural goodness, social engineering, and what he calls psycho-technology.

Traditional virtue found an enemy in the romantic naturalists such as Rousseau (1712-1778). This may be confusing and hard to believe because, especially with respect to Rousseau, the word virtue was never far from his lips or his pen, though, understood in any traditional sense, the notion of virtue seemed to be far from his heart. The traditional notions of virtue for the likes of the Rousseauians appeared to them to be conventional strictures that squelched the natural and spontaneous good that was within man. The dogma of original sin or a realistic anthropology or assessment of the human condition was not part of their thinking; instead, they adopted a highly-optimistic view of man that stressed natural spontaneity. This is, of course, fatal to the traditional notion of virtues as acquired qualities of the mind or of character. Though natural, virtues must be built into us; they are sort of a secondary nature.

Now spontaneity is not, in itself, an evil thing. There is not much attractive in those who are conventional for convention's sake any more than there is anything attractive in those who are spontaneous for spontaneity's sake. But spontaneity (like convention) has no measure of right and wrong, no ratio ordinis, by which it is internally measured. Spontaneity (like convention) must be measured by something extrinsic to it. To suggest that spontaneity in itself is the measure of good, and that any habitus of virtue that resists or inhibits such impulses in any particular case must needs be a restriction on man's freedom and happiness is the kernel of Rousseauian error.

Rousseau, the "Cartesian" Moralist
What the "light of natural reason" was to Descartes in intellectual knowledge,
"natural spontaneity" was to Rousseau in the moral realm.

There is, to be sure, a distinction between the habitus of virtue and social convention. It may be that a social convention, one leastwise that is not directly tied to the habitus of virtue, improperly restricts a perfectly good spontaneous desire. Perhaps a conventional notion that one must raise a family suppresses the spontaneous vocation toward the monastic, celibate life. This is perhaps the truth that Rousseau seized upon and exploited. However, it is an error to equate, to make coterminous, virtue with convention. It is also an error to say that convention and virtue are always and everywhere opposites. Even where virtue and convention overlap (and that seems to be less the case modernly), to squelch spontaneity because convention demands it is hugely different from squelching spontaneity because virtue demands it. Virtue is perennial, and perennially human and good; convention is contingent, and conditionally human and good. Virtues, in other words, are built upon the foundation of the natural moral law. Conventions may or may not be, since they are conventionally-based on customs or the positive law, and not naturally-based on natural law. Yet they both govern or influence behavior and so are found playing on the same field, as it were, the field of morality. To confuse convention and virtue is to confuse team players; it is to neglect the difference between the jerseys of the home team with the jerseys of the visiting team. That blindness will make you a very bad player on the field of morality.

Rousseau's moral teachings are, in Simon's view, analogous to Descartes's intellectual teachings. What Descartes did in the area of speculative reason, Rousseau did in the area of practical reason. Descartes desired to free the human intellect from what he saw as the shackles of tradition, specifically the natural, Aristotelian scholastic philosophy of the time. The construct of the philosophers had to be scrapped in Descartes's view, and one had to seize the "natural light of reason," la lumière naturelle, a natural light which, unconstrained by the accouterments of the schools, would once again allow man to gain true knowledge. As Descartes expressed it in a letter to R. P. Mersenne dated October 16, 1639: "pour moi, je n'ai pour règle des miennes [i.e., de mes vérités] que la lumière naturelle," as for me, I have no other rules [in regard to truth] other than the natural light [of reason]."* Intellectual tradition or patrimony of thought, then, was to be disdained not because it was untrue, but simply because it was traditional. Rousseau applied that very same form of thinking to the matter of morals.

According to Descartes, therefore, the main problem in the progress of knowledge is how to get rid of and stay away from false ideas that not only come from bad teaching, and from old wives' tales, but are generated by our imagination running wild in childhood. . . . For the understanding of Descartes, this is a crucial point. . . . What [the mind] really needs is to recover somehow the natural, native power and light of reason, impaired by bad education, by vulgar opinions, and perhaps most of all by childhood fantasies.

Simon, 3. What Descartes tried to do with regard to the intellectual knowledge, Rousseau tried to do with respect to moral knowledge. In a sense, the Cartesian intellectual optimism was recruited to the moral realm, and there became the Rousseauian natural optimism, a natural optimism which is so attractive to the lazy, to those with moral acedia.
True, Rousseau and his followers never stop talking about 'virtues.' But if we go beyond mere words, we quickly realize that what they are after is not to work for it but rather to tap in the individual a natural spontaneity toward goodness, which they take to be antecedent to both rationality and social order.
Simon, 4.

Thus, though Descartes and Rousseau had different material interests (intellectual knowledge versus moral knowledge), their formal interests were the same (extracting their underlying subject matter from any restrictions, conventional, traditional, dogmatic, etc.) The problem is, of course, that one does not want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Why throw out the virtues in the name of getting rid of convention?

In a manner of speaking, if the notion of virtue is thought of as expansive, in the manner of Aristotle, then Rousseau and Descartes were battling the same thing: virtue. "Aristotle . . . attributes both moral and scientific progress to acquired qualities which he calls virtues." Simon, 3-4. Viewed in this manner, Descartes and Rousseau were battling the same thing: virtue. One did this by hailing back to the supposed "light of natural reason," the other by hailing back to supposed unspoiled "natural spontaneity."

Rousseau's thinking continues on its vicious path. He is read with great avidity or perhaps cupidity today: Rousseau's thought "continues to operate in our society at a deep, mostly unconscious level as a substitute for a genuine theory of virtues." Simon, 4. In summary, however, we must not forget that "rather than an acquired quality of mind or character, 'virtue' for Rousseau means nothing more than 'natural spontaneity.'" Simon, 4.

