Friday, April 3, 2015

The two faces of tolerance


What is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.

Herbert Marcuse

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

H. L. Mencken

Given current events in Indiana, I suppose it is time once again to recall a post first run on the old Right Reason blog in March of 2007, and reprinted on this blog in December of 2009.  Here are the relevant passages, followed by some commentary:

To the charge that liberals are (or, given their principles, should be) in favor of X [where X = legalizing abortion, liberalizing obscenity laws, banning smoking on private property, legalizing “same-sex marriage,” outlawing the public advocacy of traditional sexual morality, etc. etc.], the standard liberal response goes through about five stages (with, it seems, roughly 5-10 years passing between each stage, though sometimes the transition is much quicker than that).  Here they are:

Stage 1: “Oh please. Only a far-right-wing nutjob would make such a paranoid and ridiculous accusation - I suppose next you’ll accuse us of wanting to poison your precious bodily fluids!”

Stage 2: “Well, I wouldn’t go as far as X. All the same, it’s good to be open-minded about these things. I mean, people used to think ending slavery was a crazy idea too…”

Stage 3: “Hey, the Europeans have had X for years and the sky hasn’t fallen. But no, I admit that this backward country probably isn’t ready for X yet.”

Stage 4: “Of course I’m in favor of X - it’s in the Constitution! Only a far-right-wing nutjob could possibly oppose it.”

Stage 5: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law…”


Fortunately, though, we can rely on conservatives to hold the line, and indeed to turn back liberal advances. Right?

Well, no, of course not. (You can stop rolling your eyes, I was being facetious.) For conservatives - or maybe I should say “conservatives” (since there’s very little that they ever actually manage to conserve, unless money is somehow involved) - seem to go through five stages of their own. Here they are:

Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”

Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”

Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”

Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”

Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…”

End quote.  Now, where X = curtailing the free exercise of religion, at the time I first wrote those words I estimated that liberals were at about stage 2.  At this point it seems that many of them are at about stage 4, and a disturbing number of hotheads among them seem willing to push for stage 5 vigilantism.  Conservatives, meanwhile, seem mostly to be at about stage 3 of their own progression, and I suspect that not a few are at least flirting with Stage 4.

And so here is where we find ourselves in the land of the free and the home of the brave in April of 2015:

Prominent conservative politicians and churchmen have all essentially caved in on the substance of the dispute over “same-sex marriage.”  None of them will publicly express the slightest moral disapproval of homosexual behavior, and few even bother anymore with social scientific arguments supporting the benefits of children being raised by both a mother and a father.  Indeed, all of them are eager to express their deep respect for their fellow citizens who happen to be homosexual, vigorously to condemn “homophobia” and discrimination, etc.  Some of them are even happy to affirm “same-sex marriage.”  All they ask is that religious believers who on moral grounds disapprove of “same-sex marriage” not be forced to cooperate formally or materially with it.  The circumstances where this might occur are, of course, very rare.  No one is proposing that business owners might refuse to serve a customer simply because he or she happens to be homosexual.  What is in view are merely cases where a business owner who objects to “same-sex marriage” would be forced to participate in it, say by providing a wedding cake or wedding invitations.  Nor would his refusal to participate inconvenience anyone, since there are plenty of business owners who have no qualms about “same-sex marriage.”

In short, what conservatives are proposing is not only extremely modest, but is being defended in the name of their opponents’ own principles, the most liberal of principles, viz. the Jeffersonian principle that it is tyrannical to force someone to act against his conscience, and the Rawlsian principle that a pluralistic society should strive as far as possible to respect and keep a just peace between citizens committed to radically different moral, philosophical and religious views. 

And for taking this paradigmatically liberal position, they are widely and shrilly denounced by liberals as… “bigots,” “haters,” “intolerant,” comparable to the Ku Klux Klan and the upholders of Jim Crow.

Meanwhile, some liberal business owners fire employees who take this conservative position, while others refuse to do business in a state that adopts it.  Other liberals routinely refuse even to discuss the merits of the conservative position but merely hurl insults and try to shout down and intimidate anyone who dares to disagree with them.  And when a particular business owner affirms that customers who happen to be homosexual are welcome in her restaurant, but also says that she would not agree to cater a hypothetical “same-sex wedding,” she finds herself suddenly subjected to a nationwide Two Minutes Hate, with an online mob actively seeking to destroy her livelihood and reputation -- some of them even proposing to burn down the restaurant or kill its owners.  Even some mainstream liberals, while not condoning such violence, suggest that the restaurant owner had invited this abuse.

And liberals have winked at or even embraced the ethos and tactics of the lynch mob in the name of… tolerance, freedom, and pluralism, of love and compassion and opposition to bigotry.

How have we descended into such Orwellian insanity? 

It’s all about sexual equality

Part of it has to do with the fact that what is at issue here concerns sex.  And make no mistake, it is sex in general, rather than homosexuality in particular, that is ultimately at issue.  Consider that current liberal proposals to curb freedom of conscience where disapproval of “same-sex marriage” is concerned are of a piece with recent liberal proposals to curb freedom of conscience where contraception and abortifacient drugs are concerned.  Consider also that only a small percentage of people, including a small percentage of liberals, have a homosexual orientation.  But perhaps a majority of people in contemporary Western society, and certainly the overwhelming majority of liberals, have bought into the sexual revolution.  In particular, they have bought into the idea that where sex is concerned, the only moral consideration, and certainly the only consideration that should have any influence on public policy, is consent.  There can in their view be no moral objection, and perhaps no reasonable objection of any other sort, to sexual arrangements to which all parties have consented.  There is in their view a presumption in favor of license, and thus a presumption against anyone who would object to license.  The conclusion that there can be no reasonable objection to “same-sex marriage” follows naturally.  It is merely one consequence among others of a generally libertine attitude about sex.

Now, here’s the thing about sex.  The unique intensity of sexual pleasure, the central role that success in romantic and sexual relationships plays in our sense of fulfillment and self-worth,    and the unpleasant feeling of shame that accompanies indulgence in sexual actions we suspect of being in some way wrong, makes it very difficult for people to think clearly or dispassionately about sex.  We have a very strong bias in favor of trying to find ways of rationalizing indulgence, and a very strong bias against regarding some sexual behavior toward which we are attracted as wrong or shameful.  These biases are only increased by sexual license.  The more deeply you buy into the sexual revolution and act accordingly, the more reluctant you are going to be to want to listen to any criticism of it. 

This is why Aquinas regards what he calls “blindness of mind,” “self-love,” and “hatred of God” as among the “daughters of lust” -- where by “lust” Aquinas means, not sexual desire, but rather sexual indulgence that is in some way or other disordered.  Sexual immorality fosters “blindness of mind” in the sense that the one indulging in it tends to have greater difficulty than he otherwise would in thinking coolly and dispassionately about matters of sex.  He tends toward “self-love” in that he is strongly inclined to make his own subjective feelings and desires the measure by which to judge any proposed standards of morality, rather than letting objective moral standards be the measure by which to judge his feelings and desires.  He tends toward “hatred of God” insofar as the very idea that there is an objective moral law or lawgiver who might condemn his indulgence becomes abhorrent to him.  (I recently discussed Aquinas’s analysis at length here.)

So, when a sexually libertine liberal activist shrieks “Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!” in your face at the top of his lungs as if he were putting forward a rational argument, or tries to destroy a person’s reputation and strip him of his livelihood in the name of compassion, or threatens to kill him or burn down his business in the name of tolerance, the manifest cognitive dissonance should not be surprising.  It is only to be expected.  Sexual libertinism is destructive of rationality.

It’s all about sexual equality

But it’s not just about sex.  It’s about egalitarianism itself, which, as Plato argued in The Republic, is inherently destructive of moral, legal, and rational standards, and has tyranny as its natural sequel.  The egalitarian regime insists, notionally, on tolerating every opinion and way of life, and refuses either to judge any one of them as morally or rationally superior to any other, or to favor any of them in its laws.  Yet no regime can tolerate what would subvert it.  And the very idea that some views and ways of life are simply objectively superior, rationally and morally, to others, is subversive of egalitarianism.  Hence egalitarian societies tend in practice to be intolerant of views which maintain that there are objective standards by which some views and ways of life might be judged better or worse.  That is to say, an egalitarian regime inevitably tolerates only those views which are egalitarian.  Which means, of course, that it tolerates only itself.

Thus, in Plato’s own day, do we have the spectacle of Athens, which was democratic, pluralist, and egalitarian -- and killed Socrates, because it suspected that he was none of the above.  Thus do we have the French Revolution, which murdered thousands in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity.  Thus do we have Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, each of which slaughtered tens of millions in the name of equality.  If egalitarians have, historically, been able to convince themselves of the justifiability of all that, then burning down a pizzeria is a cinch. 

Nor is it by any means only these more extreme forms of egalitarianism that practice intolerance in the name of tolerance.  You will find the same tendency in John Locke, that most moderate of early modern liberals.  Locke famously argued for religious toleration -- except for Catholics, for atheists, or for anyone who rejects the doctrine of religious toleration.  The reason was that Locke regarded the views of all such people as subversive of a tolerant, liberal society -- Catholics because their primary loyalty was to the pope rather than to the liberal state, atheists because they denied the theological foundations that the Protestant Locke thought essential to morality and politics, and deniers of religious liberty for the obvious reason that they rejected the whole idea of the tolerant liberal state.  Locke went so far in the direction of insisting that only those religions which accepted his doctrine of toleration ought to be tolerated that he held “toleration to be the chief characteristical mark of the true church.”  In other words, a real religion is one which embraces Lockeanism.  Hence the Lockean liberal regime tolerates only those views which accept the basic principles of Lockean liberalism.  Which ultimately means, of course, that it too tolerates only itself.  (See chapter 5 of my book Locke for further discussion of Locke’s doctrine on toleration.)

Things are in no way different with the contemporary liberalism of John Rawls.  Rawls famously holds that a liberal society is one which is neutral between, and can be accepted as just on the basis of premises held by, all of the competing “comprehensive doctrines” -- that is to say, the religious, philosophical and moral worldviews -- that exist within a modern pluralistic society.  Or at least, Rawls says, it is neutral between the “reasonable” comprehensive doctrines.  And what makes a doctrine “reasonable,” as it turns out, is a willingness to endorse the principles of Rawls’s brand of liberalism.  Which means that the Rawlsian regime tolerates only those views which endorse its underlying principles.  And thus -- once again -- we have a form of egalitarianism which on analysis really only tolerates itself.  (I’ve discussed the bogusness of Rawlsian neutrality elsewhere, e.g. here, here, and here.)

Now, how do you counter sexual libertinism and the totalitarian tendencies of egalitarianism?  Naturally, by vigorously arguing for traditional sexual morality, and working for legal safeguards of the liberty of those who affirm traditional sexual morality to live in accordance with it.  Easier said than done, needless to say.  But there is no alternative, in the short term or, especially, in the long term.  Rusty Reno, at First Things, seems to agree.  He recommends two courses of action to conservative and religious leaders:

The first is obvious. We need to work for laws like the Indiana RFRA to provide some protection, however modest, to our communities from the coming onslaught of “anti-bigotry” laws.

The second is less obvious but perhaps even more important. We need to stand up and speak clearly about the biblical teaching on sex, marriage, and family. It’s the leaders of the Church who should be attacked in public as “homophobic,” not politicians like Mike Pence who are trying to do the right thing.

Yet some political leaders seem more inclined to cave in to the demands of the mob, and some religious leaders more inclined to hide under the covers and hope the problem goes away.  Naturally, this will only embolden the mob.  These political and religious leaders are asking for it, and they are going to get it from the “tolerance” crowd -- good and hard, as Mencken would say.  Unfortunately, they won’t be the only ones to suffer the effects of their cowardice. 

484 comments:

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Daniel said...

Now, how do you counter sexual libertinism and the totalitarian tendencies of egalitarianism? Naturally, by vigorously arguing for traditional sexual morality, and working for legal safeguards of the liberty of those who affirm traditional sexual morality to live in accordance with it.

I'm not arguing for any specific point he but I have to ask why should we wish to counter libertinism unless we already know it is wrong? Adopting 'traditional morality' as a way of justifying one's condemnation of said stance would just be equivalent to the unthinking philistine who endorses Materialism with a view to 'license' Hedonism.

Sexual immorality fosters “blindness of mind” in the sense that the one indulging in it tends to have greater difficulty than he otherwise would in thinking coolly and dispassionately about matters of sex. He tends toward “self-love” in that he is strongly inclined to make his own subjective feelings and desires the measure by which to judge any proposed standards of morality, rather than letting objective moral standards be the measure by which to judge his feelings and desires. He tends toward “hatred of God” insofar as the very idea that there is an objective moral law or lawgiver who might condemn his indulgence becomes abhorrent to him.

Historically this is certainly true (there's a strong smell of Pragmatism about it) though I think the more thoughtful defender of 'non-traditional' sexual values might just claim a la Laurence or Miller that the previues moral standards were false and that God is ultimately 'on their side' as it were, theirs representing the true moral landscape.

Anonymous said...

I'm not arguing for any specific point he but I have to ask why should we wish to counter libertinism unless we already know it is wrong?

We do, so...

Historically this is certainly true (there's a strong smell of Pragmatism about it) though I think the more thoughtful defender of 'non-traditional' sexual values might just claim

They'd need an argument, and they're very reluctant to give one and stick to it. The entire idea that they need an argument is treated as insulting itself, since everyone can just "tell" that they're right. There's a reason that the natural law proponents and like-minded people are very eager to debate and discuss these topics (and have been for a while), while their opponents are almost uniformly eager to treat the entire matter as settled decisively in the past. How? No one can really explain that part in terms of argument, but everyone knows it happened and there's no use talking about it anymore.

Crude said...

Now, how do you counter sexual libertinism and the totalitarian tendencies of egalitarianism? Naturally, by vigorously arguing for traditional sexual morality, and working for legal safeguards of the liberty of those who affirm traditional sexual morality to live in accordance with it. Easier said than done, needless to say. But there is no alternative, in the short term or, especially, in the long term.

I wonder if more can't be done. One impression I get off the modern SJW "ethos" is that it's pretty shallow - there are inconsistencies that go with the irrationalities, and I think historically we see that these kinds of antics have a habit of producing cultures that collapse in upon themselves and force something else to take its place. Maybe there's something that can be highlighted there?

Scott said...

"Now, how do you counter sexual libertinism and the totalitarian tendencies of egalitarianism? Naturally, by…working for legal safeguards of the liberty of those who affirm traditional sexual morality to live in accordance with it."

I don't disagree with this in principle, but I can't agree that Indiana's RFRA is itself such a legal safeguard. It doesn't protect "traditional sexual morality"; it protects any morality at all as long as someone is willing to call it "religious" (and a court is willing to agree).

And, interpreted strictly according to the letter, that doesn't include Catholics. The Church's teaching on homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage rests entirely on non-"religious" grounds; the case doesn't even need to make any mention of God to the extent that He's knowable by human reason, let alone any special revelation. So on this subject, at least, we have the curious phenomenon of a law that ostensibly protects "religious liberty" but doesn't protect Catholics. (If you think this isn't a serious drawback, wait until someone in Indiana sues the Church for not performing a same-sex wedding.)

Of course it also doesn't protect people whose religious loyalties are anywhere from ambiguous to nonexistent but who oppose same-sex marriage on other grounds. (Imagine Roger Scruton running a bakery.) To my mind these are the very people who need the strongest protection, not only for their own sakes but for the sake of preserving traditional morality—and I mean as morality, rather than as some Neanderthal crackpottery preached to the illiterates down at Pastor Ted's Gospel Barn.

The basic problem is that these laws (like the lawsuits that provided the impetus for them) make reference to the wrong Constitutionally protected right. The right to turn away customers, business, or jobs is not "religious liberty" but freedom of association. And it protects (or should protect) everyone, "religious" or not.

Gene Callahan said...

Bravo, Ed!

Crude said...

Scott,

The Church's teaching on homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage rests entirely on non-"religious" grounds; the case doesn't even need to make any mention of God to the extent that He's knowable by human reason, let alone any special revelation.

This doesn't seem right. I agree that natural law arguments fit that bill, but 'Church teaching' - I'm not sure it relies only on NL arguments, does it?

moduspownens said...

"Now, how do you counter sexual libertinism and the totalitarian tendencies of egalitarianism? Naturally, by vigorously arguing for traditional sexual morality, and working for legal safeguards of the liberty of those who affirm traditional sexual morality to live in accordance with it."

But how can we do this when we, spurned as "bigots," "homophobes" and all manner of slurs, are barred from participation in the marketplace of ideas? Even if we use an argument from natural law, it's seldom that this isn't still conflated with "religious bigotry." The left has co-opted the public sphere and basically labeled religious and conservative ideals as basically not in the same realm of consideration as liberal or progressive ideals. They are two different types of propositions. It's very reminiscent to the logical positivists.

I'm also ashamed of my generation for rallying behind this "social justice" crusade. Only fools institutionalize themselves as optional to their children in the view of law, culture and the state. Liberty does not flow from such a concession. We're a generation raised and indoctrinated to be overstimulated, chronic feelers, not critical thinkers. And it will be mainly our children who will reap the discord we have sewn.

I guess I'm really frustrated and disheartened about Gov. Pence's capitulation and the rapid success of the same-sex marriage movement by disingenuous means. Maybe it's because I'm a millennial and relatively young (25), that I don't see shades of grey or hope here. I've argued with the other side elsewhere, but basically we're talking past each other only on the best and most civil of occasions. In the meantime, the open persecution and bullying of Christians is treated as the next step in justice. This is all very Orwellian.

I apologize for co-opting Professor Feser's combox, but where do we go from here when large swaths of society have no understanding of religious liberty, can't or refuse to differentiate between a proclivity and a free expression of that proclivity and can't perceive that the gay rights movement of today is a parody of the the civil rights movement of the 1960s, etc.?

Crude said...

I apologize for co-opting Professor Feser's combox, but where do we go from here when large swaths of society have no understanding of religious liberty, can't or refuse to differentiate between a proclivity and a free expression of that proclivity and can't perceive that the gay rights movement of today is a parody of the the civil rights movement of the 1960s, etc.?

My own view? By working directly and indirectly.

I think there's value in arguments, natural law, direct reasoning - but I also think people tend to ignore the cultural side of things too much. Conservatives and traditionalists have recently started to fight back a bit when it comes to that - see what's going on with Sad/Rabid Puppies and the Hugo awards - but more needs to be done there.

Tell stories, create fiction, develop characters.

ccmnxc said...

Gotta say I'm largely in agreement with Scott here (though, like Crude, I would dispute that the Catholic Church wouldn't have much to go on here), though I think that the RFRA has application beyond association issues, even if those were the motivators for writing up the law. I might take this further than he is suggesting, though.

