Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What’s the deal with sex? Part I


In the second edition of his book Practical Ethics, Peter Singer writes:

[T]he first thing to say about ethics is that it is not a set of prohibitions particularly concerned with sex.  Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all.  Decisions about sex may involve considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car. (p. 2, emphasis added)

I have long regarded this as one of the most imbecilic things any philosopher has ever said.  That sex has special moral significance, indeed tremendous moral significance, is blindingly obvious.  That is why all of the world religions, and major thinkers from Plato to Augustine to Aquinas to Kant to Freud, have regarded sex as having tremendous moral significance.  Nor do you have to agree with the specific teachings of any of these religions or thinkers to see that it has tremendous moral significance.  Indeed, you don’t necessarily have to take any particular stand on any of the usual “hot button” issues -- abortion, extramarital sex, homosexuality, contraception, etc. -- to see that it has special significance.  What takes real effort is getting yourself not to see the unique significance of sex.  That takes ideological thinking, intellectual dishonesty and slovenliness, or just plain moral obtuseness -- or all of the above, as in the case of “ethicists” like Singer.

There are at least three respects in which sex has special moral significance, and manifestly so:

1. Sex is the means by which new people are made.  Now, how we treat people, especially in matters of life and death, obviously has moral significance.  Indeed, ethics is largely (even if not entirely) concerned with how we treat other people.  So, since sex is the way new people come into being in the first place, it obviously has special moral significance.  Moreover, no one denies that we have special moral responsibilities toward our immediate family members, and especially children.  But the new people who we bring about through sex are, of course, precisely our children.  Hence sex is very morally significant indeed.

Of course, some people deny that new people are directly brought into being by sex.  For example, defenders of abortion often claim that embryos and even fetuses are not really persons but only “potential persons.”  Naturally, I disagree with this.  Embryos and fetuses are not “potential persons”; rather they are persons, but persons who have not yet realized certain of their key potentials.  But for present purposes this is not a debate that needs to be resolved.  Even people who make claims of the sort in question admit that abortion raises serious moral issues that the defender of abortion has to deal with.  For even they would at least allow that embryos and fetuses are “potential persons” in a way that other things are not “potential persons,” insofar as they have a natural tendency to become persons that other things (an unfertilized ovum, a dog, etc.) do not have.  But the way these “potential persons” typically come into being is, of course, through sex.  Hence sex has at the very least a unique indirect connection to the generation of new persons.  Thus if aborting so-called “potential persons” raises serious moral questions, it follows that sex raises serious moral questions. 

To be sure, defenders of abortion take different views about how serious the moral questions raised by abortion are.  Some admit that abortion is at least regrettable and better avoided all things being equal, even if they think it ought to be permitted.  They maintain that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”  Others don’t particularly care whether it’s rare.  But even they typically admit that it takes a fair amount of argumentation to show that this attitude is morally legitimate.  Hence even Singer -- who explains that his book “contains no discussion of sexual morality” because he thinks sex lacks any special moral significance -- devotes an entire chapter to the subject of abortion.  Now if it weren’t for sex, there would of course be no abortion issue in the first place.  Hence if even Singer admits that abortion raises morally significant questions, he should also admit that sex has special moral significance.  After all, the reason for most abortions is precisely to avoid having to take the special moral responsibility for a new human being that letting the child be born would entail.  Even the abortion defender should admit that any behavior that puts you in the situation of having either to get an abortion or take special moral responsibility for some new human being is itself a pretty morally significant kind of behavior.

Note that it is not a good objection to point out that much sexual behavior does not actually result in new people, and that new people might come about in other ways (artificial insemination and cloning).  Obviously, sex and the production of new people are nevertheless connected in a special way.  For one thing, the biological function of sex is to make new people, even if it doesn’t always in fact result in new people.  Sex only exists in the first place because it has this reproductive function.  (This is so even given a reductionist naturalistic analysis of biological function rather than a non-reductionist Aristotelian analysis; and it is so whether or not one thinks biological function has all the specific moral implications we traditional natural law theorists claim it does.)  For another thing, the other ways in which new people might come about are either relatively rare (only a small percentage of pregnancies are the result of artificial insemination) or still theoretical (cloning), and they are in any event parasitic on the usual way new people come into being, viz. sexual intercourse.  It is only because people already generally reproduce by means of sex that there are natural processes which we might interfere with and thereby cause people to come into being in these other, idiosyncratic ways. 

Consider the following analogy.  I think it’s safe to suppose that most people who would take Singer’s attitude toward sex would also say that guns raise special moral questions that other human artifacts do not, because of the special dangers they pose to human life.  And they would say this despite the fact that most gun use does not result in death, and most deaths do not result from the use of guns.  For guns nevertheless have a propensity for causing death that entails that we ought to be very cautious in using them, and that raises special moral and legal questions.  (Note that it raises these questions however we end up answering them.  The point does not depend on whether one takes a liberal or a conservative view on questions about gun control.)  By the same token, sex obviously has a propensity for causing new people to exist that suffices to give it special moral significance, even if not all sexual intercourse results in new people and even if not all new people result from sexual intercourse. 

2. Sex is the means by which we are completed qua men and women.  Needless to say, a person’s sexual organs require those of another human being of the opposite sex if they are to fulfill their biological function.  In that sense we are incomplete without sex.  But it’s more than just plumbing or physiology.  Most people, for at least a significant portion of their lives, will feel frustrated and unfulfilled if they are unable to have the sort of romantic relationship with another person which has sex as its natural concomitant.  As I argued on natural law grounds in an earlier post, our psychology, no less than our physiology, is naturally “directed toward” another human being as the end required for its completion.  As I also there argued, this sexual psychology forms a continuum, from (to borrow some terminology from C. S. Lewis) mere Venus or basic sexual desire at one end to Eros or full-on romantic longing at the other. 

Of course, there are exceptions.  There are people who forsake such relationships because they are called to a higher state of the sort represented by the priesthood or religious life.  Precisely because the good is a higher good, the person so called is able to overcome the frustration that might otherwise attend such forsaking.  There are also some people who simply lack any significant sexual or romantic desires in the first place.  But in the typical case, human beings will be frustrated by the lack of a sexual relationship with another human being.

Now of course, we traditional natural law types maintain that such a relationship ought to exist only in the context of marriage, and also (as discussed in another earlier post) that the natural end toward which human sexual psychology is directed is a human being of the opposite sex, rather than merely “a person” in the abstract.  But once again, for present purposes, you needn’t agree with all that.  The book of Genesis characterizes our sexual incompleteness in decidedly heterosexual terms.  The myth of Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium famously portrays it in a much more freewheeling way.  But both testify to the antiquity of the idea that a human being needs another human being sexually for his or her completion.  Advocates of “same-sex marriage” testify to this need as well to the extent that they defend “same-sex marriage” in the name of romantic love and personal fulfillment. 

Failure to succeed in romantic relationships can be not only frustrating in itself, but can affect a person’s sense of self-worth, as can any indication that one simply lacks the capacity to attract or satisfy a lover.  Thus, to belittle a person’s romantic feelings or sexual advances, or to disparage his or her sexual performance or attractiveness to the opposite sex, are all actions considered especially cruel and humiliating.  The presence of a sexual aspect to other harms and misfortunes also makes them much harder to bear.  Adultery is considered a far deeper betrayal than any mere breach of contract.  Rape and child molestation are far more cruel and psychologically scarring than a non-sexual assault.  Exposure of one’s private sexual foibles is regarded as far more humiliating than the disclosure of financial improprieties or other crimes. 

Now, that people take there to be a great deal at stake where sex is concerned -- that they regard success in sexual matters as so important to their happiness, and misfortune in sexual matters as a source of such misery -- makes it simply ludicrous to suggest, as Singer does, that “sex raises no unique moral issues at all” or that “there is nothing special about sex” vis-à-vis the moral considerations relevant to it.  Given the importance people naturally attach to it, they can obviously do serious harm to themselves or to others depending on how they behave sexually.  You might as well say that there is nothing especially morally significant about being a parent, or about being extremely rich, or about being a policeman or a public official. 

It is fatuous to pretend that the moral considerations are entirely extrinsic to sex -- mere “considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on… [which apply also to] decisions about driving a car,” as Singer claims.  You could equally well say this of matters Singer thinks do have special moral significance.  For example, you could with no less plausibility say about the distribution of wealth or the state of the environment that they “raise no unique moral issues at all” and that “there is nothing special about” them, but that they merely involve attention to “considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on… [which apply also to] decisions about driving a car.”  Yet Singer devotes to each of these topics a chapter in Practical Ethics, and has devoted much attention to them elsewhere as well. 

3. Sex is that area of human life in which the animal side of our nature most relentlessly fights against the rational side of our nature.  Sexual pleasure is the most intense of pleasures.  The reasons for this have to do with the considerations raised in the first two points.  Sex is necessary for the generation of new human beings, but generating new human beings imposes on us enormous costs and responsibilities which we are very reluctant to take on.  Nature has thus made sex so extremely pleasurable that people will engage in it anyway, despite its propensity to generate new people for whom they will have to take responsibility.  Sex is also that act which consummates, in the most physically and emotionally intimate or unifying way possible, those romantic relationships in which we seek to remedy our sense of incompleteness.  This adds a further, psychologically rich layer of pleasure to the act, which greatly enhances what is already intensely pleasurable just at a raw animal level.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the satisfaction this kind of pleasure promises us can lead us to do all sorts of deeply irrational things.  For just a few moments of sexual pleasure, many people will risk damage to their reputations and the breaking up of marriages and families, both their own and those of others.  Sexual or romantic passion can prevent people from seeing that a certain person is simply not a suitable marriage partner or someone with whom to have children.  Romantic and sexual jealousy can tempt people to spy on and stalk the object of their affections, or even to commit murder.  The quest for romantic and sexual pleasure can take on a compulsive character.  Hence people become promiscuous, or addicted to pornography, or prone to excessive romantic fantasizing, constantly falling in and out of love.  And of course there are various less serious ways in which romantic love or the desire for sex can lead us to act in ways we would otherwise regard as obviously foolish (ill-considered attempts to impress someone to whom one is attracted, crude sexual advances, etc.).

There is another way in which sex can lead us to act irrationally.  We can be so troubled by its tendency to make us act irrationally that we overreact to its potential dangers.  Horrified by the extremes to which some people go in the pursuit of sexual pleasure, other people sometimes tend toward the opposite extreme.  They might prudishly judge that all sexual pleasure is of its nature suspect and better avoided entirely, or at least as far as possible, even in marriage.  Even when married, they might scrupulously fret and worry over the minute details of every sexual desire or every aspect of their lovemaking, constantly in a panic over whether they have fallen into sin.  (This is, of course, much less rare a tendency these days than the opposite extreme is.  But judging from some of the oddballs you’ll find pontificating here and there on the internet, and some of the email that shows up occasionally in my combox, it does exist.  Certainly it has existed in a great many people historically.)

Everyone knows all this; once again, you don’t need to agree with traditional natural law theory to see the point.  But it is obvious that this tendency of sex to cloud our reason is of special moral significance.  What it tempts us toward is a kind of vice; naturally, then, there must also be such a thing as virtue where sex is concerned, a sober middle ground that avoids irrational extremes.  Those who reject traditional natural law theory will of course disagree with it about the specific content of virtue where matters of sex are concerned, but it simply defies reason to pretend, as Singer does, that “sex raises no unique moral issues at all.”

Indeed, people who say, in the face of all the obvious evidence, that sex is “no big deal,” thereby merely provide yet a further example of the irrationality to which we are prone in matters of sex.  For this sort of remark is, of course, typically an attempt to rationalize or excuse sexual behavior widely thought to be morally questionable but which the speaker would like to engage in anyway. 

So far I have been appealing to considerations which, as I have said, any reasonable person should agree with, whether or not he accepts everything a natural law theorist or a Catholic moral theologian would maintain vis-à-vis sexual morality.  The point is to show that one needn’t be committed wholesale to traditional sexual morality to see that sex clearly has the kind of moral significance Singer denies it does. 

But even what has been said so far goes a long way toward showing how reasonable traditional sexual morality is.  Catholic moral theology distinguishes three ends or purposes of marriage: the procreation and education of children, the mutual aid of the spouses, and the remedying of concupiscence.  It should be evident that these purposes are aimed precisely at dealing with the three respects in which sex raises special moral problems.  Sex has a propensity to result in the generation of new human beings; marriage functions to secure for these new human beings a stable environment in which their material and spiritual needs can be met.  Our desire for sexual and romantic relationships reflects our sense of being in some deep way incomplete; the institution of marriage, by which we commit ourselves to another person through thick and thin, functions to ensure that we find completion that is stable and substantive rather than ephemeral and superficial.  Sexual desire tempts us to act contrary to reason in ways that threaten to damage both ourselves and others; marriage functions to discipline sexual desire by channeling it in a way that is both socially constructive and conducive to our own best interests.

Obviously, further argumentation would be required to defend the entire range of claims Catholic moral theology and natural law theory would make about sexual morality, but that is not to the present point.  The point is rather that there is simply no basis at all for the view -- by no means unique to Singer -- that “sex raises no unique moral issues at all,” or for the common, tiresome allegation that traditional moralists’ concern with sexual morality reflects mere superstition or prudery. 

Much more can be said about the special moral problems posed by sex, from a specifically Thomistic (and thus inevitably more controversial) point of view.  But that will have to wait for a follow-up post.

610 comments:

1 – 200 of 610   Newer›   Newest»
Matusalemda Marin said...

Thank you Mr Feser!

Greg said...

There was recently an article on a similar topic in National Review.

It's incredible that someone who thinks bestiality is permissible (which is presently rare even among liberals) could claim that sex poses no special moral issues.

Anonymous said...

Great article. I totally agree with your main point.

I am wondering if you could, perhaps in a future post, clarify how the traditional Catholic "ends of marriage" are hierarchically related to one another.

For example, Pope Pius XII states in a letter to Italian midwives (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12midwives.htm):

"Now, the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, much less superior to the primary end, but are essentially subordinated to it. This is true of every marriage, even if no offspring result, just as of every eye it can be said that it is destined and formed to see, even if, in abnormal cases arising from special internal or external conditions, it will never be possible to achieve visual perception."

From a Thomistic perspective, what do you think Pius was getting at here? I have been arguing with a traditionalist who sees this statement as a contradiction with current Catholic teaching on the procreative and unitive aspect of marriage.

Cheers,
Daniel

Seamus said...

It's incredible that someone who thinks bestiality is permissible (which is presently rare even among liberals) could claim that sex poses no special moral issues.

On the contrary, people who think that bestiality is permissible are *exactly* the kind of people you'd expect to find saying thing such as that sex poses no special moral issues.

Damien S said...

Excellent, informative, and edifying piece as usual Ed!

Many thanks

Anonymous said...

"The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships." Humanae Vitae, Paul VI

Originally written for married Catholics, once it was published, it became the target for every liberal thinker. So the Church became the unfortunate target as the "people who ruin sex".

I guess what's missing from your piece is the underlying drive for women's equality in the
modern world.

The Church did a great job for centuries of protecting women's sexuality with the institutionalization of marriage, but the advent of 20th Century science and modern media; and the feminist movement have turned this on its head.

In today's media, the underlying morality for having children is the sentience that "they are wanted" either by procreation or adoption, otherwise the fetus is treated like cattle or an inanimate object.

Just like those who used to fear the Church by criticizing sexual moral practice, liberal thinkers today like Singer won't touch the issue because they fear the feminists and the liberal media.

Greg said...

@ Seamus

I agree. What I mean is that in another sense, it's incredible that Singer can declare sex philosophically uninteresting he advances claims about sexuality that most liberals reject.

J Darius said...