In other words, if we want to begin learning about virtue, one of our first virtuous acts would be to throw away any reliance upon Rousseau. There is too much of the devil that smolders within his pages.

*Ouvres Philosophiques De Descartes (Paris: August Desrez, 1838), 562.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tribute to Moloch: Viragos and Violinists, Part 2

WE HAVE SEEN HOW JUDITH JARVIS THOMSON'S thought experiment of being caught by the Society of Music Lovers and forced to act as a human dialysis machine against one's will is an analogy that suffers deep differences from any pregnancy. The differences between the two scenarios--one real, one thought up--are so vast as to make the thought experiment worthless from the get go. But foregoing that problem--which is fatal to Thomson's argument--we can also look at the thought experiment itself and see that it does not even morally justify the intentional killing of the fetus. We may identify two clear moral disequivalencies between Thomson's thought experiment and a pregnancy. The first relates to legitimate self-defense. The second relates to the difference between direct killing and indirect killing.

Supposing one finds oneself tied to the violinist, what may the unjustly tied person do? Certainly, confronted with the injustice of having been kidnapped, assaulted, and forced into involuntary servitude justifies the use of some force in self-defense of one's rights. The question then becomes: what sort of response or force is legitimate or justified? It would seem that under the circumstances it is rather obvious that one could unplug oneself from the violinist. Of course, it is this hunch that Thomson recruits to analogize in the abortion situation. But an abortion is not analogous to unplugging oneself from the violinist. An abortion is analogous to shooting the violinist in the head: intentionally killing the violinist. It is far from apparent that one has the legitimate right to self-defense that would allow one to murder the famed violinist who, after all, is innocent of the plight one finds oneself in, since he is apparently the beneficiary of a crazed, fanatical group of music lovers and has not cooperated in the felonious activity that resulted in being used as a human dialysis machine. Even if he had tacitly or directly cooperated in the scheme, it is dubious that one is morally justified in shooting the violinist in the head. That, of course, is to commit a wrong to oust oneself from being wronged. Therefore, it would seem that Thomson's own highly-unlikely scenario does not justify abortion, but would argue against the direct, intentional killing that is involved in such practice. The moral dubiousness of directly killing the violinist becomes even less justifiable if one finds oneself in the situation, not as a result of another's wrong, but as a result of neglect or carelessness or even as a result of voluntary assumption. So even if the situation where one is the victim of unjust aggression, the response must be proportionate. In abortion the fetus is absolutely innocent of any unjust aggression against the mother, so it would justify even less force against the fetus. "[I]t is wrong to kill someone in order to escape physical inconvenience, whether that inconvenience lasts for a day or nine months." Oderberg, 26.

In fact, as Oderberg points out, what is involved in Thomson's situation and what is being justified in Thomson's scenario is a sort of "sublimated punishment," or perhaps better transferred punishment. "[W]hat is being advocated . . . is not self defence at all but a kind of sublimated punishment of a third party [the violinist=fetus] for an offence someone else has committed." It is, of course, morally offensive that an innocent party ought to be punished for the wrongful acts of another. And the intentional killing of that innocent party would be an entirely disproportionate response to the situation.

So Oderberg concludes:

Thomson's violinist case, then, rests upon an intuition that is eminently contestable. It is not at all obvious that your plight, being plugged into the violinist, allows you to kill him.

Oderberg, 27.

So the intentional killing of the violinist would be a disproportionate response to being hooked up to him, but does that mean one may not unplug oneself from the violinist even though one can foresee that it would probably result in his death? Using the principle of double effect to analyze the situation, Oderberg thinks not. While uplugging oneself from the violinist is itself a morally unobjectionable act, and though one may intend to unplug oneself, not as a means to kill the violinist but to remove oneself from the unjust physical imposition, there must be a proportionality between the good caused by the morally unobjectionable act and the indirect evil caused by the morally unobjectionable act. It is here that, in Oderberg's view, the analysis would fail. "Hence, you are not permitted to disconnect the tube, unpleasant through the prospect of your confinement must be--and this is really just an explanation of why your self-defensive acts must always be proportionate; in other words, the bad effects of your acts must always be proportionate to the good you are seeking to defend." Oderberg, 28.

It is, in summary, Oderberg's conclusion that Thomson "has not shown that a right to abortion can be grounded in a woman's right over her own body." Oderberg, 31. Indeed, rightfully analyzed, it would seem that Thomson's example (even ignoring the disanalogies of the thought experiment: see Tribute to Moloch: Viragos and Violinists, Part 1) does not justify abortion in the extreme case of rape, much less in those far-more-frequent situations where the woman's pregnancy is the result of her own negligence or where something far less than bodily integrity is at stake, and the good that is sought arises from desiring to extricate oneself from inconvenience, financial hardship, difficulties with the father, and so forth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tribute to Moloch: Viragos and Violinists, Part 1

WOMEN HAVE A UNIQUE LICENSE IN CONTEMPORARY LAW, the license at will to kill a certain segment of the population with legal impunity. We might call it "Moloch's law," or the law of materfamilias. The group which is the most rabid defender of the license to kill is the radical Feminists. That group's political influence on the expansion and defense of abortion rights worldwide is nonpareil. This group has been instrumental in ushering in and institutionalizing one of the most magnificent, monstrous, and sublime evils in the history of man, equally nonpareil.

The central motto which underlies the justification for this license over another's life: "Women have the right to do what they want to with their bodies." Regardless of whether that political slogan is true or not (and it clearly is not: surely there are moral or legal constraints that may be imposed on one's use of anyone's body whether a man or a woman?), the very mantra displays a politically astute if not also a massive evasion of the question. It evades the question since it presents only one-half of the issue, as it ignores the clash of another right: the right of the unborn fetus that, through no moral fault of its own, has imposed itself upon and relies upon a woman's body for its life. In other words, there are two rights at stake, not just one.