I would say this is one of the few issues where I take a strongly libertarian approach, where we ought to do more to promote freedom of association, which will necessarily allow for more room for discrimination, and to which I say "So what?" But, such laws, as Scott said, will allow for objection to service for more than those with claimed religious issues with a particular service.

Scott W. said...

RFRA is may be disputable as to whether it is an effective law, but you gotta start somewhere. This reminds me of abortion debates where the squeamish demand that those in favor of legally banning abortion have a complete and comprehensive formula that answers all questions about application and enforcement, and anticipates all problems (even far-fetched ones). We can't really operate like that. Sometimes you gotta push the car with the dead battery to get it in motion and then make all the adjustments as you jump in and try to clutch start it.

Gail Finke said...

"I apologize for co-opting Professor Feser's combox, but where do we go from here when large swaths of society have no understanding of religious liberty, can't or refuse to differentiate between a proclivity and a free expression of that proclivity and can't perceive that the gay rights movement of today is a parody of the the civil rights movement of the 1960s, etc.?"

This question captures my thoughts exactly. Larry Kalb, in answer to a comment I made on an essay about liberalism he wrote for Crisis, answered that pretty much all we CAN do now is stand up and represent -- "witness," as our evangelical brothers and sisters might say (my words, not Kalb's). This is more than most people do, I grant you. When the other side is marked by unreason, sometimes all that can be done is to be reasonable, with charity, as a witness for people who are asking the exact question quoted above that they are NOT the only sane people left in the world.

This is a great essay, thanks. I'm reminded of the unreasoning tide of emotion released at the HHS birth control and abortifacient mandate. Women said that their desire for birth control MUST result in its being provided for them at no cost. As a woman, I would ask both people I knew and people on comboxes why it must be provided -- if they wanted it couldn't they just get it themselves? Wasn't it a want, and not a need? And why should it not be like everything else in life, subject to women's budgets and circumstances?

There was a large, underlying set of assumptions for the emotional demand, and while some of them have to do with sex as a right, I think that some also have to do with women not being able to "make it" unless they are essentially just like men. And if they are just like men, why distinguish between the two in any sphere? However, women are NOT just like men in terms of fertility and can only be made so artificially. Many women have come to accept this unthinkingly as an actual requirement for merely living, not a particular goal of regulating birth. They have come to see not having children as the default state of women, but it's not actually so. Their lack of ability to make any kind of argument for their position other than, "I NEED THIS" showed me that.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"I agree that natural law arguments fit that bill, but 'Church teaching' - I'm not sure it relies only on NL arguments, does it?"

In the end, of course, you're quite right.

I think my main point is sound, though. The Church teaches that the wrongness of homosexual activity can be known and demonstrated by natural reason alone without even any reference to natural theology; in fact that's key to Catholic arguments that the question of same-sex marriage isn't just one of "religion" and that natural-law-based arguments have an important place even in strictly secular public discourse.

Chad Handley said...

You define an egalitarian society as one that "insists, notionally, on tolerating every opinion and way of life, and refuses either to judge any one of them as morally or rationally superior to any other, or to favor any of them in its laws."

By that definition, I hardly think Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, or Robespierre's France qualify.

So, I'm not seeing much justification for the claim that egalitarianism leads to totalitarianism.

Crude said...

Scott,

The Church teaches that the wrongness of homosexual activity can be known and demonstrated by natural reason alone without even any reference to natural theology; in fact that's key to Catholic arguments that the question of same-sex marriage isn't just one of "religion" and that natural-law-based arguments have an important place even in strictly secular public discourse.

I agree with that much, and I agree with what I think your more general point here is - the right to not take part in this or that event shouldn't come down to 'religious disagreement' alone, but more generally to anyone with an intellectual disagreement. Sound apt?

If so, I could see being on board with that view. I think 'religious disagreement' may still be its own category, but I wouldn't exactly oppose someone who didn't want to provide service to a same-sex wedding (or, for that matter, to a baptism) on "secular" grounds. I suspect part of the problem here is that on this topic, the very idea of there being any 'secular' disagreement with same-sex marriage (or with sodomy in general) has been dishonestly scrubbed entirely from public discourse.

Really, at this point the very idea that it was anything but Churches (as opposed to, say... secular psychology/mental health organizations) that considered same-sex sexual activity to be 'wrong' or 'disordered' would be news to a lot of people.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"Sound apt?"

Yep.

"I suspect part of the problem here is that on this topic, the very idea of there being any 'secular' disagreement with same-sex marriage (or with sodomy in general) has been dishonestly scrubbed entirely from public discourse."

So do I. For whatever it's worth, if there ever is a case in which the Church tries to invoke the religious-liberty defense under Indiana's RFRA, that fact may count in its favor. I'm sure, at any rate, that it's part of the thinking behind the RFRA itself: even its drafters, and many of its proponents, can't really conceive that there might be any opposition that didn't somehow count as "religious."

My sub-point was just that, of all the religious groups, organizations, and institutions that oppose same-sex marriage, Catholicism is the most vulnerable (though I probably overstated the vulnerability) to the counterclaim that its opposition isn't at bottom "religious" and therefore doesn't provide a defense under Indiana's RFRA.

The argument may sound like a stretch and it may seem implausible that it could ever prevail in a court of law, but it should seem less so to anyone who has read the tortured legal "reasoning" in the baker/florist/photographer decisions (which evince, among other things, an inability to distinguish between turning away a customer and turning down a job).

Anonymous said...

Re: catering gay weddings, "violating one's conscience," etc.

Under public accommodation laws, if you run a public accommodation, you are required to serve all. If you don't want to swerve the public, then you have no business running a public accommodation. It's that simple. And it's your choice. If you wand to open a "Catholic Wedding Cake" shop that expressly serves only Catholics, then go ahead. Nobody says you can't do that. If you want to have a shop that ostensibly serves the public, then you can't pick and choose which part of the public you refuse to serve. It's the law.

Let's say you have been chosen as the godfather to the young daughter of your lifelong friend. You wear your best suit to the ceremony, but as you arrive at the church, an unfortunate accident ruins your tie. So you run quickly across the street to the clothing store to get a new tie. And the store owner doesn't believe in Catholic religious ceremonies, so he refuses to sell you a tie, claiming that it's a "violation of his conscience." He won't sell a tie to a Catholic if it is to be worn in a Catholic religious ceremony. That is a violation of his rights. Being sympathizers of this line of reasoning, you naturally agree that he is correct, and you happily participate in the baptism ceremony without a tie, and without the slightest sense that you have suffered any injustice. That's what your logic demands.


On the other hand, the rest of us will say flat out that this is injustice, that those who run public accommodations and refuse to service Catholic weddings or gay weddings are simply being haters, and that they shouldn't be shown any tolerance. Rather than adjusting to them, they should adjust to us. All this is discussed further here:

http://theskepticzone.blogspot.com/2015/04/public-accommodation-vs.html

Crude said...

Scott,

Alright, that point I can see. Of course, dishonest twists of logic are impossible to fight against - there are people who can reason Clarence Thomas into a white man.

Another problem on that front is - where are the secular groups fighting for the rights to run their lives as they see fit, in a non-SJW way? You'd think the libertarians would be front and center here (and Rand Paul has at least made vague noise on that front), but last I checked a good number of them seemed to be spending time assuring everyone that being a libertarian doesn't mean you're against forcing people to live in perfect accordance with state-sanctioned morality on the LGBT topic so, uh...

rank sophist said...

Chad,

Communism of all forms is fundamentally egalitarian. Like the Lockean liberalism that Prof. Feser mentions, though, it's an egalitarianism that oppresses. Its purpose is to free the worker from exploiters (i.e. capitalist overlords), from the oppression of class and from the "delusions" that the exploiters propagate to protect themselves. The ideal communist society is moneyless, classless, perfectly equal, free from discrimination (as they define it) and without government. Everyone lives in the same kind of home, owns the same property, believes the same things and acts the same way. If you've read Thomas More's Utopia, you know what communism was aiming to create. (Fun fact: communist Russia was, for a time, a refuge for Jews--albeit not religious ones--because of the state's anti-racism policies. It was a safe zone compared to fascist Europe.)

Unfortunately, mass slaughter and oppression are the only means by which to enact communism's principles. Religious and rival political creeds are seen by communists as delusions used by the exploiters to pacify their workers--and so they have to be outlawed. The exploiters themselves must be dispossessed, imprisoned and executed. Anyone who makes a claim to private property or religious belief or even difference faces the same. In other words, anyone who challenges the egalitarian principles of communism is seen as disruptive and evil. Communism is accepting of everyone, but only if everyone is a communist.

ccmnxc said...

Anon,
Being sympathizers of this line of reasoning, you naturally agree that he is correct, and you happily participate in the baptism ceremony without a tie, and without the slightest sense that you have suffered any injustice. That's what your logic demands.

This is I think your line of reasoning falls apart. Perhaps I have suffered from some injustice by being turned down (though I think you could have used a more forceful example than merely not having a tie), but at the end of the day, I wouldn't see it as a huge deal. It would also be an injustice to violate said owner's moral beliefs abd force him to accomodate me. I might gripe a little bit about not being able to find a good tie, but I don't think I'd feel some significant compulsion to demand that the store owner be legally coerced into serving me.

At the end of the day, it largely comes down to what we see as more immoral: discrimination for various reasons, or forcing people into contract with others on gruonds of accomodation laws even if it violates conscience and/or religious beliefs. You hold the former is worse; I hold the latter is worse, and until we make some headway here, there is going to be no progress made.

Crude said...

ccmnxc,

Perhaps I have suffered from some injustice by being turned down (though I think you could have used a more forceful example than merely not having a tie), but at the end of the day, I wouldn't see it as a huge deal.

Another way of putting it is this: not every perceived 'injustice' is one that should be met with the force of the state forcing compliance, and I note that the perception of 'injustice' on the part of the man being forced into compliance isn't considered at all.

Put another way: I generally regard forcing people to provide service for events that they find immoral to be damn unjust.

rank sophist said...

And here are a few relevant lines from that recent NYT op-ed that should contribute to the general discussion:

So our debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.

Almost as terrifying (with emphasis added):

Creech and Mitchell Gold, a prominent furniture maker and gay philanthropist, founded an advocacy group, Faith in America, which aims to mitigate the damage done to L.G.B.T. people by what it calls “religion-based bigotry.”

Gold told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”

His commandment is worthy — and warranted.


This is the same kind of language that the communists used before they butchered everyone who disagreed with them. Who knows how far the modern left will go? I ask this not as a conservative--modern conservatism, in America and Europe, looks dangerously like fascism to me--but as a Christian who would prefer not to see his brothers and sisters oppressed. Europe and the Middle East are already hotbeds of virulent anti-Christian sentiment. I can't help but think of Francis George's remark: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."

DNW said...

Chad Handley said...

You define an egalitarian society as one that 'insists, notionally, on tolerating every opinion and way of life, and refuses either to judge any one of them as morally or rationally superior to any other, or to favor any of them in its laws.'

By that definition, I hardly think Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, or Robespierre's France qualify.

So, I'm not seeing much justification for the claim that egalitarianism leads to totalitarianism.

April 4, 2015 at 7:59 AM


Oh no. Not again ...

The problem for your seeing is that your definition is just no good - doesn't come near matching up with historically meaningful descriptions - and that you have therefore not accurately defined egalitarianism, what you are supposedly looking at, in the first place.

On-line ...

"... of, relating to, or upholding the doctrine of the equality of mankind and the desirability of political, social, and economic equality ..."

Or


"Egalitarianism: A belief in the high value of equality among human beings and the desirability of removing inequalities. ... In the French Revolution with its famous slogan of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, the second term of the revolutionary trinity took an extreme form in Babuef's Conspiracy of Equals (1796) which bequeathed its legacy to a host of secret organizations ... espousing the idea of the universal equality of incomes"

New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought; Harper Collins, London

Of course then, in such a system, a system of politically enforced fraternity rather than "mere" tolerance; or, one such as Rawls', wherein receiving the esteem of one's fellows is seen as a fundamental psychological and therefore social policy setting need; the state per definition recognizes no boundaries when it comes to equalizing the status of "social elements".

We can see the same tendencies in Obama can't we; when, for example he decries "mere" interpersonal tolerance, and demands socially directed affirmations; or, even expresses a preference for including so-called positive liberties in the basic law.

I wonder why modern progressives don't just admit that they are left-fascists and get on with it.

Scott said...

Other posters have already hit some of the other important points, so let me just hit this one:

"Under public accommodation laws, if you run a public accommodation, you are required to serve all."

First of all, a photography studio isn't a "public accommodation" unless we expand the meaning of that term waaay beyond what it was supposed to mean. But let's leave that issue aside and pretend arguendo that a photography studio is a public accommodation after all.

The fact still remains that the photographer who turns down a job photographing a same-sex wedding is not turning away a customer; he's turning down a job. He would turn down the same job even if it were offered to him by straight people (e.g. friends of the same-sex couple who want to hire him as a wedding gift), and he would accept other kinds of work from the same-sex couple themselves. So he's not refusing service to a customer qua customer.

Indeed, I ended the post immediately before yours with the observation that certain sitting judges had shown themselves unable to make this very distinction.

Crude said...

Scott,

The fact still remains that the photographer who turns down a job photographing a same-sex wedding is not turning away a customer; he's turning down a job.

Have you ever noticed that this distinction is one that many people on the LGBT activist side have trouble even talking about?

My experience is that if you point out 'They provide service to LGBT people, but they don't want to take part in a same-sex wedding', effort is made to forget this distinction in the very same conversation - and they slip right back into 'The business is refusing to serve LGBT people!' You can correct them over and over, but they will keep trying to go right back to the dishonest and inaccurate summary of the position.

Likewise with 'homosexuality is a sin'. Note that what's sinful is sodomy, not 'being a homosexual', and all effort goes towards trying to ignore the distinction.

It says a lot about the activists when they can't even accurately summarize the position they're supposedly trying to criticize.

Luke said...

How about just looking at a simple proposition:

     (1) We are intolerant of the intolerant.

This has to be true, for the word 'tolerance' to mean anything and for 'intolerant' to mean the same thing in both uses in (1). And yet, this makes those who espouse (1) haters of themselves, on pain of hypocrisy.

Scott said...

It occurs to me that a very rough analogy might be a Jewish restaurant that doesn't serve non-kosher food even to its non-Jewish customers. I wonder how far a "discrimination" case would get if a non-Jew tried to argue that he'd been discriminated against on religious grounds because Moe's Delicatessen refused to add bacon to his corned beef on rye.

The analogy has its problems, but one thing it does bring out fairly clearly is that photographing same-sex weddings just isn't a service the photography studio ever claimed to offer in the first place.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"Have you ever noticed that this distinction is one that many people on the LGBT activist side have trouble even talking about?"

Oh, mais oui. And ditto to your observation about whether "homosexuality" is a sin.

Scott said...

Another observation on the photographing-gay-weddings example:

Note also that the photographer isn't even discriminating against the couple themselves (whether they're the customers or not) on the basis of sexual orientation. He doesn't believe in marriage between two straight men either, and he's probably even turn down a job photographing an entirely fake "wedding" if it involved presenting such a union in a favorable light. In other words, he'd turn down such a job independently even of the sexual orientations of the participants.

(In fact it seems to me that the actual photography case took place in a state where, and at a time when, same-sex marriage wasn't even permitted by law, so in a sense the photographer was being offered a job photographing a "fake" wedding. At the very least the wedding would have had no legal force.)

Scott said...

Oops, he'd probably even.

Edward Feser said...

Chad,

The lines you quote are not a definition of egalitarianism in general. I was there talking specifically about egalitarianism as Plato understands it in The Republic.

Obviously there are different forms of egalitarianism, and their totalitarian implications are going to manifest themselves in different ways depending on historical and cultural context.

Do I expect concentration camps in the U.S.? No. But it would be asinine to pretend that as long as no jackboots are worn or gas chambers constructed, then we've avoided totalitarianism.

Suppose (to take a non-egalitarian example) the Nazis had confined themselves to requiring that the activities of governmental institutions, private businesses and schools, and churches all had to comply with Nazi race theory. Suppose that in practice this meant discrimination in hiring in favor of those the Nazis deemed racially superior or ideologically sound, censorship of speech deemed critical of Nazi race theory, a requirement that Nazi race theory be incorporated into teaching materials, etc. Suppose this was enforced by the levying of fines, jail time for certain offenses, winking at the behavior of mobs who took it upon themselves to harass Jews and dissidents, etc. Suppose there were no round-ups or mass killings, but that the aim and effect of these policies was that Jews and dissenters found it extremely difficult to make a living or to organize any sort of opposition, ended up either emigrating or being confined to ghettos, in general kept their mouths shut for fear of reprisals, etc.

In this scenario, Nazi ideology would have been imposed on the totality of society, insofar as no social institutions would have been permitted to exist that were not in conformity with it and no meaningful opposition was allowed to form. That would be totalitarian, even if the means employed were not as brutal as those which the Nazis in fact used.

Matt said...

Scott mentioned earlier that the notion of a religious freedom might obscure the presence and applicability of certain, perhaps more fundamental natural rights, e.g. freedom of association and freedom of expression.

RFRA seems to me, at least in our current political climate, to be a capitulation to the so called SJW way of doing politics. In more academic parlance, the SJW mentality goes by the name of intersectionality and is a brand of identity politics. The notion of religious freedom, as I understand it here, smells to me like a manufactured right. That's to say, the kind of rights that pop into existence as soon as a particular identity group does (compare "trans rights"). What I'm poking at here with this thought is the rather depressing thought that a particular mood, a distinct political logic is already dominant - that the religious person has to take the mark of the beast, as it were, in order to hope for a space in the political process, and this mark is the mark of the identity group.

The most disturbing implication of this, I think, is that in this climate, as Scott notes, it would be better for you, materially speaking, to be a member of the Gospel Barn than to be Roger Scruton.

Chad Handley said...

Essentially, you're asking me to imagine America before the Civil Rights Movement.

And while it wasn't perfect, I wouldn't describe America before the Civil Rights Movement as totalitarian.

And I don't see any road from egalitarianism as defined in my first response to anything approaching even pre-Civil Rights America, much less anything worthy of the name totalitarian.

Santi said...

The irony of Feser's Nazi comparison is that this is exactly the situation that holds in Russia today for gays and lesbians.

Will Feser soon be publicly deploring anti-gay and lesbian totalitarianism in Orthodox Russia?

Edward Feser said...

Essentially, you're asking me to imagine America before the Civil Rights Movement.

What a ridiculous assertion. If America -- that is to say, the country as a whole, not just this or that backwater within it -- were at that time anything like what I described, the Civil Rights movement couldn't even have gotten started in the first place.

Daniel said...

