Monday, June 29, 2015

Marriage and The Matrix


Suppose a bizarre skeptic seriously proposed -- not as a joke, not as dorm room bull session fodder, but seriously -- that you, he, and everyone else were part of a computer-generated virtual reality like the one featured in the science-fiction movie The Matrix.  Suppose he easily shot down the arguments you initially thought sufficient to refute him.  He might point out, for instance, that your appeals to what we know from common sense and science have no force, since they are (he insists) just part of the Matrix-generated illusion.  Suppose many of your friends were so impressed by this skeptic’s ability to defend his strange views -- and so unimpressed by your increasingly flustered responses -- that they came around to his side.  Suppose they got annoyed with you for not doing the same, and started to question your rationality and even your decency.  Your adherence to commonsense realism in the face of the skeptic’s arguments is, they say, just irrational prejudice.

No doubt you would think the world had gone mad, and you’d be right.  But you would still find it difficult to come up with arguments that would convince the skeptic and his followers.  The reason is not that their arguments are rationally and evidentially superior to yours, but on the contrary because they are so subversive of all rationality and evidence -- indeed, far more subversive than the skeptic and his followers themselves realize -- that you’d have trouble getting your bearings, and getting the skeptics to see that they had lost theirs.  If the skeptic were correct, not even his own arguments would be any good -- their apparent soundness could be just another illusion generated by the Matrix, making the whole position self-undermining.  Nor could he justifiably complain about your refusing to agree with him, nor take any delight in your friends’ agreement, since for all he knew both you and they might be Matrix-generated fictions anyway.

So, the skeptic’s position is ultimately incoherent.  But rhetorically he has an advantage.  With every move you try to make, he can simply refuse to concede the assumptions you need in order to make it, leaving you constantly scrambling to find new footing.  He will in the process be undermining his own position too, because his skepticism is so radical it takes down everything, including what he needs in order to make his position intelligible.  But it will be harder to see this at first, because he is playing offense and you are playing defense.  It falsely seems that you are the one making all the controversial assumptions whereas he is assuming nothing.  Hence, while your position is in fact rationally superior, it is the skeptic’s position that will, perversely, appear to be rationally superior.  People bizarrely give him the benefit of the doubt and put the burden of proof on you.

This, I submit, is the situation defenders of traditional sexual morality are in vis-à-vis the proponents of “same-sex marriage.”  The liberal position is a kind of radical skepticism, a calling into question of something that has always been part of common sense, viz. that marriage is inherently heterosexual.  Like belief in the reality of the external world -- or in the reality of the past, or the reality of other minds, or the reality of change, or any other part of common sense that philosophical skeptics have challenged -- what makes the claim in question hard to justify is not that it is unreasonable, but, on the contrary, that it has always been regarded as a paradigm of reasonableness.  Belief in the external world (or the past, or other minds, or change, etc.) has always been regarded as partially constitutive of rationality.  Hence, when some philosophical skeptic challenges it precisely in the name of rationality, the average person doesn’t know what to make of the challenge.  Disoriented, he responds with arguments that seem superficial, question-begging, dogmatic, or otherwise unimpressive.  Similarly, heterosexuality has always been regarded as constitutive of marriage.  Hence, when someone proposes that there can be such a thing as same-sex marriage, the average person is, in this case too, disoriented, and responds with arguments that appear similarly unimpressive.

Like the skeptic about the external world (or the past, or other minds, or change, etc.) the “same-sex marriage” advocate typically says things he has no right to say consistent with his skeptical arguments.  For example, if “same-sex marriage” is possible, why not incestuous marriage, or group marriage, or marriage to an animal, or marriage to a robot, or marriage to oneself?  A more radical application of the “same-sex marriage” advocate’s key moves can always be deployed by a yet more radical skeptic in order to defend these proposals.  Yet “same-sex marriage” advocates typically deny that they favor such proposals.  If appeal to the natural ends or proper functions of our faculties has no moral significance, then why should anyone care about whether anyone’s arguments -- including arguments either for or against “same-sex marriage” -- are any good?  The “same-sex marriage” advocate can hardly respond “But finding and endorsing sound arguments is what reason is for!”, since he claims that what our natural faculties and organs are naturally for is irrelevant to how we might legitimately choose to use them.  Indeed, he typically denies that our faculties and organs, or anything else for that matter, are really for anything.  Teleology, he claims, is an illusion.  But then it is an illusion that reason itself is really for anything, including arriving at truth.  In which case the “same-sex marriage” advocate has no business criticizing others for giving “bigoted” or otherwise bad arguments.  (Why shouldn’t someone give bigoted arguments if reason does not have truth as its natural end?  What if someone is just born with an orientation toward giving bigoted arguments?)  If the “same-sex marriage” advocate appeals to current Western majority opinion vis-à-vis homosexuality as a ground for his condemnation of what he labels “bigotry,” then where does he get off criticizing past Western majority opinion vis-à-vis homosexuality, or current non-Western moral opinion vis-à-vis homosexuality?   Etc. etc.

So, the “same-sex marriage” advocate’s position is ultimately incoherent.  Pushed through consistently, it takes down everything, including itself.  But rhetorically it has the same advantages as Matrix-style skepticism.  The “same-sex marriage” advocate is playing offense, and only calling things into doubt -- albeit selectively and inconsistently -- rather than putting forward any explicit positive position of his own, so that it falsely seems that it is only his opponent who is making controversial assumptions. 

Now, no one thinks the average person’s inability to give an impressive response to skepticism about the external world (or about the reality of the past, or other minds, etc.) makes it irrational for him to reject such skepticism.  And as it happens, even most highly educated people have difficulty adequately responding to external world skepticism.  If you ask the average natural scientist, or indeed even the average philosophy professor, to explain to you how to refute Cartesian skepticism, you’re not likely to get an answer that a clever philosopher couldn’t poke many holes in.  You almost have to be a philosopher who specializes in the analysis of radical philosophical skepticism really to get at the heart of what is wrong with it.  The reason is that such skepticism goes so deep in its challenge to our everyday understanding of notions like rationality, perception, reality, etc. that only someone who has thought long and carefully about those very notions is going to be able to understand and respond to the challenge.  The irony is that it turns out, then, that very few people can give a solid, rigorous philosophical defense of what everyone really knows to be true.  But it hardly follows that the commonsense belief in the external world can be rationally held only by those few people.

The same thing is true of the average person’s inability to give an impressive response to the “same-sex marriage” advocate’s challenge.  It is completely unsurprising that this should be the case, just as it is unsurprising that the average person lacks a powerful response to the Matrix-style skeptic.  In fact, as with commonsense realism about the external world, so too with traditional sexual morality, in the nature of the case relatively few people -- basically, traditional natural law theorists -- are going to be able to set out the complete philosophical defense of what the average person has, traditionally, believed.  But it doesn’t follow that the average person can’t be rational in affirming traditional sexual morality.  (For an exposition and defense of the traditional natural law approach, see “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument,” in Neo-Scholastic Essays.) 

Indeed, the parallel with the Matrix scenario is even closer than what I’ve said so far suggests, for the implications of “same-sex marriage” are very radically skeptical.  The reason is this: We cannot make sense of the world’s being intelligible at all, or of the human intellect’s ability to understand it, unless we affirm a classical essentialist and teleological metaphysics.  But applying that metaphysics to the study of human nature entails a classical natural law understanding of ethics.  And that understanding of ethics in turn yields, among other things, a traditional account of sexual morality that rules out “same-sex marriage” in principle.  Hence, to defend “same-sex marriage” you have to reject natural law, which in turn requires rejecting a classical essentialist and teleological metaphysics, which in turn undermines the possibility of making intelligible either the world or the mind’s ability to understand it.  (Needles to say, these are large claims, but I’ve defended them all at length in various places.  For interested readers, the best place to start is, again, with the Neo-Scholastic Essays article.) 

Obviously, though, the radically skeptical implications are less direct in the case of “same-sex marriage” than they are in the Matrix scenario, which is why most people don’t see them.  And there is another difference.  There are lots of people who believe in “same-sex marriage,” but very few people who seriously entertain the Matrix hypothesis.  But imagine there was some kind of intense sensory pleasure associated with pretending that you were in the Matrix.  Suppose also that some people just had, for whatever reason -- environmental influences, heredity, or whatever -- a deep-seated tendency to take pleasure in the idea that they were living in a Matrix-style reality.  Then, I submit, lots of people would insist that we take the Matrix scenario seriously and some would even accuse those who scornfully rejected the idea of being insensitive bigots.  (Compare the points made in a recent post in which I discussed the special kind of irrationality people are prone to where sex is concerned, due to the intense pleasure associated with it.)

So, let’s add to my original scenario this further supposition -- that you are not only surrounded by people who take the Matrix theory seriously and scornfully dismiss your arguments against it, but some of them have a deep-seated tendency to take intense sensory pleasure in the idea that they live in the Matrix.  That, I submit, is the situation defenders of traditional sexual morality are in vis-à-vis the proponents of “same-sex marriage.”   Needless to say, it’s a pretty bad situation to be in.

But it’s actually worse even than that.  For suppose our imagined Matrix skeptic and his followers succeeded in intimidating a number of corporations into endorsing and funding their campaign to get the Matrix theory widely accepted, to propagandize for it in movies and television shows, etc.  Suppose mobs of Matrix theorists occasionally threatened to boycott or even burn down bakeries, restaurants, etc. which refused to cater the meetings of Matrix theorists.  Suppose they stopped even listening to the defenders of commonsense realism, but just shouted “Bigot!  Bigot!  Bigot!” in response to any expression of disagreement.  Suppose the Supreme Court of the United States declared that agreement with the Matrix theory is required by the Constitution, and opined that adherence to commonsense realism stems from an irrational animus against Matrix theorists. 

In fact, the current position of opponents of “same-sex marriage” is worse even than that.  Consider once again your situation as you try to reason with Matrix theorists and rebut their increasingly aggressive attempts to impose their doctrine via economic and political force.  Suppose that as you look around, you notice that some of your allies are starting to slink away from the field of battle.  One of them says: “Well, you know, we have sometimes been very insulting to believers in the Matrix theory.  Who can blame them for being angry at us?  Maybe we should focus more on correcting our own attitudes and less on changing their minds.”  Another suggests: “Maybe we’ve been talking too much about this debate between the Matrix theory and commonsense realism.  We sound like we’re obsessed with it.  Maybe we should talk about something else instead, like poverty or the environment.”  A third opines: “We can natter on about philosophy all we want, but the bottom line is that scripture says that the world outside our minds is real.  The trouble is that we’ve gotten away from the Bible.  Maybe we should withdraw into our own faith communities and just try to live our biblically-based belief in external reality the best we can.”

Needless to say, all of this is bound only to make things worse.  The Matrix theory advocate will smell blood, regarding these flaccid avowals as tacit admissions that commonsense realism about the external world really has no rational basis but is simply a historically contingent prejudice grounded in religious dogma.  And in your battle with the Matrix theorists you’ll have discovered, as many “same-sex marriage” opponents have, that iron law of politics: that when you try to fight the Evil Party you soon find that most of your allies are card-carrying members of the Stupid Party.

So, things look pretty bad.  But like the defender of our commonsense belief in the external world, the opponent of “same-sex marriage” has at least one reliable ally on his side: reality.  And reality absolutely always wins out in the end.  It always wins at least partially even in the short run -- no one ever is or could be a consistent skeptic -- and wins completely in the long run.  The trouble is just that the enemies of reality, though doomed, can do a hell of lot of damage in the meantime. 

417 comments:

  1. <> You hit this one out of the park, Dr. Feser. Truly, what we are up against. What's dismaying is the almost complete unanimity of the state, corporations in all sectors, the cultural and much of the professional elite on this -- a sharp contrast with other controversial decisions: it makes the enemy close to monolithic and much harder to form coalitions against it.

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  2. hmmm, the angle brackets were interpreted as HTML. They were intended to enclose this sound effect: "crack!"

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  3. Very good, thanks. Moderns love offense, but mostly never learned to play defense, and so have taken to yelling 'bigot' if you try to make them defend what they're saying. It takes acts of faith and hope, sometimes, to even try to make an argument when so few people can even make the distinction between 'what I feel' and 'what I think'.

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  4. Besides a theological argument, why should we assume that "reality absolutely always wins out in the end"? If it is true, then that would at least give me optimism over my deeply felt pessimism.

    Bad ideology----that is, bad ideas about ethics, morality, culture, and politics, and so on----can remain with flawed humans to the end of time. Or am I mistaken?

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  5. The trouble is that most of our " allies " have been steadily dropping from the field since the late 50's. And the reason is basically a failure to appreciate the purpose of sex and a general moral and religious malaise, a surrender to worldly values in general. First came contraception, then no fault divorce, then abortion along with the worldly pursuit of pleasure and success, etc.

    And maybe like the middle ages, " Maybe we should withdraw into our own faith communities and just try to live our biblically-based belief in external reality the best we can.”

    And reality will win out in the end ( fanatics hardly notice minor set backs )but by then this culture and society will be dead. What will replace it? I think by then God will have had his belly full of us all - and that will be the end.

    Linus

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  6. This is so validating is makes me want to swear.

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  7. "In fact, the current position of opponents of “same-sex marriage” is worse even than that."

    Oh, it's much, much worse than even what Dr. Feser has said. People tend to make their living interacting with artifacts, things that have been formed by human will and purpose. They hardly have to deal with real substances at all, except in heavily disguised form. They barely ever have to pay attention to causes that not material or efficient. Many of them work by manipulating numbers or information or even just words to a degree that it actually seems at times like they _are_ living in something like the Matrix. At home, they spend much of their time peering at extremely realistic fantasy worlds, which again have been created entirely by other humans. Technology caters to their every whim. Modern medicine works wonders. There is a drug for every kind of pain. They never have to worry about war or starvation or anything that might threaten their comfortable situation. Is it any wonder that people's consciousness starts disconnecting from reality. They get in the habit of thinking everything is unreal.

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    Incidently, this is why I think philosophical arguments are not going to be particularly useful in turning this situation around on a large scale. For all of the above reasons, people's have gotten in to the habit of thinking in ways that are inimical to natural law. We are going up against the entirety of the way we live now.

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  8. Overall though, absolutely brilliant post.

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  9. Low level violence or corruption will always be with us. But bad ideas tend to burn out or fade away. People either abandon them or else take them to self-destructive extremes.

    We can already see that utilitarians tend not to have kids. Since everything is heritable, those who tend to sympathize with utilitarianism will tend to die out.

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  10. From Anonymous: "Besides a theological argument, why should we assume that 'reality absolutely always wins out in the end'?"

    From Horace: "You may cast out Nature with a pitchfork, but she will always return." My hope is that one hundred years from now, people will look back at 2015 and shake their heads in disbelief: "You mean they denied the humanity of the unborn? You mean they thought helping the aged and the mentally ill in assisted suicide was a step forward ethically? You mean they thought people of the same sex could MARRY each other?"

    Never despair. It happened with slavery. It could happen again.

    By the way, I never compliment writers on blog articles, but: Excellent.

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  11. Hi Dr. Feser, will your new book released in Kindle format?

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  12. @ Anon

    Besides a theological argument, why should we assume that "reality absolutely always wins out in the end"? If it is true, then that would at least give me optimism over my deeply felt pessimism.

    Bad ideology----that is, bad ideas about ethics, morality, culture, and politics, and so on----can remain with flawed humans to the end of time. Or am I mistaken?


    My answer is: Reality might not win out in the end (absent theological argument). But there would still be an imperative (on the part of those who recognize it) to fight for reality and (on the part of those who do not recognize it) to recognize reality.

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  13. Greetings, everyone,

    This is directed primarily towards Ed, but, I welcome anyone to respond:

    First off, I agree with all of the fundamental points that you make, and, with regard to style and presentation, my compliments for yet another fine and incisive piece. I affirm the traditional understanding of marriage and agree that homosexual desire is objectively disordered. I also believe that Thursday's brief criticism of contemporary popular culture is spot-on.

