Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some thoughts on the Prop 8 decision

1. Judge Walker’s decision, he tells us, is based on the principle that the state ought not to “enforce ‘profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles’” or to “mandate [its] own moral code.” But that is, of course, precisely what Walker himself has done. His position rests on the question-begging assumption that “same-sex marriages” are no less true marriages than heterosexual ones are, and that the only remaining question is whether to allow them legally. But of course, whether “same-sex marriages” really can even in principle be “marriages” in the first place is part of what is at issue in the dispute. The traditional, natural law view is that marriage is heterosexual of metaphysical necessity. Rather than staying neutral between competing moral views, then, Walker has simply declared that the state should stop imposing one moral view – the one he doesn’t like – and should instead impose another, rival moral view – the one he does like.

What we’re seeing here is just one more application of the fraudulent principle of “liberal neutrality,” by which the conceit that liberal policy is neutral between the moral and metaphysical views competing within a pluralistic society provides a smokescreen for the imposition of a substantive liberal moral worldview, on all citizens, by force. (Of course, liberals typically qualify their position by saying that their conception of justice only claims to be neutral between “reasonable” competing moral and metaphysical views, but “reasonable” always ends up meaning something like “willing to submit to a liberal conception of justice.”)

That “liberal neutrality” is a fraud is blindingly obvious to everyone except (some) liberals themselves. (I say “some” because it is very hard to believe that many liberals are not perfectly well aware that the “neutrality” of their position is phony, but maintain the pretense of neutrality for cynical political reasons.) In any event, I have argued for its fraudulence in a number of places, most fully in my paper “Self-Ownership, Libertarianism, and Impartiality” (the arguments of which are aimed immediately at some libertarians’ application of the “neutrality” idea, but apply to liberalism generally).

All of this would be bad enough if the policy in question were a result of a popular vote, but Walker has essentially imposed his will on the people of California by sheer judicial fiat. Pope Benedict XVI has famously spoken of a “dictatorship of relativism.” But I think that that is not quite right. Most liberals are not the least bit relativistic about their own convictions. A more accurate epithet would have been “dictatorship of liberalism,” and in Judge Walker that dictatorship has taken on concrete form.

2. As with other issues, what will decide the “same-sex marriage” controversy in the long run are the attitudes that prevail in society at large, not this or that judicial decision, ballot measure, or piece of legislation. If a solid majority of citizens continue to oppose “same-sex marriage,” then it can be stopped and liberal advances can be turned back. If not, then conservative efforts will inevitably fail in the long run. So, if they are to have a chance of succeeding, conservatives must work to shore up popular opposition to the idea of “same-sex marriage.”

Social-scientific and pragmatic arguments have much intellectual value and some practical value in this connection. But where moral and social questions are concerned such arguments are never going to carry the day in a society whose moral and social trajectory is as firmly liberal as ours is. The advocates of “same-sex marriage” are motivated by a moralistic fervor, and their position rests (whether all of them realize this or not) on controversial metaphysical assumptions about human nature and the nature of value. If they are effectively to be rebutted, they must be met with equal and opposite moral and metaphysical force.

Unfortunately, too few conservatives are very effective in this regard. With some of them, this is because they more or less share the moral and metaphysical premises in question; their “conservatism” amounts to little more than a milder form of liberalism. With others, it is because an obsession with short-term electoral strategy and the nuts and bolts of policy has made them lose sight of the deeper questions of principle that were the focus of earlier generations of conservatives, and which ultimately give point to political strategizing and policy design. This is a general problem with contemporary conservatism that I have explored in detail in my essay “The Metaphysics of Conservatism.”

3. What this entails in the case at hand is that in order to challenge the legitimacy of “same-sex marriage,” conservatives have to be willing to challenge the moral legitimacy of homosexual behavior itself. To concede even for the sake of argument that such behavior is morally unobjectionable is effectively to concede the whole issue. Conservative moralists have always upheld the norm that sexual behavior and marriage ought to go together – both because sex naturally results in children and children need the stability of marriage, and because sexual passions are inherently unruly and need to be channeled in the socially constructive way marriage provides. To allow that sexual behavior need not be heterosexual is implicitly to allow that marriage too need not be heterosexual. Pragmatic social-scientific arguments about the possible negative long-range social effects of allowing “same-sex marriage” can only seem anticlimactic in the face of such a concession – heartless nitpicking at best, and the rationalization of prejudice at worst.

Moreover, challenging the moral legitimacy of homosexual behavior requires a moral theory grounded in a classical essentialist metaphysics, one in which what is good for us is determined by a fixed human nature or essence and in particular by the natural ends of our various faculties. As my regular readers know, the specific version of classical essentialism I favor is the one associated with the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, but one needn’t share that specific view for the purpose at hand; a broadly Platonic metaphysics would do, as would a non-Thomistic brand of Aristotelianism. (Divine command theory is, I think, not a plausible alternative, because it either takes God’s commands, and thus morality, to be arbitrary – not a plausible approach to ethics, in my view – or it holds that what God commands us to do is what it is good for us to do given our nature – in which case it isn’t really an alternative to a classical essentialist approach, but rather a supplement to it. See chapter 5 of my Aquinas for more on this issue.)

I hasten to add that this is nothing peculiar to traditional sexual morality, though. No morality whatsoever is defensible apart from a classical essentialist metaphysics. If there are no ends set for us by our nature, then there can in principle be no objective, non-arbitrary way of determining what it is good for us to do, and thus what we ought to do. Hence in the final analysis, and in the main if not in all details, traditional sexual morality and morality full stop stand or fall together. Though liberal advocates of “same-sex marriage” are fervently moralistic, they have no rational basis whatsoever for their moralism. Their position rests ultimately either on an appeal to something like Rawlsian “considered intuitions about justice” – academese for “groundless and parochial liberal prejudices my friends and I all have in common” – or on a neo-Hobbesian contractarianism, which is not really a moral position at all, but a non-aggression pact between the members of whichever group of “rationally self-interested individuals” can collectively convince the mob (or at least the judicial bureaucracy) to implement policies favorable to their interests. (See The Last Superstition for the full story on this, and on the justification of traditional sexual morality.)

For reasons already stated, though, too few conservatives with influence in politics or journalism are willing or able to make the moral or metaphysical case required. They are either too beholden themselves to the moral and metaphysical assumptions of liberalism, or too narrowly focused on questions of immediate political feasibility. Deference to the attitudes of their “socially liberal” “conservative” colleagues, of potential voters, and of their liberal fellow journalists, intellectuals, and politicians prevents even those conservatives who truly believe that “same-sex marriage” is wrong because homosexual behavior itself is wrong from ever voicing this opinion. Hence their emphasis on exclusively pragmatic social-scientific arguments, on respect for the will of the voters, etc. – arguments which cannot succeed in the long run.

4. There may be limits in practice, but there are no limits in principle, to what liberals might come to endorse, and be willing to impose on all by judicial fiat, in the name of “justice.” No doubt most liberals do not at present advocate infanticide, mandatory euthanasia, “group marriage,” incest, bestiality, mandatory vegetarianism, mandatory organ harvesting, and the like, but there is nothing whatsoever in the “logic” of liberal arguments for abortion, “same-sex marriage,” euthanasia, “animal rights” etc. to rule such things out. Indeed, there is nothing to rule out even more bizarre and as yet unimagined practices than these. The only barriers in practice are the “intuitions” liberals currently happen to have, but those intuitions are always subject to revision, and the trajectory of the revisions is invariably in a “liberationist” direction. If something seems beyond the pale now, just wait a decade or three.