What is worse is that in the Feminist formulation the right that is ignored is the more important right, as the right to life is more important than the right to bodily determination (since without the right to life there is no bodily determination, and the right to life includes the right to bodily determination). In light of what we know from modern science, the conceptus, zygote, embryo, fetus, however and when you identify this individual human being (these are words describing stages in a human being's life just like infant, toddler, pre-teen, teenager, young adult . . . ), is not part of a woman's body. It is another human being separate and apart from the mother, and one, moreover, that as a matter of natural processes uses the mother's body, relies upon the mother's body, and is served by her body. "So whatever 'the right to choose may mean, it cannot entail that the choice to have an abortion is like the choice whether or not to have a nose job." Oderberg, 22.

Judith Jarvis Thomson: Abortion's Ace Apologist

This supposed right a woman has over her body (read a right to abortion) is, as Oderberg understatedly (and perhaps with purposeful double entendre) puts it, "is hardly one with a venerable history." Oderberg, 22. Not only is it a "right" without a long history, it is a "right" with a sort yet sanguinary history worse than Nazism or Communism put together and multiplied by ten. Confronted with the fact that traditionally, and "as a matter of socio-biological fact, women just do not have only themselves to answer to when fertility is in question," one would have thought that the justifying burden for this new "right" was upon them as innovator, as rebel, as recalcitrant to custom and nature. It was an onus never really met by them, and one avoided through a sort of shrewish academic and political screaming, termagant-like accusations of patriarchy and male chauvinism, nonserviamatic hubris, and just plain bad rationalization for lust and power.

One of the more famous efforts at justification was that advanced by Judith Jarvis Thomson in a 1971 article entitled "A Defense of Abortion," originally published in Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971), 47-66. In his preface to an anthology of Judith Thomson's essays, William Parent calls it "the most widely reprinted essay in all of contemporary philosophy." Judith Jarvis Thomson, Rights, Restitution, and Risk: Essays in Moral Theory (William Parent, ed.) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), vii. It is ubiquitous: I remember being given it in law school in a jurisprudence class, and finding it singularly unimpressive, in fact stupid. Yet it remains one of the foundational apologias for abortion. As the Canadian philosopher, Donald DeMarco put it in an essay in "The Interim"*:

With her "defense of abortion," however, [Judith Jarvis Thomson] hit, so to speak, the philosophical jackpot. Her article has become the most widely reprinted essay, not only on the subject of abortion, which is a remarkable phenomenon in itself, but in all of contemporary philosophy. Because her article has been reprinted, anthologized, amplified, circulated, read, and discussed as often and as much as it has, it seems reasonably safe to assume that it has had a significant influence, particularly as an apologia for abortion. The article's broad popularity among abortion advocates suggests that it is the best argument that has been put forth as a defence of, and argument for, abortion.

For the sake of argument, Thomson concedes the humanity of the fetus. Her argument focuses not on the minor premise of the Anti-Abortion Syllogism, but on its major premise: that the right to life of an innocent human being is inviolate, and one cannot intentionally kill an innocent human being without grave fault. This fundamental moral principle, Thomson insists, is false. She characterizes the fetus a status which has not been characterized as one of "innocent aggressor" (the term is not Thomson's, but her successors') and proposes that an innocent aggressor's right to life is not absolute.

Thomson, a very clever philosopher at MIT known for her thought experiments, has imported her technique into the the stage of the abortion debate. Jesus taught in parables; Thomson teaches by thought experiment. Thomson's abortion-related thought experiment has become almost legendary in the abortion debate:
You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist (who) has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment . . . the Society of Music Lovers . . . kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own . . . To unplug would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months.
There is a superficial analogy between this fiction and the non-fiction of a mother being with child, and, of course, this is what Thomson seizes upon in launching into her argument and explains the success of her venture. But there are also a deep disanalogies between the violinist situation and pregnancy which render the thought experiment stillborn at the outset.** Of the many that could be distinguished, I will focus on three: a natural/artificial disanalogy, a criminal/non-criminal predicate disanalogy, and a relational disanalogy. In my mind, these are fatal at the outset. If a thought experiment is to be used, it has to be based upon an analogy that is more akin to the matter that is sought to be analyzed. Otherwise, the analogy is bound to lead us in the wrong direction, as this one does.

First, the innocent person's attachment to the violinist is palpably artificial, while the mother's attachment to the fetus is patently natural. We are dealing with two different worlds. At the outset, therefore, the analogy suffers from the same discontinuity as an analogy that compares the brain with a computer, and concludes that therefore one can punch a person in the nose and re-boot the brain. The point is that a situation that may be morally offensive if artificially imposed is not necessarily offensive if naturally imposed. Thomson's presuppositions, it might be noted, are also horribly mechanistic, even Cartesian and Hobbesian. "For what is the ‘heart’ but a ‘spring’; and the ‘nerves’ but so many ‘strings’; and the ‘joints’ but so many ‘wheels,’ giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the artificer?" says Hobbes. Thomson carries on in the Hobbesian tradition: "For what is pregnancy, but being used as a hemodialysis machine?" The analogy falters at the get go since it confuses the organic with the inorganic, the natural with the artificial.