    That said, I admit that I struggle with this issue. For example, a few months ago, my brother in-law "came out." We all had our suspicions before then--very effeminate, seemed more comfortable in his own skin when playing board games with his sisters than watching the 49ers game with the guys, and so on. We all felt a little relieved when he started to date girls a few years ago. But, then, he came out on Facebook a few months ago and told his story (I was shown it by my wife--I myself refuse to have a Facebook account).

    In short, he talked about how he had always been attracted to guys, that he was deeply ashamed of it (he comes from a very "macho" family), that he prayed daily since he was six years old to "desire differently." He talked about how, when he was having a genuinely good time in "being himself" (=, to put it crudely, doing "girl stuff" with his younger sisters), his older brothers would ridicule him. How, when he saw a guy with his shirt off in a movie, he had to turn his head. And, how, eventually, his shame and guilt eventually led him to try and hang himself. He comes from *an extremely* troubled family, and he said that the only reason why he didn't go through with suicide was because he wanted to be able to protect his little sisters from their mom.

    This is quite possibly the best young man that I know. His moral character is impeccable--he loves people, loves to help others, is gentle, compassionate, and brings out the best in others. It's really too bad that he probably will not become a husband (in the traditional sense) and father (via the traditional means).

    So, to appeal to your pastoral side(s), my question is this: How do we object to homosexuality and stand firm in our disapproval in such a way that doesn't provoke people to seriously contemplate suicide? I am convinced that this is a very real issue--I cannot imagine having to bear a cross like that . . .

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  14. My own approach (the validity of which I am uncertain) is not to confront the issue directly. Every culture has its downfalls, and every age has a set of vices which that culture facilitates. E.g., the New Testament authors didn't directly confront the evil of slavery, though the spirit of the Gospel clearly opposes such. Rather, the emphasis seemed to be upon the imitation of Christ, re-educating desire and learning to long for the higher and nobler things, overcoming the passions, etc. Society and culture will change to the extent that this spiritual logic "takes hold" and its fruits become evident.

    But, again, I'm not sure this is valid. I feel like I'm being a coward. But, on the other hand, if it's between that and putting people in a position in which they, in point of fact, feel a serious urge to off themselves, the latter seems the better option.

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  15. Very few people oppose SSM because we want others to suffer. But is blowing up reality, abandoning the notion of truth, worth it, though?

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  16. @Skyliner:

    I can't claim to have much experience in this regard myself, but surely one fundamental thing is to assure him—if the subject arises, if it matters to him, and if he believes in God—that merely "being gay" or "having a homosexual 'orientation'" is not a sin. (Okay, it's an improperly ordered appetite, but we all have those.) The relevant prohibitions are on actions, and they apply to everyone regardless of sexual "orientation." To put it in a soundbite, just because he's gay doesn't mean God doesn't love him.

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  17. I hear what Dr. Feser is saying, but the task before us seems herculean. Fifty years of cultural Marxism and critical theory have fundamentally changed who we are as people. The Left has been aware of culture hegemony and social structures as a system of control for decades. They will not give up what they identified as the levers of power and have utilized as the source of their influence and success. Why else are they so instinctively shrill about Jurassic World, being "sexist," among other displays of theatrical moral outrage?

    Before we can intellectually combat proponents for same-sex marriage, we have to somehow change the culture enough to carve out a platform where we can make our case. Simply, the other side doesn't fight fair in that progressives control a corrupt marketplace of ideas where ours have been barred from even being something that can be sold. Justice Kennedy's decision asserting that irrational animus is the only basis to oppose the endorsement of gay couples' unions certainly doesn't help either. Furthermore, my millennial generation has been indoctrinated to be chronic feelers, not critical thinkers. Same-sex marriage occurred in large part because it's advocates relied on sophistry and limbic tugs on heartstrings and deliberately circumvented any exposure to serious scrutiny. In the same way ultrasounds literally put a face to the victim of abortion after Roe v. Wade, we need a face for our cause to induce conflicting emotions. For its advocates, same-sex marriage is a pit stop and a legal launching pad for the means to build their families easier, i.e. "reproductive equality." It's these children of gay families, who are starting to speak out, and greater public awareness of how messy adoption, surrogacy and such are that hopefully will at least stem this tide.

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  18. Fifty years of cultural Marxism and critical theory have fundamentally changed who we are as people. The Left has been aware of culture hegemony and social structures as a system of control for decades. They will not give up what they identified as the levers of power and have utilized as the source of their influence and success. Why else are they so instinctively shrill about Jurassic World, being "sexist," among other displays of theatrical moral outrage?

    Is there any evidence whatsoever for this sort of top down intellectual influence?

    It's more like fifty years of living in an absurdly rich, heavily technological society that has fundamentally changed who we are as a people. Cultural Marxism and such need fertile soil to grow in. Our habits have changed, and that has changed everything, including how we think.

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  19. Why doesn’t Feser’s Matrix-argument cut both ways? Why is the Matrix-fantasy only the delusion of others, never himself? Why doesn’t he once mention the possibility how it may be he who has the Matrix-fantasy? For his imaginative worst-case scenario [which we’re supposed to realize is what is actually happening] towards the end of the article seems very applicable to church-goers and Bible-believers. Consider this very slight revision of his text:

    "So, let’s add to my original scenario this further supposition -- that you are not only surrounded by people who take the Matrix theory [Bible] seriously and scornfully dismiss your arguments against it, but some of them have a deep-seated tendency to take intense sensory pleasure in the idea that they live in the Matrix [feeling God’s love and grace]. That, I submit, is the situation defenders of traditional sexual morality are in vis-à-vis the proponents of “same-sex marriage.” Needless to say, it’s a pretty bad situation to be in.

    "But it’s actually worse even than that. For suppose our imagined Matrix skeptic [Christian] and his followers succeeded in intimidating a number of corporations into endorsing and funding their campaign to get the Matrix theory widely accepted [Catholicism], to propagandize for it in movies and television shows, etc. Suppose mobs of Matrix theorists occasionally threatened to boycott or even burn down bakeries, restaurants, etc. which refused to cater the meetings of Matrix theorists. Suppose they stopped even listening to the defenders of commonsense realism, but just shouted “Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!” [Sinner! Sinner! Sinner!] in response to any expression of disagreement."

    Or is my supposition that we can’t both be right but we can both be wrong merely a delusion created by my own Matrix-fantasy? Feser again, “If the skeptic were correct, not even his own arguments would be any good -- their apparent soundness could be just another illusion generated by the Matrix, making the whole position self-undermining.” I can’t be right, and by the nature of my delusion I can’t even question whether or not you’re right because it merely reaffirms my delusion is real and I’m wrong.

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  20. To Thursday:

    I agree, and I find the "bold" approbations of homosexual desire which have become prominent in contemporary popular culture to be, frankly, pathetic. More still, although I recognize it would be difficult for those with same-sex attractions to struggle with the notion (not least because of the present cultural moment), I don't think modern people pay enough attention to the possibility that *just because* one has and was born with a native, genetically determined disposition or habitus, it doesn't necessarily follow that the latter is "right." (E.g., I'm a type-1 diabetic, but rather than endorsing the fact that my pancreas "naturally" does not function, I constantly fight against the fact and strive to correct it.)

    But (and, here, I touch upon Scott's comments, which I appreciated and found helpful), the difficulty I see is this: from the time he met me, this kid has admired me and looked up to me. After he came out, he was relieved to be embraced by his family (most of it, anyways) and friends--not everyone approved, but they let him know that they loved him and will never reject him. And, in the time that has followed, my sense is that--being out--he finally feels comfortable in his own skin. Life is "clicking," and he finally feels as though life "makes sense"--that the world and society can embrace him *as he is*, and that it is possible that he can flourish and find happiness *by being himself*.

    In short, I believe that, given his respect for me, he would fall into a spiritual tailspin that he might not ever recover from were I to press the issue. He's already tried hiding, prayed for years on end to desire differently, and lived life with a constant and self-endorsed sense of shame. By accepting what he believes to be an ineradicable part of his personal identity, he feels that life and happiness are a real possibility for him. (Again, even though all of us have our faults and vices that we must strive to overcome, I cannot imagine having to bear that particular cross.)

    To put it another way, there is a very real sense in which our innermost self is to be found in our desires and affections. This explains why, quite often, we are hesitant to let them be known. Imagine, e.g., that you are on a road trip with a group of friends whom you admire (for those who frequent this blog, let the imagined company consist of Feser himself and a few of his colleagues on the way to a conference on Aquinas), and that a song comes on the radio--a song which you believe to be indescribably beautiful, and which really means a lot to you. Imagine that the car becomes silent as the song begins to play, and you don't comment because you want to see their reaction. And, imagine that, after a minute or so, Feser responds, "Ha, how *silly*--what a *trifle*!" and then everyone else joins in and starts mocking the song.

    If the song really did mean a lot to you, you wouldn't feel so much *offended* as you would *hurt*--you would feel as though something of your *innermost self* had been exposed and rejected. But if, on the other hand, Feser's comments, after a long silence, were more along the lines of, "Good heavens, how *beautiful* and deeply moving--I think, my friends, that we have just discovered a 'sixth way!'" and everyone else chimed in in agreement, in that case, you would want to let them know not only that you agree, but that you had in fact delighted in the song's excellence and fineness two months before they did. Here, the sense is, "that's me!"--one feels as though something of one's innermost self has been embraced and approved upon being recognized.

    To return to the issue at hand, my point is simply that it seems like a disentangling maneuver (in which one abstracts the illicit desire from the love-worthy desirer) would seem exceptionally difficult in this case. For some people, it seems that their innermost self is being rejected and regarded as repugnant.

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  21. Skyliner,
    There's a Catholic author Eve Tushnet who's written on her experiences as a gay Catholic. She tries to build non-sexual loving relationships and has said that she thinks one of the great errors of our time is to make romantic love the only kind of love that seems to count culturally or get support.
    I haven't read her book, but I would think that it would have tips for the family members of Christian gay people struggling with whether to be counter-cultural or not.

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  22. Anonymous,

    You don't seem to have understood the course of the argument. The 'Matrix-argument' only makes the specific point that "playing offense, and only calling things into doubt...rather than putting forward any explicit positive position of [one's] own" can generate a rhetorical illusion of superior rationality, and simply standing up for common sense without any elaborate philosophical arguments can be reasonable in the face of such illusions. The post proposes that this is the case with 'same-sex marriage', and briefly gestures at some reasons to think that the Matrix analogy holds, but the purpose of the post is not to rehash all the arguments that are discussed at length elsewhere.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous ReturnsJune 29, 2015 at 9:17 PM

      But wouldn't someone who puts forward a positive position be humble enough to admit they may be wrong?

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    2. "We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table (Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton)
      http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Gilbert_K_Chesterton/Orthodoxy/The_Suicide_of_Thought_p2.html

      Christi pax.

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  23. What makes things more difficult is that there is a shame and a guilt that come from God that are good and healthy, but there is also a shame and a guilt that come from the devil that are evil and destructive. When we long to stare at the nakedness of a man or a woman because of the sexual pleasure it gives us, and shame and guilt prompt us to look away, that shame and guilt are from God. But when, having experienced lust and sexual temptation, or having consented to temptation, shame and guilt prompt us to sin again, or to despair, or to suicide, that shame and guilt are from the devil. But in both experiences, the shame and the guilt feel the same. The question that we have to ask ourselves is, what am I being led to DO by these feelings: am I being led towards good acts, or to evil? In the one case, the feelings of shame and guilt are commendable and should be encouraged and acted upon; in the other, they need to be fought. It is a devastating thing to discover and experience one's own sinfulness, or even one's own mere inclination to sin, if one has no knowledge or experience of the love and mercy of God.

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  24. I got a little confused because when you spoke of "biblically-based belief in external reality," I thought you were talking about the world beyond the Matrix. I figure this earthly physical life is like living in the Matrix, and God is the Matrix-builder in his higher reality that is external to the Matrix. I thought your "bizarre skeptic" was a religious person who claims that this physical, earthly reality is just an illusion. But that's the opposite, right?

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  25. All I know is, when I heard the Supreme Court verdict, it had me grinning big all day!

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  26. Skyliner,

    It can't be desire, or even strongly held desire, as such that you see as forming an aspect of the innermost self, as there are clearly illegitimate desires. There must be criteria that would differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate desires - and I don't think the troubles with controlling those desires or one's happiness in expressing them (in contemporary society) can serve as the only criteria.



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  27. I mean, of course, one's immediate relieve or happiness in being able to express and live out one's desires.

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  28. @Thursday

    "Is there any evidence whatsoever for this sort of top down intellectual influence?"

    I can't give you anything like a smoking gun of some cabal in the shadows orchestrating us toward a Marxist destination. But here's what I've pieced together and bear with me because I'm no expert and probably are oversimplifying things:

    Marx's intellectual successors -- Gramsci, Horkheimer, Althusser, Adorno, Mercuse, etc. -- sought to figure out why the workers' revolutions against the bourgeoisie never really took place like Marx and Engels had predicted. Gramsci, who I'm more familiar with, identified that essentially the masses had adopted the values of the ruling class transmitted by the churches, academia and media and that's what kept them subservient. Others and the Frankfurt School challenged traditional ideals of sex and gender, which are derived from our Christian heritage. They never conceived of same-sex marriage, but it very much aligns with their goals. Paul Kengor briefly details it here: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/06/bruce_jenner_cultural_marxist.html

    Basically, to make a long story short, their neo-Marxist ideologies have not passed into esoteric purgatory but seemingly have transcended into the mainstream. Gender, queer and African-American studies departments in universities have taken these ideas of underlying power structures and have ran with them. Identity politics, "white male privilege," "unconscious institutional racism" all clearly echo these rumblings about power structures and hegemony.

    You ask for evidence; I would posit the fawning over "Caitlyn" Jenner and the recognition of same-sex marriage constitutes some of it. I also note what happened with Indiana's RFRA and Memories Pizza is indicative. What's telling is that social justice warriors are all about equality but have no concept of liberty, as they can't or refuse to recognize Jeffersonian freedom of conscience in the case of all these Christian bakers, florists and the like. Certainly, what you identified has played its part too.

    I know all this is not conclusive, and I kind of just lathered it on here. Yet, these tendencies in the public conscience came from somewhere. Summarily, Marx wanted to abolish the family and infamously despised the church; his intellectual disciples seemed to clearly critique the underlying constructs involved in the family and society as a whole; their followers applied these things to race, gender and sexual orientation; the disseminators of culture like academia and media have shifted to the Left to the point where it's nearly homogenous; Undoubtedly, people are influenced by MSNBC, Hollywood and their time at college. These seem to be signs or at least trending similarities that many of the modern Left's causes are descended from the Marxist echidna, no?

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  29. Ed,

    I always find your views on marriage to be those of a Platonist rather than an Aristotelian. You argue based on abstractions of human nature and natural law and universals. But a true follower of Aristotle would instead start with an empirical look at marriage in the real world.

    They would start with a study of the voluminous anthropological literature on marriage in societies and cultures around the world and in different ages. They would see in this literature extensive references to heterosexual unions, but also to the berdache tradition among Native Americans where transgender people would marry those of their own sex, eunuchs in India who would marry other men, boy-wives and woman-husbands in Africa, and male shamans in Siberia who dressed as women and married other men. Not to mention the various forms of polygamy around the world (a nice summary of the anthropology can be found if you google "A History of Same Sex Marriage" by William N. Eskridge Jr. of the Yale Law School).

    A proper Aristotelian would also look around themselves and note that there are currently tens of thousands of same-sex marriages in the United States, Europe and other places.

    So when this hypothetical Aristotelian philosopher then decided to discover the definition of marriage, said definition would certainly not be restricted to unions of the opposite sex. A heterosexual definition of marriage would fly in the face of the facts on the ground and common sense. It would be a definition from someone living in a constructed fantasy world built of their own Platonic ideals instead of living in this real world we inhabit. Aristotle would not approve.