The reason, again, is that if man has no essence and no natural end – that is to say, if we reject classical essentialist metaphysics and the natural law system of morality that derives from it, as the founders of liberal modernity did – then there can be no objective, non-arbitrary way of determining what is good for us. And the flip side of this is that there is no existing moral conviction, no matter how widespread, ancient, and venerable, that might not be dismissed as an arbitrary prejudice, something to be freed from rather than deferred to and shored up.

This is not a slippery slope argument. The point is not that liberalism will lead someday to something truly nasty. It has already done so; indeed, it is itself truly nasty. As Alasdair MacIntyre put it in After Virtue, our choice is between Aristotle and Nietzsche, between submitting ourselves to the natural order or instead to the will to power of self-appointed “revaluators of all values.” In the person of Judge Walker, Nietzsche has spoken.

57 comments:

Kindred Spirit said...

Or in the words of Orwell, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." The inmates are now officially in control of the asylum. May God have mercy on our country.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Not that legislating against, say, homicide, voyeurism, theft, purjery, and the like isn't already based on purely moral convictions for, and at times against, society. Just another liberal judge's ruling of the week in the name of a morality that lacks the gumption to call itself one.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dr. Feser.

I agree completely on the metaphysical and moral front, but due to my lack of legal knowledge, it's not obvious to me how this was a violation of the constitution.

Here's what a liberal friend of mine said to me in a message after getting offended by my recent facebook status:

"...So, in conclusion, because we have these things called constitutional protections of civil liberties that prevent you from being oppressed just because people don't like you. If a federal judge states that a state ballot measure is unconstitutional, HIS RULING TAKES PRECEDENT - this happens all the time all over the country for everything, big and small. One judge made a decision based on the constitutionality of a proposition.

And since when did the majority of a state get to vote on the CIVIL RIGHTS of the minority? Can you imagine if Arkansas held a 'vote' in the 1960s over whether or not schools should be integrated?"

Charles R. Cherry said...

Thank you for this excellent essay.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

I don't see what you are impressed by in all that. Either there is a fact of the matter about whether something is constiutional or there isn't. If there is, then your friend doesn't have a leg to stand on, because there is manifestly nothing in the constitution that entails the legitimacy of "same-sex marriage." Certainly your friend cannot just assume that there is without begging the question.

If there isn't a fact of the matter, the your friend once again hasn't a leg to stand on, because the constitution then becomes whatever you can get a judge to say it is, in which case your friend would have to praise any constitutional decision whatsoever that any judge makes, however bizarre, which obviously your friend would not do. The stuff about preventing "oppression" etc. implies that he thinks there is an objective standard judges are supposed to meet.

So, your friend's "arguemnt" is pretty clearly worthless. It's just circular reasoning peppered with some phony moralistic rhetoric.

Don't let yourself be intimidated by these bastards. Intimidation is all they have. But all they need in order to succeed is for a critical mass of decent people to cave in to it.

notascam said...

I think Orwell predicted this in some of his writings. The concept of "civil rights" will be expanded to include everything: A Right to free medical care/housing/food, a right to use of recreational drugs, a right to be legally recognized as an anthropomorphic transgendered fox creature (notwithstanding you are not so). Everything, of course but real rights like freedom of conscience or speech. You know, the stuff you need to be a real human being rather than a chimp with cultivated tastes.

I can't tell if this is a deliberate stratagem, or just lefties being unwilling to shelve their appetites for anything. I take some comfort in history though. As the fall of the USSR proves, all the guns, propaganda and treachery in the world can't sustain a society that lives contrary to scientific and moral truth.

MMI said...

Ed, I respect you as a philosopher and as, at least formerly, a friend; but as a philosophically trained attorney, I have to disagree with your view that Judge Walker acted "by fiat." The defense of prop 8 was weak and arbitrary, and their "experts" folded up under cross. This was a trial, done under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and in that context, the defenders of prop 8 failed spectacularly.

It so happens that I support ssm, and I know you don't, but I don't see where the judge "imposed" anything, by "fiat" or otherwise. The plaintiffs brought a case. The defendants failed. This is how the law works.

Did you read any of the trial transcripts, especially the cross examinations of the defendants' "experts"?

But then, what do I know. I guess, since I oppose your views, I am a "bastard" in addition to my other, numerous faults. It must be wonderful to have a lock on intelligence and decency; I commend you. And yet, for "intimidation," don't kid yourself - many who align themselves with you are experts at it.

Hype said...

Hi MMI,

What about the fact that this ruling was passed by a vote from the people of the state?
Might it not be viewed as a decision 'by fiat' that the judge used the judicial process to override legislation that was initially brought to the people to vote on?

You said that the "experts" gave weak replies in the cross exam.... and maybe they did. But should this even have gone to the courts to hash out again?

Don't you think that it would put the voting public in an odd position if everytime they voted on something an activist judge can overturn that vote?

Hype said...

Hi MMI,

One more thing.
With a marriage license - doesn't that represent the public's 'condoning' of the marriage as valid?

It's pretty backhanded to force it down the throat of the public who didn't want it in the first place - and who voiced that view via the democratic process of voting on it... to now give those marriage licenses either way which represent exactly what they didn't have in the first place - the public's approval.

Edward Feser said...

Hello MMI,

Re: "bastards," take it easy. I was referring specifically to pro-"same-sex marriage" people who try to smear all their opponents as bigots and fanatics, who harrass churchgoers, etc. If you oppose those tactics, then the "bastard" label was not meant to apply to you. (On the other hand, if you do not oppose those tactics, then you could hardly reasonably take offense if I called you a bastard.)

I do not concede the weakness of the defense's case, but even if it were weak it would not affect the point. Walker's reasoning vis-a-vis not "enforcing" or "mandating" controversial moral codes is manifestly fraudulent and hypocritical, for the reasons I gave. The badness of the defense's case would not magically transform this piece of crap into a stellar piece of reasoning. "X gave bad arguments for not-p" does not entail "Y's arguments for p are good."

And when you say that "The plaintiffs brought a case. The defendants failed. This is how the law works," do you mean to imply that once a judgment is made it is ipso facto beyond criticism? Obviously not, since you are no doubt critical of all sorts of legal decisions that have gone in a more conservative direction. Nor do I believe that if Walker had ruled the other way you would have concluded "Oh great, well that's settled, then." So what's your point?

Anonymous said...

Some people lose and just lose; others lose in a more esoteric and bombastic way.

Neil Parille said...

Dr. Feser,

I don't approve of same-sex marriage, but I have to say I'm probably on the losing side. "Catholic" Spain, Portugal and Argentina (!) recently enacted same-sex marriage, and not by judicial fiat. It will probably get written into the European Union documents soon enough. (For some bizarre reason the Catholic Church supports the EU.)

Could you clarify your view of divine command theory of ethics? Are you saying that the Biblical mandate against homosexuality is not sufficient reason to oppose it?

Edward Feser said...