Secondly, there is a huge moral distinction between the situation of a pregnancy and the situation of waking up attached to a violinist after being kidnapped by the Society of Music Lovers who act on behalf of the violinist, being assaulted by this Society, and being subject to false imprisonment by it. The difference seems to elude Thomson. Nothing like this is even remotely alike the act of becoming pregnant, and this even if the pregnancy is entirely non-consensual, say, as a result of rape, as the rapist, whose intent is to assuage his lust, generally has no intent to impregnate his victim and tie her to the burdens of pregnancy. Moreover, the rapist's crime is his violation of the woman's bodily integrity; the rapist has nothing to do with the natural processes of pregnancy. The rapist is directly guilty for sexual assault, and only indirectly for the illegitimate pregnancy. This criminal or tortious predicate in the Thomson thought experiment immediately adds a notion of self-defense in the violinist situation that is entirely absent from a pregnancy. As the philosopher Donald DeMarco puts it:
The act of unplugging yourself is justified on the basis of self-defence. It is a legitimate response to assault and battery (and in the example Thomson uses, to kidnapping and unlawful confinement as well). The development of the child in the womb is not an example of assault and battery or anything close to it. Assault and battery presuppose willfulness and malice aforethought, and have always been regarded as criminal acts. It has never been regarded as a criminal act for an unborn child to develop in his mother's womb.
One wonders what sort of psychological sickness would cause Thomson to equate pregnancy with criminal acts of kidnapping, assault, and false imprisonment. There is something deeply wrong, unbalanced, even psychopathic, with such a jaundiced, pessimistic view of what pregnancy is.

Lastly, there is a relational disanalogy between Thomson's thought experiment and motherhood. As DeMarco puts it:

Thomson supposes that the violinist and the victim are unrelated. She adds nothing to their relationship that would mitigate the victim's aversion to being yoked for nine months. The two are presumed to be total strangers. Such is not the case with the relationship between the mother and her child. The victim, by virtue of being yoked to the violinist, does not inherit or attain any specific kind of positive relationship. He does not become his brother, for example. When a woman conceives a child, she is no longer merely a woman. Nor is the child merely her child. Conception confers maternity on the woman and her child is her son or daughter. There is a relationship between the two that is primordial, interpersonal and universally recognized. A mother is expected to do things for her children that strangers are not expected to do for each other.

To equate motherhood, a relation that is by definition nobly sacrificial and intimate, with the coerced relationship between two strangers, violinist and host, should be offensive to any person who is not jaundiced against motherhood, but retains some natural sentiment, some appreciation for the office of motherhood. Motherhood is something other than an artificial womb. John Finnis has characterized Thomson's notion of motherhood as defective, and that this defect stems from a deprecation of motherhood into a form of social contract. "John Finnis is correct when he encapsulates the radical weakness of Thomson's argument by saying that she is trying to reduce the mother-child relationship to a "sort of social contractarianism,'" says DeMarco.*** It seems to me that it is not social contractism that moves Thomson, but a lack of appreciation of the office of motherhood. Thomson is externalizing motherhood and masculinizing or confusing it with a sort of "fatherhood." As John Paul II distinguished motherhood from fatherhood in his Encyclical Mulieris dignitatem:
Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman's womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and "understands" with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the "beginning", the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings - not only towards her own child, but every human being - which profoundly marks the woman's personality. It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man - even with all his sharing in parenthood - always remains "outside" the process of pregnancy and the baby's birth; in many ways he has to learn his own "fatherhood" from the mother.
Mulieris dignitatem, 18. Thomson's thought experiment is wholly oblivious to internal aspect of motherhood. She externalizes it, mascunalizes it, confuses it with process that is "'outside' the process of pregnancy and the baby's birth." Thomson for all her cleverness has not grasped the essence of motherhood. She is shallow, indeed banal, in her appreciation of motherhood. Whatever the source of Thomson's misunderstanding of motherhood, it results in a disanalogy that infects the thought experiment from the outset.

So Thomson's thought experiment itself displays tremendous prejudices and presuppositions that infect its value as a legitimate basis for analysis of the problem of the clash between a woman's bodily determination and the right of life of the child. Thomson shows a highly mechanistic, Hobbesian view of mankind, a sick Feminist perception of pregnancy as something intrinsically based upon torts and felonies and other high misdemeanors, and a complete deprecation and lack of appreciation of the noble and utterly office of motherhood. To compare pregnancy to being attached to a violinist as a natural dialysis machine is fraught with error. The analogy is unsound from the get go. One would only think the argument sound if one's judgment is already unsound.

*Donald DeMarco, "Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defence of Abortion," The Interim (February 2004).
**In his treatment, Oderberg does not seem to attack the fundamental disanalogies, but concedes the analogy is accurate, and humorously extends it to include other-than-rape situations to include not only ailing violinists, but ailing trombone players and ailing harpsichordists.
***DeMarco is referring to John Finnis's article, "The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion," originally published in Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (2):117-45 (1973).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tribute to Moloch: Quirks and Personhood

THE PRINCIPLE OF INDIVIDUALITY and identity behind the concept of personhood of the fetus has some potential hiccups arising from some curious qualities of the fetus during the early part of its development. In answering the metaphysical status of the fetus one needs to consider some of the issues arising from the potential for fission (or twinning) and the totipotency of the embryonic cells during the first few days of its existence. Until the formation of the so-called "primitive streak" (a structure which establishes the bilateral symmetry in the embryo formed through a process called gastrulation, which is the precursor of the spinal chord, and which is formed within 10-14 days of fertilization), the embryo has the potential for twinning.

Human zygote showing formation of the "primitive streak"
around 13 days after fertilization

Prior to the formation of the primitive streak, then, the embryo may separate into identical twins, and even these twins have the capacity for twinning. The question arises: how can there by an individual prior to gastrulation and the formation of the primitive streak since there is the potential of more than one individual with identical genetic makeup developing?

Moreover, up until the eight cell stage, each one of the cells in the embryo is "totipotent," which means it has the capacity, if removed from the embryo, to develop into a separate zygote and fetus itself. How can there be an individual human being at this time if one of his cells can be taken from him and develop into another individual that is identical to him genetically? Isn't human personality formed sometime after these quirks are passed and the individual is set?