    Look through Galileo's telescope, O Cremonini.

    Mark.

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    1. "Now the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts, but they get some ground for their view from the fact that many of those in high places share the tastes of Sardanapallus (Nic. Eth. 1 ch. 5)"

      As you can see here, Aristotle doesn't not simply look at the current state of a culture or even history to determine what is good or evil. In fact, as we see above, he mercilessly denounces most humans as living no greater than brutes, and even points out that they often justify their actions on the state of the contemporary social order, like how you tried to justify "gay marriage" on "tens of thousands of same-sex marriage in the United States, Europe, and other places."

      So no, Aristotle and proper "Aristotleans" would dismiss your philosophy as nonsense. Maybe instead of looking through Galileo's teloscope, you should actually read what Aristotle wrote.

      Christi pax.

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    2. Forgive me Mark: my last paragraph was uncharitable :hug:

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  30. I know all this is not conclusive

    There is absolutely nothing in your list of facts to indicate which way the arrow of causation is pointing. Nothing.

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  31. Mark,

    Would this hypothetical Aristotelian also witness the near universal view of adult homosexual acts, at least amongst men, as at the very least inferior and distasteful across cultures and societies? Even leaving aside question of revisionism and fanciful claims, the cases you talk of are far outweighed by the general sentiment I speak of.

    And how would this hypothetical Aristotelian decide upon what is the moral norm and what is falling away from it. It is quite possible for societies and cultures to be corrupted or go astray in certain areas. Why do the instances you refer to not represent such occurrences?

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  32. Oh, and I think Mark might be Santi. Santi used that line about Galileo's telescope.

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  33. With this in mind I wonder to what extent any of us are even obligated to try and convince them just how much they are in error. They are so foreign to us as to belong to a different species. They think that they are glorified apes, so we shouldn't be surprised when they act like apes. We, on the other hand, believe that we are fallen angels, and are obligated to return to angelhood, and this is not something that they will ever understood unless they have a complete change of heart. The problem is that men like Dr. Feser HAVE had their hearts changed by arguments, and then the temptation is to think that everyone else can do likewise. This is an error. The modern world grew out of Christendom and so we tend to believe that it is like the prodigal son that just needs to be called back to reason, but in truth the modern world is to Christians what ancient Babylon was to the Israelites in captivity. I think that it's time to stop looking at the heathen as lost brothers and more as profane dogs that have been anathematised (cursed), look at them in the same light as the Israelites looked at them, in the same light that St. John did when he avoided a heathen's presence because he thought that God would said a lightning bolt down on him at any moment. If we don't do this we will be constantly "apologising", we will always be on the backfoot trying to make our "antiquated views seem relevant." Why should angels condescend to apes. I think that it's a lack of faith that keeps us from realising just how exceptional we are, and that we do need a certain pride.

    The phrase is "let them be anathema", "let them be cursed". Put the emphasis on LET, iq.e. ALLOW them to be cursed, let them go their own way to their own destruction. It's degrading that we should have to defend Jesus Christ in front of a gang of apes.

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  34. Thank you, Mr Feser, for that excellent piece!

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  35. Skyliner,

    I think that this is one of the greatest evils of the entire "homosexual" movement, viz. the very notion that there is such a thing as a "homosexual". Your brother-in-law is not a sodomite by nature. The evil of the notion of "homosexual" is that it gets you to think of your passing erotic urges as constituting the essence of your being and identity, so that unless you are a committed sodomite you are not "being yourself", you are "hiding who you are". This makes making yourself a public sodomite not the scandal that it is, but a beautiful metamorphosis into your "true self". It's a new baptism for a new cult. Instead of being born again from above, you are born again from below. Instead of being brought to new life by faith in Jesus Christ, you are brought to new life by sodomy (one of the sins that cries to heaven for vengeance). This subverts everything.

    Instead of viewing these desires as internal he ought to view them as external, as demon-sent temptation. That's how all of the saints would have tended to view them.

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  36. Feser calls gay marriage “subversive of all rationality and evidence,” but this is only true if you treat gay and lesbian intimate relationships as trivial. If you take them seriously, then of course rationality and evidence are all on the side of giving gays and lesbians access to civil marriage.

    Hannah Arendt, in a different context, famously wrote this of marriage: “The right to marry whoever one wishes is an elementary human right compared to which ‘the right to attend an integrated school, the right to sit where one pleases on a bus, the right to go into any hotel or recreation area or place of amusement, regardless of one’s skin or color or race’ are minor indeed. Even political rights, like the right to vote, and nearly all other rights enumerated in the Constitution, are secondary to the inalienable human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence; and to this category the right to home and marriage unquestionably belongs.”

    Arendt, were she alive today, would be rationally celebrating the fact that, in America in 2015, any two people can now marry—not just fertile heterosexual couples of the same race or religion. The civil institution of marriage has been justly expanded to any two taxpaying citizens. Period. The only reasons for not allowing this are grounded in segregation, inequality, and religious prejudice.

    Treating gay lives, their intimate relationships, and their legal equality as trivial things is a form of bigotry akin to racism.

    Thus Feser’s comparison is the wrong one. It’s not the Matrix that is the best analogy for what’s happened this summer, but the defeat of the Georgian segregationist, Lester Maddox. The Lester Maddoxes of our day just lost decisively, and the Freedom Riders won.

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    1. "...but this is only true if you treat gay and lesbian intimate relationships as trivial..."

      And this is where the disconnect between the two camps is. Same-sex "marriage" advocates do not seem to understand the distinction between close friendship and sodomy. Thus your camp often says stupid things like David and Jonathan or Achilles and Patroclus were gay "lovers." Scholar John Boswell "interpretation" of the brotherhood of Sts. Serge and Bacchus also fails to make this distinction (and that is just the tip of the iceberg for that theory :roll eyes:).

      We Christians are by no means against friendship, quite the opposite. Even chaste opposite sex friendships such as St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross are encourage and Holy.

      Christi pax,

      Daniel D. D.

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  37. Jeremy:

    I never go by pseudonyms anywhere on the Internet. I think it's a bit cowardly and craven to do so. Even when I was going through tenure, I used my own name on my blog. I trusted its members to respect (and even defend, if need be) my right to free speech.

    Maybe it was reckless, I'm certainly not giving advice here.

    But an I.F. Stone quote has long inspired me to stay out in the open in my comments: "[N]o society is good, whatever its intentions, whatever its utopian and liberationist claims, if the men and women who live in it are not free to speak their minds."

    Whoever Mark is, he or she ain't me. I find his comment to Feser an insightful one, and I wish I'd thought of the argument, and written it out--but alas, I didn't. Good for Mark--whoever he or she is. And good for referencing Galileo. Another person haunting these threads and asking for reality testing along the way is refreshing.

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  38. Contingent Beings? Who Cares!

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  39. Santi,

    "Treating gay lives, their intimate relationships, and their legal equality as trivial things is a form of bigotry akin to racism."

    How is refusing sodomites marriage doing any of these? Is it bigotry when a man can't marry his dog with whom he has an "intimate relationship"? Nothing is stopping one man loving another man. In fact, not only is that not discouraged, but it is commanded when we are told to love our neighbour. You are somehow confusing love with sodomy, when sodomy is contrary to love. I cannot marry my dog because it's a fact that man and dog cannot breed. The fact that I cannot marry or breed with my dog does not impede me from having any of the normal affections one has for a pet. One man cannot marry another man because one man cannot breed with another man; that does not keep those men from loving one and other. Do you think that a man's love for another man increases when he sodomizes him? If that were the case, sodomy would be a commandment and not an anathema.

    Sodomite marriage has no place in the Church because God abhors sodomy. We know this from the inspired written word, and from His actions (destruction of Sodom). Sodomite marriage has no place in nature because man becomes one flesh with a woman, not with another man. Sodomite marriage has no place in the State because the telos of the State is the temporal happiness of its citizens, and as the institution of marriage is necessary to that end in that encourages stable families producing children brought up in love, sodomite marriage contradicts this because, (1) it is always infertile, (2) it promotes the idea that marriage is about the mere affections of the parents and not the greater good of the family, (3) it gives unnatural vice an image of legitimacy, which furthers the likeliness of others falling into this unnatural vice, and all vice is contrary to the good of the individual and of the State.

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  40. Mark,

    Do you know what Aristotle himself thought of sodomy?

    It is not ignoring reality to disregard aberrant forms of "marriage". The Aristotelian would first look to God (the first cause) and then to nature for a source of marriage, and only lastly to human culture which often errs.

    In ancient Greece there was a cult where men would steal young boys of the street and rape them. Would you consider this cult legitimate merely because it existed as a "culture"? What about all those cultures which institutionalize forms of rape? On what grounds would you contradict them? Human dignity? Well then you've appealed to nature over and above culture.

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  41. Santi,

    "But an I.F. Stone quote has long inspired me to stay out in the open in my comments: "[N]o society is good, whatever its intentions, whatever its utopian and liberationist claims, if the men and women who live in it are not free to speak their minds." "

    This is a liberal view and it's borne rotten fruit. A better proverb would be, "No society is good when men are allowed to openly utter blasphemy, deceit, and immorality without being silenced." Not that there isn't a place for the "devil's advocate", but only in a limited setting. In open society one should not, I think, be able to deny the existence of God and not be punished with at least the same curses that one receives when one is openly "racist" or "sexist" in current society. God is more sacred than race and sex.

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    Replies
    1. "[N]o society is good, whatever its intentions, whatever its utopian and liberationist claims, if the men and women who live in it are not free to speak their minds."

      Ah, oh: http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/06/26/pennsylvania-newspaper-censors-all-dissent-on-same-sex-marriage/

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  42. I have nothing against the idea of same sex marriage per say and am skeptical of Natural Law accounts for broader reasons. Reading this thread just confirms what is already painfully evident: the best practical argument against same sex marriage are most same sex marriage advocates themselves.

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  43. Peter,

    Many thanks for the Tushnet reference. I checked out her work at Amazon, and it looks interesting. Wesley Hill, a gay Christian who writes for First Things, is also insightful.

    To Anonymous and Jeremy Taylor,

    I agree that we must distinguish between licit and illicit desire; I also agree that we do wrong to reject shame tout court.

    To Jack,

    While I have always found same-sex attraction to be obviously wrong, to me it is quite obvious that the particular case of same-sex attraction that I have been discussing in this thread is not to be simply equated with a desire to commit sodomy. I myself have always been attracted to the opposite sex, and this desire has always consisted of far more than sexual appetite. My love for my wife is such that everything in me says "yes" to everything about her (a bit of hyperbole, I suppose--she does infuriate me at times). I look forward to each new day with her and rejoice in all that has come into my life through delighting in her. I first met her shortly after completing my BA. My plan up to that point had been to become a monk. When I met her, saw her beautiful soft brown eyes, the types of things she laughed at and the way she laughed at them, and so many other of her qualities and traits, I was instantly undone. Everything in me desired to be with her in every way, and, in having been with her for so many years now, I find that my joy is continually renewed.

    In other words, the prospect of having children together, spending a life together, cuddling up next to each other and watching a show, holding hands, struggling through the ups and downs of life together, date nights, etc.--all of this was "built into" my immediate attraction towards her from the go. *This particular* attraction and desire seemed of its very nature to entail the possibility of such things, and, were I told that such an attraction and desire were illicit (and were I to believe it), I think that my very self would be undone.

    My point is simply that I strongly get the sense that it has always been "natural" for my brother in-law to feel this way about men. I think that he is natively attracted to men in such a way as to want to attain to complete eudaimonia via a relationship with one man in particular. (That said, and for the record, even were such a relationship licit, I still think that to call it "marriage" would be a misnomer, for marriage is about so much more than personal gratification.)

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  44. I'm curious why the 1982 album cover from Sparks is being shown.

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  45. Anonymous Returns,

    But wouldn't someone who puts forward a positive position be humble enough to admit they may be wrong?

    Admitting that one may be wrong has nothing whatsoever to do with humility -- someone who admits that they may be wrong may do so without the slightest abatement of arrogance, and someone who does not do it may be thoroughly humble -- and, likewise, putting forward a positive position in itself has nothing whatsoever to do with one's moral character. It is magical thinking to hold that you can be humble merely by saying certain words, and it is simply irrational nonsense to think that accepting a rational argument is a failure of humility. And it is especially absurd to try to respond to a post about the often illusory character of skeptical rhetoric with skeptical rhetoric rather than specific good reasons addressing the actual argument at hand.

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  46. The definition of marriage at Wikipedia is still common sense: "Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws."

    It doesn't mention husband and wife or heterosexuality, but it does include children. We'll see when it changes and to what.

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  47. Spot on...now the long wait begins.

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  48. Santi has proven again and again that he is unable or unwilling to meet even the most minimal standards of rational discourse and intellectual honesty. Please don't let this lunatic take over another thread.

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  49. Terence M. StantonJune 30, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    AMDG

    Thank you for yet another outstanding post, Dr. Feser.

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  50. There's a certain irony in the fact that when Feser whines about gay marriage, he couldn't sound like any more of a fag. Kind of like when he drones on about his boyfriend Aquinas....

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  51. Anonymous: The far greater irony is that none of those posting here who are against same-sex "marriage" would ever use language so bigoted and condescending when referring to homosexuals. Neither would we imply that someone else is homosexual.

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    1. When comes to people, Dr. Peter Kreeft says we should be "bleeding heart liberals," and when it comes to ideas, we should be "stuck-in-the-mud conservatives."

      I like to say that a philosophical-savvy Christian should be "intellectually ruthless."

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  52. By the way, does Ed's "wife" know about his little crush? I'd hate to think it was affecting his "marriage".

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  53. @Craig:

    "none of those posting here who are against same-sex "marriage" would ever use language so bigoted and condescending when referring to homosexuals"

    What, are you getting all politically correct on me now? I thought you guys hated that sort of thing...

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  54. What, are you getting all politically correct on me now? I thought you guys hated that sort of thing...

    What you think is irrelevant to the matter, particularly since it's already been established that you have no regard for the truth.

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  55. What you think is irrelevant to the matter, particularly since it's already been established that you have no regard for the truth.

    -AWWWWW. Cry me a river...

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  56. Feser, I posit that you should leave the cowardly and disgusting posts by this "Anonymous" troll on here. Don't delete messages by SSM trolls: leave them on here as a witness to the type of shit that normal people have to put up with. Insidious, cowardly, vapid... and deserving of a solid left hand to the temple.

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    1. If he didn't delete them, though, then this blog might look less intellectual than it really is.

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  57. leave them on here as a witness

    I don't think it really matters one way or another; in this case we have someone who just conceded that their comments are irrelevant and have no regard for the truth, since that's what 'cry me a river' means: that you agree and don't care. There's nothing particularly interesting or useful to know about such people.

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  58. You don't get complimented nearly enough on the quality of your writing, Ed.

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    1. Dr. Feser's writing style is like the whipped cream on top of his brilliance.

      Christi pax.

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  59. @Skyliner: I've enjoyed "Steve Gershom's" gay-Catholic stuff in the past.

    @Mark: Dude, *headslap* - your allegedly "Aristotelian" arguments are moronic. And anybody endorsing those arguments? Try to care a little more about your credibility.

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  60. Thank you Mr. Feser for a great article! Please write more.

    I do hope more people begin to speak up and insist that a reasonable burden of proof be met for 'unnatural marriage' as a 'basic human right'.

    Because, as you mention, the burden does not seem to have been met at all. Instead, cheap rhetorical re-inventions of civil rights LANGUAGE have been passed off as rational thought.

    I think - in spite of what the "Galileo' poster inaccurately posted (his facts are off on more than one point, ie - berdache was still opposite sex pairings, not same) - a historical demand for precedent would be helpful.

    If this is such a fundamental, basic, human right, wouldn't it have shown up in the annals of human history before 2000?

    In spite of homosexual activity in virtually every culture, no culture and no place, in no time has enshrined homosexual 'marriage' as 'marriage' legally.

    How can this 'right' be so foundational to humanity, then?