Hello Neil,

If we know that God has forbidden some action, then yes, that suffices to tell us that it must be bad for us. But it does not tell us why it is bad for us and thus why God forbids it. For that we need a correct philosophical account of morality. We also need such an account if we are going to provide a rationale to those who are not convinced that God really has forbidden the action in question.

Re: being on the losing side, you're probably right in the short term. And what is worse, the "short term" could be decades long -- or longer, though I think the West will either collapse or begin to reform before then. But as they say, the Church thinks in centuries (except vis-a-vis the EU, it seems), and so should we. One day liberalism and all its works will be a bizarre memory, and people will look back and think "What the hell was that all about?!" Maybe when my great grandchildren are ready to have children of their own.

John Thayer Jensen said...

"If we know that God has forbidden some action, then yes, that suffices to tell us that it must be bad for us. But it does not tell us why it is bad for us and thus why God forbids it. For that we need a correct philosophical account of morality."

Ed, could you just clarify something for me? I have, often enough, heard that God commands us to obey the law for our own good. It has always seemed to me that, first, yes, if we obey God's law (including natural law), it will be good for us - yet, second, that our good cannot be the reason - at least, not the ultimate reason - why we must do it. If it were, wouldn't that make us the source of good and bad?

It has seemed to me that we must obey the law because it is good to do so - and, ultimately, because good and The Good are coterminous in God.

But I am quite likely confused here - would love your comment! :-)

jj

Edward Feser said...

Hello John,

...and, ultimately, because good and The Good are coterminous in God.

That's exactly right. God just is Goodness Itself, just as He is Being Itself (there is no ultimate difference given divine simplicity and the doctrine of analogy). So, the "standard" God appeals to in issuing moral commands is ultimately not different from Him. But neither are the commands the product of some arbitrary act of will. (That threatens to follow only if we reverse the Thomistic view that intellect is prior to will.)

But all of that concerns the ultimate basis of morality, not its proximate basis. Just as we can carry out ordinary scientific investigation without reference to God's will or activity -- since that is just a matter of investigating the natures things have (where they got those natures is another matter entirely) -- even though God is the ultimate explanation of the objects of our study; so too can we carry out our moral investigations (at least to a great extent) without reference to God -- since human nature is what it is regardless of where it came from -- even though here too He is the ultimate explanation. I explain all this in more detail in the last chapter of Aquinas.

Neil Parille said...

Dr. Feser,

Somewhat off-topic, but if we told Benedict XVI or the late JPII that the reason the left supports massive immigration and the EU is because these things tend to advance pluralism and secularism do you think these popes would "get it"?

My suspicion is that JP2 would not understand but that Benedict might concede we had a good point.

Hype said...

Anon:

Some people lose and just lose; others lose in a more esoteric and bombastic way.

Some of it's a bit over my head too, but I wouldn't call it esoteric.

But even if we count this up to a hard loss, don't you think that it's something worth defending? The truth of the matter in principal.... regardless of a judge's opinion on the issue?

Joe said...

professor Feser,

I think the situation is possibly worse than you say. I was recently at seminar on politics and economics held by the institute for humane studies. There was a lecturer there by the name of James Stacy Taylor. He made arguments for basically every conceivable human action being legal.

Like many libertarian types he seemed to combine both a consequentialist ethic with extreme economic views. Basically J.S. Mill on steroid's mixed with Rothbard type economics. He argued that there should be a market in everything that could have it, for "efficiency" purposes. this includes markets for children, organs, sex, drugs, you name it. Also you should be able to be naked in public if you feel like it. Except it really wouldn't be in public cause there would be no public spaces because everything is private. everyone during the lectures basically laughed and accepted his arguments completely.

There was only one student I talked to there, from Iraq, who said that he thought Mr. Taylor was advocating that people turn into animals, or that we were turning into animals. he seems right to me.

I guess I'm wondering if you think there is any hope of a turn around? It seems like a pessimistic situation. No young people care about this sort of stuff, left or right.

Eric said...
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Edward Feser said...

Hello Joe,

It depends. I have a fair bit of experience with these folks, and my impressions are as follows. Libertarian academics in general are at least more civil to social conservatives than liberals are. They have certainly always treated me very well. However, especially with libertarian academics who are in their mid-40s or younger and who run in IHS/Cato/Reason circles, you will for the most part find about the same level of hostility to social-conservative ideas as you would among liberals. It doesn't necessarily entail any personal animus, but there is the same tendency to attack straw men and not to show much interest in trying to understand the best arguments for the other side. In effect, they treat social conservatives in the same at-best-condescending way liberals used to treat (and still often do treat) libertarians. Nor are they aware of the irony. Now, there are definitely exceptions; but in my experience that is the general tendency.

Libertarian academics of the older generation are, as I say, much better on this score. Part of the reason is probably that, being older, they simply have more experience, have families of their own, etc. and so are less likely to fall for the utopian fantasies and libertinism young people are suckers for. Part of it is also probably because they came from a generation where the libertarian movement was less well-defined than it is now, and in particular less distinct from the broader conservative movement. Hence they had greater direct experience with serious conservatives. Part of it is also due to the fact that people were in general just more conservative in the earlier days of the libertarian movement when these folks came of age -- even Ayn Rand derided "capitalist hippies" and Rothbard was socially very conservative. Finally, the older generation of libertarian academics, including secular libertarians, was much more sympathetic to the idea of natural rights, and so had a greater sense of morality as something objective. Among younger people in the IHS/Cato/Reason crowd, the idea of natural rights is mostly considered passe.

The Mises Institute crowd is different; there you'll find greater sympathy for social conservatism, and even the people there who are socially liberal tend to be more open-minded about social conservatism. Unfortunately, they've got their own problems -- foreign policy views that tend to be indistinguishable from those of Chomsky or Michael Moore, an even more extreme laissez faire position than you'll find in the IHS/Cato/Reason crowd, and so forth. And even the socially conservative folks are often so extreme and dogmatic in their Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism that in practice it trumps everything else, including issues like abortion and same-sex marriage that are far more important than any economic or foreign policy issue.

So, while things are not necessarily quite as bad as your experience might indicate, they are bad enough.

Edward Feser said...
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Eric said...
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Edward Feser said...
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Edward Feser said...

Eric,

I decided to delete both of your comments, and both of my replies, as there was nothing of substance in any of them. If you decide to post some substantive criticism I will leave it up, but if it's just more invective and smart assery, don't waste your time or mine.

Lorenzo said...

This has all happened before, in various ways. The notion that the law should be predicated on the notion of One True Sexuality is about as sensible as it should be predicated on One True Religion. It is striking how many of accusations against GLBTI folk mirror previous accusations against Jews (they are against God, corrupt any institution they join, prey on children, are engaged in a conspiracy against righteousness, adhere to their path out of moral perversity, etc) and how many defenses for denying them equal protection of the law are also much the same claims (it is against tradition, undermines the Christian basis of society, etc).

A massive study (pdf) by the CDC found that about 90% of those surveyed identified as heterosexual. Which means 10% did not. The reasons they did not varied, but the human reality is that humans are diverse in sexuality and gender identity. If one says "there is a proper form of the human--heterosexual--and improper forms--everything else" then that has legal consequences. But if one says "there are no improper forms of the human, people are simply citizens" that has consequences too. And, yes, of course denying there are no improper forms of the human is not neutral to the claim that there are but this is not exactly striking news. The neutrality that equality before the law is based on is not neutrality between claims but a provisional neutrality between persons (in the absence of actions against the life, property, etc of others).

