Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Jewish view of Catholic morality

Hector sent me this fascinating article. And it is indeed weird.

Don't get me wrong. The Catholics had caveats, and the Jews had ambiguities. But caveats and ambiguities are different things. The Catholics were clear about what was moral and what wasn't. The Jews were fuzzy. The best part of the show was George's cross-examination of Krauthammer on the definitions of "creature" and "human." It was like Socrates trying to carve up a bowl of chicken soup. Periodically, Kass waded into the fray to say on the one hand this, on the other hand that. The original ban on funding of destructive embryo research "wasn't written at Sinai," he joked. "And even the things that were written at Sinai are" - he groped for a rabbinical exit - "under review."

I guess I don't really understand how to be a moral actor in a world in which everything is always under review. Certainties, based on reason, are the way I think about things. Perhaps the idea I'm going at is best summed up here:

He admires Catholics for their faith in reason - "the faith required to live with the consequences of their conclusions," even when intuition screams the other way. "You have to have a ridiculous faith in reason to let your child die rather than use an embryo to save them," he says, staring at the table.

The Catholic view, it seems, requires feelings to be subservient to thinking. I'm guessing that this isn't too common outside of the Church.

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