#127 Abortion Rhetoric

#127 Abortion Rhetoric

Gotta love the extreme right – spew patently absurd inflammatory rhetoric about doctors like George Tiller one minute, and then “condemn” the horror of their murders the next.

Also OMG it’s a new comic!!!

*edit*

Related to this topic: Ben Burgis has a fabulous dissection of Edward Fraser’s take on Tiller’s murder, wherein Fraser at once provides a lengthy argument that Tiller is in fact much worse than Dahmer and thus forfeited his right to live, and at the same time tries to assert (on dubious grounds) that Tiller’s murder was wrong.

Spoiler: Dialetheism once again solves everything!


Discussion (49)¬

  1. Dylan says:

    Is this just ’cause I bugged you for comics on twitter, or were you planning this one anyway? I’m glad someone else observed this hypocrisy. It’s like when people tell me I’m wrong, and why I’m wrong, then when I argue back they tell me that it’s their opinion, and opinion can’t be wrong! Gah!

  2. chaospet says:

    Sort of both. This one had been in my head for the past week or so, but you bugging me on Twitter was the impetus for me to finally post it. So, thanks!

    The “well it’s all just opinion so I can’t be wrong” line is probably my least favorite of the many frustrating conversation stoppers people resort to.

  3. Dylan says:

    No worries, I think I’m the one that should be thanking you. Ha, completely forgot to mention, really good comic, by the way.

    It’s not a bad way to end an argument! And you can’t tell me that it is, because that’s my opinion! 😛

  4. Wm Tanksley says:

    Good comic, because it’s funny — but I’m disappointed by how short the discussion is, though. Maybe everyone’s demoralized by the sheer nuttiness of the incident the comic’s talking about. So I guess I gotta “be starting something”.

    Is there actually a valid slippery slope between claiming that abortion is murder, and claiming that anyone who believes that should have the right (or the obligation) to kill abortionists (or “extreme” abortionists, by some arbitrary definition)?

    I’d say no.

    There’s a few reasons for this.

    First, let’s dismiss one group from consideration. A consistent Christian has to follow all the explicit commands of Christianity; and one of those requires submission to rulers and those in authority. This has been upheld, so to speak, during times when those authorities were mass-murdering adult Christians, so there doesn’t seem to be an exception for mass-murdering. Thus, I can’t depend on any explicitly Christian arguments; this is appropriate, because not all pro-lifers are Christian.

    There are three moral arguments that I can see in favor of personally killing a murderer. I’ll hit them one at a time.

    The first argument is that it’s an application of capital punishment. But capital punishment is the duty and exclusive right of a sovereign power (assuming for the sake of argument that it’s legitimate there). Thus, this argument does not justify a personal killing.

    The second argument is that it’s an application of war. But war is, even when not waged according to “just war” theory (which is a Christian concept, and thus not available to me in this argument), a pragmatic concern. And there’s nothing pragmatic about this action; it’s at best pure desperation. The best possible pragmatic result is that you might escape after having done this once; it’s inconceivable that you’d improve the situation in any way. Absolutely certainly, you’d destroy many gains “your side” had made. Most likely, you’d be captured and neutralized (whether permanently in prison or simply killed). Possibly you’d discourage some similarly “extreme” abortionists, but such effects would be swamped by other non-“extreme” abortions (by any definition of “extreme”, it’s rare). Thus, personally killing any abortionist is a poor act of war, and war does not justify a personal killing.

    The third argument is that it’s killing a felon in commission. I’m going to simply dismiss this argument, because it’s nonsense — it’s a purely legal argument, rather than a moral one, and it’s totally incorrect: abortion, in law, isn’t a felony. Someone who wanted to argue that it *should be* would have to first successfully make that argument before society — frankly, that argument hasn’t been made even to the satisfaction of most anti-abortion people. And someone wanting to MAKE IT law would be engaging in war, and is dealt with in the argument above. Thus, the law as it stands does not justify a personal killing.

    The final argument is defense of self, family, and property. Conceivably, a mother being forced into abortion by her family might lash out at the abortionist; or (more likely, I suspect), a father seeing his wife/girlfriend about to get an abortion against his will might. Such a situation might possibly bring tears to the jury’s eye, but there are a few serious problems. A belief that abortion is murder is neither sufficient to this defense nor necessary for it: a simple proprietary feeling would be as good as a feeling of family, and neither would be sufficient, since in both cases this justification is founded on law, not on feeling, and the law says that if you behave this way you are guilty of murder one. Now, to fully complete this argument I’d have to show that the law SHOULD hold such a person guilty of murder one — but because this comment is long enough, I’m going to limit this proof to merely showing that belief that abortion is murder is not *sufficient* to kill a doctor (and the most I’m leaving unproven is that one would need to have a chance of stopping the killing of a specific fetus related to you). Thus, this argument does not justify killing a abortionist “because abortion is murder”.

    Unless I’m missing an option under which willful killing is morally an option or a requirement, I believe I’ve demonstrated that belief that abortion is murder does not imply that one belief that personally killing an abortion doctor is moral.

    All right… Let’s go.

    -Wm

  5. Wm Tanksley says:

    Oh, I have to occasionally mention decent philosophy comics… SMBC hit one just recently (although it’s generally more geeky than philosophical).

  6. Wm Tanksley says:

    And finally (I hope) a completely different semi-philosophical comic strip (again, the comic itself isn’t normally philosophy-oriented) which might possibly explain how someone could actually accept my argument, and yet murder an abortionist anyhow. Contains 0% philosophical zombies, but may contain trace amounts of other undead.

  7. chaospet says:

    Wm: I actually agree with you that the view that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life does not necessarily commit one to the view that killing abortion doctors is moral or to be commended. I think if we believe in democracy and the rule of law at all, we have to allow that sometimes the majority is going to support actions that we think are immoral – even with regards to substantial issues like the taking of innocent life. For instance I believe that the Iraq war has unjustifiably cost countless thousands of innocent lives, but I don’t think I would have been justified in killing Cheney or Rumsfeld to prevent it.

    However, I believe (and I think almost all of us believe) that there are times when vigilantism is justifiable. For example, if a serial killer were loose and slaughtering hundreds of people, and the government refused to do anything to prosecute him, I think we’d celebrate (or at least not condemn) the vigilante who brought him down. Or suppose our democratically elected leader began the systematic extermination of a race, and there was no way to oppose him from within the system. Would we decry the actions of his assassin? I doubt it.

    That’s the target of the comic – the most extreme opponents of abortion who spent years comparing abortion doctors, and George Tiller in particular, to people like Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler. When people who spew that sort of dangerously inflammatory rhetoric turn around and act shocked and horrified at Tiller’s murder, it rings a bit hollow to say the least.

    BTW nice links, that SMBC comic cracked me up. 🙂

  8. Wm Tanksley says:

    chaospet, how can you accept my argument, accept that people reasonably believe that Tiller conducted many abortions, accept that people believe abortion to be murder, and then claim that any mention that Tiller was a murderer is proof of “patently absurd inflammatory rhetoric” on par with Fraser’s (which, by the way, you didn’t even offer as an example when I originally posted — but thank you for pointing to a REAL example, and I’d recommend you link to THAT as “patently absurd inflammatory rhetoric” rather than an overblown Salon article whose self-professed worst example was the term “bloody hands”).

    Saying that I believe Tiller was guilty of murder — and I do say that — does not mean I approve of the fact that he was murdered. If the law were changed, we may hope that he would have changed his behavior, and indeed he should have been given that chance.

    Your opposition to my *saying* that he was a murderer leaves me with what option? Am I supposed to just pretend to not believe it? If I do so, will it ever be possible to actually dissuade me? For that matter, if neither I nor anyone else can say that, how can I possibly express the fact that it is immoral to murder an abortion doctor — if I can’t explain the reason WHY that murder is immoral?