It is for these reasons that some argue that the individuality of the fetus, and hence its personality, cannot arise until after the formation of the primitive streak. The argument runs thus:
  1. Only indivisible entities can have moral status.
  2. Twinning means that an embryo divides into several embryos,
    each one a separate entity.
  3. Therefore, as long as twinning is possible, the embryo is not
    an indivisible entity.
  4. Twinning is possible up to the point when the formation of
    the primitive streak has been completed.
  5. Therefore, embryos are not indivisible until after the formation
    of the primitive streak has been completed.
  6. Therefore, embryos cannot have moral status until after the
    formation of the primitive streak has been completed.
See Christian Munthe, "Divisibility and the Moral Status of Embryos," Bioethics (2001), 382-97.

Monozygotic twinning

The issue puts us in the middle of an interesting realm demanding the interplay of embryology, metaphysics, and the application of sound moral principles and prudence. In this multi-disciplinary realm, there are some questions that may be not be answerable, at least under the current state of science. What happens to the individual A after twinning? Does the person A "die," replaced by A1 and A2, two new persons so that A is, in a manner of speaking, the sacrificial "parent" of the siblings A1 and A2? Or does A's personal identity continue after twinning as A1, with A2 being a new person? Or, something that does not seem particularly likely, is A before twinning composed of two persons who subsequently split? Or, even less likely, does A not even exist until after twinning when two persons are first conceived? The religious question, separate and apart from the philosophical and moral one, is when does the soul become infused with the body?

As interesting and perhaps insoluble as these questions may be, they do not detract from the fact that prior to gastrulation the zygote remains an actual human individual being, though one perhaps with the potential of splitting into two or more through twinning or because of of the totipotent nature of the stem cells prior to their becoming pluripotent and specialized. In the vast majority of cases, in any event, monozygotic twinning does not occur, and so the question actual versus potential individuality and personhood between fertilization and the formation of the primitive streak is not at issue. Moreover, these issues really do not affect the heart of the matter, as the embryo prior to twinning or while its embryonic cells are totipotent is still an identifiable actual human being, although one with the unique capacity or potential to give rise to others:

In terms of the metaphysics of embryo identity, twinning should be looked at in the same way as any case of division of a cell (or group of cells). The 'parent' cell ceases to exist on division and the 'daughter' cells come into existence. The simple fact is that not all human beings come into existence at fertilisation--some do so a few days later if there is twinning. Twins (identical ones, that is) will not be able to trace their identities back to fertilisation. For them, conception occurs at division (hence one of the reasons why 'conception' and 'fertilisation' are not synonymous).

Oderberg, 17. The fact that post-twinning the two individual persons cannot trace their identity to fertilization does not mean that there is an "indeterminate number of individuals" or that there is no "individual" actual person prior to twinning or during the time that that individual's cells are totipotent. As Oderberg concludes:
The moral of the story as far as fission and totipotency are concerned, then, is that the individuality of the embryo is not influenced by what it might do (for example, twin) or what can be done to it (separation into totipotent cells).
Oderberg, 19.

More, in light of the uncertainty with respect to these matters, we ought to be aware of the great significance of these questions, and ought to be prudently biased in favor of protection of all innocent life from the moment of fertilization which, for the vast majority of births anyway, is the same as conception. As Pope John Paul II wisely taught in his encyclical Evangelium vitae (which purports to state the natural law's voice on the matter):

Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, "from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and ... modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to be in a position to act". Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide "a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?"

Furthermore, what is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition of any intervention aimed at killing a human embryo. Precisely for this reason, over and above all scientific debates and those philosophical affirmations to which the Magisterium has not expressly committed itself, the Church has always taught and continues to teach that the result of human procreation, from the first moment of its existence, must be guaranteed that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human being in his or her totality and unity as body and spirit: "The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life."

Evangelium vitae, No. 60 (citations omitted). Between the life of the embryo and the needs of those outside the womb, we are judge. This puts us in a place already perilous to justice: Nemo iudex in causa sua. No one ought to be a judge in his own cause. And if circumstances require that we be the judge of our own cause, we ought to be aware of the inherent conflict of interest, and grant presumption to the party without voice, who has no advocate to advance his cause. In the absence of a pleader, we must appoint our conscience the advocatus ad litem, the attorney at litem. And if we listen to the still voice of conscience, we shall hear the advocatus embryonis humani pleading softly but fervently, vehemently from the moment of fertilization: Vivit! Vivat! He lives! Let him live! For it is אָדָם‎, adam, man, one of us!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tribute to Moloch: Beethoven From Zygote to Death

IN A SORT OF PERVERSE SLEIGHT OF HAND, some apologists of abortion invoke the concept of personhood only to deny it to the fetus so as to justify morally its slaughter. What these advocates of abortion do is use a functional definition of person (in contrast to a more traditional notion of person as concept of numerical or ontological identity). The functional definition of personhood is vague, and the abortion apologist then exploits the confusion of thought that vagueness can engender. These thinkers are not like a trustworthy Virgil guiding Dante through the Inferno or a loving Beatrice guiding the poet through the Paradiso. Rather, they are more akin to the less reliable, even treacherous guide that Gollum was to Frodo, or that the Nabataean Syllaeus was to the Roman prefect of Aegyptus, Gaius Aelius Gallus in his catastrophic expedition to Arabia Felix. Of the many that could be cited--and their name is Legion--we might mention one of the more notable false guides, Michael Tooley. Unlike Virgil, Tooley does not lead you in and out of hell into heaven, but into hell, the inferno of abortio infelix, to leave you there. Abortion, more than war, is hell, and Tooley is one of hell's minions, hell on earth where women spread their legs and open their wombs for all men to come in, but for no men to come out:
Tantum artes huius, tantum medicamina possunt,
Quae steriles facit, atque homines in ventre necandus
Conducit. Guade, infelix, atque ipse bibendum
Porrige quicquid erit: nam si distendere vellet,
Ex vexare uterum pueris salientibus, esses
Aethiopis fortasse pater . . . .