    Of course, people will come back and say 'well, women were denied rights, and African Americans were denied rights, so how can this be any different'.

    Well, it very different, both categorically in terms of the TYPE of rights being taked about and historically in terms of such rights evidenced throughout the human timeline.

    Women's rights (too broad a phrase, but still) and African American rights are individual rights as a group, not rights having to do with the BONDS or relationships between people. These are two different categories of rights we're talking about.

    Second of all, the fact that women and African Americans were stripped of these rights and then at various points in history one can put one's finger on actual times and places when these rights were also again restored.

    One can see when women HAVE had human rights, and when they have been stripped. One can see when African Americans or Africans HAVE had human rights and then when they have been stripped. There is an historical ebb and flow, but at least there is THAT, pointing to the fact that these rights are foundational to humanity (as if we needed to have it proved that humans deserve basic human rights, but still). They show up throughout human history.

    Conversely, one CANNOT point to any previous time in history and even see such an ebb and flow. There is not a previous culture that legally put homosexual pairings on the same level as heterosexual.


    There just not historical evidence of it. So how can we claim that this is a fundamental human 'right'?

    God bless you in your work.


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  61. @Skyliner: "*This particular* attraction and desire seemed of its very nature to entail the possibility of such things, and, were I told that such an attraction and desire were illicit (and were I to believe it), I think that my very self would be undone."

    There's a place for hyperbole and a place for avoiding hyperbole. Romeo and Juliet perhaps felt something similar, and took such feelings as the criterion of their acting - and so verily they were undone.

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  62. Jack:

    In answer to your question, gays and lesbians desire that their intimate relationships, biologically hardwired into them by evolutionary variation, not be rendered invisible, trivial, or segregated from the larger society to which they pay taxes and belong.

    They insist that their access to marriage, given what we have learned scientifically over the past fifty years about the nature of gay and lesbian desire, is a human right, as cruel to deny to them as it would be to deny an interracial couple from marrying.

    Thus to marginalize, deny, or trivialize gay and lesbian intimate relationships and biology is bigotry akin to racism.

    The analogy to racial and religious equality (African American equality and Jewish and Catholic equality in a majority white and Protestant country) is one-to-one.

    You can’t segregate, trivialize, and render invisible minority segments of America’s population absent compelling secular reasons. You have none of those, Greg, and so gays and lesbians have prevailed in court. It was rational for them to do so. Contra Feser, you have not just dropped into Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice” song.

    So now it’s time for you to think different. It’s no longer possible for religious traditionalists like yourself to use the law to trivialize, closet, punish, or isolate gay and lesbian people. The milk for that opportunity has spilled (unless you want to move to Russia or Iran). The historic abuse of gay and lesbian people has spanned millennia, and is rapidly coming to a close, at least in the Western world.

    So why don’t you start (or join) a smaller community within the larger American one? One that excludes gay and lesbian people from participation, and that lives out your ideals to the greatest extent possible?

    America is about experimentation. Let the gay and lesbian community experiment; let the religious traditionalist communities experiment. Gay and lesbian marriage is a democratic experiment. Now you come up with one as well

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    1. Sophistry: "They insist that their access to marriage, given what we have learned scientifically over the past fifty years about the nature of pedophiliac desire, is a human right, as cruel to deny to them as it would be to deny an interracial couple from marrying."

      "You have none of those, Greg, and so gays and lesbians have prevailed in court. It was rational for them to do so."

      So, is what is rational whatever the State tells us is rational?

      "The milk for that opportunity has spilled (unless you want to move to Russia or Iran). The historic abuse of gay and lesbian people has spanned millennia, and is rapidly coming to a close, at least in the Western world."

      Christians have treated homosexuals FAR better than Muslims, in the past and today.

      More sophistry: "America is about experimentation. Let the pedophile community experiment; let the religious traditionalist communities experiment. Pedophile marriage is a democratic experiment. Now you come up with one as well."

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  63. I was waiting for this one and I'm not disappointed.


    Please prove you're not a robot... (reCAPTCHA)

    Yes, I'm not a robot (who someone may want to marry). You don't believe I'm not a robot? But what can I do to convincingly prove to you to I'm not a robot? You are saying we are all a little bit robots? May be you are right after all...

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  64. One of the points Ed makes in this excellent piece is about where the same-sex marriage crowd draws THEIR arbitrary line. He didn't really expand on the idea enough, so I will.

    If two men want to get married, they may now do so. Let's just take a 30 year old man and a 25 year old man as an example. The argument that won over the Supreme Court Legislature (that's what it is now, BTW) was that their marriage isn't HARMING anyone, so it should be allowed. After all, keep your nose out of our bedroom.

    But what if the two men are brothers? For some reason, most same-sexers are against that. But why? There is a good biological reason (a child) to prevent heterosexual incest, and so every state does it. But what is the biological reason to prevent gay incestuous marriage? There isn't one. And so, believe it or not, it will soon come to pass. And this will, ironically, give gays more marriage rights than straights.

    What if someone wants to marry a third party? Is there any justifiable reason to prevent 3-way marriages? In some societies, that is considered not only normal, but desirable. And what about groups like NAMBLA? Why do we draw "arbitrary" lines that alienate them, but not gay ADULTS?

    Unfortunately, our society started the slide shortly after WWII. It's just now accelerating.

    My only consolation is knowing that our Rights are NOT granted by the Constitution, and so Gay Marriage still does not exist, and never will.

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    1. "There is a good biological reason (a child) to prevent heterosexual incest, and so every state does it."

      Actually, not anymore. Two words: "birth control."

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  65. How does it feel to oppose a "fundamental right"? It must be a very american feeling. Is it because in America everything is fundamental?

    How would I feel about that? Or how would I feel about being a subject to special rules whenever I open an account abroad? When the first question is always "Are you an American?", as if someone wanted to confirm my normality before even starting to talk to me?

    It's strange how a shiny city on the hill can become a matrix in a matter of less than one generation.

    But dint't Ronald Reagan tell us that we are never more than a generation away from losing our freedom?

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    1. "Is it because in America everything is fundamental? "

      What is fundamental is usually defined by the fads of the age. One of the great things about Aristotle is that he tried to find the true fundamentals. Of course, he didn't always succeed (like regarding slavery).

      Christi pax.

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  66. The point is, it has not been proven that this is a fundamental right.

    By all means, please feel free to try and prove that it is. I think many people would love to see actual evidence and proof.

    (The previous poster's argument who attempted this was, I think, 'gay and lesbian desire proves that marriage is their right'??)?

    People need to wake up and push back on this conversation, demanding that anti-marriage proponents prove their case. A reasonable burden of proof has NOT been met.

    Also, Christians posting to this page, let's please remember also that while there are necessary natural law arguments that need to be more vocally made, and thank God for people like Ed Feser making them, there is also a spiritual battle in place. "Your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities..."

    Take up rosaries! Remember the words of Pope Pius XI: "If I had an army praying the rosary, I could conquer the world."










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  67. I'm not a lawyer and haven't closely followed this case, but I thought the positive justification for the need for gay marriage involved the need for gay couples to have hospital visitation rights, rights of inheritance, tax exemptions, and various other protections and benefits offered to heterosexual married couples. SSM advocates stated that in denying homosexuals access to an institution which confers similar rights, the state is discriminating against them. Whatever you think of their quality or relevance, is it really accurate to say that positive cases for extending the right of marriage to same sex couples have not been made?

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  68. Whatever you think of their quality or relevance, is it really accurate to say that positive cases for extending the right of marriage to same sex couples have not been made?

    This was all what civil unions were developed to handle; we haven't been at this point for years now.

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  69. Sure, but SSM advocates would say that it's still discriminatory to invent a new category to describe the state's recognition of their relationship when there's a category already available. They also worry that treating gay unions as a separate category inherently makes gay unions unequal under the law to heterosexual unions. These arguments aren't obviously bad to me.

    And before Crude gets here, yes, I would describe myself as someone who favors the legality of same sex marriage due to my belief in separation of church and state, and my belief that there aren't any good publicly available arguments against it. (I don't really think natural law arguments are publicly available in the relevant sense, since it would require a lot of education to bring the general public up to speed on those arguments). I remain religiously opposed to gay marriage, however. I would not therefore describe myself as an SSM advocate, and I don't entirely endorse their reasoning. But it doesn't seem accurate to me to say their case is entirely defensive.

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  70. Daniel D. D.

    Actually, birth control is no more effective than abstinence - it only works when practiced correctly. Therefore, no state will allow incestuous straight marriage. But GAY incestuous marriage is a lock.

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    Replies
    1. But then the pro-incest supporter will point out that we also have abortion, just in case birth control fails.

      Christi pax.

      Delete
  71. Chad Handley writes:

    SSM advocates would say that it's still discriminatory to invent a new category to describe the state's recognition of their relationship when there's a category already available. They also worry that treating gay unions as a separate category inherently makes gay unions unequal under the law to heterosexual unions.

    They could also have pointed out with some justice (although they haven't made the argument in quite this way) that civil marriage in the US is in fact already tantamount to nothing more than a contractual civil union, and has been at least ever since no-fault divorce became the national norm and adultery ceased to be a crime or misdemeanor in many states. They could easily say (if they don't mind mixing metaphors), "That ship has sailed, so shit or get off the pot."

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  72. Daniel D. D.

    Since states can't make you get an abortion, they will not allow incestuous marriage between straights - "But we promise" just doesn't seem to work. Game, set, and match. Prepare for gay incestuous marriage.

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  73. Sure, but SSM advocates would say that it's still discriminatory to invent a new category to describe the state's recognition of their relationship when there's a category already available. They also worry that treating gay unions as a separate category inherently makes gay unions unequal under the law to heterosexual unions.

    Yes, they would; in other words, none of the things you originally listed, or your original talk of an "institution of similar rights", was particularly relevant to the recent dispute.

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  74. Sure, but SSM advocates would say that it's still discriminatory to invent a new category to describe the state's recognition of their relationship when there's a category already available.

    But shouldn't we qualify the word "discrimination"? Not all discrimination is unjust discrimination, in which case it could be morally permissible. The very question at issue is whether disallowing same-sex marriage constitutes unjust discrimination.

    To believe that it does seems to presuppose that the only reason why the state is involved in marriage in the first is to dispense various state benefits. But I was under the impression that the argument for traditional civil marriage was not about state benefits, but about promoting those marital norms that are best suited to the well-being of children, the stability of families, and the common good of society: sexual complementarity, monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence -- which are all ordered towards the good of any children that may result from the union of a man and woman. If same-sex marriage advocates want to argue that traditional civil marriage unjustly discriminates against them, they must show that there is no rational basis for state promotion of those marital norms. If there is a rational basis for those norms -- and same-sex couples merely want the same state benefits as heterosexual couples -- then it wouldn't be unjustly discriminatory to create a new category that allows them receive those benefits.

    But as Scott already pointed out, civil marriage already stopped promoting those norms long before same-sex marriage advocates entered the stage. Even before the recent Court ruling, the culture already widely conceived of marriage as nothing more than an emotional bond, and its corresponding legal institution as a mere instrument for bureaucratically managing the chaos of people's ever-changing subjective desires.

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  75. It was relevant in that it refutes the article's argument (and the stated position of most of the commenters) that the case for SSM is entirely negative. Everything I've mentioned is part of a positive case that could be built for SSM.

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  76. Chad,

    Whether those arguments are bad would seem to depend upon how they fleshed out and the premises they are built on. Typically, SSM advocates rest their arguments upon popular, not especially examined assumptions about sexuality and morality - hoovered up from contemporary zeitgeist, if you will - like marriages should be based on affection alone and that things like reproduction have little to do with sexual morality or relevantly distinguishing kinds of relationships.

    When you say natural law arguments arte not welcome in the public square because they'd require a lot of education for many to understand them, does this apply to all systematic moral philosophy? Granted that this is what you mean, why would this be so? Does every argument in the public square have to be aimed at he broadest audience? Do we always have to take popular assumptions and prejudices as the foundations of our arguments? Which seems to be implied by your point.

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  77. jmhenry, I'm not sure I'd describe the ability to visit your loved one in a hospital, for example, as a "state benefit." Some of the legal protections and provisions conferred by marriage are arguably more like rights than benefits.

    Be that as it may, my point is not that SSM advocates' positive arguments are correct, but rather that they exist. And since they exist, wouldn't this space have been better used challenging the positive case for SSM, rather than pretending it doesn't exist?

    Prof. Feser denigrates the strategy of retreating into our religious communities in response to this decision, but this article seems to me to be more or less a concession to that strategy. It seems to be saying "We can't prove we're right, so there's no use in trying. But let's just take comfort in the fact that we're right."

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  78. I should add, appeals to equality and against discrimination are only good arguments if it can be established the things in question are equal. SSM advocates don't do this, for the most part; they assume it and then shriek at those who disagree.

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  79. Everything I've mentioned is part of a positive case that could be built for SSM.

    Or civil unions or any number of other possible legal options. And as I already noted, all of your original claims haven't even been seriously on the table among SSM advocates for years now, precisely because the reasons you give in your further comment make them inadequate and of secondary importance, at best, so unless we've suddenly started living in the 1990s, they're not the point at issue and thus were irrelevant to the point you were claiming to make.

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  80. First of all, I wish to apologies for my non-referential comments. On my new phone, the reply appears right bellow the comment, so I didn't think I needed to point toward who I was responding to.

    @Chad

    "Sure, but SSM advocates would say that it's still discriminatory to invent a new category to describe the state's recognition of their relationship when there's a category already available."

    But that assumes the State should recognize a sodomite union. I would dispute this on the grounds that not all unions should be recognized by the State. In fact, at this point, I think the government will end up just erasing marriage as a legal institution anyway, since there is no reason for the government to recognize marriage anymore, as the legal definition has become broad enough to be meaningless.

    Christi pax.

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  81. Jeremy Taylor, I'm not really addressing the argument of a typical "man on the street" SSM advocate. I'm talking about the best legal arguments brought to advance SSM in the courts. And again, I haven't followed the matter closely, but I believe these arguments don't revolve around affection being the basis of SSM. Rather, they revolve around the fact that if homosexuals don't have access to marriage, they don't have access to an institution that can convey upon them the same rights and protections that heterosexual married couples have. Visitation rights, rights for support in case of the dissolution of the relationship, custody rights of children, etc.

    Becoming a natural law advocate requires one to redefine all of one's metaphysical conceptions down to the very core. So, in that sense I don't consider it to be one moral philosophy among many others. But were there some argument against gay marriage that would only work if you were willing to totally rework your concept of substance until it was perfectly in line with Marxist theory, I would also consider that to be a non-starter. We have to be realistic about where our common ground lies.

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  82. Brandon, the access to benefits argument can't be separated from the discrimination argument, since the basis of the discrimination argument for marriage and against civil unions is that civil unions won't protect access to those benefits as well as marriage.

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  83. No, as you yourself said in your further comment:

    Sure, but SSM advocates would say that it's still discriminatory to invent a new category to describe the state's recognition of their relationship when there's a category already available. They also worry that treating gay unions as a separate category inherently makes gay unions unequal under the law to heterosexual unions.

    Neither of these points is in any way dependent on the benefits arguments that were originally put on the table to argue the need at-least-civil-union compromises; they depend only on inequality in the law, not in consequences like benefit. Your further comment was a vastly better statement of the primary arguments for same-sex marriage in recent years than your original comment, and your attempt to collapse it into a completely different argument is utterly baffling, particularly since the one is a consequence-based argument and the other is a rights-based argument, and therefore they work on different principles.

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  84. Chad,

    Well, most or all of the legal rights you talk of could be granted without even granting civil unions, let alone SSM, but I am not sure how they can be argued for as the basis of such unions or marriages unless one has established homosexuals have equal relationships to married heterosexuals.

    I am not sure what you mean by redefine all one's metaphysical conceptions. Leaving aside the question of what the current conceptions are and whether they are consistently socially liberal, are you suggesting that the public square should be constrained by the dominant philosophical and normative views in society at the time, to the point of not being able to argue against these basic assumptions? Why would this be the case? Haven't social liberal done just this over the last half century or more?

