On "Act-Types" and "Act-Tokens" and ... Huh?
My friend Policraticus takes the bloggers at Catholics Against Joe Biden (which includes yours truly) to task:
“Catholics Against Joe Biden” is a disappointing reminder that Catholic moral teaching is still thought of categorically by the masses rather than contextually like the saints.Ummmm, okay. To which I responded:
As for those criticizing the Catholics Against Joe Biden effort, I don’t recall similar consternation over the Catholics Against Rudy effort. And I assure you that if McCain is stupid enough to pick a “pro-choice” Catholic like Tom Ridge, I will be at the forefront of a Catholics Against Ridge effort.But Policraticus wasn't done:
While there may not have been “consternation,” there was most certainly concern, which many of us mentioned in the thread to my post on “Catholics Against Rudy.” This second manifestation of “Catholics Against _________” is disappointing, not least because it fails to understand a whole range of moral issues that any trip through the annals of Catholic morality could remedy. The ignorance of differences between moral judgment and moral action, between act-type and act-token, between categorical and contextual ethics, between ethics and politics, and between formal and material cooperation. This, of course, leaves out the selectivity that these sites display when it comes to condemning intrinsic evils. “Pro-life” is taken in the Evangleical sense, not the Catholic sense (which is not surprising given that so many of these initiatives are not done by theologians or ethicists, but by converts who specialize in neither field). “Right to life,” promoting so potently by Archbishop Chaput is contorted into this Evangelical sense, yet is passed on as “orthodox” Catholicism. As you mention on “Catholics in the Public Square,” “Catholics Against Biden” is a teaching opportunity for those who use faith inaccurately to attenuate real political issues.Huh? Would you mind translating that for those of us out here among the unwashed?
Zach of Civics Geeks responded to Policraticus thusly:
While I understand you are trying to be holistic and precise when you say things like this,Next up is my Catholics Against Joe Biden co-contributor, Darwin:
“The ignorance of differences between moral judgment and moral action, between act-type and act-token, between categorical and contextual ethics, between ethics and politics, and between formal and material cooperation.”
I have to gently suggest that politics and Catholic morality are not just for scholars or people who were taught big words. But these fancy terms do help to confuse people and help to hide your un-argued assertions. For: It is not at all clear how these sites are not pro-life “In the Catholic sense”, unless you define pro-life so as to exclude people who favor in general a limited government. it is not at all clear how these people are “attenuating real political issues”. Quite to the contrary, it seems these people are people who want to deal with real, concrete political issues, not just the fanciful constructs of their intellect.
If you find some good instances of “The ignorance of differences between moral judgment and moral action, between act-type and act-token, between categorical and contextual ethics, between ethics and politics, and between formal and material cooperation.” I strongly encourage you to comment or post on them.And, finally, my slightly bruised feelings at Policraticus' somewhat harsh criticism (I could at least make that much out of all the philosophical jargon) got the best of me:
Otherwise: What Zach said.
With all due respect, like Darwin, I, too, would like for someone to point out specific instances of where my blogging is guilty of the deficiencies that Policraticus describes.And a special thanks to Michael Denton of For the Greater Glory for his defense:
If the charge is merely that I have little patience with apologists on the left and on the right who engage in high-falluting, philosophical-sounding justifications for voting for people whose policy preferences are out of step with my values and my conscience, then guilty as charged.
If, on the other hand, the assertion is that my status as a convert and/or a non-theologian disqualifies me from forming moral judgments as to whether particular candidates fail to measure up, in my own opinion, to some aspect of Catholic teaching, and of formulating arguments in an attempt to persuade others to that view, then I say “Nonsense!”
I particularly welcome any specific examples of where I have displayed “selectivity” in condemning ANY intrinsic evil. Or where I have taken a “pro-life” stance in anything other than the Catholic sense, much less an “Evangelical sense”. Or have used the Faith “inaccurately to attenuate real political issues”.
Perhaps I’m missing it because I’m not as well versed in “true” Catholicism as my theologically trained betters. I’m just some regular guy trying to form my conscience to what I believe the Church asks of me, and to live out that Faith in all aspects of my life, including how I vote.
It is on that basis that I have concluded, at least at this time, that neither of the major-party candidates merits my vote. I will continue to make arguments at my own blog and at the other blogs on which I participate in order to justify my conclusions and to persuade others to my viewpoint.
I think there are a few people that you can make the charge that they’re using faith to attentuate political issues or reducing pro-life to the evangelical level; but Jay Anderson is not one of those people. If anything, I think Jay has been one of the few bloggers to not get sucked in this cycle by one candidate or the other.But don't mind me. I freely acknowledge that my limited intellectual capacity precludes me from distinguishing an "act-type" from an "act-token". Or giving a rat's ass, for that matter.