  9. chaospet says:

    Wm: You’re putting a lot of words into my mouth. I never said that any mention of Tiller as a murderer is patently absurd inflammatory rhetoric. I said that comparing him to Dahmer or Hitler is. There is a considerable difference. There is room to condemn Tiller’s actions without drawing comparisons to Hitler or Dahmer – for example, one could argue that Tiller simply lacks the correct metaphysical views (about souls or whatever, fill in your favorite view here) to realize that personhood begins earlier than he thinks it does. On this view Tiller is certainly sorely mistaken, but he is no monster – certainly not the sorts of monsters that Dahmer and Hitler were.

    Suppose that Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t ever captured. Suppose he were free and still torturing, slaughtering and eating people. And suppose the government refused to do anything to try and stop him. Would you decry the actions of the vigilante who brought him down?

    I certainly wouldn’t. And I suspect that most wouldn’t. And that illustrates just how extreme the rhetoric drawing comparisons between Tiller and people like Dahmer and Hitler is. Say what you will about your opposition to vigilantism – when the rhetoric gets that extreme, it no longer applies.

  10. Wm Tanksley says:

    I have to agree that comparing Tiller to Dahmer (especially the way Fraser does) has all the bad effects you describe. Using Hitler as your comparison point may well be worse. I’m glad you making your reference point for condemnation clear in this comment and in the comic, and I entirely agree with you.

    What I’m complaining about is your link below the comic, where you condemn as “patently absurd inflammatory rhetoric” a person whose worst offense (according to the linked article at Salon, I have to take its word because I don’t tend to watch TV) was saying that the doctor had bloody hands. If the use of a very common idiom for being guilty of murder or accessory to murder is extreme, patently absurd, and inflammatory (and equivalent to saying he’s worse than Dahmer), I don’t see what room for dialogue remains.

    OTOH, I’m glad to accept Godwin’s law, modified to include references to serial killers. I accept this because what Tiller did was legal and implicitly morally approved by a plurality of Americans; in other words, the guilt that applies to what he did inheres not strictly to him, but also to the people who approved of what he did; and frankly that isn’t a killing offense. The same was true of slavery — killing slaveholders was not a proper way to free slaves or end slavery, nor would comparing them to arbitrarily bad people.

    So the solution — for pro-lifers — to fix the problem of Tiller is to change society. I like the fact that your solution for the problem of Tiller’s murderer is the same: change society by urging pro-lifers to shun rabid language.

    I think we’re on the same page. Sorry it took me a while to get there.

  11. chaospet says:

    Michael: Yes, I agree that one can reasonably hold a view of when personhood starts such that abortion counts as the killing of a person. Establishing exactly what the criteria are for personhood (in the full moral sense of the term) and exactly when/if a fetus comes to possess them is an extraordinarily difficult matter, both philosophically and empirically – and so there is room for reasonable disagreement on the matter. And that is precisely why it is absurd to compare a doctor like Tiller to Dahmer. Dahmer was a demented monster motivated by perverse sadistic desires. He knew his victims were conscious sentient people (in the fullest sense of the term) – and was indifferent to that fact. Tiller on the other hand was simply a doctor with a different view (reasonably held) on a complicated philosophical matter than you. There is no legitimate moral comparison between Dahmer and Tiller – and drawing such comparisons is dangerous and yes, absurd rhetoric that cheapens the debate.

    As for your latter question – I already gave an argument in the form of an analogy. I’ll repeat it for you: suppose that Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t ever captured. Suppose he were free and still torturing, slaughtering and eating people. And suppose the government refused to do anything to try and stop him. Would you really decry the actions of the vigilante who brought him down?

    I suspect for almost everyone, the answer is no. And that demonstrates the deep tension between saying someone is the equivalent of (or worse than) Dahmer and at the same time decrying the actions of the vigilante who brings him down. If the comparison with Dahmer is really genuine, then it is difficult to see how such strong opposition to vigilantism in such a case could be.

  12. Ben says:

    Ryan,

    There seems to be some slippage going on between three claims:

    (1) Not all statements of the view that Tiller was a murderer constitute patently absurd inflammatory rhetoric.
    (2) It is reasonable to claim that Tiller was a murderer.
    (3) It is reasonable to claim that abortion constitutes the killing of a person.

    Originally, you said (1) and Michael B interpreted you as saying (2). Over in the comment thread at my blog, I confidently asserted that you hadn’t and wouldn’t say anything like (2), and, to be be fair, you haven’t yet, but where it gets confusing to me is that you responded to Michael B’s attribution of (2) to you with a defense of (3), which isn’t quite the same thing, and that you did so without denying (2).

    My understanding from the discussions we had with M— back when he was getting confused about these issues was always that you thought that the standard arguments against the moral permissibility of abortion were extremely bad, and that belief that abortion is murder (which, together with the fact that Tiller carried out many abortions, would entail (2)) wasn’t rationally defensible. Of course, that view is quite compatible with (1), and I think that, given the plausibility of the standard Judith Jarvis Thompson-type arguments, it’s even compatible with (3). After all, not all killings of persons constitute murder, and in this case, we seem to have pretty compelling arguments for the view that even if, for the sake of argument, fetuses fully count as persons, it would still be morally permissible for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

    Still, at this point, given the switch-ups….you say (1), Michael B. attributes (2) to you, and you come back with a defense of (3)…I am a bit curious about where you stand on (2).

    (Of course, we might want to further disambiguate “reasonable disagreement about whether position Y is the the right view about subject X” from “the most rational position on X is to think Y.” For example, one might think that it’s more rational to be an atheist than a theist, a compatibilist than a libertarian, but given that the flaws in at least some arguments for belief in things like gods and extra-empirical power centers might be subtle and tricky to unravel, generally reasonable people giving the matter their level best might be honestly and even interestingly mistaken about any of these issues. In fact, that strikes me as about the right line about this, so the whole issue might come down to how much you want to pack into your understanding of the phrase “reasonable to believe…”)

  13. chaospet says:

    Michael:

    1) Nobody denies biological life is involved, but it is questionable whether human life is involved. Clearly it is biologically human, but that alone is not enough to establish that the fetus has any moral status. The moral question hinges on whether the fetus is human in the fullest sense – which involves personhood. “Personhood” is undeniably central to the abortion debate; it is why disagreement on the issue is so persistent, and why the comparisons between Tiller and Dahmer are illegitimate. I don’t think I’m begging any questions here, even a cursory look at debate over the morality of abortion bears out the point that the debate typically hinges on issues of personhood.

    2) I don’t think there is any rhetorical excess, question begging, or mere “insistence” in using the very analogy offered by folks like O’Reilly and Fraser, the very analogy which I am criticizing. If it’s true that (A)Tiller is morally on par with (or worse than) Dahmer, and it’s true that (B) vigilante action against Dahmer would be justifiable (given that he is free, still killing, and the government is taking no steps to stop him), then it seems to follow that (C) vigilante action against Tiller (in similar circumstances) would be justifiable.

    I take it that (B) is intuitively obvious to just about anyone who reflects on it; if you reject this, we may be at an impasse, though at least we’ll have identified the bone of contention. Given that, the people who are asserting (A) should also be asserting (C), and yet we are seeing the contrary – many people who say that Tiller is a monster on par with Dahmer, and yet decry the actions of his killer.

  14. chaospet says:

    Ben: People are often ambiguous in their use of the term “murder”; sometimes it is used as a morally loaded term (to designate only killings for which a person is morally blameworthy), and sometimes it is used to refer to any killing of a person. In my reply to Michael, I just assumed the less controversial (and more clearly implied by what I had been arguing) reading of (2), which I presented as (3). Looking over his comments on your blog, that was probably a mistaken assumption.

    As for whether it could be reasonable to believe (2) given the stronger reading… I have to confess that I am a bit less sure about this, but my strong inclination is that any claim that Tiller was a murderer (in the morally loaded sense of the term) would be unreasonable. Even if you believe (3) (and of course reject Thomson-style arguments), you should acknowledge that the views Tiller is acting on are views of a philosophically complicated issue where there is considerable room for rational disagreement, and this should (at least to a very large degree) be morally exculpatory.

