Thank You, Mr. Kreeft

Everyone but everyone has now weighed in on the ethics of LiveAction, but Mr. Kreeft does so while making my point about the destruction of moral reasoning and the pernicious influence of Kant --and so much better than I could have. And not a moment too soon, because the casuists and manualists were making inroads with me, against my every instinct, in the LiveAction case.
The controversy about Live Action probably is rooted in a controversy about method in ethics, specifically about which should have priority, (1) clear definitions of general moral principles and valid logical reasoning from them (“casuistry”) or (2) moral experience, instinctive moral judgments about concrete situations by our innate moral common sense. I think it is (2) and I think these critics think it is (1). I think they are so (rightly) afraid of moral relativism that they have (wrongly) fallen into moral legalism.

I would have said --and I disagree with the likes of Robbie George with fear and trembling-- that they fear utilitarianism and consequentialism so deeply that they in effect disallow any consideration of consequences --and this is clearly a violation of the virtue of prudence. It's Kant, not Catholicism. But to let Kreeft speak:
The question of method in moral reasoning has a long and heavy history. Beginning with Ockham (Nominalism), exacerbated by Descartes (Rationalism), and even more by Kant (his ‘Copernican revolution in philosophy’), our concept of ‘reason’ has been increasingly separated from experience and narrowed to something more and more resembling what computers do. The Aristotelian and Thomistic (and, more generally, pre-modern) meaning of ‘reason’ is broader. It had to be, to justify the definition of man as ‘the rational animal.’ It included the immediate, intuitive understanding (‘the first act of the mind’ in Aristotelian-Scholastic logic) and intuitive judgment (‘the second act of the mind’) as well as inductive or deductive reasoning (‘the third act of the mind’).
We moderns have narrowed ‘intuition’ as we have narrowed ‘reason,’ so that ‘intuition’ now means ‘irrational feeling.’ ‘Intuitive reason’ or ‘rational intuition’ sounds to us like an oxymoron. When we read Pascal’s famous saying that ‘the heart has its reasons, that the reason does not know,’ we think he is exalting something else against reason, when he is saying exactly the opposite: that the heart, the faculty of immediate intuition, has reasons. It sees. It has eyes. It is a crucial part of ‘reason.’
This is the meat:
We have also, especially in philosophy, narrowed the term ‘experience’ to mean strictly sense experience, which we share with the other animals. (‘Animals’ has also narrowed, so that we no longer classify ourselves as ‘rational animals’ unless we are materialists.) Thus we no longer see ‘moral intuition’ or its application to our moral judgment of concrete situations like Live Action’s ‘sting’ as part of ‘reason,’ as Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas did. (Aquinas called this moral intuition ‘synderesis.’)
This is not simply a case of altered conventional usage, but of real error. Since we are not angels, all our knowledge begins with experience, and our moral knowledge begins with moral experience—experience of concrete cases. Before we reason about these (by ‘ratio,’ the ‘third act of the mind’), we understand them (by ‘intellectus,’ the ‘first act of the mind’) and judge them (the ‘second act of the mind’) by the ‘habit’ of moral judgment. In other words, we begin with the concrete, not with the abstract. Only after experience do we rise to the level of abstractions, i.e. articulated, defined, and defended principles, definitions, and deductions. 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, amen! That is exactly the phenomenon that has troubled me increasingly for years --and I see it in my own field carried over into serious mistakes in the realm of discernment of spirits. People know that faith is not feelings and therefore emotions may need to be resisted; but the deepest motions of the soul are to be followed once we learn to truly recognize them --but people aren't taught to recognize them, and mistrust them if they do! Rather than making judgments and owning our decisions, we try merely to avoid mistakes...and rely a lot on formulae. Back to Kreeft:
That is why the simplest and most common form of argument among ordinary people is arguing by analogy, from one concrete situation to another that is similar or analogous, letting the common principle that justifies the analogy be implicit rather than explicit. The simplest and most basic example of this in morality is the Golden Rule, which is often expressed to small children by the formula ‘How would you like it if we did that to you?’ This is an appeal to the moral imagination, which is concrete, rather than to moral reasoning (either in the form of a definition, a defined universal principle, or a deductive argument from a principle to an application of it). Without this moral imagination, no moral reasoning is possible for us. In other words, we are not angels.
Funny he brings this up, because I got distracted during my holy hour this morning and was thinking through this problem, and the golden rule is precisely what occurred to me as my own way of framing the problem. If I were a child about to be aborted; a mother about to harm her child; or a benighted Planned Parenthood worker committed to error, what would I have others do unto me?
This first step is not sufficient for moral philosophy; of course. We also need to (1) rise by abstraction to universal principles, (2) define them correctly, and (3) deduce conclusions from them. But though not sufficient, it is necessary, like the foundation of a building; for we are neither angels nor computers but human beings with moral experience and imagination and the innate power and habit of moral understanding and judgment, moral ‘common sense,’ which makes instinctive judgments about moral experiences.
These judgments are not infallible, of course. But they do see moral truth, moral reality. They are like physical vision in those two ways. God did not leave us in such a moral limbo that we had to depend on the philosophers....
Another thing to thank him for.
any argument that begins by contradicting our moral common sense is almost certainly going to be wrong.

