Thursday, August 13, 2015

Marriage inflation


When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.

W. S. Gilbert, The Gondoliers

Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

If you printed a lot of extra money and passed it around so as to make everyone wealthier, the end result would merely be dramatically to decrease the buying power of money.  If you make it easier for college students to get an “A” grade in their courses, the end result will be that “A” grades will come to be regarded as a much less reliable indicator of a student’s true merit.  If you give prizes to everyone who participates in a competition, winning a prize will cease to be a big deal.  In general, where X is perceived to have greater value than Y and you try to raise the value of Y by assimilating it to X, the actual result will instead be simply to lower the value of X to that of Y.

You will also merely relocate rather than eliminate the inequality you were trying to get rid of.  If money loses its value, then people will trade in something else -- precious metals, durable goods, or whatever -- and a different sort of economic inequality will arise.  If grades can no longer tell you which students are most likely to do well as employees or in graduate school, you’ll find some other way of determining this -- writing samples, interviews, letters of recommendation, or whatever -- and the hierarchy of student achievement will reassert itself.  If getting a prize ceases to impress, then athletes and others engaged in competitive enterprises will simply find some other way to stand out from the pack. 

Egalitarian schemes, in short, often have great inflationary effect but little actual egalitarian effect.  They can amount to mere exercises in mutual make-believe.  You can pretend all you want that all the children in Lake Wobegon are above average.  People who wish it were true may even go along with the pretense.  But of course, it isn’t true, and deep down everybody knows it isn’t true.  Hence even many who do pretend to believe it will act otherwise.  There will be a lot of pious chatter about how special all the children are, but no one will take the chatter very seriously and everyone will in practice treat the children differently according to their actual, differing abilities. 

Now, speaking of egalitarian pretense, consider the idea of “marriage equality,” which Justice Anthony Kennedy pretends to have stumbled upon somewhere in the U.S. Constitution on a Friday morning last June, with (so far) about 42% of the U.S. population going along with the gag.  Depending on the political needs of the moment, the proponents of “marriage equality” have also often pretended that their arguments wouldn’t support polygamy, incestuous marriage, you name it. 

But everyone knows this isn’t true.  For, contrary to some further pretense from the “marriage equality” crowd, the point about the implications of “marriage equality” has nothing to do with making a fallacious slippery slope inference, but rather with making a perfectly valid reductio ad absurdum inference.  A slippery slope fallacy fundamentally involves making a causal claim to the effect that A will lead to B, where there is at best a contingent connection between A and B and where no specific causal path from the one to the other has been established.  A reductio ad absurdum argument, by contrast, involves making a logical claim about the entailment relations between propositions.  In the present case, the idea is that if you not only remove heterosexuality and even fidelity from the essence of marriage, but in general treat the institution as essentially a matter of current social convention and legal stipulation rather than something grounded in nature, then in principle there is no limit to what might be counted as a “marriage.” 

To be sure, a causal claim follows from this logical point.  The causal claim is that, when people see the implications of the redefinition, they will start demanding further and even more radical redefinitions in the directions they favor; and that legislators and courts will have difficulty resisting these demands, because these further redefinitions are implicit in the premises that justified the original redefinition.  But (a) this causal claim is secondary to the logical claim, and (b) the logical claim, since it reveals a conceptual and thus non-contingent connection between the cause and the effect, explains the causal mechanism by which the claimed effects are likely to follow.  So, again, there is no slippery slope fallacy.

And sure enough, the logical and causal claims are being confirmed, it seems, with every passing week.  The latest instance is this week’s article in Slate advocating -- wait for it -- “marriages” between human beings and robots.  That’s on top of calls for “group marriage,” incestuous “marriage,” and “trial marriage.”  Further out on the fringes but still, it seems, a thing these days, is “self marriage.”   “Marriages” to animals and “marriages” to cartoon characters are also not lacking in advocates.

Now, the people who should be worried about all of this craziness are not the critics of “marriage equality.”  It just gives them an occasion to say “Told you so.”  The people who should be worried about it are the advocates of “marriage equality,” for two reasons.  First, because it gives the critics an occasion to say “Told you so.”  But second -- and more to the point of this post -- because it completely devalues the “marriage” label and thus undermines the whole point of the “marriage equality” movement, which was to dignify same-sex unions by sticking the “marriage” label on them

To paraphrase W.S. Gilbert’s line, when everything is a marriage, nothing is a marriage.  Or more precisely, marriage equality, followed out consistently, is marriage inflation.  The more kinds of arrangement there are which people are willing to call “marriages,” the less big a deal it is to have your own favored arrangement labeled a “marriage.”  “So Bob and Ted can now marry?  Whoop dee doo.  So can Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, or Bob and his niece, or Bob and his iPod, or Bob and himself.”  What “marriage equality” gave with its left hand, it threatens to take back with its far left hand. 

That’s only half the problem, though.  Remember the other aspect of the Lake Wobegon phenomenon.  People talk more egalitarian, but they don’t necessarily think more egalitarian or act more egalitarian.  It’s not just that people will use the word “marriage” in a way that so cheapens it that it is no longer much of an honorific.  They will also continue to place greater value on the actual thing that was traditionally called “marriage” than they put on the newer so-called “marriages” -- just as they continue to put greater value on actual knowledge and ability even after the “A” grade has been devalued, greater value on actual athletic skill even after athletic prizes have been devalued, and so forth.

If you want to know what people really think is the essence of something, you look at how they describe the ideal specimen.  And everyone knows what people think of as the ideal marriage:  You fall in love, you have lots of kids, you watch them grow up and have kids of their own, and you stay faithful to each other through thick and thin and old age until death parts you

Why do people idealize this?  For one thing, because of the love it embodies, where by “love” I mean not merely the romantic feelings which get things going (but typically cool), but also and more importantly the self-sacrifice involved -- the lifetime surrender of one’s own narrow interests for the sake of spouse, children, and grandchildren.  For another thing, because of the tangible, fleshly tie with other human beings that it represents -- the literal biological connection with past and future generations, and with other living members of the current generation.  In other words, what people idealize in marriage is the perfection, and fusion, of the unitive and the procreative (to use the natural law jargon), the way complete self-giving completely enmeshes one in a literal family and extended family of other human beings. 

The novel arrangements people want to stick the “marriage” label onto are not like this.  All of them involve abstracting out mere aspects of the ideal -- romantic feelings, shared bed and board, legal rights, or what have you -- and redefining the whole in terms of those aspects.  All of these novel arrangements are products of the modern liberal ideology of individual autonomy, and thus all of them explicitly or implicitly rule out absolute, lifelong thick-and-thin commitment.   And except where people of the opposite sex are involved -- and not even there if use of contraception is the rule -- they do not involve the literal biological tie to other human beings that is the natural outcome of the sexual act.

To be sure, these arrangements can be made to seem kinda sorta like the ideal -- via surrogate or test tube parentage, for example.  And of course, as “marriage equality” advocates rightly emphasize, widespread fornication, widespread illegitimacy, easy divorce, and contraception have already moved us far away from the ideal in any case.  In practice, most people in the West are quite willing these days to settle for some distant approximation of the ideal, a watered down substitute, the marital equivalent of O’Douls or Splenda.  The novel “marital” arrangements simply push this tendency out to its logical extreme.  And evolutionary psychologists will assure us that our tendency to idealize the older model is in any event simply an artifact of the conditions under which our forebears evolved, without normative force today. 

Now, the natural law theorist will argue that it does have normative force.  (Cf. “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument,” in Neo-Scholastic Essays.)  But that is neither here nor there for present purposes.  What matters for present purposes is that, whether or not it has normative force and whether or not people today are inclined to try very hard to live up to it, people do still regard the traditional marital arrangement described above as the ideal.  And they attach a dignity to that ideal that they do not attach to the mere approximations.  That old couple you know who’ve been together for 60 years and have five children and fifteen grandchildren has what we call a “marriage.”  And when some actor or pop star dumps his third wife and weds his mistress, we also call that a “marriage.”  But no one thinks that the latter arrangement has anything close to the dignity of the former, or that using the same word for both somehow suffices to make them equivalent. 

Similarly, expanding the use of the word “marriage” to cover various exotic arrangements no more extends dignity to those arrangements than freely giving out As to all the children in Lake Wobegon increases general student knowledge and ability.  With the former as with the latter, some people will think: “How adorable!  I’m glad they get to feel good about themselves.”  But few will seriously think that the exotic arrangements have anything close to the dignity that the traditional marital ideal has, any more than they really think that all the children in Lake Wobegon are above average. 

So, like the “A student” who comes to realize that his “achievement” was due to grade inflation, “marriage equality” advocates may soon wonder whether their victory was a hollow one.

280 comments:

1 – 200 of 280   Newer›   Newest»
f said...

Your provocative attack on Splenda is unwarranted. Sucralose and sucrose have nearly the same chemical composition, and sucralose is superior in many ways - not the least of which is that it won't contribute to blood sugar spikes and type 2 diabetes. (:p)

Gene Callahan said...

Very nice, Ed!

Anonymous said...

Of course, destroying marriage may have been the goal - for many at least - all along.

liz said...

Splenda. :)

Anonymous said...

Not only is Edward Feser, a Professor of Philosophy and a Father to a large family, he he also moonlights as a professional trumpeter under a different name:

http://www.dailytoreador.com/wayne-bergeron/image_736dc290-5e54-11e0-9056-001a4bcf6878.html

How do you fit it all in, Mr Feser?

Nathan Schroader said...

Good thing I short-sold my marriage before the market crashed. I made a killing.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the Church should long ago, before things came to this pass have adopted the (public)stance that as far as it was concerned gay marriage, or any other form of so-called marriage that was beyond the classical institution was not its province. Rather than spending decades attempting to impose political, social, legal, or economic blocks to what is a secular notion,it should instead have said "Call it what you like it's not marriage" A tactical, but recoverable, retreat has been turned into a strategic defeat because while everyone knows the Church opposes other forms of marriage it is percieved to be openly hostile towards it.

Now I am an Anglican, or Anglo-Catholic and I have watched the Communion over the last twenty years dwindle to near invisibility in some places largely (in my opinion)because mistakes were made years ago which allowed a liberal backlash to gain legitamacy. I must say the persistance of the Roman Catholic Church to stick to it's foundations is laudable (I've seen the alternative) but repeated and sometimes vicious attacks on homosexuality, or abortion, or whatever does more harm than good as it simply confirms to the secular mind what it always suspected.

Anyway Prof. Feser seems to run a civilized form here, and with more like him perhaps the tide in the West will turn (this is my first posting here)

A French chef was going on about his great new souffle "The perfect marriage of turnips...and more turnips". It was pointed out that in fact all he had was "A buch of turnips"

minstrel said...

Maestoso, simply "maestoso".

jweaks said...

Yep.

Who am I? said...

