He begins by saying:
On some other occasion I may take the time to argue logically against the serious arguments of the pro-life critics of Live Action, and about the proper definition of “lying.” But in this short piece I want to appeal to something that I think is prior in importance, in clarity, and in time, namely our immediate, intuitive moral experience.So, he essentially says he intends to appeal to emotion, and then goes on to do just that. While this is undoubtedly deeply satisfying for him on some level, it is unclear why an emotive argument is supposed to be compelling (it is one of the major logical fallacies, after all).
Keep in mind that I essentially support the idea that Lila Rose and Live Action have not committed moral error in making their videos. I agree with Kreeft's ultimate position. But Peter Kreeft has committed both moral and logical error in attempting Live Action's defense.
Straw Man Argument
He begins by saying :
If we do not begin with experience, we become nominalists, not realists; we have nothing real to argue about, only names and the logical relationships between them—like a computer.Well, yes. And, for the record, I, too, like motherhood, apple pie and Chevrolet. What I'm not particularly fond of is straw-man arguments.
Can Peter Kreeft really identify any argument made by men which is not somehow grounded in experience? The arguments laid out against Lila Rose and company are grounded in experience, the experience of people who have been exposed to lies, who don't much like them, and who are deeply concerned about the effect of lying on the one who commits the lie and on the larger society as a whole. For Kreeft's argument to hold, he has to demonstrate that the people giving a critique of Live Action are actually engaged in the positions he asserts, and this he manifestly does not do.
Indeed, the very example he brings forward to demonstrate "moral common sense" demonstrates that his "moral common sense" is not quite so common as he makes out.
A good example is Euthyphro, the young man in the Platonic dialog by that name who is impiously prosecuting his own father for murder while professing to be an expert on piety....Until we read Socrates’ arguments, we don’t clearly know why Euthyphro is wrong, but we know that he is wrong.That's particular logical fallacy is called "assuming the conclusion."
Is Euthyphro wrong? Euthyphro has come to lay manslaughter charges against his father. One of his father's workers killed a slave belonging to the family estate. His father ordered the worker bound and gagged and left in a ditch (3e–4d) while he waited to hear from the expounders of religious law about how to proceed against his worker. Unfortunately, the opinion didn't get back to him in time, and the worker subsequently died of exposure.
Now, according to all the laws of modern society, since the man had the accused murderer bound and gagged, left unable to care for himself, he was responsible for the man's care. That is, he is responsible for the man's death.
Euthyphro's father is absolutely worthy of prosecution in any modern court of law. If Euthyphro's description of events is correct, his father is, indeed, guilty of manslaughter. Thus, Euthyphro is absolutely right to bring charges against his father for manslaughter.
The charges may bring "instinctive astonishment" to a pagan Greek, who holds duty to one's father a much higher obligation than duty to some non-family member, but it is absolutely in keeping with Christian sentiment, which holds that all men are brothers and that even claims of fatherhood do not trump the duty of justice one owes one's fellow man and God.
Far from accomplishing what he intends, Kreeft's first example amply demonstrates why first instincts are often wrong - exactly the reverse of what he claims. For someone who says "I teach Logic, I have written a Logic textbook, and I value logic very highly", Kreeft's is a remarkably bad argument to bring forward.
One might even say Kreeft's first argument is "wrong not just logically but “you gotta be kidding”ly" wrong.
As an aside that has nothing to do with this particular post, Kreeft apparently suffers from the impression that Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God is wrong.
...just as most students, when confronted by St. Anselm’s ‘ontological argument,’ instinctively know it is wrong somehow, though they cannot refute it logically.Unfortunately, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the 20th century, Kurt Godel disagrees with Kreeft. Godel demonstrated that St. Anselm's argument is valid (that doesn't mean it is true, but it means Anselm's argument is at least logically consistent). Given a choice between the two, I think I'll put my money on the brilliant mathematician and the saint, not on the 20th-century Boston college philosopher.
That is, my first instinct is that St. Anselm's argument is correct, even if I would not be able to defend it to Kreeft's satisfaction.
When a college philosopher goes up against a pair like Kurt Godel and St. Anselm, he needs to bring more ammunition than just a passing swipe. The statement does nothing but detract from Kreeft's credibility.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Kreeft then makes a couple of short statements that sound like they could be developed into credible arguments (passing references to the role of spying, investigative undercover work, and Aquinas on the moral acceptability of torture), but instead of actually doing that, he immediately abandons them in order to continue to drum up emotional frenzy:
If you were watching your son or daughter being raped while you were disarmed and tied up and had only words as weapons, and if there was some lie you could tell to the rapist that would stop him, do you really mean to tell me that you would not tell that lie? If so, I thank God that you were not my father.Oh, for Pete's sake... Let's make it a little more simple.
