Friday, August 02, 2013
Morality of the Gaps: Ariel Castro appeals to science in saying he's not to blame
Castro can point to numerous radio and television shrinks (and seemingly most of the more conventional practitioners of this modern art) to justify his claim that, because he suffers from a psychological disease, he cannot be blamed--and should not be punished--for holding three women as virtual sexual slaves in his house for over ten years and forcing the death of the unborn child of one of the women.
"I'm not a monster," he said. "I'm sick."
Let's just remember what people like Dr. Phil said when Arnold Schwarzenegger was found to have had fling with the maid (and what others said about Tiger Woods when it was revealed that his skills at cavorting rivaled his golf abilities): He was suffering, he said on CNN one night, from "sex addition." When questioned as to whether this excused him from blame, Dr. Phil adamantly denied it did. But he was just talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Either it is a disease or it isn't. If it is, then the actions resulting from it are not voluntary, since diseases are not voluntary, and are therefore immune from blame or punishment. If it is not, then he cannot be excused. The Dr. Phil's of the world want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to cast themselves as scientists with the specialist's ability to divine the causes behind things, but also want to be able to deny the clear implication of they say because it would not be well-received from a public that had better be kept in the dark about the real implications of these beliefs.
Surely there are other, better-qualified people the media could consult when these kinds of issues come up.
I'm thinking of witch doctors here.
Once again, we have to go back to the common sense psychology of Aristotle to make sense of the tendency of people like Ariel Castro to shift blame to something or someone else.
Let's review for a minute. In his Rhetoric, Aristotle identifies the seven reasons people do things. Four of them are voluntary and three of them are involuntary:
With a little help from their psychologist friends, people like Castro try to move their actions from the left side of this chart (where they are responsible for their actions) to the right side (where they are not). This is what goes on with the legal insanity defense and, on the broader culture front, in the claim that homosexuality is somehow inborn. In both these cases, the actions of individual are cast as being outside the realm of moral judgment.
Human actions traditionally considered culpable are not moral conditions to be repented of; they are medical conditions to be cured.
In fact, all human behavior, we are led to believe, can be explained scientifically--if only we had adequate technical knowledge at our disposal. And the scientific explanation, being a scientific explanation, will of necessity exclude any moral cause, since a moral cause is necessarily non-scientific.
And the thing is, it is not just Arnold Schwarzenegger's dalliances or Tiger Woods bimbo eruptions that such people would explain away, but every human action. The goal of scientism is to eliminate the idea of voluntary action altogether. Scientific materialism, if it is consistent, cannot consider any action as voluntary. It must necessarily believe that every action is involuntary because it is caused exclusively by prior physical causes.
Religious believers are castigated by their atheist critics for believing in a "God of the gaps"--a God who serves in the role of stopgap explanation for any phenomenon that doesn't yet have a scientific explanation. But more and more unexplained phenomena are explained every day so that, if we follow the trajectory of the success of scientific explanation we can project a time in which we will have no need of God as an explanation for anything since everything will have a non-divine explanation.
The psychological explanations now proffered for the behavior of people like Ariel Castro are part of a larger movement to eliminate morality as an explanatory force altogether. It is a "Morality of the gaps" that involves the belief in actions that are caused by human wills outside the control of physical forces that will one day be explained by psychology.
This is why the logical positivists of the early and mid-20th century wanted to classify morality under psychology: because they considered it to have no independent explanatory existence.
In other words, Ariel Castro is no worse than the rest of us and the rest of us are no better than Arial Castro.
And if you don't like to hear that, don't blame me. Remember, I'm not responsible form my actions either.