Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The metaphysics of romantic love

Traditional natural law theory is often accused of reducing sexual morality to mere anatomy, the proper fitting together of body parts.  The charge is unjust.  To be sure, because we are animals of a sort, the natural ends of our bodily organs cannot fail to be partially definitive of what is good for us.  But because we are rational animals, our bodily goods take on a higher significance, participating in our intellectual and volitional powers.  These goods, the rational and the bodily, cannot be sundered or compartmentalized, because man is a unity, not a ghost in a machine.  Even eating participates in our rationality -- food becomes cuisine, and a meal becomes in the normal case a social occasion.  Sex is no different, and the ends toward which it is aimed by nature are as rational, as distinctively human, as they are bodily and animal.

I’ve set out and defended the basic traditional natural law approach to sexual morality elsewhere, most fully at pp. 132-52 of The Last Superstition.  In the context of a recent post on another subject, I had occasion to set out and defend the “perverted faculty argument” that forms an important part -- though only a part -- of a complete traditional natural law account of sex.  As I have argued, whatever else sex is, it is essentially procreative.  If human beings did not procreate, then while they might form close emotional bonds with one another, maybe even exclusive ones, they would not have sex -- that is to say, they would not be man and woman, as opposed to something asexual or androgynous.  (The claim is not that procreation entails sex -- there is in the biological realm such a thing as asexual reproduction -- but rather that sex entails procreation in the sense that procreation is the reason sex exists in the first place, even if sex does not in every case result in procreation and even if procreation could have occurred in some other way.)  Given the Aristotelian metaphysics of essentialism and immanent teleology that underlies traditional natural law theory, this fact is normative.  And that some individual human beings have bodily traits or psychological dispositions that don’t reflect the procreative end of sex no more makes it any less normative than the existence of three-legged dogs (due to injury or genetic defect) falsifies the claim that dogs by nature are “supposed to” have four legs.

Unlike other sexually reproducing animals, though, we know this about ourselves, we know that qua male or female each of us is in some unusual way incomplete.   We conceptualize our incompleteness, and idealize what we think will remedy it.  And it is important to note that this is as true of human sexuality at its most “raw” and “animal” as it is of its more refined manifestations.  Dogs don’t worry about the size of breasts and genitalia; nor do they dress each other up in garters and stockings, or in leather and leashes for that matter.  The latter are adornments --some perfectly innocent, some not -- and reflect an aesthetic attitude toward the object of desire of which non-rational animals are incapable.  

Like the sexual organs, then, our sexual psychology is “directed at” or “points to” something beyond itself, and in particular toward what alone can complete us given our natures.  The human soul as a whole is directed to another soul -- and not merely toward certain organs -- as its complement, man to woman and woman to man.  (Again, that some people do not have a desire for the opposite sex, and in some cases lack sexual desire for anyone at all, is as irrelevant to the natural end of our psychological faculties as the existence of clubfeet is to telling us what nature intends feet for.)  This is why self-abuse and pornography are corrupting -- they take what by its nature can be fulfilled only by another soul and turn it inward, like an arrow pointed back at the archer.

It is this psychological “other-directedness” that makes human sexuality especially interesting and strange.  I had occasion in an earlier post to discuss C. S. Lewis’s useful distinction between Venus and Eros.  Venus is sexual desire, which can be (even if it shouldn’t be) felt for and satisfied by any number of people.  Eros is the longing associated with being in love with someone, and no one other than that one person can satisfy it.  Obviously, Venus can and very often does exist without Eros.  Eros typically includes Venus, but it not only focuses Venus specifically on the object of romantic longing, but carries that longing to the point where Venus, along with everything else, might even be sacrificed for the sake of the beloved if necessary.  Sexual release is the object of Venus; the beloved is the object of Eros.

Now, the natural law theorist argues that the procreative end of sex -- broadly construed to include the rearing of children (and many children at that, in the normal case), which is a long-term project -- points to the need for a stable bond between parents, and thus marriage.  (As always, the existence of occasional legitimate exceptions -- the sterile or aged couple, for example -- do not alter what the norm is, and thus what the point of marriage as an institution is.)  Venus alone hardly suffices for this stability; it prods us to seek a member of the opposite sex, but not to stay with the particular one we’ve found.  For that we need Eros.  

I am inclined to argue, then, that Venus and Eros are, considered in terms of their natural function, not distinct faculties, but opposite ends of a continuum.  Eros is the perfection of Venus; mere Venus is a deficient form of Eros.  Human experience seems to confirm this insofar as it is the rare Lothario who does not at some point desire something more substantial, and the rare Erotic lover who is willing entirely to forego Venus.  A pair of anecdotes illustrate (and I don’t claim that by themselves they prove, but merely that they illustrate) the thesis.  Consider first the following exchange, which Dustin Hoffman reports having had with his co-star (and notorious womanizer) Warren Beatty during the making of the movie Ishtar:

Despite his growing difficulties with [director Elaine] May, Beatty never complained about her—except once.  He and Hoffman were in the desert, along with 150-odd extras.  He took his co-star aside and started venting.  “Warren was going off about how painful it was to make this movie with Elaine,” Hoffman recalls.  “He said, ‘I was going to give this gift to Elaine, and it turned out to be the opposite.  I tried this and I tried that … ’  He was so passionate, but in the middle of it—it’s like he had eyes in the back of his head, because there was some girl walking by, maybe 50 yards away, in a djellaba.  He turned and froze, just watched her.  I mean, this was while he was producing and everything was going in the toilet.  But he couldn’t help it.”

Finally, Beatty turned back to Hoffman and asked, “Where was I?”

“Warren, let me ask you something,” Hoffman said.  “Here everything is going wrong on this movie that you planned out to be a perfect experience for Elaine, and here’s a girl that you can’t even see a quarter of her face because of the djellaba—what is that about?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let me ask you something else.  Theoretically, is there any woman on the planet that you would not make love to?  If you had the chance?”

“That’s an interesting question: Is there any woman on the planet”—Beatty paused and looked up at the sky—“that I wouldn’t make love to?  Any woman at all?”

Hoffman continues: “He repeated the question, because he took it very seriously.  This problem with the production was now on the back burner, and it was like he was on Charlie Rose.

“Yes, any woman,” said Hoffman.

“That I wouldn’t … ?” said Beatty.  “No, there isn’t.”

“Theoretically, you would make love to any and every woman?”

“Yes.”

“You’re serious.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Why?”

