Four Reconciliations of the Laws of Nature and Miracles


In this paper, I intend to outline four reconciliations between the laws of nature and miracles. Why have miracles been interpreted to be violations of the laws of nature? The objection is that miracles purport to describe events which lie outside the causal nexus of events contained within the universe. In that sense one can either be methodologically skeptical to miracle claims, though be a priori open to evidence of a miracle, or a priori reject the possibility of miracles on the grounds that they are impossible via violating the laws of nature. While this alleged conflict generally is undoubtedly historical, the position expressed in the latter is also contemporary and adopted to be decisive against classical theistic claims to miracles. As such, this paper occupies itself with specifying four ways of reconciling miracles with the laws of nature.


I will first begin with a definition of ‘divine intervention’ and ‘miracle.’

‘Divine intervention’: def. God’s directly intervening into the course of history in causally

                                              bringing about a certain effect.

‘Miracle’:         def. an event (caused by God) which lies outside the natural, causal capacities

                                 of the universe.

Two presuppositions:

(1) a rejection of emergentism i.e., God performs miracles through the course of nature but not directly

(2) a minimalist account of theism (the belief that there is a personal God who is at least capable of performing miracles/having reason to perform a miracle)


(1) We have to stipulate a motive for divine intervention

(2) Divine intervention is akin to deism


(1*) Stipulating a motive is unnecessary, for the goal is not to show that miracles happen, but that they are not inconsistent with the laws of nature

(2*) Divine intervention need not have God isolated from the world as in deism without trivializing the uniqueness of miracles

Four Reconciliations

Consider the four ways of dealing with the laws of nature and miracles:

(1) Miracles require laws of nature for their possibility (McGrew)

Argument: To say an event is extraordinary is to presuppose that there are ordinary events. A miracle can only be a miracle iff there is a regular course of events in which a miracle is said to occur.

Objection: There are only ordinary events.

Reply: This objection should be weakened to be consistent with being at least a priori open to the empirical data for miracles (Keener, Moreland).

(2) The definition of the laws of nature are ceteris paribus (WLC, Plantinga)

Argument: A law of nature can include within itself ceteris paribus clause, such that a law of nature L holds iff ceteris paribus no divine agent intervenes.

Objection: This is not supported scientifically.

Reply: The adjudication of the possibility of miracles is not a scientific question, but a theological/metaphysical one.

(3) Laws of nature do not contain successions of regularities; thus, no violation of the laws of nature occurs (von Wechter)

Argument: Typically laws of nature are thought to be of the sort: L (law of nature) specifies that given various x’s (events) followed by y’s (effects), we can expect y’s to follow x’s. However, laws to not specify this form of regularity, for laws of nature include within them no claim that from events of a given type T, we cannot expect other types of events. An illustration. Newton’s laws hold provided that no alternative variables are included (WLC, Plantinga). However, this means we should not just include a ceteris paribus clause into the laws of nature, but reject the notion that regularity is integral to laws of nature at all—hence divine interaction is not violating laws of nature.

Objection: (i) The regularity of laws of nature are integral to inductive judgements, without which science would not be possible. (ii) Without regularity, it is senseless to call these events caused by God miracles.

Reply: (i*) Laws of nature can still be kept, they just don’t necessitate regularities (no attack on the laws themselves). (ii*) They are miracles because they are (1) not caused by the natural causal productivity of the universe (by the definition above) and (2) caused directly by God.

(4) Laws of nature are not causally efficacious, but descriptions (Lewis)

Argument: Laws of nature do not cause anything; instead, laws of nature are descriptions of the universe and how it operates. Why does this matter? Baseball is defined by the rules in which one plays. These rules do not cause anything, but they accurately describe how the game is played provided that no rules are changed.

Objection: (i) Miracles still violate laws of nature. (ii) God can then arbitrarily intervene into the natural order with unfavorable consequences i.e., science being impossible since it is based on regularities.