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  85. So your contention is that civil unions can be inherently unequal to marriage with regards to benefits, while not being inherently unequal with regards to rights.

    How would that work?

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  86. Jeremy, you're perfectly free to argue against SSM on the basis of Natural Law, just like the hypothetical Marxist is free to argue against it on the basis of a purely Marxist conception of substance. Good luck to you both.

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  87. Chad,

    That doesn't really answer my questions about the limitations you are placing on what can be discussed in the public square.

    Anyway, I am not sure how you are distinguishing rights and benefits. And your whole argument already assumes homosexuals deserve the sort of rights you talk about. But I don't see how things like visitation rights or inheritance rights or rights in custody disputes can't be granted without a union or a marriage. Perhaps support for ex-partners would need such a union if it were to be done in an automatic way, but I don't see why it is necessary. I have heard homosexual activists often talk about not being able to visit their sick partner. I have never heard them claim they want access to the same sort of alimony arrangements as heterosexual couples. Anyway, they could contract for that and the state could make it easer for any cohabiting couple - whether de facto heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, or even siblings or friends, to contract for such arrangements.

    It is also interesting that these rights are being desired without the duties - like long-term fidelity - that used to be incumbent on marriages.

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  88. @Jack foamed and frothed:
    The phrase is "let them be anathema", "let them be cursed". Put the emphasis on LET, iq.e. ALLOW
    them to be cursed, let them go their own way to their own destruction. It's degrading that we should
    have to defend Jesus Christ in front of a gang of apes.


    I think you may have forgotten to add "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" at the end. :-)
    Dude, you *really* need to calm down. For every person Feser encourages (OK, drags, sometimes he drags) back into the Catholic fold, it's quite possible your sort of tone drives five out. Would you agree that meaning is conveyed not just by what is said, but by *how* it is said? It seems obvious, no, that it's possible to undermine one's own message with the way one presents it?

    Chill! You may have a good message, but it's not going to reach those who could benefit from it if you keep phrasing it as you do. Maybe even go read some books on sales techniques (Dan Pink's is worth a look if you're not actually in sales) and you'll understand that not only are you not achieving what you think you are, you are actively working against it.

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  89. I am absolutely exulted by this article. Thanks for finally talking out on this.

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  90. Jeremy, this is Chad you're dealing with. Chad.

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  91. I'm not placing any limits on what can be discussed in the public square, Jeremy. I'm saying that natural law arguments of the kind that appeal to notions like immanent teleology and final causality are so far off most people's radar that they won't be effective political or legal arguments.

    And I'm not here to make the SSM proponent's case for him. I'm just saying a positive case has been made and it needs to be addressed. Sure, the positive case would also be a case for civil unions or other arrangements, but they also constitute a positive case for SSM.

    There are people here who are lawyers and who are also experts in natural law. I'd personally be more interested in hearing good arguments against the SSM proponent's positive case.

    (In my view, the argument that we could extend these rights to gays without extending them the right to marriage is not a good argument. We could equally have extended interracial couples the rights that attend marriage without giving them the right to marriage, but most people would obviously see that as unjust discrimination. It's not clear to most people why the gay couple would be any different. And if affirming that a relevant difference exists requires you to make recourse to metaphysical propositions that most people in the general public will find inscrutable at best, then that's not really going to help much.)

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  92. Great article, but I also wondered why Ron and Russell Mael of the Sparks were in the image. I guess because they are two men looking married? I don't remember any homosexuality in their songs, and, in fact, there was way too much heterosexuality as I recall.

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  93. That does say it all, on that front.

    In reference to arguments generally raised, I will say this in passing: If the claim is that 'Well, sure, civil unions would grant every material benefit that supposedly is present in 'marriage'. But by not calling it 'marriage' you're making people feel as if their union is somehow less special than 'marriage', therefore it should be illegal to distinguish between the two even in terms of title.' is, frankly, a good indicator of mental illness if sincerely held, and otherwise a straightforward attempt at changing minds by dominating language.

    Really, you're dealing with people who regard the very existence of criticism or dissent as some kind of tear-their-hair-out, wailing-to-high-heavens threat. A family owned, ass-end-of-nowhere pizza parlor saying 'Well, we'd happily serve gay people but we don't want to serve a same-sex wedding' was enough to prompt death threats, broad-scale 'activist' harassment, and more. And for all that yammering about 'love' (#lovewins!!!), it didn't take 24 hours for people to move on to the threat of, 'And now we're going to sue and tax everyone we can who opposes same-sex marriage! We're going to stamp you out of existence, you BIGOTS!' Again, not on the fringe - this was pretty prominent.

    Love never had all that much to do with it. This isn't about safeguarding civil rights - it's about attacking any and all dissent that exists on this topic. Yes, including in churches, church-run schools, and otherwise.

    Law never had much to do with it either, by the way. The SCOTUS decision on this front is a joke, and the idea that same-sex marriage is a civil right, written into the Constitution itself (who knew!) is laughable.

    Oh, and I will say this much - since Chad saw fit to bring my name up. (He always freaks out when I recount his history of urging everyone to hold off on the fight against gay marriage 'Because we're losing souls!' and revisit it in a hundred years, then revealing that actually he's adamantly in favor of gay marriage, it's just that he opposes it 'in a religious sense'. A sense which, notice, he spends practically nil time discussing or advocating, while all his time goes to sniping at people who oppose gay marriage. Funny, huh?)

    Prof. Feser denigrates the strategy of retreating into our religious communities in response to this decision, but this article seems to me to be more or less a concession to that strategy.

    Actually, it's a realization that some people simply aren't worth the time to talk to. The person who is arguing about the Matrix isn't unworthy of conversation simply because he's arguing that we live in the Matrix. It's the level of dishonesty and self-delusion he displays. There's no productive discussion to be had with him.

    See, Chad, the problem isn't with gay marriage per se. It's with dishonest and/or deluded people - productive conversation isn't possible with them, and it's pointless, even harmful, to pretend that they're worth trying to convince.

    Naturally, I say this for other people's benefit, not to convince you. No point trying to convince the dishonest, remember?

    With that, I leave you to your inevitable and unintentionally hilarious fury. Remember to remind everyone you're totally against gay marriage in churches again - saying as much to try and buy cheap credibility for your otherwise constant #lovewins schtick. Civil rights are important, after all, and if you have to bluff to make progress, well. Anything for the God of the State, I'm sure. ;)

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  94. Say hey, David M,

    Many thanks for the S. Gershom reference. I'll look into his thought when opportunity avails.

    And, with regard to hyperbole, let me try again: Have you yet to see the recent film "The Imitation Game"? It covers the life of the logician/code-breaker Alan Turing, focussing especially on his WWii efforts. A first-rate film, and I'm sure that its intellectual bent would appeal to many who frequent this blog. At any rate, regardless of whether or not the filmmakers got the details of his suicide right, I'm quite certain on a number of counts that *that* type of alienation and despair is and has been very real for a lot of people. And, that is the type of situation that I'm trying to bring to the fore here.

    Again, I *do* believe same-sex attraction to be objectively disordered. I also believe, however, that certain ways of expressing this conviction do more harm than good. We inhabit a cultural climate in which the sort of confidence requisite for metaphysical convictions is scarce, aside from a wide scale, reflex-like and unthinking affirmation of the primacy of individual desire and "freedom." However petty it may seem, for a lot of people, it is asking quite a lot from them simply to drop this inherited worldview, in much the same way as it would be difficult for us to drop our individualism and adopt the collectivist mentality of many ancient and contemporary societies (i.e., your own proclivities, preferences, and aspirations simply *don't count*--the good of *the group* is what matters, ergo, *just drop* your own interests, and learn to *ignore* the fact that you find nothing at all by way of personal fulfillment in serving the group: having suddenly to conform to such a way of living and viewing things would, I think, sink many into a despair from which they could not arise).

    Compare on this point the parable of the wheat and tares (Mt. 13:24-30). In this light, what I am suggesting is simply that, if you attack that which is wrong *in the wrong way*, you might wind up destroying the good in the process. To be clear, here I interpret the parable in such a way that the individual person is the whole field, the wheat are the virtues and characteristics whereby the person is capable of attaining to a unique excellence ("vocation"), and the tares are the vicious dispositions of soul which are such as formally to impede the individual from attaining to excellence, integration, flourishing, etc. I think many of the saints provide good examples of this point--e.g., Therese of Lisieux's fascination with "pretty things" turns into the adornment of the Church with rose petals; Athanasius' passionate hatred of heresy at worst provokes the verbal abuse of his opponents, but, also, fuels the brilliance of his articulation of the Trinitarian life of God; St. Francis of Assisi's flair for the flamboyant and extravagant is transformed into an unparalleled transparency before the revelation of God in Christ. And so on.

    [More coming . . .]

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  95. Continued:

    The point is not that goodness depends upon evil and that evil as such should be approved (Rom. 3:5ff.). Rather, the point is that the human condition, in every age, is beset with its unique complications--that at the bottom of (and, therefore, close to) every vice is a virtue that is dying to rise forth, breathe clean air, expand, and flourish. I would rather not have to deal with a culture in which uneducated, fickle desire constitutes the principal moral and metaphysical point of reference for the masses. Similarly, I would like to think that St. Paul would have preferred that the culture in which he ministered, preached and suffered simply *recognized* that slavery vitiates the infinite dignity of the human person (rather than having to take the more cumbersome route of slowly persuading people via a costly personal example that would, however, resound through the ages to the extent to which it was acknowledged in all its seriousness).

    The holiness of our own lives, in other words, is perhaps stronger evidence (at a practical level) of the truths in which we believe than any argument could be, and, to the extent to which we really do love God, his creation, and his image in our neighbor, and act upon that love, we will help others to apprehend the rightfulness and truthfulness that we ourselves have seen.

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  96. "The holiness of our own lives, in other words, is perhaps stronger evidence (at a practical level) of the truths in which we believe than any argument could be, and, to the extent to which we really do love God, his creation, and his image in our neighbor, and act upon that love, we will help others to apprehend the rightfulness and truthfulness that we ourselves have seen."

    The greatest argument for The Holy One are the Holy ones, for they reflect His Nature. If you wish to convert souls, become a Saint.

    Christi pax.

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  97. Hi Mark and Martin,

    Not sure what's so mysterious. The Sparks image (from the Angst in My Pants album) is there just because (a) it's two guys pictured like they're getting married and (b) it's funny. As you say, Martin, the album cover had nothing necessarily to do with homosexuality -- it's just typical Mael brothers goofiness. But it still makes for (what I thought was) an obviously apt image.

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  98. The problem with the way Feser reasons about gay marriage in this post is twofold.

    First, he marginalizes and trivializes the intimate relationships of gays and lesbians, rendering them unimportant to his consideration of whether society should allow for gay marriage (which he always places in scare quotes).

    Second, he treats metaphysics like it’s mathematics. It’s not. Unlike with math, no diverse collection of people, living in a democracy, is ever going to arrive at a shared starting point for metaphysics, and even if they did, they would take argumentative paths down from that metaphysical mountaintop only to reach very different villages (conclusions).

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  99. Chad,

    Your argument appears to be that the assumptions underlying natural law and traditional accounts of marriage - that clearly differentiate between SSM, based in affection as it is, and traditional marriage based in reproduction and the natural ends and forms of human sexuality - must be rejected out of hand because they are unpopular. Okay, that is of course a highly problematic position, but leaving that aside, you also seem to want to defend the cogency of SSM arguments without exposing them to any critiques that don't accept contemporary mores and show flaws in the reasoning of these arguments. SSM marriage and interracial marriage is obviously not a good comparison if one gives any consideration to the differing nature of the relationship - ie., there relationship to human sexual functions and ends. Only by asserting that marriage is and always has been about affection between two people, and sticking one's fingers in one's ears when anyone challenges this - can this be considered a cogent argument.

    You need to think about what your claim is. Are you suggesting that the SSM advocates make good argument in themselves (whether or not the masses agree), or that their arguments are simply reflective of current opinion?

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  100. "Second, he treats metaphysics like it’s mathematics."

    Ha ha ha, probably the most ridiculous thing I've read today. That's saying something.

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  101. Did anyone else notice the anonymous calling himself Mark never replied after I pointed out his shared phrasing to Santi? Actually, his arguments resembled Santi's style as well.

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  102. gay marriage (which he always places in scare quotes).

    If one got a state-issued piece of paper legally recognizing santi as General Napoleon, it would be just as appropriate to use the scare quotes.

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  103. You can take homosexual relationships seriously without conflating them with marriage; the same being true of friendship and other types of relationship as well.

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  104. Feser writes:

    A third opines: “We can natter on about philosophy all we want, but the bottom line is that scripture says that the world outside our minds is real. The trouble is that we’ve gotten away from the Bible. Maybe we should withdraw into our own faith communities and just try to live our biblically-based belief in external reality the best we can.”

    Whenever I hear this argument, I must confess that I can at least understand where the person is coming from. When a culture becomes so irrationally hostile towards proponents of traditional sexual morality that some previously unknown pizza owner is (as Crude pointed out) subjected to vicious public aggression, then you can't help but get the sense that maybe a "withdrawal" of some sort will become necessary eventually.

    The person is basically saying that postmodern culture is in the same shape as the Twelve Colonies in Battlestar Galactica. They are Laura Roslin, telling us: "The war is over. We lost. We need to get out of here and we need to start having babies."

    Perhaps a bit dramatic, but that's what it sounds like to me. In any case, what Skyliner says here holds true regardless: "The holiness of our own lives, in other words, is perhaps stronger evidence (at a practical level) of the truths in which we believe than any argument could be..."

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  105. I'm not saying natural law argument should be ruled out because they're unpopular. I'm saying that, without a significant education in the background metaphysical assumptions underlying natural law theory, natural law arguments are unconvincing. Just understanding the arguments takes a not insignificant amount of time, and it's not realistic to expect that kind of commitment from people who are unsympathetic to your cause. Of course, I might be wrong about that. Maybe some charismatic natural law theorist will rise and persuade the populace to take the time to understand natural law arguments. Maybe this will lead to a sweeping wave of conversions to Natural Law Thomism across the nation and the reversal of SSM laws.

    I'm not saying that anyone who brings natural law arguments to a legal case or a political debate is violating church and state and should be silenced. I'm saying that without a huge shift in cultural attitudes, that case isn't going to get much of a hearing. So if you are interested in changing public opinion on this matter in the short term, you'd be wise to find another route.

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  106. Chad,

    I don't disagree with that. I would question whether an outline of natural law theory, or popular presentation, is that hard for many people to grasp and even intuitively sympathise with. The problem is that such an outline will meet objections and more detailed philosophical argument is required to meet these objections. But this is the case for any theory that appears in the public square. The real problem seems to be that natural law teaching is out of vogue with the intellectual and imaginative climate of today, both amongst academia and the media, and the populace at large, and perhaps that even some institutional and material conditions of modern society are hostile to its acceptance.

    You did seem to imply, by the way, that there are positive arguments for SSM marriage that are cogent in themselves, which is an entirely different point. Many are cogent and sound only because their premises are not examined (such as the silly argument made comparing SSM and interracial marriage that you alluded to, which rests entirely on marriage being solely based on affection between two people).

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  107. As to the strength of SSM advocate's arguments, in my opinion, their strictly legal and political arguments are better than the legal and political arguments raised against them. That committed gay couples, many of whom have children, need the rights and protection afforded to committed straight couples, and that marriage is the most efficient way to convey these rights, seems to me to be a decent argument. Of course it could be responded that civil unions could also convey these rights, but I've yet to hear a good argument as to WHY the state has a compelling reason to create an entirely new institution to convey these rights when a capable institution already exists. The idea that civil unions and marriages can be "separate but equal" institutions recalls the paradigm example of unjust discrimination.