Hoffman: “He was thinking.  He was searching for the right words.  ‘Because … you never know.’  I thought that was the most romantic thing I’d ever heard a man say, because he was talking about spirits uniting.  He was not talking about the cover of the book. 

End quote.   Beatty, it seems, saw in his womanizing, at least in part, a search for something that would finally put an end to it -- the right woman, a particular “spirit” concealed behind one among all the many “covers” he was keen to open in quest of it.  (Apparently, that woman was Annette Bening.)

Another anecdote, and from the opposite end of our continuum, related in philosopher Robert Solomon’s book About Love:

A nun who once took one of my courses admitted to me that she was in love with the priest whom she worked for, and he with her.  They maintained their chastity, and quite obviously emphasized the spiritual and personal aspects of their love.  “But why,” she asked with a kind of despair, “does it seem that the only adequate expression of our love has to be physical?” (pp. 137-8)

As this illustrates, even in those committed to celibacy, Erotic love, when it strikes one -- needless to say, someone who’s taken a vow of celibacy shouldn’t be looking for it -- seems incomplete without Venus.  Again, there seems to be a continuum here, rather than two separable drives.  And it is one that goes deep in human nature itself, since sex -- our being male or female -- is part of what we are by nature.  To use the language of Catholic moral theology, the procreative end of sex has in rational animals been inextricably fused by nature to a unitive end, and the average human being is not entirely fulfilled without realizing both.

Unless, that is, through grace he sacrifices it for an even higher end, a supernatural end (in the theological sense of “supernatural” -- that which adds to our nature -- that I’ve had reason to discuss in this recent post and in this one).  That is what the life of the priest or the religious involves.  Those who’ve taken vows of celibacy do so not because sex, love, and marriage are bad, but because although they are very good indeed, there is something even better to which they have been called, and which demands their exclusive devotion.  

This brings us to the question: If sex is part of our nature, what happens to it in the resurrection, when our bodies are restored to us?  The question is treated at some length in some of the latter sections of Book Four of Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles.  On the one hand, Aquinas argues that the integrity of the body requires that our organs be restored to us, including our digestive and sexual organs.  Hence we will be men and women forever, and in that sense sex will exist forever.  But what about sexual intercourse?  Aquinas argues that that will not occur, and the reason is essentially the same as the reason he says we will not eat in the afterlife: Then, unlike now, we will be forever preserved from corruption by God; hence there will be no need for that which has as its point the preservation of the body (food) or that which has as its point the preservation of the species (sexual intercourse).  

But if we will always be male and female, and to that extent by nature individually incomplete and oriented beyond ourselves -- that is to say, Erotic -- how can this be?  The answer, I would suggest, is to be found in the supernatural rather than the natural order -- though keeping in mind that the supernatural does not negate the natural, but rather raises it up.  Our Erotic drive is not to be extirpated, as if it were something low and merely animal, for it is not that at all.  It is rather to be sublimed, oriented toward an even higher, supernatural object, an antitype of which human lovers are types.  This is presumably part of the point of the biblical imagery of the Church as the Bride of Christ, of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and of the virgins running to meet the Bridegroom.  As I noted in a post on Hitchcock’s Vertigo, in this life Eros, which seeks to be happy ever after, all too often leads to idolatry and despair.  In the next it will be fulfilled beyond its wildest hopes -- in seeing God face to face, and also in seeing the divine reflection in each other more clearly than we could have before.  And, perhaps, seeing that reflection in a special way in those we have loved in this life.

But a Valentine’s Day post shouldn’t be entirely heavy and high-falutin’.  So, as you curl up on the couch with your sweetheart to snuggle and read Feser’s blog together, here are some choice tunes to provide you with a romantic soundtrack.  From the sublime to the ridiculous:


Duke Ellington, “Where or When”


Stevie Wonder, “My Cherie Amour”

Boz Scaggs, “Miss Sun”

Greg Phillinganes, “Lazy Nina”



Jamiroquai, “Falling”

Bryan Ferry, “Slave to Love”

Artie Shaw Orchestra with Helen Forrest, “All the Things You Are”


Spandau Ballet, “True”



(I dedicate this post and the songs to my wife.  I love you, Rachel.)

75 comments:

Karolina Stolarska said...

Thanks. This was brilliant. :)

DNW said...

"As I have argued, whatever else sex is, it is essentially procreative. If human beings did not procreate, then while they might form close emotional bonds with one another, maybe even exclusive ones, they would not have sex -- that is to say, they would not be man and woman, as opposed to something asexual or androgynous. ... sex entails procreation in the sense that procreation is the reason sex exists in the first place."



I'm amazed that you managed to post this material up as long as you have, without provoking a deluge of anti-essentialist, anti-teleonomic tirades.

You must have wearied them out with your earlier work. Or they are taking Valentines Day off ...

Ray Ingles said...

So... we'll (or, perhaps, you'll) have sex organs and digestive systems... but won't use them for anything?

Why bother with bodies at all? If "only the occupation of the contemplative life will persist in the resurrection" what telos does a body serve?

berenike said...

What telos does being alive serve?

No body = dead you.

Anonymous said...

Damn...as a lonely, socially awkward bachelor, I dropped by this blog because I wanted to engage in the perfect anti-Valentine's Day activity - philosophy - but instead was forced to feast my eyes on the disgusting image of a kissy-kissy couple along with a lengthy post about romantic love.

Curse you Dr. Feser! You happy people make me sick.

Ray Ingles said...

berenike - No body = dead you

Apparently Aquinas didn't think so.

"Chapter 91 THAT IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEIR SEPARATION FROM THE BODY THE SOULS WILL RECEIVE PUNISHMENT OR REWARD"

berenike said...

Ray Ingles - ??? (Am I being dense?)

Brandon said...

I have to agree with Berenike -- it's a pretty baffling interpretation of that passage to interpret it as meaning that you aren't dead after you're dead.

Likewise, the question, "If 'only the occupation of the contemplative life will persist in the resurrection' what telos does a body serve?" is a little baffling, too, since obviously the answer is that under such conditions it would serve the ends of the contemplative life. Or are you thinking that human contempalative life doesn't involve the body at all? But that's surely not right.

berenike said...

Phew. I was wondering if I'd just said something really stupid.


Ray - are you distinguishing between life(in the sense of the beatific vision/not being damned) and life (in the sense of one's soul and body not being separated)?