Reply: (i*) If a ‘violation’ is just God intervening, that isn’t a problem at all, even if the word ‘violate’ isn’t preferred. (ii*) God sees the value of science (Collins) and hence wouldn’t arbitrarily intervene in our scientific experiments (Plantinga). It is also possible that regularities aren’t part of the laws of nature (von Wachten).


In sum, there are at least four ways to reconcile miracles with the laws of nature. These preserve

-the traditional account of miracles/divine intervention

-the integrity of scientific practice/method

and besides one case (von Wechter)

-regularities being part of the laws of nature

As such, there is no reason to be closed a priori to the empirical data for miracles, even if one is ultimately skeptical of the existence of miracles.


Josef Pieper’s Habilitationsschrift

In the Gesammelte Werke (Complete Works) of Josef Pieper, we find Realitat und das Gute (Reality and the Good) which is found in English as the second part of Living the Truth published by Ignatius Press. However, what is not found in the complete works is the original Reality and the Good published in a much more academic form, namely, as Pieper’s Habilitationsschrift (what in Germany is similar to a doctoral dissertation). While it is not for sale virtually anywhere nor searchable in any data base I am equipped with, I own a copy of it (which I purchased from a German website some time ago). I do not foresee any copyright issues, but I will re-print here the scanned (by me) copy of his Habilitationsschrift titled Die Ontische Grundlage des Sittlichen nach Thomas von Aquin. From my experience, I would imagine that many philosophers these days cannot read German (much less Latin), but in the case that you want to (or you can already), this is pretty good motivation–at least so I think. Enjoy.



Trusting the Gospels: Timothy McGrew’s Lecture Notes

Attached to this post is a wonderful series of lecture notes from philosopher Timothy McGrew on the authenticity of the Gospels against various critiques. Many wonder how we can trust the Gospels found in the New Testament in light of so many objections; however, McGrew points out that these need not be obstacles to trusting the Gospels as reliabile (and hence the objections should not be reason for either not becoming a Christian or leaving Christianity). He mas more to say than I will provide here, though I expect that an honest seeker of truth will find nothing but a sober evaluation of the Gospels. I will present the links in interrogative form, as “Isn’t there…”

Isn’t there historical errors in the Gospels?

Alleged Historical Errors 1
Alleged Historical Errors 2

Isn’t there contradictions in the Gospels?

Alleged Contraductions 1

Alleged Contradictions 2

Isn’t there dispute over who wrote the Gospels?

Who Wrote the Gospels

Isn’t there a lack of evidence for the Gospels?

External Evidence

Internal Evidence

Youtube videos (for each question):

Part 1: Who wrote the Gospels?
Part 2: Gospels as History: External Evidences
Part 3: Gospels as History: Internal Evidences
Part 4: Alleged Contradictions in the Bible

Scheduled German Honors Thesis: The Aesthetics of Dietrich von Hildebrand

German Honors Thesis with Herr Mioc

God willingly, I will be writing my German Honors Thesis at Western next year (2018/2019). The proposed topic is “The Aesthetics of Dietrich von Hildebrand.”

I have developed an interest in taking up the challenge of W.L. Craig to formulate an aesthetic argument for God’s existence; however, this requires foundational work in aesthetics first, and hence I will be spending this summer as well as the first semester of next year entirely devoted to the reading of the primary sources. My intention is not merely to “formulate another argument for God’s existence”, but see how the research project W.L. Craig characterizes is actually going, and thereafter explore the possibilities. I am convinced that the existence of beauty raises the probability that God exists; however, giving an account of this which (i) responds adequately to relativistic accounts of aesthetic experience (ii) involves premises which are more plausibly true than false and (iii) is based within a coherent, delineated theological aesthetic, is the real challenge. I have here posted the proposed Syllabus for this course, and if you have either suggestions for specific references or avenues to look into, I would be happy to consider them all.