Thanks for the interesting post. I must confess that I used to think that there were no good arguments to be made against extending marriage to same-sex couples until I started reading some of your writings on the subject. I can see looking back that I basically just had a knee-jerk reaction to all of the asinine anti-gay arguments that I had heard at my Fundamentalist church growing up. I'm not in a place where I'm beginning to think long and hard about all of this. My mind is not currently made up either way.

I think that in order for a "marriage equality" (aka same-sex marriage) advocate to really gain the "victory" that they want, they'll need to find a way to include same-sex couples under the marriage umbrella without cheapening the institution further by necessarily including other more ridiculous sounding relationships (e.g. man-dog, woman-robot, brother-sister, brother-brother or whatever). I will admit that I don't know how to do this. If marriage is based on a loose, predominantly emotional understanding of love between beings, then I don't see why any of those shouldn't be included. In fact, it may be that if "love" is the only criteria, then even more robust understandings of it would not rule out all of the "weird" possible scenarios.

Now I'm just rambling. I'm not really sure what I was trying to say anyways.

Thanks for the post.

Who am I? said...

Correction: "I'm NOW in a place where I'm beginning to think long and hard about all of this"

Anonymous said...

"That old couple you know who’ve been together for 60 years and have five children and fifteen grandchildren has what we call a “marriage.” And when some actor or pop star dumps his third wife and weds his mistress, we also call that a “marriage.” But no one thinks that the latter arrangement has anything close to the dignity of the former, or that using the same word for both somehow suffices to make them equivalent. "

If people can distinguish the diginity of these two marriages, why are they somehow incapable of distinguishing between the old couple and the same-sex couple?

JD said...

Shouldn't it be "The Women are good looking and the men are strong"? Keillor quote

TheOFloinn said...

widespread fornication, widespread illegitimacy, easy divorce, and contraception have already moved us far away from the ideal

It was only after the institution was gutted by this sort of thing that anyone wanted to come and play dress-up in the ruins. As long as marriage was properly seen as a set of rather than a set of rights few enough wanted to take them on. There is an entire musical tradition of "dalliance songs" which celebrates avoiding marriage and remaining "free."

Back in the 60s there was a tactic known as "emptying out by walking through," by which bourgeois institutions would be devalued by people going through the motions but not accepting the content. Form, but no matter.

Rodrigo Bley said...

You sounded very much like a "new natural lawyer" in some parts of this text, Ed.

Scott said...

JD:

Shouldn't it be "The Women are good looking and the men are strong"? Keillor quote

Nope.

Step2 said...

But no one thinks that the latter arrangement has anything close to the dignity of the former, or that using the same word for both somehow suffices to make them equivalent.

Okay but in fairness nobody legally discriminates against the undignified heterosexual couple. You can tell Rush Limbaugh his marriage to his fourth wife is undignified, immoral, etc. all you want but you should expect a lawsuit if you deny him a business service because of it.

Second point, SSM has only been legal in parts of the US for about a decade and during that time there has been a decline in infidelity among long-term homosexual couples (married and unmarried) of about 17%. For male couples this still means they have a long way to go, but female couples are closing in very quickly and may soon surpass heterosexual fidelity rates. If you are concerned with encouraging monogamy it just seems obvious that the institution of marriage is the most powerful social leverage for doing so.

The Fez said...

That comic slays me. In a curious corollary situation, dating sites are now dealing with the lose-lose situation of having to either ban or clearly identity those trans individuals who would not like their original phenotype revealed to other users. This will not last for long. If we are to accept this brave new order where one's preference is all that is needed to change one's gender, then 'cis-normative' people will simply have to deal with the possibility of dating -unknowingly- a trans person.

This is, of course, the nightmare scenario not a single one of my secular, single friends wants to discuss in any manner. If asked whether they think that men who have "transitioned" into women should rightly be considered women, my friends insist that they must. I ask, "Then you would have no problem dating a transgender person if they are effectively a woman?"

There are few other ways I am aware of to so rapidly drain the blood out of a person's face.

DNW said...

"Anonymous said...

Of course, destroying marriage may have been the goal - for many at least - all along.
August 13, 2015 at 8:01 PM "


There's no doubt about that, if you are referring to the sub-species [apologies to the Catholics here] of mankind casually referred to as collectivists or leftists. They have produced an abundant literature explicitly affirming the goal, if not always outlining the methodology to be employed as was done say, in the old "Communist Manifesto" or the Cloward-Piven strategy.

For some reason, the official line in education has usually been that progressivism as "socialism" has merely to do with the private control of the public interest means of production. Whereas anyone who has waded through even part the left's primary sources knows full well that the ideological assault on the private hardly ends, or even begins conceptually, with the means of commodity production.

Where do you begin in order to get a sense of the back story? With Margaret Mead's leering sex fantasies of promiscuous "Romeos", and coy hoydens trysting in the bushes? With Marx in the EPM, or with Engles on the family? With American communal experiments like Oneida? Earlier?

And where do you end, with the Reds in Germany in the 1960s advocating sex with children; with Bill Ayers's and company's notion that exclusivity of your physical person was incompatible with socialism? With RadFem Shulamith Firestone and artificial wombs? The hoax of the Tasaday floating in a primeval bliss that recognized no ownership of anything and virtually no personal boundaries?

It's the very notion of the private itself, and of the notion of personally responsible moral agency which it entails, which is the ultimate target of the left.

Well, no matter. It will all be ok. Once Ram Dass helps us to evolve once and for all into Hippie Bonobos ... or so a visitor here has suggested.

D.S. Thorne said...

What does all the heavy lifting in this post is this paragraph:

"If you want to know what people really think is the essence of something, you look at how they describe the ideal specimen. And everyone knows what people think of as the ideal marriage: You fall in love, you have lots of kids, you watch them grow up and have kids of their own, and you stay faithful to each other through thick and thin and old age until death parts you."

Unfortunately, I don't think everyone does know this, certainly not by default. They have to be taught or shown it. And I don't think it can be taught convincingly without recourse to some sort of Fifth Way/providential understanding of bodies and tendencies in their healthy and mature states.

~kindlefrenzy.weebly.com

Greg said...

@ Step2

Okay but in fairness nobody legally discriminates against the undignified heterosexual couple.

Okay but in fairness Ed didn't argue that it's the lack of dignity relative to a traditional marriage per se that justifies differential legal treatment.

Everyone is going to discriminate against some marriage claims. Or, if they don't, they are accepting the most extreme case of marriage inflation possible.

Greg said...

@ Rodrigo

You sounded very much like a "new natural lawyer" in some parts of this text, Ed.

Where do you have in mind? New natural lawyers don't have a monopoly on the claim that, if you accept SSM, then you probably lack a basis to reject polyamorous marriage etc. The new natural lawyers who really develop that argument (Girgis, Anderson, and George in What is Marriage? and Anderson in Truth Overruled) actually don't rely on many claims particular to NNL in doing so.

jmhenry said...

Step2: If you are concerned with encouraging monogamy it just seems obvious that the institution of marriage is the most powerful social leverage for doing so.

But the traditional marriage advocate will say that this somewhat dilutes the reasons for monogamy in the first place. If marriage traditionally defined is the sort of relationship in which children naturally follow, then monogamy serves the purpose of ensuring that children are raised by their biological mother and father. In other words, monogamy as a marital norm is ordered towards the well-being of any children that result from the union of a man and a woman.

But if marriage is redefined as a sort of relationship in which children do not naturally follow (such as same-sex unions), then monogamy loses that rational basis. It can no longer be ordered towards ensuring that children are raised by their biological mother and father, which the traditional marriage advocate maintains is essential for the well-being of children -- something that has bearing on the common good and is therefore the reason why the state cares about marriage at all.

So, on the traditional view, "encouraging monogamy" can't be separated from the distinctive nature of the male-female union.

Anonymous said...

One slight hitch in the "inflation" metaphor is that monetary worth is pretty much the paradigm case of subjective value. I mean, no analogy is perfect, but still...

Scott W. said...

So, on the traditional view, "encouraging monogamy" can't be separated from the distinctive nature of the male-female union

Yes. It's a bit like trying to figure out how to ingest raw-sewage safely. If a sexual relationship lacks complimentarity, fecundity, and teleology, it's meaningless to recommend exclusiveness or "commitment". Lo and behold the societal juggernaut is already abandoning it as a talking point because it has outlived its purpose of selling the just-like-everyone-else-and-it-doesn't-affect-you-anyway porkie-pie.

Crude said...

If you are concerned with encouraging monogamy it just seems obvious that the institution of marriage is the most powerful social leverage for doing so.

If you're concerned with discouraging monogamy or attacking the social leverage for doing so, then divorce and same-sex marriage are two of your best bets.

Dave Mullenix said...

"...the proponents of “marriage equality” have also often pretended that their arguments wouldn’t support polygamy, incestuous marriage, you name it."

And what's wrong with polygamy? If the Lord God Himself rewarded David by giving him Saul's wives (plural) to join the wives (plural) David already had, who are you to gainsay The Lord?

And if no less a person than Abraham could marry his half sister (...she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife,) without so much as a hint of rebuke from God, who gave you the authority to prohibit incestuous marriage?

Bring back true Biblical marriage, not this Hellenized travesty of marriage that was foisted off on us back in New Testament times!

Or are you one of those people who pick and chose which parts of God's word they'll obey?

Step2 said...

@Greg
Okay but in fairness (cubed?) it was implied by Dr. Feser's other examples. If making an arrangement legal does not bestow any dignity and only devalues the marriage label then an example of an undignified heterosexual arrangement that in law and social custom is treated as equal challenges his claim.

Everyone is going to discriminate against some marriage claims. Or, if they don't, they are accepting the most extreme case of marriage inflation possible.

Granted, but here's a question for you: If you were visiting a Muslim country where polygamy is legal and culturally normative, would you refer to each of a man’s wives as his wife or only to his first marriage and the others as mistresses?

@jmhenry
...which the traditional marriage advocate maintains is essential for the well-being of children...

I would dispute the word "essential", as a general rule it is perfectly valid for the vast majority of cases but there are exceptions. Being a biological parent doesn't necessarily make someone the best person to raise the child, they can have substance abuse problems, be overly neglectful or abusive, and so on.

So, on the traditional view, "encouraging monogamy" can't be separated from the distinctive nature of the male-female union.

From the state's view, encouraging monogamy for couples is partially to help create a stable home for children to be raised in. In that context there are approximately 19,000 adopted children being raised by gay couples.

Crude said...

Or are you one of those people who pick and chose which parts of God's word they'll obey?

Why, it's almost as if the arguments provided here are on philosophical and metaphysical grounds, and the religious aspects are A) separate and B) don't reduce purely to biblical reference!

I know it may be shocking to a SSM-proponent. Why, arguments and justification being provided, as opposed to nothing but shrill harpy-screams, foot-stamping, and cries of "EQUALITYYYYYYYY!"

Crude said...

I've noted that, if one wanted to help culturally undercut monogamy, then watering down the definition of marriage and making it easy (not to mention culturally acceptable) to divorce would be a great step towards that.