I think its incredibly important to emphasize with clarity the objective moral truths and consequences concerning sex, especially because the liberals and have exhaustingly attempted (in vain) to frame sexual issues as entirely subjective, even to the point of denying all rationality, e.g., "No one can tell me what to do with my body," and "Stay out of my bedroom," as if sex had no societal consequences whatsoever. It is true that sex is deeply personal and intimate for the reasons Ed mentions, but to obstinately deny that the sexual behavior of others affects the common good is inexcusable.

Crude said...

It's incredible that someone who thinks bestiality is permissible (which is presently rare even among liberals)

Presently rare in public acceptance or championship, but I question whether it's rare in fact among progressives. Intellectually, there's not much of note in the way there beyond 'don't harm animals'.

I notice that sex, in fine detail, generally isn't talked about among liberals or conservatives save for the most generalized, even idealized senses. Liberals try mightily to frame talk of sex (especially related to LGBT issues) as pure expressions of love. Beyond that, it's just 'consensual behavior'. Conservatives, a good share of whom seem generally squeamish, try to stick to abstract terms like 'relationships' or, among the saltier, 'sodomy'.

Like most modern sex, it ain't exactly productive.

Scott said...

@Daniel:

"From a Thomistic perspective, what do you think Pius was getting at here? I have been arguing with a traditionalist who sees this statement as a contradiction with current Catholic teaching on the procreative and unitive aspect of marriage."

I don't speak for Ed (still less for Pope Pius XII!), but I don't see the conflict. The unitive function surely depends on the procreative function; if sex weren't by nature and in principle procreative, it wouldn't be unitive either. In that sense the procreative function is primary, and so far as I know, current Catholic teaching doesn't say otherwise.

I don't, of course, mean that sex can't still be unitive for couples who are (say) infertile or past their child-bearing years; I just mean that if humans didn't reproduce sexually in general and in principle, sex wouldn't have the tendency it does have to unite couples.

Bob said...

Warped OP...

Do you really look at sex in this way, or do you look at it like this because you believe you are supposed to do so?

Gary Black said...

You trying to formulate a criticism there Bob? Need any help? For instance, did you have a problem with the whole sex makes babies part?

Anonymous said...

Anon,

An important phrase in the passage from Pius XII is "as an institution of nature." St.Thomas orders the goods of marriage in two different ways according to whether they are considered with regard to their being essential or with regard to their excellency. With regard to their being essential, St. Thomas says the production of offspring ranks first, followed by fidelity (to which unity refers) and then the sacramental good. With regard to excellency, however, the sacramental good ranks first, while fidelity and offspring, as pertaining to marriage as an "office of nature," rank second and third.

DNW said...

Crude said...

'It's incredible that someone who thinks bestiality is permissible (which is presently rare even among liberals)'

Presently rare in public acceptance or championship, but I question whether it's rare in fact among progressives. Intellectually, there's not much of note in the way there beyond 'don't harm animals'.

I notice that sex, in fine detail, generally isn't talked about among liberals or conservatives save for the most generalized, even idealized senses. Liberals try mightily to frame talk of sex (especially related to LGBT issues) as pure expressions of love. Beyond that, it's just 'consensual behavior'. Conservatives, a good share of whom seem generally squeamish, try to stick to abstract terms like 'relationships' or, among the saltier, 'sodomy'.

Like most modern sex, it ain't exactly productive.
January 28, 2015 at 8:02 AM "




As you know however, turning back and applying the conclusions of their reductive or even deconstructive analyses upon their own lives, isn't much appreciated. Oddly enough.

It's the old puzzle. Grant their deconstructive premisses regarding all humans; apply the product of such an analysis to the now formerly presumptive "man" who makes the announcement; gaze indifferently at this sui generis entity through the lens it has itself ground; and then listen to the squeals of indignation, as you supposedly "deny their humanity" or something.

You deny them what they deny objectively exists. What an outrage.

After listening to a huge number of these cases sneer at the notion of "spirit goo", or the notion of essential natures, one finally remarks: "Well we can take it as settled then, that you at least have nothing that could be called a 'soul', and no entitlement to whatever, if any, considerations might flow from such an assumption. Right?"

Howls of indignation in return.

But why?

Is there not even one of these sons of bitches anywhere that has the courage face and to live, to try and socially live, the implications of its own nominalism, subjectivity, and values relativism, without whimpering like some flogged dog when they are treated like "the radically other" their ideology clearly implies they are?

If it's all merely an intellectual exercise, they are certainly welcome to say so. But so often its accompanied by some quasi-scientific project of "demonstrating" that man is "not special after all"; or debunking "anthropocentrism" for the supposed sake of some still other vague project which deploys morally tinged language.

What 'moral' project, exactly? We never find out.

The hypocrisy of it all. Imagine the turmoil and outrage - well we've seen precursors of it in media misfires already - among the progressive abortion-loving classes, if someone were to offer to pay prospective parents for aborting homosexual foeti (if there were such a thing). Why, in that case, you would somehow be murdering babies, or engaging in acts of wanton cruelty.

The question they refuse to address is: what under their own anthropological terms is it, that is acting outraged, and why?

Anonymous said...

@Scott,

Thanks for the response. I agree.

@Anonymous January 28, 2015 at 9:17 AM

I am embarrassed to ask this, but what is a sacramental good? Can you point me to where Aquinas makes the distinction you mentioned between essentially ranked and ranked by excellence?

Thanks,
Daniel

Scott said...

@Daniel:

See here.

Crude said...

Warped OP...

And here's Bob to tell us all about the proper purpose and final cause of sex!

DNW,

When it comes to sex in particular, I think most people - again, I include many conservatives in this - just head for the hills when it comes to the topic in any kind of real detail. Even the straightforward intellectual view Ed's laying out here, a lot of people have trouble grappling with in any detailed sense.

As for intellectual consistency - I agree, but you give people too much credit. I don't think most people, especially not most outspoken progressives, could meaningfully sketch out their own intellectual commitments. They can repeat some slogans, they can chant, they can even list demands. But ask them to explain their worldview and you'll generally get a fast-forward replay of the end of Flowers for Algernon.

Irish Thomist said...

Bob said...

Warped OP...

Do you really look at sex in this way, or do you look at it like this because you believe you are supposed to do so?


Good joke but missed the punchline.

David M said...

I hate to be defending Peter Singer, but here goes (although my defense is limited strictly to the quote Feser opened with): "Decisions about sex may involve considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car."
Here, at least, Singer does not say that sex has no special moral significance [period]; just that the kinds of moral issues involved are not unique to sex (namely, "considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on"). Unless I'm missing something, it seems hardly fair to call this "one of the most imbecilic things any philosopher has ever said."

David M said...

Crude wrote: "Conservatives, a good share of whom seem generally squeamish, try to stick to abstract terms like 'relationships' or, among the saltier, 'sodomy'."

Ha! And as St. Paul recommends:

"Sermo vester semper in gratia sale sit conditus" (Col. 4:6) - always let your words, in grace, be seasoned with salt.

David M said...

"St.Thomas orders the goods of marriage in two different ways according to whether they are considered with regard to their being essential or with regard to their excellency."

Actually (see the commentary on the Sentences, book IV d.31 q.1 a.3), in regard to their excellence or dignity, Thomas says that the sacramental aspect is principal, because it is a perfection of grace, rather than of nature. But in regard to what is most essential, Thomas says there are two ways to go. Considered in themselves, offspring and conjugal union are secondary to matrimony, since a sacramental (or indivisible/indissoluble) marriage may exist apart from these other two elements. But considered in their principles, i.e., in the intention to have children and to preserve conjugal union, without which marriage cannot exist, then offspring is most essential, followed by the unitive aspect, and finally that of the sacrament - and this ordering applies, Thomas says, insofar as the being of nature is more essential than the being of grace.

Quin Finnegan said...

Aristophanes ~ "freewheeling" ~ Awesome

Scott said...

@Bob:

I'm still trying to work out why, if you look at something in a certain way because you think you're supposed to, that somehow means you don't really look at it that way. Are you trying to accuse Ed of some sort of hypocrisy on the basis of this imaginary disjunction?

Daniel said...

Troll behavior observation no: 104

I find the response given by Bob ironic in that what's he's implicitly questioning is a very similar position to what Naturalists in their 'Science TM', as opposed to pop-politicising, moods also 'tell us to believe'. If there is a problem with the position Ed espouses (in passing) it's that it's too reductionist and inclined to reduce things to questions of biology.

Greg said...

@ David M

Here, at least, Singer does not say that sex has no special moral significance [period]; just that the kinds of moral issues involved are not unique to sex (namely, "considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on"). Unless I'm missing something, it seems hardly fair to call this "one of the most imbecilic things any philosopher has ever said."

Well, to say that sex has no special moral significance actually is to say, directly, that those moral issues that are associated with it are not unique to it.

I think it is odd for a philosopher to say something like this because it is denied even by most liberals. I do believe that it is a pretty straightforward consequence of utilitarianism that nothing has special moral significance; things have moral significance only according to whatever metric the utilitarian maximizes, which (if utilitarian is to be possible) must not be special or unique to any single activity. There may be some premoral significance to sex, but it's a contingent and extrinsic matter. If people felt the same way about playing tennis, then tennis would be as significant as sex. (Well, this is actually a bit more complicated since sex is related to other issues with which utilitarians are concerned, like population dynamics.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Scott, Anonymous, and David for your responses. I have some reading to do. :)

Cheers,
Daniel

Chad Handley said...

"I question whether (support for bestiality) is rare in fact among progressives."

Really?

In addition to the fact that many progressives I know rather proudly claim to love animals more than they do people, progressives are generally pretty big on consent, which animals can't give.

I consider myself a progressive, and I can't think of a single reason why that would make me more tolerant of bestiality.

"Progressive" does not mean "atheist-materialist-moral-nihilist."

dover_beach said...

"progressives are generally pretty big on consent, which animals can't give."
But because they cannot give it, consent cannot be a requirement. Surely that is obvious. Progressives are going to have to hang their hook on another rail.

Chad Handley said...

"But because they cannot give it, consent cannot be a requirement. Surely that is obvious."

It really isn't.

That consent can't be given would indicate that sex with animals is always impermissible, not that it is always permissible. Or are you next going to claim that progressives have no ground to object to sex with very small children, since they also cannot give consent?

And again, a progressive could be a Christian or even a Catholic. He could largely agree with the conservative with regards to the origin, content, and force of the moral law.

I can see that conservatives are out to do to the word "progressive" what they've always tried to do with the word "liberal," inasmuch as they are trying to make disagreement with the conservative political agenda synonymous with defiance of the Almighty.

Brandon said...

Actually, the standard zoophile argument is that animals can, in fact, consent in the relevant sense. The high level of consent required for something like traditional marriage, requiring the ability to show that you can recognize certain moral truths and take up an ongoing commitment, is entirely out the window; consent in sexual contexts can't be required to be verbalized consent because as a matter of fact sexual consent is often not verbalized; animals are capable of indicating whether they like things or not; so, the argument goes, what besides anti-zoophile bigotry stands in the way of recognizing that they are capable of consent?

Chad Handley said...

I'm sure bestial individuals have arguments, such as they are, for their position.

I'm not sure why one would expect to find more bestial individuals among progressives than among other groups.

I don't know what a bestial individual would say in response to your last question, but a progressive would likely say that animals, like minors, lack the intellectual capacity to truly give consent.

Greg said...

Chad, would you say that it is bad for animals to have sex with each other, since they cannot give each other consent?

Though Brandon is right. Zoophiles argue that animals can consent. But even if they couldn't, they cite facts like this: Not all liberals who argue against bestiality from consent are vegetarians.

The consent objection also seems to locate the problem in the wrong spot. Some people find the comparison of libertine sexuality and bestiality to be offensive, but I think it is unlikely that they find it offensive as an accusation that what they are doing is similar to an activity that violates norms of consent.

John West said...

I'm fine affirming and supporting speciecism, regardless of the success or failure of the consent objection.

Greg said...

I'm not sure why one would expect to find more bestial individuals among progressives than among other groups.

One reason would be that it is apparently natural to apply progressive understandings of sexuality to bestiality.

I mean, there is also more support for pedophiles on the left, i.e. NAMBLA. That many progressives attempt to construct arguments from consent against pedophilia and bestiality is a testament to their good intuitions.

Chad Handley said...

"Chad, would you say that it is bad for animals to have sex with each other, since they cannot give each other consent?"

I would say that our moral categories don't apply to animals.

"Not all liberals who argue against bestiality from consent are vegetarians."

Sure, and most conservatives who eat meat don't have sex with their pets.

Again, why are we assuming that only liberals and progressives object to bestiality, and that their reasons for objecting differ greatly from those of conservatives, libertarians, the politically unaffiliated, dogwalkers, airplane pilots, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc?

I'm missing the unique and natural connection between political progressiveness and bestiality.

"The consent objection also seems to locate the problem in the wrong spot. Some people find the comparison of libertine sexuality and bestiality to be offensive, but I think it is unlikely that they find it offensive as an accusation that what they are doing is similar to an activity that violates norms of consent."

I don't understand what you're getting at here.

Brandon said...

My point had nothing to do with the useless and childish bickering about what the word 'progressive' does or does not include; I was pointing out that everything said about the question of consent was quite obviously wrong and confused on both sides.

a progressive would likely say that animals, like minors, lack the intellectual capacity to truly give consent.

About ten years ago, you would probably be right. And there are likely quite a few who would still say that. But it's not an argument that has any serious traction any more; anyone can see immediately that this standard directly implies that adults with serious mental impediments cannot have sexual relationships -- if, a la Regarding Henry, an adult is injured and brain damaged, for instance, it would directly imply his girlfriend or wife could no longer have sex with him. It's not as if this is a line of argument incapable of being anticipated. The only way a progressive today could be so naive as to think that argument on its own would fly is if he were completely clueless about the subject. Which certainly you could find.

Chad Handley said...

"One reason would be that it is apparently natural to apply progressive understandings of sexuality to bestiality."

How does that article support the conclusion that bestiality would be more common among progressives?

"I mean, there is also more support for pedophiles on the left, i.e. NAMBLA."

I don't understand how you can place NAMBLA on the political spectrum at all.

If you insist on believing that NAMBLA is a left-wing organization, I would counter that NAMBLA is about as representative of progressive thinking as the Ku Klux Klan is of conservative thinking.



DNW said...

"In addition to the fact that many progressives I know rather proudly claim to love animals more than they do people, ..."

That is probably not only true in Chad's case, regarding the "progressives" he personally knows, but something that comports with the experience of numerous others of us who have made the acquaintance of more or less typical, cat fancying, social progressives.

To take this line a step further, Jon Haidt the (politically liberal) psychologist was, he said, surprised to find that his research revealed that liberals love - have a stronger emotional connection with - "humanity" than they do with the real people in their own families.

Added up, it kind of gives one an outline of the progressive's hierarchy of emotional commitments: with Anubis the cat-god at the apex, an abstraction called humanity next, and real people somewhere further down.

It probably has not escaped the average man's notice that the 'progressive personality' somewhat parallels the feline as well.


" ... progressives are generally pretty big on consent ..."

Except of course when it comes to judicially redirecting the lives of "the governed". It's also plain to anyone who reads the occasional opinion piece written by progressives, that some progressives would, if they had the political power, happily grant to brutes certain basic liberties which they would not in turn permit to men: such as hunting, meat eating, or a right of self-defense.

Copulating in the street during parades, they do tend to allow to either.


" ... which ["consent"]animals can't give."

It has been Singer's contention that their behavior indicated they can, and do. Perhaps, for example, your neighbors with the Chihuahua have invited you over for a drink; and while visiting there, you noticed the bug-eyed little miscreant taking an unwholesome interest in your shoe.

Singer seems to take that as consent. At least on the part of the dog.

" "Progressive" does not mean "atheist-materialist-moral-nihilist." "

It very often implies it if you take seriously what numerous political progressives say about their own worldviews.