  15. chaospet says:

    Michael,

    You do a lot of lovely gesturing, with very little specification – particularly for one who rants as much about the use of “rhetoric” as you do. I didn’t respond to your “first principles” chatter because you in no way indicated which first principles you were referring to or how they were relevant to the debate. We could play the “who is doing more invoking of first principles game” – in your assertion that the moral question is connected only to the biological status of the fetus and denying the central relevance of personhood to the debate, you seem to be doing what you are accusing me of. We could debate about which is more central to the debate, but it’s beside the point. I’m not here trying to resolve the abortion debate – my point is only that any such assumptions are questionable and there can be reasonable disagreement about them – which is why the comparison between Tiller and Dahmer is not apt.

    In particular, you give no indication of how “first principles” are involved in my claim that if you agree that Dahmer could justifiably be stopped by vigilante action (if the government were doing nothing), then you should also agree that a person who you think is the moral equivalent of Dahmer could justifiably be stopped by vigilante action. It’s a straightforward inference, and you have yet to explain in any way what you think it wrong with it.

    If you wish to either explain to me why it would be immoral for a person to stop Dahmer if the government were doing nothing, or explain why it would be ok to stop Dahmer but not Tiller, or explain why there is something wrong with the question (perhaps you could explain which first principles are assumed by the example that you reject), I’d be thrilled to listen.

    “You previously affirmed: “I never said that any mention of Tiller as a murderer is patently absurd …”

    From which I deduced: “So it is reasonable to think of Tiller as a murderer.”

    I.e. simply equating “[not] patently absurd” with “reasonable.” Which itself is entirely reasonable, is little or nothing more than definitional. Yet, now you’ve moved on to a different view, have moved the goal posts.”

    I haven’t changed views. I quite clearly explained in my response to Ben the sense in which I agree that calling Tiller a murderer could be reasonable, and the sense in which I disagree with it. Not to mention, there is a pretty sizeable gap between “not patently absurd” and “reasonable”. No “goalpost” moving here, I’m afraid.

  16. Wm Tanksley says:

    “But it’s ‘patently absurd’ to think of Tiller in any way on a par with Dahmer’s murders.”

    That’s not quite what he’s saying.

    I think he’s saying that It’s patently absurd and inflammatory to equate Tiller’s murders with Dahmer’s murders in *every* way, or by using unqualified rhetoric to allow people to conclude that they’re alike in every way.

    It’s not patently ridiculous to equate them in *some* ways, but then the ways in which I could legitimately equate them are pretty tame; I’d quickly decide that other comparisons would be better.

    -Wm

  17. Wm Tanksley says:

    “Nobody denies biological life is involved, but it is questionable whether human life is involved. Clearly it is biologically human,”

    Clearly you did not mean the first sentence, since you contradicted it in the second.

    “but that alone is not enough to establish that the fetus has any moral status. The moral question hinges on whether the fetus is human in the fullest sense – which involves personhood.”

    This is legitimate when stated as an ethical principle (one should not willfully kill an innocent *person*). It’s illegitimate when stated as a moral rule to guide daily actions, because it’s not clear what it means to be human “in the fullest sense.” Does that mean that only philosophers are to be protected from murder?

    “Personhood is undeniably central to the abortion debate; it is why disagreement on the issue is so persistent, and why the comparisons between Tiller and Dahmer are illegitimate.”

    I don’t agree on either point. I think disagreement is persistent it’s a complex issue with two obvious easy solutions at opposite ends of the spectrum, both with huge advantages and neither one completely advantageous. Oh, and because we took the wrong path early; rather than having a law setting forth the hard and fast (but easily modifiable) guidelines, we invented a Constitutional right (one which mysteriously came with a balancing test — how did the founding fathers know to insert THAT into the Constitution?), thus making the Supreme Court a political battlefield and utterly polarizing the issue.

    Oh, and the second point: to me, the reason that comparisons to Dahmer are illegitimate is that he is recognized as evil by our audience. What Tiller did (or claimed to do) was seen as decent by as much as half of Americans, and as a “necessary evil” by a strong majority. Unless you’ve got a *specific* comparison, comparing to Dahmer is going to at best beg the question.

    -Wm

  18. Wm Tanksley says:

    “If you wish to either explain to me why it would be immoral for a person to stop Dahmer if the government were doing nothing, or explain why it would be ok to stop Dahmer but not Tiller”

    I was just thinking about that… I think I have an answer. The law says that Dahmer must be punished. The law says that Tiller shouldn’t be. Both laws are supported by a very strong majority (almost unanimously).

  19. Canuovea says:

    Wow. I think that the comparison between Tiller and Dahmer is absurd partially because the intentions involved. Dahmer had “evil” intentions, I believe most would agree with that. Now far be it for me to agree with the far right, but I think that there is a similarity between Hitler and Tiller, and it does center around what seems to be rather important in this discussion: Personhood.

    Allow me to explain before biting my head off, although I will make a few assumptions. First main assumption: In the case of the holocaust Hitler did not see the Jews (and other groups) as people (or having personhood) that deserved the dignity that a person is supposed to have (that is also an assumption). Second main assumption Tiller did not see the late term fetuses as people in a similar way, and in many cases he may not have seen many of them as having the potential to be people because many were likely to die shortly after birth.

    Given these two assumptions the similarity is fairly clear. Both Tiller and Hitler had a different perception of the concept of personhood than, say, Michael B. It may even be possible to some how fit Dahmer in there too but I will not try.

    I believe that this underlines the importance of personhood in the discussion, if anything here comes down to (or close to) “first principles” (if those are what I think they are) it is the idea of personhood (or at least potential for personhood). Fetuses are people, only Aryans are people etc. Isn’t subjectivity great?

    Wm Tanksley: “I was just thinking about that… I think I have an answer. The law says that Dahmer must be punished. The law says that Tiller shouldn’t be. Both laws are supported by a very strong majority (almost unanimously).”

    I am of the opinion that the law is supposedly based on morality, but that does not mean that the law is moral or just. And in fact killing Dahmer in an act of vigilantism would be very much against the law itself (no trail etc). Though there is certainly a point about the will of the majority.

    I will put forward a reason to stop Dahmer but not Tiller. Firstly Dahmer’s motivation was likely much more “evil” than Tiller’s. I doubt Dahmer thought he was helping people and I also doubt that most other people think he was helping people or doing it for a good cause. Tiller thought he was helping people (supposedly) and many others also believed so (including the people that came to him, whether or not the fetuses were people or thinking anything is debatable). This would put Tiller at a less “evil” level than Dahmer, more of a mercy murderer if you will. Especially if you think that people who are cold blooded murderers who kill for fun have forfeited personhood (I am not sure what I think). Dahmer is undoubtedly the greater evil, and when deciding who to kill it is not better to choose the lesser of two evils.

    Secondly Dahmer was more of a pragmatic concern, causing disorder and terror, Tiller was not stalking the street for babies to abort. This falls more under the domain of law though.

    That was long, hope I didn’t miss anything. Sorry for the assumptions.

  20. chaospet says:

    Wm,

    “Nobody denies biological life is involved, but it is questionable whether human life is involved. Clearly it is biologically human,”

    Clearly you did not mean the first sentence, since you contradicted it in the second.

    I did mean it, and there’s no contradiction. But I should have been clearer. The point I was trying to get at is that there many senses of the term “human”, and abortion arguments often equivocate between them (indeed, this is often the textbook example of equivocation). So, while it’s clear that a fetus is human in the biological sense, it’s not clear that it’s human in the sense relevant to its having a moral status.

    Does that mean that only philosophers are to be protected from murder?”

    No no – philosophers are super-human.

    I don’t want to delve too much more deeply into exactly why abortion is a contentious issue – it’s enough for my point that it is.