Ray Ingles said...

berenike - If there's something that can experience reward or punishment "after separation from the body" then bodily death isn't really death death. Something's existent and aware. (An object could be improved or degraded, but only a subject can be rewarded or punished.) Something essentially you is there, right?

Brandon - Can you give me some idea of what a contemplative life post-resurrection would look like? What would the body be used for? Assuming a prayerful posture?

(Say... would these incorruptible but inert digestive organs be able to digest? If the body were perfect, then wouldn't any digestion necessarily alter the body and therefore act to move it from perfection? Of course, if they aren't able to digest, then in what sense are they digestive organs?)

berenike said...

anima mea non est ego.

berenike said...

Death isn't annihilation. Round here at least it just means the separation of soul and body.

Ray Ingles said...

berenike - Round here at least it just means the separation of soul and body.

So... that which is being rewarded or punished post-death, pre-resurrection isn't the entity that earned the rewards or punishments?

James said...

So... that which is being rewarded or punished post-death, pre-resurrection isn't the entity that earned the rewards or punishments?

As I understand it, the idea is: no — not exactly. A person’s immaterial soul constitutes one portion, albeit a very important portion, of the whole person, and after death (but prior to being reunited with the body) the immaterial soul is incomplete.

aelianus said...

I can be meaningfully punished or rewarded by punishing or rewarding something that belongs to me. My crown is melted down and sold off or my house is turned into a palace. Prior to the resurrection it is not me being punished or rewarded it is my soul. Berenike's remark 'anima mea non est ego' is a direct quote from St Thomas, Super primam epistolam ad corinthios, Lect. 1,10.

Lesser realities (of any kind) are willed by God to manifest the innumerable ways in which His perfections may be participated. Your argument against the resurrected body is an argument against creation as such. The navel has fulfilled its purpose and it bears witness to man's nature and origin which are willed by and give glory to God. Any other elements of man's bodily nature which may no longer be required in the resurrection still fulfill this function, just as Christ still bears His five glorious wounds.

After the resurrection my body can share in the eternal contemplation of the Godhead because every created reality with which I interact corresponds to some perfection of the Godhead contemplated by the beatified intellect.

"In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All."

aelianus said...

 I can be meaningfully punished or rewarded by punishing or rewarding something that belongs to me. My crown is melted down and sold off or my house is turned into a palace. Prior to the resurrection it is not me being punished or rewarded it is my soul. Berenike's remark 'anima mea non est ego' is a direct quote from St Thomas, Super primam epistolam ad corinthios, Lect. 1,10.

   Lesser realities (of any kind) are willed by God to manifest the innumerable ways in which His perfections may be participated. Your argument against the resurrected body is an argument against creation as such. The navel has fulfilled its purpose and it bears witness to man's nature and origin which are willed by and give glory to God. Any other elements of man's bodily nature which may no longer be required in the resurrection still fulfill this function, just as Christ still bears His five glorious wounds.

   After the resurrection my body can share in the eternal contemplation of the Godhead because every created reality with which I interact corresponds to some perfection of the Godhead contemplated by the beatified intellect.

   "In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
   from gazing upon everlasting Day
   to see the day illumined, and renew
   from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
   Then looking on the Blessed Land 'twill see
   that all is as it is, and yet made free:
   Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
   garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
   Evil it will not see, for evil lies
   not in God's picture but in crooked eyes,
   not in the source but in malicious choice,
   and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
   In Paradise they look no more awry;
   and though they make anew, they make no lie.
   Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
   and poets shall have flames upon their head,
   and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
   there each shall choose for ever from the All."

Frank Gibbons said...

Sorry I missed your Vertigo thread. For me, it is the masterpiece of world cinema. Instead of succumbing to Hitchcock's usual transference of guilt, Scottie has absorbed Madeline's supposed condition of being dominated by another’s spirit. I always felt that Scottie was, in a sense, possessed and that the final scene is an exorcism. Like the Gerasene demoniac, Scottie is now in his "right mind" able to look down from the ledge, freed from the constraints of his vertigo. If the exorcism / possession dynamic is too strong a metaphor, can we at least say that he underwent a "deliverance" from his obsession? Some may point out that Scottie's vertigo preceded his meeting Madeline. As several critics have suggested, Scottie is not as pure as the driven snow in all of this. There's a weakness or darkness in his nature that predisposes him to become obsessed with Madeline. His vertigo represents this pre-existing condition. In any event, I always look at Vertigo primarily as a spiritual thriller rather than merely as a psychological one.

My wife will be happy to learn that you agree with her that Herrmann is borrowing from Tristan and Isolde!

Brandon said...

Can you give me some idea of what a contemplative life post-resurrection would look like? What would the body be used for? Assuming a prayerful posture?

Again, I find this a somewhat baffling question. Contemplation is possible in an imperfect way already in this life; we just get perfected in it. So one would expect bodies to be used for lots of the things bodies are used for now, modulo the differences in state itself. Surely it's not surprising that contemplatives might walk and talk and sing and paint and sculpt, or any number of other things? The answer to "what use is the body" would under the circumstances be of the same kind as it is now: whatever you can do with it without misusing it, i.e., whatever you can rationally use it for given your real needs and wants.

I don't have much in the way of opinion of about the details, but if your further question is about Aquinas, he doesn't address the precise issue you are raising; all he does is address the matter indirectly by arguing that incorruptible bodies don't need food to replace what they lose, and that the other ends of food are either inappropriate to such a state or won't need food for the purpose. For obvious reasons, Aquinas is providing what he regards as probable answers on general principles, not giving a precise account.

Tony said...

Singing.

In the life after this life, when we get our bodies back, one of the activities suited to that contemplative life is singing.

It neither involves corruption of material body (like digestion), nor is it needed on account of corruption of material body (like reproduction). Yet it is a use of the body in an integrated way with a form of knowing and loving God.

thefederalist said...

I've never seen the movie, but the reviews make this very difficult to believe: something WORTHWHILE came out of Ishtar??!!

Leroy Lamar III said...

Dammit, Feser! Please stop writing my Master's thesis in your blogpost! Every time I think I have something original to add to the conversation, I read your freaking blog and see my thoughts (stated much more accurately and succinctly) written therein!

Truthfully speaking, another good post, my man.

Ray Ingles said...

aelianus - "I can be meaningfully punished or rewarded by punishing or rewarding something that belongs to me."

Well, no. You can be punished or rewarded by damaging or improving something that belongs to you. I can damage a rake or a shovel; I don't think even a God could punish that which does not experience or feel. It's a very important distinction.

