Saturday, April 28, 2012

Musings on Freedoms and Attacks on Freedoms


I see things in the news, on Facebook comments and other sources and see our nation is in deep trouble because it cannot discern the difference between true freedom and false freedom.  True freedoms are infringed upon.  False freedoms are trumpeted as "rights" and challenges are ignored.  This article is a sort of reflection on the current danger to true freedoms that the Obama administration is inflicting.

The Syllogism

Let's start out with a logical syllogism.

  1. Major Premise: It is [unjust] to [compel people to do what they think is evil] ([B] is a part of [A])
  2. Minor Premise: The [HHS mandate] [compels people to do what they think is evil] ([C] is a part of [B])
  3. Conclusion: Therefore the [HHS Mandate] is [Unjust] (Therefore [C] is a part of [A])

The major premise is a foundation of America ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.").   To deny it is to deny the basic principle of freedom we hold as Americans. 

The Minor premise is also true.  Catholics will have to pay for contraception and abortion coverage, and believe that providing such coverage is sinful.

In logic, when the premises are true and the argument is valid, the conclusion is proven true.

And it is proven true.  We can make use of a Euler diagram to show this:

Euler ABC

As we pointed out above, [A] includes all things which are unjust, [B] includes all things that compel people to do what they think is evil and [C] is the HHS mandate.To deny the HHS Mandate is Unjust ([C] is a part of [A]), one has to deny that forcing people to do what they think is evil [B] is unjust [A].

Reductio ad absurdum

If one wants to deny that [B] is a part of [A], one has to admit that a government has the authority to compel people to do what they want them to do regardless of what people may think.  Now supporters of abortion rights and the like may think this sounds great.  But under such a principle, a government could reject conscientious objector status in times of a draft.  It could force reporters to reveal their sources.  It could force doctors to violate doctor-patient confidentiality, lawyers to violate attorney-client privileges, force wives to testify against husbands and so on.

The point is, if the principles behind the HHS mandate are upheld, then the next administration could easily use these principles to force their own views.  Liberals may favor these principles when used by the Obama administration, but are they willing to let these principles be used against them by a conservative government?

I strongly doubt they would.

Recognizing the between Compulsion to do evil and Refusal to give aid.

Some may attempt to address the Catholic protests by claiming that Catholics are trying to force their views on others and using the government to force them.  Pelosi for example made this argument.  She is either ignorant or dishonest however in doing so.  There is a difference between compulsion and refusal to assist.

Freedom is violated in saying, "You must pay for contraception and abortion coverage, even if you think it evil."  It is not violated in saying, "Pay for your own damn contraception!"

What is the difference?  The first forces others to comply.  The second simply refuses to assist wrongdoers.

It is similar to the abuse of the term "Censorship" whenever the discussion of cutting funding for the NEA comes up.  It is censorship when the government says, "You are forbidden to do art on Topic [X]."  But if the government says, "I'm not going to pay you to take photographs of crucifixes in jars of urine," it isn't making any kind of restrictions on what the so-called artist can do.

In other words, to confuse "I order you to do [X]" with "I refuse to assist you in doing [X]" is to be irrational indeed.  Yet it is this argument which is being made by those who would force this mandate.

Do Bishops Force Catholics?

It may be argued that Catholic bishops force Catholics to do what they think is evil by telling them certain things are wrong and must be opposed.  Doesn't this violate the freedom of dissenting Catholics?

This would be a false challenge.  The Catholic Bishop, speaking to his flock, says that being faithful to God requires the rejection of certain behaviors, and to do these things is to estrange oneself from God and the person who does these things must be considered as doing evil.  In doing so, the Bishop is speaking to people about what is true and essential.  Catholics believe that Jesus is God and willed to establish a visible, hierarchical Church under the authority of the Pope in Rome for the purpose of bringing God's salvation to the world.

If one accepts that as true, it is reasonable for people to take heed to what the Church teaches.  If one rejects this, then why the hell are they in the Catholic Church to begin with?

Cruel Heartless Physicists!

To call the Catholic Magisterium cruel, heartless or bureaucratic – to call them anti-woman or homophobic – because they say that perversions of the sexual act are harmful to the person in this life and the next is pretty irrational.  Catholics believe the Church teaches what God has passed on to us through the Apostles to the present day.  If our beliefs are true, then her teachings reflect the reality of existence.  To demand that the Church change her teachings is as ridiculous as demanding that physicists change the laws of physics to prevent people from hurting themselves in a fall.

A physicist could not change the law of gravity.  He or she can only explain how reality works.  Likewise, the Church cannot change her teachings on morality.  She can only teach what this reality is.

A person can of course ignore a bishop's teaching, just as a person can ignore a physicist's explanation of the law of gravity.  However, the person who ignores the law of gravity and steps off the side of a building will suffer harm, and so will the person who ignores the Church teaching on issues of morality.

A Common But False Argument

Some may say, "Well your beliefs may say [X] is wrong, but mine do not.  Therefore you are forcing your beliefs on me!" 

Such a statement is essentially an enthymeme (an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated according to the Oxford English Dictionary).  To make such an argument a valid syllogism, we would have to state their argument as such:

  1. All [Morally Binding Obligations] are [Things Held Universally] (All [A] is [B]) (This is the Enthymeme)
  2. [Belief (X)] is not a [Thing Held Universally] (No [C] is [B])
  3. Therefore [Belief (X)] is not a [Morally Binding Obligation] (Therefore No [C] is [A])

("X" would be whatever belief is under dispute)

Since I placed the first syllogism in a Euler Circle, I will show the Euler Circle for this argument as well:

False Argument

In this diagram, [A] would be [Morally Binding Obligations], [B] would be [Things held universally] and [C] would be [(Belief [X])] which is under dispute. 

So what's wrong with the argument?

The argument assumes the unstated major premise that All [Morally Binding Obligations] are [Things Held Universally].  We can demolish this by a reductio ad absurdum by changing (Belief [X]) to a more repellant belief.  For example, we can say that the condemnations of slavery, forced deportation, segregation, subjugation of women, lynching etc. was not universally held.  This is not a hypothetical – these are sad events from American History.  In fact these things could happen because at one time a majority at the least tolerated these things as legal.

Thus, if we accept the above argument as to why Catholics have no rights to "impose our beliefs" on others, we must recognize that [Treating People Equally] was not part of [Things held universally], and therefore [Treating people equally] is not a [Morally binding obligation].

But that is absurd!  the concept that slavery, segregation, forced resettlements etc., must be tolerated because they were not held universally means that one can justify anything they can convince people to accept and people who try to oppose them are accused of "forcing their beliefs on others."

Since this is absurd,  the major premise is also shown to be absurd and must be rejected.  Thus that argument cannot be said to be prove its point.


I Hope to explore more about moral obligations and truth in a future article, but I hope these musings will show that the HHS mandate is certainly a mandate against truth and freedom.

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