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  108. I was not comparing SSM to interracial marriage. I was merely pointing out that the fact that we can extend the rights that usually attend marriage without extending the right to marriage does not mean that no right to marriage is present. "We could take care of these rights some other way" isn't a good argument against taking care of the rights with a means already available.

    Again, the missing argument for me is why the state has an interest in creating a unique institution or complex set of laws and contracts when an institution capable of doing the job already exists, and is well-defined and well-understood.

    And if the situation is as Crude puts it, and civil unions and marriages are totally equal institutions, then the natural law advocate is in no position to call the SSM advocate silly for complaining about semantics. If the SSM advocate is "insane" for complaining about civil unions if they're completely equal to marriage, then the natural law advocate is equally insane for complaining about SSM if it's equal to a civil union. If it's semantics, then it's semantics all the way down.

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  109. Chad,

    Well, if they have better legal arguments, it is interesting that the U.S. Supreme Court used essentially political reasoning - an act of will to quote the Chief Justice - rather than forensic legal reasoning.

    Anyway, your point about separate but equality seems to entirely rest of accepting that marriage is based only on affection. If marriage is based upon the form and ends of human sexual functions, as the natural law tradition maintains, then this creates a clear distinction between heterosexual marriages and homosexual relationships. And a good argument can be made that the state has a compelling interest to recognise heterosexual marriages, and their special qualities as relationships, because of their central role in childrearing and the family, and therefore society. Now you can dismiss and ignore this counterpoint because it is unlikely to be accepted today, but you can ignore it completely and claimed to have refuted it at the same time. The only way the SSM argument you give can be considered cogent and sound is to deal with this counterargument. It is rarely done.

    Indeed, what compelling reason would the state have for recognising ay marriages if marriage is to be based on affection? All the issues like child custody or visitation of sick partners do not require an institutional union to be recognised.

    And, of course, there is the problem of why the argument you give doesn't apply to polygamous or incestuous couples, or perhaps even to friends or siblings in a non sexual relationship.

    By the way, I believe the amount of homosexuals with kids is very minor compared to the heterosexual population.

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  110. In reference to your second post, Chad, it all depends on how one defines marriage, as I said. If marriage is about affection then, yes, there is little reason not to extend marital status to homosexuals (though there is an even better argument for getting rid of the status entirely, and there are questions about why it should be only non-incestuous homosexual couples who get this new right and not groups like polygamists and the incestuous), but this is just what is in dispute between most traditional marriage supporters and most supporters of SSM.

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  111. Within US legal jurisprudence, I don't think it's the case that marriage *as a legal institution* is based on the form and ends of human sexual functions. That might be the reason it exists as a purely philosophical phenomenon within the natural law tradition, but I don't think that's the justification for its recognition within US law (I'm not a lawyer, so I could be wrong). With adoption and surrogacy, I don't think the argument that heterosexual marriages are uniquely for or capable of child-rearing in a way homosexual couples aren't and can't be holds much water anymore. Why is a same sex couple that adopts or has children through surrogacy inherently less capable or less fit for child rearing than a traditionally married couple. If you have to resort to forms and ends and teleology, the average person won't be able to refute you, but that will be cold comfort since, by the same token, you won't be able to convince him. So you can have your neat, tidy, unrefuted argument and nobody can take that away from you, but if it's incapable of persuading anyone, what good does it do you?

    And for the record, I think the arguments SSM advocates produce do indeed apply to polygamous and incestuous couples and that the left is going to have to bite that bullet one day.

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  112. I don't know how American legal jurisprudence conceives of marriage either. I think, to a certain degree, it would depend upon one's legal philosophy, and how one interprets laws and constitutional clauses and fits all the pieces together. I doubt there is any clearly defined justification for marriage in American law per se, but I don't know.

    Maybe I have it wrong, but if we are just establishing that the relationships are not the same, I don't think it matter homosexuals can adopt. The heterosexual relationship is still one based in following one natural sexual nature and ends. It is the relationship that naturally arises this nature and ends. The homosexual relationship is a different relationship, arising in a different way and having a different character, though there may be some similarities.

    It must be said that is far from settled that married homosexual couples can bring up children as satisfactorily, in general, as married heterosexual ones, as much as it is frequently asserted they can. As I recall, there is no study that shows this that was not so beset by errors (like small, non-random sample) as to be useless. The APA even got a lesbian activist (yey for the independence of sciences!), Charlotte J. Patterson, to survey the studies and she admitted as much, before still claiming they can be used to support the case for homosexual parenting.

    I think that SSM advocates need a good argument the state should recognise marriages at all, given their arguments, even more than to consider the ramifications for polygamy and incestuous couples.

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  113. With adoption and surrogacy, I don't think the argument that heterosexual marriages are uniquely for or capable of child-rearing in a way homosexual couples aren't and can't be holds much water anymore.

    But, again, isn't that part of what's at issue? You have to actually make the case that there is no rational basis for the traditional marriage norm that children have a fundamental right to be united to their biological mother and father -- a norm which, according to the traditional marriage advocate, is undermined by surrogacy and same-sex civil marriage. This norm may no longer "hold water" in the culture, but you can't just use popular opinion to contrary; you actually have to show that the norm has no rational basis.

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  114. One thing we know is that gay people's intimate relationships exist, and that those relationships are accompanied by biological urges every bit as strong as those which accompany intimate heterosexual relationships.

    We don't know whether Feser's system of metaphysics is correct.

    This means that to go back to denying gay marriage to those who want it will cause real gay and lesbian couples tangible harm and pain in the name of an abstract metaphysical system that we can never know is true. Is that reasonable?

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  115. Your argument, Chad, to use a perhaps bad analogy, seems to be like saying that because one person drove from London to Exeter and one person got a train, as they both end up in the same place, we can say they both used the railway to get there (a better analogy might be motorist hitchhiking or using a hot air balloon because of the questionable claim that homosexual relationships can in fact reproduce the outcomes of heterosexual ones).

    There is distinct method of transport and there is still a distinction in the relationships. Now, no doubt the SSM advocate will claim this distinction doesn't matter, but he has to show why the natural orientation towards child rearing and propping up the family, as well as relationship to man's central sexual and romantic aspects, does not significantly set the two apart.

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  116. Santi,

    Feser is not arguing that his metaphysical system is correct. He’s making a metaphysical argument. There’s a huge difference. We’re all making metaphysical arguments, whether we know it or not. We’re all arguing for what we believe to best for both the individual human person and the collective. The advocates of SSM argue that it’s best for all persons to have the same rights, and that the rights of the individual trump those of the collective. That argument is not necessarily “correct.” Is it true that all individuals should have equal rights at all times and in all circumstances? What about the individual who, following his or her inclination and desires, decides to rape a child? Should we grant his or her right to follow that desire and perform that act? Most of us would argue that, no, such a person should be denied a basic right—to freedom, for starters—and be confined to a locked cell to safeguard others from harm. Because of course others have rights not to be harmed in this way. The advocate of SSM argues, of course, that gay marriages do no one any harm. Has that been absolutely and definitively established? Some of us don’t think so. Perhaps it’s far better for children—who are, after all, the next generation of individuals—to be raised by a couple who afford them the best opportunity for psychological balance by modeling the two contrary but complementary poles of our sexual nature (no one is purely masculine or purely feminine: there are elements of the one sex in the other, e.g. hormones). A child may develop a stronger and more resilient self for having been nurtured by both of the two sexes than one who hasn’t. We have no “scientific” studies proving outcomes for children one way or the other. So you see, Santi, it’s all just a metaphysical argument, but with practical effects. Feser thinks he’s making a good argument, better than competing ones, and on those grounds, he’s far more reasonable than you are, who are evidently so convinced by your own unconscious metaphysical position you don’t even realize you’re just making an argument for which there is no solid proof and plenty of room for dissent.

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  117. To add to what jmhenry says (I don't wish to bog Chad down with further objections, so this is not meant to address what he said, only I think that an interesting point has been made with interesting implications that I would like to ruminate on), it should be emphasized that while a child brought about through the use of reproductive technologies or a child given up for adoption are not necessarily the product of a marriage, they are the product of a union that is heterosexual. So, for instance, two men who raise a child conceived through surrogacy are engaged in caring and rearing the offspring of a technologically mediated union of one of the men and, in the case of commercial surrogacy, an anonymous woman. If the surrogate mother is not anonymous, but remains involved as a parent, it seems that we would have, effectively, a polyamorous arrangement, with one of the members (the mother), somewhat excluded from the benefits of marriage (she could not receive a child tax credit, say, or file jointly with the husbands).

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  118. @Santi

    We don't know whether Feser's system of metaphysics is correct.

    In the case of this article, the metaphysical system used leads to an obvious "map versus territory" fallacy regarding "marriage".

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  119. Portraying SSM opponents as innocent heros in a matrix of confused idiots with whom no reason can be founds is just story telling really. Great film, but it seems you took both pills and lost the plot, in both narratives.

    I often hear the phrase pro-gay marriage, whereas my stance is that I'm not against it. I'm more concerned about religious fundamentalists having any leverage in society. They cause fear, pain, death and ultimately - war.

    The reality of it is most SSM opponents cannot actually make an argument, and deflect from directly addressing it with a variety of stories (like yours) and red-herrings (like marrying a dog), they don't have the ability to argue because they have adopted the views of their religious community, outdated moral values, dogma and fear. Its difficult to defend you position when you don't really know why you hold it.

    Either way, its the law in the US now.

    I thought the article was extremely biased and childish.

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  120. Themistogenes of SyracuseJuly 1, 2015 at 1:45 AM

    In St. Thomas's public disputations on Evil, 6. (Quaestiones Disputatae de Malo, translation in McDermott, Aquinas: Selected Philosophical Writings, p. 176) he characterises the argument against free will in a similar way:

    "[...] The opinion [that there is no free will] is also philosophically anarchic, not only opposed to the faith but destroying the foundations of ethics. For if we are not in any way free to will but compelled, everything that makes up ethics vanishes: pondering action, exhorting, commanding, punishing, praising, condemning. Opinions like these, which destroy the foundations of a branch of philosophy, are called anarchic: the opinion that nothing changes, for example, which does away with natural philosophy. People are led to embrace them, Aristotle [Metaph. 4 {5.1009a15-22}] says partly by brinkmanship and partly by sophistical reasoning to which they can't find answers."

    ("Both doctrines" in the passage from the Metaphysics, below, refers to the opinions that "all contradictory statements are true of the same subject at the same time" and that "it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be.")

    "Evidently, then, both doctrines proceed from the same way of thinking. But the same method of discussion must not be used with all opponents; for some need persuasion, and others compulsion. Those who have been driven to this position by difficulties in their thinking can easily be cured of their ignorance; for it is not their expressed argument but their thought that one has to meet. But those who argue for the sake of argument can be cured only by refuting the argument as expressed in speech and in words."

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  121. Portraying SSM opponents as innocent heros in a matrix of confused idiots with whom no reason can be founds is just story telling really

    As usual, another characterization of Ed's entry and no actual engagement of the content.

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  122. Anonymous:

    It's not that Feser is just "making a metaphysical argument." If that were the case, he wouldn't display such blatant contempt for gay and lesbian lives, treat their intimate relationships as trivial, and put gay marriage in disrespectful scare quotes.

    Instead, in this post he's the Antonin Scalia of philosophy, displaying hubris, smug sanctimoniousness, and Pharisaism. It rouses the choir, but it's demagoguery.

    Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, way back in 1686, put it succinctly: “All philosophy is based on two things only: curiosity and poor eyesight…The trouble is we want to know more than we can see.”

    Feser pretends to know far more of the nature of human existence as a whole than is reasonable. He doesn’t have the high vista on gay marriage, but just pretends to have it. From this confidence man posturing, he ludicrously displays 100% metaphysical certainty, claiming to own the flag of reason, looking down on those in error, and patronizingly treating the opposition as completely unhinged.

    Back to life, back to reality. Feser is not Charlton Heston in the original Planet of the Apes, confined to small quarters, crying into the heavens against the sub-humans who resist him--"It's a madhouse! A madhouse!"

    He's not being put upon. His religious liberty is not under assault. It's precisely the opposite. For millenia, gay and lesbian people have been put upon; their liberty has been under assault. A historic wrong has been righted by the Supreme Court this past week. We should all be proud to be Americans right now, not up in arms.

    So Feser's rhetorical antics here are all theatrics, hysteria, and bullshit--but there are religious traditionalists who eat this sort of resentment toward gays, lesbians, and liberals up.

    It's exactly akin to the Southern resentment that comes from elderly whites who feel that blacks no longer know their place; that the world that they took for granted growing up in the 1940s and 50s has been turned upside down. It's a way of not grappling with one's role in injustice; of changing the subject; of taking from the real victims the mantle of victim. Woe is you.

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  123. young and restedJuly 1, 2015 at 5:57 AM

    Can anyone recommend a good book that provides an introduction to sexual ethics from multiple points of view?

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  124. Must.....resist.....urge ...........to feed............troll!!!!!

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  125. the SSM advocate will claim this distinction doesn't matter, but he has to show why the natural orientation towards child rearing and propping up the family, as well as relationship to man's central sexual and romantic aspects, does not significantly set the two apart.

    Jeremy, I think you're conflating philosophical and legal arguments. The SSM advocate does not have to show any such thing to win the LEGAL argument. He need only show that gay couples in fact have children and those children aren't able to have some of the legal protections that children of heterosexual couples have via access to marriage. He could in fact argue that the reason the outcomes of children of homosexual couples are worse is because they lack those legal protections.

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  126. But, again, isn't that part of what's at issue? You have to actually make the case that there is no rational basis for the traditional marriage norm that children have a fundamental right to be united to their biological mother and father -- a norm which, according to the traditional marriage advocate, is undermined by surrogacy and same-sex civil marriage.

    Once again, I think the biggest disconnect between natural law advocates and the rest of the world is that natural law advocates are under the impression that their philosophical arguments must be answered before any legal arguments can be made. A SSM advocate doesn't have to disprove your purely philosophical arguments about the rational basis for traditional marriage norms to make his legal case. He need only show that he has children, and that without access to marriage, those children aren't given the same right of support in the case of dissolution of the relationship that children of traditional marriage are privilege to. He can show that his children are subject to fewer protections from the state than the children of other people because of his lack of access to the institution of marriage.

    Unless you're talking about taking children away from gay couples, arguments about a child's right to his biological parents are non-starters. There are children who grow up in same sex households who have never known any other life, and whose biological parents aren't interested in or capable of raising them. Courts are much less interested in philosophical arguments than they are in the welfare of those actual children. I would think that from the court's point of view, the burden would be on you to prove that the children would be better off without the protections provided them by allowing their parents to marry. Unless you're talking about passing laws to prevent gays from adopting or to block them having access to surrogacy.

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  127. Lastly, I think I say this every time this subject comes up here, but I'm unimpressed by arguments against SSM based on studies that supposedly prove that children do worse under their care than they do under the care of heterosexual couples. I would guess that you could put together studies that show that children do worse in black homes than they do in white homes; that would hardly show that blacks legally shouldn't be allowed to have children. Until a study comes along that says that children of homosexual couples are far worse off than children in orphanages or foster homes, I don't think it matters.

    Gay marriage or no gay marriage, until the orphanages are completely emptied world-wide, I am 100% for allowing any stable, financially-solvent adult adopting as many children as he can adequately care for.

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  128. Santi:
    Stop trolling. Get a life.

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  129. Chad,

    You are begging the question.
    Whether homosexual couples "can adequately care for [children]" is precisely what is being debated. Social experiments done to the possible detriment of innocent children are inexcusable.

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  130. "Gay marriage or no gay marriage, until the orphanages are completely emptied world-wide, I am 100% for allowing any stable, financially-solvent adult adopting as many children as he can adequately care for."

    So you're for the forced shutdown of Christian adoption agencies that disagree? I have no doubt that you are. As usual, religious principles always take a back-seat on any issue you're addressing. It will give you the opportunity to bash these Christian agencies for being petty, uncharitable biggots though.

