Category Archives: undistributed middle

Bad company

People do a lot of things–eat, sleep, exercise, believe in proposition p or q, and so on.  Sometimes those things overlap with the activities of serial killers, Nazis, and terrorists.  This overlap may or may not be significant.  If the activity is morally abhorrent, like, say, genocide, then comparisons are made.  If the activity is innocuous, then well, nothing.  Everyone eats, the Nazis eat, ergo ipso fatso. 

Eating doesn't make people Nazis.  Nor does speaking German.  Or being German.  Or believing in the capacity of government to do some things, like provide highways, ports, police, or health care.  These things don't make anyone a Nazi because those beliefs do not just belong to Nazis. 

So, for instance, the Nazis embraced euthanasia.  They advanced all sorts of eugenic arguments for it.  They also embraced a healthy lifestyle, and traditional marriage (sometimes)–and they advanced all sorts of eugenic arguments for these things as well.  This does not mean traditional marriage is inherently Nazi.

This is something like the argument of a recent op-ed in the Vatican Observer (L'osservatore romano) on the occasion of the publishing of Nazi tract on euthanasia.  Here's a taste:

Binding and Hoche, in fact, maintain that life cannot be considered life in the full sense of those who, because of diseases, are exposed to a painful and hopeless agony, or the life of incurable idiots whose existence drags with no purpose or usefulness, imposing on the community a heavy and pointless burden. With regard to these people, the two scholars invented a new definition which was to enjoy great success even after the defeat of Nazism: “lives unworthy of being lived”. A definition which paved the way to the elimination of the sick and the unfit, permitting these homicides to be justified with a morally appreciable motivation: they in fact spoke of “charitable death” (Gnadentod). These are the same words that recur today recur in the writings of many contemporary bioethicists, and of many politicians who support legislative proposals of a euthanasic type. As the editors write in the introduction, “the notion of life as a good that deserves protection is henceforth cast off from the anchor of any metaphysical postulation, any doctrine of natural law, and is led towards a semantics of concreteness and immanence: life has value as long as it procures pleasure and is free from pain”. We therefore see that this book, precisely because of its grimly up to date characters, must strongly embarrass those who champion euthanasia in the belief that it has nothing to do with Nazism.

And we have the full Godwin here: the only person who should be strongly embarassed is the author of this very sad excuse of an objection to euthanasia.  To the extent that I am aware, no one is currently advocating that any state embrace Nazi eugenic policies regarding euthanasia; and no one is using those arguments to make the case for euthanasia.

You know what the Nazis also believed?  Probably global warming.  On that, see here.

Things that don’t go together, part CXL

Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, caused ire and some headscratching when he expressed concern about the gay rights movement:

You know, you don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism. So I think if that’s what’s happening, and I don't know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor’s, you know, position on that.

The Cardinal's remarks were occasioned by the not unreasonable desire of the pastor of a church on the route of the Chicago Pride Parade.  The pastor worried that the parade of gay people would interfere with his church's staunch anti-gay stance, or that parishoners leaving Sunday mass would be tempted away to gayness.  Ok, in all seriousness, he said it would cause a traffic problem for the churchgoers.  Fair enough, and the two groups (the Pride Parade and Our Lady of Caramel) worked it out.

What has remained are the the Cardina's puzzling remarks about the gay-hating KKK, however.  In fact, the fallacy of the undistributed-middle endorsing Cardinal has reiterated his concerns that two groups that have nothing in common could make common cause of their hatred for the Catholic Church.  He remarked:

Organizers (of the pride parade) invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,” the cardinal said in a statement issued Tuesday. “One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.

Let's put this syllogistically:

  1. The Klan are Catholics-protestors
  2. Teh Gays are Catholics-protestors
  3. Therefore, the Klan are the Gays.

Well, obviously three doesn't follow on account of the fact there is no middle term between the KKK and the Pride Parade organizers in Chicago.  The simple fact of objecting to some aspect of Catholicism is obviously inadequate to draw a line between the two groups.  The KKK objected to Catholicism on ethnic grounds; gay activists (some of whom are actually catholic) object to the Church's using its influence to deny people rights. 

Besides, I should remark that it's a shame that the Cardinal endeavors to influence the state to hold back the recognition of obvious human rights to oppressed minorities, much in same the way the KKK sought to prohibit the lawful practice of Catholicism.  It's alarming that the Cardinal would invite comparisons to virulently anti-Catholic sentiments.