So great their arts, so powerful the drugs,
Of he who makes them sterile, paid to lead mankind within the womb
To death. Rejoice, unhappy wretch, and give her with your own hand
The stuff to drink whatever it be: for were she willing to let her belly grow
And trouble her womb with bouncing babes, you may be
Per happenstance, the father of an Ethiopian . . . .
Juvenal, Satires, VI.594-99

The artifice of these apologists of death, of feticide and infanticide, comes from their notion of person.* Traditionally, a person was in the category of "is," and not in the category of "has" or "does." A person was something that related to being, to one's substance, and not to one's possession of something or one's activity, one's becoming or doing. Traditionally, one could be a person and not necessarily act like a person or have all the characteristics or qualities of a person. In other words, the notion of "person" was, traditionally, ontological or related to numerical identity. The notion of person was not a qualitative notion (what one "has") or functional notion (what one "does"). Since traditionally a human person was what is, there was no real distinction between a human being and a human person. All men were persons, though not all persons were men (e.g., angels, devils, or most eminently God). Modernly, the functional or qualitative definition of person is the ideal tool to force a separation between a human being and a human person, because a human person is, under the modern view, something one has, or something one does and not something one is. This allows the abortion advocate to slip by the undeniable fact that there is a continuous numerical identity, an ontological though perhaps not functional or qualitative continuity, which is apparent from the first moment of a human being's conception through the entirety of his or her life: from zygote to newborn to adult and into old age there is an identity, an "is"--the "is" is the person--they choose to ignore. Put simply, Christina Rosetti said it best:
I am not what I have nor what I do;
But what I was I am, I am even I.
Christina Rosetti, "The Thread of Life."

In other words, the abortionists avoid the question of personhood, except as they define personhood. They have to, because if they used the concept of personhood used by those who are pro-life, the abortionist would lose the argument:
The argument from continuity of development is about the question of the identity of the foetus--is it the very same thing throughout its development? More precisely, is it the same human being as the baby/child/adult into which it develops? The argument is not based on the setting up of a series of entities that can be compared according to some characteristics admitting of degrees, such as more or less heavy, more or less tall, or more or less bald. The argument is not that the child is a human being because it has some large set of properties and you can (conceptually) go back in time to the foetus, observing those properties dropping away one by one and lessening by degrees, so that because there is no point at which humanity clearly ceases to apply to the gestating entity it must therefore be human all long. The argument is, rather, that there is a single human organism from zygote to adult, because at every stage of development the gestating entity is doing precisely what any organism does in its movement from immaturity to maturity, namely growing, differentiating, taking on a mature shape and form, and acting in a way that shows it to be numerically distinct from its environment. . . . These properties do not shows [sic] themselves to greater or lesser degree in the gestating entity at different stages of its existence: the gestating entity always has those properties. . . . Hence there is one single organism at all stages; that organism can only be human; all human organisms are human beings; hence there is a single human being.
Oderberg, 12-13.

Beethoven's person is one and continuous from zygote to death

That's where the abortion advocates lose the argument: with an ontological notion of personhood. To put it in concrete terms, let us take Ludwig van Beethoven. The zygote of Beethoven was contiguous and one with the infant Beethoven, was contiguous and one with the child Beethoven, was contiguous and one with the adult Beethoven, was contiguous and one with the Beethoven who wrote the Emperor's Concerto (Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73), was contiguous and one with the Beethoven in his death throes. The Beethoven as a zygote was the same person as the Beethoven shown in his death mask. Beethoven was Beethoven all the way through his remarkable life, from beginning to end, and never anything but Beethoven. Beethoven was the same "I" when he was arrested in Vienna by order of the town's Commissär because he appeared to be a roving bum with no hat, an old coat, and no identifying papers, and defended himself by saying "Ich bin Beethoven." He could also have said "Ich war einen Zygote," "Ich war ein Embryo," "Ich war ein Jugend," "Ich war ein Mann," und "Ich bin Beethoven."**

During the continuum of Beethoven's life, he did not become the person of Beethoven at one discrete moment of time, and then lose his person at another discrete moment of time. He existed at conception, and died, at least physically, at death when Beethoven's soul parted from his body. He was Beethoven the entire time through. But of course, this ontological concept of personhood as identity of being is fatal to the abortion project. To kill Beethoven anytime during the continuum of his life from zygote to the moment before death is to kill . . . the person of Beethoven. If we would have aborted Beethoven's zygote, we would not have ever heard, and wept, at the beautiful second movement, Adagio un pocco mosso, nor have been relieved by following light-hearted and uplifting Rondo, of Beethoven's Emperor's Concerto because the person of Beethoven who wrote this wonderful opus was once the very same zygote in his mother's womb. Beethoven's life began, as everybody else's life, when his father's sperm fused with his mother's oocyte:

It is quite clear that what was known more than 100 years ago, even intuitively before that, is that the fusion of sperm and oocyte begins the life of a new individual human being. In Human Embryology the terms understood to be integral in the common sense language are: human, being, person, individual, human being, life and human life. Unfortunately, every one of those terms has been parsed and corrupted to mean something it is not.

