Intrinsic evils and rules of thumb

What can steel the mind against temptation is the knowledge that an act is, in itself, destructive of happiness and friendship with God; that it would be pointless to enter into dialogue with the temptation, because the only good answer is No.

… Elizabeth Anscombe gave a lifelong witness to the existence of intrinsic evils—as she put it, “the idea that any class of actions, such as murder, may be absolutely excluded.” She contrasted this with the idea that moral laws are “rules of thumb which an experienced person knows when to break.” Anscombe drew this contrast in reference to Harry Truman’s decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. In 1956, she made a lonely protest against Oxford’s honorary degree for Truman. It did not matter, she argued, whether the bombs might have led to a smaller overall loss of life: “For men to choose to kill the innocent as a means to their ends is always murder.” That “always” fortified her when majority opinion thought she was foolish. In a mad world, an understanding of intrinsic evil helps you to stay sane.

Dan Hitchens, Intrinsic Evil and McCarrick. An oustanding column that barely mentions McCarrick — and is the better for it.

Reader John @ReaderJohn
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