It is not unlike the procedure of the canonists and casuists of the middle ages with regard to the doctrine of usury, by which the doctrine was to all appearances preserved intact while in reality it was stripped of all its original meaning by innumerable distinctions " over-curious and precise."
Compare the fine distinctions drawn by the casuists and attacked by Pascal in the twelfth of the Provincial Letters.
These deal with the casuists of the Counter - Reformation in the spirit of Milton, laying especial stress on the artificiality of their methods and the laxity of their results.
Thus caught between two fires the casuists developed a highly ingenious method, not unlike that of the Roman Stoics, for eviscerating the substance of a rule while leaving its shadow carefully intact.
Conscience is the best of casuists; it is only when men wish to cheat it that they fly to logical quibbles."
There is an excellent study of the ancient casuists by M.
For the Roman Catholic casuists see Dellinger and Reusch, Moralstreitigkeiten im siebzehnten Jahrhundert (2 vols., Nordlingen, 1889), and various articles ("Casuistik," "Ethik," "Moralsysteme," &c.) in Wetzer and Welte's Kirchenlexicon (Freiburg, 1880-1896).
The Anglican casuists are discussed in Whewell, Lectures on Moral Philosophy (London, 1862).
Like all casuists, he took for granted that morality was a recondite science, beyond the reach of all but the learned.
Suppose, for instance, that some casuists held it wrong to dance on Sunday, while others held it perfectly lawful.
Probabiliorists maintained that the more general opinion ought to prevail, irrespectively of whether it was the stricter or the laxer; dancing on Sunday was perfectly lawful, if the majority of casuists approved it.
Experts proverbially differ, and the casuists were no exceptions to the rule.
Thus arose lax casuists of the type of Antonio Escobar (1589-1669), the central figure of Pascal's Provincial Letters.