For all issues of politics, Social Justice, 'practical consequences' and √Čtienne Gilson I recommend a timely usage of the phenomenological Eidetic Reduction - methodologically put aside the esse of all beings reducing them to their essences; in doing so of course might find that some being's existence cannot be put aside as it follows directly from its essence.

And now I go back to being controversial quietly.

Chad Handley said...

What you described sounded exactly like the Jim Crow South. Replace "Nazi Race Theory" with "Segregation" or "White Supremacy" and what you are describing is (at least) half the country prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

Discrimination in hiring and firing on the basis of racial superiority? Check.

Censorship of speech critical of Segregation and/or White Supremacy? Check.

Segregation/White Supremacy taught in schools? Check.

Fines? Jail time? Winking at mob violence?

Check, check, double check.

Difficulty making a living, organizing opposition, ending up in ghettos?

Even if you for some reason think this wasn't true nationwide at least in terms of how Blacks were treated, I would still say that the antebellum American South, at its worst, wouldn't in my mind qualify as a totalitarian regime.

The Fez said...

Chad,

It appears to me you're playing a not-so-subtle game of changing the subject.

Per Professor Feser's example, the point is that totalitarianism can manifest in various modes of aggression. Whether or not the example corresponds in any way with the Jim Crow south is entirely beside the point. The point is that such treatment could very easily be in store for Christians given prevailing political climates, and such treatment would be categorically totalitarian.

Indeed, it's fairly obvious that you're attempting to shoe-horn some of your preferred political hysterics into the discussion such that you can rail about pre-civil rights injustice rather than speak topically about injustices currently impacting Christians.

Timocrates said...

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

...

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Chad Handley said...

My point in bringing up the Civil Rights movement is that it's absurd to think that Christians are in for anything like that level of exclusion from American society, and that even THAT level of exclusion isn't quite worthy of being called totalitarian. I wasn't trying to change the subject; I was attempting to bring in some perspective.

I understand that no state can be perfectly tolerant, nor treat all views with perfect equality. I don't see how having tolerance and equality under the law towards all views as a stated goal necessarily leads to anything remotely totalitarian.


Timocrates said...

@ Anonymous, April 4:

"Under public accommodation laws, if you run a public accommodation, you are required to serve all. If you don't want to swerve the public, then you have no business running a public accommodation. It's that simple. And it's your choice. If you wand to open a "Catholic Wedding Cake" shop that expressly serves only Catholics, then go ahead. Nobody says you can't do that. If you want to have a shop that ostensibly serves the public, then you can't pick and choose which part of the public you refuse to serve. It's the law."

Right so if I walk into a wedding shop and demand they supply their services for my Star Trek confab as we all propose to marry the Starship Enterprise, their refusal to participate in this would be a denial of service to the public? They couldn't just argue that that isn't a wedding and therefore not what they have already restricted themselves to serving?

The obvious problem with forcing wedding services to cater to homosexual celebrations is exactly that they are being forced by the State to re-define their business activity and broaden what counts as their clientele. It was a bait and switch on the part of politicians. They are literally being forced to participate in something they never promised to serve or were bound to cater to. The idiot liberals arguing that this would be like refusing to serve a homosexual a burger at McDonald's fail to see that in that case no one is being forced to materially participate in homosexuality as such; whereas, the owners of the wedding catering service are being forced to participate and even facilitate it, ignoring regardless the dictatorial assumptions already made in re-defining marriage in the first place.

Neil Parille said...

I'd point out that although things are bad in the USA, we do have a First Amendment which has been interpreted by courts (rightly or wrongly) to allow "hate speech."

There was a person in the UK who was prosecuted recently for reading on the street corner something Sir Winston Churchill said about Islam.

_________________

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods
of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as
a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
______

NP

Edward Feser said...

what you are describing is (at least) half the country prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

OK, so now you've qualified your claim so that it's not pre-Civil Rights movement "America" as a whole that we're talking about but really only "(at least) half the country" that we're talking about. As if that weren't already a massive concession which undermines your point.

And it's still false. The South was not "(at least) half the country" then, either geographically or population wise. Try more like a third.

Nor was it some hermetically sealed off political, legal, or cultural unit, but was continuous with the rest of the country. A crucial disanalogy with what I was describing.

Nor were the policies you describe exactly being "imposed," since most whites in the South either agreed with them or at least weren't interested in resisting them. (Though I imagine that southern blacks at the time -- on whom these policies were being imposed -- would have disagreed with your judgment that there was nothing totalitarian about what was going on.)

So, again, your analogy fails. Though at this point I imagine you'll say "Did I say '(at least) half the country'? What I meant was 'Bull Connor's back yard.'"

Neil Parille said...

Freedom of association in terms of permitting private discrimination is a worthy goal, but let's face it, it isn't going to happen. Carving out small exceptions for religious people is about the most we can expect.

Chad Handley said...

I'd argue that Blacks weren't treated materially better anywhere in the country prior to the Civil Rights Movement. The only difference between the South and any other region of the country is that the mistreatment wasn't as codified and explicit in other parts of the country.

However, f you think Blacks in New York City and California and the Midwest weren't discriminated against on the basis of race, didn't have difficulty earning a living, and weren't crammed into ghettos and subject to random mob violence, then you're just wrong. What you describe Jews undergoing in your hypothetical peaceful Nazi regime is exactly what Blacks endured everywhere in America, to varying but significant extents, prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

Anyway, if you think limiting my case to the South is a major concession to my point, you don't understand my point. My point is that you are exaggerating.

Very few people would describe Blacks in pre Civil Rights America as living in a totalitarian society. And fewer still sincerely believe that American Christians are in danger of living under worse oppression than Blacks prior to 1965.

You might have to bake a cake you didn't want to make, and some people might call you a bigot. That's a far cry from totalitarianism.

The Fez said...

Chad,

Right, you're just trying to add "perspective". All of us other schlubs are unfortunately only able to perceive the world in axonometric views these days. Alas, we've never known what it is is like to see things apart from their exact dimensional representation.

In any case, I do not think bringing the discussion into a greater scope of clarity was your original intent, given your insistence upon disqualifying certain descriptions of totalitarian behavior while failing to provide your own valid example of totalitarianism.

That strikes me as being simply contrarian in nature.

You would like to suggest that the United states was 'pseudo-totalitarian' in its treatment of blacks, but then selectively dismiss the possibility of that occurring to another group of people. Why should it be assumed, if we are to accept your argument, that a nation capable of 'semi-totalitarian' treatment of one group of people should be totally incapable of treating another group of people in the same way and for different reasons?

Of course, none of this really matters because you've already conceded that Jim Crow era levels of exclusion does not represent totalitarian treatment anyway. So, I mean, if Professor Feser was essentially describing the Jim Crow South with his example (as you directly stated), then it stands to reason that, by-the-by, Nazis would not be engaging in totalitarian behavior either by subjecting Jews to unjust prison sentences, winking at lynch mobs, or limiting their capacity for free-speech and political expression?

That sounds pretty totalitarian to me.

If it is not, what, in your view, actually constitutes totalitarian treatment?





Crude said...

The Fez,

Y'ever notice how 'it's just a silly little cake' when Christians are being forced to provide service for same-sex weddings, and they should totally grow up and get over it...

...But when LGBT activists scream bloody murder about how it's their CIVIL RIGHT to have that cake and they DEMAND it, and you should be fined out of business if you refuse to provide it, well then, suddenly their getting their cake is a serious matter, the denial of which harkens back to the the darkest moments of the pre-civil rights era?

And forcing a muslim caterer to cook pork? Hey, it's just some meat. The ritually unclean to you is bacon to someone else - just knuckle under and provide it. Or shut down your business, because clearly you don't wish to be a caterer if you won't feed people on their terms. The law is the law, and that makes it right.

Chad Handley said...

Fez, what we're looking for here is some support for the claim that a government that is committed to tolerating all views and treating all views equally under the law is, by virtue of that commitment, inherently oriented towards devolving into totalitarianism.

It's true that states can't tolerate views that undermine them, but that would be equally true of states not committed to tolerance and egalitarianism.

So, yes, a Lockean society will not be tolerant of the views of non-Lockeans, but in exactly the same way, a Thomist society will not be tolerant of the views of non-Thomists. Does that mean Thomism is naturally inclined to totalitarianism?

Since some intolerance is unavoidable, the worst that could be said about states committed to tolerance is that they have an inherent tendency towards hypocrisy, not totalitarianism.

Chad Handley said...

Crude, largely on the basis of the discussion you, Scott, and I had the last time we discussed a similar subject, I agree the baker should have the right to refuse to cater homosexual weddings.

That's a far cry from saying that, were he required to cater the wedding, or to pay a fine for refusing, he'd be experiencing life under a totalitarian regime.

I'm sure people in North Korea would be thrilled if all that was required of them was ocassionally baking a cake for a wedding they disapprove of.

The Fez said...

Crude,

That strikes me as the fastest way to get under the skin.

Simply apply the same stringent levels of subservience that liberals demand of Christians to another group currently in liberal favor.

We should probably ban the wearing of berkas at public schools, given that the Burka represents a religious doctrinal requirement that subverts a woman's right to express her sexuality and desired choice of dress. Oh, and I find it emotionally distressing.

Edward Feser said...

Chad,

Let's stick to the subject, shall we? The subject was whether the absence of jackboots, concentration camps, etc. suffices to keep a polity from being totalitarian. I put forward a scenario in which jackboots, concentration camps, etc. were absent but which was still clearly repressive enough to be totalitarian.

You claimed that the problem with my scenario is that there could be a society that fit the scenario but was still not totalitarian. You proposed that America in the pre-Civil Rights movement period was such a counterexample. I explained why that was not in fact a counterexample. Then you backtracked and suggested instead that the southern U.S. at that time was such a counterexample. I then explained why that is not really a counterexample either.

Now you seem to have given up trying to offer any counterexample at all. But instead of admitting you were wrong, you now want to talk about how blacks were discriminated against outside the south at the time etc. -- something I never denied and which is completely irrelevant to the specific point at hand.

Another red herring on your part: I never said that a baker being forced to bake a cake constitutes, by itself, totalitarianism. The scenario I described was one that went far beyond that sort of thing. It involved government-imposed discrimination in hiring, infringements on free speech, financial penalties and jail time, etc.

So, imagine a scenario where federal and state governments will not hire individuals who are opposed to "same-sex marriage," pass legislation forbidding favorable discussion of criticism of "same-sex marriage" in classrooms on the grounds that this would make for a hostile learning environment for homosexuals, force churches to perform "same-sex weddings," forbid public speech criticizing "same-sex marriage" or homosexual behavior on the grounds that this constitutes incitement to hate crimes, etc. Imagine that enforcing all this involved no jackboots or concentration camps, but only fines, jail time, etc.

Would you deny that this would amount to totalitarianism? Would you deny that such policies would, if enacted, be promoted precisely on egalitarian grounds?

Crude said...

That's a far cry from saying that, were he required to cater the wedding, or to pay a fine for refusing, he'd be experiencing life under a totalitarian regime.

Because that's what's been said, right? Feser spoke of totalitarian tendencies - what eventually results from cries of 'egalitarianism'. No one said we're living in a totalitarian regime right now. We're talking about trajectories.

Come to think of it, I bet you some North Koreans would have an interesting reply to the idea that some signs of being forced by the state in the name of egalitarianism are nothing to get worked up over and the proper solution is to stop acting as if a bit of mob action and some state-sanctioned destroying of your business is anything to be concerned about.

Crude said...

Fez,

Simply apply the same stringent levels of subservience that liberals demand of Christians to another group currently in liberal favor.

I recall someone recently asked some muslim bakers to do the same-sex wedding cake thing recently. Lots of denials. I must have missed the outrage.

Some religions are more equal than others, I suppose.

The Fez said...

Chad,

I asked you, on account of your previous post, to do something super easy.

I asked you to provide a passable definition for what you perceive to be totalitarian.

You didn't do that.

I took issue with your equivocation between Nazi treatment of Jews and the Jim Crow South.

You have not even attempted to respond to that challenge. Would Nazis NOT be acting in a totalitarian fashion by imposing unjust prison sentences, winking at lynch mobs, and subverting free-expression of Jews?

I don't care about the rest of your hand-ringing about how our society has to balance all this tolerance stuff. At least not until you address the explicit challenges I have made to your earlier statements.

Chad Handley said...

Yes, I deny that it would amount to totalitarianism, as I understand it. Totalitarian societies involve a total lack of freedom and the total power of the state over every aspect of a citizen's life.

I'll risk another analogy, and say that the anti-traditional marriage laws you are describing sound like the anti-Nazi laws in place in Germany. One view is forbidden public expression, but forbidding that one view doesn't change the fundamental character of the German state. A citizen can have an unjust law imposed on him by a state without that state being worthy of being labelled totalitarian.

I do not deny that such policies would be enacted on egalitarian grounds. I think it's because of a commitment to egalitarianism (as defined by Plato) that America is in no danger of becoming a true totalitarian state with regards to its treatment of defenders of traditional marriage.

Daniel said...

I think the kind of Egalitarianism Plato had in mind was essentially an all-out Social Contractarianism in which any law or principle, no matter how fundamental, is up for revision should the will of the people sway that way. Chad though seems to understand Egalitarianism as enshrining a set of core moral tenets which are not up for revision no matter what other customs the people in question may chose. So if this is already granted it wouldn’t be inconsistent for him to claim that Egalitarianism cannot lead to Totalitarianism.

*One thinks of Hannah Arendt’s view of Rousseau here.

Anonymous said...

A bit off-topic, but Prof. Feser: James Chastek had a recent blogpost on what you wrote about nature and art in Scholastic Metaphysics. Could you briefly revisit this topic? Thanks.

Chad Handley said...

By egalitarian, I mean Platonic egalitarianism as Feser defined it in the article, and as I quoted earlier. No more, no less. I think that's an accurate description of egalitarianism as most American liberals would defend it: an attempt to treat all viewpoints equally under the law.

I'm not saying Egalitarianism of that kind can't lead to Totalitarianism; I'm saying, at the very least, it's no more likely to do so than any other governing principle. In practice, I think it's far less likely to lead to Totalitarianism than governing principles that do not espouse egalitarianism.

The Fez said...

Chad,

I don't know that any legitimate description of totalitarianism suggests a COMPLETE lack of freedoms, only complete subservience to the state such that one's own personal desires do not conflict with the central authority.

As Rank Sophist deftly illustrated earlier:

"Communism is accepting of everyone, but only if everyone is a communist."

In Professor Feser's example, Nazis would essentially be leveraging the powers of the state to bring into submission a race or group of people (in this case the Jews) who are perceived to be illegitimate as a people or threatening to the state's interests. FORCING those people into alignment with state interests via coercive means is like the bread and butter of totalitarian practice.

By your definition, the Soviet Union could not be described as totalitarian because people were still granted the freedom to eat, to assemble, and even own property to a certain extent. What's different (and what counts), is that these freedoms were granted at the discretion of the state, and not as a kind of instantiated individual liberty.

Likewise, in the United States, if the government subverts the legitimate right of religious peoples to act according to their own conscious, then the state is nullifying individual freedoms in order to bring those people into alignment with its own arbitrary discretions.

I would describe such behavior as being innately totalitarian, and I would argue that your provided description of totalitarian practice is too restrictive and specific to actually apply to any historical government.

Step2 said...

But perhaps a majority of people in contemporary Western society, and certainly the overwhelming majority of liberals, have bought into the sexual revolution.

Gee, you think so? I believe in my Right Reason comment I spoke about different moral languages, and that is most certainly true when it comes to sex.

Chad Handley said...

People in the Soviet Union did not have some inalienable right to eat, as evidenced by the fact that Stalin purposely starved them to death by the tens of millions. Those starving could not sue the state for a failure to uphold some constitutional right to sustenance. That some had food does not imply that any had the right to food.

I don't think a totalitarian state needs to actively deprive their citizens of each and every right, only that it can deprive its citizens of ANY of them if it desires to. Stalinist Russia and Maoist China would qualify, Feser's description of America under anti-traditional marriage laws would not.

What's wrong with my comparison of such laws to German anti-Nazi laws?

The Fez said...

Chad,

You say,

"Totalitarian societies involve a total lack of freedom."

You also say,

"I don't think a totalitarian state needs to actively deprive their citizens of each and every right"

And we're done here.

Scott said...

@Chad:

"People in the Soviet Union did not have some inalienable right to eat, as evidenced by the fact that Stalin purposely starved them to death by the tens of millions."

In other words, if there is such a thing as an "inalienable right to eat," the Soviet government didn't recognize it but conferred only a limited freedom to eat that fell far short of an "inalienable right" and was revocable at the State's discretion.

But on the face of it that seems to me to be pretty much what The Fez said:

"[T]hese freedoms were granted at the discretion of the state, and not as a kind of instantiated individual liberty."

Where does your disagreement lie? Or am I mistaken in thinking that you intended to disagree?

Scott said...

@Chad:

"I agree the baker should have the right to refuse to cater homosexual weddings."

Glad to hear it, and thanks for letting us know.

"That's a far cry from saying that, were he required to cater the wedding, or to pay a fine for refusing, he'd be experiencing life under a totalitarian regime."

Agreed. But as Crude says, we weren't claiming otherwise. He would still be subjected to an injustice, and (depending on the circumstances and his precise views) perhaps a grave one.

Santi said...

Feser makes a strong point here: "[I]magine a scenario where federal and state governments will not hire individuals who are opposed to 'same-sex marriage,' pass legislation forbidding favorable discussion of criticism of 'same-sex marriage' in classrooms on the grounds that this would make for a hostile learning environment for homosexuals, force churches to perform 'same-sex weddings,' forbid public speech criticizing 'same-sex marriage' or homosexual behavior on the grounds that this constitutes incitement to hate crimes, etc. Imagine that enforcing all this involved no jackboots or concentration camps, but only fines, jail time, etc."

I agree, as a liberal, that this would be a form of totalitarianism full stop--and "on egalitarian grounds." It would box in the dissenter both in terms of conscience and life prospects.

I wouldn't will such an existence on a Jewish person, a black person, a gay person, an atheist person--or a Christian person. No human being should be forced to live contrary to their conscience. Timocrates is right to cite the UN Declaration of Human Rights surrounding conscience.

Richard said...

Under this understanding of conscience, if I were a baker, could I decide to turn down a fat customer desiring to buy a cake by stating that it would encourage their gluttony, which is a clear problem under NL theory?

Santi said...

Richard:

I would guess that as a clue to your question, a distinction would be made between symbolic representation and an individual taxpayer walking into a bake shop for a private purchase.

The individual who pays taxes to support the streets, sidewalk, and police protection outside a business establishment has a reasonable expectation of service.

But what is not reasonable is to enlist the baker, as a bystander, in public expression. This is where things become problematic.