    But as to why Dahmer/Tiller comparisons are illegitimate, I don’t think we want to rely too much on what the majority recognizes or what the law is – it’s too relativistic. Even in a perverse society where the law allows for Dahmer to act as he did and where the majority accepts it, I think we’d still want to say that a vigilante who brings him down is justified.

  21. chaospet says:

    “Given these two assumptions the similarity is fairly clear. Both Tiller and Hitler had a different perception of the concept of personhood than, say, Michael B. It may even be possible to some how fit Dahmer in there too but I will not try.

    I believe that this underlines the importance of personhood in the discussion, if anything here comes down to (or close to) “first principles” (if those are what I think they are) it is the idea of personhood (or at least potential for personhood). Fetuses are people, only Aryans are people etc. Isn’t subjectivity great?”

    Let’s grant for the sake of argument that Hitler really didn’t think non-Aryans were people (it’s not so clear to me this is true, but let’s leave that aside). There’s still a substantial difference between Tiller and Hitler – namely, Hitler’s view is completely unreasonable and unjustifiable, whereas Tiller’s view about the status of fetuses (even if he is ultimately wrong) can be reasonably defended.

  22. Canuovea says:

    I never meant to say that Tiller and Hitler’s views on personhood lacked substantial difference, indeed the magnitude of difference is very substantial. I was only saying that given the assumptions there would be a similarity between them at the root of the issue. Even if those roots grow in different directions and different proportions than each other.

    Of course as you say we cannot really know what Hitler actually thought on the subject but I feel that I should defend my assumption. Firstly Hitler appeared to not believe that the “inferior races” had as much right to live as the Aryans. The prison camps provided British POWs with better treatment than the Jews simply because of race. The conditions of the camps were made to degrade humanity, and reduce the Jewish inmates to animals. My source for this is Primo Levi’s autobiography. If the Jews were considered people then were seen as not deserving of human dignity or humanity. At least it appears that way So then I suppose we come down to exactly what the definition of “Person” or “Personhood” is.

    Thank you for your responses!

  23. chaospet says:

    Michael,

    I didn’t say you denied the relevance, I said you denied the central relevance. But fine, I’ll take your word that that’s not what you want to say. Really, I’m not too interested in a detailed debate of the abortion issue here. The only point I really wanted to emphasize was that the abortion debate is an extraordinarily complex and difficult matter about which there is considerable room for reasonable disagreement, and this is one of the reasons why it’s unjustifiable to draw moral comparisons between Tiller and Dahmer. The fact that we’re wandering astray into a dispute even about which problems are most fundamental in the debate only reinforces my point.

  24. chaospet says:

    Having read your comments now at WWWtW, I’ll need to retract the notion you can be taken at your word.

    This is getting pretty childish.

    Essentially, you want your unargued assumptions (unsuccessfully argued) to be treated as though they have been successfully argued.

    Once again, you make broad accusations without any specification. What unargued assumptions exactly?

    And we weren’t “wandering astray” when considering basic suppositions/definitions vs. the more problematic philosophical issue of personhood

    As I stated, I’m not that interested in a detailed debate about abortion. I explained the point I was interested in relevant to the original topic – and I think the exchange until now pretty well demonstrates it. If you care to say something relevant to that point or the earlier questions I raised, or say anything else relevant to the original topic (without the baseless ad hominem shots or unspecified accusations) I’ll be happy to continue.

  25. chaospet says:

    What I asserted was not my conclusion, it was a premise. Sorry that I didn’t “rigorously” argue for what should be a completely banal and obvious claim – that the abortion issue is a complex one about which there is room for reasonable disagreement. Do you really take issue with that claim?

    I didn’t comment on the earlier pair of queries, because in them you attribute claims to me that I did not make. Wm has already explained why.

    What I called childish was your “retraction” of the notion that I can be taken at my word based on my daring to disagree with Edward Fraser’s characterization of Ben’s latest post.

  26. Canuovea says:

    Michael B: So the problem is that chaospet has apparently not answered why he sees a comparison between Tiller, Dahmer and Hitler as “patently absurd?” I thought he had said that within the abortion debate there was room for reasonable disagreement due to the complex nature of the issue. And there is very very little room for reasonable disagreement where Hitler and Dahmer are involved. Hitler and Dahmer are viewed as “evil” and for uncomplicated reasons. Both went looking for people to kill in their own way. And I find it very difficult to defend either of their actions as good in any way. The same is not true for Tiller. Some may see what Tiller did as evil but most would probably stop short of calling him evil. He was doing what he, and many others thought was right, including his patients. Now there are those who would disagree with him of course, never mind that many, if not most, of the “human life” he terminated would have suffered and died outside the womb anyway. But the issue is complex with room for disagreement and rational debate on all sides. Now does the question “Was Dahmer/Hitler a murderer?” really have such complexity? Not really.

    That is my take on it anyway, and I hope I have understood the discussion so far.

  27. chaospet says:

    “you’re merely tacitly assuming (rather than positively arguing) that all the fetuses in question are not to be assigned the value of personhood”

    As far as I can see, nothing in what Canouvea said relies on this assumption.

    “No, though that’s such a generic question that it doesn’t mean much at all.”

    It means a lot. As Canuovea explained, the fact that there is room for reasonable disagreement on the abortion issue is a substantial disanalogy between Tiller and Hitler or Dahmer.

    “But your implied response is, essentially: “No, you can’t say that and truly believe it, you can only think and more truly believe and act in the manner I want to impute to you. If you fail to do so, if you fail to assign to yourself the reasoning and principles I wish to impute to you, then you’re just a phony.”

    That is an inaccurate and childish way of characterizing my argument. I neither said nor implied anything of the sort. My claim is simply that if you accept that it would be justifiable to bring Dahmer down via vigilante action in the sort of case I described, then you are also committed to the claim that it would be justifiable to bring Tiller down via vigilante action. The basis for this claim is not any “first principle” of mine – it is Fraser’s own argument that Tiller is actually morally worse then Dahmer. That’s all. Certainly one could consistently deny that that vigilante action is justifiable in either case, but I think considering the Dahmer case highlights just how intuitively implausible this is. Alternately if you have any sort of argument that, even though Tiller is purportedly a greater monster than Dahmer is, it would be still be justifiable to stop Dahmer via vigilante action but not Tiller, I’d love to hear it.

    “we’d be living is an extraordinarily strange society, entirely unrecognizable from the one we do live in.”

    If you start with the claim that Tiller was actually morally worse than Dahmer, and given that that government was doing nothing to stop him, this looks like exactly the society we’re living in.

    “And given the numbers involved over the decades, why is it “patently absurd,” in some prominent respects, to compare him with Hitler?”

    Once again (and for the last time) – your question attributes to me something that I did not say. Wm already explained this: I never denied that it might not be patently absurd to compare Tiller to Hitler or Dahmer in some respects. What I claimed is that it is patently absurd to make one specific comparison: to say that George Tiller was the moral equivalent (or even worse, according to Fraser) of Hitler or Dahmer. I have already explained why more than once, and Canuovea did a pretty good job explaining why as well.

  28. Canuovea says:

    Michael B: First off thanks for the response.

    Alright let’s move the ball into your court then. Let us now assume that the late term fetuses are indeed people and they deserve all the dignity and treatment that any person does. Killing them with or without the permission of their guardian (parent) is illegal (as it would be for a child under normal circumstances).

    Since Tiller would not simply perform these abortions on demand, that is he would not just abort a perfectly healthy person just because the mother got pregnant and suddenly decided, late term, that she did not like the idea anymore (I got this from a news article, I cannot remember which). Tiller dealt with rape cases and with cases where the baby would not be able to survive once born or would suffer for life or where it might kill the mother (again news article) and even then there was therapy before and after the murder.

    This then appears to resemble the Euthanasia debate, except that the child cannot give permission. In some cases if the family members of someone who could not give permission could give it for them and that was fine. Let us assume that is not so and it is still murder.