We are past denying equal-protection claims because people are the "wrong" religion, race, gender and are now moving on struggling over denying claims because people are the "wrong" sexuality. Everyone who defended previous denials of equality always had "a theory", typically theories with metaphysical groundings. But the theories always failed in the end against the "just folks" claim. Which is where Walker J's judgment ultimately comes down on. The same-sex attracted/oriented are "just folks" too and entitled to equal protection of the law.

Martin Snigg said...

No. Read Dr. Feser's post again.

You conflate equality under the law for unchosen characteristics like race, sex, age with behaviors that are chosen.

Paraphrasing EA Burtt: you are still doing metaphysics young man, it is grotesque though because you do it unwittingly.

You assume a psychological anthropology fashionable only in the last hundred years or so which is heavily based on the metaphysical theory of atheistic materialism. The conclusion of which is basically: sexual desire is its own justification.

Maolsheachlann said...

Dr. Feser, you say towards the end of the post that your argument is not a "slippery slope" one. Since accusations of slippery slope thinking is one commonly used by liberals against conservatives, I wonder what your thoughts are on this subject? Are slippery slope arguments necessarily invalid? I don't see why they should be.

Great post, by the way. It addresses the frustration I feel reading so many conservative arguments, where the points begin made seem so tangential and to essentially concede the argument before it begins.

MMI said...

Ed:

1. Most of my point is that if you want to disagree with ssm on a philosophical basis, fine. Don't accuse the judge of doing something wrong. I've certainly been practicing law long enough to have seen cases in which I thought the "wrong" side had the better case and therefore, won. I don't generally fault a judge for those cases, b/c I am aware of how the legal system works. If it had been a weak Plaintiff team in this case, and they'd blown it, I'd have been disappointed but I would not have blamed the judge.

2. As for the commenters here who insist - "but the PEOPLE" voted for this. So what? The system in the US includes some checks on the will of the majority. Tell me - how would you all feel if there'd been popular vote about YOUR rights of free association? e.g. - you can't marry a person of a different race. Or religion. Or, you can't marry if you can't or won't have kids. Or, you can't marry if you're over reproductive age. How about a law stating that this or that religion is not lawful? etc.

3. The idea that fundamental rights are predicated on what one can choose over what one cannot choose is asinine. People can choose their religions - in fact, religions are a paradigmatic "lifestyle choice." it is protected. So while I think sexual orientation is, for many or most, not a choice, I also think that has nothing to do with the right to choose whom we will enter into the legal concept of marriage.

4. As for "bastards," may I have leave, then, to call the folks who call all LGBT people child molesters, mentally ill, etc. etc. bastards? I do NOT support tarring all ssm opponents as bigots, but have you really looked in the mirror as to whom many of the ssm opponents are?

5. Walker's reasoning is, I think, as a matter of constitutional law, proper. Laws like Prop 8 are subject to one of three levels of scrutiny. And on the evidence presented at trial (and I think likely, at any future trial), Prop 8 failed all three.

Jonathan said...

'If there are no ends set for us by our nature, then there can in principle be no objective, non-arbitrary way of determining what it is good for us to do, and thus what we ought to do.'
I agree, except we can use reason to arrive at what one ought not to do. Consider property rights. As put forward by libertarians such as Hoppe http://mises.org/etexts/hoppe5.pdf
property is not simply a nice set of rules you can choose to play by, it is a real quality whether we choose to respect it or not. I am not sure where this fits in with your A-T theory but it 'feels' like it should.

Ilíon said...

Maolsheachlann: "Dr. Feser, you say towards the end of the post that your argument is not a "slippery slope" one. ... accusations of slippery slope thinking is one commonly used by liberals against conservatives ... Are slippery slope arguments necessarily invalid? I don't see why they should be."

Nor do I.

"Liberals" tend to use the "slippery slope" accusation as a means to dismiss a conservative's argument without addressing it. But, when it suits them to posit an explicitly "slippery slope argument," they have no problem with them (see here for an example)

Harris Penn said...

MMI and Lorenzo,

Like both of you, I am in a committed relationship with another man. We live together, split all of our bills, and we very much love each other. We've been together since college (I'm now 33), and I can't imagine what I would lose if I lost him. I hope to be with him for some time. There's only one hitch, we're both straight. But all that I said was really true.

One can go a lot of directions with this: I could point out that men like me have frequently taken advantage of civil union laws when they exist, or I could ask why society hates me and denies me marriage equality. But I'm more interested in just a terminological question: could I be considered a straight homosexual or a gay straight? True, these terms have always meant certain things, and on their traditional meaning "straight gay" would be a contradiction. Haven't there always been straight men who vowed to spend their lives with other straight men? Monks and Friars come to mind, though there is certainly a non-zero portion of the population that just prefers to spend its life in the loving but non-sexual company of the same sex (sons that never move out of their father's house?) I suspect many were just born that way. So why not say we are straight gays?

But why bother asking the question? Everyone thinks that I'm just being facetious, just like many thought "gay marriage" could only be spoken of facetiously twenty years ago. It's perhaps not a matter of reasoning out contradictions, but just accepting that certain people have the power to define what will count as real. Like Lorenzo says "Everyone who defended previous denials of equality always had "a theory", typically theories with metaphysical groundings. But the theories always failed in the end against the "just folks" claim." Why both with these subtle, theoretical questions like whether there are gay straights? Why not just just accept that we're all "just folks" and that all this theoretical nonsense is just a justification and pretense for those in power? There are no gay straights because we say there aren't, and if we wanted to say there were, then there would be. We're all just folks, after all.

MMI said...

HP:
1. You misjudged my gender as well as that of my partner. It doesn't matter, as to substance, but is curious all the same - nothing I said entailed either gender nor being partnered or single.
2. Tell me, what practical solution you would offer for peaceful coexistence with people who have same sex attractions and wish to form a lifelong association? You can pat yourself on the back about the power of your metaphysical subtlety, and the terrible lack of sophistication and intelligence (and, one assumes, decency) of the "great unwashed" such as myself, but that doesn't answer hard questions about laws and coexistence. Perhaps you'd like to see re-education of same sex attracted people? Maybe we should be jailed, even? Perhaps we could throw in the non-Platonists while we're at it.

I would urge all of you to read the entire Perry decision (and the trial transcripts as well) before being so quick to criticize it legally. And I would remind the philosophers here: just as professional philosophers sometimes ridicule the "philosophy" of certain scientists - saying things like, "perhaps s/he should stick to science" - I think rather the same can often be said of philosophers, when it comes to law.

monk68 said...

MMI,

"I think rather the same can often be said of philosophers, when it comes to law."

The law is inherently philosophical of its very nature, and it does not take "sophistication and intelligence" to understand this

You asked:
"what practical solution you would offer for peaceful coexistence with people who have same sex attractions and wish to form a lifelong association?"

Why should I or anyone care about your question? That is, in itself, an ethical question which is well . . philosophical.