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  131. No, I'm not for the forced shutdown of Christian adoption agencies who disagree. Given that shutting them down will result in fewer children being adopted, I'm for a religious exception for religiously affiliated adoption agencies.

    But what you folks are failing to comprehend is that gay couples already have children. There are tens of thousands of children out there who have gay parents and that's the only life they've ever known. My guess is courts will care more about those actual children than about your philosophical arguments about those children. To keep (or take?) these children from gay couples, it wouldn't do just to prove that heterosexual couples do better, you'd have to prove that being raised in a gay home is worse than an orphanage or foster care. Because that's the actual alternative facing children in the system in a world where there are more orphans than there are traditionally married couples willing to adopt them.

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  132. @Jeremy Taylor:

    Well, if they have better legal arguments, it is interesting that the U.S. Supreme Court used essentially political reasoning - an act of will to quote the Chief Justice - rather than forensic legal reasoning.

    I'm not sure where you're getting that strange disjunction. The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is quite explicitly based on "forensic legal reasoning"—specifically a Fourteenth Amendment analysis—whether you (or for that matter the Chief Justice) agree with it or not.

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  133. The organisms of the left are beyond reason (of any kind other than instrumental); and of "truth" entirely.

    Enjoy this, and then tell me that anything they say has to do with either reason or truth.

    https://youtu.be/gGvrh0ZgCp8?t=265

    The whole notion that we under this interpretation dealing with a moral "fellow" in any significant sense ... though that is what Rorty bases his own appeals to pity and your acquiescence on - i.e., to sentiment, and to a supposed interest "in the details of the lives of others", and an aversion to so-called "cruelty" (apparently mere tolerance or indifference) as the worst thing we can do, is purely logical horseshit, if I may be so blunt.


    But, of course if he shrugs, as liberals do, at truth and reason and an objective reality, what grounds would we have to expect that in confronting a postmodern liberal, reason, as opposed to mere rhetoric, would have any role to play, anyway?

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  134. Scott, I always thought that the Fourteenth Amendment had to do with the abolition of slavery? Would a non-lawyer understand that link?

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  135. "People are led to embrace them, Aristotle [Metaph. 4 {5.1009a15-22}] says partly by brinkmanship and partly by sophistical reasoning to which they can't find answers."

    Does McDermott (translator of the De Malo) really think that St. Thomas used a term ("brinkmanship") that was invented to characterize the American strategic posture toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War, in summarizing Aristotle's position?

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  136. I always thought that the Fourteenth Amendment had to do with the abolition of slavery? Would a non-lawyer understand that link?

    He's referring to the Equal Protection Clause, which has been the cornerstone of actual advocacy for same-sex marriage for decades now:

    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

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  137. Just a few pages in, but I think you guys would find this passage from the decision interesting:

    The centrality of marriage to the human condition
    makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for
    millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of
    history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives,
    binding families and societies together. Confucius
    taught that marriage lies at the foundation of government.
    2 Li Chi: Book of Rites 266 (C. Chai & W. Chai eds., J.
    Legge transl. 1967). This wisdom was echoed centuries
    later and half a world away by Cicero, who wrote, “The
    first bond of society is marriage; next, children; and then
    the family.” See De Officiis 57 (W. Miller transl. 1913).
    There are untold references to the beauty of marriage in
    religious and philosophical texts spanning time, cultures,
    and faiths, as well as in art and literature in all their
    forms. It is fair and necessary to say these references
    were based on the understanding that marriage is a union
    between two persons of the opposite sex.
    That history is the beginning of these cases. The respondents
    say it should be the end as well. To them, it
    would demean a timeless institution if the concept and
    lawful status of marriage were extended to two persons of
    the same sex. Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a
    gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view
    long has been held—and continues to be held—in good
    faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout
    the world.

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  138. He's referring to the Equal Protection Clause, which has been the cornerstone of actual advocacy for same-sex marriage for decades now:

    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


    Understood. Thanks, Brandon.

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  139. Does McDermott (translator of the De Malo) really think that St. Thomas used a term ("brinkmanship") that was invented to characterize the American strategic posture toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War, in summarizing Aristotle's position?

    His translations are always highly colloquial. Aquinas's actual word is protervia, rashness, recklessness, audacity, impudence, shamelessness in violating boundaries.

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  140. Yes, thanks, Brandon. Exactly right, of course.

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  141. "Given that shutting them down will result in fewer children being adopted"

    This isn't necessarily true. I imagine the government could take a more active role in promoting adoption agencies that aren't "bigoted". They could fund "non-bigoted" agencies. In time, we could transfer children from "bigoted" agencies to "non-bigoted". Those children could then be placed in loving, wonderful, financially stable homes. Would you favor shutting down Christian adoption agencies using this method. It's all about the kids.

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  142. I never used the word bigoted in reference to Christian adoption agencies, and never would.

    I wouldn't shut down any reputable adoption agency for any reason so long as there are still children who need to be adopted.

    Yes, oddly enough, when we're talking about adoption, I think it is all about the kids. Call me crazy.

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  143. I never said you used the word bigoted. It's what a large portion (growing every day) of the population happens to believe on this specific point.

    Funny you use the word reputable though. I'm sure proponents of SSM would make the argument that bigotry would detract from an agency's reputation.

    Given your earlier points, it seems you should be in favor of the slow shutdown of Christian adoption agencies. Transition slowly. Build the infrastructure to eventually remove the bigoted agencies without actually hampering the placement of children as it stands now. It would, eventually anyway, open of the market so that the commodity could be purchased in a less discriminatory fashion. Resulting in more adoptions.



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  144. Given your earlier points, it seems you should be in favor of the slow shutdown of Christian adoption agencies.

    No. It doesn't.

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  145. I wouldn't shut down any reputable adoption agency for any reason so long as there are still children who need to be adopted.

    Would you be in favor of not permitting Christian adoption agencies to contract with the state? I mean, you've already argued that not permitting same-sex couples access to the institution of civil marriage is unjustly discriminatory (again, assuming that there is no rational basis for state promotion of traditional marital norms)?

    If a Christian adoption agency discriminates against same-sex couples, then this would be the same sort of unjust discrimination if the state is involved in any way (again, assuming there is no rational basis for state promotion of traditional marital norms).

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  146. Would you be in favor of not permitting Christian adoption agencies to contract with the state?

    No.

    I mean, you've already argued that not permitting same-sex couples access to the institution of civil marriage is unjustly discriminatory

    No, I've repeated arguments used by SSM advocates to that effect.

    If a Christian adoption agency discriminates against same-sex couples, then this would be the same sort of unjust discrimination if the state is involved in any way (again, assuming there is no rational basis for state promotion of traditional marital norms).

    Which is why I said there should be a religious exception.

    And I can see we've reached the point of the conversation where attempts to rebut the SSM advocate's arguments have been abandoned and the usual suspects renew their perpetual Inquisition of me.

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  147. Why not? Long term this could lead to the placement of more children. It's not attacking your faith. It's just admitting that it has no place in areas where it's dogmatic conclusions will conflict with legal protections afforded to all citizens. Like photography, catering services, or bakeries. Play by the rules or don't play at all. Christian adoption agencies discriminate against homosexuals. You already agree with this.

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  148. Which is why I said there should be a religious exception.

    But would such an exception be defensible, if it is viewed to be based solely on "animus" towards same-sex couples? In fact, I predict this is exactly the argument that same-sex couples will use in order to argue that, at the very least, Christian adoption agencies should not be permitted to contract with the state. They will say it's no different than a hypothetical adoption agency that discriminates against interracial couples for "religious reasons." We would not allow a religious exception in that case, so why allow one in the case of adoption agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples?

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  149. "And I can see we've reached the point of the conversation where attempts to rebut the SSM advocate's arguments have been abandoned and the usual suspects renew their perpetual Inquisition of me."

    No, you've reached the point in the discussion where others try to follow the trajectory of the points you've made. Unfortunately, the only way to mount any sort of defense against this trajectory will be to appeal to the defunct unpopular methods already deemed pointless by you. This is where you bow out.

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  150. You already agree with this.

    I do? I didn't know that. When was I going to tell me this?

    We would not allow a religious exception in that case, so why allow one in the case of adoption agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples?

    In my view? Because if we don't the religious adoption agencies will close shop and fewer children will be adopted.

    My view may not stand up in court. I'm not a lawyer. No sense asking me questions only a lawyer could answer.

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  151. No, you've reached the point in the discussion where others try to follow the trajectory of the points you've made. Unfortunately, the only way to mount any

    Oh, darn. Look at that. I got so bored halfway through your sentence I just stopped quoting you.

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  152. Oh, I see. I consider this a victory. Finally, I've pushed Chad into resorting to the preferred method of liberal "argument".

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  153. Oh, I see. I consider this a victory. Finally, I've pushed

    Darnitt! Happened again. I don't think this is going to work out.

    Have you tried not being boring?

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  154. But, you know, if I was the horrible, mustache-twirling, maniacal, evil, Catholic-eating liberal monster you want me to be, that wouldn't address the SSM proponent's arguments one bit.

    Scott produced the actual decision. If you have actual intellectual legal high ground that you claim, tell us what's wrong with it. (You'll note I didn't write it, so refuting me or vilifying me won't solve your problem.)

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  155. Oh, I see. I scored another victory. I have once again pushed Chad into resorting to the preferred method of liberal "argument".

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  156. So to sum up: the one who has weak arguments is the one who holds the higher ground because what appears to be is the opposite of what really is. The chronic skeptic only *seems* to have the higher ground, because common people are unable to give an impressive counter-argument when the said skeptic takes away the premises on which their counter-arguments are based. Sorry but leaving aside the issue at hand (same-sex marriage), that is pure sophism.

    He has not sufficiently defended his premise that skeptics are just like same-sex marriage supporters (he has not done so at all actually, but just assumed the parallelism), and his logic is weak, if he is making this a necessary premise, rather than a contingent one. Not *all* reasons to support same-sex marriage are comparable to chronic skepticism.

    After reading the dithyrambic reviews on top of his page, I was expecting to be impressed by the Feser's rhetoric, but I am unimpressed. Not because I disagrees that he disagrees about same-sex marriage having valid reasons for being legalized. This however should not be read as an illustration of Feser's own argument - that people who make an unimpressive case are right (or not necessarily wrong) - since Feser is supposed to be someone whose logic and philosophical arguments are impressive, unlike common people, who are often unable to make a strong case.

    To defend same-sex marriage, you just plain don't have to reject natural law. It doesn't even have to be on the table. I am thoroughly unimpressed, Feser. There are real-life consequences to an homosexual couple not having the right to be legally considered a married couple, in particular economical, when they live their life just as-is. They have no spousal rights. This has nothing to do with denying the age-old fact that babies are made by a male and a female. What a load of BS.

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  157. My view may not stand up in court.

    Probably not. I mean, based on the same-sex marriage arguments you've already presented (material and dignitary harm against same-sex couples caused by unjust discrimination), then not permitting Christian adoption agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples to contract with the state would seem to necessarily follow.

    Now, maybe some same-sex marriage advocates will eventually come along and say, "We will gladly allow Christian adoption agencies to continue contracting with the state, even though it would constitute state involvement in what we view as unjust discrimination, causing us further dignitary harm." That would be pretty magnanimous and self-sacrificing. I just don't see it happening -- again, given the same-sex marriage arguments you've already presented.

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  158. "But, you know, if I was the horrible, mustache-twirling, maniacal, evil, Catholic-eating liberal monster you want me to be, that wouldn't address the SSM proponent's arguments one bit."

    Come on Chad. Your resume isn't nearly as impressive as all that.

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  159. jmhenry,

    You may be right, but I'd again like to point out that I said very clearly at the outset that the arguments I was presenting weren't original to me and weren't even arguments I necessarily agreed with. The conversation progressed thusly:

    1. Feser's article and the comments following seemed to suggest that SSM advocates have never made a positive argument.

    2. I countered that they have made positive arguments, and that the ascendancy of SSM has as much to do with the failure to rebut their positive arguments as it has to do with the failure to rebut their negative argument.

    3. I presented positive arguments and suggested that time would be better spent figuring out how to rebut those rather than pretending they didn't exist.

    The arguments I presented aren't my arguments. I specifically said I don't endorse them, I just think they're better than any argument purporting to refute them. You and to a much, much lesser extent, Vand, seem to be trying to tie me up in a self-contradiction. But it's going to be hard to do that if you keep attributing to me arguments that I make no claim to.

    The only position I've endorsed that can actually be attributed to me is the position that any sane, stable, financially-solvent person should be allowed to adopt.

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  160. And not for nothing, Brandon, but arguments about benefits like the ones I originally presented are all over this decision.

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  161. From the decision:

    As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide
    loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether
    biological or adopted. And hundreds of thousands of children
    are presently being raised by such couples. (See Brief
    for Gary J. Gates as Amicus Curiae 4.) Most States have
    allowed gays and lesbians to adopt, either as individuals
    or as couples, and many adopted and foster children have
    same-sex parents, see id., at 5. This provides powerful
    confirmation from the law itself that gays and lesbians can
    create loving, supportive families.
    Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts
    with a central premise of the right to marry. Without
    the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage
    offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their
    families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant
    material costs of being raised by unmarried parents,
    relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult
    and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here
    thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.
    See Windsor, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 23).


    And Jeremy Taylor, the decision answers the question of whether the constitutional right to marry was ever based on the ability to procreate pretty directly:

    That is not to say the right to marry is less meaningful
    for those who do not or cannot have children. An ability,
    desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a
    prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State. In light of
    precedent protecting the right of a married couple not to
    procreate, it cannot be said the Court or the States have
    conditioned the right to marry on the capacity or commitment
    to procreate. The constitutional marriage right has
    many aspects, of which childbearing is only one.


    That's the opinion of the majority, at least.

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  162. arguments about benefits like the ones I originally presented are all over this decision.

    Of course they are; court decisions regularly compile multiple strands of legal argument that have previously been raised in relevant contexts. It still doesn't make them a major part of actual modern SSM advocacy, which does not settle for equivalent consequences rather than equal status; nor does it make this kind of consequentialist argument, which fails to argue specifically to marriage rather than for some legal solution within a very broad field of conceivable legal solutions, the same as a juridical argument specifically for marriage; nor does it make the juridical argument itself in any way dependent on any argument from benefits.

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  163. So it is in your view inconceivable that what they want is full access to all the rights, and that the best way to achieve that access is just to be allowed into the institution that conveys all the rights? You speak for all SSM advocates in denying that this plays any role in their decision to pursue full marriage rights rather than creating a new institution?

    From the decision:

    For that reason, just as a couple vows to support each
    other, so does society pledge to support the couple, offering
    symbolic recognition and material benefits to protect and
    nourish the union. Indeed, while the States are in general
    free to vary the benefits they confer on all married couples,
    they have throughout our history made marriage the
    Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015) 17
    Opinion of the Court
    basis for an expanding list of governmental rights, benefits,
    and responsibilities. These aspects of marital status
    include: taxation; inheritance and property rights; rules of
    intestate succession; spousal privilege in the law of evidence;
    hospital access; medical decisionmaking authority;
    adoption rights; the rights and benefits of survivors; birth
    and death certificates; professional ethics rules; campaign
    finance restrictions; workers’ compensation benefits;
    health insurance; and child custody, support, and visitation
    rules. See Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae
    6–9; Brief for American Bar Association as Amicus Curiae
    8–29. Valid marriage under state law is also a significant
    status for over a thousand provisions of federal law. See
    Windsor, 570 U. S., at ___ – ___ (slip op., at 15–16). The
    States have contributed to the fundamental character of
    the marriage right by placing that institution at the center
    of so many facets of the legal and social order.
    There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex
    couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of
    their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are
    denied the constellation of benefits that the States have
    linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just
    material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an
    instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable
    in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage
    all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it,
    exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that
    gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It
    demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out
    of a central institution of the Nation’s society.


    Sounds like it's playing a role in the judicial argument to me.