Considering how much of our cognition and awareness depends on having a brain - and therefore a body - it's not really clear what a disembodied soul could experience as either reward or punishment. Can a disembodied soul remember, or experience any kind of sensation?

"The navel has fulfilled its purpose and it bears witness to man's nature and origin which are willed by and give glory to God."

Perhaps I'm too much of an engineer to grasp the value here. ("It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" - Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

I suppose a lot of houses in our subdivision have 'shutters' by the windows that cannot close, that are simply bolted to the wall for decoration. I just have a hard time seeing a way that penises that never erect or urinate, or wombs that never nurture an embryo, serve even a decorative purpose. So much of our form is dictated by how we function... when the need for the function is obviated, should not the form change?

BTW, Aquinas says "It seems ridiculous to search for bodily pleasures which the brute animals share with us there where the loftiest pleasures which we share with the angels are expected—the pleasures in the vision of God which will be common to us and the angels, as was shown in Book III. Unless, perhaps, someone wants to say that the beatitude of the angels is imperfect because the angels lack the pleasures of the brutes—which is completely absurd."

That seems off, though. Humans aren't angels, but - in A-T terms, even post-ressurrection - embodied creatures. Why should they not have pleasures distinct and appropriate to their nature?

Scott W. said...

Ok, Dr. Feser, it's the 15th, so back to heavy-handedness. :) One thing I've wondered about is the Catechism's description of marriage as procreative and unitive. The problem it seems to me is that it treats them as if they are equal parts. If you look at Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma however, it says marriage is primarily for procreation and secondarily for the legitimate satisfaction of the sex urge. This suggests to me that one could chalk up the Church leadership's fecklessness on contraception in part to this loss of hierarchy of truths. Any thoughts?

Mercury said...

If sex and reproduction exist BECAUSE of physical death, then why do we assume Adam and Eve were capable of it? I now some of the Fathers believed that humans in their original perfect state would not do something as "base" as have sex, and that God would have provided some other means of propagating the race, but then why make them male or female at all?

The fact is, on Biblical grounds, it seems that they were created male and female even BEFORE death and decay became consequences of sin.

And although procreation may no longer be needed in the afterlife, and although "they are no longer married nor given in marriage", what about those other ends of human sexuality you mentioned, the ones having to do with Eros? Will there be no special affection between husband and wife in the afterlife?

And does this have to do with why so many married saints seemed to give up sexual behavior as soon as possible (and in the Augustinian tradition, this is what they SHOULD aim for - "getting over it")?

Would it be (hopefully) wrong to draw the conclusion that those married folk who enjoy making love until a ripe old age are thereby less holy and too attached to the world, that they will need to be purged of this? Catholic morality seems to indicate that marriage and the marital act should continue with no worries for as long as both spouses are willing and capable, and that this is a good thing.

Catholic tradition, the Saints, and the Fathers seem to indicate that the sooner one gets over it, the better. I'd rather go with the former :(

aelianus said...

Mr Ingles, I never mentioned bodily pleasures and your distinction about damaging rather than punishing doesn't seem to make any difference to the point at issue. As to your difficulties about the operation of the intellect apart from the body, this is obviously not a problem for a beatified intellect and the functions of the damned intellect need not be terribly exalted.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Scott and Mercury,

I would say that the procreative end is primary in the sense that the unitive end wouldn't have existed in the first place had there been no procreative end, while the procreative end could have existed without the unitive end (as it does in animals). Also, I think it would clearly be perfectly morally licit for a married couple who happened not to have much in the way of sexual or Erotic desire to have sex purely for the same of having children. But it would not be morally licit to have sex for unitive purposes while deliberately and positively acting to frustrate the procreative end (as in artificial contraception). So there is a kind of asymmetry there too.

Having said that, I think it is a very good thing that the unitive end has over the last few centuries taken on greater significance in Catholic moral theology, and that the pleasure of sex has come to be seen as just a natural part of the package -- not an end in itself in the sense that it could legitimately be sought to the positive and active exclusion of procreation, but still something that is typically what immediately moves us. Thus, as Pope Pius XII taught:

The same Creator, Who in His bounty and wisdom willed to make use of the work of man and woman, by uniting them in matrimony, for the preservation and propagation of the human race, has also decreed that in this function the parties should experience pleasure and happiness of body and spirit. Husband and wife, therefore, by seeking and enjoying this pleasure do no wrong whatever. They accept what the Creator has destined for them.

(This pleasure is also integral to the unitive end. It's precisely because you make the spouse feel sexual pleasure that what you do counts as an expression of love. One sometimes hears stupid remarks that seem to imply that sex should be about expressing love rather than pleasure -- as if one could intelligibly, and ideally, express love for one's spouse sexually without titillating him or her! "I love you, honey! And I hope it wasn't good for you too!")

Not to acknowledge the importance the unitive end would IMHO be to fail to do justice to human nature and human experience -- and in failing to do so to threaten to give people guilty consciences about, or feel somehow second-rate about, something that they naturally cannot help but regard as very important and a real need.

(continued)

Edward Feser said...

(continued)

The reason for the fecklessness Scott refers to does not in my view have anything to do with overvaluing the unitive end. It has to do with undervaluing the procreative end, and then using the unitive end as a fig leaf to hide behind as on does so. A healthy, Catholic approach to sex would in my view say two things: First, it is perfectly natural and normal to fall in love, marry, and have frequent sexual relations with your beloved simply because you feel like it and love him or her. Second, the natural and normal result of this is that you're probably going to have a lot of children. The problem with too many Catholics today is not that they want to say and hear the first thing, but that they don't want to say or hear the second thing.

In response to Mercury's question, I would say that a big part of the reason for the devaluation of the unitive end in earlier centuries was the deep influence of Platonism on earlier Christian thought. Even though this Platonism was tempered in order to reconcile it with the Christian doctrine that our bodies are integral to us, there was still a tendency to be overly suspicious of the bodily side of our nature. The Aristotelian turn in Scholasticism began to correct this, and I would say that that is a big part of the reason why, from Aquinas onward, one finds an increasingly less austere attitude about these things. By the generation of Pius XII, of Ford and Kelly's book Marriage Questions, etc., I think the right balance was pretty much achieved in the Scholastic tradition. (Then, unfortunately, the 60s happened, the Scholastic moralists and tradition were chucked out, and everyone went nuts in the opposite extreme direction.)