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. (‘Piety’ was the ancient virtue of respect both for gods and for elders, ancestors, and family.) In reasoning with Euthyphro, Socrates does not begin with logic, he begins with an instinctive astonishment, which is an implicit moral judgment that Plato expects all morally sane readers to share. Until we read Socrates’ arguments, we don’t clearly know why Euthyphro is wrong, but we know that he is wrong.
Readers of the Gospels do the very same thing when they meet the Pharisees, who could put up strong arguments for a literalism and legalism about the Sabbath and against Jesus’ apparent disregard for it. I think we should have the same reaction to the critics of Live Action. These people are of course far, far better people than either Euthyphro or most of the Pharisees. (But remember Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Gamaliel!). But they are wrong, and wrong not just logically but “you gotta be kidding”ly.
Most of my students, however confused their abstract philosophical and ideological principles may be, are ordinary people of normally sane and fairly healthy consciences (except, of course if it has anything even remotely to do with sex). When they are confronted by a moral legalist like Kant who holds that all lying is morally wrong, they instinctively sense that he is wrong, though they cannot explain why—just as most students, when confronted by St. Anselm’s ‘ontological argument,’ instinctively know it is wrong somehow, though they cannot refute it logically. Similarly, most (though not all) pro-lifers instinctively side with Live Action even if they cannot answer the arguments of its critics. (Is it an accident that its critics are more Kantian than Aristotelian?)
And see, it is all Kant's fault:
Similarly, when we discuss Kant and the issue of lying, most of my students, even the moral absolutists, are quite certain that the Dutchmen were not wrong to deliberately deceive the Nazis about the locations of the Jews they had promised to hide. They do not know whether this is an example of lying or not. But they know that if it is, than lying is not always wrong, and if lying is always wrong, then this is not lying. Because they know, without any ifs or ands or buts, that such Dutch deception is good, not evil. If anyone is more certain of his philosophical principles than he is that this deception is good, I say he is not functioning as a human being but as a computer, an angel, a Gnostic, or a Kantian.
 And one more thing, because this argument has really troubled me in the ongoing discussion the past few days.
But can’t we solve the problem of the Dutchmen and the Nazis by saying that all lying is wrong but the Dutchmen don’t have to lie to save the Jews because they could deceive the Nazis without lying by a clever verbal ploy? No, because effective deception by clever verbal ploys cannot usually be done by ordinary people, especially by clumsy Dutchmen. I know; I’m one of them. Our moral obligations depend on abilities that are common, not abilities that are rare
Not to mention, as Brett McS pointed out in comments, you're already "lying" in the casuist definition if you're hiding Jews in the first place.

Then he comes up with the analogy that has occurred to me and troubled me greatly in all the discussion about enhanced interrogation techniques over the past few years.
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.
That's exactly what I think whenever reading about the "rubber-hosed right."
I know there are universal, objective moral absolutes. I know that a good end does not justify an evil means. I know that we should not ever murder or rape or blaspheme even to save the world. But I think your child would probably understand that. 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.
Update: and in jumps Hadley Arkes, also on the side of LiveAction. Though kinder to Kant, he stands on ultimately where Kreeft does: in what Frederick Wilhelmsen used to call the "real."

Is he [Tollefson, who got this ball rolling] earnestly saying then that householders speaking to the Gestapo at the door are obliged to refrain from speaking untruthfully, for they do not directly intend the consequences of turning in the Jews they are hiding? That those are merely consequences that flow, regrettably, from their insistence on avoiding the taint of speaking an untruth? Is he really willing to stand by that?
Tollefsen falls into an embarrassing ellipsis in side-stepping a matter pressed even more recently, and raised in the challenge by Christopher Kaczor on the matter of infiltrating terrorist cells: We have undercover agents working with terrorists, and they have managed to disrupt operational plans that were surely aimed at the killing of the innocent. Is Tollefsen really willing to bar that kind of subterfuge against evil and sternly turn away from any responsibility to act, where he could to save innocent lives? His response comes in a haze:
A firm commitment, by any person, or any group, to avoid all lies would inevitably have radical consequences. … Yet these are only consequences of my view, they are not themselves arguments, and anyone who believes, as members of the great Abrahamic religions do, that the Father of Lies is at the root of much evil, must make a constant struggle not to let their commitment to truth become obscured by the demands of the fallen world.
 Well, OK, but Arkes argues such a view disqualifies you from public office.
Not only is that finally a non-answer to a deadly serious question, but a response with no residue, no judgment, of moral substance. And it finally forces itself to the test in this way: Any man who holds to Tollefsen’s view and offers himself for the Presidency of the United States should be obliged to reveal to his fellow citizens that he would not use the devices of subterfuge even to protect the lives of innocent people put under his charge. I would submit to my friends—and here truly “call the question”—that anyone holding to that doctrine would forfeit any moral claim to stand in a position of authority in which he bears responsibility to protect the lives of the American people.
Updater: Here's the strongest counter-argument in my opinion, and it is strong, dammit. I still hold with Peter Kreeft that a definition of lying which precludes hiding Jews in the attic or priests in the barn is mistaken. Not saying a little part of you doesn't die when you speak an untruth even in those circumstances, only saying that in the Judgment, I think I'd rather take my chances with a coerced untruth on my conscience than the betrayal of innocents in my charge.
Obviously this blog is not going to resolve a dispute that's been going on for centuries but I find the debate bracing: stretches the mind. I'm pleased, too, about the back and forth on the various blogs; the discussion for the most part has been calm and reasoned: very little of the usual "you're a heretic if you even raise the question" nonsense that bugs the stuffing out of me. So, well done, various debaters and even most of the commenters.