For example, if there was a "Gluttony Pride Festival" in town, and a special cake was being requested for a public celebration with "gluttony today, gluttony tomorrow, & gluttony forever," written on it, then the Thomist natural law adherent would be within his rights to say, "I can't write that on a cake for you. If you're intent on killing yourself with donuts you buy here, that's your business, but I can't symbolize or celebrate on a giant cake your affirmation of being gluttony-positive."

So your gluttony example is a ridiculous one, but it illustrates the difficulty of balancing competing goods.

People have pangs of conscience that others regard as ridiculous all the time. One person's source of seriousness is another person's source of irony and ridicule (and vice versa).

Can you endure the speech, behavior, and conscience of others--even when you think their practices and values are absurd?

That's a question for both liberals and conservatives.

When Feser puts scare quotes around gay marriage, it suggests that he has no intention of even acknowledging the other side's existence--not a good sign for working out a civil deal.

Brandon said...

Under this understanding of conscience, if I were a baker, could I decide to turn down a fat customer desiring to buy a cake by stating that it would encourage their gluttony, which is a clear problem under NL theory?

A closer analogy would be a case in which person A is trying to get person B, who believes gluttony morally wrong, communicate the message that gluttony is not wrong.

Brandon said...

It's worth pointing out, incidentally, that (1) there is no reason to think that overweight people are any more or less likely to be gluttons than anyone else, since fat is a consequence that may arise from many different factors; and (2) actual gluttony is not something generally given the explicit affirmation of public ceremonies; and (3) the argument given in the post is applicable (as others have noted) whether or not the person demanding the service actually is a participant in the alleged moral wrong or not.

Greg said...

From the OP:

And when a particular business owner affirms that customers who happen to be homosexual are welcome in her restaurant, but also says that she would not agree to cater a hypothetical “same-sex wedding,” she finds herself suddenly subjected to a nationwide Two Minutes Hate, with an online mob actively seeking to destroy her livelihood and reputation -- some of them even proposing to burn down the restaurant or kill its owners.

What's interesting here is that someone who opposes SSM could not even say: "Given the political climate, opening a bakery is not an option. I will be litigated if I do not compromise my religious beliefs. So instead I'll open a pizza joint; no one asks pizza joints to cater weddings, and I have as much problem serving pizza to homosexuals as I have serving pizza to adulterers."

Chad Handley said...

"Where does your disagreement lie?"

Because all governments suppress the rights of religious people to live according to their own consciences. Polygamy is illegal, regardless of what the Mormon's conscience tells him.

A pluralistic, civil society would be impossible if the government didn't restrict religious practice to some extent. If the government's not being totalitarian when they say the Mormon can't have two wives, they're not being totalitarian when they say a bakery has to serve all customers.

Why can't you just say the baker has suffered an injustice, and leave out the comparisons to Stalin and Mao?

Vand83 said...

So the fact that comparisons are being made to Stalin and Mao upsets you more than the actual injustice? Why don't you focus on the injustice and ignore the comparisons.

Brandon said...

A pluralistic, civil society would be impossible if the government didn't restrict religious practice to some extent.

Nobody is talking about restriction of religious practice, though; the issue at hand is people being legally forced to do things that are inconsistent with their religious views, which is prima facie a violation of freedom of religion.

Chad Handley said...

Why make sensational comparisons that distract people from the actual injustice?

Chad Handley said...

Brandon,

Given the many forms religion can take, I don't see anything inherently totalitarian in the government having to occasionally force people to do things that are inconsistent with their faith. A person's religion may forbid paying taxes, or educating women. I don't think the government is being totalitarian when they demand that those people still have to pay their taxes and send their daughters to school.

I don't think freedom of religion is so absolute that the government is obliged to respect any belief a person labels religious, regardless of the consequences to wider society. I don't think it threatens the nature of our democracy for the government to say that if you're going to live here, there are certain things you have to do, regardless of your religious beliefs.

Whether catering to a same sex marriage is one of those things is a legitimate question, of course. But it's not legitimate to say that any time the government forces people to act against their consciences, the government is being totalitarian. The consciences produced by some religions are incompatible with any civil government, egalitarian or otherwise.

Scott said...

@Crude:

"Y'ever notice how 'it's just a silly little cake' when Christians are being forced to provide service for same-sex weddings, and they should totally grow up and get over it[…]And forcing a muslim caterer to cook pork? Hey, it's just some meat."

Yep. But if someone went to a custom gunsmith and asked him to make a pistol with a finely carved handle that said "Fag Killer," and he refused, I'm pretty sure it would be a bigger deal. And I know whose side they'd be on even if his refusal were offered on Christian grounds.

Greg said...

@ Santi

When Feser puts scare quotes around gay marriage, it suggests that he has no intention of even acknowledging the other side's existence--not a good sign for working out a civil deal.

It suggests that he believes the institution which binds a gay couple is not the same institution that binds other couples.

Similarly, suppose I said to you, "You owe me $100." You ask me why. I show you a document that I've signed and say, "We have a contract." You say, "What you call a contract is not a contract; a contract is not any relationship that you call a contract, but a particular sort of relationship. I haven't signed, so there is no contract. Moreover, since it is not actually a contract, the relationship established by your document has none of the normative implications or rights that you take it to have." What I have produced is only a "contract."

Or, suppose that there is some peculiar economic benefit to marrying. Two brothers are determined to remain bachelors. But economic benefits are nice. So they attempt to marry, despite the fact that they have no sexual-romantic relationship; the understanding of marriage as a sexual-romantic partnership is, after all, a contingent prejudice.

But clearly they are "married" in nothing but an equivocal sense.

So, we claim, are gay couples "married".

Scott said...

@Chad:

"A person's religion may forbid paying taxes, or educating women."

Or any number of other things. As I pointed out very early in the thread, Indiana's RFRA protects not traditional morality but any morality at all as long as someone is willing to call it "religious" (and a court is willing to agree). That's the other thing I said was wrong with it, and it's why I can't agree that at least it's better than nothing.

Of course it doesn't grant a defendant a free pass just because s/he claims to be doing something for "religious" reasons. But it does provide a (defeasible) defense, and it invites, even requires, the court to rule on whether that something genuinely qualifies as "religious."

Vand83 said...

Why address the sensationalism when the injustice is the real issue?

Brandon said...

I don't see anything inherently totalitarian in the government having to occasionally force people to do things that are inconsistent with their faith.

But nobody has said there is; Ed has explicitly denied it, for instance.

Santi said...

Chad:

You conflated adults with children (shifting education of "women" to education of girls when providing an example).

And as a fellow liberal, I really think you're on a road to political perdition here--overreaching.

Polygamy, for example, shouldn't be criminalized. A religious group in Arizona that uses DMT shouldn't be criminalized. A Catholic school shouldn't be forced to hire an atheist. And no one should be forced to write words on a cake that violates her conscience.

Absent a public health emergency or the protection of children, there is almost no circumstance in which the government should be violating the conscience of individual citizens, or regulating the behavior or speech of voluntary associations of adults--religious or not.

Gay marriage is about the net expansion of rights in America; it should not be a zero-sum game (more rights for gays, less for religious conservatives). There needs to be more freedom and amity among people at the end of this process, not less. A space can be carved out in the law for conscientious objection even as civil gay marriage is legalized everywhere.

Gay citizens are taxpayers--and so are religious conservatives. Like it or not, they are entangled as citizens. A deal needs to be worked out here. It's a matter of competing goods (conscience v. justice), and both can be advanced with only modest inconvenience to the other.

Joseph said...

I doubt if all five stages are inevitable. If we take abortion as an example, liberals have been stuck at stage 4 with occasional flirtations with stage 5 for the past four decades. (The recent brouhaha over gay marriage looks like an attempt by the side that lost the battle of Hobby Lobby to still look relevant by picking a fight they imagine they can win.) Conservatives have been poised between stages 3 and 4 for the same period.

The original Mr. X said...

I think it would be helpful to distinguish between the following three things:

1.) Actions which are permitted by a religion, but aren't required;

2.) Actions which are required by a religion;

3.) Actions which are forbidden by a religion.

Prohibiting polygamy would pertain to category (1), as no religion (that I know of) actually *requires* its adherents to have more than one wife. Hence when the state refuses to recognise polygamous marriages, it's not really the same as (e.g.) forcing a Jewish butcher to sell pork, or forbidding Catholics to go to church on Sundays, because the latter cases would force people to violate the direct commandments of their religion.

John Saunders said...

It strikes me that "traditional sexual morality" is likely a second-order effect of a counter-egalitarian set of values. It would follow that contesting egalitarianism with a second-order effect is foolish; egalitarianism should be contested and refuted on the basis of egalitarianism itself.

Santi said...

Greg,

Feser points us to a bit of data, but there's an overriding piece of data that must be grappled with before dismissing gay marriage with scare quote snark: sexual orientation is biological; it's resistant to change.

The evidence for this has only accumulated over the past forty years, but it's overwhelming, and some sort of compassionate social response should attend this fact. It's a discovery.

The milk has spilled. You can't just ignore this. It raises gay marriage into the territory of Brown v. The Board of Education.

Though Feser has the luxury of treating the biology issue as irrelevant to his understanding of what marriage should be, and what's natural and reasonable, the Supreme Court this summer does not. It will not be similarly glib about the biology issue--and most importantly, Justice Kennedy will not be glib about it.

Civil (not necessarily religious) gay marriage is a reasonable response to a biology data point. Universal celibacy and ongoing shaming and closeting is not reasonable. Gay and lesbian civil marriage ought to be considered a conservative nod to what scientists have learned in recent decades about the nature of sexual orientation.

But Feser's obnoxious scare quotes frame the sane, compassionate, and conservative social construct of gay marriage as "insanity" and "Orwellian." The scare quotes function as a way of saying, "I've got the one reasonable method for reading off from nature what marriage should be--and that stops all conversation. It is grounded in closely worked out metaphysics, and so I will not even acknowledge that new data or alternative definitions are relevant. By my definition, there can literally be nothing to talk about here."

So the scare quotes are a form of disrespect toward tax paying citizens who can't be other than what they are--and who don't choose celibacy, shame, or the closet. They are looking for long overdue remedies to historic injustice--including the right to obtain from the government--a government they support with their taxes--a civil, not a religious, marriage certificate.

So there is a social contract that they're seeking that needn't be vilified with scare quotes, and that can formalize and integrate this newly discovered biological reality into society in a plausible way: gay and lesbian marriage.

Sexual orientation, like race, is a fixed biological category in need of a compassionate response. Gay marriage is not an oxymoron. It's a rational and pragmatic response to new facts on the ground.

You can join Feser on this, but I'm with the Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy.

Curio said...

Santi - what if homophobia were found to have a strong genetic correlate? is it permissible?

Greg said...

@ Santi

Feser points us to a bit of data, but there's an overriding piece of data that must be grappled with before dismissing gay marriage with scare quote snark: sexual orientation is biological; it's resistant to change.

What normative implications would that have?

Suppose that pedophilic desires are genetically rooted and resistant to change. This is probably true, but even if it were not, it is conceivable. What on earth would you take that to imply about the permissibility of pedophilia?

There are, of course, differences between homosexual behavior and pedophilic behavior. It can be claimed that most pedophilic behavior harms children in a way that any utilitarian would acknowledge. But even so, the genetic predisposition, regardless of how deterministic and resistant to change, does not defeat the claim that pedophilic behavior is impermissible.

Likewise, if someone provides a reason why homosexual behavior is impermissible (a different reason than the reason why pedophilic behavior is impermissible, probably), it would not be defeated by considerations of genetic determinism. If genetic determinism exonerates what might otherwise be regarded as sexual wrongdoing, then please be consistent.

Anonymous said...

So there is a social contract that they're seeking that needn't be vilified with scare quotes, and that can formalize and integrate this newly discovered biological reality

Aside from the plague of problems already mentioned or alluded to, one would think that the "newly discovered biological reality" would require (if anything at all) an equally new social arrangement.

Oh wait, I have an idea. We can call them "civil unions".

By the by. Autism is also a biological reality, currently immutable. But we classify autism as a disability.

Objectively disordered, if you will.

Anonymous said...

You can join Feser on this, but I'm with the Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy.

If Kennedy ended up swerving on this and going 5-4 against gay "marriage" being a Constitutionally guaranteed right, we'd be hearing about how Kennedy's word means nothing to a liberal. He was, after all, appointed by that dreaded Reagan.

Greg said...

@ Anon

If Kennedy ended up swerving on this and going 5-4 against gay "marriage" being a Constitutionally guaranteed right, we'd be hearing about how Kennedy's word means nothing to a liberal. He was, after all, appointed by that dreaded Reagan.

Yup. Santi is, as usual, all politics and rhetoric with little space for consistency and principle.

Santi said...

Curio:

By homophobic, I take it you mean having a visceral disgust or fear of gays and lesbians, which may well have a biological component in some (many?) heterosexuals. Some people are visceral racists--and that too may have a biological component.

One can own feelings of fear and disgust--and when directed at gays and lesbians, take them as signals that their behavior is wrong. You can interpret your emotions any way you want.

We also have a First Amendment where you can express disgust and disapproval of gay and lesbian sex, marriage, and culture. Obviously, you can't act out your disgust or fear by burning down gay and lesbian communities or assaulting individual gays and lesbians. No pogroms or Kristallnachts here.

But there is plenty of room in civil society for religious and visceral expressions of disapproval of homosexual culture and behavior--as well as the reverse. Many people also find repugnant the callousness and stupidity that is directed at gays and lesbians--and say so.

Adults can hear things and be in the presence of each other's disagreement, disapproval, irony, and ridicule. And they can feel things without acting violently.

Likewise, gay and lesbian people can have sexual inclinations without acting on them--and some do. They become priests or nuns. They adopt celibacy. They hide their identity.

These are choices.

But they don't have to make those choices. Gay sex is not like gay bashing. One involves consent, the other does not--and is a crime.

Anonymous said...

One can own feelings of fear and disgust--and when directed at gays and lesbians, take them as signals that their behavior is wrong.

If we're going to play this kind of foul game, then I say:

One can also embrace one's feeling of sexual arousal, attraction and desire, like Santi, and when directed at anal sex, ass to mouth, watersports, bestiality and simulated rape, take them as signals that their behavior is good and pure.

John West said...

Santi (and others),

Sexual orientation, like race, is a fixed biological category in need of a compassionate response.

Have we managed to prove that sexual orientation is genetic? I thought the research was halted before it bore fruits either way. If we have proven sexual orientation is genetic, could you or someone else point me towards the papers on it?

Thank you very much.

Greg said...

My understanding is that sexual attraction is like virtually every psychological condition. Twins are more likely to both be gay than non-twins, but there is nothing like a 1-1 correlation. So, like everything, a combination of nature and nurture.

But the issue of genetic predisposition is also a total red herring as far as the morality of homosexual activity is concerned, just as the issue of genetic predisposition is a total red herring as far as the morality of pedophilic activity is concerned.

Anonymous said...

The latest research I've seen regarding homosexuality is that it's a combination of nature and nurture, with "nature" being less a matter of genetics, and more a matter of womb environment.

And even that much doesn't get one to desiring particular sexual acts the way it does with heterosexual couples. See the historical trends on anal sex among homosexual males.

Santi said...

Greg:

Regarding the pedophile, the inclination is akin to the homophobe who acts out violent impulses. Both behavioral inclinations have a biological basis, but they cause direct harm to non-consenting parties/children.

Happily, this is not the situation with gay and lesbian sex. The biological inclination can be resisted or not, as is true with food choices (the right analogy with gay and lesbian desire in a free society, not pedophilia).

Knowing that sexual orientation, like race, is a fixed biological category changes everything. It means marriage is a human right for everyone--gay and straight. It's a choice that needn't be made--but shouldn't be denied.

In the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, marriage is included as a human right. If we have biologically set sexual orientations and inclinations, it's cruel, inhuman, and unjust to deny gays and lesbians the right to marriage equality after discovering this. Just because you can choose celibacy, it doesn't mean other options should be closed to you.

Imagine if heterosexuality represented 2% of sexual orientations--and the majority said to you (and me): "Your behavior is repugnant and shameful to the rest of us. You're disordered, and your only decent, moral, and legal option is celibacy. You mustn't have sex outside of marriage, and you can't marry or be integrated into the community in a normal way." I'm betting, once we learned that our orientation is, like race, a fixed biological category, that we'd start a movement to fix this injustice.

And that is what gays and lesbians have done. As soon as it was physically and culturally safe for them to assert who they are in public, naturally it would end in gay communities and gay marriage--because it's natural and just.

It's only oppression that has kept gays and lesbians from flourishing as a recognizable community, especially in cities where 2% of the general population can concentrate to 3-6% (the gay population range in every major city in the United States).

Gay marriage is not "insanity" or "Orwellian." If sexual orientation is a fixed biological category, it's human.

Anonymous said...

Knowing that sexual orientation, like race, is a fixed biological category changes everything.

Putting aside the question-begging statement that this changes everything in any relevant way...

So if we do not know that sexual orientation is a "fixed biological category" like race, then nothing is changed and your argument fails on your own terms?

In the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights

No one cares.

Greg said...

@ Santi

Regarding the pedophile, the inclination is akin to the homophobe who acts out violent impulses. Both behavioral inclinations have a biological basis, but they cause direct harm to non-consenting parties/children.

Happily, this is not the situation with gay and lesbian sex. The biological inclination can be resisted or not, as is true with food choices (the right analogy with gay and lesbian desire in a free society, not pedophilia).


Right. (Well, the analogy you're trying to make with homophobia is rather tortured, but I suspect you know that.) In other words, genetic predisposition is a red herring; in neither case is the morally salient feature the biological basis. Rather you find something wrong with pedophilic acts and not with homosexual acts.

So if Feser finds something wrong with homosexual acts themselves, no genetic predisposition will exonerate them, just like no genetic predisposition will exonerate pedophilic acts.

And obviously, if Feser says there is something wrong with homosexual acts, it is not reply to point out that those who want to engage in homosexual acts have a genetic predisposition to desire so. For we have just seen that the genetic predispositions don't exonerate.

Biology is doing absolutely no work in your argument. What we may or may not have 'discovered' in the last few decades does not itself support your approbation of homosexual acts.

What you are probably doing is grasping for a mechanism. You want to coax the ignorant Thomists by saying, Hey, your view was reasonable in the past, but now it's not because science. But even if the you are right that it has been discovered that homosexuality has a biological basis, that would not show anything like what you want it to show, and all of the normative distinctions you make rely on other criteria.

I was not comparing homosexuality and pedophilia. I was merely pointing out that if the biology really had the normative implications you regularly insist it does, then pedophilia would be exonerated too. This doesn't imply that homosexuality and pedophilia are similar according to any metric; it just implies that you do not reason very consistently on this topic.

Anonymous said...

And that is what gays and lesbians have done.

No. That is what LGBT activists have done. Various gays and lesbians have opposed the very idea of gay "marriage", have scoffed at the idea that their relationships are appropriately called "marriage", and more.

