Author: David Cloutier

Facebook as Moral Conundrum

Chris Hughes’ bombshell editorial has placed the question of Facebook front and center. Unfortunately, the discussion also shows how much in disarray our language is for naming and confronting specifically moral problems. It is clear that Hughes understands his case to break up Facebook as resting on moral grounds. This is also why he exonerates his friend Mark Zuckerberg as a “good guy,” performing some subjective culpabaility analysis. Mark is not evil, apparently, nor perhaps even willfully malicious. He’s certainly not greedy. Thus, that leaves ignorance. And that is where Hughes lands on Zuckerberg. But what about the acts themselves? What exactly is wrong with Facebook? Hughes struggles to name it. In fact, he is all over the place. The sheer length of the piece indicates the difficulty in naming Facebook’s sins. While themes of privacy and of excessive power do surface, they are woven in with many other charges – deception, even the employment of low-wage contract labor. Like our political discourse, the case is made by piling on pell-mell, hoping the sheer weight of the problems will “convince” people. I am no expert in technology ethics – I’m just a concerned user. I hope my colleague Luis Vera, who knows much more, will weigh in. But I wanted to point out that the issue here is that we can no longer clearly name purposes – what is...

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What We Do When We Are Told to Do Things We Do Not Want to Do

He told us to love one another. But we would not. He told us to forgive as we want to be forgiven. But we would not. He told us to look with compassion when we see suffering. But we would not. He told us to store our treasure in heaven, and give generously of what we have here on earth. But we would not. He told us to stop looking at other human beings with lust, as objects for our own satisfaction. But we would not. He told us to follow the weightier matters of God’s law rather than...

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Twitter as structure of sin

I have tried a few times over the past year or two to become a true “Twitter user” (@cloutiertheo) – meaning of course that one must be active and consistent in not only checking it but in contributing to it. I have failed each time. In part, this is because I can’t and won’t spend my life tethered to inputs from screens, and I have a “real” job as a professor. Professional journalists and people with high enough status jobs that someone can manage a twitter feed for them are one thing, but I’m not those things. But in...

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All I Want for Christmas is a Herbert McCabe Revival

In 1968, many things took place. That long year puts into perspective the dramas of 2018. One event of 1968 was the release of Law, Love, and Language, a definitive book on “what ethics is all about” (its American title) by the British Dominican Herbert McCabe. The book’s approach to the Catholic moral life promptly sank into oblivion, overwhelmed by the debates provoked by Pope Paul VI’s birth control encyclical Humanae Vitae. That document and the furor that followed has insured that, even to today, debates in Catholicism have been polarized around the same set of terms: law versus...

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Bush 41: The End of an Era

Americans, perhaps inevitably, invest the figures who occupy the presidency with a symbolic or narrative importance. That’s all well and good – telling history is a narrative art. That doesn’t mean it’s fictional; it just means that there is no such thing as “the true story” in some utterly factual way. Narratives ought to take account of facts, but inevitably they choose and weave in ways that aren’t simply dictated by them. Within Christianity, the obsession with “true stories” in regards to the Bible – meaning somehow utterly factual accounts without regard to art – ends up in one of...

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