This leaves one in the position of 1, either taking what they say seriously and then recognizing that quite often the stance logically makes them morally "other" on the basis of their own terms; or 2, refusing to take what they say regarding their justifications seriously, while simultaneously recognizing that they still present a constant social annoyance and unreasonable burden, if not always, an existential threat.

Chad Handley said...

"anyone can see immediately that this standard directly implies that adults with serious mental impediments cannot have sexual relationships..."

Only if the mental impediment was so severe that the person's intellectual capacity was lowered to the level of an animal. If a person's mental capacity was reduced to the point that it was on par with that of a sheep, I would say that person could not give consent, even to their spouses.

It's perfectly reasonable to say that the intellectual capacity required to consent is within the capacity of even severely mentally damaged humans but beyond the capacity of any animal.

Brandon said...

It's perfectly reasonable to say that the intellectual capacity required to consent is within the capacity of even severely mentally damaged humans but beyond the capacity of any animal.

Of course it's not; you've now absurdly shifted to include children in the category of people who can consent sexually, when in fact you explicitly left them out before.

Crude said...

Really?

Yep, I really question it. I also question their honesty. Personal experience requires that - they've got a knack for consciously bullshitting, especially on sexual topics, to try and dupe people in order to get what they want. You know, like "Hey guys gay marriage is totally wrong but let's completely give up on that and revisit the issue in a century, saving souls is more important! -> Okay I actually totally support gay marriage." Rotten stuff, you know?

In addition to the fact that many progressives I know rather proudly claim to love animals more than they do people, progressives are generally pretty big on consent, which animals can't give.

Others have pointed out the problems with trying to shield progressives on this topic, but I'll note: they don't care a whit about consent when it comes to abortion. I'll further note that Singer is treated with praise in many progressive quarters, even with his bestiality stance. In fact... well, hold on.

Or are you next going to claim that progressives have no ground to object to sex with very small children, since they also cannot give consent?

As I was saying...

Progressives are mighty tolerant of the whole 'infanticide' thing too, to say nothing of the 'abortion' thing. It's, at a very least, treated as a respectable, live option that we should take seriously and be intellectually open to (as opposed to 'regarding same-sex or various heterosexual sexual acts as immoral or, God help us, disordered', which is so wrong you should be drummed out of the APA for so much as entertaining the thought). They don't exactly get up in arms when mentally deficient people are offed by the state or the like either, when consent is expressly neither given nor possible to give.

In light of this and more (with Singer just being a prominent public example of this sort of thing), yeah, I think I'm on reasonable ground of being skeptical that progressives find bestiality to be morally depraved, as opposed to 'something they're generally not into and don't care much about' at best.

"Progressive" does not mean "atheist-materialist-moral-nihilist."

Not necessarily, no, but in many of the cases where they're not that, they make for one hell of a fucking counterfeit.

I'm sure, of course, this is outrageous to progressives, who always strive to view non-progressives in the best possible light, and not as Disney cartoon villains who quite literally want to kill all the poor people, except for the gay ones, who should certainly be tortured first.

Chad Handley said...

"It very often implies it if you take seriously what numerous political progressives say about their own worldviews.

This leaves one in the position of 1, either taking what they say seriously..."

Yeah, let's do that. So, I encourage you to take seriously that:

89% of liberal/progressives in America are theists.

The majority of American liberals/progressives claim that faith is important in their daily lives.

1/3 of all American liberal/progressives claim to be "born again."

In America, association with the Catholic church is higher among liberal/progressives than among conservatives.

The problem is, conservatives like to pretend that Peter Singer is more representative of progressive views than is their progressive neighbor, who they know full well would be appalled by Singer's views.

Again, if it's fair to think of Singer as representative of progressive attitudes on bestiality, it's fair to think of David Duke as representative of conservative attitudes on race relations.



Crude said...

Oh, and just to make clear.

Liberal != Progressive.

Someone can have liberal views about sex, or economics, or regulation, or this or that or the other thing, and it means nothing to me. I happily talk with full-blown atheist anarchists, socialists, and more. Some people I admire are self-described liberals. I disagree with them deeply, but so what? I disagree with Ed deeply at times.

But once 'progressive' starts being thrown around as a self-descriptor, yeah, I've learned that's generally a very bad sign, and there's little point in pretending otherwise.

Chad Handley said...

"Of course it's not; you've now absurdly shifted to include children in the category of people who can consent sexually, when in fact you explicitly left them out before."

I've done no such thing.

I didn't say that anyone whose intellectual capacity exceeds the sheep is fair game.

I said that if any human's intellectual capacity is lower than a sheep's, that person is not fair game.

I would also say that if a person's mental capacity if that of a small child's, that person is also not capable of giving consent.

I'm including in the concept of intellectual capacity concepts like maturity, which even a very bright child lacks, and which a very mentally diminished adult might have.

Brandon said...


Again, if it's fair to think of Singer as representative of progressive attitudes on bestiality, it's fair to think of David Duke as representative of conservative attitudes on race relations.


This is not even a remotely reasonable analogy. Peter Singer is not a fringe figure; he's a highly respected figure in the animal rights movement and a highly respected and influential figure in the field of ethics. His book Animal Liberation is still a classic and his book The President of Good and Evil reviewed extremely well. He's a mainstream figure. He certainly has views that would not be accepted by many progressives; but making claims like this merely makes you sound ignorant.

DNW said...


" I don't understand how you can place NAMBLA on the political spectrum at all."



He will have in this instance to forgive the understandable tendency of better informed people to generalize somewhat ...


" ... it was precisely in so-called progressive circles that an eroticization of childhood and a gradual lowering of taboos began. It was a shift that even allowed for the possibility of sex with children.

The incidents at the Odenwald School in the western state of Hesse -- a boarding school with no religious affiliation -- showed that there was a connection between calls for reform and the removal of inhibition."

"http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/the-sexual-revolution-and-children-how-the-left-took-things-too-far-a-702679.html"

Greg said...

I would say that our moral categories don't apply to animals.

But that's not what you're saying. You are saying that our moral categories (consent) apply to animal-human interactions, but not to animal-animal interactions. That appears to be pretty ad hoc.

The position does not work on consequentialism. It also would not work on some sort of deontology where one has rights according to one's autonomy, since insofar as animals cannot consent, they are not autonomous. So it's not clear what sort of liberal moral theory it would be consistent with.

Sure, and most conservatives who eat meat don't have sex with their pets.

Conservatives don't rule out bestiality on grounds of consent, nor does it enter into their arguments for the permissibility of eating meat.

I don't understand what you're getting at here.

My point is that many progressives find offensive the suggestion that some activity in which they engage is similar to bestiality. I submit, abductively, that the comparison to bestiality would be less effective if all that were wrong with bestiality were a lack of consent.

How does that article support the conclusion that bestiality would be more common among progressives?

It is representative of the versatility of progressive sexual language.

Chad Handley said...

Crude,

Can you identify some of these progressive circles where bestiality and infanticide are considered live, viable, respectable options?

I frequent political sites where the writers claim to be progressive and I've never come across anyone on any of them treating infanticide or bestiality like a viable, respectable option.

Feser grants that most progressives would rather strenuously disagree with Singer re: bestiality and infanticide. What knowledge is your tin foil hat giving you that Feser lacks?

Brandon said...

Chad Hanley at 2:59 PM:

a progressive would likely say that animals, like minors, lack the intellectual capacity to truly give consent.

Chad Hanley at 3:29 PM:

"anyone can see immediately that this standard directly implies that adults with serious mental impediments cannot have sexual relationships..."

Only if the mental impediment was so severe that the person's intellectual capacity was lowered to the level of an animal.

It's perfectly reasonable to say that the intellectual capacity required to consent is within the capacity of even severely mentally damaged humans but beyond the capacity of any animal.


Chad Handley at 3:50:

I would also say that if a person's mental capacity if that of a small child's, that person is also not capable of giving consent.

These are quite clearly inconsistent with each other: minors and animals are excluded solely in the first because they lack intellectual capacity to consent; adults with mental disabilities are allowed in the second comment solely (and this is, contrary to the third comment, explict, given the 'only' and the 'even', and is required in order to be an appropriate response to my comment) on the grounds that they have intellectual capacity to consent greater than animals; and the third rules out again some people with intellectual capacity to consent greater than animals. There is no wiggle room here; this is logically inconsistent.

Nor, as anyone can easily see does trying to finagle the phrase 'intellectual capacity to consent' with all sorts of secret hidden meanings, get anyone out of it: since it's a logical inconsistency, the only actual way out is to say that you misspoke in one of your three comments, and even if that were to be the case, exactly the same matters arise: what standard of maturity would include adults with serious brain damage and not include children? None in ordinary use. You're just adding things ad hoc.

Any progressive who takes this issue seriously would easily have been able to navigate this issue better than you have; you haven't even been able to get one of the most elementary arguments correct.

Chad Handley said...

Brandon:

I did not say: Peter Singer is to liberalism as David Duke is to conservatism.

I said Peter Singer on bestiality is to liberalism as David Duke on race relations is to conservatives.

Brandon said...

I said Peter Singer on bestiality is to liberalism as David Duke on race relations is to conservatives.


And, again, anyone can see that this is an extraordinarily ignorant thing to say. Peter Singer is not shunned by liberals for his position on bestiality; Peter Singer is very highly respected on other matters, which leads him to carry more weight even in controversial matters; and Peter Singer's general ethical position, which grounds his position on the subject, is widely and explicitly accepted.

Chad Handley said...

Brandon, you agree that some mentally disabled humans can give consent, while others cannot, right?

And you would agree that some children who cannot consent have a mental capacity beyond that of some mentally disabled humans who can consent, right?

In your view, what capacity gives the mentally disabled adult the ability to consent that the intellectually superior child lacks?

Chad Handley said...

"Peter Singer is not shunned by liberals for his position on bestiality"

As a matter of fact, Peter Singer is explicitly and vehemently shunned by many animal rights advocates who have a very substantial presence in the Progressive party.

Meanwhile, the majority whip just had himself a nice little sitdown with David Duke, and Duke claims that tens of thousands of conservatives petitioned him to run for President in 2012.

"Peter Singer is very highly respected on other matters"

Which is why I expressly excluded those other matters from the analogy.

Chad Handley said...

"But that's not what you're saying. You are saying that our moral categories (consent) apply to animal-human interactions, but not to animal-animal interactions. That appears to be pretty ad hoc."

Actually my position is that our moral categories apply only to the human side of the human/animal interactions. The animals are absolved. I don't think that dogs who hump their owner's leg should be tried for attempted rape.

Being as there's no human involved in animal-animal interactions, my position isn't the least bit ad hoc.

"The position does not work on consequentialism. It also would not work on some sort of deontology where one has rights according to one's autonomy, since insofar as animals cannot consent, they are not autonomous. So it's not clear what sort of liberal moral theory it would be consistent with."

How about Divine Command Theory, which is perfectly compatible with liberalism?

DNW said...

"The problem is, conservatives like to pretend that Peter Singer is more representative of progressive views than is their progressive neighbor, who they know full well would be appalled by Singer's views."

I was going to respond to your comment in some detail, but I instantly realized that it would degrade into argument over definitions: To what degree for example, political "liberal" and "progressive" terms overlap in content. Or whether my "progressive" neighbor's "views" on say, child molestation, amount to the same thing as his reasoning on the topic. Or, whether "theist" and "faith" as you deploy the terms, have any serious meaning at all; and if so, what that meaning amounts to.

And then there is the question as to why you are quibbling with an argument I was careful not to make, when I placed my reference to progressive world views within a limiting parameter.

Apparently you are concerned that what you see as run-of-the-mill progressives not be saddled with the logical implications which follow from the metaphysics of their more ideologically exacting and militant brethren. It is perhaps part of that well known progressive "inclusion" thing.

But if these supposedly theist, born again progressives have a coherent political argument to make, which does not violate the "wall of separation" argument progressives are otherwise so famous for, I for one would like to see it.

I have myself encountered progressives who warbled on about Jesus, for example, but it amounted only to so much banner waving or pantomiming. For when I asked them if the Jesus to whom they were adverting is the Son of God, and they His disciples, and if they are preaching religion to me in the context of a political discussion, they beat some pretty hasty retreats from that ploy.

No, they say, they are not quoting the authority of God.

Well then, what's the real argument and why did they don the faith robes in the first place?

I think we can pretty well surmise the answer to the second part of that question.

Crude said...

Brandon,

And, again, anyone can see that this is an extraordinarily ignorant thing to say. Peter Singer is not shunned by liberals for his position on bestiality; Peter Singer is very highly respected on other matters, which leads him to carry more weight even in controversial matters; and Peter Singer's general ethical position, which grounds his position on the subject, is widely and explicitly accepted.

Exactly. Well, ignorant or intentionally deceptive.

More than that: David Duke is a non-entity among mainstream conservatives, and even most of the fringe. The man is a pariah, period. If Singer was a pariah among progressives, the comparison would be valid - but then I wouldn't have offered himself or his treatment as an example.

Singer is, in fact, widely celebrated in mainstream progressive circles.

The response here seems to be 'But that doesn't mean they all agree with him! They may completely and totally think he's wrong and immoral and oppose him utterly on this topic but just, you know, tolerate that because a single but tremendous difference of opinion is no big deal, even on a matter of major import!'

Which is a complete joke: Brendan Eich had a singular known difference of opinion on the subject of gay marriage, and that was seen among progressives as justification to flat out out him from his job. The Boy Scouts' criticism of same-sex sexual behavior has been enough to justify an intellectual fatwa against them - despite everything else they do - complete with a recent decision to forbid judges in California from associating with the group.

These examples could be multiplied. Tell me that progressives, culturally, are just absolutely on board with the idea that someone can hold (what they brand as) sexist views, or racist views, or 'privileged' views, or anti-same-sex-activity views, and that the response will overwhelmingly be 'but we can agree to disagree, the fact that someone holds such views shouldn't lead to their being shunned at all.'

They do not. They play the 'disqualified!' card routinely, and across the board.

Which suggests that when Peter Singer's walking around defending bestiality and infanticide - again, he's not the only one, but he's prominent - with the progressive attitude generally being one of tremendous tolerance? Yeah, it implies at best quite an open-minded attitude towards such, and worst a 'Yeah that's okay but let's just not make hay about this one for now, the timing is off' attitude.

Crude said...

Oh, and just to get this out there:

The problem is, conservatives like to pretend that Peter Singer is more representative of progressive views than is their progressive neighbor, who they know full well would be appalled by Singer's views.

Putting aside for the moment the chutzpah of your making allegations of dishonesty...

No, I do not know 'full well' that my 'progressive neighbor' would be appalled by such views. In fact, evidence suggests otherwise, since when progressives are appalled by someone's views, they demand said person be fired, ousted, condemned, or at the very least be harassed into an apology and complete renunciation of said 'appalling' views.

This is a political culture that went up in arms loudly enough, and numerously enough, to force a scientist to publicly apologize for wearing a tacky shirt during an amazing scientific/engineering accomplishment. They are not known for having an 'agree to disagree' attitude with people who hold views they regard as 'appalling'. So when Peter Singer is the toast of the town among mainstream progressives, and his views about infanticide and bestiality are downright infamous, yeah - there's justification in putting 2 and 2 together, coming up with 4, and saying that apparently this particular culture isn't very appalled after all.

Curio said...

Just in time for Valentine's Day and the release of that Shades of Grey movie. Lord have mercy.

Chad Handley said...

Crude, you adorable little lunatic, just what percentage of political progressives do you think even know who Peter Singer is?

I'd guess it's less than 1% of the electorate. What would be your guess?

You have no real precise definition behind your use of the word "progressive," except as a repository for the boogeyman liberals that are only a major political presence in the bizarro world your tin foil hat projects into your brain.

