Anti-Climacus


"Thou shalt not extinguish thine anger, but shall master it, that thy conscience may not be blunted by adjustment to wrong causes."
-The Dutch Ten Commandments to Foil the Nazis

26.12.12

On vocation, moral responsibility, and a few other things:

This:


I mean, think about that. Taxpayer-paid employees of the Justice Department had direct and exclusive knowledge that there may be hundreds of innocent people in prison, they knew that flawed forensics in these cases needed to be reviewed, and their justification for not doing more as these people continued to rot in prison was, Hey, we did the bare minimum required of us by law...

But even beyond the problematic ethical requirements, I'm having a hard time fathoming how no one on this task force felt morally compelled to go beyond those requirements -- to, you know, actually reach out to defense attorneys, or attempt to actually reach the convicts or their families. How in the world can you possess this sort of information, then still sleep at night, year after year, knowing that (a) the information obviously isn't reaching the people who have an incentive to actually put it to use, (b) you're one of the few people who could make that happen, and (c) because the information was only available to a select group of people, if you or one of your colleagues doesn't act, no one else will?

 Made me think of this:
Like Spark, Waugh attacks the Protestant and, by extension, secular - conception of vocation. Spark focuses more on vocation's over-reach - very few of us are equipped to single-mindedly devote ourselves to our work, and almost no secular work can merit such devotion in the first place, so in the end vocation is shown to be only sustainable in its Catholic sense of a calling to religious orders. Waugh, by contrast, points out its insufficiency - because it transfers the devotion that was to be reserved for God into worldly devotions - to war, or scholarship, or art - secular vocation is too thin for those who have a real vocation, which is to say, a vocation to the priesthood.

 ...and we can lump in the Joe Paterno/Penn State case as well to develop something like a theory. The idea is this: what Protestants (and the secular) correctly derive from the New Testament precept of the moral equality of all people is the equal moral responsibility of all people. Vocation, for Calvin and others, is a category that spreads itself wide because every person is obligated to act in a responsible manner at every moment, and the failure to do so is a moral failure; it may be common or human, but no less a failure for that. What the Protestant concept of vocation gets us is a specific account of the wrong being done in all these cases, where people believe fulfilling their legal or professional obligations renders any additional action supererogatory and therefore not required. In more theological terms: if everything is to be redeemed, then everything is properly a subject of vocation to the person who finds himself there. To do the minimum--or to expect someone else to do it--is a gross violation of duty. The difficulty with this idea is not that it's theologically incorrect but that--as almost everyone notes--it requires a lot from each person, and people don't like to have that kind of obligation (see also the Grand Inquisitor). But these people who failed and made the world worse because of their failure had it, and we have it, too.

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