Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Refuse to Play the Game

Not long ago, I posted a comment on the Martin Scorsese film Silence, and quite some time before that (and likely on many different occasions) I commented on the problem with voting for the lesser evil.  These share the theme in which there are two evil alternatives, at least one of which is actually a freely chosen action by another person, but we must choose which evil will happen, and in so doing give our consent to it.  This was also an important part of the plot of Sophie's Choice.  "Will you trample on an image of Christ, or will you let these other people be tortured to death?"  "I and others like me refuse to consider a candidate who advocates a morally sane position, but our candidate is less evil than the other one.  Will you support our evil candidate, who has a chance of winning, or will you refuse to and give the more evil candidate a better chance of winning?"  "Who is to be sent to the gas chambers -- your son Jan or your daughter Eva?"  It is argued that it is not only permissible to consent to a "lesser evil", but in fact it is obligatory to do so.

This is, of course, the fallacy of the false dilemma.  It assumes we must play that game and give our full consent to one evil option or the other.  The reason for doing this is usually a desire (at some level at least) to choose an option which we already know to be evil.  Sometimes it is the equivalent of the adolescent male fantasy of being captured by a group of beautiful women and "forced" to have sex with them (as happens in the book Logan's Run, which is much more risqué than the 1970's TV show); in other cases it is a desire to "disprove" the existence of actual right and wrong in general, so that it is possible to do as one pleases without the pangs of conscience.  The correct choice, though, is to refuse to play the game, however passionately it is thrust upon us.  If a samurai chooses to torture to death prisoners, that is his choice, not ours; if millions of others choose to support an evil campaign platform, that is their choice, not ours; if the Nazis send the whole family to the gas chambers, that is their choice, not ours; and everyone will be made to account for his own choices at the end of his life.

All this was brought back to mind by the very correct answer of Fr. Murray to some statements by Cardinal Coccopalmerio, and by Fr. Z's approving response to Fr. Murray's analysis.

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