Does anyone seriously suspect that the fact that most gay couples aren't monogamous is going to start trending downwards now that the state backs said arrangements? And would the people suggesting that encouraging monogamy is of paramount interest (yet who defend gay marriage) be willing to go on record saying that, given the link, the majority of same-sex couples are engaged in rotten relationships that should be discouraged?

The idea that gay marriage will provide crucial support for monogamy is right up there with the idea that very permissive divorce and a culture where getting a divorce for just about any reason will inevitably lead to more marriages and far fewer divorces. You can crack out some speculation about how that would work ('People are naturally monogamous! But the inability to easily divorce discourages marriages, or causes stress. If we remove the stigma, well, I bet it will all work out in the best way possible!'), but it's pretty easy to see it's nonsense.

moduspownens said...

In one of my blog posts I wrote on this subject: "If you loosen the bonds that define marriage in the spirit of "tolerance," you must recognize everything and distinguish nothing. If there is one thing both sides agree on, it's that marriage is distinguished. Why else are we fighting about it?" Professor Feser captures and defends this reasoning superbly.

@DNW

You're absolutely right. Marxist Critical Theory also strongly aligns with "same-sex marriage." The more you start to scratch the surface of sophisticated Leftists, the more you realize that the modern mainstream Left is so far removed the classical liberalism of the Founding Fathers that the metaphysical and epistemological assumptions they tacitly commit themselves to belongs to an ideology that not only is incompatible but repudiates the classical liberalism principles that founded this country.

For instance, as I roughly understand it, Critical Theory is largely influenced by relativistic historicism among other Hegelian theses. The Constitution is a classically liberal document, whose importance, essence and truth value, according to the Hegelian, is relative to the time that produced it. So, for the erudite Leftists, it is utterly intellectually dishonest to claim that the right for "same-sex marriage" can be found in the 14th Amendment, which, although ratified in the 19th century, is still imbued by classical liberalism of Locke, Hobbes, Milton, Jefferson, etc. And, so for the average social justice warrior, who firmly yet naively believes supporting same-sex marriage is the next righteous step in advancing American liberal democracy -- to ironically borrow from the Marxist Gramsci -- has fallen victim to a "false consciousness" supporting a "cultural hegemony" of today's elites against their better interests, which are the very sort of evils Critical Theory exists to liberate the downtrodden material and cultural classes, who many of these unwitting advocates are members of.

There is a common sentiment shared by conservatives that contemporary liberals aren't very liberal. By the example above, it's easy to infer that I find that label woefully insufficient. We should start referring to the Left in the mainstream for what they are, whether they realize it or not: Marxists or Neo-Marxists. Of course, this is to supplement our intellectual arguments. But in this age, when people, however erroneously, are largely compelled and convinced to adopt ideological positions by ad hominem rhetoric, especially that which details from where beliefs originate, we too need to do a little rebranding of our own.

Kirill Nielson said...

The obvious reply to Feser's concern is "So what?" Let the marriage be devalued. Times are changing. We are going with libertarianism at full force. Let sisters marry sisters, and pet owners marry their horses. We'll control it and make sure no harm comes out of it -- everybody happy, except maybe the old fashioned Catholics.

In fact I tell you, this is exactly what's going to happen in about 20 years, along with complete legalization of drugs and prostitution. And then we'll see how well libertarianism fairs. After all, as Jesus said, "You'll know them by their fruits."

Crude said...

We'll control it and make sure no harm comes out of it

This part has yet to be pulled off well.

everybody happy

Ditto.

In fact I tell you, this is exactly what's going to happen in about 20 years, along with complete legalization of drugs and prostitution.

If things keep up, prostitution is going to be made utterly moot by technology anyway. The complete legalization of drugs doesn't seem likely without qualification, considering we live in an era where tobacco, trans fats and sugar (among other things) get increasingly if hypocritically attacked.

On the other hand, one twist of the devaluation of marriage is that, in 20 years, Catholics (and muslims, and others) may be the only ones who care enough about marriage to get one at all, and the idea of melting into shrieking offense at a same-sex marriage being denied appropriate respect will be seen as a joke. The idea of marriage being (we know not how) /important/ in some way even by the utterly irreligious is the one thing sustaining interest in gay marriage for many people, yet that's precisely the sentiment gay marriage (among other things) undercuts.

d said...

@Crude

America isn't some bastion of progressiveness on this issue. There are places who've had same-sex marriage for 20+ years now. We don't really have to speculate. In most cases, the trajectory of marriage trends in those places has not been perceptibly altered by it any way.

Crude said...

There are places who've had same-sex marriage for 20+ years now. We don't really have to speculate. In most cases, the trajectory of marriage trends in those places has not been perceptibly altered by it any way.

It's not just 'gay marriage'. It's a variety of cultural changes, of which gay marriage is just the latest addition.

Go ahead, pick one of the countries you allude to. Then take a nice look at the marriage rates, the amount of children born out of wedlock, the amount of children being born at all, and so on.

The best you're going to be able to do here is say 'Gay marriage alone didn't do it', but since I haven't made that claim, it'd just pull a shrug from me. I do know that people insisting on how marriage is going to encourage monogamy among same-sex couples would be in for a shock if I thought any of them were sincere in either the belief or the desire.

d said...

Mr Feser says:

"In other words, what people idealize in marriage is the perfection, and fusion, of the unitive and the procreative (to use the natural law jargon), the way complete self-giving completely enmeshes one in a literal family and extended family of other human beings."

Why wouldn't you describe any gay couples this way? I know several in my own life who fit that description as well as any other heterosexual couple I know.

d said...

@Crude

"The best you're going to be able to do here is say 'Gay marriage alone didn't do it', but since I haven't made that claim, it'd just pull a shrug from me. I do know that people insisting on how marriage is going to encourage monogamy among same-sex couples would be in for a shock if I thought any of them were sincere in either the belief or the desire."

Maybe you should ask yourself why you automatically assume gay people are insincere in their desire to participate in traditional marriages? Does that come from a rational place?

Crude said...

Maybe you should ask yourself why you automatically assume gay people are insincere

Who said 'gay people'? I'm talking about people delivering a particular (and very obviously flawed) apologetic in a philosophic and political discussion.

That said - does your jumping to conclusions to irrationally cast 'gay people' as targets stem from unconscious strawmanning and victim-baiting, or more the conscious kind?

Anonymous said...

Let me ask a hypothetical here...

Bobby meets Sally. Sally and Bobby fall in love, and are as devoted to one another as any person can possibly be. They get married. To both their dismay, they discover that they are *BOTH* infertile.

Do they have any compelling reason to remain monogamous? Why or why not?

d said...

@Crude

Ok, point taken - those who speculate doom and gloom scenarios resulting from gay-marriage adoption are rational, and reasonable - those who speculate that it could make things better are "in for a shock" (yet actually have *a little* objective evidence in their favor - see 'Step2''s comment). So I think the same question still applies. What's really motivating that belief?

Crude said...

Ok, point taken - those who speculate doom and gloom scenarios resulting from gay-marriage adoption are rational, and reasonable - those who speculate that it could make things better are "in for a shock"

And there you go again.

All the 'objective evidence' here would be favoring my view. As I said, by all means, pick your country. It's not as if 'declining trends in marriage, upticks in out of wedlock births, and downticks in births, period' is, as you would say, something we need to speculate on. It's the trend, particularly in those European nations that have undergone the very cultural changes that are being criticized - and which were never limited to 'gay marriage'.

So really, the idea that legalized gay marriage is going to result in a bumper crop 'o monogamy is not just ridiculous, it's hard to take seriously.

So I think the same question still applies.

No, it's not the same question. It's a different question, yet one that's making a similar mistake.

Meanwhile, I notice you didn't answer my question, so let me give you a similar one. Is there a psychological reason you can identify that leads you to engage in this kind of deception? Is it because your political and social ideals are so precious to you, that you find yourself jumping to conclusions and lashing out at those who question them? Does the existence of disagreement threaten you?

Please, let's discuss what has wounded your heart and mind so. Perhaps we can help you overcome your failings.

jmhenry said...

Feser: In other words, what people idealize in marriage is the perfection, and fusion, of the unitive and the procreative (to use the natural law jargon), the way complete self-giving completely enmeshes one in a literal family and extended family of other human beings.

d: Why wouldn't you describe any gay couples this way? I know several in my own life who fit that description as well as any other heterosexual couple I know.

Because gay couples are inherently incapable of generating new human beings, and therefore "sexual" acts between them can never be procreative. "Self-giving" in this sense thus includes (but is not limited to) the complete openness to another in an act which has as its natural fulfillment the conception of a new human being. Gay couplings can never be "self-giving" in this sense. Whatever one believes about same-sex marriage, that much should be obvious.

But maybe, in the present cultural environment, it is no longer obvious. Which only proves that, before traditional marriage advocates can even talk about the meaning of marriage, they must first explain the meaning of sex.

Unknown said...

I have been arguing this for years: the opposition to gay marriage is based on the premise that heterosexual couples need something that they can believe is for them and for them only, and the ability of gays to refer to their husbands or wives makes heterosexuals feel less special. Social hierarchies break down according to ability to be sexually attractive to members of the opposite sex. Gays end up being on the very bottom of this status hierarchy. Allowing gays to marry conveys a sort of "status" on gays that heterosexuals have been adamant about keeping for themselves as a mark of "not being gay."

jmhenry said...

Anonymous: Bobby meets Sally. Sally and Bobby fall in love, and are as devoted to one another as any person can possibly be. They get married. To both their dismay, they discover that they are *BOTH* infertile.

Do they have any compelling reason to remain monogamous? Why or why not?


Would there be any compelling reason to cultivating the "qualities of excellence" in the game of chess if I could only play an unbeatable computer chess program?

One could easily answer: Yes. Even if I know I will always lose the game, by always "aiming to win" I will become a better player. I will still be cultivating the qualities of excellence (also called virtues) of the game. And if and when I ever get the chance to play in a situation where I have a chance of winning, then I will be well-prepared to achieve that goal. In any case, I will also still be contributing to the overall "chess culture" by maintaining those qualities of excellence within myself as an example for others.

By remaining monogamous, Bobby and Sally will still be cultivating the qualities of excellence unique to marriage as a form of activity, which has the effect of (1) making them more well-prepared to be a mother and father (perhaps to an adopted child who is in need of a mother and father), and, in any case, (2) contributing to the overall "marriage culture" by maintaining those qualities of excellence within themselves as an example for others.

TheOFloinn said...

Allowing gays to marry conveys a sort of "status" on gays that heterosexuals have been adamant about keeping for themselves as a mark of "not being gay."

Ah, the Intelligent Design theory of history. As if a bunch of people got together in a Rousseauian state of nature, without anything like marriage to be seen, and then decided to invent the institution. But men and women have been coupling since the cows came home. It was not to make them feel special. It was the band's or clan's way of making sure that the children that were frequently the result of such coupling would not become a burden on the rest of them. The Special Snowflake theory of society and the Special Me-ness of Me is fairly recent.

d said...