Chad Handley said...

And it's just do darn cute the way you guys discuss David Duke as a pariah when he was just meeting with a major member of Congress, and tens of thousands of Conservatives petitioned him to run for president in 2012.

I would say David Duke's views on race are much more common at your averaged Tea Party rally than Peter Singer's views on bestiality are at your average Wall St. protest.

Anonymous said...

Chad,
Liberalism is fruitless and destructive cultural worldview. Modern-day Europe is a case in point. Cut the bullsh^t, and stop identifying with a movement that is so manifestly anti-Christian.

Crude said...

Chad,

Crude, you adorable little lunatic, just what percentage of political progressives do you think even know who Peter Singer is?

I'd guess it's less than 1% of the electorate. What would be your guess?


Hello, Chad. Still bitter over the whole 'being exposed as dishonest in your cheerleading for gay marriage' thing? I wish I could chalk that up to lunacy on your part, but we both know better.

Oh, and just to frame your argument here...

You're claiming that almost no progressive has ever heard of Peter Singer before, despite him writing opinion pieces for the New York Times, being interviewed and near-worshiped by the world's most well known atheist, and having his name come up repeatedly whenever ethics discussions surface?

Also, you're claiming that progressives in the media are just completely ignorant of his views about bestiality and infanticide, despite these being straight up entries on his wikipedia (The first go-to source for journalists, ha ha) and it not being a secret?

Is this right? I just want to properly highlight the argument you're putting forth here to explain why and how Peter Singer can be a well-known, popular philosopher among progressives who nevertheless progressives seem quite happy to let teach and promote his views without much condemnation.

I mean, if we're going to have a laugh, let's really appreciate the joke you're telling.

And it's just do darn cute the way you guys discuss David Duke as a pariah when he was just meeting with a major member of Congress,

Hey Chad! Has Scalise, who 'just met' with David Duke, condemned Duke unequivocally?

Are progressives treating Scalise as being irrevocably tainted by his decade-old association with Duke, despite straight-up condemnations?

Funny. What would that mean of every progressive media organization that's favorably boosted Singer, or given him space to promote his views?

Please, Chad - by all means, keep giving me yet more evidence that supports my position and undercuts yours. Granted, I can expect you to be dishonest about the whole thing... but luckily for me, you're pretty rotten at deception, and exposing both the bad logic and the dishonesty is going to be so, so fun.

Chad Handley said...

So when you look around the world, the paradigm example of a fruitless and destructive culture in your eyes is Europe?

As far as liberalism being anti-Christian, it might interest you to know that 74% of American liberals identify as Christians.

You can curse and stomp your feet and hold your breath as long as you want, the idea that most liberals are godless atheists will still be a politically motivated lie.

Chad Handley said...

"You're claiming that almost no progressive has ever heard of Peter Singer before, despite him writing opinion pieces for the New York Times, being interviewed and near-worshiped by the world's most well known atheist, and having his name come up repeatedly whenever ethics discussions surface?"

Yes, I am claiming (or rather, guessing) that less than 1% of the American electorate who self-identify as Progressive know who Peter Singer is.

Where would you put the percentage?

"Also, you're claiming that progressives in the media are just completely ignorant of his views about bestiality and infanticide, despite these being straight up entries on his wikipedia (The first go-to source for journalists, ha ha) and it not being a secret?"

No, I'm sure some media elites know that Singer, like every other philosopher, has some crazy ideas about animals and children that most people wouldn't support. But because bestiality and infanticide are not live political issues, they just ignore it.

But just to be clear, you're saying that most media liberals secretly share Singers love for banging cats and dogs and strangling toddlers in the crib, but are involved in a global conspiracy to keep their love for these things a secret?

Thanks for the wikipedia link, from which I learned that David Duke was voted into office as a Louisiana State Representative as a Republican. I also learned that David Duke ran for the House, the Senate, the Governorship, and the President as a Republican, and got substantial support from Republicans in each and every campaign. Finally, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls him "the most recognizable figure on the American radical right."

So, you and Greg were right: it is unfair to compare Singer's position in liberalism to David Duke's position in conservatism.

David Duke is a more central political figure within conservatism than Singer will ever be within liberalism.

Call me when tens of thousands of liberals petition Peter Singer to run for president, and petition him to run explicitly because of his pro-bestiality and pro-infanticide agenda.

Crude said...

So when you look around the world, the paradigm example of a fruitless and destructive culture in your eyes is Europe?

As far as liberalism being anti-Christian, it might interest you to know that 74% of American liberals identify as Christians.


Anonymous claims that modern-day Europe is a fruitless and destructive culture because of its liberalism. Chad's reply is to note how many liberals in America are Christian. (The Barna page is great, by the way, because it contrasts conservatives and liberals' religiosity. If you buy into those labels, you're going to love the comparison.)

Any guesses as to why Chad's not exactly rushing to produce polls showing how many progressives in modern Europe are Christians?

See, the sane thing here would be for Chad to say, 'Yeah, the progressive culture has a lot of terrible problems. But I think they're fixable!' But that would involve copping to deep problems in the political culture he's attached to - and worse, doing it in a den of at least more-conservative-than-most commenters! No, that faith is far too precious to admit any serious flaws within.

It's not as if it's Christianity!

dover_beach said...

"It really isn't.

That consent can't be given would indicate that sex with animals is always impermissible, not that it is always permissible. Or are you next going to claim that progressives have no ground to object to sex with very small children, since they also cannot give consent?"

No, no, it really is straightforward. Why would it indicate such a thing with respect to animals given they cannot consent in the relevant sense to anything at all at any developmental stage (I add this to meet the challenge you believe little children present in this instance)? Consent is simply otiose so far as animals that fall short of rationality are concerned.

Greg said...

@ Chad

Actually my position is that our moral categories apply only to the human side of the human/animal interactions. The animals are absolved. I don't think that dogs who hump their owner's leg should be tried for attempted rape.

The problem is that it is difficult to imagine any reflective liberal endorsing this action theory. It is pretty safe to say that something like Mill's harm principle is essential to liberals: that which doesn't harm others is permissible. The problem with me stabbing you with a knife is that you are hurt, not that I have done something intrinsically wrong. Likewise, the problem with me stabbing my dog with a knife is that my dog is hurt.

Suppose dogs can't consent. Then when dogs engage in intercourse, they do not consent, and when a human engages a dog in intercourse, it does not consent. Sure, the dog that violates the other is not morally culpable on the liberal view. But what's wrong in the latter case is a harm to the dog, and that harm would be present in the former case as well.

It's like saying it is not bad for one dog to kill another. The badness here need not be moral badness. We wouldn't say that the killing of the dog is not bad when it is done by another dog, because our moral categories don't apply to other dogs. Likewise, we can't say that one dog's violation of another dog's consent (which is necessary by the liberal's consent thesis) is not bad simply because it is done by another dog.

Greg said...

I should note that, obviously, liberals will qualify the harm principle as I stated in some ways. They might rule out some kinds of self-harm, for instance. But the basic thrust remains the same.

The view that the violation of animals' consent is peachy when committed by another animal but not by a human, though, is, again, totally ad hoc. Liberals have been using it for years in popular discussion because it is an effective bludgeon, given that most conservatives are not very smart and don't know what to say. But it's not a very good argument.

Crude said...

Yes, I am claiming (or rather, guessing) that less than 1% of the American electorate who self-identify as Progressive know who Peter Singer is.

Based on what? Desperate hope?

What percentage of progressive journalists would you say have heard of him? Let me guess: they also would blink and go 'Who?' when Richard Dawkins' name comes up, right?

No, I'm sure some media elites know that Singer, like every other philosopher, has some crazy ideas about animals and children that most people wouldn't support.

Ah, no. This isn't about 'most people wouldn't support', and no, not "every other philosopher" has crazy ideas like this.

But because bestiality and infanticide are not live political issues, they just ignore it.

Ah, of course, of course. Because remember: if a given view isn't associated with a direct implementation via legislation, progressives just have no interest in it whatsoever.

So, again, just to frame this up and highlight it: your view is that progressives give no shits about someone's abhorrent stances, unless said stance is a "live political issue". I mean, it's as silly as saying they'd collectively flip their fucking lids over some chubby scientist wearing a tacky shirt during a press conference.

But just to be clear, you're saying that most media liberals secretly share Singers love for banging cats and dogs and strangling toddlers in the crib, but are involved in a global conspiracy to keep their love for these things a secret?

Haha. Oh God, where to begin.

1) You're trying to equate 'support for legalized bestiality and infanticide' with 'having a secret love of these things'. Should we all just assume that the only guys who support gay marriage just love anal sex? No - it's more that they're either open to the idea, or simply don't view it as very abhorrent after all. Opposing gay marriage? THAT they find abhorrent.

2) Even more bizarre is your idea that people who 'love banging cats and dogs and strangling toddlers' would, you know... be a little reluctant to air this. It's a grand conspiracy to suggest people who support unpopular things, and who care about their popularity, tend to avoid overly pushing them.

Call me when tens of thousands of liberals petition Peter Singer to run for president, and petition him to run explicitly because of his pro-bestiality and pro-infanticide agenda.

But according to you, Chad, the very fact that anyone voted for Duke doesn't at all imply that they were at all supporting his racist views. Why, they could have been supporting all his OTHER views, and just were ignoring the racist ones! This is completely likely!

Chad Handley said...

"Anonymous claims that modern-day Europe is a fruitless and destructive culture because of its liberalism. Chad's reply is to note how many liberals in America are Christian."

No, my reply to Anonymous' claim that Europe is a fruitless and destructive culture was just incredulity.

My link the the effect that 74% of liberals are Christians was in response to Anonymous' claim that liberalism is anti-Christian.

"Any guesses as to why Chad's not exactly rushing to produce polls showing how many progressives in modern Europe are Christians?"

Because it's not really relevant to my point that Christianity and liberalism are perfectly compatible?

I'm not saying that liberalism leads to Christianity or vice versa, only that you and Greg and others are totally unjustified in claiming that liberalism and Christianity are incompatible, or even a rough fit.

Now, since you asked, I can't find any findings about what percentage of liberals are Christians, but I can tell you that
72% of the people in the European Union identify as Christian.

"See, the sane thing here would be for Chad to say, 'Yeah, the progressive culture has a lot of terrible problems. But I think they're fixable!'"

I do in fact think that, but that's not what's being discussed. What's being discussed is not whether liberalism is in any sense problematic. Of course it is. What's being discussed is whether liberalism is inherently anti-Christian. And of course it's not.

Greg said...

Yes, I am claiming (or rather, guessing) that less than 1% of the American electorate who self-identify as Progressive know who Peter Singer is.

Where would you put the percentage?


I don't know who David Duke is. I wouldn't even know how to begin to estimate what percentage of Americans know who he is, nor does that really matter.

I would say that we can draw a distinction here in that (a) an argument for bestiality can plausibly follow from liberal premises, and liberals are hard-pressed to resist it, while (b) though you have cited a conservative who apparently is a racist, you have not attempted to show that racism follows from commonly held conservative premises. (Here, I would concede that it is tougher to characterize "conservative premises" than "liberal premises." I would consider myself a social conservative but don't really have any views on fiscal issues and would not consider myself a Republican.)

In support of (a), I would note that liberals popularly claim that sexual activity between consenting adults is permissible. (They might say consenting people, and claim that in fact only adults are capable of consent.) Zoophiles have given plausible arguments that we do not respect animals' consent in other contexts and that animals can give consent; note also that if the liberal is to draw a distinction between harm such as killing for food and sexual violation, then he is probably going to have to characterize sex as being special and metaphysically significant in a way that liberals virtually never do. But even if he did give a more substantial account of sex, he would have to face zoophile arguments that the standard is nevertheless met in sexual behavior with animals. Glib referrals to consent are pretty ad hoc and contestable from both more libertine and more traditional sides.

In that respect, the presently common liberal position on sex is a lot like the "self-interest theory" (i.e. that one should maximize the satisfaction of one's own interests over the course of one's entire life) as Parfit characterizes it. It faces challenges from both sides, from "present-interest theory" (i.e. that one should maximize the satisfaction of one's present interests) and (utilitarian) morality (i.e. that one should maximize the satisfaction of everyone's interests over all time). Both theories are "purer" and can accuse the theory in the middle of ad hoccery.

John West said...

I'm still trying to decipher what, in this case, people mean when they write "liberalism". Are we talking like, 19th century rebuild-everything-from-first-principles Liberals, or buttsex and legalize dope liberals? Maybe Mr. Handley can clarify by defining "liberalism" for me.

Crude said...

My link the the effect that 74% of liberals are Christians was in response to Anonymous' claim that liberalism is anti-Christian.

And this is relevant how? If 80% of all rapists identified as Christian, would this make rape and Christianity totally compatible?

An even greater percentage of self-identified conservatives in the US are Christian. So by your logic, this should suggest that conservatism is far more compatible with Christianity than liberalism, eh?

Now, since you asked, I can't find any findings about what percentage of liberals are Christians, but I can tell you that
72% of the people in the European Union identify as Christian.


On the same page where "According to a 2010 Eurostat Eurobarometer poll, 51% of European Union citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 26% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 20% that "they do not believe there is a spirit, God, nor life force"."

Hey, I have an idea. Why not point at the number of baptisms in Scandinavia? It turns out that the Scandinavian countries are overwhelmingly Christian by that metric!

I do in fact think that, but that's not what's being discussed. What's being discussed is not whether liberalism is in any sense problematic. Of course it is. What's being discussed is whether liberalism is inherently anti-Christian.

You've said that Christianity and progressivism are "perfectly compatible". Unless this means little more than "A self-described progressive can call themselves Christian", I'm afraid you're going to do one hell of a lot more than that. And you're going to have to sacrifice "perfectly compatible" while you're at it, or else run risk of making your view even more comedic than it already is.

Greg said...

@ John West

I am a bit bothered by my casual use of the term. But I mainly mean contemporary American liberals: those who support gay marriage and think there is nothing intrinsically wrong with homosexual acts. (So I would count the Koch brothers and Robert Nozick among them.)

Chad Handley said...

"Suppose dogs can't consent. Then when dogs engage in intercourse, they do not consent, and when a human engages a dog in intercourse, it does not consent."

Sure, liberals would probably think dogs raping dogs is a bummer, but that dogs aren't morally responsible in the same way humans are.

So, the liberal would say that dogs raping dogs sucks but isn't morally significant, whereas humans raping dogs is.

I can't see the problem.

"(which is necessary by the liberal's consent thesis)"

Okay, but you understand the liberal isn't limited to any consent thesis, that was just one I threw out.

Being that 89% of American liberals are theists, and 74% are Christians, they can just say it's wrong to have sex with animals because the Bible says so.

My main point here is that there's nothing about liberalism that makes bestiality any more palatable which would be obvious if conservatives didn't have the habit of using the word liberal as a synonym for atheist moral nihilist.

Chad Handley said...

Crude, I'm going to stop responding to you.

Not just because you're crazy, but because you're the wordy kind of crazy.

Brandon said...

My main point here is that there's nothing about liberalism that makes bestiality any more palatable which would be obvious if conservatives didn't have the habit of using the word liberal as a synonym for atheist moral nihilist.

Then you could actually give give an argument based on the principles of liberalism rather than arguments based on (e.g.) blatant lies about Peter Singer.

Crude said...

Crude, I'm going to stop responding to you.

That's quite fine, Chad. Really, you've tried dishonesty, you've tried bad arguments... nothing's digging you out of your intellectual hole. The last hope you have is just ignoring the criticisms you can't answer, and hoping that leads to them not being made at all.

Alas, I will keep commenting whenever you misrepresent or present a rotten argument, at least as long as it's entertaining. Should be a bit of fun!

Greg said...