C. Ward Kischer, Ph. D., "When does human life begin? The final answer."

Instead of seeing the obvious identity and ontological equivalency of a human being between zygote and adult, and accepting the moral implications that the zygote is a human being and therefore a human person, these false guides lead us into a vague concept of personhood* which they understand qualitatively or functionally as an amalgam of discrete characteristics and not a matter of numerical or ontological identity. A person is no longer a being, but is something one becomes, or what one does, or what one has. Then, taking advantage of the inherent vagueness of the term person as a functional or qualitative amalgam of discrete characteristics and the "sorites paradox"*** into which any vague term encompassing a group of discrete elements invariably leads, they nimbly excuse themselves from the paradox by advocating arbitrary and result-driven qualitative or functional definitions of personhood that conform to their goal of justifying abortion.

Michael Tooley has put together his morbid apologia for feticide and even infanticide between the densely packed covers of a book (more than 400 pages) called Abortion and Infanticide (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), and we certainly do not intend to tackle a full exposition or criticism of those views in this blog. We shall only give it a glancing blow. But in keeping with the topic of this posting, Tooley steers his reader into a sorites paradox by focusing on a vague functional or qualitative concept of the personhood of the fetus as an abstraction from particular qualities (mainly self-consciousness), side-stepping the status of the developmental numerical identity of the fetus as a human organism or human being. By invoking "personhood" as a functional abstraction of discrete characteristics, (something one becomes) and rejecting a concept of personhood as linked to the numerical identity of a human organism or human being (being), Tooley has led us to a vague term and into the sorites paradox. Surely a zygote is not a human person since it has no consciousness of self that we can measure? If a zygote is not, neither is a morula, or a blastula, or gastrula, embryo, or a fetus, or an infant!

Ahh, but do not despair! Tooley to the rescue! The "absence of significant differences between successive members of some series, or between successive stages in some process, provide no reason at all for concluding that there are no significant differences between non-successive stages or members." (Tooley, 169-70, quoted in Oderberg, 12.) (emphasis added).**** So the fact that we cannot be assured of personhood at any one stage does not mean we cannot perceive personhood at some stage. Or, more precisely, he argues the opposite since he seeks to de-personalize, not to personalize: that "the clear existence of a person at some stage . . . [does not mean] there will be a person at every stage of development." Oderberg, 12. And therefore, we ought to use Tooley's definition of personhood which, Tooley says, doesn't happen until there is a capacity for self-consciousness, rational thought, an ability to envisage a future for oneself, and of remembering one's past, and so forth. This Tooleyan definition of personhood is really or virtually a definition of adulthood, and so it automatically excludes the fetus. Is that result-driven or what?**** The power of definition lies in Tooley's hands, and he uses it against the fetus? What if the fetus held the power of definition? Would he use it against Tooley? Should personhood be defined by the one who has something to gain? Should the definition of person reside with the one that holds power over another?

But those latter questions are to stray from the subject.

People like Tooley do not confront the argument of the opponent of abortion; they avoid it. The argument of continuity of development or numerical identity of a human being, that is, a notion of personhood that is ontological, not functional, does not lead one to a sorites paradox. The issue of a person as an individual substance is vastly different from the issue of a person as defined by the likes of Tooley. This is because the issue is properly one of identity, of contiguity, of a being traveling down the continuum of becoming, not an issue of generalization or abstraction from particulars or discrete instances. It is the difference between the contiguity of a thread or cloth or traveling down a road or a river versus the non-contiguity of abstracting from numerous discrete instances, such as abstracting a heap from many grains or a forest from many trees, or a hirsute man from his many hairs.

Personhood is not something abstracted from particulars, such as a heap from individual grains. Personhood is something that is a contiguous, non-discrete continuum or path. Personhood is not something that we receive at a point in time, as if it were an office like knighthood. We are not dubbed a person once we acquire the enumerated prerequisites, or reach the requisite number of years, an adequate IQ, or ability to speak. Personhood is something that we have from our first moment of conception, and only later discover that we have. Personhood is both being and becoming; it is not becoming alone, and certainly not doing or having alone. Being precedes becoming, doing, or having. Becoming, having, and doing do not precede being.

Personhood is a journey, a thread. Persons grow. Persons are conceived, grow, go through phases, and die their physical death. Persons are threads, threads of Ariadne in the labyrinth of life, threads subject to the Fates. Persons are not heaps composed of discrete parts, living in discrete moments.

Thinking humans are heaps means they end up in heaps by the hands of those who think them so.

