Foreseen but unintended


Because the definition of intrinsically evil is something for which it is impossible to have a good intention.


May I make a slight improvement to your statement? (I’m gonna do it anyway :wink: )

Something which is intrinsically evil is something that there is no good intention sufficient to justify.

For example, a married couple may have 4 children, the youngest of whom is very disabled and requires a lot of care. Altho the couple tries to avoid conceiving, she becomes pregnant.

She may think that she has a good intention in seeking an abortion, because of the stress her pregnancy would put on the family, but altho she “has a good intention,” the intention is not good enough to justify the taking of an innocent human life.


The evil in with such actions does not need to lie with what motivates them. Perhaps what you intend to say is that no good intention can make an act of that kind good. It’s not reasonable to expect Scowler (as an atheist) to accept that proposition.


Using your scenario, imagine that some criminal does it for no reason, or for a reason like he wants to be admitted to a gang or he wants to rob the victim.

Then this is a bad act. The act itself is an act of agression, and the intention is evil.

Now, imagine that the shoooter is a police officer, and he shoots because the person shot is slowly pushing a knife into a hostage’s throat and at any second may hit the hostage’s carotid artery. The only place the officer can shot the criminal is in the head.

The police officer shoots with the intention of saving the hostage’s life, and foreseeing that the criminal will probably die. However, the police officer does not intend the criminal to die; he is acting only to save the life of the hostage.

Now let’s consider the same scenario except the police officer knows the criminal: say the criminal was previously tried for the murder of the policeman’s family bit got off on a technicality. The police officer wants vengeace for his family and is happy he now has the perfect oppotunity: he can kill the murderer of his family under the cover of the law.

Here the intention is different. Legally, the act of each officer is the same, and neither will be prosecuted. However, from the Catholic point of view, the first is a good act revolving around saving someone’s life, and the second a sin, revolving around revenge.


Let’s make this theoretical scenario a bit more “biting”. The doctors can predict with a very high certainty, that she will not survive the pregnancy, and when she dies, all her previous children WILL also die (she will not be there to care for them). According to your system it is “intrinsically” evil to get an abortion… even though the attempt to bring this fifth pregnancy to term WILL result in her own death, the death of the fetus, and the death of her existing children… how irrational can you get?


Well, when you disallow all approaches but for murder (albeit it may be legal) and what you term the irrational, what is a doctor to do? I suggest he do his best to care for all the patients in view :roll_eyes:


In that case, treatments directed at saving the life of the mother in a way that has the least direct harm to the fetus, but still has the unintended side effect the death of fetus are not considered an abortion and are not immoral.


Not “considered”, indeed. That is just a “redefinition” of the process. Let’s do what we must do, but - for Gawd’s sake - deny it, and pretend that we don’t know what we are doing. That is what I called dishonest.


Using crude and demeaning language does not make any logical point. Have you studied the Catholic bioethics or are you just making assumptions about it based on stories you have heard?


But this is just semantics. Suppose that we call it “killing” the embryo. In that case, we can just change around what action we’re calling intrinsically evil. We would say that it is intrinsically evil to kill an person in a way that fails to meet certain conditions. What are these conditions? Well, they are precisely the conditions that would apply to a 2-year-old. Thus, if an entire family (including a two-year-old) would die in an auto accident unless a two-year-old jumping on the driver is flung across the car, then this action is permissible, even if the two-year-old happens to be killed by the action.

Whether we say that the parent in THAT situation has “killed” the two-year-old is a mere matter of semantics. But the key is that the action is morally permissible.

(Note: the particular case I give would only work in narrow circumstances where compromised auto visibility meant certain death).


Not certain if I understand the events, but hastily removing an errant 2-yr old from the driver’s lap so he can control the vehicle and keep people safe is not the murder of the child. It is not an action which by its nature targets the child lethally. And it is clearly well-motivated.


