Grounded in logic

The other week the New York Times ran a fawningly long profile of a "big thinking" ultra-conservative Catholic intellectual.  It stressed his powerful Oxford credentials, his Big University Post (at a non-Catholic institution–take that elite liberal institutions!), his influence over Catholic leadership, his ties to Bush, Glenn Beck's admiriation of him, and, most importantly for our purposes, his frequent use of the word "reason" in place of an actual argument.  So powerful his intellect, you see, that Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, aped his words in a recent speech. 

Even marriage between a man and a woman, Rigali continued, was grounded not just in religion and tradition but in logic. “The true great goods of marriage — the unitive and the procreative goods — are inextricably bound together such that the complementarity of husband and wife is of the very essence of marital communion,” the cardinal continued, ascending into philosophical abstractions surely lost on most in the room. “Sexual relations outside the marital bond are contrary not only to the will of God but to the good of man. Indeed, they are contrary to the will of God precisely because they are against the good of man.

Now I may not be a logician of this fellow's calibre, but I'm trying to think of which principle of logic grounds the union of a man and a woman in life-long monogamous non-divorcing holy Catholic and procreative matrimony.  I'm going to guess that it must be one of those Latin principles, an abstraction, in other words, few could understand.  Maybe it's ex falso quodlibet sequitur

I think, however, it's more likely the principle of petitio principii–begging the question. 

*edited for sense later in the day.

8 thoughts on “Grounded in logic”

  1. (This did not appear the first time I hit submit): Somehow I missed the final line of your post … Captain Obvious rides again …

  2. Normal


    /* Style Definitions */
    {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
    mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
    font-family:”Times New Roman”;

    While Rigali's argument might finish with petitio principii, it has a long tradition of being grounded in other problems.
    The topic here is that "marriage" between a man and woman is based in logic, tradition notwithstanding.  (Marriage the institution, marriage the unitive [togetherness], marriage the unitive [sexual], marriage the procreative [apart from the sexual]?  A bit of ambivalence here.) What we also don't know is how Figali defines "good of man". But if "good of man" presupposes procreation, then we certainly have a great deal of assumption to uncover.
    And if procreative "goods" & "good of man" are related to sexual "complementarity of husband and wife", then has its basis in naturalistic fallacy, which comprises modal fallacies of, at the very least, a fourth term—Going from an "is" to a "should": Because the plumbing is this, then it should be used for this (only). And if God only creates that which is good, then using the plumbing in accordance to its apparent design is good.
    But focusing on just the "sexual relations" component, what appears to make marriage good is the result.  This seems related to argument ad consequentiam.

  3. Cardinal Rigali simply said that extra-marital sex is against the will of God because it's bad for human beings.  This is an incomplete argument, but not a fallacy.  It certainly isn't an example of ex falso quodlibet sequitur.  He doesn't mention that marriage should be life-long or that it should be Catholic or procreative. Of course, we are all are pretty confident that Cardinal Rigal believes all of these things about marriage.  But your bringing them up is actually an example of straw man argumentation.  For Rigali does not propose these as premises and it is obvious that one need not believe in these things (indissolubility of marriage, etc.)  in order to be against extra-marital sex.  There are plenty of folks who believe in divorce but would agree with Rigali's conclusion.  So your mentioning them looks more like an example of venting than of careful analysis.

  4. Hi Leo,

    Nice of you to respond, but I fear you have misunderstood a few things.  In the first place, I don't allege the ex falso has anything to do with anything, other than the fact that logic doesn't ground anything about marriage.  With regard to your second point, I think it's obvious, and you agree, that Rigali means a very specific catholic form of marriage, so bringing that up, his view in other words, would hardly constitute a straw man.  You're certainly correct to point out that there are reasons beyond Rigali's to be against pre marital sex, but that's not what Rigali's talking about.  He has made (and the subject of the article was reported to have made) a much more substantial claim about the way logic or reason grounds this particular world view.  I think the most one can say is that logic or reason does not offer reasons not to accept it–with the real question, as you seem to believe yourself, being an empirical one, not a logical one.  Those are abstractions I think even Rigali might be able to get.

    Again, thanks for the comment.

  5. Hello John Casey,
    Those are very well-tempered and well-considered comments.  I guess, at the end of the day the question is whether Rigali's word "logic" was well-considered.  Yes, the real question is an empirical one.
    Have a good day.

Comments are closed.