Thinking as human as heaps leads to heaps of dead humans

*The term "person" is not only a philosophical term, but it may also be a legal term, in which case it could be defined positivistically and with greater precision, and it ought to follow the philosophical or moral concept of "person." We focus on the philosophical meaning of the term "person." Philosophically, the term "person" has undergone some significant shift since the Enlightenment, and the effect of the doctrine of the Empiricists, particularly John Locke, on the concept of personhood, and hence the understanding of man, would itself be an interesting study. The result is that often the advocates of abortion are using a different, functional notion of person than the opponents of abortion who rely on a non-functional, ontological notion of person. The word "person" comes to us from the Latin persona and the Greek prosōpon (πρόσωπον), a word originally meaning the mask worn by an actor. Ultimately, the term was used to express the concept of an individual. Boethius is the source for the classic definition of person. In his De persona et duabus naturis, c. ii, Boethius defines person as "naturae rationalis individua substantia," an individual substance of a rational nature. St. Thomas expanded on the Boethian definition, in particular on the notion of substance, and in his Summa Theologiae, explains that the Boethian individua substantia signifies a substantia, completa, per se subsistens, separata ab aliia. S. T. III, Q. 16, art. 12, ad 2. That is, individual substance means "a substance, complete, subsisting per se, existing apart from others." A human being's personhood, therefore, consisted of soul and body conjoined. The concept was ontological, not functional, and therefore no one could be a human being without also being a person. Empiricism's blinders do not allow it to recognize such spiritual or metaphysical realities such as "soul," and so it has tended to define "personhood" by empirical data alone, which has resulted in a functional definition of personhood. For an empiricist, personality was constituted not by any underlying reality which self-consciousness or rational operations revealed (and so one could be a person without self-consciousness, e.g., while asleep, or without rational operation, e.g., a brain damaged individual, or even without all functions operating because of biological limitations, e.g., a fetus), but by the self-consciousness or rational operation itself. Thus Locke defined a person (self) as "a conscious thinking thing (whatever substance made up of, whether spiritual or material, simple or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends." John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, c. 27, ¶ 17 (emphasis added). So Locke, by his emphasis on personhood as being something functional or qualitative (conscious), appears to have been one of the first to separate the human being from the human person. The result has been nothing sort of bizarre confusion. For example, H. Tristam Englehardt adopts this corrupt notion of personhood in his book The Foundations of Bioethics (Oxford: Oxford University press, 1996), 138-39:
[N]ot all humans are persons. Not all humans are self-conscious, rational, and able to conceive of the possibility of blaming and praising. Fetuses, infants, the profoundly mentally retarded, and the hopelessly comatose provide examples of human non-persons. Such entities are members of the human species but do not in and of themselves have standing in the secular moral community. Such entities cannot blame or praise; they cannot make promises, contracts, or agree to an understanding of beneficence. They are not prime participants in the secular moral endeavor. Only persons have that status. . . . but do not have standing in the moral community. . . One speaks of persons in order to identify entities one can warrant blame or praise. For this reason, it is nonsensical to speak of respecting the autonomy of fetuses, infants, or profoundly retarded adults who have been never been rational.
Tooley's definition of person, which fits with Englehardt's description, simply expands on Locke's, and relies on the existence of psychological characteristics, qualities, or functions, some sort of "mental life," which obviously requires a significant development or maturation in the individual before they exist. "Tooley toys with the idea that there are
necessary and sufficient conditions for personhood and provides a list of likely characteristics, but the ones he and other personists such as Singer focus on are (to use Tooley's words): 'the capacity for self-consciousness', 'the capacity for rational thought', 'the capacity to envisage a future for oneself', 'the capacity to remember a past involving onself' and 'the capacity for being a subject of non-momentary interests'." (Oderberg, 32, citing Tooley, Abortion and Infanticide, 349). In his encyclical Evangelium vitae, Pope John Paul II has clearly rejected a functional, qualitative measure of personhood:
Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, "from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and ... modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the program of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to be in a position to act". Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide "a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?"
EV, No. 60 (quoting Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), Nos. 12-13 and Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation (Donum Vitae) (22 February 1987) In their book Embryo (New York: Doubleday, 2008), Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen attribute this division between body and personhood to philosophical dualism, and advocate a philosophical animalism in equating human personhood with human being. Dualism is eventually self defeating. Id. at 83-111.

**Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anectdotes (New York: Free Press, 1985), 193.
***The word "sorites" comes from the Greek σωρείτης (sōreitēs) meaning "heaped up," the word, σωρός, (sōros) meaning "heap." The sorites paradox, or paradox of the heap, is called that way because of the first formulation of the problem by the Megarian logician Eubulides of Miletus. The paradox comes from vague predicates such as "heap." If a grain of wheat does not make a heap of grain, then it follows that two grains does not, and so on for three, four, five, etc. grains of wheat. When, then, if ever is there a "heap" of grain? A similar puzzle involves the use of the vague term "bald." If a man with one hair on his head is bald, then a man with only two hairs is bald, as is a man with three, four, five, six, etc. hairs on his head. It follows that a man will be bald no matter what number of hairs he has on his head. This paradox was called the falakros puzzle (from falakros [φαλακρός]=bald man), but since it involves the same puzzle as the sorites paradox, it is usually not accorded a separate existence. The problem, of course, is that the paradox can go either way. ("One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens." Oderberg, 14) For example, if a man with 10,000 hairs on his head is hirsute (the opposite of bald), then a man with 9,999 hairs is likewise hirsute, as is a man with 9,998, 9,997, 9,996 hairs, etc. This means a man with one hair on his head is hirsute also. A similar paradox involves replacement of parts of the whole and the principle of identity, a paradox known as Theseus's paradox, or the paradox of grandfather's axe, Trigger's broom, or Jeannot's knife.
****Note the obvious nominalism in Tooley's thinking. Everything is discrete. In Tooley's thought, there is no reality to a continuity of substance in man during time.
*****In her notorious article, "A Defense of Abortion," published in Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 1, no. 1 (Fall 1971), Judith Jarvis Thomson does something similar in arbitrarily defining a "person" to mean essentially a fully or at least virtually adult member of the human species:
Most opposition to abortion relies on the premise that the fetus is a human being, a person, from the moment of conception. The premise is argued for, but, as I think, not well. Take, for example, the most common argument. We are asked to notice that the development of a human being from conception through birth into childhood is continuous; then it is said that to draw a line, to choose a point in this development and say "before this point the thing is not a person, after this point it is a person" is to make an arbitrary choice, a choice for which in the nature of things no good reason can be given. It is concluded that the fetus is. or anyway that we had better say it is, a person from the moment of conception. But this conclusion does not follow. Similar things might be said about the development of an acorn into an oak trees, and it does not follow that acorns are oak trees, or that we had better say they are.
This is like extricating oneself from the sorites paradox by arbitrarily stating that a heap constitutes 5,000 grains of wheat, no more and no less, and a bald man constitutes a man with less than 600 hairs, no more and no less. Who gave Tooley and Thomson the rights arbitrarily to set the standard of personhood to include only adult or at least significantly matured humans so that their argument was a sure win?