So, to the extent that the "get over it" mentality stemmed from a Platonic contempt for the body, I think it was a bad thing and that we are well rid of it. But it is possible for married people who are inclined to "get over it" to be motivated by a different attitude, one that doesn't regard sex as bad but rather seeks to approximate, as far as one can in the married state, the higher calling represented by the priesthood or the religious life, on the model of Mary and Joseph. But this is not and cannot be the normal case for married people, and I think it would be a serious mistake to think most married people could or should aspire to it.

Mercury said...

Great responses! I need to go right now, but I have to come back and chew on them more.

"Also, I think it would clearly be perfectly morally licit for a married couple who happened not to have much in the way of sexual or Erotic desire to have sex purely for the same of having children. But it would not be morally licit to have sex for unitive purposes while deliberately and positively acting to frustrate the procreative end (as in artificial contraception). So there is a kind of asymmetry there too."

But then again, there is nothing wrong if the only conscious reason for them to come together is for unitive purposes, right? And at times, a couple is either not expecting procreation or actually may not even want to have another child at that moment (such as using NFP for legit reasons - even just). In fact, I think there would be times where it would be stupid to *want* to procreate: during pregnancy, right after pregnancy, or in advanced age.

So what it comes down to is not even the WILL to procreate, but the fact that nothing is done to frustrate the natural end, correct?

And as far as NFP is concerned, while I know it can be abused and used for the wrong reasons, I have heard some traditionalists (like Fr. Ripperger) claim that a motive like "I want to give my wife a little bit of time to rest and to take care of our young baby" are totally sinful and illicit. They say that total abstinence is the only solution in such cases.

I'm guessing this is NOT the Catholic position? I know people with very large families (one with 9 kids) that use periodic abstinence in this way - spacing out time between pregnancies in order to allow the wife to rest and to allow attention to be focused on the little ones. This seems to be in line with Catholic teaching, right?

Obviously, "we need to use NFP so I can afford a boat" is not cool :)

Tony said...

Scott W: the Catechism's description of marriage as procreative and unitive. The problem it seems to me is that it treats them as if they are equal parts. If you look at Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma however, it says marriage is primarily for procreation and secondarily for the legitimate satisfaction of the sex urge.

Scott, first the "satisfaction of the sexual urge" is not identical to the unitive purpose. The sexual satisfaction SERVES the unitive end, but is not the same thing. As Ed makes clear about Eros, the union of husband and wife takes place on intellectual and affective planes, as well as the physical plane.

Secondly, the claim by the Church pre-1950s that the "primary" end of marriage is procreation is not being undercut by the post-1950s claim that marriage has as a primary end both procreative and unitive dimensions. I suggest that the best way to describe the situation is that the primary end of marriage is larger than either, it encompasses BOTH procreative and unitive dimensions. We don't have a single suitable word for this primary end that explicitly refers to or harbors both aspects equally well (like, eg, the way "mammal" encompasses felines and canines without ordering them one "primary" as mammal rather than the other). In the past, the Church was satisfied with naming this larger meaning by a component part of the primary end, the procreative end. For the last 60 years or so, give or take, that practice has not been sufficient, and we need to be clearer about what we mean. The Church has never before taught that the primary end of marriage was procreation to the exclusion of the unitive dimension, she was merely not explicit about the unitive end being considered therewith.

That's my take, anyway. If the primary end of marriage were procreation considered narrowly and exclusive of the unitive aspect, then the Church could never have approved of the practice of the Josephite marriage, wherein the spouses promise perpetual abstinence. And the Church could never have laid the groundwork early on (which she did) for the theology of the body, in which the unitive aspect is part and parcel with the manner in which the husband and wife together are a symbol of the Triune Godhead, which is ALSO bound up in the primary end of marriage.

Mercury said...

Tony - also the Church is not limited to the (Latin) West. the East has long acknowledged the "unitive" aspect though not under that name.

I think all "primary" means is that the whole reason it exists is because of that, regardless of whatever else it is designed to be used for.

Tony said...

I'm guessing this is NOT the Catholic position? I know people with very large families (one with 9 kids) that use periodic abstinence in this way - spacing out time between pregnancies in order to allow the wife to rest and to allow attention to be focused on the little ones. This seems to be in line with Catholic teaching, right?


Mercury, you are exactly right. People like Fr. Ripperger are not at all consistent with the truth, with Catholic teaching. If he were right, that an intent to space out children for purposes like you mention, is a wrong intent, then EVEN TOTAL ABSTINENCE would be wrong, you would have a positive obligation to procreate even at that time (when the wife is dealing with a young infant, etc). This faulty thinking is the result of poor understanding of philosophy and theology (and a large loss of common sense, as well, of course).

It is crazy to try to read scripture to suggest that you have to procreate in such a way as to have as many children as can be conceived. And once that is thrown out, it is all a matter of reason to discern the suitable times to procreate. That suitablility cannot be correctly understood in stark separation from God's first command / blessing to man: Be fruitful and multiply. But it also cannot be understood in separation from the correct understanding of nature, which intends the COMPLETELY developed man, not merely the infant or child, the immature specimen.

Ray Ingles said...

aelianus - "I never mentioned bodily pleasures..."

I know. "BTW" is internet-speak for "by the way"; I was introducing a side-issue.

"your distinction about damaging rather than punishing doesn't seem to make any difference to the point at issue"

Well, unless that soul is aware and experiencing sensation, it can't be punished. But then...

"As to your difficulties about the operation of the intellect apart from the body, this is obviously not a problem for a beatified intellect"

Will the brain, then, be a decorative body part too among the resurrected? Present for aesthetic or symbolic value, but not having any actual function?

Brandon said...

Ray,

(1) Again, trying to pin down precise details in a context with only fragmentary information is irrational; some things can be reasonably ruled out, and others more speculatively ruled out, on general principles, and others reasonably concluded from the starting premises. But that will leave everything in broad strokes and nothing more precise.

(2) It was you, not aelianus, who suggested that organs would purely decorative; aelianus merely pointed out that there are ends other than food and sex that the organs in question could still fulfill.

(3) But as it happens, since we are talking about things in the context of Aquinas's thought on the subject, the human intellect is naturally suited to use of the inner and outer senses, and the organ of the inner senses (imagination, sensory memory, etc.) in the Thomistic sense is the brain. The inner senses, however, are not the intellect on the Thomistic view, and Aelianus was pointing out that in the context of beatified intellects there is the direct operation of a cause -- God -- that is adequate for whatever the intellect may need. This is very basic stuff here. It makes no sense whatsoever to come in asking arbitrary questions that show that you haven't even looked at the assumptions that are operating in the discussion.