Of course, I DO think people should care about your question. However, WHATEVER “practical” solutions might be proposed will necessarily depend upon considered views concerning the "good" of society, or exactly what a "good" society might be. Is "peaceful coexistence" possible - or even a good thing?

Is sexual behavior an entirely neutral activity with regard to the propagation and education of the human species or to the preservation of the community generally? Well, it is neutral so long as the parties involved all consent – right? Well . . . what if the consenting parties are a 45 year old and a 12 year old? Still ok? What would it mean to consent anyway? Come to think of it, who ever came up with the idea that “consent” was the golden key to sexual ethics in the first place?

These are all philosophical questions – which when answered by a consensus within a given community - will lead to “PRACTCLE” legislation.

You say:

"metaphysical subtlety . . . doesn't answer hard questions about laws and coexistence."

Really, then what makes such questions about "laws and coexistence" HARD?

Have you really considered your own assertions? The very idea that "questions about laws and coexistence" are answerable without recourse to philosophical discussion is ludicrous. These are, traditionally, eminently PHILOSOPHICAL questions. What other grounds do you propose for arriving at societal decisions concerning such things? I doubt you can answer that question without dragging in a whole new set of philosophical premises.

You seem intent upon seeing your particular sexual and legislative outlook enshrined within the juridical structure of society WITHOUT having to do the hard work of explaining why your peculiar vision OUGHT to be adopted. Sorry, there is no societal structure, no legislation, no judicial system which is immune to restructuring or revision should human beings simply reason together and subsequently choose to make such changes. On a philosophy blog, you would do better to defend the REASONS for your legislative agenda, than to simply inform us as to what it might be – that you can post on Facebook.

As Aristotle said long ago:

"You say, one must philosophize. Then you must philosophize. You say one should not philosophize. Then (to prove your contention) you must philosophize. In any case you must philosophize."

Pax et Bonum,

Ray

Martin Snigg said...

Firstly MMI, agreed; it is asinine to equate race, sex and age with sexual acts - as if you have to have sex to BE ssa.

I’m glad we can bury the equality argument.

Secondly; as to homosexual acts being the same as religious worship – fine, what an interesting public argument to have. Importantly the clauses of the US Constitution make no mention of this at present.

Thirdly; getting back to marriage. You actually have to argue for why marriage should be redefined. Invoking the phrase ‘legal concept of marriage’ as if we weren't arguing about the metaphysics [what rationally grounds this thing marriage] that informs the concept, is not helpful.

Anonymous said...

Okay.

First of all, please remember: I am aware I'm not even 1% of the philosopher Ed is, or maybe even others of you here. It is true I have a couple of degrees in philosophy, but I make my living practicing law.

I posted because I reject the notion that J. Walker did something legally improper with the trial record given to him. I did not post because I'm either willing or perhaps even able to systematically engage the "natural" "law" theories which hold sway here. Chortle with satisfaction, I guess, if you want.

I do believe I am a person of reason and good will. I also know that I have examined my life and my assumptions many times, and have fulfilled (and will try to continue to do so) my epistemic duties to the best of my abilities.

But it is not my duty, nor that of others who, heaven help us, might be even less intelligent than I, to systematically engage with Thomistic (or Platonic, I guess, since I think Ed thinks one can get most of his moral conclusions just from that) metaphysics before I can engage with questions about law.

I am well aware of the connection between philosophy and law. My philosophy training has served me well in my legal work, and I am sure it will continue to do so.

But I have some questions for those of you who seem to be of the opinion that all those who disagree lack, one assumes, some combination of intelligence, morals, and decency.

Should we just simply take all legal and political power away from all but the natural law theorists, since, after all, it is you, and ONLY you, who really understand what is good for all of us?

Do you really think that most of the opponents of ssm or homosexuality do so because of their well worked out metaphysics?

What I said about choice and religion, I maintain: the fact that a characteristic is, or isn't, immutable tells us little about the morality of acceptability of it. Religious commitment is not immutable. It IS protected. So even if sexual orientation is NOT immutable, it does not follow that it should not be protected under due process and equal protection grounds.

I am unsure whether the bulk of you, here, are of the view that there is one, and only one, rational and moral point of view on these issues. Leaving aside the hubris of that (as well as the difficulty you must face in respecting anyone other than like minded people) another issue, and I guess it's one to which I keep returning is: what are you going to do about the people who disagree?

Exactly what harm would it do to YOUR marriage, where marriage is defined in civil legal terms, if same sex marriages are permitted?

And before you say - "well, yes, Ms. ____, that's all well and good, but it's really YOU who think you have all the answers" - I surely don't think that at all. I'm not 100 % certain of a lot of things. What I am fairly certain of is that there are a lot of people in this world, that many disagree, and that part of the function of law is to keep those disagreements civil and to try to allow room for as many approaches to happiness as possible. I base this on my experience with people, and their diversity and observed common humanity, and not so much on metaphysics texts.

I understand most of you find this to be folly. So be it. I do my best, and that will have to do.

MMI said...

please forgive me, I did not mean for the post ending in "that will have to do" (submitted aug 6 at 3:37 PST) to be anon. -mmi

monk68 said...

MMI

That's more like it - some arguments. Look, the fact is that many on both sides of this issue hold the position they do in an utterly unreflective way. I think you are hinting at this when you ask:

"Do you really think that most of the opponents of ssm or homosexuality do so because of their well worked out metaphysics?"

I assume you would admit that the opposite (as Dr. Feser pointed out) is every bit as true - that is, those who support ssm and its legalization often (though I might argue usually) do so on the basis of anything but well worked out metaphysics, or even a well thought out morality.

But that is what the national debate is about. That is why people write books about such subjects. The whole point is to hold a conversation where the BASIS and REASONS for passing the laws we do, move from a state of confusion, to one of clarity.

You say you have considered your own life, etc. I assume that that includes asking some fundamental questions about existence, meaning in life, morality, immortality (or lack thereof) etc. Good. Very likely we would end up disagreeing about these foundational issues. Still, you must admit that the practical decisions which constitute the way you choose to live your life in some way flow from, or rest upon, these deeper musings.

Well the same is true in a larger dimension with regard to American society. Our moral choices (including those we choose to bind under penalty of law) do not simply arise from a vacuum. They come from broader foundational beliefs - even if such beliefs are held in a inchoate way by most of the public.

continued . . . .

monk68 said...

You said:

"I am unsure whether the bulk of you, here, are of the view that there is one, and only one, rational and moral point of view on these issues. Leaving aside the hubris of that (as well as the difficulty you must face in respecting anyone other than like minded people) another issue, and I guess it's one to which I keep returning is: what are you going to do about the people who disagree?"

This seems to be your central complaint. Are you committed to some sort of hyper-skeptical relativism? I mean would you support the claim that "no truth claims can be verified"? I am sure you see the inherent problem in actually making such a "truth claim" yourself. Perhaps you do not hold so radical a view. But in that case, you must be open to the possibility that there might be, say, a metaphysical and/or moral POV which is, in fact, true.

But MMI, it does not follow that if such a true POV (through long term persuasive efforts of those who hold the view) were to win the day in jurisprudence; that this would result in "re-education of same sex attracted people? Maybe we should be jailed, even? Perhaps we could throw in the non-Platonists while we're at it."

