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« Charter 08: Tyranny Creates The Demand For Democracy | Main | Tao in the Net »

December 12, 2008


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Interesting post, Sam. I've put up some reflections (mostly fast and not thought through, but it's finals week) on it at my place.

Is is against the Catholic Church to study Tao?


Doesn't this argument neglect the fact that the unborn child is already in relations---specifically, with his mother and father? The mother in particular has a very deep and intense relationship with the child even before birth. Catholic thought on community stems from Thomistic notions of justice rather than from this Confucian "sociality" (though they do seem to have significant overlap, as I think Matteo Ricci would argue), but those notions make it clear that a mother's relation with a child in her womb is real and significant, creating real obligations on both sides in justice, and clearly excludes deliberately killing that child. Why wouldn't Confucius recognize that relation?

Of course, the entirety of this post assumes a distinction between "unborn child" and "living person," a distinction which I think is unjustified. E.g., "There may be situations where duties toward the living must take precedence over duties to the not yet born." Yet if one understands that the "not yet born" are nevertheless still living, your conclusion doesn't work.

Perhaps the greatest distinction between Confucianism and Christianity is the former's embrace of what might be called a moral immanence. That is, there is no (or very little) recourse to a singular, universal standard of moral judgment, not a rigorously applied one at any rate. Rather, right action is to be determined from within a particular context, a kind of situational ethics. There is, of course, debate about the extent to which Confucianism includes a transcendent (see Tu Wei-Ming) versus an immanent (see Hall and Ames) perspective on ethics. But even if we accept a transcendent interpretation the importance of context in the actual application and performance of moral judgment and action seems undeniable.
Thus, for a Confucian, whether or not a unborn fetus has the moral status as a already born person would depend on the social context in which that determination was being made. That is different from many Christians - I will not say all Christians because there is obviously debate among Christians on the morality of abortion. One can be Christian and be pro-choice...


Would you carry it to its conclusion, then, that whether a born child has the moral status of an already grown person would depend on the social context in which that determination was being made?

While one can be Christian and pro-abortion, one cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion; and since the posting was about the Pope and Catholicism, that seems an important distinction. Catholics are Christians, but not all Christians are Catholics.

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