Ray Ingles said...

Brandon - some things can be reasonably ruled out, and others more speculatively ruled out, on general principles, and others reasonably concluded from the starting premises

I'm asking about that logic, though.

It makes no sense whatsoever to come in asking arbitrary questions that show that you haven't even looked at the assumptions that are operating in the discussion.

As I've said before, "I'm trying to determine if it's worth my time to check out a book like Feser's 'Aquinas'." Hence asking for, y'know, examples of the premises and reasoning involved, especially about things which strike me as odd or questionable.

Pattsce said...

Ray,

I'm gonna sound like a mom here, but... in the time it's taken you to make multiple posts on this blog, you could have had your room clean by now.

Sorry, I mean, you could have read the book by now.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, really. It's been what - months now that you've been commenting here?

Front the money and read. Or don't, give it up, and move on.

Brandon said...

I'm asking about that logic, though.

No, you're not; if you were asking about the logic you would, like any rational person asking about the logic of anything, ask about how the conclusions relate to the original premises. But this is precisely what you are not doing at all -- your questions repeatedly ignore the premises, which arise from Thomistic accounts of the intellect, Scripture, and the Beatific Vision. And they are all things you've completely ignored; all your questions are demands for more specific details, not requests for clarification of how the conclusions are arrived at.

Likewise, Feser doesn't really discuss these issues much in his Aquinas book (they are very much downstream from core Thomistic issues), so asking questions about them will tell you nothing about whether you should read the book.

Ray Ingles said...

Pattsce - in the time it's taken you to make multiple posts on this blog... you could have read the book by now.

I read fast, but not that fast. I just figure if the book (and the metaphysics it advances) are so awesomesauce, it should be possible to address a few questions. Mr. Green started to, and I was glad of it, but then... nothing.

Actual willingness to hear a case is pretty rare in the world, and even more rare on the internet, so I guess I understand skepticism. I just diffidently point out the possibility of a false positive.

Ray Ingles said...

Brandon - I tried asking about fundamental premises last time. Didn't get much response. Tackling it from the other end is what's left to me.

Anonymous said...

Serious question.

How do Thomists rationalize the consumption of alcoholic beverages? I assume you don't drink it because you're thirsty, really. It perverts rational thinking. It's poisonous and it destroys brain cells. It seems you are knowingly perverting the ultimate purpose of the body by willingly imbibing a poison.

Scott W. said...

I don't know about a Thomistic argument for alcohol consumption, but it seems there is at least a biblical one:

God cannot do anything perverted
Jesus Christ is God
Jesus Christ drank wine
Therefore, drinking wine is not perverted.

21st Century Scholastic said...

@Anonymous (February 16, 2012 10:10 AM),

I've asked the same question some time ago. See the short discussion under this post: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/pop-culture-roundup.html ;)

Brandon said...

Brandon - I tried asking about fundamental premises last time. Didn't get much response. Tackling it from the other end is what's left to me.

This method will also obviously not get you anything substantive; asking random questions about claims without regard for the principles from which they derive will end up elucidating nothing; one might as well decide whether to believe a given theory of evolution based on random questions about the physical characteristics of one's direct patrilineal ancestor two million years ago: it may not be a question that is even answerable given available information; even if it is, the answer might be highly speculative, and even if it isn't, it will depend so crucially on the general principles of the theory that they cannot be ignored. There are better ways of study than random shooting in the dark.

What I don't see is why the urgency. Why not just hang around, browse some resources, see if anything looks interesting or if anything turns out to be thought-provoking? With all respect to Ed, and good as the book is, I doubt he's so desperately in need of royalties that he needs you to go out immediately and buy the book, and I very much doubt that there's anything breathing down your neck forcing you to a near-future decision on whether to buy one book. And at the same time, Ed's not going to re-traverse considerable sections of the book unless some really important reason arises, because he's already written it once, and if you rely on comments threads, you're going to get a piecemeal and occasional response from the very nature of the medium. Giving up on "asking about fundamental premises" so quickly, so that now starting at the other end is "all that's left", seems very odd to me. These things take time; a lot went into distilling the basic principles Aquinas uses (this is true of all the scholastics) and thus it takes a lot to get a firm grasp on them. I just can't make sense of your approach at all.

Anonymous said...

I just can't make sense of your approach at all.

Most likely, it's a manifestation of passive-aggressiveness.

sam said...

"I just figure if the book (and the metaphysics it advances) are so awesomesauce, it should be possible to address a few questions."

Not passive-aggressive in the least.

Ray Ingles said...

Brandon - What I don't see is why the urgency.

Wait, which is it again? Does my activity and posting on this blog outstrip careful study of a 200+ page book, or is it a handful of questions that can't possibly explore a giant tradition? I can't tell if I'm too committed or not committed enough. :)

Ray Ingles said...

Anonymous, sam - Considering the generall aggressive tone of this blog, I suspect that anything that isn't aggressive-aggressive will come across as passive-aggressive. :)

aelianus said...

Mr Ingles, Presumably the brain will be no more 'a decorative body part' than the hands. Just as the hands would still be used for picking up or touching other bodily objects so the brain will still be employed in the apprehension of material singulars but not of God Who is not bodily but a subsistant intelligence and can accordingly be apprehended only by the intelligence.

Brandon said...

Wait, which is it again? Does my activity and posting on this blog outstrip careful study of a 200+ page book, or is it a handful of questions that can't possibly explore a giant tradition?

I must have missed something, because these aren't inconsistent.

Tony said...

Ed, thanks for taking out the smelly garbage.

berenike said...

About the alcohol:

"wine that gladdens the heart of man"

It's a remedy for some of the damage done by original sin. More later, must dash to Mass!

berenike said...

About the alcohol. It famously lessens one's inhibitions. This isn't always or only a bad thing. Inhibitions aren't only about refraining from violence or lewdness in speech or behaviour. We're also often inhibited in good social interaction. That's why wine at dinner parties is an "anointing", a joyous thing. Briefly, and to a small extent, the wounds of original sin are soothed.

A hermit nun once explained to me that one of the things nuns (and presumably monks) learn is how to stop living with "masks". These are often necessary for simple emotional (and other) self-preservation living in the world. But it is not good that they are necessary, and again, wine (or drink of your choice) helps us to let them down a little.