A Review of Ariana Karatsanis’ “Infiltrating and Debunking Campus Pro-lifers: An Exercise in Self-Control”



This post is a brief commentary on Ariana Karatsanis’ “Infiltrating and Debunking Campus Pro-lifers: An Exercise in Self-Control” [1], an explication of Ariana’s experience in a Lifeline meeting which describes as “welcoming.” Despite a tacit open-mindedness regarding hearing the pro-life position and its defense, strong misunderstandings of the pro-life position persist if for no other reason than this “open-mindedness” is a covering for misrepresenting, and overlooking much of, the pro-life position. I have re-printed her entire post to ensure that I am not misstating her words nor making unwarranted assumptions about her claims. Her paragraphs are put in quotations.


“A couple of weeks ago my friend told me about protestors standing by Western campus for the “Pro-Life” movement. Their signs were covered in images of live and dead fetuses, impossible to miss on your way to class through the University gates. Although I completely disagree with “Pro-Life” beliefs, I wanted to further my knowledge of their perspective so I decided to sign up for their club “Lifeline,” a USC approved club, and attend their first meeting.”

This is very admirable, open-mindedness is needed on both sides of the debate.

“I am pro-choice. I believe and stand up for women making their own decisions and having autonomy over their own bodies, so you can imagine this was the last place I wanted to be. I wanted to use this opportunity to understand their side of the debate rather than ignoring their voice and beliefs. Upon further investigation however, I found the majority of their arguments were based on fallacies and subjective examples that when taken into the perspective of larger society become insignificant.”

First, how do we reconcile “I wanted to further my knowledge” with “this was the last place I wanted to be”? Second, it is important to remember what fallacies are, misuses of logical reasoning. What is a “subjective example”? I have never heard this phrase, though perhaps it will be clarified eventually.

Definition of a Human Life

“The first claim in the Lifeline argument was about the science concerning when a fetus becomes a human life. The President of the club explained that there was a spectrum of where this could be possible, before conception, during conception, and after conception. The examples for the three were: before the egg and sperm met, during fertilization, and when a child was two years old. It was then stated that a woman could not get pregnant without sperm (obviously), and that a two year old cannot poof into existence (no shit), so it must be during fertilization that the egg and sperm become a human life.”

Straw man fallacy: Lifeline does not ask when a fetus becomes a human life, but of when human life begins. A fetus is already a human life, for “fetus” means “young one” in Latin and hence it is an age-ranged term (speaking in biological terms). There are species of fetuses i.e., elephant fetuses, dog fetuses, et cetera. Asking when a fetus in a mother’s womb becomes a human being is an abuse of biological science.

“While I am not a science student, this “argument” is being used as a tactic in order to convince listeners to believe their message. Two out of the three examples are on extreme ends of the spectrum forcing the listener to agree with their opinion by default. They are missing multiple points in the spectrum that could possible define when a human life begins. Many claim it is when the fetus can live on its own, or when it is birthed, and many points before. The club stated that this idea was backed by science, but the debate of when a fetus becomes a human life is ongoing. These claims are more opinion than they are a scientific fact.”

The purpose of the before/at/after distinction is to show that there are only three live alternatives to when a human life begins. I fear Ariana did not understand it (though she says it is very clear). For within the “after” category many have advanced arguments from dependency (the formalization of what she means when she says “fetus can live on its own”). Sadly, Ariana overlooks that as pro-lifers in Lifeline, we do our best to respond to these objections (which are, admittedly, often more sophisticated than the characterization she provides). The point: Lifeline does address this, and proof lies in Maria McCann’s pro-life apologetic workshops (available on YouTube). She explicitly addresses this problem. There is no “tactic” involved—only an honest attempt at displaying and responding to the argument from dependency.