@jmhenry


One could easily answer: Yes. Even if I know I will always lose the game, by always "aiming to win" I will become a better player. I will still be cultivating the qualities of excellence (also called virtues) of the game. And if and when I ever get the chance to play in a situation where I have a chance of winning, then I will be well-prepared to achieve that goal. In any case, I will also still be contributing to the overall "chess culture" by maintaining those qualities of excellence within myself as an example for others.


Thanks. That is a fine, fine rebuttal to all those in this thread who seem to think, for some mysterious reason, that monogamy is only rational if you are straight.

d said...


Because gay couples are inherently incapable of generating new human beings, and therefore "sexual" acts between them can never be procreative. "Self-giving" in this sense thus includes (but is not limited to) the complete openness to another in an act which has as its natural fulfillment the conception of a new human being. Gay couplings can never be "self-giving" in this sense. Whatever one believes about same-sex marriage, that much should be obvious.

But maybe, in the present cultural environment, it is no longer obvious. Which only proves that, before traditional marriage advocates can even talk about the meaning of marriage, they must first explain the meaning of sex.


Mr Feser mentioned a lot of things besides procreation and I don't think those things are irrelevant in determining the 'type' of relationship that two people have together - which is what the above implies. So only procreation counts, nothing more, nothing less?

d said...

@Crude

Whether gay marriage itself will end up turning large swaths of the the counter-culture aspects of the gay world into to a more traditional and monogamous way of being - maybe it will, maybe it won't - but there's no reason to think it will hurt (or hurt marriage as a whole in any way). So maybe we agree there?

In other words, its a step in the right direction. Its a *win* for marriage and I dare say even a win for *traditional*, family values.

jmhenry said...

d: Thanks. That is a fine, fine rebuttal to all those in this thread who seem to think, for some mysterious reason, that monogamy is only rational if you are straight.

Actually, no, because in my analogy, gay couples wouldn't even be playing the same game -- which is exactly the point that traditional marriage advocates are making. By changing one of the essential features of chess, the game is no longer chess. Likewise, by changing one of the essential features of marriage, it is no longer marriage.

The qualities of excellence in chess are only intelligible within the context of chess, not in Monopoly or Scrabble. In the same way, monogamy as a quality of excellence within marriage is, on the traditional view, intelligible only within the distinctive nature of the male-female union, by ensuring that any children that result are raised by their mother and father. Monogamy for a same-sex couple can obviously never serve this end, which makes it a whole different game than chess.

Bobby and Sally, on the other hand, are at least still playing chess, and because of the distinctive nature of their union, the joint activity they are engaged in is still inherently "aimed" at the ends unique to chess, even if they are presently frustrated from achieving those ends.

d: So only procreation counts, nothing more, nothing less?

Well, no. Traditional marriage advocates have always maintained that marriage is inherently good for people, even if, like Bobby and Sally, they are prevented from fulfilling the procreative end of their union. Remember, even if you can't win at a chess game, cultivating the qualities of excellence within chess is still good. But procreation is a significant reason why the state cares about marriage. The physical union of a man and woman is the means by which new human beings are created, which has all sorts of implications for the common good: Who will care for them? Who has natural rights and duties towards them? What is the ideal environment for their growth, development, and well-being? All of these questions are directly implicated in the sort of union in which children naturally follow.

Jerry said...

Wait, you mean marriage to cartoon characters is a real thing? Awesome!! I've always had a thing for Jasmine from "Aladdin", so if I could get her pet tiger to not eat me...

William Luse said...

Do they have any compelling reason to remain monogamous? Why or why not?

Because men and women ought to keep their promises to each other?

Maybe the question should be: do they have any compelling reason to remain married? For it is only within the context of the marriage vow that the promise of fidelity finds its reason to be.

In any case, your question embraces an assumption by which gay marriage advocates are so thoroughly smitten that they must think it infallible, and that assumption is that the presence of infertile heterosexuals among us is the last nail in the coffin of any belief that sexual complementarity is essential to marriage. The assumption mistakes an accident for an essence, a defect for a norm. For those who find your question alarming, the sterility of a sex act between Sally and Bobby is its substance, while in fact it is an accident, a defect of nature, and probably a very painful one once discovered by its victims. On the other hand, homosexual acts are sterile by definition. Some fertility problems in heterosexuals are treatable by medication or surgery, while it is a universal quality of all homosexual acts of any kind, from the beginning of time to the end of the world, that they will be afflicted by an uncorrectable absence of fertility. There will be no exceptions. Sally, even should she be found barren, might long for the child she can never have, praying daily for a miracle. And certainly a homosexual man might desire a son or daughter, and a lesbian likewise, but with one enormous difference: he cannot desire it by the person with whom he is locked in a simulacrum of carnal embrace. He will have to go outside the relationship for that. Always.

The sexual anarchists (e.g., Anthony Kennedy) would have us believe that a barren woman's marital intercourse, sterile by an accident of nature, is of no greater value than that of a homosexual's, barren because it can not be otherwise. For the barren woman we feel sympathy and share her sorrow: "If only it could be otherwise," we say. For the homosexual who bemoans the barrenness of his union, but whose sexual apparatus is in fact fertile, we can say only, "What did you expect?"

Your original question invites a necessary follow-up: Suppose Sally and Bobby were fertile from the outset. Age will nevertheless render them (as a couple) otherwise. Do they then have any compelling reason to remain married?


Crude said...

but there's no reason to think it will hurt (or hurt marriage as a whole in any way).

Actually, there's plenty of reason to think it will hurt, just as the other 'changes' have done so. You started in on this conversation tut-tutting about how other countries have introduced gay marriage and they are doing just fine. Yet when I note the social trends regarding marriage, regarding monogamy, regarding child rearing and more - the very evidence you were alluding to - suddenly all reference to that evidence vanishes.

In other words, its a step in the right direction. Its a *win* for marriage

It's yet another loss for marriage, culturally. Once again, all that talk of evidence has gone out the window, and you're left with the sad job of having to pretend that 'Hey, having even fewer cultural standards will ultimately reinforce traditional standards.'

Seriously, this is exactly why the sincerity involved here seems so laughable. You may as well be arguing that a hypothetical cultural acceptance of bestiality is a *win* for traditional sexual morality, because dogs are man's best friend and everyone knows friendship. Eventually this goes beyond mere disagreement or even misunderstanding, and it's clear I'm dealing with the president of Perrier insisting that his drink is really and truly radically different from every other bottle of water around, despite knowing he can't tell the difference in a taste test.

Mike Bond said...

The slippery slope argument doesn't even make sense from a simple, work-a-day, legislative pov - the very purpose of legislatures is, in effect, to manage so-called slippery slopes.

But this: A reductio ad absurdum argument, by contrast, involves making a logical claim about the entailment relations between propositions. In the present case, the idea is that if you not only remove heterosexuality and even fidelity from the essence of marriage, but in general treat the institution as essentially a matter of current social convention and legal stipulation rather than something grounded in nature, then in principle there is no limit to what might be counted as a “marriage.”
is so simply and even beautifully put, gets to the heart of the matter so decisively. I'll never be a metaphysician.

Of course there's the wholesale denial of human nature, willfulness, etc., by the Left, by the "scientistically" minded, et al.

iwpoe said...

@ (first) Anonymous

"Of course, destroying marriage may have been the goal - for many at least - all along."

One should not attribute to malice and conspiracy what can easily be attributed to ignorance, negligence, and stupidity.

@ William Luse

"Because men and women ought to keep their promises to each other?

Maybe the question should be: do they have any compelling reason to remain married? For it is only within the context of the marriage vow that the promise of fidelity finds its reason to be."

This seems odd to me If it's meant as sufficient justification. If we promise each other to always buy one another nice lunches every Tuesday and, due to unforeseen circumstances, you over time become impoverished and I become extremely wealthy, it seems properly moral that we dissolve the promise. Am I not understanding my example rightly? If not why is the marriage promise different?

Some of the problem I have with many high-moral defenses of marriage centering around family is that they do much like what you have done and rest the case so heavily on children that they'll treat sterility in marriage as if it's so rare as to be uninteresting. Every long term heterosexual marriage ends in sterility. Indeed, wives are generally infertile by the age of 55, and often as early as 45. There's so much life left, indeed, often the majority of married life left, that it does seem to me that one simply *must* say far more in support of heterosexual marriage than the support of the family and children. Lifetime sexual complementary and union must be a high *life good* for the married parties, not merely the vehicle for children if it's not to be a dubious life goal.

A 60 year old+ man, say a widower, is not usually, for instance, in the market for fertile women. He may be, but that's often simply not who he'll either find or even want to look for. Why should he marry? What good is it for him? I'm not saying that it isn't, but the usual pro-marriage argument usually says very little, and frankly I think this is because our understanding of the good of marriage is extremely impoverished, and indeed just as impoverished as it is for the left. We supporters of marriage are so confused by more than half a century or more of marital sexual turmoil that we hardly know what to say about marital love itself and speak as if there's only duty and love of children.

Anonymous said...

There's been a lot of water under the bridge since 1662 but the true crime is that this quotation was militantly destroyed for selfish/partisan interests centuries ago:

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,
DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

And also, speaking unto the persons that shall be married, he shall say,
I REQUIRE and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.

At which day of Marriage, if any man do allege and declare any impediment, why they may not be coupled together in Matrimony, by God's law, or the laws of this Realm; and will be bound, and sufficient sureties with him, to the parties; or else put in a caution (to the full value of such charges as the persons to be married do thereby sustain) to prove his allegation: then the solemnization must be deferred, until such time as the truth be tried.

If no impediment be alleged, then shall the Curate say unto the Man,
N. WILT thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?
The Man shall answer, I will.

Then shall the Priest say unto the Woman,
N. WILT thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?
The Woman shall answer, I will.

Then shall the Minister say,
Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?

Then shall they give their troth to each other in this manner.

Gottfried said...

All of us are born with a complete respiratory system, a complete digestive system, etc., but with only half of a reproductive system. Human reproduction requires two people: one female, one male. When a man and a woman engage in sexual intercourse there is a sense in which they literally become "one flesh," i.e., two bodies performing a single bodily function. Even when this process is unlikely to be successful, as in infertile couples, it is still taking place.

To be blunt: the homosexual equivalent of this involves forcing a penis into an orifice directed to the evacuation of feces. This is not really sex at all, but a grotesque parody of sex.

Step2 said...

A few things I never wrote or implied:
1. Gay marriage will provide crucial support for monogamy.
2. Very permissive divorce and a culture where getting a divorce for just about any reason will inevitably lead to more marriages and far fewer divorces.
3. Legalized gay marriage is going to result in a bumper crop 'o monogamy.
4. No-fault divorce encourages monogamy.
5. I am an avid supporter of getting a divorce for any reason, the more trivial the better.
To anyone who can read, the gist of my remarks regarding marriage and monogamy was that the disparity between gays and straights has already been reduced and will likely be further reduced. As long as there is no enforcement mechanism for breaking fidelity then of course their infidelity rates are going to be higher than any group which operates under such leverage, even if that leverage is weakened as it clearly is today. To prohibit SSM while criticizing their promiscuity is like selling cars without brakes and then blaming the customers for being terrible drivers. The cultural landscape has undergone a sea-change in how homosexuals are viewed, and this includes how homosexuals view themselves and their expectations for what is realistically possible.

