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.

6 thoughts on “Bad company”

  1.   The argument the Vatican Observer is making actually exists today by many advocates of abortion on demand and euthanasia.  Basically, if one is not demonstrate vitality or full functionality they are less than a human (fetal human) or are unable to be self-sustainable and should be able to murder oneself with the help others.  These structure of arguments are they same of the eugenics and progressives of the 1920s through 1940s, which the Nazis were. 
    Now in regards to your fallacies.  First, by demissing the argument by stating that is a Godwin does not actually refute the argument.  This is an ad hominem itself as it spoils the well.  Second, you are appealing to ignorance and using a special pleading.  Because you cannot think of anyone saying it, it does not exist?  Do some research.  I looked for 5 minutes and I found this article:
    Perhaps one is not using he same type of language, but surely the structure is the same.  Those who are not as self-sufficient ought to be eliminated because they are inconvenient.  Don't commit any more fallacies- invincible ignorance.

  2. Hardly Lance. 

    The author was talking about "Bioethicists" and "Politicians" who use these arguments.  Your counterexample doesn't establish this in the least.  No one in that article is making Nazi-style arguments in favor of active, Nazi-style euthanasia.  If anything, it argues that higher deaths among the elderly have occured for the same reason people who are poor die in the US–lack of knowledge, money, or institutional support.

    As for the ad ignorantiam you falsely accuse me of, were it the case that such people existed who argue for active Euthanasia programs, the burden would be on the author of the op-ed to cite their work.  She doesn't.

    In addition to that, calling them Nazis still does not resolve the issue of whether their arguments about Euthanasia are any good.  Naturally, if they actually advocated the systematic slaugher of the old, the sick, and the mentally ill, this would be an easy question.  Now this is what the author would have us think their arguments are.  But alas.   

    As for the alleged ad hominem.  You can't get more ad hominem than calling someone a Nazi, don't you think.  I mean, that's exactly what the author did.  Now my pointing that out–that he's calling people Nazis–does not make me guilty of some kind of ad hominem.  It's an accurate description of this appalling argument.

    Finally, no one is talking about abortion here.

    If we're going to have a rational disagreement about matters that are important, our first move in our discussion ought not to involve calling someone a Nazi.  Few people actually advocate obviously evil Nazi policies for the same reasons the Nazis did.  Invoking the Nazis when a person's view merely shares some non-essential features with a Nazi view is lazy, dishonest arguing. 

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