A Woman’s Choice

“A young man was walking past the pro-life activists and was asked if he was pro-life. He said: “No, I think women should have choices.” The activists’ response went along the lines of asking multiple questions with obvious answers in order to persuade the listener into thinking his beliefs had changed. She asked him if he would support a woman’s choice to go to the bar and drink (if she was legal), he said yes (obviously, well I hope you think that). Then asked him if it was okay for the girl to choose to drive home drunk, he said well no, of course not. These two questions produced/constructed/manipulated the argument. It was said that this woman made a choice, but the wrong choice, and while it’s amazing to support women’s rights there is a fine line to which we cannot cross. Interesting side note: the pro-lifers claim that the name “pro-choice” is propagandistic, as it makes the assumption that they are anti-choice when they actually claim to be anti-murder.”

Ariana has not understood the analogy (this is evident from her not displaying the full example typically given by pro-life apologists). What the analogy shows is that our rights only extend—whether we are women or not—only until other human beings are involved. For example, most regard it as acceptable to have a few drinks at the bar (why not?). It is morally permissible to exercise my autonomy and have these drinks. However, in what does the wrongfulness of drunk driving consist? It consists in the fact that we have used our autonomy and right for freedom to put another at risk. Analogically, abortion does not merely put another human being at risk (the preborn), but dismembers, disembowels and decapitates her. In that sense, can it be a “right” to take the life of another human being? Not to be pedantic about words, but “pro-choice” is pro-choice-for-abortion. While many would like–including Ariana–to say pro-having-rights-over-ones-body–this overlooks the central focus of the pro-choice position: pro-abortion.

“The comparison of abortion to drunk driving is a little far fetched in my opinion. Claiming that a fetus’ rights are equivalent to a human walking on the street is absurd. A fetus, especially early on in the pregnancy, cannot live on its own, it is dependent on a woman’s body.”

I am afraid Ariana misunderstands what analogies do. Analogies do not merely equivocate two situations; instead, they often highlight that from the fact that we would reason some way in some example, and let’s imagine we have an identical situation to the former, to be consistent we need to reason the same in both cases. The dependency objection goes as follows: Because the preborn are utterly dependent on a woman’s body, the woman should have the right to take the life of the preborn child. This objection is far from new. In fact, speaking from experience, I have dealt with this objection almost every time I have talked about abortion with others. Is this argument a good one? Well, let’s think about it. It is plausible that infants are utterly dependent on other human beings for their existence after their birth (they cannot do anything for themselves i.e., shelter, feed, protect themselves, et cetera). This is not something controversial. Does it follow from this that we should be able to take the lives of infants? Of course not. In the same way, from the fact that preborn are utterly dependent on their mother for survival, it does not follow that the mother can take the life of that child. Reply: Well, there is a difference between an infant and a preborn human being! Answer: Now the question is rightfully where it should be—who are the preborn? The relevant question is not whether dependency ever constitutes a reason to take another’s life. In what does the difference consist between the infant and preborn? There is no fundamental difference other than time. I wish Ariana had put the time into fleshing out her objection, rather than leaving it as a one-line slogan often championed by pro-choicers as the voice of a “devastating objection” to the pro-life position (when I have shown how it is, even when developed, a poor objection).


“A young woman walked up to the pro-life booth and told the President she was raped and got an abortion, and wanted to know how she felt about it. Compassion was what she responded with. Claiming that they needed to use compassion before anything else, especially in these specific circumstances. She asked her if she was safe, and continued talking to her about their movement. I do not know specifically what she told her, but to the group she said that the goal of their club was not to make people hurt over their “bad” decisions, but help them make “better” decisions. Most of these stories I am writing down are infuriating, but this one takes the fucking cake. I can respect the thought of wanting to be nice to someone and support them if they chose to do something you do not agree with, but you cannot be compassionate to people while still using images of aborted fetuses in order to scare people into agreeing with you. These images are real, and I do not think they need to be banned but blasting them all over campus in order to push your own agenda on students is disgusting. The shock factor is the only thing being used here. Telling a woman she made a bad decision after having an abortion is far from being compassionate. Saying “better” decisions, argues that they know right from wrong when they really know nothing about her personal experiences to make them capable of judging.”