Scott W. said...

Excellent response Mr. Luse to the Infertile Heterosexual Couple Canard which I encourage everyone to dub it.

Crude said...

To anyone who can read, the gist of my remarks regarding marriage and monogamy was that the disparity between gays and straights has already been reduced and will likely be further reduced.

The gist of your remarks was that 'If you are concerned with encouraging monogamy it just seems obvious that the institution of marriage is the most powerful social leverage for doing so.' Except no, it's not obvious. It's the opposite of obvious. What's more likely is that 'fidelity' is going to be viewed as yet another optional aspect of marriage or relationships in general.

And you're obscuring that when you give a reply like this:

As long as there is no enforcement mechanism for breaking fidelity then of course their infidelity rates are going to be higher than any group

Cute trick, except there's two problems.

1) Marriage doesn't come with an 'enforcement mechanism' against infidelity when...

2) The infidelity is accepted and even encouraged by the people in the relationship.

It's not as if I threw a statistic at you showing that same-sex couples, while expected within their subculture to be utterly monogamous, in fact suffer breakdowns and breakups due to rampant affairs. It's that they practice willful, open relationships. There's no expectation of fidelity present that's being broken.

And we're not talking about some marginal difference, an 8% versus %5. It's effing 50% in some areas. Part of the culture, to the point where everyone's favorite 'Conservative Gay Catholic' Andrew Sullivan is in one, everyone's favorite activist Dan Savage openly promotes it, and all the people defending SSM either ignore it completely or misrepresent it in order to make up excuses for it.

That it's just obvious that SSM is going to encourage monogamy and 'traditional values' is absurd. Hell, the idea that the people and institutions supporting SSM are going to even pay lip service to the idea of it being a problem is absurd. Hey, sex before marriage is no big deal, divorce is no big deal, having children out of wedlock is no big deal, same-sex marriage is no big deal - but oh, open relationships are going to be the line in the sand?

d said...

@Crude

Just pointing out the implicit assumption that always runs deep in these conversations, and indeed even Mr Feser's post... Gay marriage is talked about as a battering ram against monogamy and traditional values, as if its just obvious and taken for granted that the flow can only move one direction here. That is, we're just supposed to take it for granted, now that gay relationships can be marriages by law, any and all the bad stuff in gay culture can only take root and pollute the current widespread marriage culture, weakening it further - "causing inflation" so-to-speak.

Why ought we not think about gay marriage (and yes - the *traditional values* it embodies - commitment, fidelity, love, etc) as the battering ram against those portions of the gay counter-culture? Why ought we not think the flow would be THAT direction?

Crude said...

Gay marriage is talked about as a battering ram against monogamy and traditional values, as if its just obvious and taken for granted

Gay marriage, along with other 'arrangements', are talked about as if they were inflating the concept of marriage and, in the process, weakening the view of it.

That is, we're just supposed to take it for granted, now that gay relationships can be marriages by law, any and all the bad stuff in gay culture can only take root

You didn't even read his post, did you? You just kind of skimmed it, took a gist, and are running with it.

Why ought we not think the flow would be THAT direction?

Oh, you know. All available evidence, that 'objective evidence' you referenced once but have since then avoided, and so on? The near complete unwillingness for people to even grapple with 'the gay counter-culture' on this front, and in general on any front where said culture is regarded as engaging in something shameful?

'Gay marriage' doesn't embody any traditional values. It is, just like marriage increasingly is, whatever people want it to be. It turns out a very sizable chunk want it to have nothing to do with monogamy. That's not even a fight which requires a legal dustup - their marriage is whatever they say it is legally on that front, and culturally the reaction is to either ignore it or approve of it.

But here, let's give you an opportunity. How do you yourself plan on promoting monogamy? Will you take the position, in public, that married people in open relationships aren't 'really' married? That they're making a mockery of marriage? That they're actually doing something immoral and should be ashamed? You're ready and willing to take the position that fully half, and quite possibly the majority, of same-sex relationships are immoral?

Shall you be lecturing couples (or triples) on what kind of consensual sexual activity they can and cannot licitly engage in? Shall you regard their sexual behavior as open and fairly subject to public approval and disapproval?

Greg said...

@ Step2

Okay but in fairness (cubed?) it was implied by Dr. Feser's other examples. If making an arrangement legal does not bestow any dignity and only devalues the marriage label then an example of an undignified heterosexual arrangement that in law and social custom is treated as equal challenges his claim.

Not necessarily. Positive law has to draw lines, and should not prohibit something when doing so causes more problems than it prevents. Sure, calling such a union a marriage might devalue the 'marriage' label, but it doesn't follow that we ought to construct the law so as to exclude it, for there are other factors at play. (Law must be something that can be clearly promulgated, for example, and must follow recognizable and consistent procedures. Excluding all cases of not-really-marriages would undermine rule of law and perhaps be invasive in other ways. It's a matter of proportionality.)

On the other hand, the law and culture should not necessarily propose such a union as equal to the paradigm case, even if it allows it. The law, for instance, should not permit no-fault divorce, though it might require some divorce procedures because some "marriages" really are not marriages (and so would rightly be annulled). Some cases might slip through the cracks. Human law is never perfect. But it doesn't thereby have to endorse those as paradigm instances of marriage; for instance, public schools shouldn't make role models out of the rock star on his third marriage or propose divorce and alternative family styles as harmless.

Granted, but here's a question for you: If you were visiting a Muslim country where polygamy is legal and culturally normative, would you refer to each of a man’s wives as his wife or only to his first marriage and the others as mistresses?

Well, I'm not certain that polygamy is inherently non-marital in the way that same-sex relationships are. A given culture, religion, or polity, I think, could prohibit it without thereby doing injustice, for it seems likely to me that it's not an arrangement that the law should promote. But I don't have a problem with saying that Osama bin Laden had 5 wives. (For that matter, if someone confesses to me that he lacked the proper dispositions for a Catholic marriage, i.e. he was open to divorcing at the time of the ceremony and did not regard the union as permanent, I would still think of the woman he lives with as "his wife." The term can be used in a legal/civil sense that I don't think bears any presumption of validity.)

Greg said...

@ iwpoe

One should not attribute to malice and conspiracy what can easily be attributed to ignorance, negligence, and stupidity.

Well, there have been a lot of prominent gays and lesbians (generally academics) who have explicitly said that they hope gay marriage will weaken and lead to the elimination of the institution of marriage.

I don't think this view is particularly common. I think most proponents of SSM really do think it will have no negative effect on the institution of marriage itself.

d said...

iwpoe makes a great point.

A 60 year old+ man, say a widower, is not usually, for instance, in the market for fertile women. He may be, but that's often simply not who he'll either find or even want to look for. Why should he marry? What good is it for him? I'm not saying that it isn't, but the usual pro-marriage argument usually says very little, and frankly I think this is because our understanding of the good of marriage is extremely impoverished, and indeed just as impoverished as it is for the left. We supporters of marriage are so confused by more than half a century or more of marital sexual turmoil that we hardly know what to say about marital love itself and speak as if there's only duty and love of children.


It is comparatively difficult to articulate a rich picture of the nature of marriage and all of its goods, than it is to just point at baby making. So at least for that reason, its easy to see why most of the talk centers on childrearing and procreation. But thats only part of it. The larger reason that impoverished picture, IMHO, is entirely tactical (speaking of the debate at large, not any particular person here).

Its the easy way to squeeze out gay relationships, while not making things much much harder on yourself.

Crude said...

A 60 year old+ man, say a widower, is not usually, for instance, in the market for fertile women. He may be, but that's often simply not who he'll either find or even want to look for.

Who are these 60+ year old men who are uninterested in fertile women? Granted, it may not be what he'll find, but that's a different issue.

Why should he marry? What good is it for him? I'm not saying that it isn't, but the usual pro-marriage argument usually says very little, and frankly I think this is because our understanding of the good of marriage is extremely impoverished, and indeed just as impoverished as it is for the left.

Maybe he shouldn't marry. If he remained single the rest of his life, would that really be unthinkable?

The reason the pro-marriage arguments focus on what they do is because, really - the topic is complicated enough, and the point of the argument isn't to provide a fully descriptive picture of marriage, but zero in on the issue at hand.

The problems with 'same sex marriage' comes down almost entirely to the sex, and sex is a central part of marriage, properly understood.

d said...

^^ Case in point

Crude said...

Still rocking that 'criticizing without reading' move that's served you so well in this thread, d? But that's fine. I'll just wait for you to talk about how people's sex lives should be subject to review and approval by their friends, family and the culture at large. After all, that's the pill that has to be swallowed to discourage open relationships and defend the primacy of monogamy, and surely you're willing to take that plunge, right?

dover_beach said...

"Maybe he shouldn't marry. If he remained single the rest of his life, would that really be unthinkable?"

I think that's right. It's not as if the good of friendship has nothing to offer him. This points to the problem that 'marriage inflation' requires the devaluation of other modes of relationship; as if, according to Kennedy J, the only alternative to marriage was being "condemned to loneliness".

"The reason the pro-marriage arguments focus on what they do is because, really - the topic is complicated enough, and the point of the argument isn't to provide a fully descriptive picture of marriage, but zero in on the issue at hand."

Correct, and it isn't as if proponents like Anderson, George, and the like, fail to mention the unitive aspect of marriage.

"The problems with 'same sex marriage' comes down almost entirely to the sex, and sex is a central part of marriage, properly understood."

Yes, and given sex and reproduction ground the unitive aspect of marriage, it would be absurd to ignore it.

Scott said...

d:

Gay marriage is talked about as a battering ram against monogamy and traditional values, as if its just obvious and taken for granted that the flow can only move one direction here.

With all respect, d, no matter what side of the issue you're on or what effect you think same-sex marriage may have on monogamy, it is just obvious, and should be taken for granted, that it's against traditional values.

You might as well complain that it isn't just obvious, and shouldn't be taken for granted, that abortion results in the death of an innocent human being and that that's a bad thing in and of itself. If I had to pick just one abortion-related point everybody should agree on, that would be it. All of the serious argument (and much of the non-serious argument) is about whether it's morally or at least legally acceptable anyway—as a means to an end, as a necessary evil, or whatever.

Step2 said...

It's not as if I threw a statistic at you showing that same-sex couples, while expected within their subculture to be utterly monogamous, in fact suffer breakdowns and breakups due to rampant affairs.

You linked to an article that referenced a survey from the 1980's. Gosh, I wonder what wasn't even a pipe dream back then? Oh wait, it was gay marriage.

And we're not talking about some marginal difference, an 8% versus %5.

For female couples, we certainly are talking about a marginal difference, their infidelity rate is currently 8% for married and unmarried long-term couples.