The view in question might, by its very principals, support a wide range of judicial tolerance - as our current system does. Let's face it, the law as it stands DOES legislate morality, just not all forms of morality. People lie to each other, cheat and practice infidelity every day - except under certain circumstances proscribed by the law - nobody goes to court over such things.

The fact is that the entire debate comes down to a societal decision as to which moral acts to circumscribe as ILLEGAL and which to ignore with respect to enforced jurisprudence. But that does require something of a societal debate as to what is and is not moral, and more importantly, what moral defects rise to the level of a social concern such that they should be proscribed legislatively.

That is what all the hub-bub is about. I believe that ssm is such an issue. I believe I can defend my position on this all the way back to its roots in ultimate logical and metaphysical considerations. I am an American, thus (at present) I have the right and ability to express these views in the most persuasive way possible so as to do my little part to influence legislation on the ground.

You have this right as well, and frankly, it seems to me that challenge from folks like us who hold a persuasive, well thought out theory of natural law is a healthy thing overall. At the very least, it will force folks like yourself to think more deeply about the foundational roots of your own moral persuasions. What's more, if our influence grows, you will be forced to do so since, unless you can come up with more persuasive arguments: in the end, our views may win the day with the wider public.

Peace and Good,

Ray

Edward Feser said...

I've been away for most of the day and lots of lengthy comments have appeared since last I posted. I'll try to respond as and when I can. But I want to thank both MMI and Lorenzo for their remarks. My readers should know that despite their obvious hostility to the position I have taken, these are two people who have, over many years, always tried seriously to engage me on the substance of the issues. (Both this issue and others.)

I thank my other readers, too, for their civil and substantive replies to MMI and Lorenzo.

Harris Penn said...

MMI

Perhaps you'd like to see re-education of same sex attracted people? Maybe we should be jailed, even? Perhaps we could throw in the non-Platonists while we're at it.

(blank stare)

C'mon, M, this is in bad faith and I suspect you know it. Even as an exaggeration, it's not very forceful, since everyone knows that even if all branches of government spoke definitively against ssm tomorrow, the only result would be that gays would be thrown back to the terrible, inquisitorial, theocratic oppression they had to experience in...what, 2006? 2002? 1997?

Tell me, what practical solution you would offer for peaceful coexistence with people who have same sex attractions and wish to form a lifelong association? You can pat yourself on the back about the power of your metaphysical subtlety, and the terrible lack of sophistication and intelligence (and, one assumes, decency) of the "great unwashed" such as myself, but that doesn't answer hard questions about laws and coexistence.

Hard questions about law and coexistence, eh? What about your desire as a proponent of ssm to bring the full weight of non-discrimination law against orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Churches? What about destroying religious adoption agencies? What about destroying the livelihood of anyone who wants to run a Christian or Muslim dating service or website? What about harassing or destroying Catholic schools? What about silencing a preacher who wants to exercise his right to religious expression? All of these things have already been done in the name of non-discrimination and tolerance (many in the U.S.), and no one could be so naive as to think that they would not explode in a regime that allowed for ssm - that's why all these things are a part of your desire for ssm. You certainly can't claim to be for a more tolerant and open society- all you're for is giving some people a voice and marginalizing others. For example, you can't reasonably say that you are for ssm and for the free expression of religion- for the free expression of the religion of someone who wants to start a dating website for Christians is to have this service reflect what he values as a Christian. But either you want such persons silenced, or you simply don't know what you are advocating. This is not a hypothetical.

Don't kid yourself by thinking ssm would not marginalize people. It will harass many, put many out of work, and offend some of the deepest held beliefs of millions of people - beliefs that are every bit as dear to them as yours are to you. You might well think such beliefs are hateful and oppressive, but I would encourage you to reflect that this hateful oppression (universal denial of ssm) was in full force as recently as 2002. Was it really that bad being gay back then? Was all this oppressive bigotry all that insufferable?

Ilíon said...

Monk68: "The fact is that the entire debate comes down to a societal decision as to which moral acts to circumscribe as ILLEGAL and which to ignore with respect to enforced jurisprudence. But that does require something of a societal debate as to what is and is not moral, and more importantly, what moral defects rise to the level of a social concern such that they should be proscribed legislatively.

That is what all the hub-bub is about. ...
"

But, in the (ahem) argument about redefining the concept 'marriage,' what "the all hub-bub is about" goes far deeper, and emotionally so, than just "a societal decision as to which moral acts to circumscribe as ILLEGAL and which to ignore with respect to enforced jurisprudence."

The persons pushing the infamous "gay agenda" aren't interested in societal toleration of their immoral acts; they are demanding societal celebration of their immoral acts -- they are demanding that society assert that their immoral acts are not, after all, immoral ... and that it punish those who refuse to go along with the moral farce.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

The argument seems to be:

P1: All marriages are functions of the natural teleology of man's essence.
P2: Homosexuality does not serve the natural teleology of man's essence
P3: If a human behavior does not conform to the natural teleology of man's essence, then it is wrong.
C: Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

To reject the argument in question, we could falsify P1, and simply because teleologies are a metaphysically robust view, and there is nothing like teleology in nature. Our sciences of the day do not give us reason to think there are essences throughout nature. The standard you appeal to for your argument is in truth simply just metaphysical rationalization for a conservative bias that is exclusionary of whom counts morally--that is who has moral standing. The same "rhetorical flourish" is used in matters of arguing over the metaphysics of personhood in the abortion debate (which is just a secularized version of Aquinas's statements of the ensoulment of a fetus). The same use of metaphysics also parallels bogus metaphysical insights into thinking women are below men, or that there are essential features of race and ethnicity. Such metaphysical speculations are at root in something like the Law of German Blood and Honor. Once I can metaphysically determine someone is a Jew, they don't have moral standing. In all these cases, metaphysics can be used to isolate and remove any sense of inherent dignity people automatically have.

Given the best science of our day (and I know that such a reason is up to me to supply which might run counter to someone that has spent an entire book monograph arguing for A-T commitments), there is nothing like essences to be the standard for moral calculation. Next, this demand for essences to be the standard for moral calculation is in a way a demand for precision that ethics cannot achieve (Nicomachean Bk 1). As such, you forget the very openness that comprises phronesis by asking for a strict teleology. It is in our nature to unfold as moral/social beings. This is not to say that such unfolding according to a more Aristotelian view need to take shape in a particular way other than we identify those traits that make us lead a eudaimon life. This is easier said than done. However, I certainly don't think that excluding people via metaphysical essences is the way to go. One can still be a homosexual and lead a eudaimonistic life.

Finally, you are not very charitable to Rawls and his procedure of reflective equilibrium and give a very strawman like view of Rawls method for acquiring coherence between our common-sense accepted intuitions and principles that underlie justice. Let's not jump the gun straight away to liberal neutrality, although I do also have to say something like that as well.

Liberal neutrality is not "entirely neutral." The neutrality comes along only after following the only principle permissible for neutrality, the principle of mutual respect of persons. The principle of mutual respect is in principle just the respect for autonomy in Kant. If anything, this is what the Judge really did, and associated equal respect for the law in the 14th amendment with mutual respect for autonomy. Next, we cannot use any substantive doctrine whether religion, metaphysics or ethical doctrine to justify one policy over another. This is a standard set for his conception of public reason.I am not saying I agree with Rawls entirely, but we should do a responsible job of explaining his philosophy to people that come here from outside philosophy.