For anyone who has ever talked to someone post-sexual assault, it is one of the most heart wrenching experiences (speaking from my experience in talking to victims of such an atrocious crime). As Ariana has noted, what was used was compassion by the pro-lifer. The problem? The imagery of aborted children. The problem with the argument given here is that it mistakes the purpose of these images. The allegation is that they are for “scaring”, “push[ing] [an] agenda” with a “shock factor” which is “disgusting.” However, I would ask a question here: Why does an aborted child scare us? Why does it shock us? Why is it disguising? It is scary, shocking and disgusting because abortion is these things. Awful things happen in this world like sexual assault, and no one—pro-life or not—wants something like sexual assault to persist. However, if the reality of what happens in abortion is not displayed, and Ariana admits that “these images are real”, will the three hundred abortions in Canada alone each day stop? Is preventing the massacring of preborn children “pushing an agenda”? If it is, there needs to be an argument for this position, and not empty assertions. I would also like to note a straw man. “Telling a woman she made a bad decision after having an abortion is far from being compassionate”—what pro-lifer has said this to a victim of sexual assault? The compassion of the pro-lifer (at least in Lifeline) is to do precisely as the one Ariana mentioned—to ask if that person is safe, if that person has gotten help and is receiving genuine treatment and healing. The intention is not shaming, the intention is to admit that awful things like sexual assault happen, and that is a problem that needs to be fixed—but the solution is not abortion, for an abortion does not undo sexual assault (it only takes the life of another human being). I am very dissatisfied that Ariana thinks a judgement is being made on the person of sexual assault, I wonder what she makes of, to re-hash a previous example, a drunk driving victim who sees a MADD commercial on TV. Should we promote taking MADD TV commercials off of TV because they can trigger individuals who have had genuine mental trauma (themselves or another they love being involved)? Of course not, we realize that drinking and driving is deadly, and that needs to be known despite the hardships associated with publicizing this message. The intention of these commercials is not to trigger individuals who have experienced horrendous events. Rather, the intention of these commercials are to display the wrongfulness of hurting another individual because of your choices (an abuse of the wonderful right to autonomy). In that sense there is a right and wrong (and skeptics to morality in general end up in either inconsistency i.e., we cannot affirm genocides being morally wrong or self-contradiction i.e., “you ought not judge another’s morality” makes a moral judgement). No one is making the claim that one knows what it is like to suffer something as awful as sexual assault if that person has not experienced it; the claim being made is that despite these sufferings which we should help others with and alleviate, we should not find the solution of these problems in taking the life of another, innocent human being (nor in shaming others for previous decisions they’ve made). It is a both/and–not shaming, helping that person and preserving the truth of the inhumanity of abortion.

Critical Pregnancies

“Another point of discussion were critical pregnancies, where either the woman’s life is at risk during the pregnancy or possible birthing defects are predicted. There were many shared stories about positive experiences of women who pushed through harmful pregnancies with support and ended up having their child and were glad they did. They were using isolated incidents and inductive reasoning to exemplify the broad possibilities of such circumstances.”

This is factually incorrect. The examples given involve both instances of “pushing through” but of harder cases where the mother’s life was more severely at risk. It also never downplayed the difficulties associated with having a severely disabled child. While these were noted, they were fairly and philosophically considered. It is simply wrong to suggest that in this meeting (in which I was in attendance) there were these dimensions overlooked. But at any rate: How else do you address critical pregnancies than taking an inductive survey of the cases we have recorded medically and evaluate them? This is important when considering something as multi-variable as critical pregnancies i.e., ectopic pregnancies.

“Privilege is something I noted down when I was in this meeting. There were many stories about children who have a disability but are loved and cared for, and these are incredible situations, but the reality is that someone has to have resources to raise a child. This includes caregiving and monetary support. While some women are able to support their children, we cannot ignore the other women and families who are not as privileged to provide time, money and love for their children.”