@ Chad

So, the liberal would say that dogs raping dogs sucks but isn't morally significant, whereas humans raping dogs is.

I can't see the problem.


But this is to concede everything. If on your view of consent, dogs rape dogs in every sexual act, because dogs can't consent, then what is going on between dogs is bad. Maybe neither dog is culpable.

Suppose two dogs are fighting. It's bad that they are fighting, but neither will be morally culpable. Nevertheless we should prevent their fighting. Likewise, even if the dogs are not culpable in intercourse, we should prevent it. But that's an absurd conclusion.

Okay, but you understand the liberal isn't limited to any consent thesis, that was just one I threw out.

Well, it was the one that you used to draw a distinction between bestiality and other sorts of sexual activity that liberals find permissible. If it doesn't work, then you would need another consent thesis.

My main point here is that there's nothing about liberalism that makes bestiality any more palatable which would be obvious if conservatives didn't have the habit of using the word liberal as a synonym for atheist moral nihilist.

Even your language here credits one of my earlier points. If what is wrong about bestiality is that animals can't consent, then likening (say) homosexuality to bestiality is like likening homosexuality to rape. It's an odd thing to do. But you yourself view the issue instead as one of the extent to which bestiality is "palatable." To think liberalism and support of bestiality are associated is to confuse liberals with "atheist moral nihilists." You seem to have a deeper problem with bestiality than the lack of consent.

Crude said...

Being that 89% of American liberals are theists, and 74% are Christians, they can just say it's wrong to have sex with animals because the Bible says so.

Because if there's one thing progressive Christians have established, it's that they're very big believers in the Bible settling moral matters decisively, right?

Wait, we can go right to the Barna link you gave: “Liberals appear to place a greater emphasis upon self-reliance and what they personally accomplish than upon faith alone or intense participation in a community of faith,” Barna explained. “They also seem less inclined to trust the Bible as a moral authority or source of truth, and have less involvement in some type of personal relationship with their god.”

But let's not consider whether this or other issues from the same damn poll would impact the claim that 'Liberal Christians would just reject bestiality as immoral because the Bible says so'. Because that's entirely sensible, and goodness, we can't have that.

dover_beach said...

"Sure, liberals would probably think dogs raping dogs is a bummer, but that dogs aren't morally responsible in the same way humans are.

So, the liberal would say that dogs raping dogs sucks but isn't morally significant, whereas humans raping dogs is.

I can't see the problem."

Dogs cannot 'rape' other dogs; and it isn't that dogs are not morally responsible in the same sense as humans, they are not morally responsible in any sense for their actions. The same is not true for human beings, and this suggests that bestiality is wrong, not because animals cannot consent, but because human beings have obligations to animals, one of which is not buggering them.

Chad Handley said...

"Maybe Mr. Handley can clarify by defining "liberalism" for me."

Generally, I would say that a liberal is a person who believes that government has (or can have) an essential role to play in the lives of citizens beyond just policing and national security. That role could include protecting the rights of minorities, correcting historic and systemic wrongs, constructing a national healthcare system, etc. Basically, I would define a liberal, broadly, as a person who believes that the government should act, whenever it can, with the consent of the governed, to make life better for the majority without causing undo harm to a minority.

Now, I just don't see why someone who believes that can't be a Christian, or why such a person would have trouble coming up for a justification for why it's wrong to have sex with his dog.

John West said...

Chad Handley and Greg,

Thank you for clarifying.

Brandon said...

Generally, I would say that a liberal is a person who believes that government has (or can have) an essential role to play in the lives of citizens beyond just policing and national security.

This would include almost the entire population of people who consider themselves conservatives; indeed, it covers almost everybody. Only the strictest libertarians would deny this.

Chad Handley said...

"Likewise, even if the dogs are not culpable in intercourse, we should prevent it."

Ignoring the fact that you're butchering my position, this still wouldn't follow given that there are other considerations, such as the continuation of the canine species, that are more pressing concerns than the lack of doggy consent.

"Well, it was the one that you used to draw a distinction between bestiality and other sorts of sexual activity that liberals find permissible. If it doesn't work, then you would need another consent thesis."

No, it was just one of the available moral theories that could form the basis of a liberal objecting to bestiality.

Even if it didn't work, a liberal wouldn't be limited to other consent theories, he could chose from any moral theory which is logically consistent with liberalism.

Which would be, roughly, all of them.

Chad Handley said...

"This would include almost the entire population of people who consider themselves conservatives."

Which is why I included other sentences in my definition.

Brandon said...

Since one would have to be a complete moron to think that "the government should act, whenever it can, with the consent of the governed, to make life better for the majority without causing undo harm to a minority" would actually exclude most conservatives, I took it to be assumed, but I'll remember to be more explicit in the future.

Chad Handley said...

"You seem to have a deeper problem with bestiality than the lack of consent."

Well, yeah. Like most liberals/progressives, I'm a Christian. I object to bestiality for any number of reasons, all of which are perfectly compatible with both my Christianity and my liberalism.

You seem to imply that liberals would have trouble coming up with a moral theory which would both justify their liberalism and their abhorrence for dog fucking. But that's just laugh out loud ludicrous.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Brandon,

It isn't important, but to be fair, there are liberals or feminists or whatever they are called, who now think consent, at least on a woman's part (I don't think they much care about heterosexual men) must be verbal and, indeed, repeated many times during a sexual encounter. Yes means yes and all that.

The left-liberals are all over the place when it comes to sexual ethics.

Chad,

I don't buy this benign attitude of liberals to religion. American left-liberals are pretty much the same as European (or Australian, New Zealand, etc) left-liberals, except they tend to be a little bit more restrained and moderate. But European left-liberals tend to be the vanguard of the American ones, showing where the latter will end up in a few years. And European left-liberals have become more and more anti-religious.

Greg said...

Ignoring the fact that you're butchering my position, this still wouldn't follow given that there are other considerations, such as the continuation of the canine species, that are more pressing concerns than the lack of doggy consent.

I am not quite sure what your position is anymore.

Dogs can't give consent. A human ought not to have sex with a dog because the dog can't consent. It is a bad thing that the dog does not get to consent.

Of course, whether that the dog doesn't give consent is bad regardless of to whom or what the dog does not consent. So it's a bad thing also that the dog does not get to consent to another dog.

Now, on the theory under consideration, lack of consent is apparently not always a "pressing concern." Sometimes it is OK that consent is not given.

This, of course, makes your position even messier. It would seem to follow that (for instance) the continuation of the human species is a more pressing matter than the lack of human consent. Or perhaps, as those consequentialists and their liberal sympathizers might feel, we can weigh some good consequences against any lack of consent. Since human preferences have higher weights than dog preferences in the calculus, violations of consent might be justified and, on average, good.

Now, I don't claim that you accept this because (a) you may not accept a theory like consequentalism and (b) I am sure you could, as before, gerrymander new principles into a post hoc justification. My only point is that it is not at all obvious that liberalism (which I define differently than you) has a clean way of handling this. The present liberal attitude on bestiality might be like the liberal attitude on homosexuality 20 years ago.

dover_beach said...

Chad, you're flailing miserably.

Chad Handley said...

"And European left-liberals have become more and more anti-religious."

So are some European conservatives. So what?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Chad,

It is precisely the point of those here that the main liberal assumptions and ideas of sexuality would permit bestiality (or incest) when taken to their logical conclusions. Of course, this has to be shown, and I haven't read the comments well enough to know if that has been done, but it is no refutation of such an argument to just dismiss it with incredulity. Perhaps, the innate moral intuitions and sentiments of liberals would stop most of them actually endorsing bestiality and the like, but that doesn't mean it is not the road where their principles logically lead. Certainly, incest seems to be.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Chad,

I know no European conservatives who are anti-religious, if by conservative you mean something at all resembling meaningful, Burkean conservatism. In fact, I would think it would be a contradiction for a proper, Burkean conservative to be anti-religious in terms of the social and cultural role of religion (whatever his personal beliefs). But, anyway, there is not the same relationship between European and American conservatives that I was clearly alluding to with liberals. In fact, it tends to be more the other way around, as Europe now has less throne-and-altar style conservatives and more liberal-conservatives like those in America.

Chad Handley said...

"I am not quite sure what your position is anymore."

Then let's drop it. It's not important. That dogs can't consent isn't really my main point here, my main point is that liberals have plenty of options when it comes to moral theories.

"My only point is that it is not at all obvious that liberalism (which I define differently than you) has a clean way of handling this."

How do you define liberalism, and why does that definition prevent liberals from handling bestiality exactly the same way you do?

Chad Handley said...

"It is precisely the point of those here that the main liberal assumptions and ideas of sexuality would permit bestiality (or incest) when taken to their logical conclusions. Of course, this has to be shown, and I haven't read the comments well enough to know if that has been done."

It hasn't even been attempted.

I'd love for either you or Greg to refer me to some non-negotiable tenet of liberalism that leads inexorably to bestiality or incest.

Matt Sheean said...

If I may, I'd like to take a stab at some peacemaking.

It seems to me, as a remark in Chad's favor, that an ideal Catholic might appear rather liberal or progressive on issues like the economy while looking very conservative on issues like contraception and the like. Some particular Catholic might tend to vote, and generally act in a way that showed a tendency to favor economic matters - they might be disposed toward acting, being vocal and such about those issues - while being less active or feeling less urgency about matters pertaining to sexual morality (there's a precedent in Aquinas, after all, for e.g. making allowances for prostitution).

On the other hand, Chad, you seem to whitewash progressivism a bit. It shouldn't be too hard for you to think of a publication that is exemplary of the sort of ideology that the others are talking about here (Salon? Vice? Jezebel?). Furthermore, secularist ideology has been the incubator in which views like those of Singer's have hatched -e.g. endorsements of bestiality, "post-birth abortion", the rescinding of age of consent laws and so on.

Matt Sheean said...

...

secularist ideology being more at home, I think, in that ideological milieu that answers to the name "progressive"

Brandon said...

I'd love for either you or Greg to refer me to some non-negotiable tenet of liberalism that leads inexorably to bestiality or incest.

Given that you've defined liberalism as something that (1) includes almost the entire population of the United States and (2) almost certainly includes positions more conservative than those that are held by most of the people in this thread (you've certainly said things in this thread that put you to the right of me, who am not considered liberal by any of the liberals I know), I've no doubt that you understand the term broadly enough that there are no non-negotiable tenets of liberalism that lead inexorably to much of anything.

Scott said...

Can I just ask a little question here? When and how did the sole problem with a human's having "sex" with (say) a dog become that the dog can't consent?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Bestiality is more complicated, but surely the fact that liberals tend to think that consent is the mark of sexual morality amongst humans would stop them raising proper objections to incest.

Liberals do raise objections to incest, but they seem feeble to counteract the doctrine of blessed consent. For example, the question of inbred children would not prevent incest where those involved couldn't have children and is largely blunted in other cases by the availability (and sanction) of birth control and abortions.

Greg said...

@ Chad

Well, yeah. Like most liberals/progressives, I'm a Christian. I object to bestiality for any number of reasons, all of which are perfectly compatible with both my Christianity and my liberalism.

Well, ostensibly, you would have mentioned those other objections to bestiality, besides only defending the argument from incapacity to consent.

This defense of bestiality is not consistent with liberalism: "[liberals] can just say it's wrong to have sex with animals because the Bible says so." Why you think it would make a difference that many liberals are Christians is beyond me.

You seem to imply that liberals would have trouble coming up with a moral theory which would both justify their liberalism and their abhorrence for dog fucking. But that's just laugh out loud ludicrous.

I simply note that it is very common in contemporary discussions to refer to consent as a sufficient criterion for the permissibility of sex. Many liberals of my acquaintance are exasperated to think there could be anything wrong with sex between consenting persons. If the consent criterion is faced with difficulties, then there is trouble for the liberal position.

Liberals might deny that consent is sufficient. They might bring in the Bible, since bringing Christian scripture to bear on politics is apparently a liberal thing to do. Maybe they are only liberals in a formal sense, owing to your terribly broad definition. I don't know.

Crude said...

When and how did the sole problem with a human's having "sex" with (say) a dog become that the dog can't consent?

When someone didn't think through his snap response, and was forced to ultimately abandon the move after people spent more than thirty seconds actually thinking it over.

That's just my sizing up of the situation, but since I am apparently a hardcore liberal by the definition on offer, I suppose it comes with some inside authority!

Chad Handley said...

" I've no doubt that you understand the term broadly enough that there are no non-negotiable tenets of liberalism that lead inexorably to much of anything."

I'm asking for your (or that of any conservative who agrees with you) understanding of liberalism, that would presumably make it difficult for liberals to object to sex with animals.

Greg said...

@ Chad

I'd love for either you or Greg to refer me to some non-negotiable tenet of liberalism that leads inexorably to bestiality or incest.

I would echo the others in saying that your definition is useless.

Let's say we care about social liberals. Let's define a liberal, for the purpose of this discussion as someone who believes that gay marriage should be legal and believes that there are publically reasonable (in Rawls' sense) arguments for that conclusion. He believes that comprehensive doctrines (like Christianity) should not be brought to bear on controversial moral questions.

Are you a liberal in that sense?

Chad Handley said...

"This defense of bestiality is not consistent with liberalism: "[liberals] can just say it's wrong to have sex with animals because the Bible says so."

What tenet of liberalism is Divine Command Theory incompatible with?

Now, the Christian liberal might say that you can't pass a law against bestiality on the basis of Divine Command Theory, but what's stopping the liberal from saying that Divine Command theory is the reason bestiality is wrong?

Greg said...

I should add that my argument that liberalism and bestiality "go together" has to do with the claim that if there is a publically reasonable argument for the permissibility of homosexual behavior, then there is a publically reasonable argument for the permissibility of bestiality. It is largely retorsive; I do not think that the liberal can provide a good argument for the permissibility of homosexual behavior that does not also permit bestiality.

Chad Handley said...

"Are you a liberal in that sense?"

No, and hardly anyone else is, either.

(I have said that explicitly Biblical or religious justifications can't (or at least shouldn't) be the sole reason for enacting a law, but that doesn't mean that religion is irrelevant to the settling of controversial moral questions.)

I do believe that gay marriage should be legal inasmuch as the government doesn't have a compelling reason to prevent it.

However, I believe gay marriage to be inconsistent with Christian theory and practice. I would put it somewhere on the spectrum of adultery; it's morally wrong but shouldn't be illegal.

So, do explain why, because of these views, doomed to have a threeway with my dog and my sister?

Brandon said...

I'm asking for your (or that of any conservative who agrees with you) understanding of liberalism, that would presumably make it difficult for liberals to object to sex with animals.

Since I don't think it's difficult for liberals to object to sex with animals, if they are far enough to the left, this is an argument you are having with other people, not me. I've pointed out merely that you don't seem to be at all acquainted with the positions and arguments on which you are lecturing other people, and that you seem to include so much of the actual social and political landscape that the term 'liberalism' ceases to have any kind of usefulness.

Chad Handley said...

" I do not think that the liberal can provide a good argument for the permissibility of homosexual behavior that does not also permit bestiality."

Sure they can. They can just use whatever yours is.

Job done.

Brandon said...

I would put it somewhere on the spectrum of adultery; it's morally wrong but shouldn't be illegal.

In other words, you are on this point what almost everyone would consider a moderate conservative.

Chad Handley said...

"Since I don't think it's difficult for liberals to object to sex with animals, if they are far enough to the left, this is an argument you are having with other people, not me."

Sorry, I think I've been getting you confused with Greg. That's my bad.

I'm not remotely conversant on the extant moral theories by which liberals object to bestiality.

Never claimed to be, don't care that I'm not.