It's effing 50% in some areas. Part of the culture, to the point where everyone's favorite 'Conservative Gay Catholic' Andrew Sullivan is in one, everyone's favorite activist Dan Savage openly promotes it, and all the people defending SSM either ignore it completely or misrepresent it in order to make up excuses for it.

Just because I don't promote something it doesn't mean I've ignored it. I doubt you go around here promoting manosphere concepts very much, with their shallow view of sex and disposable view of women. I don't mind admitting infidelity is a serious problem in the male gay community and many of them know it is a problem too, but there has been some pushback on that front. Just a few days ago there was an article at the Huffington Post where the gay writer complained about both straights and other gays trying to impose their “puritanical views of marriage and monogamy” and he declared his libertine right to be wildly promiscuous no matter whom it offends. Yet the interesting part about the comments was that many self-identified gays showed up and most of them tried to shame the writer for his irresponsibility and low character. Does anyone here really believe such criticism by a majority of his own community would have happened thirty years ago?

Since you brought up Andrew Sullivan, he wrote an insightful article about a decade ago which addressed how integration meant to a large extent the end of a distinctive gay culture, the bar and bathhouse ghettos that were their primary social and sexual outlets. He was also named public enemy number one by some radical lesbian groups who decried his promotion of SSM as reactionary and patriarchal. Oh well.

jmhenry said...

It is comparatively difficult to articulate a rich picture of the nature of marriage and all of its goods, than it is to just point at baby making.

A dialogue...

A: Last night, I got together with some friends, had good conversations, laughed together, enjoyed one another's company, and then we ate sawdust. It was a pleasant evening. We had a great meal.

B: Well, no, you didn't. You ate sawdust. The nutritive end of the activity you were engaged in was completely missing. Therefore, properly speaking, you did not have a meal.

A: Nonsense. A meal is about more than just eating food. It's about good conversation, laughing together, enjoying each other's company. We had all of that. So why would you say we didn't have a meal?

B: All of the things you mention are indeed good, and they certainly enrich and fulfill what a good meal should be. But the nutritive end of eating is what unifies and makes them intelligible under the description of having a meal. You can't sever the nutritive end from the activity without fundamentally changing the nature of that activity.

A: So only nutrition counts as a meal, nothing more, nothing less?

B: No. I suppose science might someday invent a pill which you could take that would conceivably give you all the daily nutrients you require. But no one would seriously suggest that taking the pill constituted having a meal; or, to put it another way, engaging in that distinctive kind of activity which we call "having a meal." A true meal would necessarily include all the other essential goods you mentioned -- good conversation, enjoying one another's company, etc.

A: Okay, but what if we didn't eat just sawdust? What if, instead, we had barbecue ribs, mashed potatoes, a casserole, the whole nine yards? But then, later, we all got indigestion! Maybe we even got so sick that we had to, ahem, spend some time in the bathroom regurgitating our "meal" into the toilet. Then we wouldn't have had a meal, right? We ate real food, but the nutritive end was never served, since we just threw up the food.

B: Even if the nutritive end was never completed, you still had a meal, since "having a meal" as a distinctive kind of activity is always ordered towards the nutritive end, whether that end is fulfilled or not. It's still a meal, in that it still belongs to the species "meal," even if only deficient specimen of the species. However, activities that are not ordered towards the nutritive end at all never even rise to the level of being a deficient specimen of a meal. They are no specimen of a meal period.

A: I still think you're too obsessed with nutrition. Focusing on that seems to impoverish what a true meal is. We need to articulate a rich picture of the nature of a meal, instead of just pointing to eating food.

B: I agree. But, again, the nutritive end of eating is what unifies and makes intelligible all the other goods that define having a meal as a distinctive form of activity. So we must at least begin there...

Don Jindra said...

I come at this issue after forty years of marriage. My wife and I went on our first date Feb 9, 1972 -- her nearly fifteen, me four days from eighteen. We've been inseparable ever since. So I have a few things to say about a good marriage and a fulfilling relationship.

IMO, the money thing is a horrible analogy. Love is not a zero sum game. It's nothing like common currency. The love or lovelessness of my neighbors has no effect on the value of my love for my wife, or the strength of our marriage. A marriage is not about how well others are doing it. It's about how well my wife and I are doing it. The rest of the world be damned.

The college grade is another bad analogy. Nobody grades my marriage but me and my wife. Marriage, if you will, is graded on the honors system. If there is no honor, there is no marriage. Nobody else can add to that, take anything away, or adjust it on a curve.

Even if we look at marriage as a bizarre competition with other married couples, the analogy practically demands more competition, not less. In that case "equality" is an equal chance to play and excel. Those against gay marriage cast themselves like major league baseball in the 1940s refusing to let blacks compete against whites. Let's just see who wins, who wants it badly enough.

Long before gay marriage I already knew many couples going to the altar would never have the marriage I had. Did their make-believe marriages affect my marriage? Diminish it in any way? Not in the least. My marriage certainly is not affected by any philosophical mumbo-jumbo. It has nothing to to with logic or politics. List all the slippery slope fallacies you want. Worry about reductio ad absurdum inferences until your own divorce. Cite theology or even nature. It doesn't matter. None of this degrades my marriage. If it degrades yours, I say you have no marriage as I've lived mine. You have mere social convention. So you're not talking about my marriage. I don't think you're talking about marriage at all. My marriage was never about what the state recognized. Frankly, when I got married in 1975, I didn't care in the least what the state recognized. The state, in this regard, is the epitome of social convention.

It's amusing that Gary Marchant's article at Slate on robot marriage is taken as a serious proposal. What we have here is hoodwinking. This particular reductio ad absurdum, crafted to look like a serious proposal, was not that of a left-leaning egalitarian. It was manufactured by a member of the conservative Federalist Society. This is what passes for evidence these days.

The fact that the "conservative" Marchant poses as an egalitarian for sake of ridicule, or the fact that a few nuts want to marry themselves or Mickey Mouse, does not affect the issue on the table. That issue deserves to be judged on its own. If there was a legitimate “Told you so,” Federalist Society members would not have to pretend to be the quacks.

But if someone wants to marry a robot, why should I think it degrades my marriage? Dignity in marriage is made from the inside out. It's not imposed from outsider opinion. It's not a product of tribe, village, church or state. It's not justified by who else is doing it or how well they do it.

I, too, have my doubts that two gay guys will ever be able to share a life to the extent that my wife and I have. But I give them points for being willing to try. I wish them the best. It's kind of a fish-out-of-water, underdog story. The odds are stacked against them, but who knows? It could be like that Billy Elliot movie my wife dragged be to see that wasn't so bad after all.


Don Jindra said...

"All of these novel arrangements are products of the modern liberal ideology of individual autonomy, and thus all of them explicitly or implicitly rule out absolute, lifelong thick-and-thin commitment."

I see this distrust of individual autonomy as a lack of confidence, in fact, as a crisis of confidence. There is an implicit fear that the traditional ways are not good enough to deserve choice. The individual has to be steered toward the good because the good is not that which delights the eyes.

It's shocking but true that "one’s own narrow interests" can align almost perfectly with another free individual. That has been the case in my marriage.

How can this be?

How can it be that so many autonomous individuals like ice cream?

Some goods don't need help. They stand on their own. They attract on their own. If something is not freely chosen by autonomous individuals then that thing probably wasn't so good in the first place.

I'm willing to trust the inherent goodness of marriage. It's a good in itself. Autonomous individuals will see that, will be drawn toward it. Marriage commitment will get plenty of advocates, even from autonomous, so-called selfish individuals.

It may be true that "most people in the West are quite willing these days to settle for some distant approximation of the ideal," but that also may be an idealization of both the past and a standard that is not quite historically accurate. All marriages have to set their own standards if they're to succeed at all.








Crude said...

Step2,

You linked to an article that referenced a survey from the 1980's

It referenced a lot more data than that, and if you'd like more, it's available.

For female couples, we certainly are talking about a marginal difference,

Why not bring up the male couples figure? Wait - we know why.

I don't mind admitting infidelity is a serious problem in the male gay community and many of them know it is a problem too, but there has been some pushback on that front.

And far more don't regard it as a problem. Again, we're not talking about some marginal number here - it's overwhelming, especially when you separate out the lesbians who have a different set of problems.

Does anyone here really believe such criticism by a majority of his own community would have happened thirty years ago?

I point at statistics, community leaders, arguments and social trends. You return fire with a subjective estimation of blog comments reacting to a single article where tone was the issue.

How convinced should I be again?

Since you brought up Andrew Sullivan, he wrote an insightful article about a decade ago which addressed how integration meant to a large extent the end of a distinctive gay culture,

Yeah, because nowadays you don't need to lurk in a gay bar to fill your weekly quota. You just install grindr on your phone - the only 'social meeting app' I'm aware of that flat out includes an option for sharing GPS location. You know, so you don't need to ask exactly which truck stop bathroom is the right one. And Sullivan's defense of open marriages came far more recently than a decade ago. Hell, in his opinion, everyone else has a whole lot to learn from gay couples about fidelity and sex. I wonder what he has in mind?

And before someone blows up - this isn't a question of saying LGBT people are constitutionally incapable of monogamy. It's talking about cultural trends as they are, as they've been, and as evidence indicates they're going to be. So when people show up chiding everyone for suspecting that gay marriage is just the latest milepost in degrading cultural values, insinuating that it's their paranoia which foresees monogamy increasingly regarded as optional where marriage is concerned, hey - I'm going to point out the obvious smoke-blowing going on.

Really, the best part is imagining any SSM proponent trying to turn on a dime and start chiding people for their sexual habits. Several decades of screaming 'It's their business, not yours' and 'Stay out of other people's bedrooms' isn't exactly conducive to instructing people on how they should properly conduct their sexual lives. I suspect it'd take exactly one stern, public accusation of 'slut-shaming' to have them drop their public allegience to that taboo faster than a hot poker.

iwpoe said...

@ Crude:

"Who are these 60+ year old men who are uninterested in fertile women? Granted, it may not be what he'll find, but that's a different issue."

I meant 'with respect to who he will likely marry. Moreover, I suspect that most men in their 60s are not in fertile relationships.

"Maybe he shouldn't marry. If he remained single the rest of his life, would that really be unthinkable?"

So monkish virtue is you prescription? I really didn't think that I'd need to appeal to Paul's recommendation here, but there seems to be an obvious good for most people.

"The reason the pro-marriage arguments focus on what they do is because, really - the topic is complicated enough, and the point of the argument isn't to provide a fully descriptive picture of marriage, but zero in on the issue at hand."

Yes. I was very difficult for us. And we lost- badly. We've failed politically and done nothing to solve any of the background problems that led to the situation in the first place.

"The problems with 'same sex marriage' comes down almost entirely to the sex, and sex is a central part of marriage, properly understood."

They agree with you. I don't quite see... Ah never mind. I'll go say hello to my wife out of duty.

Crude said...

And since DJ's decided to show up and wax dramatic about how he and his wife have gone-it-alone, let me add a bit of reality to that lecture.