This is agreed by Lifeline. We should be doing better as a society to help these individuals.

“It was said that pro-choice activists believe that all babies with possible disabilities should be aborted. This statement is ridiculous and completely false. It is about giving women the right to decide for their own future and their own bodies; Pro-Choice, not Pro-Abortion.”

Of course this is “ridiculous and completely false”, for the pro-life position has been misrepresented by Ariana (and this is permissible, for she is writing a blog post, subject to informal comments—nothing peer-reviewed or subject to fact-checking (what I am attempting here)). The pro-life position does not entail the belief that pro-choicers believe this; rather, it is from accepting certain pro-choice beliefs i.e., an abortion at any time is permissible, suffering constitutes the permissibility of abortion, disability implies a lack of personhood and hence the permissibility of abortion, et cetera, it follows logically that the pro-choice position involves the belief that pre-born human beings with disabilities are able to be aborted. The sloganeering of this comment masks the real discussion which took place.

“I was surprised at how welcoming they were at the club, I sat and listened, but it was extremely difficult not to speak up. Although my perspective has not changed, it was an interesting experience at least. The president did offer to buy me coffee to chat another day, but it’s safe to say I won’t be taking her up on that anytime soon.”

I admire the tacit open-mindedness, but if one does not speak up in an environment which is “welcoming”, I regard this as not a problem on the part of Lifeline. Open-mindedness is an engagement in the pursuit of truth, not being “stoic” and having “self-control” in the face of opponents who present arguments and evidences for their beliefs (and do not resort to sloganeering and one-liners). I regard it as unfortunate that these objections found in this blog post by Ariana were not mentioned in the meeting she attended, for they have been addressed and plausibly refuted in Lifeline activism, the pro-life workshops and just about every Lifeline meeting.

General notes: Although it was claimed that Lifeline was making fallacies in reasoning, no formal/informal fallacies have been identified explicitly, “subjective examples” was never defined and the central argument against abortion “The Human Rights Argument” was also not interacted with. There was also no presentation of the pro-life position of many of the issues raised, it was more often that there were comments like “Lifeline talked about…” rather than a fair, accurate presentation of the material.

[1] Ariana Karatsanis’ “Infiltrating and Debunking Campus Pro-lifers: An Exercise in Self-Control” Accessed April 8th, 2018.