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  164. I should say, what they want is full access to the rights and attendant benefits, and the most direct route to that is access to marriage that conveys all those rights and attendant benefits.

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  165. Moreover, Brandon, access to rights is the stated reason some of the plantiffs give for bringing the suit:

    Petitioner James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the
    Ohio case, met John Arthur over two decades ago. They
    fell in love and started a life together, establishing a lasting,
    committed relation. In 2011, however, Arthur was
    diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
    This debilitating disease is progressive, with no known
    cure. Two years ago, Obergefell and Arthur decided to
    commit to one another, resolving to marry before Arthur
    died. To fulfill their mutual promise, they traveled from
    Ohio to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal. It
    was difficult for Arthur to move, and so the couple were
    wed inside a medical transport plane as it remained on the
    tarmac in Baltimore. Three months later, Arthur died.
    Ohio law does not permit Obergefell to be listed as the
    surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. By statute,
    they must remain strangers even in death, a state imposed
    separation Obergefell deems “hurtful for the rest
    of time.” App. in No. 14–556 etc., p. 38. He brought suit
    to be shown as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death
    certificate.
    April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are co-plaintiffs in the
    case from Michigan. They celebrated a commitment ceremony
    to honor their permanent relation in 2007. They
    both work as nurses, DeBoer in a neonatal unit and Rowse
    in an emergency unit. In 2009, DeBoer and Rowse fostered
    and then adopted a baby boy. Later that same year,
    they welcomed another son into their family. The new
    baby, born prematurely and abandoned by his biological
    mother, required around-the-clock care. The next year, a
    baby girl with special needs joined their family. Michigan,
    however, permits only opposite-sex married couples or
    single individuals to adopt, so each child can have only one
    woman as his or her legal parent. If an emergency were to
    arise, schools and hospitals may treat the three children
    as if they had only one parent. And, were tragedy to befall
    either DeBoer or Rowse, the other would have no legal
    rights over the children she had not been permitted to
    adopt. This couple seeks relief from the continuing uncertainty
    their unmarried status creates in their lives.
    Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and his
    partner Thomas Kostura, co-plaintiffs in the Tennessee
    case, fell in love. In 2011, DeKoe received orders to deploy
    to Afghanistan. Before leaving, he and Kostura married
    in New York. A week later, DeKoe began his deployment,
    which lasted for almost a year. When he returned, the two
    settled in Tennessee, where DeKoe works full-time for the
    Army Reserve. Their lawful marriage is stripped from
    them whenever they reside in Tennessee, returning and
    disappearing as they travel across state lines. DeKoe, who
    served this Nation to preserve the freedom the Constitution
    protects, must endure a substantial burden.


    So, it's beyond me how you can assist that benefits-based arguments like the ones I brought up play no role in the SSM advocate's pursuit of full marriage rights.

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  166. We've just now taken this on at the "Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion" forum. General discussion to be had there also:

    http://classicaltheism.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=251#p251

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  167. Chad,

    What legal rights are you referring to? Many people can have children who are not married. Why does this change the distinction between marriage and these other forms of childrearing according to the traditional view or natural law?

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  168. Chad,

    I hear what you're saying in making the distinction between the philosophical and legal arguments. However, I would posit that the cumulative case for x subsumes both the philosophical and legal cases for x -- if there is a legal one at all. Certainly, a legal case can and has been made for same-sex marriage via the 14th Amendment, but to presuppose that this is sufficient to justify ideologically the implementation of same-sex marriage wholesale is dubious. I would also add that a Constitutional case can be levied against same-sex marriage via the 10th Amendment's mandate of federalism, in conjunction with the fact the 14th Amendment was written with slavery in mind, directing the issue of marriage to the states and the people. Therefore, I'm ok with conceding that the legal basis of same-sex marriage, i.e., Constitutional arguments for it, are the strongest in its comprehensive favor, but whether they are enough on their own or even completely compelling to fully vindicate it as an ideology is very much a tenuous proposition.

    The problem is that media have framed this debate solely on greater ideology, i.e., pro-gay marriage vs. anti-gay marriage, secular progressives vs. religious conservatives, with very little attention to the related legal considerations and even less to the philosophical assumptions involved. It was and is depicted as clash of cultures and a civil rights one at that, which cast the invested parties as moral and amoral. This, I would argue egregiously begged the question in favor of same-sex marriage, if it hadn't already in framing the conflict between polar ideologies and effectively already smuggling in the controversial presuppositions that philosophy is so adept at exposing within something as vacuous as same-sex marriage. The battle of metaphysics and philosophy of marriage was strong armed to the sidelines in favor of a highly specious anti-essentialist social constructism, which had roots in an even more lacking moral relativism, as a few examples.

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  169. Continued...

    Moreover, arbitration of real justice can only be meted out from true states of affairs. Metaphysics, broadly speaking, is the study of what is the case. So asking, "What is marriage?" in regard to the judicial question of extending the marital privileges, rights and responsibilities to gay couples seems like a natural exercise in rationality. There are also legitimate disciplines such as philosophy of law and political and social philosophy that seem very appurtenant to this issue that can be scrutinized.

    Additionally, the primacy of philosophy cannot be truly averted. To relegate its role in any public policy debate to mere mental masturbation is simplistic and naive, especially given its primacy. It is our tool best suited to make sense of the most abstract assumptions in any position. The Leftist mantra asserting that everything is political cuts both ways because everything is philosophical; time taken to understand the world is time diverted from changing it. To deny its usefulness here, as you sympathetically report are the attitudes of the deliberative parties, is even to do philosophy on this issue.

    The point is that the comprehensive ideological case for same-sex marriage is not coextensive to the legal case for same-sex marriage. Plus, the legal realm that mulls the merits and detriments of same-sex marriage is not isolated in a vacuum and entirely ineffectual on other actors and agents. There are a whole host of implications that any influential body would be remiss to overlook with any revolutionary change in public policy. Justice Kennedy's decision, like many recent SCOTUS' rulings, seems to have put comprehensive ideology before much thought in what undergirds that ideology. It also formally promoted a narrow cadre of views on same-sex marriage's legality as definitive and authoritative on the veracious whole of same-sex marriage as a topic. I'm not a lawyer, but this case represented an issue whose potential ramifications in multiple aspects were well beyond the purview of nine unelected officials. In a perfect world, they would not have even reviewed it.

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  170. And Chad, I realize the discussion has moved on probably beyond what I just wrote, but I spent the whole afternoon crafting it, so I was not going to waste it.

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  171. Jeremy, The rights referenced in the extended quotation in my 12:46 PM post, for example.

    Again, "we can take care of these rights some other way," in my view isn't a good legal argument against granting them in the most direct and obvious way.

    I make a good faith attempt to try to answer the questions posed by serious people on this thread, so I hope you'll extend me the same courtesy. In that hope, I ask again: what's the legal argument for creating another institution to convey these rights when an institution capable of conveying them already exists?

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  172. I am still at a loss to understand why homosexuals would need marital status to get the sort of rights Chad is talking about, unless one held that marriage is simply about affection between two people, hence the distinct nature of heterosexual monogamy is not important, and therefore the separate but equal status of homosexuals not having marriages (or perhaps even civil unions, as they don't even need that) would be a problem.

    And none of this answers the obvious question of why anyone should have marriages or unions recognised by the state then? Absent the case for traditional marriage (which is one against modern heterosexual marriage, with its no-fault divorce and rest, as well), what reason does the state have for recognising marriage at all?

    I don't think anyone is saying SSM advocates don't have positive arguments, though a lot o advocates simply dismiss opposing views and talk in slogans. The point is their arguments tend to be bad ones that beg the question, rest on unexamined assumptions, and to not really get to the heart of the matter.

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  173. Sherif Girgis, Robert George et al. have gone through the jurisprudence, and the conjugal/sexual complementarian view of marriage has a --_lot_ of legal precedent.

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  174. Chad,

    I am not sure what you mean by legal right in this instance. You seem to be drawing a nebulous distinction between legal and philosophical arguments in order to rule out certain important aspects of the anti-SSM arguments arbitrarily. The answer to your question is that the traditional and natural law arguments show marriage is a fundamentally distinct institution to other arrangements, like homosexual relationships, and serves a crucial social purpose.

    Much legal reasoning, anyway, will depend upon such philosophical views, as well as your basic legal philosophy. It is, after all, the case that those who drew up the constitution and its amendments saw marriage as distinct, and virtually all precedent supported this. But for some judges precedent and original intent mean little next to ideological and social policy.

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  175. One could go further and say that it was directly a philosophical (or at least ideological) argument that one the day, rather than anything narrowly legal(like following original intent and precedent). The majority ignored what had been originally and long held about marriage and made a more or less philosophical case that marriage and homosexual relationships are not significantly distinct. The crux of the case is whether the previous law was wrong because it was wrong about a basic moral and philosophical truth about the nature of these relationships.

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  176. I am still at a loss to understand why homosexuals would need marital status to get the sort of rights Chad is talking about, unless one held that marriage is simply about affection between two people, hence the distinct nature of heterosexual monogamy is not important, and therefore the separate but equal status of homosexuals not having marriages (or perhaps even civil unions, as they don't even need that) would be a problem.

    Again, I think natural law advocates have to be sensitive to the fact that they're inverting the problem with respect to how the rest of the country views it. The question people outside the natural law tradition would ask is why wouldn't homosexuals be granted marital status to get the sort of rights I'm talking about (since that's the easiest and most direct way to accomplish the task) unless marriage is simply about the capacity to procreate? And if the Chief Justice is right, according to American legal precedent and statute, marriage *is not and never has been* granted by *any State or the Courts* on the basis of a capacity to procreate. However natural law conceives of marriage, that's not the way the American legal system has conceived of it, so natural law arguments are irrelevant to the legal question.

    The decision answers your questions better than I could. Contrary to what you've heard about it, it actually addresses some natural law concerns in a surprisingly head-on manner. If you really want to know the actual legal reasoning behind the decision, you'd be better off reading that than arguing with me.

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  177. The majority ignored what had been originally and long held about marriage and made a more or less philosophical case that marriage and homosexual relationships are not significantly distinct.

    No, they didn't. They noted and dealt with the distinctions, and made pretty precise legal arguments that the distinctions aren't relevant to the right to marriage as it has been upheld by the American court system. Specifically, they say that the ability or capacity to procreate has never been a condition of granting the right to marry in any state, so it can't be used now as a legal reason to prevent extending the right to marry to same sex couples.

    You really ought to take the time to read the decision.

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  178. Firstly, it is irrelevant the country now feels, if one is trying to judge the arguments in themselves. I don't think anyone is arguing that if you restrict assumption about sexuality to those held in the West today, the advocates of SSM are on relatively firm ground.

    Secondly, it is not the fact that it is capacity for any particular couple to procreate that is important in the traditional and natural law conceptions of marriage. That is simply a failure to understand the opposing position. That position is that marriage arises naturally from the natural ends and forms of human sexual and romantic functions. This makes marriage - monogamous, heterosexual marriage - a completely distinct relationship. This was - no matter how implicitly and unconsciously - crucial to traditional conceptions of marriage, like those held by those who drew up the constitution and its amendments.

    Anyway, if one is drawing only on precedent and intent, it doesn't matter exactly how those behind the constitution and precedent drew the distinction between marriage and other relationships, the point is they drew such a distinction. The only way to argue against the distinction is to, then, argue they were wrong about the very nature of the relationships. But this is a philosophical argument, not a narrowly legal one.

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  179. modus, I don't think we have to dig up and consider every single philosophical tradition and every philosophical notion when we're ultimately talking about legal and political realities. If the Supreme Court has to consider natural law arguments, then they have to consider arguments from every other relevant philosophical tradition. That would be a ridiculously obtuse and time-consuming way to practice law. I think philosophical discussion is relevant, but since what's being debated here is the legality of SSM in America, that philosophical discussion should be bracketed by American legal philosophy and precedent, not every obscure philosophical tradition that would like a seat at the table.

    The relevant question before the court is not "what has the philosophical basis of the right of marriage been throughout the history of time" (even though they did briefly address that). The relevant question is "what is the basis of the right of marriage in American legal tradition." And in my opinion, natural law arguments are irrelevant to that question.

    I know they can overlap, but philosophy and law are separate disciplines for a reason.

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  180. You may be right, but I'd again like to point out that I said very clearly at the outset that the arguments I was presenting weren't original to me and weren't even arguments I necessarily agreed with.

    Right, I understand. Although I would be curious to know where exactly you would disagree with those arguments.

    Michael Cobb at the New York Times has some remarks on the "benefits argument" for same-sex marriage:

    Marriage equality activists could have pursued a different agenda — challenging the need for sexual scrutiny by the state, and the constellation of benefits that belong to marriage — but they didn’t. Instead of dreaming up new forms of governance, they asked to be ruled by the ones that already exist....

    So yes, marriage equality erases an odious and invidious distinction among straight and us not-straight citizens for which I’m truly glad and which I celebrate. And it’ll make lots of people’s lives better. But it also leaves unexamined the reason sex seems to give you benefits and recognition — and why it orders the world and civilization.


    Well, the traditional marriage advocate would say that it was because sex was always understood to be intrinsically ordered towards procreation, which has consequences for the common good; and since the state's function is to protect the common good, the state must acknowledge and promote the procreative norm of marriage (a norm which historically meant that sex consummates -- or completes -- a marriage). If the state no longer recognizes and promotes the procreative norm of marriage, then it will indeed become difficult for the culture to see the specific manner in which sex orders "the world and civilization" and why the state should even care about it. (I'm reminded of J. Budziszewski's argument in his book On the Meaning of Sex that people no longer recognize that sex has any meaning at all.)

    So, once again, we end up back where we started: the question of whether state promotion of the traditional marital norms have a rational basis. You can "bracket off" natural law arguments from legal discussion if you want, but it will always come back in the end, as people begin to wonder (in the wake of Court decisions like this) what sex even means anyway and why it "orders the world and civilization."

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  181. The problem is that the precedent and intent essentially supports the natural law tradition here. Going back to the dawn of the common law all the way up to recent precedent, marriage was held to be distinct between of the distinct nature of the monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. The natural law tradition here just systemises what has always been common sense. The majority decision is philosophical and not strictly legal precisely because it states that the original and long held view made a mistake about nature of the relationships. I agree that law and philosophy are separate disciplines. In general I support the common law tradition of strong forensic legal reasoning and adherence to precede, rather than appeals to abstract philosophical principle. This decision was no in that tradition.

    You have also never answered why there needs to be marriage for anyone.

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  182. Firstly, it is irrelevant the country now feels, if one is trying to judge the arguments in themselves.

    1. It's not irrelevant if among your goals in judging the arguments is trying to change the way the country now feels.

    2. You have no inherent right to privilege the argument in your favor anyway. The SSM advocate's question of "why not grant the rights via marriage?" is as legitimate a starting point as your question of "why grant the rights via marriage?"

    3. The SSM advocate has a pretty ready answer for your question: because it's the fastest, easiest, and most comprehensive way to convey the rights assured by marriage. It will ultimately be easier on the court system then having to invent an entirely new institution with its own system of precedents.

    4. You have yet to give any evidence that you can muster anything in the way of reply to the SSM advocate's question.

    This was - no matter how implicitly and unconsciously - crucial to traditional conceptions of marriage, like those held by those who drew up the constitution and its amendments.

    Whatever they thought implicitly and unconsciously isn't really relevant if it's the job of the court to interpret actually written, actually codified law. They have a hard enough job interpreting what the Constitution says, it's absurd to require them to intuit what the framers were thinking. That's not their job.

    The only way to argue against the distinction is to, then, argue they were wrong about the very nature of the relationships.

    The decision argues that there are four reasons the state has had for extending the right to marriage, and it argues that gay couples are as capable of taking advantage of all four reasons as straight couples. The decision doesn't just say "it's all about affection, let's party!" as much as some of you would like to believe that's what it says.

    You just won't face the fact that SSM advocates are winning not because their legal arguments are so good, but because the opposing legal arguments are absolutely terrible. They're terrible.

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