There's no such thing as an entirely personal, private marriage or life. While individuals may have some degree of personal stoicism with regards to how they live their lives, they do not do so unaffected and without affecting the communities and cultures they live in. Said stoicism is in part a measure of how they affect and are affected, how they resist some trends and submit to some others. Don may like to believe that he's completely isolated himself from any and all social effects, such that his habits and lifestyles are utterly uninfluenced one way or the other, but observation indicates not even Don swallows that line. We're talking about a guy who was banned from this blog and repeatedly showed up, precisely because the political and social ideas promoted freaked him the fuck out and stirred him to show up to rail against them.

Rather like how he's doing now. Funny how that works out, eh?

So while DJ pretends to be a Nietzchean Ubermensch, sneering at the very idea that this thing called 'culture' exists and should be protected, let me throw out another line of thought.

Humans are communal creatures. The fact that some people can be led astray by negative social influences, or supported in their lifestyles by positive ones, is treated as an occasion to sneer by DJ. 'What pathetic weaklings these humans are, that they may be subject to such influences or - God forbid - in need of help and support to do the right thing, or not do the wrong thing', in essence. I have another view: that trying to maintain and build up a culture is a praiseworthy thing, and that people shouldn't be ashamed of acknowledging that the culture shapes them to a degree, regardless of their ultimately being responsible for themselves.

People are subject to peer pressure. They have moments of weakness, and those moments of weakness may turn into patterns of behavior. They may take up assumptions without thinking or examining them, they may look to the wrong authority figures, and a whole lot more. That's the world we have to work with, and the world we have to live in, change, and affect - or, at times, evaluate and note the problems with.

Others can go ahead and sneer at the idea that many people - likely most - perform best when they have a good community providing them support and helping them reinforce the values they should live by, those 'inherent goods'. I'm far more interested in providing at least some of the help that's needed, even if ultimately everyone must make their own choices. After all, a community that upholds and reinforces good morals and values is yet another 'good' thing that people can and should seek out, even if it doesn't always work out that way.

Crude said...

iwpoe,

So monkish virtue is you prescription? I really didn't think that I'd need to appeal to Paul's recommendation here, but there seems to be an obvious good for most people.

It's not my prescription, nor is it 'monkish virtue', but in the case you're talking about, being romantically single is not an unthinkable option. If a man's spouse dies when he's 70, do you prescribe him running out and looking for another wife right away? Do you think THAT is always the popular move?

Yes. I was very difficult for us. And we lost- badly. We've failed politically and done nothing to solve any of the background problems that led to the situation in the first place.

We actually had a tremendous amount of success politically, against an incredibly stacked deck - see the number of states that barred same-sex marriage. Our 'lost badly' moment principally came in the form of a SCOTUS ruling that made all of that political success absolutely irrelevant.

Meanwhile, what political losses there have been have largely had nothing to do with proper framing of any dialectical arguments whatsoever. It's had to do with an essentially united media and cultural forces people are struggling even now to cope with. Team 'Marriage Equality' didn't win the day by providing intellectually persuasive arguments (the SCOTUS ruling is a freaking clownshow if you read it) - they did it by successfully idealizing same-sex relationships and managing to cast SSM opponents as cartoon villains. The WBC has become the face of SSM opposition, and that was no accident.

They agree with you. I don't quite see... Ah never mind.

No, let's not never mind. 'They' don't agree with me, which is why even the SCOTUS ruling stays far, far away from talking about sex, as do most others. They'll talk about love, commitment, handholding, romance and a million other hallmark card topics, such that sexually active gay men get portrayed as almost the most supremely monogamous people on the planet. Anal sex and sex in general gets airbrushed out, except in the most romanticized, roundabout ways.

Regardless, let's not kid ourselves. The idea that most people are being persuaded (particularly millenials) on this topic by powerful, detailed arguments about the metaphysical and philosophical foundations of sex and relationships is imaginary. Those arguments are powerful and important, but they're at work in a distinct, small sphere.

iwpoe said...

@ dover_beach

"I think that's right. It's not as if the good of friendship has nothing to offer him."

Who said anything about him giving up his friendships? I don't think that people seek romance simply because they have poor friendships. The question is whether or not he is deluded in so doing. If he's so deluded then so are most people who seek marriage, since many are looking for personal fulfillment that is not merely tied to children. Indeed, this is explicitly what same-sex couples are looking for. One way to answer them, of course, is to say that that's not possible for anyone. Another is to say that it isn't possible within their own gender.

"This points to the problem that 'marriage inflation' requires the devaluation of other modes of relationship;"

That doesn't follow. Devaluation of money does not entail the devaluation of "the exchange of ideas", nor would I expect that the devaluation of marriage would entail, say the devaluation of the relationship I have with my father. Inflation devalues within the domain encompassed: that's the whole point.

"as if, according to Kennedy J, the only alternative to marriage was being "condemned to loneliness"."

Kennedy's statement, if that was his exact wording, and I don't recall, is clearly histrionic, but obviously he's onto something. There is *some point* to committing to another person maritally, and something missing in a life not so doing.

"Correct, and it isn't as if proponents like Anderson, George, and the like, fail to mention the unitive aspect of marriage."

*Merely* mention. That's the point.

"Yes, and given sex and reproduction ground the unitive aspect of marriage, it would be absurd to ignore it."

Sure, as substance grounds the possibility of sex. My point is not to deny the sexual but to claim that operation at that level is insufficient. People know sex is important. They don't see why heterosexual sex is the right sort, and they find themselves unhappy even in formally correct marriages in part, at least on my account, because we don't know what we're doing any longer because no one knows how and why to be traditionally married *in terms of life happiness*.

Step2 said...

Crude,
Why not bring up the male couples figure? Wait - we know why.

Likewise, why didn't you bring up female couples? Wait, I know why.

And far more don't regard it as a problem.

Since infidelity is cited as the primary reason for conflict by male couples I find your claim very doubtful.

I point at statistics, community leaders, arguments and social trends.

I have already pointed to statistics, arguments and social trends, all of which you've dutifully ignored. Granted I haven't pointed to community leaders, but that is because nearly all of them grew up in the 80's when it was a totally different cultural landscape for gay rights.

How convinced should I be again?

I don't assume you want to be convinced. I'm mostly trying to stop you from distorting my argument into something it isn't.

iwpoe said...

"If a man's spouse dies when he's 70, do you prescribe him running out and looking for another wife right away?"

It would depend on the man. But let's assume he's still romantically inclined. Many, particularly in their 60s, still are.

"We actually had a tremendous amount of success politically"

Which of the rear-guard stopgaps cobbled together by equally divorce-prone conservative America actually still stand? DOMA? Nope. State marriage amendments? Nope. That's all that was managed, and as a merely legislative rather than spiritual accomplishment, it was nothing.

All you got 20 years of short-term electoral successes that are no longer forthcoming re this issue and the clear and nearly total loss of the youth on the issue.

"Our 'lost badly' moment principally came in the form of a SCOTUS ruling that made all of that political success absolutely irrelevant."

The polling on the matter gives the lie to the idea that this is *merely* a loss at the level of the political apparatus. When did you want to loose? In the courts now or in the legislature in 5 to 15 more years?

We've lost society, on my reading, because, amongst other reasons, we're no better at articulating good marriage than they are, nor are we particularly more successful at performing it. My conservative parents certainly weren't, and I've suffered my own confusion that I'm still working through with my wife.

"Meanwhile, what political losses there have been have largely had nothing to do with proper framing of any dialectical arguments whatsoever."

I don't deny that the arguments are proper as far as they go. They're simply missing the actual problem because they're satisfied with their logical priority. The reason people don't care about your arguments in favor of marriage based on sexuality is because sufficiently few believe traditional marriages based on formally proper unions are in fact particularly satisfying happy or healthy arrangements compared to male-male sexual cohabitation &etc that they are supposed to be superior to and over which are to hold legal supremacy.

"It's had to do with an essentially united media and cultural forces people are struggling even now to cope with."

Yes, and why is that the situation? Why does that get support? Do you think it's 6 unchecked billionaires paying a large block of the populace? It may not be because it's *right* but it's not right because the people involved don't see any good reasons to believe that heterosexual marriage is particularly happy or fulfilling as a way of life in and of itself.

"Team 'Marriage Equality' didn't win the day by providing intellectually persuasive arguments"

Agreed.

"they did it by successfully idealizing same-sex relationships and managing to cast SSM opponents as cartoon villains."

Why was that possible- that's the question?

"The WBC has become the face of SSM opposition, and that was no accident."

Yes. It's no accident because the reasonable side has nothing to say to homosexuals or their heterosexual supporters that could possibly convince anyone that heterosexual marriage needs to be legally exclusive nor even to convince them that it is emotionally special and superior to other arrangements. You want to argue about faculties and function to people who are concerned with feelings, romance, alienation, and affirmation. This understandably comes off as irrelevant gibberish.

"Anal sex and sex in general gets airbrushed out, except in the most romanticized, roundabout ways."

Yes, but, at it's core, they think they should be affirmed in their relationship to whomever it is they're fucking, just like heterosexuals. The real challenge is not showing them that their faculties are being misused but that they are harming themselves emotionally. If they're not and/or you can't, you've already lost them.

d said...

"Who are these 60+ year old men who are uninterested in fertile women? Granted, it may not be what he'll find, but that's a different issue."

"Maybe he shouldn't marry. If he remained single the rest of his life, would that really be unthinkable?"
---

Incidentally, my widower grandfather remarried a widow - he in his early 70's, she in her late 60's. They made it together into their 80's. Given my grandfathers diabetes (complications from it are what got him in the end), and the lack of anything like viagra at the time, I sincerely doubt the marriage was ever consummated (though I certainly never inquired!). Of course, that is of so very little relevance to the question of whether they were truly married or not, as to be laughable.

And their marriage brought together two *very* large catholic families, that would otherwise never have had reason to know one another - not just descendants of those two, but of their large pool of brothers and sisters as well. Thats at least one outward facing familial and communal good that arose from their marriage, in addition to the goods that arose inside their relationship, as they could be spouses to one another in their final years.

If you had asked anyone of my family members (or the new extended family we gained) whether they should have married, or just done the whole friendship thing, I don't think anyone would have said the latter would have been best.

Glenn said...

An off-topic non-sequitur:

A singer is one who sings. I sing, therefore I'm a singer. But if you happen to have the misfortune to hear me sing, you're also likely to grimace. So, although I am a singer (one who sings), I'm sure you'll disagree.

To put it another way, Sheryl Crow qualifies as a singer by virtue of actually being one, whereas I'm someone who qualifies as a singer due to a fortuitous technicality.

Crude said...

Step2,

Likewise, why didn't you bring up female couples? Wait, I know why.

Go ahead and bring them up, Step. It won't impact my argument an iota, and it will sink yours.

Since infidelity is cited as the primary reason for conflict by male couples

Goodness, look at that. You're parroting one of the prime arguments Sullivan and company give in favor of open marriages.

