The blog of Dr Glenn Andrew Peoples on Theology, Philosophy, and Social Issues

Pro choice liars


As readers will probably know, George Tiller was shot dead recently. He was an abortionist who carried out late term abortions, and he was killed at church.

The response from the anti-abortion community was more or less as I expected it to be, and it is a perspective I share: Morally, George Tiller deserved to be punished for his horrific acts, killing a very large number of babies. However, this does not justify vigilante violence, what the shooter did was wrong and he deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law. Edward Feser furnishes what I take to be a typical example of this perspective. He says that while abortion is a terrible thing to do, “vigilantism is a grave offense against the moral and social order,” that “no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands,” and that “Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

I’m not going to seriously entertain the possibility that Feser was ambiguous. He was not. He was extremely clear. Pro-choicer Brian Leiter wasn’t mistaken. He is an out-and-out liar trying to deceive people about the facts and use his lies to gain sympathy for abortion. As Feser notes, here’s what Leiter had to say HERE:

What’s wrong with the world? People like Ed Feser (Pasadena City College), apologist for discrimination, now apologist for murder.

“Apologist for murder.” Yes, that’s a link to Ed’s article where he specifically states that vigilante violence is wrong and the shooter deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Lying Leiter is claiming that Dr Feser is an “apologist,” that is a defender, of what the shooter did.

I guess this is one of those situations where the cause is so precious that truth is a distraction.

Glenn Peoples


David Bain, reasonable doubt and defamation


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  1. Brian Leiter is a liar and a fraud. Yes, it’s terrible that this fellow was murdered. It’s even worse that millions of helpless babies are murdered every year. I don’t think he even tries to sympathize with the pro-life position, in which case he ought not try to speak about it in any intellectual capacity.

  2. Dan

    ““vigilantism is a grave offense against the moral and social order,” that “no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands,” and that “Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.””

    Now you’re getting into the philosophy of law. This statement is patently absurd and multiple counterfactuals are readily apparent every day.

    The proposition appears to begin with the premise that the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. But that is clearly false given my natural right to defense of self and others (most especially my family). The state definitely has the lion’s share of the market on legitimated violence, but it is most definitely not a monopoly.

    So when is private resort to violence “legally” permissible? The first and most obvious point is when the state expressly sanctions private resort to violence. For instance, somewhere between a third and half of all U.S. jurisdictions have passed “castle doctrine” legislation that prohibits prosecution of individuals who use deadly force against an intruder within their home.

    John Locke’s theoretical right of revolution (or even Hobbes’ more extreme vision) is much more difficult than the obvious state-sanctioned use of violence. At a certain point of political and social breakdown, the state is no longer capable of promulgating and enforcing legitimate laws. Consider Mogadishu or Rwanda during the genocide — even if some state actor had technically passed a law stating that all homicide is illegal, that law was a nullity. There was no sovereign capable of enforcing the law, and therefore it is entirely legitimate for private individuals to resort to violence to defend themselves and others.

    A third possibility arises where the state has promulgated laws that are so morally repugnant that they cannot be said to be laws at all. Although formal legality theorists such as Joseph Raz and Lon Fuller might suggest that this is nonsense, natural law theorists have argued for thousands of years that some laws are so offensive that they are not properly laws at all and therefore need not be followed. (There are other, better, and weaker versions of this claim, but I’m really late getting back to my grading).

    All of this goes to the point that private individuals may often have a moral obligation to engage in violent acts regardless of the state’s position. At the risk of engaging in reductio ad nazism, what was the moral position of the Polish partizans who attempted to free jews and other poles trapped in nazi concentration camps? Poland at the time was clearly a functioning state under German law, German law expressly sanctioned the assembly line style murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings. Many of us would applaud the partizan who managed to kill a prison camp guard for the purpose of rescuing innocent people from murder.

    And that is what makes Tiller’s murder / assassination so difficult morally. With his death, arguably hundreds of babies who would have been dismembered in the womb will live. If the father of one of the babies wandered into the operating room just before Tiller started murdering his child, would the father be morally justified in defending his child? Even if that meant lethal force against Tiller? How about the father who found his pregnant wife / girlfriend / one night stand’s appointment book showing an appointment with Tiller the next day? And then finally, why should the familial relationship remove the moral right to defend innocent life.

    But the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t a father, it was an insane, hate-filled idiot. And in our liberal democratic polity, there is still a sense that proper redress against future murders can and should be had through the state. In the final analysis, however, even Hobbes acknowledged that there is a place for private use of violence in any political system.

  3. Dan, I think it’s a very safe bet that Feser (who believes in the right of self defence) meant that when it comes to punishment for capital crimes (or crimes in general), private citizens do not have the right to take justice into their own hands. It is very unlikely that he meant this to apply in every conceivable context.

  4. Dan

    Ah, well, that’s alright then. 😉

  5. OperationCounterstrike

    Will there be PAYBACK for the murder of Dr. Tiller?

    Will there be COUNTERTERROR against right-to-lifers?

    Where do Paul Hill’s wife and kids go to church?

    [Moderator’s note: I have removed further text and the link provided by this poster, as we do not promote or endorse threats of violence, explicit or implied. The pro-choice website in this link carries implicit threats of violence. Say Hello to my Little Friend welcomes all comments as long as they are not defamatory, gratuitously profane, or potentially illegal in any way. The promotion or dissemination of threats of violence against pro-lifers falls afoul of this policy, and will be moderated when it appears at this blog.]

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