Just as it wasn't LGBT people who bombarded a pizzeria with death threats recently. It was LGBT activists.

Arguing that gay men require anal sex to "flourish", that they require marriage to be "normal", that integration into the community must come on your terms, is frankly quite presumptuous, not to mention abusive of that very community.

Whatever sexual excitement you gain from same-sex sexual encounters doesn't permit you to decide what integration is, what normalcy is, or what justice is, just as biologically-influenced or even biologically-based inclinations do not in and of themselves determine right and wrong.

Greg said...

@ Santi

Knowing that sexual orientation, like race, is a fixed biological category changes everything. It means marriage is a human right for everyone--gay and straight.

It actually blows my mind that you could just go through saying that orientation does not change everything in the pedophile case, in which we appeal to other principles, and then say that it changes everything in the gay marriage case.

Anonymous said...

It actually blows my mind that you could just go through saying that orientation does not change everything in the pedophile case, in which we appeal to other principles, and then say that it changes everything in the gay marriage case.

The situation is apparently, "If I call what the urge leads to "harmful", then the biology doesn't mean anything at all. If I call what the urge leads to "good", then the biology means everything. But only in this situation."

Scott said...

"It means marriage is a human right for everyone--gay and straight."

Marriage has always been everyone's right, and it's always been independent of sexual orientation.

E.Seigner said...

How can research support the notion that sexual orientation is a fixed biological category when the same research says that gender roles (manliness and womanliness) are learned by upbringing and nothing more than "stereotypes"?

Daniel said...

just as biologically-influenced or even biologically-based inclinations do not in and of themselves determine right and wrong.

No, but the same point can be made against the NL arguments themselves. LGBT individuals should be outright in their implicit ontological presumptions and state proudly: 'I am not my body'. And thus we have a new and powerful practical argument for Dualism.

(Well, it's one potential positive outcome and makes as much sense as the precceeding 'libertine' arguments for materialism')

Greg said...

Well, I think NL theorists on both sides of the aisle have been calling out sexual libertinism as tacitly dualist, and arguing that that is a weakness. New natural lawyers have done it very explicitly.

Daniel said...

All I can do is shrug - there has long been an element in Christianity which in the end has to sabotage anything too spiritual for fear it might conflict with the Resurrection of the body. It's just another example of certain personages of said religion making a cynical plot to cash in on fundamentally dim Naturalistic presumptions in contemporary philosophy.

Brandon said...

The situation is apparently, "If I call what the urge leads to "harmful", then the biology doesn't mean anything at all. If I call what the urge leads to "good", then the biology means everything. But only in this situation."

It does seem to be very much like this. Which brings us back to the post, since this was, I take it, what Ed was indicating with his reference to Plato's criticism of egalitarianism: Plato's critique was that it can work as the principle of a society only if everyone already and for independent reasons agrees about what counts as harmful or harmless, but it naturally tends to undermine anything that could create that agreement; thus in the end it destroys itself by turning into people declaring themselves right by fiat and trying to coerce everyone else into agreement.

Greg said...

Well, I think it's also fair to say that the charge that sexual libertinism is tacitly dualist may not draw all that much blood. Searle has made the point that proponents of Strong AI are tacit dualists. And philosophers like Williams and Parfit draw somewhat dualist lessons from thought experiments about personal identity. They aren't substance dualists, but it would not be too odd to find materialists claiming that the body does not matter.

Matt Sheean said...
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Matt Sheean said...
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Chad Handley said...

Santi:

"And as a fellow liberal, I really think you're on a road to political perdition here--overreaching."

I'm overreaching? Did I say my political adversaries were on the path to Stalinism?

Given the bizarre forms human consciences can take, it is inevitable that every government in the world will sometimes have to force some of its citizens to do things that violate their conscience. If doing that means the government is on the road to totalitarianism, then all governments are on the road to totalitarianism, and the charge doesn't mean anything.

If the MSM got hold of this blog, the headlines would read "Catholic Professor compares SSM supporters to Stalin and Mao." Now, of course that's not what Professor Feser said, and of course no charitable reading would support that summation, but why put yourself in a position to have your views so badly misrepresented? What was the point of the portion of the article implying that opponents of the Indiana bill bear some ideological resemblance to Stalin and Mao, when clearly the kind of absolute economic and material egalitarianism espoused by Stalin and Mao is not the kind of egalitarianism desired by a gay couple looking to buy a cake for their wedding?

Earlier people were asking what could be done to turn the tide of opinion back towards traditional views of marriage. I would suggest a good start would be not needlessly insulting the opposition, and not needlessly putting yourself in a position where an incautious or uncharitable reader could find a reason to dismiss you.

I obviously follow Professor Feser with great interest, I own several of his books, and I've had my mind changed on several topics as a result of reading his articles and the comment sections. I am aware of and agree with his point that sometimes polemics are called for. But sometimes they're counterproductive, and IMO, this was one of those times.

Santi said...

Some here are highly attuned to violence against conscience, but not violence against inclinations.

The conscience is sacrosanct; the inclinations can be run roughshod over.

But both are critical. Therefore, the burden of proof lies with the person who says, "The expression of your conscience or biologically determined inclinations is a positive and substantial harm to others."

Following your conscience and following your natural inclinations are presumptive goods in Jeffersonian terms. Both are pivotal to the pursuit of happiness. Both are informative.

Otherwise, you would never listen to yourself--or to your body. Or to what science says about the nature of your inclinations.

You wouldn't let science inform personal or public policy.

But once an individual attends to, and becomes aware of, his private conscience and natural inclinations, he can thwart them to some larger purposes (Kierkegaard suggests that Abraham thwarted his ethical conscience to raise the knife on Isaac; a gay priest might choose celibacy)--but he's not likely to want you or the state making such determinations for him.

So just as you shouldn't deprive a person of their exercise of conscience without very compelling social interests at stake (you need to vaccinate everyone--including anti-vaxxers--to stop an epidemic, for example), so you shouldn't deprive a person of the free exercise of their natural inclinations absent a compelling state interest (you need to protect children from a pedophile).

Your contingent conscience and contingent inclinations are who you are.

Science is telling us that sexual orientation is, biologically, highly resistant to change. Gay people aren't lying when they say their orientation feels hardwired to them. That means we need to attend to the science and the testimony of gay people, and make a space for gay marriage for those who choose not to be celibate, and want pair-bonding.

It's the decent thing to do, and it accords with freedom, which is a good.

The pursuit of happiness is bound up with freedom of conscience and inclinations (the option, at least, to express them). Once we know what those inclinations are for a person--especially if they are hardwired--the state shouldn't be driving that person away from them, or putting up barriers to their expression, absent really good reasons.

Otherwise, it's tyranny--the very thing Feser says he doesn't want.

And that's why gay marriage is a human right for gays and lesbians; it's an option for those who are as inclined and hard-wired to same sex attraction and pair-bonding as a heterosexual is to opposite sex attraction and pair-bonding. If marriage is a human right for the heterosexual, gay marriage is a human right for homosexuals.

Crude said...

Science is telling us that sexual orientation is, biologically, highly resistant to change. Gay people aren't lying when they say their orientation feels hardwired to them. That means we need to attend to the science and the testimony of gay people, and make a space for gay marriage for those who choose not to be celibate, and want pair-bonding.

No, it doesn't mean that. Everyone keeps pointing out that you're simply making ad hoc declarations about what must be the case "because biology" without so much as a competing metaphysical backdrop beyond vague murmurs of freedom, and you seem to think that if you just say it again, but more forcefully, that the gaps in your reasoning just don't matter. But they do.

And really, the idea that "we need marriage, for those who wish not to be celibate!" is just so... what is the phrase here. Naive? Intentionally but subtly deceptive? I assure you, people with LGB orientations (why, even people with far more interesting orientations) were finding ways to fuck way, way before marriage got legally re-interpreted into oblivion. They pair-bond, they tri-bond, they "bond" for a single night and then move on, and more.

I'd say give them civil unions - pair-bond (or tri-bond, or quadra-bond) to their heart's content - but really, it's not the legal right to have anal sex or "pair up" that's being demanded here. Instead it's an obsession with redefining 'marriage' into oblivion, because some LGBT jackboots throw hysterical fits at the idea that maybe, just maybe, same-sex relations are in some important ways different from that dreaded 'traditional' family.

And I think various other LGBT people are getting kind of sick of the whole charade.

aristotle said...

There is one course of action you neglect to mention. If Christians would turn off their TV and stop watching the NCAA tournament, and boycott Apple products, my guess is that the religious liberty laws would stand, and the bullying would stop. When large corporations use their money to bully republican governors to amend the laws that protect us, we need to stop patronizing these entities. I went to the Easter Vigil and refused to watch the final four this year after the NCAA threatened Indiana, even though I really wanted to see the Wisconsin games.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Greg,

I don't think paedophilia would even have to genetic. It would only have to not be a choice, or at least a direct choice (I notice those arguing that it is not a choice tend to assume the choice involved must be a direct and instantaneous choice to be gay, which doesn't seem the only part the will could play in such a process), as it is the lack of choice that seems to be doing the work here.

I actually think Chad is correct about totalitarianism. A totalitarian regime is not just an authoritarian or oppressive regime. It is a total regime of repression. There are real indications contemporary left-liberalism has an authoritarian streak. To the events being discussed in the Op one can add the prosecutions of non-PC opinions in Britain, Canada, and other Western nations and the shut down of discussions, debate, and protest from university campuses to political parties that annoy the left (ie., UKIP). But I doubt, even if we gave in to them, it would spell totalitarianism.

I also agree with Chad about the fact that liberty of conscience, like all rights and liberties, cannot be absolute. I do, though, think it odd that Chad mentions the goal of pluralism, as the current trends in left-liberalism are surely towards limiting pluralism. We have been over this before, but the greatest pluralism and neutrality would surely be sought by limiting the role of the state as far as is possible, which then left-liberal doesn't believe in. Indeed, in terms of freedom of conscience in business the most obviously neutral or pluralistic solution is just to leave it up to business owners who they hire and do business with, at least when it comes to small, non-corporate businesses.

Crude said...

There is one course of action you neglect to mention. If Christians would turn off their TV and stop watching the NCAA tournament, and boycott Apple products, my guess is that the religious liberty laws would stand, and the bullying would stop. When large corporations use their money to bully republican governors to amend the laws that protect us, we need to stop patronizing these entities.

I was about to say that I don't think that's feasible - "boycotting Apple products" just doesn't work for a lot of people, especially when the main alternatives to Apple are just as bad on this front. And people make the point nowadays that there are so many corporations that play this game (Including, by the by, Walmart) that it's night impossible to target them all unless you're Amish.

But maybe there's an alternative.

Instead of targeting every corporation, maybe we just need to target one, even if their alternatives are no better.

Jeremy Taylor said...

One could certainly limit one's business with corporations without being Amish. And there is much to be said about being circumspect in one's embrace of every technological fad that comes along. I recall Russell Kirk throwing his teenage daughter's secret television set out the window.

Curio said...

Santi

I wish I could message you directly, but alas. Read this please?

One can own feelings of fear and disgust--and when directed at gays and lesbians, take them as signals that their behavior is wrong. You can interpret your emotions any way you want.

We also have a First Amendment where you can express disgust and disapproval of gay and lesbian sex, marriage, and culture. Obviously, you can't act out your disgust or fear by burning down gay and lesbian communities or assaulting individual gays and lesbians. No pogroms or Kristallnachts here.


Well now, you've articulated the same position everyone else here holds. That there is a difference between a disposition and an action.

The basic thrust of your previous post seemed to run against this - the heavy emphasis on biology.

Biology is thus shown to be a red herring (does anyone think biology makes homophobia or racism more permissible? we're adults, we're humans, we're empaths. let's act appropriately despite our baser instincts)

The real issue - the one at the heart of all of this - is that some find gay sex morally wrong and others find it good or morally neutral. And none of us can have a reasoned argument about the matter because the former are operating under a completely different set of premises than the latter.

So, to reiterate, it's been shown that biology/genetic predisposition is a red herring. Let's put that to rest and proceed to try and understand each the arguments we so disagree with.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Santi writes,


Feser points us to a bit of data, but there's an overriding piece of data that must be grappled with before dismissing gay marriage with scare quote snark: sexual orientation is biological; it's resistant to change.

The evidence for this has only accumulated over the past forty years, but it's overwhelming, and some sort of compassionate social response should attend this fact. It's a discovery.

The milk has spilled. You can't just ignore this. It raises gay marriage into the territory of Brown v. The Board of Education.


And


Science is telling us that sexual orientation is, biologically, highly resistant to change. Gay people aren't lying when they say their orientation feels hardwired to them. That means we need to attend to the science and the testimony of gay people, and make a space for gay marriage for those who choose not to be celibate, and want pair-bonding......So just as you shouldn't deprive a person of their exercise of conscience without very compelling social interests at stake (you need to vaccinate everyone--including anti-vaxxers--to stop an epidemic, for example), so you shouldn't deprive a person of the free exercise of their natural inclinations absent a compelling state interest (you need to protect children from a pedophile).


I know this is almost certainly going to be pointless to point out, but you do know these are two different arguments, right?

Your original one is best rendered as:

1.) All biological inclinations and the acts that follow from it are moral.

2.) Homosexuality is a biological inclination.

3.) Therefore, homosexuality and the acts that follow from it are moral.

Your new argument is something,

1.)If biological inclination then it and the acts follow from it do cause meaningful harm, then they are moral (and should be legal).

2). Homosexuality, and that acts that follow from it, is a biological inclination that doesn't cause meaningful harm.

3.) Therefore, homosexuality and homosexual acts are moral (and should be legal).

These are quite different arguments. The consideration of harm completely transforms the argument and, as others have pointed out, makes the appeal to biology very qualified: you cannot just say that being born to an inclination makes the acts that someone commits because of that inclination are moral and should be legal.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- sorry for the typos.

Greg said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

I do, though, think it odd that Chad mentions the goal of pluralism, as the current trends in left-liberalism are surely towards limiting pluralism.

Well, we know Chad likes Rawls, and (to caricature) Rawls solves the pluralistic puzzle by encouraging everyone to become political left-liberals.

Though these debates draw out interesting tendencies in some people. As in the case of Brendan Eich, you see some left-liberals appealing to market forces; though Eich and Memories Pizza have free speech rights, that only means that the government should not restrict their speech. That the collective aim to destroy someone's business for what amounts to a thought crime (since no one is going to ask a pizzeria to cater a wedding, gay or otherwise) is not a problem so long as the government doesn't do it. It's as though the government's backing of free speech is something that we abide by, even though we don't hold there to be anything good or worthwhile in free speech itself.

John West said...

For better or worse, since Santi's an atheist, he's not likely to find natural law arguments very convincing. Perhaps atheistic natural lawyers have their reasons, but they're harder to see. Why ought the atheist to care whether one's reproductive faculties are technically for reproduction? The theist may have good reason in virtue of believing they ultimately have a Creator, but atheists lack that reason.

Also, since Santi seems to like Wittgenstein's philosophy of language, he's not likely to find definition based arguments terribly convincing either.

Crude said...

John West,

For better or worse, since Santi's an atheist, he's not likely to find natural law arguments very convincing. Perhaps atheistic natural lawyers have their reasons, but they're harder to see.

I'm not so sure of that. But really, I don't think anyone here is operating under the impression that knocking down Santi's arguments will convince Santi himself. There's other value to be had in that process.

A bit how Ed's book won't move a typical dedicated Cultist of Gnu an inch, but there's others - even agnostics and atheists - who moved in spite of that.

Jeremy Taylor said...

John West,

Well, long experience has taught me that Santi doesn't seem to much care about reasoning properly anyway. He prefers rhetorical ramblings based on vague impressions.

For more reasonable atheist, I suppose it depends on their moral presuppositions and beliefs. It will be a lot easier for the natural lawyer to win over someone who accept human flourishing or human nature as the end of morality than a moral relativist or sceptic. Interestingly, many pro-SSM people who would usually fall close to the latter categories, and are usually keen to disavow human knowledge to objective morality, descend into moralistic frenzy on topics like so called gay marriage.

John West said...

Crude,

A bit how Ed's book won't move a typical dedicated Cultist of Gnu an inch, but there's others - even agnostics and atheists - who moved in spite of that.

That's certainly true.

John West said...

Jeremy,

Interestingly, many pro-SSM people who would usually fall close to the latter categories, and are usually keen to disavow human knowledge to objective morality, descend into moralistic frenzy on topics like so called gay marriage.

I've literally heard people stand up and say, "There's no morality, too bad." and, in the next sentence, start moralizing as forcefully as they can.

moduspownens said...

@Santi,

How about we reframe the debate? What is a marriage? Why is government in the marriage business anyway? You've smuggled in that there is such a thing as "gay marriage," and that there is no meaningful difference between homosexual couples as a category and heterosexual couples as a category that might justify a difference in what the state regards and endorses as marriage.

MrMosis said...

@Santi,

Wow! You are the best equipped proponent of your views I have ever encountered. Dispassionate, reasonable... this is a first!

At any rate, I don't think it has been said here, but I have a question. I have never had the opportunity to bounce this question off of any other "gay marriage" (or gay marriage, if you prefer) proponent, as I have never had occasion to speak to or otherwise communicate with a reasonable proponent of the idea, such as yourself.

The question is: Can you acknowledge that implicit and baked-in (some might say smuggled in) to your preferred terminology (gay marriage) is a level of acceptance, a sense of legitimacy -even of embrace- that you wish to foist (for lack of a more gentle term) on American society and culture?

A second question (I hope I haven't missed a response to this, as I am not up to date yet on all comments here): Where are laws concerning civil unions lacking, with respect to your goals and desires?

Last but not least, why not coin a new name/term to encapsulate the spirit of what you wish to accomplish (equality before the law, presumably?) while leaving the acceptance and legitimacy to come as it may? Copy and paste every statute concerning marriage, in every state, with one containing your new term of choice for your newly crafted-in-law institution. I will pass on suggesting a name, but perhaps something derivative of some old Greek, or Latin... or even French might do (as long as it is dissimilar to the word marriage).

Just some long-held thoughts.

Scott W. said...

The "no harm" doctrine has always been an eye-roller for me. It is an unquestioned progressive dogma that racism harms society. Not overt racist acts mind you, but unfalsifiable "latent" racism. Yet when it is suggested that same-sex "marriage" harms society, all of a sudden those same people want double-blind researched empirical proof of tangible harm. The firings, the students hauled before faculty star-chambers, and (in one case) having to flee the country, apparently don't count.

Santi said...

On gay marriage's advance to date, Feser writes the following: "How have we descended into such Orwellian insanity?...Part of it has to do with the fact that what is at issue here concerns sex."

That's comforting to believe. Horny sex-libbers don't think clearly.