Inhibitions shouldn't of course be the only thing keeping us from violence or lewdness. Someone who by nature or second nature has little or no inclination can drink more freely than someone who struggles with the related vices. Does alcohol leave one more open to sins "belonging" to other vices? (pride?) I don't know.

Further, alcohol can calm nerves, and soothe sorrow. Fr Faber says that reading a crappy novel can be practically a duty sometimes, to refresh the mind (or some such reason); likewise having a slivovic when one is a bundle of angsty nerves and can't settle down to getting anything done, is entirely rational.

Apparently it has some purely physical health benefits as well (or is that just red wine, if you drink enough of it?).

That's not very organised, but I think all the relevant points are in there :) I'm off for a hot cooking lager with raspberry syrup!

Anonymous said...

"...alcohol can calm nerves, and soothe sorrow. ...likewise having a slivovic when one is a bundle of angsty nerves and can't settle down to getting anything done, is entirely rational."

To which I wouldn't argue. But, this is why natural law is a muddled mess.

The natural purpose of sex is procreation, and any use of it for other purposes is “unnatural.” Yet the "perverting" of the rational abilities of the brain does not of necessity exclude ancillary advantages. The occasional recreational smoke (ingesting know carcinogens) is permitted yet it does damage to natural purpose of the body. The purpose of eating is to sustain life, but that does not make all eating that is not necessary to subsistence “unnatural. Heaven forbid should someone rub one out or participate in protected sex for any of the same reasons.

This use of natural law amounts to special pleading.

berenike said...

I should have guessed you were thinking about sex.

Anonymous said...

Sex isn't even the point. How do you rationalize an ultimate purpose and when you can usurp it or convieniently ignore it?

Sex is just the most obvious example of the rigidity of this thinking.

Fr. W. M. Gardner said...

@Scott W

“One thing I've wondered about is the Catechism's description of marriage as procreative and unitive. The problem it seems to me is that it treats them as if they are equal parts.”

I am with you on the problematic aspect of co-equal ends of sexual relations. How can a human act have two different ends which define the nature of the act? Perhaps this is salvaged by referring to “aspects,” as distinct from “ends”…

Rather, is not hierarchy the proper way to understand the importance of the procreative end? The unitive end is at the service of the procreative end because creation is the basis of authority. Thus God, who is infinite in creative power, has absolute authority over creation (causing its existence). And the husband has authority in marriage (headship), since he causes conception to occur. Likewise, both husband and wife together must place themselves at the service of the procreative end of marital relations. This is the virtue of purity: love awaiting (desiring) fecundation (Bishop Sheen).

It seems to me that there is no more unitive activity of husband and wife than to conceive and bring to eternal happiness other human beings! The pleasures are manifold, long-lasting, and rejuvenating.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Sex is just the most obvious example of the rigidity of this thinking.

It beats the loose sloppy thinking that seems to inform objections to natural law. And don't confuse your particular whims, misunderstandings, or training to think about sex in certain ways as "obvious". The only thing obvious to some of us about the alleged counter-examples are how obviously wrong they are. In particular, your claim that it is acceptable to pervert the rational abilities of the brain is bizarre. Of course it is wrong to, say, drink so much that you can't think straight. Some moderate drinking, to an extent that does not disrupt one's reasoning is acceptable. To get plastered, to an extent that one posts things like your comment above, is not.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing obvious to some of us about the alleged counter-examples are how obviously wrong they are."

Meh. Of course they are.

Explain to me how consuming alcohol or smoking a cigar (poisons to the body, 'perversions' and 'frustrations' to the natural order) to relieve stress or relax are any way different than, say, moderate marijuana use or occasional masterbation?

Maybe you could just use your 'free will' and change your body chemistry and 'be' relaxed.

What happens to the soul when you are 'self medicating'? Does it remain stressed and tense?

Anonymous said...

"Of course it is wrong to, say, drink so much that you can't think straight. "

So how much poison can you knowingly ingest before it's a perversion or a frustration of the body?

As a pilot. I can't drink a drop of alcohol closer than 8 before flying. Would you be willing to let me? I can't take ANYTHING on the FAAs list of prohibited drugs.

Why might that be? Do you think it affects judgement?

Mr. Green said...

Ray Ingles: it should be possible to address a few questions. Mr. Green started to, and I was glad of it, but then... nothing.
Alas, I don't have half the time to spend here that I wish I did, nor half the expertise. Of course, comment sites are rather ill-suited for serious philosophical conversations in the first place, and when people do have time, they naturally respond to whichever posts strike their fancy.
Anyway, God can plant thoughts or experiences in a disembodied soul, but the natural way for a human soul to act is via a human body. A man in heaven is still supposed to be a man, not something less or something different. And you can by fully human without engaging in digestion at any particular moment, but not if you don't have a body at all.

As I've said before, "I'm trying to determine if it's worth my time to check out a book like Feser's 'Aquinas'." Hence asking for, y'know, examples of the premises and reasoning involved, especially about things which strike me as odd or questionable.

I would heartily recommend reading Feser's book(s). Partly because, as recent works, they specifically address modern notions and vocabulary that can make Thomism seem harder than it really is; but also because a modern mindset makes it really hard for the whole thing to sink in. It's necessary to absorb a lot of Scholastic philosophy just in order to being making sense of it — much as you might need to jump in and surround yourself with listening to a new language or new kind of music before you can go back and begin to understand it more methodically. Plus there are all the "boring" foundations without which the more interesting bits don't make sense (just as you'll never really get a good handle on quantum mechanics if you don't have a decent grasp of all the less exotic physics that comes before it). Any other books you find on classical or mediaeval philosophy that have a style you like are probably worth reading also.

Scott W. said...

Why might that be?

Covering their ass from liability primarily.

Anonymous said...

Scott W. said...
Why might that be?


Covering their ass from liability primarily.


Well, that and it's just not realistic to come up with a million rules to cover every type of person, type of alcohol, etc. Anyway, it isn't even relevant to natural law in particular; any moral system says it's wrong to get so drunk that you go around crashing planes, this is hardly an extraordinary claim. If anon think that drinking any amount of alcohol under any circumstances will make anyone drunk, then sure, that would make it immoral under natural law, as it would under almost any other moral system. And if he wants to make a medical case that alcohol is that destructive to the human biology, go ahead.

Anonymous said...

Let the straw manning begin. I didn't say drunk. You did. I'm not saying you have a problem with alcohol. I'm saying you have a problem with your reasoning and the impossibility of 'divining' final purpose.

