Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Methodological moral relativism

It's my impression that by its fanaticism, utopianism, and scorched-earth rhetoric (in characterizing prolifers), AHA has alienated people who were initially sympathetic to its methods and aims. One example is the use of sloppy, thoughtless, polemical terminology. This isn't just carelessness, but willful indifference.

Take the elementary failure to distinguish between the ordinary sense of words and technical jargon. For instance:

The modern person often thinks in a consequentialistic manner, rather than a deontological manner. Indeed, such is the case of the pro-women, pro-life community. 
Indeed, many in the former group seem to focus primarily or even only on the consequences suffered by women such as guilt, depression, and higher risk of suicide. While such consequences are not to be ignored, they are treated as the reasons in and of themselves as to why abortion should be fought against. As such, it detracts from the real core issue as to why abortion should be resisted – because it is murder. Full stop. 
If an act, whatever it may be, were to be fought against because its consequences makes it distasteful, one would be logical to argue that where such consequences can be mitigated or resolved, the act would not be wrong, and perhaps even good. 
The pro-life movement does not address the root of the evils of abortion – the love of money by people who knowingly contribute to the abortion of a human being. It must also be noted that merely because a person was involved in the conception of the child does not mean that they support abortion or encourage abortion as many in the pro-life movement seem to assume. Instead, it looks only at the effects of abortion on women, without addressing the heart of the matter which is really the matter of the heart. 

JoJo fails to distinguish between the ordinary sense of "consequences" and "consequentialism"–which is a technical designation for a philosophical position. Here are two academic definitions:
Consequentialism is the view that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences.  
Consequentialism, as its name suggests, is the view that normative properties depend only on consequences. This general approach can be applied at different levels to different normative properties of different kinds of things, but the most prominent example is consequentialism about the moral rightness of acts, which holds that whether an act is morally right depends only on the consequences of that act or of something related to that act, such as the motive behind the act or a general rule requiring acts of the same kind. 
i) In the ordinary sense of the term, a "consequence" is synonymous with an outcome, effect, end-result, fallout, aftermath. Taking the predictable or foreseeable results of an action into account in decision-making is by no means equivalent to consequentialism, where the morality of an action is "all about" the consequences or "depends only on the consequences."
I don't see JoJo provide any documentation that representative prolife leaders (e.g. Robert George, Scott Klusendorf, Francis Beckwith) are consequentialists in the philosophical sense of the term. And if that's not their philosophical frame of reference, then it's deceptive to label their position that way.
ii) Moreover, JoJo's examples fail to bear out the claim.  To "focus on the consequences suffered by women such as guilt, depression, and higher risk of suicide" is a prolife strategy. Its not the basis of their opposition to abortion. 
iii) Furthermore, it's responding to abortion apologists on their own grounds. Abortion apologists repackage abortion as a "women's health" issue. About protecting the health, including mental health, of woman.
But prolifers point that that abortion is often damaging to the mental health of women. 
iv) I'd add that this isn't purely strategic. Prolifers care about women as well as babies. That's a point worth making. 
v) Keep in mind, too, that this is just one of many prolife strategies. 

April 27 at 10:46am · Edited ·
Fruit from the recent debate! 
Scott Klussendorf [sic], Jill Stanek, Mark Harrington, and Gregg Cunningham have all clearly outed themselves as methodological moral relativists who stand on the studies of men and twist scripture to support their own fears and faithlessness in the power and gospel of God. 
They are claiming that Jesus is a pragmatist and that he recommends that we only truly fight against the sins which our culture gives us permission to fight and that we survey the culture and determine whether "we have the votes" before we cease making deals with the devil. 
Get off the sinking ship of the pro-life movement or swear your allegiance to the secular spirit of our age and go to battle against abolition. 

So many falsehoods packed into just a few sentence:
i) I presume the "studies of men" has reference to studies cited by Cunningham which show that abortion restrictions save babies. How does branding that the "studies of men" invalidate the evidence?
ii) Isn't a national ban on abortion the goal of AHA? If so, doesn't that ultimately depend on "having the votes"? Unless you "have the votes," you can't outlaw abortion in toto. It's not as if AHA can bypass that process. 
iii) What's a "methodological moral relativist?" For starters, what's moral relativism? Let's begin with two philosophical definitions:
Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.  It has often been associated with other claims about morality: notably, the thesis that different cultures often exhibit radically different moral values; the denial that there are universal moral values shared by every human society; and the insistence that we should refrain from passing moral judgments on beliefs and practices characteristic of cultures other than our own. 
Metaethical Moral Relativism (MMR). The truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons. 

Does AHA have any documentation to illustrate that Scott Klusendorf, Jill Stanek, Mark Harrington, and Gregg Cunningham are moral relativists on that definition? 

iv) Or is it a question of how the adjective ("methodological") modifies the phrase "moral relativist." If so, what does that mean? I doubt it means anything. Rather, I suspect AHA is simply words with invidious connotations to tar prolifers, without any regard for the inaccuracy of the usage.  

v) Same thing with the assertion that "They are claiming that Jesus is a pragmatist." Is that an attempt to gloss "methodological moral relativism"? If so, pragmatism and moral relativism are hardly interchangeable.

vi) Does AHA mean "pragmatist" in the philosophical sense of term? Is so, here's two definitions:

Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected. 
Many people assume that means we must look for moral criteria: some list of rules or principles whereby we can distinguish good from bad and right from wrong, or a list of virtues we try to inculcate. 
Pragmatism's core contention that practice is primary in philosophy rules out the hope of logically prior criteria. Any meaningful criteria evolve from our attempt to live morally – in deciding what is the best action in the circumstances. Criteria are not discovered by pure reason, and they are not fixed. As ends of action, they are always revisable. Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory 
Can AHA supply verbatim quotes from Scott Klusendorf, Jill Stanek, Mark Harrington, and Gregg Cunningham which show that their position on abortion is pragmatic in that sense? 
vii) Or does it mean "pragmatic" in the ordinary sense of the word: "dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations," "dealing with the problems that exist in a specific situation in a reasonable and logical way instead of depending on ideas and theories."
a) If so, that's the opposite of pragmatism. In the nature of the case, the philosophy of pragmatism is theoretical.
b) Clearly, though, the position of somebody like Klusendorf is based on ideas and theoretical considerations. So you can't classify his position as "pragmatic" in either the ordinary or philosophical sense of the term.
c) Does AHA think that abortion opponents should be illogical, unreasonable, unrealistic, or senseless?
viii) What's wrong with prolifers adopting effective tactics and strategies? Would it be preferable for abortion opponents to champion futile or counterproductive tactics and strategies? 
ix) It's risky for AHA to level the charge of "methodological moral relativism," for that's apt to boomerang. AHA mortgages the lives of babies here and now in the hopes of saving every baby's life in the future–except for all the babies they sacrifice in the interim in the furtherance of their long-range goal. What's that if not ruthlessly "pragmatic" and methodologically "relativistic"? 

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