But that's not the big reason gay marriage has gained traction. It's not even a significant reason. Here are the really big reasons: love and history.

Love that once dared not speak its name has asserted itself, and empathy (a form of love) is now coming from the broader community.

So that's Big Love: a soul force (to put it in Gandhian terms).

And here's the Big History: for millennia, gays and lesbians have been terrorized by threats of hell, silenced, humiliated, demonized, dominated, imprisoned, rendered invisible, burned at the stake, marginalized, manacled, rounded up, tortured, murdered, pathologized, closeted, isolated from organizing, fired from jobs, banned from professions, blackmailed, mocked, and shunned.

So you could argue that attitudes are changing because of a recent historical move of compassion. Gays and lesbians are seen as Christ figures (despised and rejected of men), and many are aroused by empathy for them. It's exactly the dynamic that accompanied Martin Luther King's nonviolence (and Gandhi's), and opponents of gay marriage ignore this dynamic at their peril. When you bash gays, even just rhetorically, you're bashing Christ, Gandhi, and King. (When you've done it to the least of these,...)

Thus Big Love and Big History are key things Feser fails to emphasize. He's making it about sex, but it's about love; about being able to define who you are; about a redress of historic grievances--and the empathy of the larger community determined to right longstanding wrongs.

So even if many people don't have an out-of-the-closet gay or lesbian relative or friend, they see them in pop culture and say, "These are not bad people. Too much is being made of their private lives."

It's also about the convergence in the summer of 2015 of the Anglo-French Enlightenment, science, and the Supreme Court. If you don't like gay marriage, blame Thomas Jefferson and biologists like Alfred Kinsey, one of the first to study homosexuality and place it along a continuum of normal human sexual behaviors. Kinsey was an evolutionary entomologist and taxonomist before he was a sex researcher. He knew all about studying irreducible behaviors along a continuum, not trying to match them to an ideal average or Golden Mean (as essence/accident presumes to do, separating the "normal" from the "abnormal").

So biological research and the logic of the Anglo-French Enlightenment as epitomized in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is now on a collision course this summer with Reagan court appointee, Justice Anthony Kennedy. It's not some product of the cult of Mao that's going to ring in gay marriage in all fifty states, but the cult of Reagan.

Watch the below (short) YouTube link to see why gay marriage is really winning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTlrSYbCbHE

Jeremy Taylor said...

Please no one reply to Santi.

Santi said...

Chad:

The reason I say you're overreaching is because I haven't seen you say unequivocally that you stand with conservatives in protecting the baker's right not to make a wedding cake for a gay marriage. You suggest it might be reasonable, but you're undermining the very justice of your (our) cause by saying: I might be prepared to protect gay and lesbian convenience (a cake can be had elsewhere) at the price of your conscience.

One of the most powerful things the gay and lesbian rights movement has going for it is the righting of historic injustice in the sense that gays and lesbians have been badly treated throughout history. If the movement is then perceived as cavalier and callous in the treatment of others, the moral soul force of the movement is undermined. It loses the Christ-Gandhi-King "righteous cause" element.

It's certainly nothing I would want to have anything to do with at that point.

You are a fan of Rawls, as I am, so make some continuums: along the continuum of "atheist to religious fundamentalist"; and "exclusively homosexual to exclusively heterosexual," and not knowing where you would land as an adult, what laws would you want in place?

I'd say: gay marriage, fine, with a carve out for bakers, florists, caterers, etc. to not directly participate in gay advocacy, marriages, celebrations, etc.

I'd make a similar carve out for pharmaceutical employees who have pangs of conscience handing over morning-after pills.

I'd make space everywhere for conscience, biologically-determined inclinations, strong differences of opinion, etc.

We need room for Thoreaus in the world; people who can bring attention to their views by saying, "I won't cooperate with things I fundamentally disagree with. I won't force others, but I won't join the evil."

Let conservatives boycott Apple and let liberals boycott Indiana. These are forms of expression that stir things up. It also builds character in citizens. Good.

A society that makes being Thoreau too difficult is not a good society.

Daniel said...

Further flippant question in more Analytical jargon: does the existence of a wedding-cake saying 'Happy Same-sex Wedding!' (or an Ipod) serve as a Truthmaker for the proposition 'Homosexual X and Homosexual Y are married'? If not then who cares about the cake? Let them eat it.

John West said...

@Daniel

"Further flippant question in more Analytical jargon: does the existence of a wedding-cake saying 'Happy Same-sex Wedding!' (or an Ipod) serve as a Truthmaker for the proposition 'Homosexual X and Homosexual Y are married'? If not then who cares about the cake? [Let them have cake]"

Fixed it. Tres bien.

Santi said...

Mr. Mosis:

I will answer your main question without equivocation: I acknowledge that "implicit and baked-in" to the term civil gay marriage "is a level of acceptance, a sense of legitimacy."

You also asked for a word that most tightly encapsulates the gay equality movement. Mine is: integration.

As in full integration into the community--and recognition as a community. Exactly like Jews, feminists, blacks, etc.

Gays are taxpaying citizens, and don't want "separate but equal"--and I think they're right about this. Civil unions are a "separate but equal" stopgap.

This summer at the Supreme Court it's going to be "Brown v. The Board of Education," circa 2015.

What gays and lesbians want is civil marriage because they don't see their relationships as inferior to heterosexual relationships. They will no longer be treated as second class citizens. They want full and official legal integration and status from the government they support with their taxes.

But they can't force churches to marry them, and this is just. Civic integration and private institutional and cultural integration are separate matters. The Catholic Church (for example) won't marry two lesbians--but it also won't marry two Jews or Mormons.

But at the civic level, if two infertile heterosexuals can be given a marriage certificate by the state, what secular rationale could possibly be offered to refuse the same thing to a gay or lesbian couple?

Every step in gay and lesbian integration in the community has implied acceptance (first as teachers, then as military officers, etc.). Gay marriage is just the last step to full civic equality. Jews have passed through it. Atheists have passed through it. Blacks have passed through it. Women have passed through it. Gays are passing through it.

The underlying Anglo-French Enlightenment logic is the same for all of these.

It wasn't long ago that blacks could not legally marry whites in this country, and when the state said okay, it was declaring that such relationships were under no stigma (at least officially).

There may have been private religious groups that wouldn't marry blacks and whites, and wouldn't integrate their churches--but that was their business. Sunday mornings are still "the most segregated hours in America."

But you're putting gays and lesbians in a double bind if you say of the civic realm: "Equality to this point, but no further." It's like George Wallace and segregation: "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Legal equality, however, should not be confused with moral acceptance. Mormons have legal equality with Christians, but many Christians regard Mormons as belonging to a cult. Likewise, gays may never achieve full moral acceptance within certain religious communities. But in the civil arena, full equality means full legal acceptance. Or, as you put it nicely, "equality before the law").

Below is a short YouTube in which Steven Pinker and his wife include gay marriage among the logical outcomes of the Anglo-French Enlightenment.

Thanks for your questions. I enjoyed trying to answer them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uk7gKixqVNU

John West said...

... Apparently it should read "Let them eat cake", not have cake. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Please no one reply to Santi.

Yes, it's the usual pattern with him. Lose the intellectual argument entirely, retreat into poetics, baiting and rhetoric entirely.

But I'll say something else.

There's an unspoken contempt among political liberals for LGBT people: they are seen as useful pawns to advance a broader agenda, and little else. Which is why whenever you see LGBT people who don't support the party line (Dolce and Gabbana, etc), the reaction isn't dialog, but out and out hatred and a desire to silence or even destroy them and their families. Whenever there's an LGBT person who speaks out against the LGBT activists, they are slandered, threatened, intimidated, insulted, and worse.

Because an LGBT person who is not politically useful to the liberals is an unperson who they can unleash their hatred on without restraint, and let their real feelings through.

It's a bit like the liberal treatment of blacks. Blacks are fantastic when they can be cast as victims of right-wing conspiracy, who will benefit exclusively at the hands of left-wing policies and ideology. But when dealing with a black person who rejects left-wing ideology? They're dehumanized, called Uncle Toms, and much worse.

Because blacks don't matter to liberals, just as LGBT people don't matter to liberals. Useful people and groups matter to liberals. And if you're not useful, if you're not on their side... they hate you.

Seeing the pattern show up again and again with liberal media is sad and predictable all at once. There's no love for LGBT people, nor is there any celebration of love. There's just hatred of the enemy, hatred of LGBT people who defend the family out of love for their fathers and mothers, who defend church teaching out of their love of God and His children.

When you "love" someone only because they're useful to you, and you hate them when they're not... you don't love them at all.

Perhaps, some day, liberals will learn to love.

But judging by the death threats, hatred and worse they heap on anyone who fails to endorse their politics, it looks like for most of them, that day is still far off. I suppose Martin Luther King didn't make much of an impression on them after all.

DNW said...

"Thus Big Love and Big History are key things Feser fails to emphasize. He's making it about sex, but it's about love; about being able to define who you are; about a redress of historic grievances--and the empathy of the larger community determined to right longstanding wrongs. "


"LOVE INC." A can of nihilist worms writhing in motor oil. You must affirm the fairest of their "joys" or eventually lose your property.

Just why affiliation without affinity is a "value", is never explained beyond "compassion" and "evolution" and other empty sloganeering.

It wants an experience, and you are expected to take an interest or else. But why? No answer really.

That's the reason there is no reasoning with people like that. They are not about reason as fundamental to arbitration, as the Rorty-thing [we can all play with pronouns] itself admitted in "Contingency, irony, and solidarity".

Traditional Catholics, and conservatives in general, have a self-induced problem in dealing with the kind; because the conservatives are in effect trying to conserve the humanity of an opponent who has already gleefully abandoned his own. Like trying to rescue someone who is determined to drown. It insists on flinging itself offstage backwards.

Fine you say? Well so do I, until I am expected to be in the audience and play catch. Why underwrite and enable the perpetuation such a pathetic and unrewarding form of association?

As Santi himself admitted. All you ultimately get in paying to be annoyed, is more annoyance and more bills for something you find worthless in the first place.

Ahh but "LOVE". and those crafty mirror neurons.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I've misread my history, but I seem to recall several historical eras where "gays and lesbians have been badly treated throughout history," was not the case. In ancient pagan Greece and Rome, the milieu in which Christian thought was formed, homosexuality was considered normal. Isn't this a particularly useful pair of cases since the particular forms and focus of Christian thought ostensibly formed in reaction to its (homosexual-accepting) environment?

Santi said...

I want to say something about Crystal O'Connor. I agree that the people who have forced her to shut down her pizza parlor are 100% fascists. Such people undermine the soul force of the gay equality movement, weakening the Christ-Gandhi-King-style empathy that should deservedly attach to a long and unjustly oppressed group.

In a good society, being Thoreau (being a conscientious objector) should not result in having one's livelihood sent up in flames--or worse. When Thoreau didn't pay his taxes in protest of Southern slavery and the war with Mexico, he spent a night in jail and was bailed out by his friend Emerson. He wasn't taken out to the back of the jail and shot.

So there is this thing about empathy which makes it a double-edged sword: if you imaginatively walk in the shoes of people who have suffered injustice, identifying with them, then there's also a dark tendency to feel outrage at those who seem to be in the way of justice's remedy.

It's empathy's evil twin: outrage and demonizing "the Other" who gets in the way of the group you've come to love. What is needed is increasing the circle of empathy all around--both for the ill-treatment of gays and lesbians throughout history, and for the conscience of religious conservatives who cannot participate in what they regard as evil.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that it's encouraging to see someone denounce the hatred of the Other that we see running rampant among LGBT bullies and thugs. I agree entirely that it is is an affront to Christ, and certainly an affront to King, that such people have wrongfully, hatefully decided to smear King's name and blaspheme Christ's by presenting their hatred. Not just hatred of Christians, mind you, but hatred of LGBT people who are so weary of people caricaturing them as fragile invalids whose very lives depend on having their relationships defined as "marriages", or indeed, that their lives depend on sodomy itself.

For too long the left has advanced on a combination of fear and hatred. Hatred of conservatives, as well as a fear of dissent, especially from The Useful Minorities. It was also encouraging to see the outpouring of love and support that the victims of leftist bullying received, after so many in the LGBT movement heaped so much hatred on them, trying to force them out of business with threats of violence and defacing their names and reputations online, all because they dared say in public that their consciences differed from others.

Unfortunately, I don't think the that hatred of Christ, King or Ghandi is going to end among the left anytime soon. Instead we're going to see, at least among so many liberals, the continued praise of men like Dan Savage who reject love and mock Christians, to go along with the other bouts of public hate stirred up by their allies. Still, it's worth recognizing why they hate with such force, and lash out with such bitterness: they traded Christ, Ghandi and King for hatred, power and politics. So when they experience dissent, they have little else to give them solace.

DNW said...

By the way. This is probably where someone like the good professor should begin to deconstruct "sex" itself, i.e.,

" [that] unique intensity of sexual pleasure, [and] the central role that success in romantic and sexual relationships plays in our sense of fulfillment and self-worth" [my restructuring]


... in an attempt to clinically lay bare and analyze the elements and operations of the leftist's "fairest of joys" and favorite social leverage point.

Pull it to pieces. Look at the fear, and the pride of life issues involved in the organism's pursuit of these affirmations ... and let it become obvious just exactly why the leftist organism NEEDS social affirmation for its activities.

Not as a fellow-person then for there is no such objective thing in nominalism land, but merely as an object, a phenomenon of some kind seeking a result of some kind.

Once you do that however, once you begin the perfectly legitimate process under the materialist's own terms, of pulling the satisfaction-seeking thing apart in order to see that makes it tick, and why you should care if it - this possibly essentially antipathetic other - is being sated, then the context of the demands of the "historically contingent" other's project of politically soliciting affirmation and coercing affiliation and cost shifting, is brought into all its bizarre and intellectually incoherent relief.

It wants because it wants what it wants?

So what? Where does that get us?

Possibly and eventually, to the Transhumanist Totalitarian Nirvana of Bliss Regime; wherein even the fishes of the sea are regulated and reconstructed from their formerly predatory forms.

The liberal paradise - Floating, floating, like orgasmic adult babies, mindless on an undulating sea of Vaseline.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I've misread my history, but I seem to recall several historical eras where "gays and lesbians have been badly treated throughout history," was not the case. In ancient pagan Greece and Rome, the milieu in which Christian thought was formed, homosexuality was considered normal. Isn't this a particularly useful pair of cases since the particular forms and focus of Christian thought ostensibly formed in reaction to its (homosexual-accepting) environment?

April 7, 2015 at 8:03 AM"



Yeah, because it kind of undercuts the "Tide of History" argument doesn't it.

Next up on the agenda is temple prostitution, once the altar dancing zombies are thought not inclusive or affirming enough.

Thank goodness that Plato, at least by the time he got to "The Laws" was seeing more clearly than in some of the earlier dialogs. [some which, "Rival Lovers"? may not be authentic]

Matt Sheean said...

DNW and Anon,

it seems to me that ancient Greece was more permissive in some ways than our society is. That is, in our current way of talking about orientation is informed by a kind of naive essentialism, so that if a person were to be of the homosexual 'species' and were to find romantic satisfaction with a member of the other sex, it is quite possible they will be accused at some point of being inauthentic in some way or another. I suppose it would go the other way, too, but in any case, any time I have seen discussion of a person who moves from hetero to homo romantic relations or vice versa, there is going to be someone who suggests or outright states that they must have been one way or the other all along. The ancient Greeks didn't have that sort of hangup about who was doing what with which sex (though, as I understand it, they had different hangups that flowed from different expectations for homo and heterosexual relations).

DNW said...

Matt Sheean said...

DNW and Anon,

it seems to me that ancient Greece was more permissive in some ways than our society is. That is, in our current way of talking about orientation is informed by a kind of naive essentialism, so that if a person were to be of the homosexual 'species' and were to find romantic satisfaction with a member of the other sex, it is quite possible they will be accused at some point of being inauthentic in some way or another."


The whole point in contention is the Santi-ist's tactic of trying to have his essentialist [sui generis style as many have pointed out] cake, while tossing it aside as well.

So, there are no objectively identifying class essences, in either the taxonomic nor the psychologically projective sense; yet it is nonetheless "the essence" of X to do Y according to its programming.

Which of course makes it a class of one, and very difficult to say on what basis its "essential interests" should be the interests of any other interest expressing locus or entity.


And this essentially other's interests rise to mandated respectability on what objective grounds? None.


Just the fiat issued by "LOVE INC"; which apparently expands the circle of concern and even self-sacrificial behavior because ... well just because it does.

No reciprocal or distributive benefit actually being claimed.

So, the other truly is "other". But as progressives we get to complain about being treated with indifference or as other, nonetheless.

It's a nice gig if you can get it, along an audience stupid or morally and intellectually cowed enough to buy tickets.







I suppose it would go the other way, too, but in any case, any time I have seen discussion of a person who moves from hetero to homo romantic relations or vice versa, there is going to be someone who suggests or outright states that they must have been one way or the other all along. The ancient Greeks didn't have that sort of hangup about who was doing what with which sex (though, as I understand it, they had different hangups that flowed from different expectations for homo and heterosexual relations).
April 7, 2015 at 9:19 AM

Santi said...

I was asked to define marriage.

Marriage is an experiment.

It's a gambit (exactly like everything directed to the future is a gambit).

Those who "have a go" at marriage are attempters, and those who attend a wedding are observers to the experiment: "Let's see what happens when these two people commit themselves before friends, family, a mention in the local newspaper, and a state registrar to share a bed, a household, and a life till death parts them."

How's that experiment going to turn out? Gay marriage is just an iteration on the heterosexual marriage experiment. For heterosexuals, this experiment fails half the time.

Maybe gay marriages will do better or worse than this, but if enough gays and lesbians try this experiment, fifty years from now we'll have lots of data to debate.

And if gay marriage proves generally unstable, it will become increasingly rare, withering in significance of its own accord.

But if there are lots of successful gay marriage experiments, a creative culture will have grown up around it, and something new and interesting will exist in the world. The first attempters will have proven to be creators, fashioners, makers of a new and living cultural thing in the world--something that goes with the gay community.

How exciting to be in a gay marriage today! Pioneers!

Who wants to be boring? Why murder this experiment in its infancy? Why proscribe in advance?

This is like the continuum of evolution. You don't know what these gay marriage experiments--these varieties on a traditional form--will yield, but let's see what happens. Perhaps the inner logic of them will lead to their collapse. Who knows. But let freedom ring; let gay and lesbian couples have a go. It doesn't interfere with heterosexual marriage experiments in the least; it's not a zero sum game.

Bed, household, life. Shared till death separates. That's marriage; a married couple.

That's the experiment.

Santi said...

Anonymous:

The chief advocate of gay marriage from over the past 25 years has been the former editor of The New Republic, Andrew Sullivan, A CATHOLIC.

