The Whole Lie of Abortion's "Double Truth"
Abortion and the Modern Sigers of Brabant
With the Supreme Court, God willing, set to overturn Roe vs. Wade and return the decision of the legality of abortion to the states, it will be more and more crucial in the coming days for those who are Pro-Life to sharpen their intellects, minds, and wills, and prepare for the fight ahead. We will have to be prepared for common pro-abortion slogans and sophistries including, “my body, my choice,” “abortion is a human right,” “no woman should be forced to have a child,” “I’m personally against abortion, but…”
The last one concerns us here. It is popular among ostensibly Catholic pro-abortion politicians who want to justify their support for abortion but not admit, at least to themselves, just how far outside of the Catholic faith they really are. It seems like a neat compromise, a neat division of one’s public life from one’s private life. On my own time, and in my house (unless, presumably, I am on a work conference call), I believe abortion is morally wrong; when I leave my house, then I begin believing, and acting, as if abortion is morally right.
No one in a representative democracy should be advocating something different in public from what they believe to be true. The Truth should not and cannot be made subject to political ideals. The person who attempts to diminish Truth in the pursuit of such ideals is a liar and a hypocrite, uncaring of the salvation of others. Yet many pro-abortion Catholics persist in declaring that abortion can be both right and wrong.
This claim is merely one particular sophistry with a long history; the particular fallacy arguably traces back to the 13th century Averroist philosopher Siger of Brabant. That century saw the founding of the great medieval universities and the Catholic rediscovery of Aristotle. In that wild, exciting, and often chaotic atmosphere, university men like Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus “baptized Aristotle” and integrated his learning and philosophy into the universities and into Christian philosophy and theology. And then came the problem.
G.K. Chesterton describes the affair with his characteristic wit and clarity in his book, The Dumb Ox. After Aquinas and Albertus “baptized Aristotle,” a new challenge arose: Siger of Brabant. Siger had learned much of his philosophy from Spanish Muslim philosophers and had a new idea: the idea of double truth. Chesterton is worth quoting at length:
Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve.
In other words, a man might believe two contraries to be both true. For instance, as a philosopher or scientist, he might believe the universal was eternal, but as a Christian, he might believe that in the beginning God had made the heavens and earth.
Today, the “catholic” pro-abortionist plays the role of a modern Siger of Brabant. He also proposes a sort of “double truth.” As a Catholic and private person, he believes that abortion is wrong, but politically or scientifically he believes it is right. He believes one thing theologically and another thing politically.
And herein lies the destruction of all knowledge and reason. To say that two contraries can both be true violates the most basic of all philosophical principles: the principle of noncontradiction, which holds that two contraries cannot both be true. A man cannot be both married and a bachelor. A page cannot be both wholly white and wholly black. A pre-born child cannot be a human being (privately) and not a human being (publicly). Abortion cannot be morally right and morally wrong. It cannot be right politically and wrong personally. And it cannot be wrong religiously and right scientifically, any more than the earth can be eternal scientifically and finite theologically. To claim such things are possible is to attack reason itself. And when reason is gone, only the will remains.
Why then should the modern pro-abortionist want to attack reason? Because reason is one of the voices of God. God speaks through Revelation; through the Church, Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition. But He also speaks to men through reason and the natural law. To reject reason and the natural law is thus to reject the voice of God and, in the end, to make oneself into a god. And men make cruel gods, to which the long, sad history of abortion bears witness.
Against this modern “double truth,” that abortion can be wrong personally and right publicly, we must hold the defense of basic reason. Abortion cannot be both morally wrong (in private) and morally right (in public) any more than human slavery can be both morally wrong (privately) and morally right (publicly). Man cannot split his mind in two and claim to believe two contraries. He has only one mind, made to know one truth. And what God has joined, man must not put asunder.