Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The brilliant Mark Shea

...explains the heresy of Consequentialism (believing that the end justifies the means).

As a general rule, the way we assuage our consciences when we do evil for a good end is to pretend that the good end cancels out the sin that we do. If the good end we are seeking to achieve actually occurs, then we tell ourselves it was all for the best.
When [Truly Evil People] commit some sin (we tell ourselves), they don't have some good end in mind like us. So our sins are (perhaps, in some technical sense) "sins," but they are easily excused because we meant well. Meanwhile, the sins of Truly Evil People are sins because they had no good end in view.

Because of this, we can easily tend to make Manichaean divisions between Truly Evil People (those whom we assume pursue evil ends by evil means) and charming rogues like ourselves (who pursue good ends by evil means).
All sin, great and small, is an attempt to gain some Good (power, happiness, release from pain, etc.) by some disordered means, either colossally so or trivially so. That's because the desire for happiness is not optional for us. It is built into our nature by God Himself. And so, as St. Thomas points out, we can't not desire our happiness, which is to say, we can't not desire some good end. The implications of this are startling -- but only to people unfamiliar with the Catholic conception of sin. Hitler and Stalin both sought happiness.

Read it all.

1 comment:

  1. "On the Mark (SHEA)" Now that is clever, Mrs. P. Some Vulcan mind melding going on, here. I was just about to post a link to this article.