What do you make of Sullivan? He's in a gay marriage.

Have you read Sullivan's book on the subject, making the conservative case for gay marriage?

Anonymous said...

Apparently, for far and away most same-sex couples, marriage is a failed experiment.

But there is, again, that conditional love of the liberal when it comes to LGBT people: love, so long as one is useful. Love, so long as one agrees. Love, so long as one plays along. And otherwise? There is hate, recrimination, and fear.

Liberal love is quite a thing. Indeed, one would suspect it isn't love at all.

But love and wanting someone to improve is old fashioned. Liberals are merely experimenting with love, trying a new kind that looks very close to bitterness and hate.

Maybe the goal is to see how this "new" love works out? Perhaps there's room for death threats, bullying, and a bit of hatred in love after all?

I have my doubts.

DNW said...



"What do you make of Sullivan?"

It is not what any of us make of him, but what it has made of itself, as it pursues your fecally spattered "fairest of joys".

Let like judge like: One of his fellow "queers" apparently has this to say:


"Like many a preacher and politician before him, Andrew Sullivan, the neoconservative gay pundit, was caught with his pants down. The story goes like this: Some time ago, Sullivan, who is HIV positive, took out an anonymous personal ad on a website called Barebackcity.com, which advertises itself as the "one stop source for bareback [i.e., unprotected anal] sex." He listed himself under the screen name "RawMuscleGlutes," posted two headless photographs, and solicited bareback ..."

My own view is that he is a Catholic in the same sense of the Kennedys or the Cuomos and for much the same reasons. Just one kind of thing, trying to leverage another ostensibly sacred thing, to its advantage.

They have found a way to "make God useful" to them, as you put it.


MrMosis said...

@Santi

Thank you for your reply. Perhaps I was not clear enough. Think of it as a thought experiment if you like, perhaps because your reaction will be that such a scenario is unrealistic, implausible, etc. But it is a serious question nonetheless.

What if a new institution defined by a new term or phrase could be created for same-sex couples, duplicating everything that "traditional marriage" (hereafter "marriage") is in law and in spirit? Would that suffice?

"Gay marriage" (albeit by another name- and why not another name? It could be a fabulous name) will thereby be legitimized in law. And as it is in law so will it be in culture. Children will know that when you grow up, you can get married. Or, if you happen to be attracted to the same sex, you can get _________.

Seems like a perfectly reasonable middle-ground to me- and has for years. I've never had a serious person reply to this admittedly outlandish yet nonetheless reasonable (imho) idea. Is there any criticism that can be offered, other than, "That sounds like a lot of work!"

The main criticism I see is the one that can only be discussed behind left-liberal closed doors- that it does nothing to further the true end goal, for which "gay marriage" and all related LGBT issues are only of utility value.

Scott W. said...

Sullivan reminds me of Doug Kmiec. They supposedly had these conservative reputations but no conservatives I knew ever heard of them until they started banging the drum for progressive causes. But for Malta Doug?

Anyway, The Underground Thomist has a short but worthwhile 7 part series. "Natural Law For and Against: http://www.undergroundthomist.org/blog

Sample:

One would think that at least the idolatry of sex would always be an idolatry of love in sex. Amazingly, no. It is even possible to make an idol of the absence of love in sex. David Loovis’s description of anonymous intercourse is unmistakably religious: "an irresistible experience of beauty in the person of the stranger ... one of the most mysterious and awe-inspiring in the entire homosexual galaxy of experience."

Idolatry is so tiring. Even the idolater must sometimes rest from the toil of denial. His friends must stand ready for the moment when he relaxes the awful tension of his mental censors.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Anon,

There is little evidence that adult male homosexuality was considered normal in Greek and Roman societies. The passive partner was always considered disgraceful. And even the active partner was considered somewhat unusual and distasteful. Even the proclivities of an Emperor like Trajan was considered a little bit unusual and distasteful. Both the Greeks and, especially, the Romans saw homosexuality as a slightly dubious Eastern practice.
Pederasty was somewhat different. It was somewhat more accepted. Indeed, in most cases, including those like Trajan, homosexual relationships recorded were pederastic or close to it. Even the acceptance of pederasty varied greatly across time and place and it was often not accepted much at all. When it was accepted in some sense it usually seems to still have been unusual (for example, it seems to have been the preserve of the rich) and probably a little bit distasteful to many - we hear, in fact, that parents often did not want their sons to be the partners of adult males.

Whilst it is of course true to say male homosexuality was more acceptable in ancient Greece and Rome than in some other societies, such as Christendom or Islamic societies, in general it is also true it was thought of as distasteful and inferior.

Female homosexuality is almost entirely ignored, except a few poems by Sappho.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Anon who posted the link about the failure of so called gay marriages,

Well, empirical arguments are secondary to the natural law arguments, but there is much evidence both that homosexuals don't especially want to get married and that when they do they do not treat it like a traditional marriage.

There are lots of gay marriages in a jurisdiction when it becomes legal, but then the amount drops right off, suggesting that much of the campaigning and the initial enthusiasm was politically motivated.

Homosexual marriages also tend to be far less monogamous than heterosexuals ones. This is the case even for lesbians, whereas for men long term fidelity is negligible. More often than not the infidelity is sanctioned. Contrary to the likes of Sullivan, who himself praised the virtues of anonymous sex, there is a lot of evidence homosexuals do not want to enter into traditional marriages and rather that the activists wish to help transform traditional marriage into a permissive modern form.

Daniel said...

One would think that at least the idolatry of sex would always be an idolatry of love in sex. Amazingly, no. It is even possible to make an idol of the absence of love in sex. David Loovis’s description of anonymous intercourse is unmistakably religious: "an irresistible experience of beauty in the person of the stranger ... one of the most mysterious and awe-inspiring in the entire homosexual galaxy of experience."

I confess when I first saw this message I mistook 'David Loovis' for 'David Lewis' and had a double take moment.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Taylor,

Though I do not fault your characerization of homosexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome, I would dispute your assumption that the unequal nature of such relationships makes them different from contemporary homosexual relationships. Just have a discussion with a homosexual about which guys they know are 'tops' and which guys are 'bottoms' to see what I'm talking about. For pederasty, it was my understanding that it was teenage boys of the same age as prospective wives (or not much younger, since marriages were often between young teen girls and older males) that were considered desireable, and not 'young' children. The age of marriage has increased across the board, and so it may not be fair to characterize some such relationships as more pederastic than heterosexual marriagges of the time.

In other words, though it is certainly fair to say that my earlier statement was too broad by not ruling out female homosexuality and limiting its geographical and temporal scope, it is not fair to say that a phenomenon similar to modern male homosexuality wasn't considered acceptable in various locales in the Grecian/Roman region at different times during antiquity simply because it was unequal in nature.

This inequality is an exemplar of the problem many have with homosexual relations in general: they feature the instrumentalizion of people without the redeeming qualities of heterosexual marriage (reproduction, completion in the Christian sense, etc.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

Anon,

You make a good point about the age of marriage. However, I do think there is a bit of a difference involved. The general age of marriage for a woman was late teens or around 20, except for aristocrats. Pederasty tend to involve boys mid to late teens, so they were perhaps a little younger. I also think I'm correct in saying a 17 or 18 year old girl is physiologically, in general, a woman, whereas it is questionable whether a 16-17 year old boy could be called a man. There is usually a greater physiological difference between a 17 year old boy and 25 year old man than a 17 year old girl and a 25 year old woman. And pederasty had its sole focus on teenage boys, not on men. Someone who was had a penchant for such boys would be considered quite different to a man who was attracted to 30 year old men. There were (and are) no doubt Greeks and Romans who greatly preferred late teen girls to older women, but not only is there less physiological differences between such girls and women ten years or even more later, but marriage wasn't, unlike the pederastic relationships, entirely connected to the initial age of one partner. A man married a late teenage girl, in general, even ignoring the fact attraction may often not have been paramount in such arrangements, not because he had a particular liking for teenage girls.

I suppose it all depends how one defines normal. As noted, homosexual acts were not treated as they were in Christian or Islamic societies, where they were seen as a terrible sin, often punished harshly; however, neither were they treated as acceptable as they are to many now in the modern West, let alone as homosexual activists wish them to be treated. They were always slightly unusual and seedy - you could never act as if your gay lover as was just like your wife or female lover - and often quite distasteful and inferior, even in their pederastic forms.

And this seems to be the norms in almost all traditional cultures that do not outright ban homosexual acts. The same sort of treatment is seen, for example, in India, China, and South-East Asia. Male homosexuality is always a little odd and suspect in the history of these cultures, when it is not considerably so. And in no traditional culture I'm aware of is it in any way interchangeable with heterosexual relationships, especially marriage.

Greg said...

@ Daniel

Further flippant question in more Analytical jargon: does the existence of a wedding-cake saying 'Happy Same-sex Wedding!' (or an Ipod) serve as a Truthmaker for the proposition 'Homosexual X and Homosexual Y are married'? If not then who cares about the cake? Let them eat it.

I realize you're being flippant, but the issue is not of whether producing the cake marries the couple, but of whether writing 'Happy Same-sex Wedding!' is a speech act the satisfaction conditions of which include the fact that 'Same-sex Wedding' has a referent.

Daniel said...

@Greg,

That was a far more sensible response than my post warranted.

Surely though with the issue you raise the baker is not the one making the speech act in question only representing it in marks to we assign a linguistic value. If asked themselves they can simply reply that a homosexual coupling cannot count as marriage because marriage has a procreative end which cannot be satisfied on homosexual grounds. Beyond pointing it out we cannot correct others misuse of language.

Greg said...

@ Daniel

Surely though with the issue you raise the baker is not the one making the speech act in question only representing it in marks to we assign a linguistic value

That's what making a speech act is: impressing some content/representation on some medium.

If asked themselves they can simply reply that a homosexual coupling cannot count as marriage because marriage has a procreative end which cannot be satisfied on homosexual grounds.

Sure. But if someone paid you $50 to declare that no water is H2O, and you do so, that is a speech act, even if you immediately contradict it afterward.

Daniel said...

That's what making a speech act is: impressing some content/representation on some medium.

Yes, but it's not his/her speech act but the cake commissioner's. If, say, someone had a broken wrist and because of this asked me to write down a note which included the phrase 'Rudolph Carnap was a great philosopher' my taking that down would not amount to my making that statement.

Sure. But if someone paid you $50 to declare that no water is H2O, and you do so, that is a speech act, even if you immediately contradict it afterward.

If one states a proposition e.g. 'No Water is H20' it doesn't follow that one assents to it. Of course people usually take it an indication that the speaker does but this need not be so, in fact without any further communication that is known only to the speaker (sorry Wittgenstein). It's a sort of Use/Mention confusion only to do with propositions instead of words - a State/Assert problem if you will.

Greg said...

@ Daniel

Yes, but it's not his/her speech act but the cake commissioner's. If, say, someone had a broken wrist and because of this asked me to write down a note which included the phrase 'Rudolph Carnap was a great philosopher' my taking that down would not amount to my making that statement.

Well, you understand the meaning of what the person told you. When you write it down, the sentence is an expression of your own mental content, so it's your own speech act (even if you acquired that mental content from someone else, as is in fact typically the case when we are expressing ourselves).

Not all speech acts are statements. I'm not claiming that it is a statement. 'Happy Same-sex wedding!' doesn't even express a proposition. Likewise, since it's not a statement, the mental content it expresses need not be a belief to which you assent.

Daniel said...

When you write it down, the sentence is an expression of your own mental content, so it's your own speech act

I find this ambiguous. If by 'your own mental content' you mean that I understand the meaning of the sentence, which of course cannot be gauged merely from my writing it down, then yes; however nothing in that means that I'm doing anything e.g. promising. Actions like that have a purely intentional basis and cannot be got at by the way in which we use language only what we mean by it.

Santi said...

A fault line between seculars and Thomist sympathizers in this thread (I'm starting to see) is that gay marriage is yet another trope, in yet another thread, for debating whether a thing conforms to a Golden Mean (essence/accident).

It's phallocentrism all over again.

For Thomists, marriage is imagined as possessing ideal contours to which all marriages ought to conform (or it's not really or wholly a marriage). It must be a strictly monogamous arrangement between the man and woman, it should last till death even if the couple is unhappy, it should be focused on the rearing of children, etc.

For permissive seculars like me, marriage is defined as more open to experiment along a wide continuum of irreducible behaviors with no ideal Golden Mean or essence to target. Each couple works out the details of its own "salvation." It's more akin to how evolution works than how masculinist natural law theorizing works.

So that's one conflict here: essence/accident v. irreducible variation along a continuum.

The basic structure of a marriage--share a bed, a household, a life--hopefully till death separates, but if not, that's okay--is not sufficient for Thomists. There has to be more to it than that. It has to be heterosexual; you can't bring other adults into the bed (no occasional threesomes); it has to try to conform to a Golden Mean (some norm or ideal essence); it can't leave adults to work out significant details, such as how monogamous the couple will be, who will play what child care roles, who will do the bulk of the housework, and who will work outside the home, etc.

The Thomist vision is a logocentric, phallocentric, patriarchal "sit-down vision."

And so Aquinas writes this (Summa, first part of the second part, question 64.1):

"Evil consists in discordance from their rule or measure. Now this may happen either by their exceeding the measure or by their falling short of it; as is clearly the case in all things ruled or measured. Hence it is evident that the good of moral virtue consists in conformity with the rule of reason. Now it is clear that between excess and deficiency the mean is equality or conformity. Therefore it is evident that moral virtue observes the mean."

A virtuous marriage does not overshoot or undershoot its ideal target. For Thomists, there can be no such thing as a virtuous gay marriage, for it will always be excessive (doing things that ought not to be done) in relation to the target definition of marriage--or it will be deficient (not accomplishing enough in relation to the target definition).

By contrast, the gay marriage advocate, in retort to Aquinas, emphasizes experiment and quotes proverbs like these from Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell":

"Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow....
Eternity is in love with the productions of time....
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings....
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise....
Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God....
The fox condemns the trap, not himself....
What is now proved was once only imagin'd....
The cistern contains: the fountain overflows....
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow....
Expect poison from the standing water.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough....
The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow; nor the lion, the horse, how he shall take his prey....
As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys....
Damn braces: Bless relaxes...."

Scott said...

@Greg:

"'Happy Same-sex wedding!' doesn't even express a proposition."

I think I mildly disagree here. Doesn't it at least express the proposition I hope/wish that you have a happy same-sex wedding (where "I" isn't necessarily the baker), and in that case isn't it "a speech act the satisfaction conditions of which include the fact that 'Same-sex Wedding' has a referent"?

DNW said...

About 5 paragraphs in I started smirking and was about to comment,

"You forgot to thow 'logocentrism' in there"


Then I read the his next lines:




"The Thomist vision is a logocentric, phallocentric, patriarchal "sit-down vision." "



What hilarious entertainment.

Santi said...

Another issue emerging from this thread is whether marriage is a zero sum game or a non-zero sum game.

Thomists perceive the competition from gay marriage, open marriage, etc. as inherently an attack on the traditional norm, and not merely experiments in diversity and adaptation in a pluralistic society: a zero sum game.

Seculars like me doubt that gay marriage will in any way harm hetero marriage: a non-zero sum game.

But maybe there are things about hetero marriage that are in need of disruption--such as, for example, the historic exploitation of women in them.

In hetero households, there are, most typically, unequal distributions of housework. Arguably, this is every bit as much of a social problem as whether gay male marriages are sufficiently monogamous. It deserves as much attention as gay monogamy (or lack thereof), for it certainly impacts far, far more marriages--and it substantially harms the quality of life of women.

Rape and assault (both of women and children) by men in heterosexual marriages are also serious, serious problems. These behaviors have spanned, literally, millennia.

And many contemporary women, even if they work outside the home, still cannot get their husbands to carry their fair share of the domestic duties. This inequality is endemic in heterosexual marriage, and lesbian marriage experiments might well prove healthier for women in this respect (as they might prove more equal).

So let a thousand experimental marriage flowers bloom. No current marital norm is by any means "golden."

And as alternative to the Golden Mean, marriage diversity along a continuum affirms that adults can work out whatever arrangements they desire (or can tolerate). One size doesn't need to fit all, and many sizes don't prevent marriage traditionalists from trying out their own vision of the heterosexual ideal.

So make your marriage gambits. It's your life. Straight, gay, lesbian. If you want, try new marriage arrangements and forms. Make the experiment. See what happens. Learn. "You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough" (Blake).

Anonymous said...

A reminder to DNW and other posters in this thread:

Jeremy TaylorApril 7, 2015 at 5:09 AM
Please no one reply to Santi.


Follow this advice. The categorical errors Santi has made in other threads -- among other things, and which others have generously pointed out -- kind of show how much of a waste of time it is to either quote or "debate" this person.

Scott said...

"Follow this advice."

I agree. Granting any sort of recognition to this poster is like dropping quarters into a tar pit.

Actually, I think Santi's posts are a good illustration of what Prof Feser's OP pointed out. When a person holds so tightly to a particular sin it blinds him to the search for truth and rational discussion. He can not/will not follow logical arguments if they end up with his particular obsession being objectively bad. I think this is pretty clear. Maybe Christians here should see this as an opportunity to pray for a poor soul's conversion. I'm sure St. Thomas would not object. said...

Actually, I think Santi's posts are a good illustration of what Prof Feser's OP pointed out. When a person holds so tightly to a particular sin it blinds him to the search for truth and rational discussion.

He can not/will not follow logical arguments if they end up with his particular obsession being objectively bad. I think this is pretty clear.

Maybe Christians here should see this as an opportunity to pray for a poor soul's conversion. I'm sure St. Thomas would not object.

Greg said...

@ Daniel

If by 'your own mental content' you mean that I understand the meaning of the sentence, which of course cannot be gauged merely from my writing it down, then yes; however nothing in that means that I'm doing anything e.g. promising. Actions like that have a purely intentional basis and cannot be got at by the way in which we use language only what we mean by it.

I don't think that your understanding is determined or inferred from your writing. I also am not making a claim about the particular kind of speech act you are making. In the normal adult case, though, you will understand the meaning of the sentence you are asked to replicate, and that content manifests in the act of replicating it. Whether you assent to the sentence is another matter; my point is that you are not like (say) a dictation program that maps audio input to a sentence on-screen precisely because your act of writing is an intentional action to convey what is represented to you onto a particular medium. The baker writing on the wedding cake is not a tool of his client, even when he engages in transactions that he does not find morally problematic.

That doesn't mean it's a statement or an expression of his (or your) belief. But lies are also not expressions of speakers' beliefs; though I assert what is a lie, I might not actually assent to its content. Nevertheless, because I understand the content of what I assert, I am impressing its content (and conditions of satisfaction) on some medium; and that is a speech act, even if I would in different company deny what I now assert. If I didn't understand the content, it would not even be a lie.