    This would make Tiller appear as more of a mercy murderer. Like someone who sees a person suffering and decides to kill them, in fact exactly that because the baby is a person. Still a murderer though, given the assumptions but even in cases like that described there are those who would sympathize with the murderer. Some would argue that people deserve that kind of treatment as they might say “after all we put down suffering animals, do not humans deserve the same respect?”

    What I am attempting to show is that even if Tiller is considered a murderer there is confusion about the morality of his actions, killing a person who suffers is not always considered bad. Therefore I think even in that case there is room for “reasonable disagreement.” Some may say that killing the late term fetus (in the case that it would suffer or die upon birth) is treating it more like a person than if we just allowed it to be born and suffer. Sometimes I wonder if I was suffering and could not communicate would I want someone to kill me? Even if my answer (or yours) is no (I actually am not sure) it might not be the same for everyone.

    I believe that this makes the comparison to Hitler and Dahmer “absurd” because no one (I suspect) would call Hitler or Dahmer anything other than a cold hearted killer or genocidal maniac. Tiller can be seen many different ways, but even when we do consider fetuses as people in the full sense of the word the worst that I see he could be seen as is a mass mercy killer (or in the cases where the baby would kill the mother that is self defense). Being a mercy killer can still be viewed as wrong, especially if it is gruesome, but can it really be reasonably compared to hunting down and killing people because they are different? Or just for fun? I personally think it is “absurd.” Although I have already argued that there may have been some small basis for a slight similarity between Hitler and Tiller that was in their view of “Personhood” not in an attempt to equate them morally.

    I hope I have made some sense, thank you.

  29. chaospet says:

    “He doesn’t argue whatsoever on behalf of the fetus. He simply assumes it’s not an issue within his line of argumentation”

    The latter claim doesn’t follow from the former. The only assumption that he needs is that one could reasonably hold the view(and to clarify, I mean something a bit stronger than just “let’s all be reasonable here”) that the fetus is not a person; there is no assumption that it actually isn’t. And this points to why Tiller is not the moral equivalent of Dahmer or Hitler (to answer your last question). Whether he was ultimately right or wrong, Tiller held a philosophically defensible view on an extraordinarily complex matter, and this combined with compassion and concern for the needs of his patients was the basis of his actions. It’s obvious that none of this is remotely true of Dahmer or Hitler, and that is one clear reason why the moral comparison is absurd.

    “The basis you’re applying and insisting upon is a combination of Fraser’s argument that Tiller is morally worse than Dahmer together with your own adumbrated logic, your resolution (the analogy with Dahmer and the lawlessness scenario).”

    What lawlessness scenario? I didn’t assume lawlessness – I only stated that the government isn’t doing anything to stop Dahmer in my scenario. This could be for any number of reasons. Even if the law permitted Dahmer’s actions – perhaps he the President passes a special ‘it’s ok for Dahmer to kill and eat people’ executive order, or whatever lawful scenario you like – I’m pretty sure the intuitive position is that a vigilante would be justified in bringing him down. Or do you take natural law considerations to rule that out? What of Hitler – he certainly had the support of German law at the time. Should his hypothetical assassin be condemned on natural law grounds?

  30. Canuovea says:

    Michael B: You are most certainly correct that what is advertised is not always what is practiced. I am also aware that anything deserves scrutiny before accepting it as true. Still I find no reason to disbelieve my sources, that doesn’t mean that I totally accept them, but I have seen nothing to the contrary. Then again I have not investigated as much as I should have. Though I should say that if Tiller simply aborted any fetus I would have a problem with that.

    Invoking the Euthanasia debate is dangerous I know. Perhaps I should not have bothered. My point was simply that can someone who kills those who suffer (if there is truth in that of course) or would die painfully AS BAD as someone who kills for amusement? Even if you believe that those who kill out of pity (again IF this is true) are evil to say they are just as bad seems at least a little absurd.

    This all depends on the truth of the matter of course, but if it were to be made abstract, not Tiller or Dahmer or Hitler, but just someone who kills out of pity for severe suffering and someone who kills for pleasure who is worse? My opinion is the one who kills for pleasure.

    My earlier argument was partially to point out the lack of clarity on the subject. There appears to be room for debate or “reasonable disagreement” about whether Tiller was a murderer with arguments for both sides. That is not the case with Hitler and Dahmer. There are different sides to the debate, one focuses on the fetus as a person and one does not so much (or maybe there are actually several sides?). The very existence of these sides demonstrates that there is room for reasonable disagreement. In a sense it was “patently absurd” because among people Tiller’s evil was not quite as clear cut as Hitler and Dahmer’s. But of course this considers society not individuals. To me that is dangerous as well. But as I hope I have argued after that, this opaqueness of evil is not just reflected in society but in the nature of the “murders” as well.

    As for the comic itself I figured that what was meant was:

    1) the main premise that “People of a certain evilness should be killed” was implied.
    2) Hitler was of this certain evilness (I think most people would agree he should be killed or would think it reasonable).
    3) The claim was made that Tiller was just as bad, if not more so, than Hitler.
    4)The supposed conclusion should be: therefore Tiller should have been killed what was ironic was that the conclusion was TIller’s death was awful.

    That is how I saw it. So what Chaospet is saying makes sense:

    IF you think that Hitler should have been killed
    AND IF you think that Tiller was as bad as Hitler
    THAN you would condone Tiller’s death as you would condone Hitler’s instead of denouncing it. If you denounce it than you acknowledge that Tiller was not as bad as Hitler.

    That is the logic of it anyway, I think it is valid (though it has been some time since I looked at syllogisms) but I admit that logic is only as good as it’s premises.

    I hope I am still coherent as I am getting somewhat tired now.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  31. chaospet says:

    “The point being, he doesn’t argue it one way or the other and it’s not clarified.”

    Obviously. You’re the one who brought in lawlessness as a disanalogy – and my point is, whether it’s lawless or not the intuition that it would be justifiable to stop Dahmer is overwhelming. So, you still have yet to explain why there is any real disanalogy with Tiller on the assumption that Tiller is truly morally worse than Dahmer.

    “You haven’t so much as clarified your earlier confused/conflated use of “human life” with “personhood,” the former reflecting simple suppositional definitions and the latter reflecting the philosophically complex issue that is reliant, in part, upon suppositional and other bases.”

    I never conflated “human life” with “personhood” – I said there was a sense of the term “human” that involves personhood. Repeatedly you attribute things to me that I did not say, and use these false attributions as a basis to call me confused/vague/incoherent/whatever. I notice you did the same thing repeatedly on Ben’s blog as well. It makes discussion with you very tedious.

    “So there is not much continuity to your thought. Further, while you’re willing to ask questions, you’re not willing to hold yourself accountable and respond to questions and the result has been a confused melange of various themes being invoked, but little or no resolution in any coherent/cogent sense whatsoever. It’s as if you’re “feeling” your way along each step of the process, avoiding any more truly rigorous reasoning.”

    Whatever you say. I’ve answered your questions, and explained my reasons repeatedly. It might not seem coherent or cogent to you, but given that you seem either completely incapable of or completely unwilling to accurately represent anything I say, that’s not much of a surprise. When you’re ready to come back with a reply that addresses claims I actually have made (and doesn’t ignore claims I have clearly made repeatedly), then I will happily continue, but until then I think I’m done wasting energy on this.

  32. Thom Blake says:

    I am no apologist for Fraser, but I am one for logic, so here goes:

    I think it could be consistent for someone to hold that 1) Tiller is morally worse than Dahmer, 2) A vigilante would be justified in killing Dahmer if the government did nothing, and 3) A vigilante would not be justified in killing Tiller

    Presumably, in the Dahmer case the vigilante is justified because Dahmer was doing something against the law, and the authorities were doing nothing. The vigilante is forced to “take the law into his own hands”. However, were it the case that Dahmer’s actions were not illegal, presumably there would be some reason for this law’s existence, and the right course of action for someone who disagrees would be to get the law changed. If some government official made a “Dahmer is allowed to kill” law, then justice would be better served doing something about that government official (and possibly the process for making laws) than by going after Dahmer.