I question the double standard of 'perverting' the biology of the body with poison. 'Frustrating' the liver.

Anonymous said...

Let the straw manning begin.

I wonder why you didn't announce that back when you started it.



I question the double standard of 'perverting' the biology of the body with poison. 'Frustrating' the liver.

There's no double standard. Nobody said "it's wrong to frustrate one's faculties… except for frustrating the liver with alcohol, then it's fine." Rather, what was said was "it's wrong to frustrate one's faculties, but limited amounts of alcohol do NOT frustrate the liver, UNLESS you drink too much in which case that IS IMMORAL". So either you think that some alcohol is ok and we all agree, or else you think that ANY alcohol works against natural human biology, in which case you are disagreeing not with any claim about natural law per se, but with the commonly understood effects of alcohol. So like I said, feel free to present your medical argument to the contrary, just don't confuse it with the metaphysics.

Ray Ingles said...

"I would heartily recommend reading Feser's book(s)"

Well, I'll see if I can check out "The Last Superstition" from the local library. They don't have "Aquinas", but theoretically that'd be enough of an intro to see if "Aquinas" is worth the time.

Ray Ingles said...

Well, I've got "The Last Superstition"... but I can't say I'm hopeful. Apparently Feser can't even get through the preface without misrepresenting Dawkins. :(

Scott W. said...

Oh I will probably hate myself cometh the dawn, but how exactly does Dr. Feser misrepresent Dawkins?

BenYachov said...

@Ray,

I second that respectfully.

Put up or shut up. How does Feser misrepresent Dawkins a man who is admittedly a competent biologist and expert on Evolution but a total incompetent and ignoramus in regards to philosophy?

One clear example please.

Ray Ingles said...

Okay, the book's at home, not here, but towards the end of the preface, he says something about how atheists are (and again, this is from memory for now):

'to paraphrase Dawkins' infamous comment about those who dispute evolution, "ignorant, stupid, wicked, and insane".'

Like I said, that's from memory, but the last five words and the double-quotes are definitely there. Particularly the 'and'.

Now, using double-quotes when those aren't actually Dawkins' words is iffy, but Feser did say he was going to "paraphrase" Dawkins. But a paraphrase is supposed to preserve the meaning of what's being paraphrased.

The thing is, Dawkins didn't say that people who disbelieve evolution are "ignorant, stupid, wicked, and insane". What he actually said was: "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."

Now, Feser was somewhat careless, stupid, and wicked to write what he did. No, wait - I meant somewhat careless, stupid, OR wicked. (Yes, changing that one word definitely changes the meaning of the phrase in critical ways.)

If Dawkins is such an ignoramus, it shouldn't be necessary to misrepresent his words to show it. Personally, I'm reasonably sure that Feser was just sloppy. But like I said, if I can't even get through the preface without him misrepresenting his opponents, in a book that's supposed to display rigour and sound argumentation... it's not a good first impression.

I've read most of the first chapter, but I still don't know if Feser can argue, since he's just making "bold claims" about what he's going to prove, but hasn't actually gotten around to proving them yet. He's already misrepresented Dennett and the whole 'brights' thing, and I noticed another one I can't recall right now. Oh, well.

BenYachov said...

@Ray

>Okay, the book's at home, not here, but towards the end of the preface, he says something about how atheists are (and again, this is from memory for now):

>Like I said, that's from memory, but the last five words and the double-quotes are definitely there. Particularly the 'and'.

Get off your arse go home and get it & cite a page # & the actual quote so I can look it up in my copy when I get home.

Put up or shut up.

BTW taken at face value hairsplitting over two alternate conjunctions (i.e. and vs or etc) & trying to trump up a charge of "misrepresentation" from it is beyond asinine.

So if Dawkins writes somewhere "I went to the train station" & Feser writes elsewhere "Dawkins said he went to the railway station" I am suppose to conclude Feser is "misrepresenting" him?

GNU ARE YOU F***ING SERIOUS!

What kind of idiot makes that type of lame argument and even hopes he can be taken seriously?

I can't imagine dguller making a lame arse argument like this?

Are you so threaten by the possibility Feser may have something this is the best you can do?

I'm going to go calm down.

You sir are a fundie without god-belief. Do yourself a favor & get over it(i.e. the fundie part the without god-belief is more forgivable by an order of magnitude)!

Edward Feser said...

Oh brother. Someone else tried this pathetic "gotcha" in the combox to this post:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/08/final-word-on-eric-macdonald.html

where, as you'll see, Bobcat patiently dispatched it.

Really, Ray, is this chickenshit stuff the best you can do?

BenYachov said...

Gnus are mentally inferior. Not all Atheists are Gnus. Thus not all Atheists are mentally inferior. But those Atheists who are Gnus are mentally inferior. Like religious Fundies.

They can't be bothered to learn or craw out of their little boxes. They have replace one set of narrow simplistic dogmas with another and continue in their self-defeating ways!

>(Yes, changing that one word definitely changes the meaning of the phrase in critical ways.)

Maybe for someone with an IQ less then 3.

I would respect the non-Gnu Atheist who reads Feser's book and attempts to argue Moderate Realism is wrong and either Conceptionlism or nominalism is correct. Or attempt to refute Feser's critiques of Strong Realism, Conceptionalism etc.

But "Dawkins said "or" not "and"! Misrepresentation!".

Plueeze!

Dawkins claiming the "argument from motion" refers to physics and not a metaphysical description of change is a misrepresentation.

A YEC who claims the Second Law of Thermal Dynamics refutes evolution or has anything to do with it is a misrepresentation.

Ray is just not being serious.

I'm still pissed.

Ray Ingles said...

Bobcat patiently dispatched it.

Patiently, maybe. Effectively? I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree. For future reference, maybe you'd want to say something like:

'Dawkins infamously described critics of evolution as ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked[footnote]. However well-meaning this or that individual liberal secularist may be, I maintain his creed is all four.'

"Really, Ray, is this chickenshit stuff the best you can do?"

Well, I dunno. Like I said, so far in your book all I've seen is Appalachian Brag about what you're going to do. Perhaps it'll be different once we get to something substantial...

Ray Ingles said...

BenYachov - hairsplitting over two alternate conjunctions (i.e. and vs or etc)"

"Procreative and unitive", "procreative or unitive" - what's the difference?

BenYachov said...

>"Procreative and unitive", "procreative or unitive" - what's the difference?

What's the context moron?