My point was that liberals aren't limited in terms of the available moral theories, and it's hard to think of a definition of liberalism that would make any moral theory that's available to a conservative unavailable to a liberal.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Obviously, many today in the West won't accept arguments based simply on the Bible or religion, but I don't really see the relevant difference between such appeals and appeals to any other normative system of principles and values. Why can a utilitarian offer his moral opinions but a Christian divine command theorist or Thomist can't?

Brandon said...

it's hard to think of a definition of liberalism that would make any moral theory that's available to a conservative unavailable to a liberal.

But people have been pointing out that you've already given as an example at least one: "The Bible tells me so", being entirely an appeal to a tradition that needs to be conserved, is almost the paradigmatic case of a conservative argument -- it would usually be considered to indicate a position quite far to the right.

Crude said...

Jeremy Taylor,

Why can a utilitarian offer his moral opinions but a Christian divine command theorist or Thomist can't?

I think it's even worse than that. If you offer up arguments against gay marriage or abortion that make no reference whatsoever to God, a fair number of people seem willing to throw the arguments out altogether because it's insisted that you must 'really' be a religious person if you hold such views, therefore the arguments are just dismissable stand-ins for religious ones.

Chad Handley said...

"In other words, you are on this point what almost everyone would consider a moderate conservative."

If you think moderate conservatives think gay marriage should be legal, then sure.

(You did see the part where I said gay marriage should be legal, in that the government has no compelling reason to prevent it from being so, right?)

But if it helps, I can augment that statement: Gay marriage should not only not be made illegal, it should be given the same supports and acceptance from secular government that traditional marriage enjoys.

And I say that as a Christian who believes that homosexuality marriage is incompatible with Christian life because of something roughly approximating (my limited knowledge of) Divine Command Theory.

Now, I ask again, why will I have no choice but to get it on with my sister and my dogs while all my fish watch because of these beliefs?

Jeremy Taylor said...

You didn't actually give your argument for gay marriage; you simply told us you believe in it. It is the grounds on which it is usually supported which leave open to the retorsive argument you are referring to.

Chad Handley said...

"But people have been pointing out that you've already given as an example at least one: "The Bible tells me so", being entirely an appeal to a tradition that needs to be conserved, is almost the paradigmatic case of a conservative argument -- it would usually be considered to indicate a position quite far to the right."

But what's the intellectual problem, what is the moral inconsistency, where is the logical contradiction, with a liberal believing something is wrong because the Bible tells him so?

Yes, it's more common with conservatives.

That's granted, and utterly irrelevant.

What's the philosophical, intellectual problem with being both a liberal and a Divine Command Theorist?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Crude,

That is true. Many social liberals are bigots in the literal meaning of the term: they inhale certain assumptions about sexuality and morality from the cultural zeitgeist unexamined and dismiss other viewpoints harshly without properly even trying to understand them.

Most of the same people would once have been harsh critics of homosexuality in much the same way.

Brandon said...

(You did see the part where I said gay marriage should be legal, in that the government has no compelling reason to prevent it from being so, right?)

Yes, this is a common position among moderate conservatives, and you've even given it a standard conservative justification. Your further clarification would have been liberal about twenty years ago; all of even the moderate liberals I know would consider your claim that it's morally wrong to be shockingly reactionary and conservative, because in their view it's intolerant of a minority group and perpetuates their treatment as imperfect human beings.

Chad Handley said...

"You didn't actually give your argument for gay marriage; you simply told us you believe in it."

I gave a reason: the government, in my view, has no compelling reason to prevent it.

And I think your whole line of argument is really pathetic if it depends on a specific kind of argument offered for gay marriage, as if that's the totality of liberalism.

Gay marriage didn't enjoy majority support with liberals up until about a decade ago. Hell, Obama was opposed to gay marriage until around 2012 or something.

If your argument that liberalism can't consistently oppose bestiality depends on some specific argument for gay marriage, your argument is pretty weak anyway, and of very limited applicability to liberalism historically and globally.

Crude said...

Now, I ask again, why will I have no choice but to get it on with my sister and my dogs while all my fish watch because of these beliefs?

Can we also ask where absolutely anyone in this thread has said that a commitment to liberalism requires, inevitably, mandatory bestiality and incest?

What was actually suggested was that there was a problem with liberal or progressive outlooks that created an intellectual difficulty for disapproving of or outlawing some sexual acts, like bestiality and incest.

Meanwhile, your argument is that you're a self-defined progressive, but you think gay marriage is immoral. Also, you think it should be not just legal, but wholly supported by the secular state.

And your big out seems to be that sure, you define 'liberal' broadly enough to include just about everyone, and you aren't even really aware of the ethical theories that exist... but damn it, you're pretty sure that liberals can damn well arbitrarily approve or disapprove of these things in what may well be an utterly ad hoc matter, and that means there's nothing to worry about here.

Chad Handley said...

I'm on the east coast. It's past midnight. I'll be back tomorrow to see if anyone actually attempts to meet the burden of explaining why liberals can't appeal to exactly the same moral justifications for the immorality of bestiality that the conservative appeals to.

Greg said...

@ Chad

No, and hardly anyone else is, either.

You believe that hardly anyone believes that there are publically reasonable arguments for gay marriage and that comprehensive doctrines should not be brought to bear on controversial moral questions? In the 21st century?

(I have said that explicitly Biblical or religious justifications can't (or at least shouldn't) be the sole reason for enacting a law, but that doesn't mean that religion is irrelevant to the settling of controversial moral questions.)

Though this doesn't really help me to understand to what extent to which you think Christian scripture should inform law, we could modify the definition to say that comprehensive doctrines should not be brought to bear substantially on controversial moral questions.

However, I believe gay marriage to be inconsistent with Christian theory and practice. I would put it somewhere on the spectrum of adultery; it's morally wrong but shouldn't be illegal.

Well, I imagine that homosexual behavior is more directly parallel to adultery. Marriage is a relationship which, though prepolitical, is certified (in part) by the state. If the state does not certify relationships between people of the same sex as marriages, then there aren't gay marriages, but it's not the case that gay marriage is illegal.

Since there being such a thing as gay marriage depends on state certification, it is unclear why "gay marriage should be legal inasmuch as the government doesn't have a compelling reason to prevent it." Gay marriage isn't something that happens unless the state steps in and stops it. The state would not create legal realities simply because it lacks a reason not to do so; I assume it would need a positive reason to do so.

Though it can be asked: Why are these new legal realities marriages? If one's understanding of marriage is Christian (and one even believes on Christian grounds that homosexual activity is immoral), it's hard to imagine that one could mean the same thing by 'marriage' in 'gay marriage' as is meant by 'marriage' in the Bible, unless one holds (oddly) that the biblical understanding of marriage is apt to be immoral.

So, do explain why, because of these views, doomed to have a threeway with my dog and my sister?

Well, I would say that one can hold that there is a publically reasonable argument for the legality of gay marriage without holding that gay marriage is moral, and that is the condition of being a liberal. So I would generally hold that one will be hard pressed to find a reason that is not ad hoc to say that there is no publically reasonably argument for bestiality. Again, one could hold that there is such an argument but that bestiality is immoral.

Crude said...

Jeremy,

That is true. Many social liberals are bigots in the literal meaning of the term: they inhale certain assumptions about sexuality and morality from the cultural zeitgeist unexamined and dismiss other viewpoints harshly without properly even trying to understand them.

They also intentionally misrepresent others' arguments for the purposes of shooting them down. For instance, treating a claim that liberal/progressive reasoning has intellectual difficulty providing serious moral or even legal objections to bestiality or incest as a claim that if you're a liberal in the sense that you think the government has roles beyond policing and national security, you're going to inevitably want to have sex with fish and your sister.

Rather dishonest, that lot.

Greg said...

@ Chad

Sure they can. They can just use whatever yours is.

Well, my argument against bestiality involves a subversion of the end of the procreative faculty, a subversion which is common to homosexual behavior. Since I think the state has reason to discourage both activities, and has reason to promote a norm of natural marriage, I don't think my argument against bestiality is available to a liberal who holds either that homosexual activity is permissible or that gay marriage should be legal.

Matt Sheean said...

"But if it helps, I can augment that statement: Gay marriage should not only not be made illegal, it should be given the same supports and acceptance from secular government that traditional marriage enjoys."

This is somewhat similar to (conservative) Roger Scruton's position, except his is the inverse - he believes that marriage should remain as it is, but that homosexual relationships are good (that would include a moral sort of goodness). Furthermore he argues, "And the churches and other faith groups should therefore grant civil partnerships a religious celebration and recognition making them a civil union. Churches should recognise not just that homosexual persons are as they are, but they also are owed recognition of the permanent relationships they choose."

Brandon said...

the burden of explaining why liberals can't appeal to exactly the same moral justifications for the immorality of bestiality that the conservative appeals to.

Several people have already done this. When they've done it, you have repeatedly expanded the notion of 'liberalism' to include positions widely recognized as quite conservative.

Chad Handley said...

"I don't think my argument against bestiality is available to a liberal who holds either that homosexual activity is permissible or that gay marriage should be legal."

There are plenty of liberals who do not believe homosexual activity is permissible or that gay marriage should be legal. I'm in the former camp, and the latter camp included "the most liberal President in history" up until a few years ago.

Greg said...

@ Chad

There are plenty of liberals who do not believe homosexual activity is permissible or that gay marriage should be legal. I'm in the former camp, and the latter camp included "the most liberal President in history" up until a few years ago.

All right. Nevermind. I don't have time for this.

Brandon said...

There are plenty of liberals who do not believe homosexual activity is permissible

But this is not relevant. You asked for an argument that would not be available to liberals; that's precisely what was offered, and you have not actually addressed the question of whether that particular argument is available to liberals.

Chad Handley said...

"Several people have already done this. When they've done it, you have repeatedly expanded the notion of 'liberalism' to include positions widely recognized as quite conservative."

Which is why I've repeatedly asked for your definition of liberalism, upon which this incompatibility can be demonstrated.

Any time you're ready to do this, it would be appreciated.

Crude said...

Greg,

All right. Nevermind. I don't have time for this.

C'mon, I can't be the only one who got a kick out of that reply. :D

Chad Handley said...

"I don't have time for this."

It's not the lack of time that's holding you back, it's the lack of an actual argument.

Brandon said...

As I've pointed out, you aren't having this argument with me; but people have actually given such -- Greg above, for instance.

Crude said...

So Chad's now hit the point of arguing that opposing gay marriage and regarding same-sex sexual activity as impermissible is entirely compatible with liberalism as he defines it. Which, as has been repeatedly pointed out, is so broad as to include just about everyone but the most stringent libertarians.

In fact, you know who else would have views that are entirely compatible with liberalism as he defines it?

Peter Singer and David Duke.

But it's everyone else who doesn't have an argument!

Chad Handley said...

Anyone who thinks that not just support for gay marriage, but support for a specific argument for gay marriage, is central to liberalism is talking absolute nonsense.

What's being offered here is not that liberalism is incompatible with moral theories that abhor bestiality, but merely that certain arguments for gay marriage are incompatible with such moral theories.

This is a completely ridiculous reduction of what liberalism entails. It demonstrates just how one note some social conservatives are with respect to political dialogue, that they think liberalism necessarily entails the belief that people can bang and/or marry whoever/whatever they want.

Greg said...

Chad, I care about those people who can be broadly characterized as 'liberals' today. If you really like the word 'liberalism' and want to make sure that you can apply it to yourself no matter what views you adopt, then be my guest.

Chad Handley said...

If anyone would like to give a definition of liberal that precludes access to any given moral theory, I'm all ears.

Greg proposed the gay marriage criterion, not me. I can't help it if his criterion wouldn't have been sufficient to brand Obama a liberal in 2008.

Brandon said...

Since the topic at hand is a sexual one -- the post on sex, the comments are on sex -- you'll have to be a little more clear about why focusing positions on sex that are commonly recognized as liberal is somehow a problem. Surely you didn't think that people were arguing that taking a liberal position on the minimum wage causes problems for rejecting zoophilia?

Chad Handley said...

By the admission of several conservatives in this conversation, moderate conservatives would fit your definition of liberalism, and many liberals who would not.

African-Americans staunchly support liberal candidates and positions, and they are famously opposed to both the permissibility of gay sex and the legality of gay marriage.

Do you think a definition of liberalism which excludes African-Americans is an adequate definition?

And again, it was your definition, so explain to me how your failure to adequately define liberalism became a problem for my argument?

Chad Handley said...

But there are very, very big portions of the electorate who would identify as liberals who either haven't historically or do not presently support what you describe as "liberal" attitudes about sex.

So, why not just scale your argument down from "liberals have a problem in this area" to "people who support gay marriage on certain grounds, be they liberal or moderate conservative, have a problem in this area."

Do that, and you're not only being honest about what your argument actually is for the first time in this discussion, but you'll be getting rid of me.

Brandon said...

And you have overlooked Greg's previous point, which I quote,

It is pretty safe to say that something like Mill's harm principle is essential to liberals: that which doesn't harm others is permissible.

The gay marriage was, again, focusing specifically on the sexual issue.

And, yes, most people regard the majority of the African-American population as conservatives on social issues in particular; it's a standard talking point among pundits of both the right and the left that they are liberal on everything except these kinds of issues.

Crude said...

So, why not just scale your argument down from "liberals have a problem in this area" to "people who support gay marriage on certain grounds, be they liberal or moderate conservative, have a problem in this area."

Or we can just keep noting that your definition of "liberal" was utterly hilarious, and that everyone - except, apparently, you - knew that social/sexual liberals were central to the discussion, and not 'people who support a minimum wage hike'.

But by all means, keep swinging. Your last 30 attempts haven't landed a blow, but surely if you keep doing furiously enough, some sort of success is at hand..!

Chad Handley said...

Sure, African-Americans are conservative on social issues, but most politically identify with liberalism.

You made the point earlier that there are moderate conservatives who are the converse: conservative on fiscal and other issues, liberal on gay marriage.

Again, Greg's failure to adequately capture liberalism by reducing liberalism to one issue is not my problem.

If he can't come up with a definition of liberalism that is broadly applicable that supports his claim, he should drop his claim.

Brandon said...

Again, Greg's failure to adequately capture liberalism by reducing liberalism to one issue is not my problem.

Again, Greg gave an account that did not do so: the one I already quoted, based on the harm principle. When it came up you merely dismissed it without much argument. Talking about gay marriage was talking about it in the context of the specific topic at hand, which is sex. You have not actually addressed his argument at all.

John West said...

On January 28 at 10:09 PM, Chad Handley wrote: Again, Greg's failure to adequately capture liberalism by reducing liberalism to one issue is not my problem.

If he can't come up with a definition of liberalism that is broadly applicable that supports his claim, he should drop his claim.


On January 28 at 9:00 PM, Greg wrote:

Let's say we care about social liberals. Let's define a liberal, for the purpose of this discussion as someone who believes that gay marriage should be legal and believes that there are publically reasonable (in Rawls' sense) arguments for that conclusion. He believes that comprehensive doctrines (like Christianity) should not be brought to bear on controversial moral questions.

By definition of liberal here (a definition that comes from eminent liberals), Divine Command Theory cannot be brought to bear on "controversial moral questions".

Chad Handley said...

Folks there are plenty of conservatives - tens of millions of them - who are "sexual liberals."

40% of American conservatives favor gay marriage.

Greg said...

I should also note that I am not at all committed to

The Principle of Liberal Consistency. Liberals are generally consistent in drawing particular moral conclusions from their beliefs.

For that matter I don't hold the Principle of Conservative Consistency either. I think most people, on both sides of the political spectrum, have confused views about sex. I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that in the next couple decades we will not see increasing support for things like polygamy (or, as the academics like to call it, 'polyamory').