    That said, I agree with the main point that Fraser’s disclaimer is dissonant with the rest of what he said, and if he was being a reasonable person he would have noticed how someone could take what he said in “the wrong light” even with the disclaimer.

  33. chaospet says:

    Hi Thom,

    Just curious – if the “Dahmer can kill” law were in effect, and a vigilante did bring him down instead of trying to do something about the government, would you condemn his actions? I wouldn’t. What the law actually is might make a difference to the justifiability of some sorts of vigilante action, but when the rhetoric gets to the level of Dahmer or Hitler it seems much less relevant, if at all.

  34. Canuovea says:

    Michael B: Source discussions are always tedious, so I am glad we are avoiding that.

    Yes the thing about logic is that logic may be valid without being true, or people do not agree on the premises or there are several different versions. My favourite is: The Moon is made of cheese, my arm is part of the moon, therefore my arm is made of cheese. Valid but not true.

    However my point is that IF someone accepts that Tiller was as bad as Hitler what is implied (if not explicitly stated) is that Tiller should be killed, because it is likely that most people believe Hitler should have been killed. Or they should at least be happy about both Hitler or Tiller’s death. Satisfied that justice was served. Now if the same people who compared Tiller to Hitler (in a way that made Tiller worse in every way) claimed to be unhappy and disturbed by Tiller’s death it would seem a bit contradictory wouldn’t it? Shouldn’t they be happy that justice would be served? What if when Hitler committed suicide the world went into mourning at his loss of life? (Not because they didn’t get to kill him). That would be odd.

    What I find hypocritical is that those who compare Tiller to Hitler seemed to not rejoice that justice was served. Well some do, but that is not the important bit. Those people are at least being honest and upfront.

    I hate to do this but, suppose someone else decided to kill that physician for similar but unrelated reasons and succeeded? Against the law yes, but as you said it would be justice. So why say it was not?

    Same thing with Tiller. Although to be lenient it was probably just implied that someone of Hitler’s “evilness” should have been killed, nonetheless it was a rather obvious implication in my mind. To say that Tiller was worse than someone who most would say should have been killed and then to cry injustice when Tiller is murdered is hypocritical. In that sense it is not about abortion but hypocrisy. And no matter where you stand, love Tiller or hate him, it still at least appears to be hypocrisy.

    Thom Blake: Equating the law to justice or morality is like using a scimitar as a ruler (the ones that draw straight lines, though I suppose making a scimitar a king or president would be silly…).

    I have to agree with Chaospet on the subject of the “Dahmer can kill” law. If someone killed Dahmer I would be rather supportive.

  35. chaospet says:

    “Oh, you meant I was now being redacted and censored from commenting here.”

    Not sure what you’re on about here. Nothing censored, I just hadn’t moderated your comments yet.

    At any rate, this clearly isn’t going anywhere. Others like Thom and Wm are capable of disagreeing in a way that lends itself to fruitful discussion – all we get from you is vague accusations and deliberate (or careless) misrepresentations of the arguments. I don’t think there’s much left to be said that hasn’t been said already, so as of now the comments on this particular thread are closed.

    *edit*

    Though I have had my fill of this topic (for the time being, anyway), I was convinced by some who are interested in seeing this discussion continue to keep the comment thread open. So while I most likely won’t be chiming in on this thread anymore myself, if any of you are interested in discussing the topic further, feel free.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Michael,

    There can be and indeed there is reasonable disagreement about abortion. The pro-choice position ranks among the reasonable views. And there is a significant distinction between matters of species membership and matters of moral standing—a distinction well worth considering even if it turns out that belonging to Homo sapiens is (as many pro-lifers would maintain) sufficient for possessing a strong right to life.

    Do you disagree with any of the above? If not, I can’t say I see what the dispute is over.

  37. Canuovea says:

    Yay we are back to this again! Me and my odd love of back and forth banter.

    Michael B: Alright you speak of my and Chaospet’s logic so naturally I am curious as to your own logic. How is it not hypocritical? Using my own logic the only way I could see it as not hypocritical is if, after comparing TIller to Hitler, and saying that Tiller’s death was a tragedy you also meant that Hitler’s death was a tragedy. Or at least to say they both had it coming. Fraser is actually less hypocritical in this respect. Basically he said that Tiller was a “greater monster” than Dahmer and that he would shed “no tears” for him. In essence saying that Tiller had it coming. Sure (he says) he doesn’t condone the murder but that is different from not being satisfied with it. He does not turn around and say the equivalent of (to paraphrase) ‘he had it coming and I will shed no tears for him, BUT it was terrible and awful and I feel sorry for his family.’

    My own opinion of the matter is that Fraser is crazy, but at least he doesn’t appear to be as much of a hypocrite as those who said how awful and evil Tiller was (compared to Hitler) than said that they were unhappy that he was murdered. I draw a distinction between condoning and satisfied or happy. I still think that there is hypocrisy and it does not make all that much sense to not condone the murder if Tiller really was as bad as Hitler or Dahmer as I believe that to be an absurd comparison for my reasons given above. But at least he appears less hypocritical to me, if Fraser were the Blue Shirt in the comic he would more likely have said something along the lines of “While I do not condone murder, yes I am rather happy that Tiller was murdered.”

    But enough of me ranting on hypocrisy etc. I want to see the logic behind how one can say that someone was as evil as Hitler but not me happy about, or at least content with, the man’s death.

    Thank you.

    Chaospet: Thank you for keeping this open for discussion!

  38. Wm Tanksley says:

    Thanks for reopening… I did have some distinctions I wanted to make.

    “Using my own logic the only way I could see it as not hypocritical is if, after comparing Tiller to Hitler, and saying that Tiller’s death was a tragedy you also meant that Hitler’s death was a tragedy.”

    I disagree. Hitler’s death was the direct consequence of a just war, and the outcome of the war was the ending of the Holocaust. Tiller’s death was NOT the outcome of a just war, and the action that ended Tiller’s life will not improve ANYTHING for the humans it was allegedly intended to help. There is nothing whatsoever to celebrate about the action that ended Tiller’s life; it was therefore a purposeless killing.

    Both Dahmer’s and Hitler’s “executions” (Hitler was technically a suicide) were effectual in ending the horrors that their lives brought. Tiller’s “execution” (actually a vigilante murder) wouldn’t do that at all.

    In another message:
    “Just curious – if the “Dahmer can kill” law were in effect, and a vigilante did bring him down instead of trying to do something about the government, would you condemn his actions?”

    This is such an enormously different case from reality that I can’t even imagine it. I can imagine the government ignoring Dahmer — perhaps he bribed the county, state, and federal prosecutors; but I can’t imagine what would lead to a situation where Dahmer (as he was) actually had a law saying he could kill as he did.

    And precisely HOW the situation arose is essential information, because a killing is a very serious thing. Would killing Dahmer get rid of or undermine whatever caused that law? Then killing Dahmer would be an effective act of war, and would be justified if war were otherwise justified.

    There’s a lot more to just war theory than simple effectiveness, but it’s certainly _necessary_ to an act of just war. I explained in my first post that there are other possible justifications that Tiller’s murder also does not meet.

    My point stands: killing Dahmer/Hitler and killing Tiller are fundamentally morally different. Even if you can justify the first pair, you cannot justify the second by any legitimate means.

  39. Wm Tanksley says:

    Going back in time a little:
    “However, I believe (and I think almost all of us believe) that there are times when vigilantism is justifiable.”

    There are times and places in which vigilantism has been a necessary part of the law (whether it was formally included or not); not all societies write down every part of the law under which they operate. There are also times where one can be accused of vigilantism for defending oneself (although I would say that this is a bad definition, and anyhow it has nothing to do with the case being discussed).