Finally, McIntyre has a particular axe to grind in After Virtue. Among these axes, he oversimplifies the entire history of 20th century metaethics into the history of emotivism. This is so horrendous it's absurd. Our choices are not simply between Aristotle and Nietzsche; that's a false dilemma.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

The argument seems to be:

P1: All marriages are functions of the natural teleology of man's essence.
P2: Homosexuality does not serve the natural teleology of man's essence
P3: If a human behavior does not conform to the natural teleology of man's essence, then it is wrong.
C: Therefore, homosexuality is wrong.

To reject the argument in question, we could falsify P1, and simply because teleologies are a metaphysically robust view, and there is nothing like teleology in nature. Our sciences of the day do not give us reason to think there are essences throughout nature. The standard you appeal to for your argument is in truth simply just metaphysical rationalization for a conservative bias that is exclusionary of whom counts morally--that is who has moral standing. The same "rhetorical flourish" is used in matters of arguing over the metaphysics of personhood in the abortion debate (which is just a secularized version of Aquinas's statements of the ensoulment of a fetus). The same use of metaphysics also parallels bogus metaphysical insights into thinking women are below men, or that there are essential features of race and ethnicity. Such metaphysical speculations are at root in something like the Law of German Blood and Honor. Once I can metaphysically determine someone is a Jew, they don't have moral standing. In all these cases, metaphysics can be used to isolate and remove any sense of inherent dignity people automatically have.

Given the best science of our day (and I know that such a reason is up to me to supply which might run counter to someone that has spent an entire book monograph arguing for A-T commitments), there is nothing like essences to be the standard for moral calculation. Next, this demand for essences to be the standard for moral calculation is in a way a demand for precision that ethics cannot achieve (Nicomachean Bk 1). As such, you forget the very openness that comprises phronesis by asking for a strict teleology. It is in our nature to unfold as moral/social beings. This is not to say that such unfolding according to a more Aristotelian view need to take shape in a particular way other than we identify those traits that make us lead a eudaimon life. This is easier said than done. However, I certainly don't think that excluding people via metaphysical essences is the way to go. One can still be a homosexual and lead a eudaimonistic life.

Anonymous said...

Remember kids, for the mere cost of tens of thousands of dollars and several years of your life you too can make question begging and baseless assertion sound ejumacated.

Martin Snigg said...

MMI I think this will get you to an understanding and save alot of time. It is a brief 15 min talk (a small mp3 logo at the top of the page). Rawls/Political liberalism/Conservatism.

Your post insinuates things that simply aren't true of this blog or those that comment.

Regards,

P.s. In answer to your other direct question click 'more' and the other links if you like.

monk68 said...

Carbondale

"Our sciences of the day do not give us reason to think there are essences throughout nature. The standard you appeal to for your argument is in truth simply just metaphysical rationalization for a conservative bias that is exclusionary of whom counts morally--that is who has moral standing."

and again,

"Given the best science of our day . . . . . .there is nothing like essences to be the standard for moral calculation"

You begin your comment by stating that the argument can be overcome by refuting P1. Next, you simply deny P1 by asserting what you believe the "best science of the day" tells us. The rest of what you say is amounts to sophistry IF these assertions about the “best science of our day” are false. I readily admit, however, that the force of a teleological metaphysics appears as sophistry should your assertions turn out to be true. I am wondering if you would concede the point that IF essences (formal causality - purposivness) in nature turn out to be a non-eliminable postulate for explaining natural phenomena whether in physics, biology, bio-chemistry, etc: would you reconsider much of your current disdain for "natural law" theory?

I for one think you have actually put your finger on THE central metaphysical debate of our time. The truth of falsity of Aristotelian metaphysics (and by extension natural law theory) stands or falls with the truth or falsity of an Aristotelian Philosophy of nature – point often paid too little attention by proponents of both Aristotle and Aquinas.

I simply deny your assertion that the "best science" of our time can get by without something VERY, VERY close to an Aristotelian understanding of inherent formal causality within the natural order. I don't want to write a book here, but recent trends in Quantum physics, bio-chemistry, genomics, etc. seem to be pointing very much to the possibility that in rejecting (or neglecting) the fact of formal causality as intrinsic to the natural order; modern science - beginning with Descartes, Newton etc. threw out the baby with the bath water (the bath water being errant cosmological notions held by Aristotle and others due to the infancy of their experimental resources; as distinct from the baby – the perennial truth of his ontological insights with regard to observed natural phenomena) . As brief examples of what I am getting at, I would recommend James F. Ross's article "The Fate of the Analysts: Aristotle's Revenge" as well as William A. Wallace's "The Modeling of Nature: Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Nature in Synthesis".

I realize that you think there is some via media seated between Aristotle and Nietzsche, and that philosophers like McIntyre overlook this enlightened middle due to naive oversimplification. In this I think you are wrong and McIntyre right. The issue of formal causality in nature (what you call essences), it seems to me, casts the problem into clear relief. If there is nothing intrinsic within the natural order which might serve as a basis for evaluating whether a particular thing or person is "good" in so far as it/they conform to a nature - as given empirically and/or ontologically: then really, after all the dust settles, where else are you going to locate a sufficient basis for morality that is anything other than arbitrary? Nietzsche is profound precisely because of his ability to see right through the sophistical attempts by modern philosophers to erect morality upon a foundation built upon nothing other than a personal metaphysical construction. For this he had contempt, as do I.

Pax et Bonum,

Ray

Anonymous said...

@Carbondale:

I'm not buying your "guilt by association" argument. You point out that metaphysical arguments were once used to defend gender inequality and racism. So were arguments grounded in anthropology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. The eugenics movement and the race politics of the early twentieth century were fueled as much by misguided appeals to evolutionary biology and genetics as they were by metaphysical speculations. So should we disqualify any empirical arguments about the human good that make reference biology or genetics, on your view? Or is it only metaphysics that wakes up with the fleas when it lies down with the dogs?

MMI said...

HP:

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree about the nature and severity of the marginalization of LGBT people vs. religious people.

To be fair, I think you have no idea what you are talking about so far as marginalization applies to LGBT people. LGBT people are often beaten and killed by - no, not by metaphysical sophisticates, but by those who hear things like - "them lesbians /gays /etc, they ain't even decent, they is against NAY-cher, why I heard one of those smart folks tell me so." Or we're fired simply for being GLBT.

I'd like to know -have you ever been in a marginalized group? have you ever been fired or threatened (real threats) for being who you are? If you have, then I ask, how can you be so callous to the experience of another such group? and if you haven't, then you really ought to try to spend time with a marginalized group, away from your texts, and see if your views change a bit.

You seem to wish to preserve a status quo which is often literally lethal to people like me. I don't wish to deny your decency or rationality even though I have the sense you'd like to deny mine, but I object, in the strongest possible terms, to the false dilemma you attempt to put me in - that either I WANT to "silence" churches etc., or I just don't realize what the effects of SSM will be.

If you look at things like ENDA, for example, there are religious exemptions which closley track those in the Civil Rights Act. Or were those not enough?