I agree 100% that it is not murder. That’s my point. But it is arguably – if the child dies – “killing” the child. My point with Scowler is that WORDS don’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether Catholics insist or don’t insist that such a case isn’t “killing” – the point is that it isn’t wrong. Even if we describe the above case as a killing, or describe the action to save a woman with an ectopic pregnancy as “killing”, we do not have reason to believe that it is wrong.

If Scowler’s criticism hinges on the word “kill”, it isn’t a viable criticism.


And please note that “murder” is not identical with “killing”: murders are all and only those killings that are morally wrong.


Yes, I have seen this approach before. It would be a “relatively absolute” method. But intrinsic MEANS that the act is wrong under any and all conditions, and that is not just semantics. :slight_smile:

I am quite satisfied with exploring under what conditions is an act justified, and under what condition it is not. That is a perfectly good endeavor, even if we might come to different conclusions.

But it is not. It is the distinction between “justifiable” and “non-justifiable” killings. I don’t think I uttered the word “murder” at all.


I have no idea what you mean. I agree that there is an action that is wrong under any and all circumstances. We just don’t have a name for that action. If you like, we can call it “schlooping”. Names don’t matter. The key is something along these lines: it is intrinsically wrong to kill someone in such a way that their death is the means of someone else’s survival. (I.e. It is intrinsically wrong to schloop.) Or rather, a sentence along those lines that factors in all the double effect principles.

Usually Catholics simply define “killing” with those qualifications. But if you prefer, we can define killing however you like, and just say “we’re not saying THAT is intrinsically wrong!”


I disagree with you: your definition of killing seems to be: any action which can be known to have a high probability of resulting in the death of a human.

This differs from our definition, which is to take an action which directly targets the human for death.

To us, there is ac difference between an abortion, an act whose sole purpose and direction is to attack the unborn baby and cause its death, and the removal of a diseased organ which, unfortunately, contains an unborn child at the time.

In the first case, the result desired is the death of the baby. If the mother were not pregnant, she would not be having the abortion at all. In the second, the result desired is the restoration of the mother to health; she would need the operation whether or not she was pregnant. The death of the baby is an undesired result, a side-effect.

You seem to be arguing that because the baby dies in each case, both acts carry the same morality. And yet you know that this reasoning is false, because when applied elsewhere, it is clearly erroneous.

Imagine that Bob and Joe each need money for an operation to save their mothers’ lives. Bob gets an evening job as a security guard and a weekend job mowing lawns to obtain the money.

Joe starts robbing people at gunpoint to get the money.

Obviously Bob is not doing something wrong and Joe is doing something wrong, and yet the outcome in each instance is the same: they get the money for their mothers’ operations.


Bear in mind that the inherent moral meaning of an act comes not from the intention (motivation) of the one who acts, but the act itself. A direct abortion - targeting the baby destructively is judged wrong no matter the motivation.

Scowler adopts a proportionalist kind of moral assessment model, and thus the balance of consequences takes an elevated degree of significance for him.


No disagreement for this analogy, except that it is not a correct one. :slight_smile:

Again, I agree. In the first case you could say that the “homicide” is unjustified, in the second case you would say that it was justified. (Of course it would require to accept that fetus / zygote is a human being, and that is not granted. Just like it is not granted that having a scrambled egg is the same as having fried chicken.)


I wonder how “elevated” that is. I consider all the circumstances, the result and means together. It seems to me that in certain cases the church does not consider the consequences AT ALL, hence the “intrinsically evil” label on some actions. If the church would accept to consider ALL the circumstances, then we could reach an agreement. And that would be a huge step toward a constructive dialog.


This may be slightly off topic but I have seen an analysis of Aquinas’s lethal self-defence rationale based on the presence of uncertainty of outcome.
That is, we may fire a shot that turns out to be lethal (which would be considered indirect intent) only if there is some chance (however small) it would not kill.

This contrasts with a magistrate who allegedly has the authority to directly kill, in proportionate circumstances, in pursuing the dictates of the State.

So presumably you may pursue a course of action that knocks a tile off even if there is a very high chance of killing someone in a crowd below…so long as the cause is proportionate and there is no certainty of death amongst the crowd but just a high likelihood.

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