    But in general, society has an order, and vigilantism that doesn’t follow that order will not have orderly results. Unless your only goal is anarchy, you will not achieve your goals. If you simply want Tiller to die… Wait. He will. If you want the killings to stop, act in a manner that is likely to stop the killings — not in a manner that won’t.

    -Wm

  40. Canuovea says:

    Wm Tanksley: I see your point, and I actually agree, but I was trying to look at it from someone else’s perspective. As Michael B might say: you are ignoring the personhood of the fetus, what I mean is that Tiller’s death stopped the fetus holocaust that just as Hitler’s death stopped the WW2 holocaust. I don’t see it that way, but if someone really did see it that way (and that is what is implied by stating that Tiller was as bad as Dahmer) than why say Tiller’s murder was a tragedy? Seems hypocritical.

    And for arguments sake let us say that the assassination attempt on Hitler succeeded. Would that have been a tragedy? That would not have been due to a just war (well, maybe indirectly), but to vigilantism (directly). I mean, I wouldn’t make a fuss about it and call it a tragedy. So If Tiller really is as bad as Hitler (as some claim) what is the negative fuss about his death?

    This is only if you accept the premise that Tiller was actually as bad as Hitler or Dahmer in every moral way. And the premise that Hitler’s death was not a tragedy (which is implied by the general view of Hitler in the first place). I suppose I am trying to play devil’s advocate here. As I said for me it seems totally absurd to compare Hitler and Tiller like that, but from the point of view of someone who seriously feels that Tiller was as guilty of genocide and just as morally twisted why mourn his death as a tragedy?

  41. Wm Tanksley says:

    “what I mean is that Tiller’s death stopped the fetus holocaust that just as Hitler’s death stopped the WW2 holocaust.”

    What I’m saying is that an action leading to Tiller’s death will NOT also stop abortion; therefore an action leading to Tiller’s death is not an act of effective war (and therefore not an act of just war). The odds are good that killing Tiller won’t even reduce the number of late-term abortions, and it’ll certainly make advocating pro-life MUCH harder in general.

    Killing Hitler was the result of the actions that won WWII in Germany, and those action did in fact stop the Holocaust. (The same is NOT so clear about the actions that ended WWII in Japan, whence the controversy — well, there are other reasons.)

    “And for arguments sake let us say that the assassination attempt on Hitler succeeded. Would that have been a tragedy? That would not have been due to a just war (well, maybe indirectly), but to vigilantism (directly).”

    Honestly, I’m not sure. Just War Theory doesn’t actually include an explicit prohibition of assassination; I believe that’s present due to the realization that the first leader who allows it will be on the business end of every other nation’s assassination attempts.

    I’m certain that official assassination during a war doesn’t qualify as vigilantism, though. Unofficial assassination is different (i.e. Bonhoeffer), but again, since this doesn’t qualify as an effective act of war, I don’t think we can qualify it as assassination either.

    “from the point of view of someone who seriously feels that Tiller was as guilty of genocide and just as morally twisted why mourn his death as a tragedy?”

    I had a hard time understanding this. I wouldn’t mourn Tiller if he died of natural causes, although I’d respect his friends and family as they did so. I see no reason to mourn his death simply because it was a senseless killing, except in the same sense that I mourn all senseless killings (perhaps that was the sense you meant it). In fact, I don’t see any obligation to mourn his death at all, and calling it a “tragedy” seems to twist the meaning of the word beyond recognition; it’s a crime, not a tragedy.

    But I do morally condemn his killing, which means that I hold his killer responsible for moral error; and I’ve explained why everyone should do so (not only people who hold to a specifically Christian pro-life view).

    -Wm

  42. Canuovea says:

    Wm Tanksley: The question of effectiveness is a good one. However, Tiller was one of the few who would perform late term abortions, and his clinic did end up closed. In terms of public relations it was a disaster though. Almost like dropping a bomb on Rommel, it got rid of one of Germany’s top generals… but Rommel may have been involved in a plot against Hitler which failed because he was out of commission (though if Rommel actually was turning against Hitler or that is only what Hitler thought I have no idea). Nonetheless, even if wounding Rommel may have been more disastrous than not it was an act of war.

    I was referring to the attempt on Hitler’s life that came from Germany, not from the Allies, which makes it more like vigilantism if not completely I suppose. It wasn’t planned by the enemy but by the military itself. More like a coup maybe.

    Perhaps mourn was a bad choice of words, I’ll try to re-phrase: If someone hates Tiller so much as to see him as morally the same or worse than Hitler, why would they say that they are sorry he died?

    I figure it means one of three things. Either they never really considered Tiller to be as bad as Hitler in the first place or they would have said the same thing about Hitler’s death if it was not justified by war or (finally and perhaps more likely) they really are not sorry he was murdered and are only saying so to attempt to (badly) mend the damage done publicly to their cause.

    I’m not saying that everyone who did not like Tiller is happy he was murdered, but those who actually believed that he was as bad or worse than Hitler are happy morally that he was murdered. Just unhappy about the consequences of that murder. Like a psychopath. Then again how many people actually considered him as bad as Hitler… I hope very few. It is an absurd comparison anyway.

  43. Canuovea says:

    Michael B: Okay, you have just stated that the existential and moral situations of Hitler, Dahmer, and Tiller were different and therefore the charge of hypocrisy was invalid. “Tiller’s case a set of inter-related, highly varied and intensely intertwined evils, conundrums, individual situations and personal choices, etc.” I agree that the situations are different between the three of them, in fact this is one major reason that I say the comparison between them is absurd.

    In a sense it is like comparing apples, oranges and tomatoes. All could be labeled fruit, as apples and oranges are. It is debatable that tomatoes are fruit (I remember a debate like this in grade 3…). Tiller is like the tomatoes, sure Hitler, Dahmer and Tiller could all be grouped under the heading “evil” and the individual cases make it difficult to compare even to other “evils.” Tiller could be placed under the heading “good” (by quite a few people, if not a majority than a very strong minority). This is because of the “conundrums, individual situations and personal choices” that so separate the Tiller case from Hitler and Dahmer. Like a tomato there are reasons for him to fit in either catagory.

    So not only does the comparison between Hitler, Dahmer, and Tiller seem silly because of the lack of parallelness (if you would) but it is also more complex (leaving room for the reasonable disagreement and debate that was brought up earlier).

    As for your argument that it is not absurd because in “some respects it’s a highly instructive comparison that illuminates the value of life and contrasts it with the devaluation of life in the real world, in too many areas of society and culture.” My first post was one that claimed that the comparison between Hitler and Tiller was not unwarranted on some levels, specifically ideas of personhood (not that they were the same but that they differed from other peoples and this let them justify killing). It is still a very far step (absurd?) to then say that Hitler (or Dahmer) and Tiller are morally (in all moral respects) equivalent. As you said the cases are so different in so many ways than each other that it makes it silly to truly compare them on that kind of level. I grant that on some (mostly individual) levels there are undoubted similarities but it all does not add up properly in the final tally, “and it’s absurd, as well as a bit stupid and uncomprehending, to imagine otherwise” as you say, just because the cases are so different.

    In order to say HItler/Dahmer and Tiller are morally equal is to ignore those differences. Once having done that it makes little sense to claim that it isn’t hypocrisy because of those same differences which had to be ignored in order to say they are morally equal in the first place.

  44. Canuovea says:

    Okay then. My use of tomatoes apples and oranges was partially to show the differences involved, your use of different kinds of apples seems to indicate that we just see the differences, well, differently. I really do not want to get into arguing metaphors (or smilies whatever) because that opens up another can of worms.

    Sorry I should have addressed the earlier analogy but I got lazy. But to be on the same page I want to make sure I understand it. The physician, who essentially slowly tortured an acquaintance to death, got off the equivalent of scott free. Killing him was briefly discussed as being just but ultimately (ignoring consequences) not gone through with even though this physician (from your point of view) was guilty of first or second degree murder. The reason was other moral considerations.