Let's say all I have is words for weapons, and it was not a question of my son or daughter being raped, but rather, it is the case that my son or daughter were simply being asked to eat a Bacon Lettus and Tomato sandwich (where the lettuce is really crunchy, and the tomato is garden-fresh, with a little mayo - I love those) or be immediately killed.
Should I encourage my son to eat the sandwich? Or should I encourage him to defy the man trying to force him to eat it, knowing full well that the man would kill my son and myself?
Be careful how you answer, for the answer has already been given. A mother trapped into exactly that situation encouraged not one son, but all seven of them to die rather than eat the pork. Every one, from the eldest to the youngest, and the mother with them, all died rather than transgress God's laws.
It's Scripture, Peter - 2 Maccabees 6:18–7:42.
This family is held up as an example of pre-Christian sanctity by the Church.
They are considered martyrs for the Faith.
In the above horrible scenario, if the rapist could be deterred only by watching you rape or murder some other victim, or defecate on a crucifix, you should not do it—and your child, his victim, would probably understand that. But your child would certainly not understand why you could not save him by lying to the rapist.Is the mortal sin of lying somehow not as likely to send you to hell as defecating on a crucifix (which action is NOT necessarily a mortal sin, by the way, and you would think an orthodox Catholic professor would know that). Is a lie not a mortal sin?
Look, I know full well that there are different degrees of mortal sin, just like there are different degrees of venial sin. Fornication is not as bad a mortal sin as adultery, which is not as bad as masturbation or homosexuality, which is not as bad as necrophilia or bestiality.
But every one of those sins is you choosing hell over salvation.
What kind of idiot is my child if he thinks lying is ok?
Worse, what kind of an idiot am I to teach my child that committing one mortal sin is acceptable in order to avoid committing a different mortal sin? WTF?
Dr. Kreeft, I have great admiration for you, your endorsement sits on the front cover of one of my books, but your essay here is not just wrong, it's stupid-wrong.
"You gotta be kidding me" wrong.
If you really wrote this, and it wasn't promulgated under your name by someone just pretending to be you (i.e., a liar), then I think you've been at Boston College a little too long.
If this is the kind of crap you intend to continue writing, I think you should retire now, while your reputation is still intact.
There is no question that experience is a foundation for moral argument, but as Kreeft rightly points out, while experience may be foundational, it is not complete, it is not sufficient.
God gave us minds not only so we could feel, but also so we could think. As Kreeft himself points out, our intuition is often wrong, which is why we must marry logic to it. Simply spewing emotion without attempting to reconcile what we feel to what we know leads us to the kinds of morally stupid arguments that Kreeft uses in his summation in this essay.
The people who are concerned with Live Action's methods have real, valid concerns, concerns that are not just experiential but also and simultaneously logical. Kreeft's hand-waving to the contrary is a long non sequitor.
If you want a decent defense of Lila Rose and Live Action, read Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller. She actually deals with the issues raised, instead of going on an emotional rant and coming to a morally erroneous conclusion.
Dr. Kreeft, if you have a scintilla of orthodoxy in you, pull your essay.
There's a piece at the New Liturgical Movement which attempts to refute Dr. Miller's essay based on her failure to discuss broad versus strict mental reservation (the first is permitted, the second is not).
I highly recommend it for the clarity of the distinctions it draws between the two kinds of mental reservation, but I cannot recommend it's conclusion.
To see why, consider the following statement.
Is it a lie?
"I am lying"
I would say no.
It is broad mental reservation, a statement that could be interpreted as either the truth or a lie, since it is self-referential and its meaning is therefore ambiguous due to the problems inherent in the English language.
Is Lila Rose saying "I am a prostitute" a lie?
By the same reasoning, it is not.
After all, you can "prostitute" many different things.
If the listener assumes Lila means she gives sex in exchange for money, so much the worse for her. After all, Lila's statement would really be identical to the statement "I am prostituting the truth" which is identical to the statement "I am lying."
Same goes for the pimp.
Many different things can be "pimped."
When he says "I am a pimp" he may mean "I am pimping out the truth."
So, although it may be mistaken for strict mental reservation, which is prohibited, it is arguably broad mental reservation, which is permissible, because the self-identification of the actors depends on ambiguities in the English language peculiar to those words.
As an interesting juxtaposition to this story, we have the example of doctors giving out fake medical excuses to Wisconsin teachers protesting against the government.
If we get upset about the doctors, how do we distinguish what they are doing from what Lila Rose is doing?
By not revealing who she is, Lila Rose gives Planned Parenthood an opportunity to explain who they really are.
By not revealing what they are doing, Wisconsin doctors are giving Wisconsin teachers an opportunity to not explain who they really are.