I don't think the liberals now are essentially different from the liberals down the road who will support polygamy, just as I don't think Obama is appreciably different now than he was 4 years ago. I think that by and large people are motivated by visceral reactions to things like polyamory and bestiality, and the people who want to promote those behaviors know exactly what they have to do to dull those visceral reactions, since they have plenty of models. (In the case of a politician like Obama, there are other reasons to hold off publically supporting a view. That's why it was amusing when he was "evolving" on gay marriage.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Chad,

Come on, the argument I referred to is that informed consent is the sufficient condition for legitimate sexual activity. That isn't some obscure position: it is the overwhelmingly dominant liberal view on sexual ethics.

Your comments on the government lacking no compelling reason to not recognise gay marriage presupposes all sorts of important things about the role of the state and the nature and place of marriage.

Greg said...

@ Chad

Folks there are plenty of conservatives - tens of millions of them - who are "sexual liberals."

40% of American conservatives favor gay marriage.


Agreed. That's why I said I consider the Koch brothers and Robert Nozick to be liberals for the purpose of this discussion.

Actually, I regard libertarians as those liberals who are truly consistent. Republicans and Democrats are just imperfect libertarians.

Chad Handley said...

"Again, Greg gave an account that did not do so: the one I already quoted, based on the harm principle"

I missed where Greg claimed that the harm principle was definitive of liberalism

I would say that's definitely a liberal principle, but there's no reason why someone who believes in the harm principle couldn't also believe that the harm theory derives from, say, the Golden Rule.

IOW, he failed to give a reason why a belief in the harm principle is incompatible with Divine Command Theory.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Personally, I cannot understand how the label conservative can be used for anyone not socially and culturally conservative. This is surely the core of conservatism.

Chad Handley said...

"By definition of liberal here (a definition that comes from eminent liberals), Divine Command Theory cannot be brought to bear on "controversial moral questions".

Well, sure. I'll grant that any concept of liberalism which eliminates Divine Command Theory by definition is incompatible with Divine Command theory.

Which is as relevant as the fact that any concept of conservatism which eliminates Divine Command Theory by definition is incompatible with Divine Command theory.

Luckily, no one adheres to that definition of liberalism or conservatism.

John West said...

Luckily, no one adheres to that definition of liberalism or conservatism.

Plenty of people do. In fact, it goes back to the Enlightenment.

Chad Handley said...

Actually, in retrospect, I don't agree that liberals adhere to Greg's harm principle. I think that liberals say that that which doesn't harm others should be legal. I don't think they believe that that which doesn't harm others is always permissible.

Even liberals who believe that, for example, all drugs should be legalized, believe that the drug addict is doing something morally wrong, even if he harms no one but himself. They merely believe it should be legal to harm oneself if one chooses.

Now I'm for real going to bed.

John West said...

to the Enlightenment [and the genesis of liberalism].^

Greg said...

Well, Chad is willing to hold that Divine Command Theory is true and that, accordingly, certain sexual behaviors that many liberals now endorse are immoral. But he holds that the government should extend the same sort of treatment to natural marriages and gay marriages.

That is consistent with Rawls' political liberalism. As long as you are happy to leave all of your comprehensive positions (Divine Command Theory) at the door, you are welcome to participate in Rawls' system.

In that sense, liberalism is consistent with all kinds of moral theories, namely those theories that have very little normative force and which can be overridden and displaced by a political liberalism.

I think I am more interested in understanding a certain pattern in the history of thought, which holds to a certain understanding of human freedom and the implications of autonomy for those actions which can be criticized, promoted, etc. (perhaps with the qualification: publically criticized, promoted, etc.). So Rawls' liberalism will allow people to be Divine Command Theorists as long as they shut up about it. A consequentialist will say that Divine Command Theory is just false.* I think the sense in which Divine Command Theory is consistent with the one and not with the other is pretty attenuated for the purpose of this discussion.

Greg said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

Personally, I cannot understand how the label conservative can be used for anyone not socially and culturally conservative. This is surely the core of conservatism.

I agree. The 'conservative' who is 'socially liberal' is a kind of liberal. He is part of the same tradition originating in the Enlightenment. The term 'conservative' is probably most appropriately reserved for those who aren't students of modernity.

So Nozick is a libertarian and a liberal. He's not a conservative.

John West said...

That is consistent with Rawls' political liberalism. As long as you are happy to leave all of your comprehensive positions (Divine Command Theory) at the door, you are welcome to participate in Rawls' system.

Fair enough. Though, isn't there a divine command against leaving divine commands at the door?

John West said...

That was to Greg, of course^

Greg said...

Though, isn't there a divine command against leaving divine commands at the door?

Well, I think so. But, you know, render unto Caesar and all.

John West said...

But, you know, render unto Caesar and all.

Ah, yes. That.

Greg said...

I would say that I am not convinced that there is a single political arrangement that is most just. I do not think there is anything wrong per se with a confessional state.

I also don't think that human flourishing is impossible in a secular democracy, or that leaving one's religious commitments at the door really must be disastrous. For the natural law theorist does claim that many of his arguments are publically reasonable. Rawls has a couple maneuvers for arguing that "rationalist believers" should not be able to impose their views on others, but I think his arguments on that count are genuinely pretty weak and manifest a definite inconsistency in the way he treats comprehensive (as opposed to political) liberalism and comprehensive religious worldviews.

He is over on the new natural law side of things, but Robert George has written a really nice takedown essay of Rawls and Thompson on public reason and abortion.

It's an odd case where liberal Christianity is generally more apt to hold to something like Divine Command Theory (where that is understood in a narrow sense that does not include natural law morality). So liberal Christianity is apt to be more fideist and to exclude itself from public deliberation. (The liberals usually welcome this consequence, whereas the fundamentalists seem not to understand it.)

Daniel said...

Politics is the greatest obstacle in the way of Mankind thinking rationally and philosophically about the core fundamental questions of his very being and the being of the world. Kant thought no man could remain indifferent on questions of God, free will and the soul but unfortunately even at the time he wrote large parts of Western Europe were busy working on a vaccine for those concerns.

In order to alienate myself from the majority of parties on both sides I would describe my own political views as those of an embittered Platonic aristocrat who disapproves of Representative Democracy and endorses a moderate form of Welfare-statism

@Greg,

I do not think that the liberal can provide a good argument for the permissibility of homosexual behavior that does not also permit bestiality.

I can't give a fair response since I don't know what the standard liberal presumptions in question are, however it would seem intuitively obvious that there is a difference between Man and all other species that we know of in that the former possesses a level of noetic awareness, rational-intellective consciousness* for want of a less awkward term, and that the defender of homosexuality would base the non-parity of this activity with bestiality on that. By those standards alone though I see no way of ruling out consensual incest and interbreeding with another race of Rational Animals should humanity encounter them.

I don't necessarily endorse such a view but I am sceptical of the adequacy of any ethical theory that wants to treat the person primarily as a biological kind.

*And since the Thomist knows what I mean here there is no need for the pointless or misleading conversation about dolphins or what have you.

Daniel said...

An interesting aside: Oderberg argues on page 104 of Real Essentialism that any truly rational animal, even one possessed of a radically different heritage and morphology, would count as metaphysically human. Does not it follow though that since we are of the same species interbreeding with such beings would be permissible though de facto fruitless a la infertile couples? Or would the Natural Law theorist argue that such couplings would be equivalent to homosexuality and thus incapable of satisfying the final ends of sex. The latter would seem plausible though it would open up interesting questions if we went even further into Sci-Fi territory and assumed that such beings were in fact capable of reproduction with human partners (perhaps are geared in such a way as to allow incredible genetic flexibility).

Crude said...

Zeroing in on a point made earlier...

Peter Singer is well-known as a philosopher. His status, certainly in progressive circles, is not 'fringe media figure who people trot out to gawk at' - it's 'mainstream philosopher with some fantastic, but perhaps provocative, ideas'. By any reasonable measure you can name, he's greeted with open arms by social liberals: giver of TED Talks, spoken of favorably in mainstream publications, etc.

He doesn't hide his views about infanticide or bestiality. These aren't wild conclusions arrived at by people examining his words and saying 'Yes, but what if..!' He's as straightforward as can be in proposing them.

By and large, progressive media does not care. Neither do quite a number of very visible, public progressives, who are generally happy to treat him as a thoughtful, intelligent sort who may have some "provocative" ideas, but whose views should be openly debated.

One response has amounted to, 'Well, just because they praise him, allow him to publicize his views and more doesn't mean they view his positions on these matters as reasonable, or something they either or comfortable with or could grow comfortable with. They could just disagree with him strongly, but not see that as a reason to condemn him altogether. Having some horrible, offensive ideas doesn't mean to them that you should be chased out of the public sphere altogether!'

The problem is... yes, typically for those same progressives, it quite clearly does. The same progressive media and elite who happily boosts or presents Peter Singer has called for the heads of people who have expressed criticism of same-sex marriage, of same-sex sexual acts in general, of feminism, and more. Dabble in that - hell, just be suspected of dabbling in that - and you can count on condemnations, calls for a public apology and a renunciation of views, demands that they be fired, and more.

Note that no one has denied any of the above. No one's denying Singer enjoys a privileged position in progressive media and culture. No one's denying Singer has the views attributed to him. No one's denying that progressive media and culture reacts with fury and condemnation over the matters discussed.

And if you grant all that, it's pretty obvious that progressive culture - for better or for worse - is, at the very least, 'quite open-minded' when the subjects of infanticide, bestiality, and more. Suggestions that progressives react with nigh-universal shock and horror and condemnation at the very idea that some things can be justified don't fly.

David M said...

@Greg: "Well, to say that sex has no special moral significance actually is to say, directly, that those moral issues that are associated with it are not unique to it."

Well, returning, after this rollicking debate, to my defense of Singer's claim, the key words in the Singer quote which would seem to absolve it of imbecility are "in this respect." I believe that qualification should be taken to apply to the phrase "no unique moral issues at all," limiting its scope and making Greg's claim about it (above) false.

Chad Handley said...

"In that sense, liberalism is consistent with all kinds of moral theories, namely those theories that have very little normative force and which can be overridden and displaced by a political liberalism."

Non-sequitor. Your premises refer to "Rawlsian liberalism," but your conclusion merely refers to liberalism. Which is the same bait and switch move you've been using for this entire conversation: certain kinds of very restricted forms of liberalism (and also conservatism, but let's not mention that) would be limited in the moral theories they could appeal to, so liberalism per se is limited in the moral theories it can appeal to.

Like conservatives, liberals know that there are acts that are morally wrong that should nonetheless be legal. Having a moral theory therefore doesn't suffice for having a legal/political theory. So, it just doesn't follow that a person's moral theory is inconsistent with his political theory just because he holds that some act is simultaneously morally impermissible and legally permissible.

Everyone holds that there are such acts, so everyone is going to have to "displace" or "override" their moral theories in proposing legal/political theories. The Rawlsian liberal does this to no lesser or greater extent than the the Natural Lawyer.

A liberal could hold that Rawls theory of justice is the best political theory for organizing a pluralistic society, but disagree that his theory of justice is a correct account of moral ontology. I'm one of those liberals. Though I believe in Divine Command theory, I can't argue for any course of action in a pluralistic society on the basis of Divine Command theory. So, while I find Rawlsian considerations inadequate with respect to moral ontology, I find them a good tool for political/legal theorizing. There's nothing intellectually or morally inconsistent about using the correct tool for the correct job.

David M said...

Crude wrote: "it's pretty obvious that progressive culture - for better or for worse - is, at the very least, 'quite open-minded' when the subjects of infanticide, bestiality, and more."

Well, yes and no. It is pretty obvious, yes (at least at some level of 'progressive culture'). But at the same time Chad's retort on this point would be(?) just that 'cultures' (of any kind) are not entities that exist as constrained by rational principles of consistency. They are in the main governed by forces of persuasion and belief formation which are not amenable to any rational systematization. They can only be studied historically and empirically, and their is no Hegelian (or otherwise) rationalization of history which could make it possible to go beyond this kind of rough analysis of what particular groups happen to exist and what set of beliefs they generally happen to hold. (I assume we would all agree with this?) At the same time, however, this would seem to make Chad's demand for a definition of 'liberalism' that positively (logically) excludes any particular moral theory or view - as Chad insists: "[a liberal] could chose from any moral theory which is logically consistent with liberalism" - to be one that is unreasonable, and actually silly given the context of analysis which he seems to be taking to be relevant. From the nature of the case, he may well be right that it is impossible to define 'liberalism' in the way he demands, but such a demand is simply not relevant and is entirely misplaced if we are discussing the messy and fluid nature of really existing political groups whose beliefs manifestly cannot be subjected to any systematic analysis in terms of consistency. At the same time, while those opposing Chad may have sound arguments in relation to presumptions of/demands for rational consistency, those presumptions/demands may not reflect the reality of the actual beliefs of progressives, who may well often be irrational hypocrites, but who, as such, are also capable of and comfortable in holding all sorts of logically inconsistent beliefs, without this in the least affecting the genuineness/sincerity of their psychological assent to these believes. Which is irritating, but what can you do?

DNW said...

Greg said:

" ... That is consistent with Rawls' political liberalism. As long as you are happy to leave all of your comprehensive positions (Divine Command Theory) at the door, you are welcome to participate in Rawls' system.

In that sense, liberalism is consistent with all kinds of moral theories, namely those theories that have very little normative force and which can be overridden and displaced by a political liberalism.

I think I am more interested in understanding a certain pattern in the history of thought, which holds to a certain understanding of human freedom and the implications of autonomy for those actions which can be criticized, promoted, etc. (perhaps with the qualification: publically criticized, promoted, etc.). So Rawls' liberalism will allow people to be Divine Command Theorists as long as they shut up about it. A consequentialist will say that Divine Command Theory is just false.* I think the sense in which Divine Command Theory is consistent with the one and not with the other is pretty attenuated for the purpose of this discussion.
January 28, 2015 at 10:43 PM"



Yes, focusing on Rawls for a moment: a careful rereading of Rawls embedded axioms, as opposed to his non-utilitarian utilitarian charts and graphs, reveals that in addition he demands the granting of interpersonal esteem and solidarity as primary political acts.

This is of course not so much a plan for government, as for a fascist steam bath. It's a trait that runs through the core of modern liberalism and most certainly progressivism. The theorists are not content with your indifference and toleration ... they demand your affirmation and want the social and political right to a piece of you as well.

The difference between progressives and liberals on the one hand, and conservatives and small "L" libertarians on the other, always seems to come down to a matter of boundaries and definitions.

The liberal seems to get a much greater emotional satisfaction out of feelings of affiliation and "inclusion" and participation than normal people do; and the modern "liberal" organism seems much less likely to theoretically resent intrusions into its economic autonomy, or to respect the boundaries others set up against his appropriative activities. Non reproductive and therefore socially inconsequential sex acts are one of the few areas I can think of where modern liberals stand for an almost unlimited right to practice.

They are a different breed of cat, psychologically speaking. Or astounding hypocrites.

Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; present a liberal with a plow, and he runs screaming in the opposite direction.

Crude said...

David M,

It is pretty obvious, yes (at least at some level of 'progressive culture'. But at the same time Chad's retort on this point would be(?) just that 'cultures' (of any kind) are not entities that exist as constrained by rational principles of consistency. They are in the main governed by forces of persuasion and belief formation which are not amenable to any rational systematization.

Let's run with that.

At that point it looks like the retort isn't meant to disagree with what I'm claiming. Instead, my claim is being conceded. Now, we'd be moving on and talking about how and why cultures are what they are - but it's not obvious that this is a reply, or even a line of thought, I'll need to be concerned with.

At the same time, however, this would seem to make Chad's demand for a definition of 'liberalism' that positively (logically) excludes any particular moral theory or view - as Chad insists: "[a liberal] could chose from any moral theory which is logically consistent with liberalism" - to be one that is unreasonable, and actually silly given the context of analysis which he seems to be taking to be relevant.