    I think I understand. I wonder though, is there a point where killing the physician would not be considered a terrible moral mistake? Say if he knew that he was causing this kind of suffering and did it anyway or if he did the same thing to thousands of other people and never suffered any penalties for it? Please correct me if I am missing something.

    Now for the Hitler analogy. That is a difficult question, ignoring the other wrongs that Hitler did to other groups around the same time. I do not know if I could give an honest answer. I do not know if I would call it equal to evils committed on a mass scale due to the numbers involved, but if it were to be considered that way and I thought so I probably would be glad of an assassination, even if I would not do it myself. Again I am not sure and this is only how I see things, hardly effective at changing minds.

    Seems a bit simplistic? If you consider someone evil enough to be killed and somebody else is supposed to be morally equal to that person and they die, why be sad? Or condemn that death? Perhaps it is a bit simple. That does not make it incorrect. True maybe they have to outwardly condemn that attack due to those other factors, but it seems unlikely in their heart of hearts that they really morally support it, or if not support it, they do not really cry over it. That is, of course, only if they believe this person was actually as bad as the person who they think deserved to be killed. I am trying to bring it to a more simplistic level that ignores society and several of those other factors. Perhaps this is a mistake though.

    Also perhaps my understanding of natural law is not complete. Goes about as far as Locke.

    I have tried to think from other’s points of view, such as by accepting the premise (at one point) that late term fetuses are people and have the same rights etc…

    As for “equal means equal, gosh darn it” how does it not? Are we supposed to think that equal means equal, but some are more equal than others? Or perhaps something more along the lines of they are equal in this regard only but there are other factors etc? (well this one makes more sense than the Animal Farm reference…). I got the feeling that Mr. Blue Shirt in the comic meant “equal means equal, gosh darn it” more than the others.

    And I said that to me it seems hypocritical, the reason for this is because the “equal” part sounds very much like “equal means equal, gosh darn it” and that would, to me, make it appear hypocritical. There is a lack of clarity problem here methinks… or I just have bad vision.

  45. Wm Tanksley says:

    “If you consider someone evil enough to be killed and somebody else is supposed to be morally equal to that person and they die, why … condemn that death?”

    But that’s not what’s in question. The question is whether, and on what grounds, we should condemn the killing, not the death. There are two people involved here, and the killer is the one whose actions are being assessed in order to decide on condemnation. The victim’s (Tiller) actions, and even the fact of his death, are only relevant in a few of the possible reasons the killer might bring up.

  46. Canuovea says:

    Michael B: This has been fun! And I absolutely love several bits Cohen’s work, good choice.

    Wm Tanksley: Good point, I see the two as very intertwined, but I should have said “and they are killed” and “why condemn that murder.” Bad word choice.

    Though now that makes me wonder if Tiller had suddenly died of a heart attack instead of been murdered would some people be more willing to declare that he had it coming? Question for another time I suppose.

    Thanks to everyone who participated (and put up with my unceasing chatter)!

  47. Wm Tanksley says:

    “Wm Tanksley: The question of effectiveness is a good one. However, Tiller was one of the few who would perform late term abortions, and his clinic did end up closed. In terms of public relations it was a disaster though.”

    That’s a very, very good point, one that I completely failed to research. Here’s a CDC table for 2005 that shows that 21+ week abortions are NOT a Tiller monopoly; Tiller simply was a big name. Kansas reported 459 late-term abortions during that year (probably not all of which were done by Tiller); the total was 8,482.

    So I’ll have to completely disagree with your point: killing Tiller was not effective if your goal was to reduce abortions.

    However, I should note that my argument against this being an act of war is only a partial argument; it would be defeated by finding a way in which it was effective. I believe that killing Tiller was not a proper act of war for other reasons that I haven’t stated because explaining them would require explaining why they were necessary conditions… And I didn’t want to simply depend on the Christian theory of Just War.

    “Perhaps mourn was a bad choice of words, I’ll try to re-phrase: If someone hates Tiller so much as to see him as morally the same or worse than Hitler, why would they say that they are sorry he died?”

    I’d say they misspoke, OR that you’re misinterpreting, and they’re actually sorry about HOW he died.

    “I figure it means one of three things. Either they never really considered Tiller to be as bad as Hitler in the first place or they would have said the same thing about Hitler’s death if it was not justified by war or (finally and perhaps more likely) they really are not sorry he was murdered and are only saying so to attempt to (badly) mend the damage done publicly to their cause.”

    Agreed.

    Now, they HAVE said that Tiller’s killing was wrong, and a murder.

    “I’m not saying that everyone who did not like Tiller is happy he was murdered”

    “Happy” is not the same as “not sorry.”

    “but those who actually believed that he was as bad or worse than Hitler are happy morally that he was murdered. Just unhappy about the consequences of that murder.”

    This is careless slander.

    I’m relieved that he’s stopped killing harmless fetuses. I wish he’d stopped killing them by means of deciding that he’d only kill the harmful ones (the ones actually threatening the health of the mother). I am NOT happy that he was murdered, and I fully endorse punishing his murderer to the full extent of the law.

    “Then again how many people actually considered him as bad as Hitler… I hope very few. It is an absurd comparison anyway.”

    Yes, or Dahmer. I think chaospet made a good point that such comparisons are awful.

    From another post:
    “Though now that makes me wonder if Tiller had suddenly died of a heart attack instead of been murdered would some people be more willing to declare that he had it coming? Question for another time I suppose.”

    Any Christian who makes that claim needs to go back to Sunday School — Jesus refused to make it, and was offered the chance many times.

    Aside from that, I suspect we’d hear a bit less from the press about how pro-lifers are collectively to blame for his death. They’d still blame us, probably for stressing him out. So we’d have to defend ourselves less, and we’d also have to worry less about our less stable members deciding to copycat (that’s a serious worry!).

    -Wm

  48. Canuovea says:

    Wm Tanksley: I am sure that there are ways that killing Tiller could be considered an effective act of war. Moral (not morality), terror (effective in any war, if not ethical), or the equivalent of killing off a general. There are not nearly as many doctors who are willing to perform late term abortions as there are for early term abortions. Even if Tiller cannot be seen as the equivalent of a general he certainly was a specialist. And one less area for abortions to happen in. Did you know that a pro-life organization wants to buy the clinic and use it as a kind of rally point? In terms of war this is not like killing Hitler would have been, but if you consider it as a war there were reasons that this could be seen as effective. And his death will stop some abortions, if not all.

    Also me comparing Tiller’s death to Hitler’s stopping the holocaust was at best exaggerated and at worst just as absurd as comparing Tiller and Hitler in the first place. I think that it should have been more like killing the leader of a single terrorist cell, or shutting a cell down. Even that might be much though.

    Also ways it was ineffective and damaging as well. Though I hardly think that this is some kind of mass conspiracy or chess match with pro-choice and pro-life on opposing sides. I am extremely hesitant to argue that this could actually be considered an act of war. That would be a whole new can of worms.

    As for them being unhappy about how he died rather than that he died, that kind of sounds similar to him having a heart attack. They could then declare that his death was fine and dandy and everyone should have a party and sing “ding dong the witch doctors dead!” (I think that was in the WWWtW link actually). But now that it was murder… And as you said not all pro-lifers are Christian so they may be able to be quite happy to declare that he had it coming.

    The careless slander part was directed at those who really thought that Tiller was as bad as Hitler. It makes perfect sense to be glad the abortions have stopped, or even be glad that he died, or at least not be sorry about it and still say that the murder was bad. I wouldn’t be particularly unhappy if died, but I wouldn’t condone murder. And as I said, I don’t believe that there are actually all that many people who seriously equate Tiller to Hitler. Or Dahmer.

    The press like inflammatory rhetoric almost as much (maybe more) than that Fraser guy seems to. Saying that pro-lifers collectively responsible is stupid. I cannot think of something more colourful to say about it.

    Thanks.

  49. Derekp says:

    not bad at all