University Philosophy

Philosophizing—a genuine encounter with the depth of a genuinely philosophical problem—rarely happens in “academic philosophy” at the university. I can only speak from experience, and so I would like to share a story to illustrate. A friend of mine came over to my house recently and he, perplexed by a conversation he had overheard between my logic (and philosophy of science) professor and myself, asked me: Where do I begin to get “up to speed” in philosophical debates? I suggested that he read F. Copleston’s 9-volume history of Western philosophy, which leaves untranslated the Greek and Latin (as was learnt by the seminarians for whom Copleston was writing). However, immediately I remembered what I was doing—telling him that he needs to read thousands of pages to “get into it.” But, as if correcting myself, I told him that I would get him up to speed on my own, with something like Plato’s Republic. Again, I thought I was missing something, or that a better method was lingering in the wind. It finally hit me—I will use my notes from my grade eleven philosophy class. You might wonder “why notes from high school of all places?” To illustrate why, consider that for two years I sat in the seat directly in front of Paul Coates, a philosopher of the highest ranking who lectured with an unmatched precision and rigor. Not missing a lecture, I had my pen to the page writing down almost every detail of the lecture, making no “interpretations” or “summaries” of what he said (although I wrote questions down while he spoke). When I thought of using these notes to teach my friend, I thought that perhaps they would be inferior to those of my university philosophy lecture notes. But, I took a look at the notes from this high school class carefully. When I cracked open my notes for the first time in years, I recognized something. What characterized my grade eleven philosophy lecture notes was genuine philosophy. This is not nostalgia, nor reminiscing in my first encounter with philosophy. My notes were the result of a careful, clear thinker who delivered insights to students with an aim to what philosophy is about—wisdom. My notes were not full of sophistic aphorisms nor complicated terminology only a select few (who took the time to learn it) would remember. What I had were stories illustrating points, philosophers who were only thought of as philosophers and not “interesting people of history” or “influential” or “thinkers in the history of philosophy.” I found a love of wisdom, an intermingling of deep theology with philosophical notions, aimed always at the truth. Philosophers were only philosophers. There was no agenda of my professor, no “axe to grind”, to use an idiomatic English expression. There was no interest in making students believe certain propositions, nor promoting an anti-conformist attitude which justified itself in virtue of its “being anti-conformist.” Having poured over these lecture notes, I recognized something. This was precisely the philosophy not at the university. While I do not want to make generalizations—I have loved certain professors for their love of students and aim at truth—some generalizations are necessary, and it is a modern flaw to not make them. Philosophy classes in the university are marked by their lack of aim at truth, at “getting at what the philosopher said” rather than doing philosophy. It is more pushed by interpretation than it is at reading what the philosopher actually said. Philosophy is something like a commodity, a past-time for “intellectuals” who are focused on the “history of ideas” rather than the truth of things. I am often told by people who take philosophy at the university that they “hate it.” I feel bad for these individuals, but perhaps the remedy can only be brought forth by doing real philosophy, and not masquerading an aimless, sophistic agenda with philosophy. Please do not misunderstand the purpose of this reflection, I am grateful to be at the university (for it made possible the conversation I had with my friend as to how he ought to go about getting into philosophy), but I am even more grateful, as another friend of mine once put it, that “God gave us a great bibliography.” To my friend and anyone who asked “where to begin?”, may I suggest: not the university, but in the philosophical act, being bothered by a question, pushed by wonder and aimed at wisdom. Then again, did not C.S Lewis and Josef Pieper both quote “primum vivere deinde philosophari” (first live, then philosophize) as mottos?

Pro-Life Inspiration from Nietzsche

“Something might be true while being dangerous and harmful in the highest degree.”

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.

It might be that carrying a sign displaying the reality of abortion puts one at risk for physical violence from those who disagree. It might be that I will become de-sensitized to abortion victim imagery. It might be that those looking at the signs will have a hard time stomaching down the reality of abortion. It might be that one looks at the face of the dismembered child they see in the victim photography and is sickened (perhaps by their own apathy)—the “face” bringing us to moral consciousness, Levinas says. What Nietzsche says sums up my beliefs: whether one is persecuted from defending those most hurt by abortion or left alone, given the cold shoulder—the point remains: abortion is a violation of basic human rights, and that remains true independent of all else.