@ Scott

Hmm, I think you are right.

Santi said...

Mr. Mosis:

In response to what you asked me, I think the best name distinction (which already exists) is: civil marriage v. religious marriage.

Gays and lesbians, as taxpaying citizens, don't regard themselves as being in an inferior position to other tax paying citizens. They seek the same civil marriage certificate from the registrar/recorder as heterosexuals when they go to marry. They don't want separate but equal, and so a name distinction will not do in the civil realm.

If conservatives would not conflate civil marriage with religious marriage, there would be less friction here, but it's in the interest of conservatives to conflate them. It's disingenuous; a way of making it seem that the definition of marriage is being "taken over" by a freakish (to them) minority.

But there has never been only one definition of marriage. Catholics, for example, don't recognize Mormon marriages beyond the civil realm. And it is only the civil definition of marriage that is being expanded to include same sex couples. No religious definition is impacted in the least (unless the religious group wants that).

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

A reminder to DNW and other posters in this thread:

Jeremy TaylorApril 7, 2015 at 5:09 AM
Please no one reply to Santi.

Follow this advice. The categorical errors Santi has made in other threads -- among other things, and which others have generously pointed out -- kind of show how much of a waste of time it is to either quote or "debate" this person.
April 8, 2015 at 8:26 AM "





Thank you for the reminder not to engage directly.

It is probably well, normally, not to comment on the content of the "Ironist" rhetorical forays either.

However, occasionally their one note tunes of "Irony, contingency and solidarity" actually match up with the subject matter which Feser moots.

Along with concerns traditional to Thomists, the entire moderate realist philosophical position (which enables natural law inferences), as well as the arbitrating function of reason itself, is under assault by this generalized social torrent of "Ironist" blather.

Possibly there is some way to critique this pernicious intellectual lunacy, without "feeding the troll".

Because: whether you are a good Christian or not, it is clear that this is a problem that has very direct and real consequences for the was we ourselves live out our everyday lives.

Completely ignoring the kind does not do any good unless you ban them from any access.

And while Santi may be in fact a troll, he is a troll with a political agenda which involves injecting his rhetoric into a forum in order to re-frame the debate as according to his operating assumptions and evaluative standards.

It is these that need to be addressed. I'm sure Santi would be just as happy with no response as well; with using Feser's site as a free billboard on which he can spread without rebuttal, the content of his blog.

Complete unresponsiveness merely cedes the field to the will of the "Ironists".

Beneath all the wreckage, there is a real issue here.

DNW said...

Read
"has very direct and real consequences for the was we ourselves live out our everyday lives"

as,

"has very direct and real consequences for the way we ourselves live out our everyday lives ..."

Huh, the "Y" key isn't even close to the "s" key. Maybe a spanning strike on "a" ...

Crude said...

Agreeing with Scott here. Trolling is trolling, I'll focus on better targets.

Regarding the conversation about endorsement/participation in an act consigned by a business - if I were a bookstore owner, I'd not want to sell korans to a New Atheist who planned on doing something blasphemous with it.

It's not for religious reasons, since I'm about as Islamic as a ham sandwich. It's partly because I don't wish to promote public displays of their kind of bullshit, or to take part in those displays in any material way, even passively. But there's one more dimension to this working keeping in mind.

I am communicating something by refusing to sell the Cultist of Gnu the book: I am telling them no. I am availing myself the opportunity to express my disapproval of what they're doing, in the most fundamentally sincere way that the situation allows.

There is value in that, and I get the impression that's partly being ignored. In fact, I wonder if that would be legal - can I sell someone a same-sex wedding cake, while telling them precisely what I think of the entire event? And my impression is that no, even that wouldn't be legal, because now you're "creating a hostile environment" and it's right on back to the fragility of the emotionally off-balance.

But man, if it wasn't? That'd be an evangelization opportunity right there. It's along the lines of the past compromise I thought up: make one required to provide the cake. But the baker has freedom to design it how they wish, and the procurer must pay regardless.

Everyone wins, eh?

DNW said...

Crude said...

Agreeing with Scott here. Trolling is trolling, I'll focus on better targets."



I tried to provisionally agree earlier. With the lengthy reservation that the "Ironist" sensibility itself must somehow be confronted.

Like your idea of bombarding the obnoxious with evangelism. It might even work.

Trouble is, many of the put-upon probably don't have the intellectual or educational wherewithal to pull it off when confronted - or blindsided - by an activist. They are just, and in their own announced self-estimation often - "humble people" trying to live their beliefs and being confronted by a new kind of fascism.

Crude said...

DNW,

Trouble is, many of the put-upon probably don't have the intellectual or educational wherewithal to pull it off when confronted - or blindsided - by an activist. They are just, and in their own announced self-estimation often - "humble people" trying to live their beliefs and being confronted by a new kind of fascism.

Yeah, that's true. Just thinking out loud here, so to speak.

I wonder how much longer this has to go on before an LGBT splinter movement forms, basically amounting to trying to show the world that no, not every LGBT person is a fucking nutball like the activists.

DNW said...

Crude said...

DNW,

"Trouble is, many of the put-upon probably don't have the intellectual or educational wherewithal to pull it off when confronted - or blindsided - by an activist. They are just, and in their own announced self-estimation often - "humble people" trying to live their beliefs and being confronted by a new kind of fascism."

Yeah, that's true. Just thinking out loud here, so to speak.

I wonder how much longer this has to go on before an LGBT splinter movement forms, basically amounting to trying to show the world that no, not every LGBT person is a fucking nutball like the activists.
April 8, 2015 at 11:07 AM "



Probably never, since the crux of the dispute is not "mere tolerance" but political affirmation and solidarity.

Crude said...

DNW,

Probably never, since the crux of the dispute is not "mere tolerance" but political affirmation and solidarity.

But that's what I mean. Not every LGBT person is like this. I can only imagine that some - at least some - cringe at what they see the activists doing.

It's a little like feminism. There are at least some whose reaction to what passes for modern feminism and want nothing to do with it. On the other hand, they get promptly disowned and savaged.

Scott W. said...

Well, I consider the destruction wreaked by feminism to be as about as complete as possible, so just as "not all feminists are like that" brings little comfort, so "not all LGBT are like that" brings no comfort either. The moderates are not calling the tune.

Crude said...

Scott W,

Well, I consider the destruction wreaked by feminism to be as about as complete as possible, so just as "not all feminists are like that" brings little comfort,

This seems like hair-splitting, but it's not 'not all feminists' but 'not all women are like that'. A good number of women reject feminism, at least in name.

With LGBT people? A sexual orientation is not a political position. And I've seen some nasty treatment of LGBT people who do not, in fact, support the activist position.

An area for further study, perhaps.

Santi said...

The most recent conversation in this thread has taken on a funny and surreal turn: feminists are the enemies of women's interests, and gay and lesbian equality activists are the enemies of gays and lesbians. Thomists, by contrast, have positioned themselves here as the protectors of the genuine best interests of women, gays, and lesbians against, um, women, gays, and lesbians.

Crude said...

I thought of a way to put a finer point on what I'm talking about.

I'm pretty sure that, despite their fervent wish to appear as if they did so, the Cultists of Gnu don't speak for all atheists, and certainly not all irreligious. In fact there's a good amount of atheists and irreligious who think Dawkins and company are inane blowhards.

Communists don't represent 'the workers'. Plenty of those 'workers', even poor people, have little patience for them or their ideology. Klansmen aren't looking out for the interests of white protestant Christians, because a whole lot of what protestant Christians want nothing to do with them and have views opposing their own.

Those are more extreme cases, and obviously there's going to be some very broad variance in how many people of X demographic take Y's leadership to speak for them. But the key I'm getting at here is that I don't want to mistake the ideology for the identity. Feminism != all women, GLAAD != all LGBT people, etc.

No matter how badly they wish to pretend it were so.

Greg said...

Yeah, I've also heard liberals say that Texas women hate themselves because they vote against abortion.

In other news, Santi might be a ghostwriter.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Santi managed to not only fallaciously assume that feminists must equal women, and gay activists equal gays and lesbians, but assume that people must know their own best interests. Again he seems not to care about careful reasoning.

Greg,

Whilst as an academic I found that article to be completely one-sided, with little attempt at real balance or refuting objections and counterarguments (though I suppose I might be evaluating it too harshly for a newspaper editorial, though its purpose is clearly quite serious and considered), at least Bruni was less repetitive and over the top than Santi is.

I did find his article interesting as it seemed to be a distillation of much of faulty reasoning and many of the dubious assumptions - whether in realms of moral philosophy, empirical evidence, or Christian belief - of many of the SSM marriage proponents.

Bruni writes,

that same-sex attraction...[Can] be a fundamental part of a person’s identity, or that same-sex intimacy could be an expression of love within the context of a nurturing relationship.

Again empirical arguments are secondary, but I can't help but wonder where the evidence comes from for what seems to be the underlying assumption here that homosexuals tend to seek traditional monogamous relationships as much as heterosexuals (it is quite possible, of course, he doesn't care about traditional monogamy and is quite happy for heterosexuals relationships to continue to become more like homosexuals ones. But that would be a little dishonest given his tone in the article as a whole). All I have seen has seemed to confirm, in fact, that, except for those religious homosexuals who are not sexually active, most homosexuals are more promiscuous and less monogamous than even those most heterosexuals non-religious, non-traditional, socially liberal Western heterosexuals. Though it is true that this is especially true for male homosexuals, it is also true for female homosexuals, belying the notion that it is simply the differing proclivities of man and women that account for the divergence.

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: those who run public accommodations and refuse to service Catholic weddings or gay weddings are simply being haters, and that they shouldn't be shown any tolerance.

'Cause if there's one thing we gotta hate, it's haters, right!? Even though others already got to this peculiar comment, I want to add my voice to those saying, uh, yeah, "my" logic demands that I not call this baptism-opposing shopkeeper vile names and say he deserves to have his business burned down and insist the government force him to sell me ties because it is logical not to do so, indeed just plain common sense. It's also not a great comparison, because Catholic baptism did not require rewriting the laws of the country to alter its social structure, nor does a tie have anything to do with baptisms, not being a required uniform, and being something I would surely wear on other occasions. To be parallel, it would have to be a situation where, say, Catholic baptism was redefined as form of citizenship and it was the (illegal immigrant) baby who spilled coffee on his baptismal gown and was demanding that the shopkeeper procure and sell him a new gown. But even ignoring all that, the idea that I'd go away thinking anything other than that the guy has a weird and unjustifiable hang-up about baptism is bizarre. In fact, that anyone would think this scenario is supposed to be an obvious example of something which ordinary people would get all dictatorial about is flabbergasting. Good grief.

Mr. Green said...

Daniel: Further flippant question in more Analytical jargon: does the existence of a wedding-cake saying 'Happy Same-sex Wedding!' (or an Ipod) serve as a Truthmaker for the proposition 'Homosexual X and Homosexual Y are married'?

Scott already addressed this with his example above: But if someone went to a custom gunsmith and asked him to make a pistol with a finely carved handle that said "Fag Killer," and he refused, I'm pretty sure it would be a bigger deal. And I know whose side they'd be on even if his refusal were offered on Christian grounds.

Engraving a handle may not constitute an assertion, but anyone who thinks that the government should enforce bakery-compliance is welcome to publicly assert that the government should also put a gun to the head of gunsmiths too. But I shan't hold my breath.

(Or, to avoid possible confusion over being forced to write something, suppose that the law compelled you to, say, rent your hall to the Ku Klux Klan. They're just some people sitting in chairs, why would you care, right?)

Anonymous said...

They never will love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate. -Edmund Burke.

Dennis said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ukyfM9xsGQ

What do you guys think of this?

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-somerset-32017649

I'm pretty much speechless.

Greg said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

You're right, Bruni's argument is a bit less repetitive. I found the similarity in tone to be pretty striking.

The article is interesting because I think it constitutes a pretty good summary of what most people believe about homosexuality and Christianity.

Santi said...

DNW:

I see you causally sent the "f"-bomb in my direction--calling my Rorty-sympathetic position "fascism."

In Feser's (and apparently your) imagination, gays, lesbians, and their liberal allies are turning the world "Orwellian" and insane, and the right analogy for this rising tide of COMPASSION for a biologically identifiable group of individuals--hitherto unacknowledged as such, is (drum roll, please): encroaching Nazism.

Kirill Nielson said...

Hello Santi

I've been reading this exchange and I was wondering if you could help me out with something.

I feel for gays and don't want to cause them any harm or sense of oppression. But my problem is that philosophy of their movement is based on something that is abhorrent to me -- libertarian principle "harm/no harm."

You see, I've been asking why should we not take this civil rights movement further than homosexuality? What about incest, bestiality and nekrophilia? I can never get a good answer from anybody. Usually, they tell me that homosexuality is ok because it involves consent. But should consent matter? You don't ask a horse for consent if you want to kill it for meat. So why should you bother asking for consent if you want to have sex with her? You can't possibly physically harm her. And she probably won't mind, so what's the problem? Same with incest -- why not allow brother/brother, sister/sister, brother/sister (if he gets a vasectomy) etc. Finally, a corpse should not be a problem at all, as it's just a thing, not a living being.

You see, my problem is that libertarianism does not provide us with a principle that would separate gays from the rest. So my option is either grant the status of "normal" to all of them, or not grant it to any of them. And I cannot do the former because it flies in the face of my most basic moral intuitions. And it has nothing to do with what I believe. My parents did not have to tell me that having sex with a corpse is abhorrent.

So, again, my question to you is can you provide me with a principle that helps separate gays from the rest?

John West said...

Just as troublesome, I think, is the decreasing number of marriages, period. To quote Peter Hitchens, "Pretty soon the only people who will want to get married are lesbian Anglican clergywomen."

Santi said...

I see I'm now described as the "tar pit" to Scott's "quarters;" the swine to his pearls.

Translation: Scott's "quarters" are where he starts and stops an argument, and the "tar pit" is where someone deigns to ask the impertinent question, "Why did you start your argument there and stop it here?"

Any full throated, full paragraph, Thomistic response that Scott might offer to such an inquiry would lay bare the nature of his own arbitrariness, question begging, strained justifications, and unwarranted shifts of attention.

It would expose blind spots--and even psychological predispositions (suggesting that not all is attributable to reason in Aquinas Land).

Easier to play the confidence man behind the curtain, display no doubt, point to authorities, reply in single sentences, and alternately ignore and attack the (rightly) suspicious inquirer.

Oz-ville.

Anonymous said...

"Pay attention to me!" he begged. "Please! I hate Thomism! This is all I have!"

But the world moved on.

Jeremy,

All I have seen has seemed to confirm, in fact, that, except for those religious homosexuals who are not sexually active, most homosexuals are more promiscuous and less monogamous than even those most heterosexuals non-religious, non-traditional, socially liberal Western heterosexuals.

And I've noticed that many of the socially liberal Christians who insist on acceptance for "lifelong committed monogamous same-sex relationships" go stone cold about those failings, those statistics. Monogamy is being held up now as the real yardstick for a Christian relationship, but criticizing open relationships would lead to criticizing the lion's share of same-sex sexual relationships (even "couples"), so it gets tossed over the side.

Love was never the concern. It's all about sex, and hate of those who would criticize desired sexual appetites.

Greg said...

@ Santi

Translation: Scott's "quarters" are where he starts and stops an argument, and the "tar pit" is where someone deigns to ask the impertinent question, "Why did you start your argument there and stop it here?"

Any full throated, full paragraph, Thomistic response that Scott might offer to such an inquiry would lay bare the nature of his own arbitrariness, question begging, strained justifications, and unwarranted shifts of attention.


If you really believe the above, then you are seriously deluded. You have been around for quite along. People have been very charitable and have provided you with lots of answers. The problem is that your questions and counterassertions do not meet the standard of reasonable debate. You apply principles inconsistently; you insist, for instance, that science and biology change the way we think about sex, but when it's pointed out that the sufficiency of science and biology as you use them would warrant pedophilia, you bring in alternative considerations - but if you can do that in the case of pedophilia, then other can do it in the case of homosexuality. But when these things are pointed out, you don't even deny it. You just wax poetic and start the armchair psychology.

Anonymous said...

If you really believe the above, then you are seriously deluded.

He doesn't. He's just trying any which-way to get people to interact with him. He'd say that Thomists were eliminative materialists who denied the existence of God if it was the only way to get attention and interaction.

Deny him it and the problem solves itself.

DNW said...

Guys, I'm trying to cooperate here but I think that this personal accusation justifies a response?


"Santi said...

DNW:

I see you causally sent the "f"-bomb in my direction--calling my Rorty-sympathetic position "fascism." ..."



Santi,

As you have had some difficulty justifying your textual claims and interpretations before, I think you had better provide direct evidence for my having - you insinuate - called you a fascist.

Perhaps you are merely overwrought by my pointing out how both Rawls' [first] and [more recently] Rorty's solidarity pimping activities, and subversion of classically liberal principles, are at base in support of generically fascistic agendas?

Matt Sheean said...

"Love was never the concern. It's all about sex, and hate of those who would criticize desired sexual appetites."

I'm skeptical of this analysis, at least as far as the emphasis on sex. I think everyone dislikes being told that something they are doing is evil, since they must, in doing it, perceive it as good. To call someone out on some behavior or other is not just an affront to their desires, but to their reason. Naturally, as soon as they have any influence, they will seek to prod culture in a direction that can approve their mind, not merely there desires, as healthy.

Matt Sheean said...

there-their

ugh

DNW said...

"You apply principles inconsistently; you insist, for instance, that science and biology change the way we think about sex, but when it's pointed out that the sufficiency of science and biology as you use them would warrant pedophilia, you bring in alternative considerations - but if you can do that in the case of pedophilia, then other can do it in the case of homosexuality. But when these things are pointed out, you don't even deny it. You just wax poetic and start the armchair psychology."


What else can an "Ironist" do other than engage in rhetoric and story telling; hoping to trigger an emotional reaction and thus compliance?

On their own terms there is nothing objective in the way of natural kinds at which a nominalist and Humean can point and which would then provide a reference point or standard for deducing moral conclusions regarding class members.

Just, "Humiliation", and "Cruelty" as triggers. Notions of which of course have no objective reference points themselves - other than the subjective reports of what might be complete nut cases; or else on the nominalists own terms, the bleating of admittedly radically other kinds having potentially no interests in common with the very beings against which these radically other kinds, are seen laying claims for solicitude and sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical of this analysis, at least as far as the emphasis on sex. I think everyone dislikes being told that something they are doing is evil, since they must, in doing it, perceive it as good.

But sex is precisely what the issue always comes down to.

As for what everyone dislikes? I think there is a gap between the normal version to that, and the LGBT activist version. To use the next available example: divorcees, adulterers, people having premarital sex? They never attempted to absolutely destroy people for disagreeing with them.

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