Lots of people seem to be jumping on the /thanosdidnothingwrong bandwagon, and I need some Catholic Church, Natural Law arguments to prove unequivocally that he did do something very wrong, even if the writers of the next Avengers movie never bother to articulate it in those terms.

Please respond to the following 5 objections:

Whether Thanos did anything wrong

When Thanos disintegrated half sentient beings in the Universe.

Objection 1 - It would seem that Thanos did nothing morally wrong in the course of Avengers Infinity War because all his actions were geared toward the greater good. His desired ends were merely the universal application of a successful method of societal reconfiguration. The mere platitude that it is never OK to do evil so that good may come about (aka the ends don't justify the means) is insufficient to explain the evil Thanos sought to wreak upon the universe. Generally when one considers ends, they are finite, not universal ends. Thanos' goal was a final good. One that wouldn't necessarily need to be repeated. After Thanos accomplished his goal, his desire was to "watch the sun set on a grateful universe".

when he dropped Gamora off the cliff to get the soul stone.

Objection 2 - Furthermore, what he did he clearly did out of love, as the universe showed him. He believes he sacrificed everything (i.e. Q: "what did it cost you?"; A: "Everything") to save the Universe - not unlike Our Blessed Lord.

When killing off entire worlds and populations and leaving half alive

Objection 3 - Others say that because his method was random, it was not eugenical. Eugenics is a morally reprehensible method of selecting which sentient lifeforms should live because the question whether one lives or dies is based on criteria that doesn't take into account the dignity of everyone's immortal soul; it only considers a person's worth.

When talking to young Gamora about his reasoning for his actions.

Objection 4 - The philosopher says "All things in Moderation", and Thanos woulds say that sounds "Perfectly Balanced". The universe was in trouble and needed a moderator to step in and save it.

When he killed Loki and Gamora

Objection 5 - Those who Thanos did kill, by himself and not randomly, and not as a part of his quest for balance, were killed out of self-defense or as a punishment for treason. Just war theory says that it is ethical to kill out of self-defense and it capital punishment is licit when it is necessary to preserve the moral order. Since his society of one would be harmed by those who ardently sought to assassinate him, he was justified in a those killings.

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    I don't think the question is phrased all that well. Obviously the Church doesn't have a specific stand on the movie itself. You might want to describe the actions themselves, and why the characters took these actions, and what the outcomes were, and what the Church teaches about the morality of those actions under the circumstances - but honestly I'd thought you knew enough about Catholic teaching to be able to answer that yourself. May 11 '18 at 14:26
  • @Matt yeah, I think I know in a platitude, but relativism is confusing and what I want to know concretely why someone who does something consciously, but objectively evil with good intentions is wrong.
    – Peter Turner
    May 11 '18 at 15:56
  • I also feel like there is something sinister about the morality that is infectious here. None of the good guys in the movie are able to articulate it and when it gets down to it, I can't articulate it either.
    – Peter Turner
    May 11 '18 at 15:58
  • So, do you want to know "did the character do something wrong", or "if someone does evil believing it to be good, is it really evil", or "why is it sinful to do something objectively wrong with good intentions", or what? That final sentence, with illustration, still looks like it's focusing primarily or entirely on the character. May 11 '18 at 17:39
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    If you can answer that using your aphorism, what more do you want? What else could I add to an answer that wouldn't be covered by "the ends don't justify the means"? May 11 '18 at 21:03

To continue after the manner of Aquinas:

On the contrary, Our Lord says (Mark 10:19) "You know the commandments: 'You shall not kill'."

I answer: The natural law, as its name implies, is written into nature. It is given not only to those who have been baptized into the family of Christ, but to all rational beings:

The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin. (Leo XIII)

Though written of human beings, this clearly applies to all rational beings. It is therefore incumbent on Thanos to follow this law.

Now we are told that it is never moral to commit an intrinsic evil even in pursuit of a good end; and clearly to kill another is an intrinsic evil. But the desired end, as shown, is undoubtedly good, perhaps the best imaginable physical good. Why then is this action immoral?

An action is good insofar as it disposes one toward God, and evil insofar as it turns one away. To kill, then, is evil, because it shows utter disdain for the life of another, rather than the love shown by God. Thanos, regardless of his motive, is showing the highest consideration for the universe as a whole, but none for the individuals whom he consigns to death. "If a man has a hundred sheep," Our Lord said, "and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?" Or again he says that not one sparrow falls to the ground without His Father knowing, and tells us that we are more than a thousand times as valuable. If Our Lord shows so much solicitude for each one of us, must we not do the same? But killing - killing half the universe - ignores the natural dignity of each rational being, and the love that we must have for not only all, but each. This the natural law makes it evil to set out to kill, no matter what the intention.

Response to Objection 1: Any mention of "the greater good" are of doubtful worth in an argument. Many have spoken of "the greater good" only to inflict evil in others. In addition, it is not sufficient to point to the greatness of the good to be accomplished. The natural law is a reflection of God in the universe. Its application must be consistent with God's nature. And as God cares for each one, so too e must care for each one. Thanos did not do this.

Response to Objection 2: As above, it is wrong to intend to kill, and this seems to be what Thanos was intending to do. It is excusable to take an action which may, or even will, cause death as a side effect. In this see one is simply working to help or heal, even though death is incidentally caused. But this is not what was done.

Response to Objection 3: The objection, in essence, is that Thanos has no choice; that nothing else could have been done. It is not entirely certain, though, what the limits of the Stones' power is. Nor is it at all obvious that Thanos has explored them with the intent of avoiding the outcome he presents as necessary. There is no reason to believe that Thanos has no alternative path of action.

Response to Objection 4: Certainly eugenics, the philosophy that people's lives are to be treated according to some human standard of relative worth, is reprehensible. It does not follow that any other method (e.g. a random method) of selecting rational beings to be killed is necessarily not reprehensible.

Response to Objection 5: Indeed we are told "All things in moderation." But there is nothing moderate about killing one person, let alone half the life in the universe. Moderation regards quality of action as well as quantity.

  • I rearranged the objections a bit after the question was closed but somehow before you posted this. I took out #3 (which you're right was not a at all a good argument and added a new #5). I've seen people make that argument on the subreddit. "But he only killed people who were trying to hurt him through underhanded means, not those who fought against him bravely"
    – Peter Turner
    May 15 '18 at 18:58
  • Regarding your response to #3: If Thanos had rendered half of the population sterile would that have removed the problem? (Not saying that's a good thing but it would be better than killing). May 15 '18 at 19:20
  • @Peter I'll have to wait until tomorrow to update my answer. May 15 '18 at 20:32

Probably his sin was "pride". He consider himself able to decide on other lives, and to establish which is good and which is not: only God can do it.

Just like Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit: they started to doubt God's knowledge of good and evil .

It's the first sin, and maybe the worst.

  • Whereas I appreciate the attempt at this answer. I would like to see something that addresses all the objections! I hadn't thought that it was pride, it almost seems like the character can't even see his pride and thinks he's humble and good - which is really scary.
    – Peter Turner
    May 15 '18 at 15:48

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