Lockean Ignorance and Thinking of the Ethics of Abortion

There are three causes of ignorance for Locke which he identifies in IV, III, XX of the Essay. Locke identifies ‘ignorance’ with “the dark side” of our knowledge, which is “infinitely larger than our knowledge” (IV, III, XX). The causes of ignorance are as follows: (i) Want of ideas, (ii) want of a discoverable connexion between the ideas we have and (iii) want of tracing and examining our ideas. Regarding (i), Locke writes that “how much these few and narrow inlets [i.e., lack quantitatively of ideas we have] are disproportionate to the vast whole extent of all beings” (IV, III, XXIII). Part of our cognitive situation, says Locke, is the inability to plunder the quantity of ideas which are to be had, though which we cannot fathom to attain. For example, in wondering whether abortion is ever morally permissible, one might consult the virtually endless list of ethical theories. Either one can find a plausible theory which matches our moral experience, or one can suggest that the moral disagreement is constitutive of a reason to deny the meaningfulness of the question (or be skeptical to an answer at all). However, how do we move from a quantity of ideas to skepticism? We do not do this in the realm of ethical theory generally (nor in daily life). For example, suppose one asks: Is there something wrong with a psychopathic maniac who brings an automatic weapon into an elementary school and takes the lives of children and teachers? Of course, our answer is yes. However, there are theories in which this may have been utility-conducive (utilitarianism), appropriate given the right consequences (consequentialism) or perhaps even a meaningless question altogether (moral anti-realism). However, the sheer amount of theories does not diminish the wrongfulness of the action and our knowing that it is wrong. If we are consistent, the same applies to the moral status of the preborn i.e., sheer amounts of theories do not make the question “too difficult to answer” nor “meaningless.” Second, (ii) states that there is a de facto skepticism regarding the connection between many of the ideas of experience. Locke says: “How any thought should produce a motion in body is as remote from the nature of our ideas, as how any body should produce any thought in the mind” (IV, III, XVIII). To take the former as exemplary, we know that thoughts produce motions in our bodies i.e., anxious thoughts cause the heart rate to increase, though we have no idea as to the mechanical ‘how’—the connection—between the two.[1] However, Locke’s second form of ignorance can be extrapolated into thinking about our moral intuitions regarding abortion. For example, one might think that a preborn human being is a collection of cells (or unicellular, if zygotic) and therefore unworthy of a moral status; however, in seeing a post-abortive operation, one might be convinced that there is something wrong with destroying the life of the preborn. It is this lack of putting beliefs together which results in ignorance (and also cognitive dissonance). Finally, (iii) claims that we are often ignorant not in virtue of the uncertainty of the object of inquiry nor in virtue of our cognitive capacities; rather, we are ignorant “for want of application in acquiring, examining, and by due ways comparing those ideas.” (IV, III, XXX). For example, if the preborn are—as we have good reason to believe—living, growing human beings, and we also accept that all human beings have human rights (including the right to life), it follows that abortion is a human rights violation. It is only in our ignorance that we do not put the two beliefs together, and consistently accept the conclusion.

[1] Although unlike Locke—and much of the Western philosophical tradition—I do not see a problem with thought/body (soul/body) interaction. See Rashad Rehman “Disintegrating Particles, Non-Local Causation and Category Mistakes: What do Conservation Laws have to do with Dualism?” Conatus Journal of Philosophy (accepted for the 3rd volume, 2018).

Upcoming Papers and Speaking

If anyone has looked at this blog recently, you will have noticed that I have done significantly less writing. There is a reason for this. I have been publishing papers and speaking. Here is a preview of the papers that will be coming out as well as of upcoming speaking engagements.

“Ethics, Homelessness and the Artes Liberales/ Artes Serviles Distinction” in The Ethics of Homelessness (book chapter, forthcoming December 2018-January 2019)

“Disintegrating Particles, Non-Local Causation and Category Mistakes: What do Conservation Laws have to do with Dualism?” Conatus Journal of Philosophy (University of Athens) (forthcoming).

“Love as a Divine Gift in Pieper and Kierkegaard: A Phenomenological Analysis” Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research (undergraduate thesis, forthcoming)

“A Refutation of Relativizing Simultaneity: Tooley’s Quantum Physical Defense of Absolute Simultaneity” Meteorite: The University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)

“On the Boarder of Concrete Experience: Mythic and Literary Experience in C.S Lewis” Sophia: The University of Victoria’s Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)


“Josef Pieper’s Defense of the Geisteswissenschaften” in Philosophy of Peace (book chapter, submitted)

“Josef Pieper on σχολή and Contemplative εὐδαιμονία in Aristotle” (Aporia, submitted)


“On the Boarder of Concrete Experience: Mythic and Literary Experience in C.S Lewis” Sophia Conference (video will be posed soon).

Upcoming Speaking:

“Josef Pieper’s Defense of the Geisteswissenschaften” Kings Undergraduate Research Conference April 8th, 2018 and Western Student Research Conference March, 24th 2018.