Incidentally, the defendants in the Prop 8 trial were invited to give real evidence of many of the dire things you predict. They failed, as have you, other than in the assertion of them. Many similar things were predicted for desegregation too, or the end of miscegenation. They didn't happen and I very much doubt they'll happen this time.

It may well be that "the left" would benefit from more study of metaphysics. I think it is also true that "the right" would benefit from actually spending time with the people it claims are indecent, people in lasting stable ss relationships, people who have been fired for being lgb and / or t.

I'm not sure what else I can add. I am, after all, just a stupid attorney, not a metaphysician. I thank Ed for his kind words and this forum - and reiterate the profound respect which I have for him, though I could never have imagined our views and experiences would have drifted so very far apart over the years - and appreciate those of you who have taken time from your busy days to offer me your thoughts - some of which I will no doubt find profitable as I consider them in the longer term.

I am genuinely hopeful that at least some of you will consider some of what I have said and find some profit in some of it - not just in a "yeah, see, I knew those folks are dumb / indecent / immoral" but maybe in a - "yeah, I can see a little bit better where they are coming from" kind of way.

very respectfully,
mmi

Anonymous said...

(This is Carbondale)

There are many places to comment, and I will try to settle them all. First, I left best science of our day a little open, thinking that someone would make this statement along with me. I'm unsure that we actually need a top-down version of Aristotle's formal causes to tie up our loose ends with respect to the sciences. In fact, I would rather us lose the idea that there even needs to be a hierarchy with respect to the sciences and harmony of explanation. Let me explain.

Years ago, the story often went that physics was the basis of all the sciences, chemistry next and biology last. All these sciences were thought to be rendered uniform by physics itself. Now, I don't think this is a view in contemporary practice. Instead, our sciences are often fragmentary which involve positing some entitites for explanation and other times eliminating them when simpler versions come along. Often, there is no coherence between sciences because they all operate at different levels and sometimes they do have some overlap. My point is to think that there is benefit to the fragmented and puzzling nature of these sciences. This point has relevance since I deny formal causality. We can get by with simple material causality.

I defend the autonomy of ethics thesis apart from science. I am, as it were, more committed to our lived-experience, and I see some clear benefit to adopting Ross's position of a prima-facie based intuitionism. I am not skeptical about morality's existence and do not need a clear-cut metaphysical picture to invoke morality as an explanation as to why someone shouldn't phi.

Untenured said...

@Carbondale:

Respectfully, the data you are appealing to suggests another interpretation. In fact, I would say that a)the failure to find many genuine inter-theoretic reductions, combined with b)the observability of law-like regularities at multiple levels of aggregation points toward the existence of factors over and above material and efficient causation. That is, it points towards a non-reductive universe in which there is genuine causal potency "all the way up," and this is exactly what we would expect if the universe were Aristotelian. If the universe were Aristotelian then *of course* explanatory unity will be impossible once you toss out formal and final causation. Rather than undermining Aristotelianism, the "disunity" you cite confirms it, because it's just what we would expect to find if that theory were true.

At the very least, this view has as much to commend it as your deflationary "let's just live with disunity" approach, and thus you can hardly continue to assert that anti-essentialism is what "science" reveals and that we should all take it to be the rational default position.

Second, I have a hard time seeing how you can hermetically seal morals off from metaphysics. For instance: If our best going sciences really do establish that nothing exists except matter (and fields etc.) and various aggregations thereof, and that we are really just clever primates, then I would have a very hard time taking my moral "intuitions" seriously as a guide to objective moral facts. Indeed, I would seriously doubt that there are any such "facts" to be discovered in the first place. If naturalism implies nihilism, as I think it does, then you can't have all the great taste of moral realism without the fat and calories of classical metaphysics.

monk68 said...

@untenured

"If naturalism implies nihilism, as I think it does, then you can't have all the great taste of moral realism without the fat and calories of classical metaphysics."

Yep - well said. I am continually perplexed by the claim that naturalism, in some fashion, yields ethics. I should very much like to hear a fuller explanation of Carbondale's following statement:

"I am, as it were, more committed to our lived-experience, and I see some clear benefit to adopting Ross's position of a prima-facie based intuitionism. I am not skeptical about morality's existence and do not need a clear-cut metaphysical picture to invoke morality as an explanation as to why someone shouldn't phi."

A reincarnation of MMI maybe?

"lived-experience", "intuitionism"? Hell, one could construct any morality whatsoever on such subjective criteria. What good reason should one man have for adopting a morality rested upon another man's "lived-experience" or "intuitions"?

This sort of position reads like a case study for exactly Dr. Feser's point in invoking Nietzsche when he mentions "the will to power of self-appointed “revaluators of all values.”

Pax et Bonum,

Ray

Carbondale Chasmite said...

Well, a charitable interpretation of Rossian ethics wouldn't collapse it down into Nietzsche. For Ross was a very well-known Aristotle scholar. He had a definitive list of the types of duties that were basically primitive, and moral knowledge accordingly is self-evident, invoking at least in principle the same exactitude you want from an apriori teleology. It's just more modest given that prima facie intuitions are defeasible. Moreover, the case for intuitionism and what counts for the intellectual virtues in the Nicomachean are in conflict with overthinking morality into a metaphysics. To back up our moral conclusions with metaphysical knowledge is to move ethics up the ladder to a science of necessity. Ethics is not physics nor is it geometry. I need not repeat the arguments for these conclusions in Aristotle's Nico Book 1 or 6.

My point in the fragmentation of scientific explanation is twofold. First, it suggests that it is with respect to material causation only that differentiates these levels, and secondly, the attempt at unity to ground these sciences is unnecessary with other sciences. The field of science is, as Husserl put it, the natural attitude and rather it is the ground of the transcendental point of view that grounds knowledge in general. Knowledge is, after all, the subjective accomplish of real concrete living subject.

Anonymous said...

@carbondale, you`re so right about this guy

Ilíon said...

Here's a further thought on the Prop 8 decision -- the very decision is itself unConstitutional; for only the US Supreme Court has the authority to hear the case brought against Arizona.

Ilíon said...

... er, in the case of Prop 8, against California.

The Deuce said...

Hey Ed, somewhat OT, but I was wondering what you think of Ross Douthat's argument, which has been making the rounds:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/09/opinion/09douthat.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

Anonymous said...

MMI, you are absolutely correct that it is wrong to harass, insult, beat up, kill, maim, or do anything unjust and cruel to any person, including gay and lesbian citizens. But it is not clear how that moral truth makes gay marriage correct. Being treated badly or unjustly does not automatically mean your views or practices are good. Remember, after prop 8 there were many individuals that were threatened and harmed by gay activists. In fact, the protests in front the churches was beyond the pale. The fact these people were treated with disrespect, does that mean their views and practices are automatically correct? Also, the Mormons--who have had their fair share of suffering in America, and had no close to run into for protection and safety--were the targets of gays after prop 8. Does that mean the Mormons are right and you wrong?

Priests and nuns were murdered by Josef Stalin, a strong supporter of national health care. Does that mean that Catholicism is true and atheism false and that Obamacare has the potential to unleash another reign of terror?

Playing the victim card gets you sympathy, and rightfully so. But it does not make you right. If you want to win by such underhanded means, be my guest. But the converts you get will be equally susceptible to the next demagogue with a better sob story who does not like you.