Well, Chad gave a definition of 'liberal' which was lunatic. Really, just about everyone in the conversation (but Brandon most directly) has noted that he pretty well defined almost the entirety of not only the US populace, but the US political spectrum as political. On his definition, David Duke was a liberal who received tremendous support from liberals, and Peter Singer is a liberal that liberals adore.

I also think it indicates why the conversation on that front won't go anywhere: Chad's already shown he's willing to define 'liberal' into uselessness in order to evade the charge that X and Y follows from liberalism. It's a little like trying to argue that Marxist regimes don't have a rotten track record by defining 'Marxist regimes' in a way that includes the near-entirety of the American political history, with Reagan and Kennedy being emblematic Marxists - and then demanding that it be conceded that we can't conclude Marxist governments should be regarded with suspicion, and that to do so is irrational hatred on the part of capitalists. Just about all of whom are actually, by definition, yet more Marxists.

Which is irritating, but what can you do?

I recommend a bit of mockery, but that's me. I mean, it's one thing to have a deep disagreement, but there hits a point where the bullshit becomes so obvious that trying to treat the conversation seriously after that point is odd. Others seem to be having fun with the whole thing too, so hey.

Greg said...

@ Chad

Non-sequitor. Your premises refer to "Rawlsian liberalism," but your conclusion merely refers to liberalism. Which is the same bait and switch move you've been using for this entire conversation: certain kinds of very restricted forms of liberalism (and also conservatism, but let's not mention that) would be limited in the moral theories they could appeal to, so liberalism per se is limited in the moral theories it can appeal to.

The premise about Rawlsian liberalism does allow me to draw a conclusion about what liberalism per se is consistent with. Because a Rawlsian can hold any moral theory as long as he keeps it to himself in the public square, Rawlsian liberalism is consistent with just about any moral theory, i.e. those that are already roughly coextensive with political liberalism or those which are willing to say they do not have implications for the formation of public policy.

Since liberalism is a disjunction of various forms of liberalism (one of them being Rawls' political liberalism), it follows that whatever is consistent with Rawls' liberalism is consistent with liberalism.

Though your second sentence confuses me, because I am commenting on the irrelevance of morality and the good to Rawlsian liberalism. I am saying that a Rawlsian liberal can believe whatever he want; he can believe that the highest good is torching babies because he thinks Zeus wants that to happen. What I'm saying is that this is a very thin sense of consistency.

Everyone holds that there are such acts, so everyone is going to have to "displace" or "override" their moral theories in proposing legal/political theories. The Rawlsian liberal does this to no lesser or greater extent than the the Natural Lawyer.

Yes, I am not aware of anyone who supports universal moral paternalism. But the claim that natural lawyers let purely political considerations override their moral theory "to no lesser or greater extent" than Rawlsian liberals is on its face ridiculous, and I'm not sure why you'd make it. Disqualifying comprehensive positions like natural law is the point of Rawlsian liberalism, while natural lawyers believe that many of their moral conclusions are morally binding on the polity, even if they are not universal moral paternalists. That there is a huge distinction here hardly requires mentioning.

So, it just doesn't follow that a person's moral theory is inconsistent with his political theory just because he holds that some act is simultaneously morally impermissible and legally permissible.

Well, my argument that someone who endorses gay marriage will be hard-pressed to avoid commitment to endorsing bestiality is, as I've said, retorsive. So against a comprehensive liberal, I would argue that it is difficult to make a good argument (i.e. an argument that does not appeal to ad hoc principles) for gay marriage that avoids permitting bestiality also. Against a political liberal, I would argue that it is difficult to make an argument for the publically reasonable character of gay marriage that avoids commitment to the publically reasonable character of bestiality also.

If your point is that a liberal does not have to be a comprehensive liberal, so he can argue that bestiality is publically reasonable but impermissible, then I would agree with you. A political liberal can believe whatever he wants. But I would note that that position bears very little resemblance to yours in the debate with which this discussion began, i.e. over whether there is a relationship between liberalism and support of bestiality.

Greg said...

@ David M

Let's state Singer's quote (as quoted by Feser) in full:

[T]he first thing to say about ethics is that it is not a set of prohibitions particularly concerned with sex. Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all. Decisions about sex may involve considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car. (p. 2, emphasis added)

Could there be any debate that "in this respect" is referring to the fact that "[d]ecisions about sex may involve considerations of honest, concern for others, prudence, and so on"? Singer is saying those are the ways in which sex is morally relevant. But those apply to every act that could possibly affect others, so sex is not special in that respect - i.e. in respect of the generic ways in which our sexual activity might impact other people.

So he is saying that sex can be morally significant only in the ways that any act can be significant. Qua sex, there is nothing special about it. So my claim is quite true:

Well, to say that sex has no special moral significance actually is to say, directly, that those moral issues that are associated with it are not unique to it.

David M said...

Crude: "Well, Chad gave a definition of 'liberal' which was lunatic. Really, just about everyone in the conversation (but Brandon most directly) has noted that he pretty well defined almost the entirety of not only the US populace, but the US political spectrum as political. On his definition, David Duke was a liberal who received tremendous support from liberals, and Peter Singer is a liberal that liberals adore."

Well really doesn't Chad's definition apply much more broadly than that? Doesn't it apply to the vast majority of human beings throughout the history of the world? This is a time for solidarity, for all of us to come together: "Je suis liberal!"

Matt Sheean said...

I think Chad's main point (that progressive poliyics don't necessarily entail this or that moral commitment) was muddled from the outset by his invocation of a particularly shallow moral principle (consent). A principle he attributed to progressives generally. This, Chad, left you quite open to the very reasonable retort that the principle of consent, if attributed to progressives generally, was a great example of the sort of shallow moral thinking that makes an endorsement of certain behaviors (from sadomasochism to bestiality) more likely.

Matt Sheean said...

Greg

"Well, my argument that someone who endorses gay marriage will be hard-pressed to avoid commitment to endorsing bestiality is, as I've said, retorsive. "

I can't imagine this being a good argument, for the reasons that Daniel alludes to in his comment @3:01

David M said...

@Greg:
"Well, to say that sex has no special moral significance actually is to say, directly, that those moral issues that are associated with it are not unique to it."

The issue is the specific meaning of "moral issues" in this claim. You argue that it has a specific meaning such that it is legitimate to dismiss Singer's claim as imbecilic. I deny this. I think there is a legitimate narrow reading of "moral issues" here such that Singer's claim is true.

In context, the sentence "Decisions about sex may involve considerations of honesty, concern for others, prudence, and so on, but there is nothing special about sex in this respect, for the same could be said of decisions about driving a car" should be understood to be explicative of the preceding sentence, and therefore as qualifying precisely what Singer means by the term "moral issues" in that sentence ("Even in the era of AIDS, sex raises no unique moral issues at all").

DNW said...

Crude says,

" It's a little like trying to argue that Marxist regimes don't have a rotten track record by defining 'Marxist regimes' ..."

As "state capitalism" maybe ... recall that ploy?

As in - and I can recount the basics of their weaselly nonsense from memory, having confronted it so many times:

'The Soviet Union despite what they claimed, was neither communist nor a natural outcome of efforts to implement communist theory via a vanguard class ... it was a form of state capitalism under duress: one which was unable to successfully transition to the end of history utopia promised, because [despite reigning over 2/3rds of the Eurasian landmass] selfish western capitalists withheld the economic support necessary for a real communist society to develop and thrive.'

In other words, it was Bush's fault.

Chad Handley said...

So, wait, David M, you think conservatives agree with me that it's the proper role of government to actively do everything it can to improve the lives of the majority, so long as doing so doesn't inflict undue damage to a minority?

Because I'd swear that conservatives were committed to the principle of limited government.

If conservatives agree with my full definition of liberalism (and not just the first sentence of that definition) then why do conservatives oppose, for example, nationalized health care?

Matt Sheean said...

David M,

"I think there is a legitimate narrow reading of "moral issues" here such that Singer's claim is true."

I agree, there is a sense in which Singer is correct, but still, it's unclear why he would feel the need to write or say this since on that narrow reading it seems to make his statement, at best, trivially true.

David M said...

Daniel (at 3:01): "I can't give a fair response since I don't know what the standard liberal presumptions in question are, however it would seem intuitively obvious that there is a difference between Man and all other species that we know of in that the former possesses a level of noetic awareness, rational-intellective consciousness* for want of a less awkward term, and that the defender of homosexuality would base the non-parity of this activity with bestiality on that."

So what is principle and argument Daniel is suggesting here? "Sexual stimulation between two rational animals differs from sexual stimulation between a rational and a non-rational animal." Certainly that's not controversial. But what follows from it, as relevant to endorsing homo-sex or 'homo-marriage' and not endorsing bestiality?

Chad Handley said...

"Against a political liberal, I would argue that it is difficult to make an argument for the publically reasonable character of gay marriage that avoids commitment to the publically reasonable character of bestiality also."

Assume that the political liberal believes in publicly reasonable character of gay marriage on Rawlsian grounds, and make your argument.

Scott said...

@Matt Sheean:

"[I]t's unclear why he would feel the need to write or say this since on that narrow reading it seems to make his statement, at best, trivially true."

I agree. To be as fair as possible to Singer, I'd say that it's for the reason he suggests in the first quoted sentence, namely that he wants to make clear that ethics isn't exclusively or specially about sex—presumably because he thinks there are people who think otherwise.

David M said...

"If conservatives agree with my full definition of liberalism (and not just the first sentence of that definition) then why do conservatives oppose, for example, nationalized health care?"

Chad, nobody debating in good faith could possibly ask such a dumb question.

Crude said...

David M,

Well really doesn't Chad's definition apply much more broadly than that? Doesn't it apply to the vast majority of human beings throughout the history of the world? This is a time for solidarity, for all of us to come together: "Je suis liberal

Haha. 'It's ridiculous to suggest that something unsavory follows or is far more likely on a progressive political outlook. As we all know, progressives are liberals, and liberal is just another word for eukaryota, one of the three domains of life.

I demand you give me an argument that explains why having cells which contain a nucleus and other organelles enclosed within membranes absolutely requires one to support infanticide, which is totally what has been claimed here.

David M said...

@Scott: Yes, I agree. I also suppose he may be making the point that he takes ethical analysis to be principle-governed in a uniform, universal way, which not all people would regard as a trivial assertion.

DNW said...

" If conservatives agree with my full definition of liberalism (and not just the first sentence of that definition) then why do conservatives oppose, for example, nationalized health care?
January 29, 2015 at 7:48 AM "


Placing aside the dubious premise: Because they are conservatives, not pan-ethnic social fascists.

Chad Handley said...

What do you mean by pan-ethnic, and what does that have to do with anything?

John West said...

Assume that the political liberal believes in publicly reasonable character of gay marriage on Rawlsian grounds, and make your argument.

He just did.

His claim is that any "argument for the publically reasonable character of gay marriage [does not avoid] commitment to the publically reasonable character of bestiality also." A more specific response would require a more specific argument with which to work.

Greg,

If you haven't already (and aren't fed up), maybe you could give an example argument for the publically reasonable character of gay marriage to show what you mean.

I'm assuming, here, that Mr. Handley is genuinely interested and not just being a sophist.

David M said...

Chad, your question was dumb, you have no excuse for not knowing the answer to it already, and it just opens up a whole 'nother can of worms. But your demand that we look at your full definition of liberalism is obviously a fair one. You write: "it's the proper role of government to actively do everything it can to improve the lives of the majority, so long as doing so doesn't inflict undue damage to a minority." Okay, so that's a nice abstract formula, and probably not one that a vast majority would immediately assent to. But that's because all the work of filling in a particular interpretation of the various terms is as yet undone. The general reason why 'conservatives' will tend not to support such a conception is not because, given an appropriate interpretation of terms, they couldn't, but because they know how the terms are usually interpreted when this kind of assertion is made and they don't support that specific interpretation.

John West said...

David M.,

I discard any definition of liberal that defines Edmund Burke as a liberal.

Call it John West's rule.

Daniel said...

@David M,

Well I didn't give it so much as an argument in favour or against anything only the grounds on which one might base one. With that distinction in mind one might attack the covertly Naturalistic idea that sexuality is the same in kind between Man/Rational Animals and non-rational one. They might claim because of the meaning of the Other (other self) involved that ‘sex proper’ can only occur between rational agents and that anything else is at best sexual by analogy or at worst just masturbation. That alone of course goes no further in deciding whether homosexuality, heterosexuality or masturbation is wrong or right (they might go along the lines of then arguing that it can count as a good between two rational agents because of a phenomenology of meaning they can share).

DNW said...

Chad Handley said...

What do you mean by pan-ethnic, and what does that have to do with anything?
January 29, 2015 at 8:09 AM


Fascism as a collectivist ideology, or emotional impulse, is often conflated with or mistaken for national identity movements, ethnic supremacy movements, and the like.

Of course those are merely one way the fascist impulse sometimes manifests itself. Possibly in the way a fondness for marching in parades and beating drums is not exclusive to Nazi racialists.

I wished to specify that any such conceptual errors should be avoided. Allowing as you might say the fascists their minimal if contemptuous due as not being necessarily racialist per se.

It's a logical distinction that is important as you consider, say, Obama's theory regarding "positive liberty".

Daniel said...

As far as I can see some actions e.g. dressing up in a chicken suite and running down the street shouting 'Modal Concretism is psychedelic man!' are not moral wrongs though one would be hard-pressed to call them moral goods. If someone claims homosexuality is an active good then the emphasis is on them to argue their case; similarly if another party claims that it is a moral wrong then the burden of proof is on them to show why this is the case.

To play devil's advocate: an ideology's being Fascist say's nothing about its being right or wrong unless of course one assumes we know a priori that Fascism is wrong. Whilst I would hold that it is this is not a luxury one should be inclined to grant Leftist ideologists - I really wish some unrepentant Nazi of a philosophical bent had turned round to Adorno and the Frankfurt School and asked them to prove that there was something objectively wrong with Nazism, the Holocaust et cetera et cetera.

Witten said...

Most laws about permissible sex are based on the legal concept of consent. This concept is largely tautological and comes with a bundle of considerations. It certainly isn't just "wanting to have sex" in some way.

Adopting the legal notion of consent as a personal moral guide to what kinds of sex people should be having isn't a crazy position. Lots of effort has gone into thinking about this stuff. So telling someone animals can't legally consent to sex, therefore you shouldn't be banging rover, is totally non-problematic. And if they start going on about why can't they fuck their dog if they can buy beef at the supermarket, it's an exercise in point missing. As the answer is: the legal principles we use to decide what kind of sex is allowed are different than the legal principles we use to decide what kind of food-production is allowed. At base, this is because lots of people like eating meat, and lots of people think having sex with animals is gross. If that inconsistency bothers you, you can stop buying beef, but you still can't hump a cow.

Matt Sheean said...

Daniel et al

I mentioned R Scruton before, and your latest comment describes his position: that sex is, by nature, part of an "I, Thou" relation. He endorses homosexual romance by this principle, and excludes bestiality, masturbation (for the most part) and such by the same.

I don't think, I say again, that the argument that Greg suggests is particularly strong, or necessary to the discussion.

Matt Sheean said...

ugh, sorry, Daniel, not your latest comment, but the one before that. I type too slow

DNW said...

Did that help, Chad?

If you like, you might do a little further research on the concept of so-called "positive liberty", its developmental history, the current president's identification with the idea, and his stated problem with our form of constitutional government. This was a form of government which was originally designed not to stir-up feelings of collective identity and demand interpersonal sacrifice so much, as to contrarily ensure that members of the political class would remain generally unmolested in their own persons and lives.

To go a step further then, and to address your "national health care" proposal: It is hard to imagine that making some liable for, say, the autogenic disorders of others on national grounds, stands the test as a classically liberal idea.

Matt Sheean said...

Witten,

So.... if lots of people began to think that humping cows was cool then...?

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