Mere Comments About Dangerous Games

An excerpt from a great post by Anthony Esolen over at Mere Comments:

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Let us suppose I have a fancy revolver with twenty chambers. Suppose that we put one bullet in the revolver, in one of the chambers. Suppose also that I and my pal enjoy the frisson of terror and risk that rushes up our spines when we spin the chambers and hold the revolver to the other fellow's head and pull the trigger. Of course, I do not want to kill my friend, and he does not want to kill me. But we are both willing to incur the risk of death to have that spasm of glee and fright. Now, it won't do to compare our actions to those of, say, a bridge-painter, who knows when he climbs up his ladder that there is a measurable chance that he will fall to his death (it is, I'm told, one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and therefore fabulously well remunerated). That is because the purpose of a ladder is that it be climbed, not that it be fallen from, whereas the very purpose of a gun is to shoot a bullet.

Suppose that my friend and I play this game of American Roulette once a year, on one of our birthdays. Now suppose that my friend's number comes up, and I shoot him through the head. By law, and by the moral philosophy that undergirds the law, I do not get to plead that I did not intend his death. Perhaps I did not want him to die, but I certainly did intend the chance that he would die: I intentionally used a weapon against him, a weapon whose purpose it is to kill, and I used it in a way that would ensure his death, if the right chamber came up. It would be up to judge and jury to assess the correct punishment in my case, but as a matter of fact I am a murderer.

Except in the case of rape, there are no "unintended pregnancies," none. There are plenty of women who do not want to be pregnant, and plenty of men who do not want them to be pregnant, but in all those cases the pregnancies are the results of intentional actions that have pregnancy as their perfectly natural and perfectly predictable consequence. Contraception does not change the nature of the act itself; indeed, it makes the actors more keenly aware that they are doing what makes babies, since otherwise they would not go so far out of their way (donning or inserting into the body uncomfortable devices, or flooding the system with pregnancy-mimicking hormones) to thwart the body's natural functions. The "problem" in the case of Sexual Roulette is not that the body fails, but that it succeeds.

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