I have already pointed to statistics, arguments and social trends, all of which you've dutifully ignored.

No, I've brought in statistics of my own regarding open marriage rates specific to same-sex couples, and I've pointed at rates of everything from divorce, to out of wedlock rates, to birth rates and more. You made an unsourced reference to a 17% drop in 'infidelity' among same-sex couples during a decade long period that happened to overlap with the time period in which same-sex marriage was voted *against* in state after state in the US.

By the way, if that's the study I think it is, it also indicated a drop in reported infidelity among heterosexual couples during the same period. Wait, hold on, I can hear it now: Legalization of gay marriage not only managed to travel back in time to retroactively make gays more monogamous, it also made *heterosexuals* more monogamous too! That is some impressive power.

You're trying to gain ground at the absolute fringe of the argument and data here, and even that's swinging against you.

I don't assume you want to be convinced.

We're arguing about data, which is what it is. Unfortunately, it isn't what you need it to be for your claims.

Crude said...

iwpoe,

It would depend on the man.

Indeed.

Which of the rear-guard stopgaps cobbled together by equally divorce-prone conservative America actually still stand?

None, which is precisely what I already said - they were undone in one swoop, which on this topic was stacked against them to begin with. One look at the ruling shows how little 'reason' had to do with the decision they handed down.

The polling on the matter gives the lie to the idea that this is *merely* a loss at the level of the political apparatus.

Which is precisely why I didn't say it was 'merely' a loss of political apparatus, but also a cultural loss. I was answering the claim that the fight against same-sex marriage was one long string of defeats - it was anything but, and that with multiple decks stacked against them.

we're no better at articulating good marriage than they are,

'The youth' are not sitting around carefully weighing the pro's and con's of same-sex marriage arguments - they get influenced by rhetoric and media far more, and they're pretty much swimming in those inputs.

The reason people don't care about your arguments in favor of marriage based on sexuality is because sufficiently few believe traditional marriages based on formally proper unions are in fact particularly satisfying happy or healthy

The reason they don't care about the arguments, period, is because the arguments in either direction are lengthy, require attention, and are for most people quite boring. It's also the case that 'arguments' aren't necessary to influence people one way or the other, and usually just get in the way of influencing sizable numbers of people, so alternative methods are used. To great effect.

Yes, and why is that the situation? Why does that get support? Do you think it's 6 unchecked billionaires paying a large block of the populace?

No, I think it's a sizable number of people entangled with all manner of influences, political and social and cultural and otherwise, that roughly map to a few key groups, including a nearly homogenous representation in the media which also experiences one hell of a lot of gatekeeping.

Why was that possible- that's the question?

For the same reason that whistleblower footage of ghouls chit-chatting about how best to snuff the life of the infant to maximize return on harvested organs isn't considered newsworthy, but a lion getting snuffed out by a dentist is the stuff rage is made of.

Crude said...

It's no accident because the reasonable side has nothing to say to homosexuals or their heterosexual supporters that could possibly convince anyone that heterosexual marriage needs to be legally exclusive

It's no accident because the WBC is a bit of stage theatre, primed to be as offensive on sight as possible, which makes them a convenient go-to example whenever you want to provide a media representation of the group you want reviled.

You want to argue about faculties and function to people who are concerned with feelings, romance, alienation, and affirmation.

No, I don't. Do you even read what I say? I've said again and again that those arguments don't reach people at large. They're relevant to a small and important group, but for most people it's impossible to follow even if it's important. Nor is it merely 'feelings, romance, alienation and affirmation'. It's also 'narrative, entertainment, peer pressure' and more.

You know what really speaks to emotion? Haggling over the price of dead infant organs. Strangely, it's not getting much play. Why is that?

Yes, but, at it's core, they think they should be affirmed in their relationship to whomever it is they're fucking, just like heterosexuals.

Except heterosexuals don't get affirmed in their relationships whomever it is they're fucking. Nor, by the way, is my concern exclusively whether or not I've lost them. While persuading people who disagree is important, it's not the only concern on the table.

Crude said...

If you had asked anyone of my family members (or the new extended family we gained) whether they should have married, or just done the whole friendship thing, I don't think anyone would have said the latter would have been best.

The point isn't that the elderly should never remarry. The point is that it's not a foregone conclusion that it's best or only satisfying option. The question of elderly remarriage, infertile marriage, etc has already been discussed here.

Brandon said...

Yes. It's no accident because the reasonable side has nothing to say to homosexuals or their heterosexual supporters that could possibly convince anyone that heterosexual marriage needs to be legally exclusive nor even to convince them that it is emotionally special and superior to other arrangements.

Why in the world would any rational person think that heterosexual marriage is emotionally special?

But more than this, there seems no particular reason why 'convincing' is supposed to be an issue here; while there are obviously political benefits if people are convinced, and one might adjust one's presentation of reasoning to take into account what would most appeal to one's audience, tailoring the arguments themselves in order to convince people is merely manipulation. If the point is that opponents of the gay marriage movement aren't doing any pandering, it is hard to see how this amounts to any kind of criticism.

iwpoe said...

@ Brandon

"Why in the world would any rational person think that heterosexual marriage is emotionally special?"

So, you don't think that's the case? You think that for all intents and purposes a homosexual pairing is emotionally the same as a heterosexual pairing and that the only relevant politically significant difference between the two is that one can in principle result in children and not the other? You think that the entire rational argument for marriage stands and falls on the perversion of the reproductive faculty argument?

jmhenry said...

You think that the entire rational argument for marriage stands and falls on the perversion of the reproductive faculty argument?

I think the traditional marriage advocate would say that the procreative norm of marriage is what draws the attention of the state in the first place. If human beings reproduced asexually, would any of us even be having this conversation? Would an institution like marriage even exist?

dover_beach said...

@iwope

"Who said anything about him giving up his friendships?I don't think that people seek romance simply because they have poor friendships. The question is whether or not he is deluded in so doing. If he's so deluded then so are most people who seek marriage, since many are looking for personal fulfillment that is not merely tied to children. Indeed, this is explicitly what same-sex couples are looking for. One way to answer them, of course, is to say that that's not possible for anyone. Another is to say that it isn't possible within their own gender."

Firstly, I never mentioned "giving up" friendships. Secondly, I never intimated that people seek romance because of poor friendships either. Thirdly, I never said that personal fulfillment is tied to children, but if, as you say, they are in a relationship that seeks fulfilment that cannot involve children per se they are not in a marital relationship.

"That doesn't follow. Devaluation of money does not entail the devaluation of "the exchange of ideas", nor would I expect that the devaluation of marriage would entail, say the devaluation of the relationship I have with my father. Inflation devalues within the domain encompassed: that's the whole point."

No, no, devaluation of marriage is surely entailed by the inflation of marriage such that it encompasses relationships that are not marital. The same would be true of friendship if it was made to encompass acquaintances.

"Kennedy's statement, if that was his exact wording, and I don't recall, is clearly histrionic, but obviously he's onto something. There is *some point* to committing to another person maritally, and something missing in a life not so doing."

The exact phrase is "condemned to live in loneliness". Not only was it histrionic but the case did not condemn those in such situations to live separately at all. As to there being 'some point' to committing to someone maritally, sure, proponents of traditional marriage would obviously not deny this, but doing so cannot involve redefining the marital relation in ways that undermine the relation itself.

*Merely* mention. That's the point.

But they don't "merely" mention it at all. You cannot read, for instance, their book, What is Marriage?, and think that they merely mention the unitive aspect of marriage. It comprises a good portion of the work.

Brandon said...

So, you don't think that's the case?

Of course not. Emotions are not fine-grained enough to distinguish precisely among institutions, they can easily be manipulated, they can easily be fooled, and they aren't even able to distinguish between reality and misleading appearances. While they can be guided, they cannot be forced; how would one guarantee that people only have certain emotions in marriage and never have them outside of marriage?

You think that for all intents and purposes a homosexual pairing is emotionally the same as a heterosexual pairing and that the only relevant politically significant difference between the two is that one can in principle result in children and not the other?

I think that anyone who claims that any two relationships are "for all intents and purposes emotionally the same" doesn't know much about either relationships or emotions. The second part of your question doesn't, however, follow from the first part; it's certainly the case that it makes a significant difference, however, because children are an ethical matter concerning us all in one way or another.

You think that the entire rational argument for marriage stands and falls on the perversion of the reproductive faculty argument?

This doesn't follow from the prior questions, either. It's rather amusing how the train of thought has proceeded: you start with insisting that the only viable argument is an emotional, not a rational, argument, and then take the denial that this is so as a claim about "the entire rational argument for marriage", whereas your prior argument didn't even involve any rational argument for marriage, but specifically claims about emotional specialness and emotional harms.

TheOFloinn said...

Those against gay marriage cast themselves like major league baseball in the 1940s refusing to let blacks compete against whites.

Actually, it more like refusing to let the batters use tennis rackets and string a net between first and third.

TheOFloinn said...

All you got 20 years of short-term electoral successes

Actually, it was more like 20,000 years.

You want to argue about faculties and function to people who are concerned with feelings, romance, alienation, and affirmation.

It was during the 1950s that "I feel that..." began replacing "I think that..." in common discourse, a tell-tale flag that the Modern Thing was imploding. That whole Age-of-Reason thing is a dead mackerel. Nowadays it's all feelings and affirmations and Special Snowflakes. It seems now inconceivable that ancient societies developed customs and constraints around copulation for any reason by Affirming someone in their special preciousness. You can tell, when people refer to marriage as a "right" that they no longer imagine that it was once an obligation.

iwpoe said...

@TheOFloinn

"Actually, it was more like 20,000 years."

I hardly count unopposed rule with little effort as political success.

"It was during the 1950s that "I feel that..." began replacing "I think that..." in common discourse, a tell-tale flag that the Modern Thing was imploding. That whole Age-of-Reason thing is a dead mackerel. Nowadays it's all feelings and affirmations and Special Snowflakes. It seems now inconceivable that ancient societies developed customs and constraints around copulation for any reason by Affirming someone in their special preciousness. You can tell, when people refer to marriage as a "right" that they no longer imagine that it was once an obligation."

Yes, but I think there are rational things to say about our feelings- how to feel better and how to conduct what we do have. If a man wants to be happy and at peace, he must know what to do, how to do it, what to expect by way of potential points of failure, and why he's doing it. My argument re marriage is that we've lost any sense of that except the bare imperative to wed, and that a proper rational response to the crisis of marriage is didactic and therapeutic, not merely legislative, since one shall never be happy in marriage if one doesn't know how and why.

Brandon said...

Yes, but I think there are rational things to say about our feelings- how to feel better and how to conduct what we do have.

Which will necessarily vary from person to person, being a matter for prudential judgment according to circumstances, not directly a matter of general principle. And, indeed, experience shows directly the utter absurdity of trying to claim that feelings take any one single course in marriage. Marriages share social and institutional features, not emotional ones.

My argument re marriage is that we've lost any sense of that except the bare imperative to wed, and that a proper rational response to the crisis of marriage is didactic and therapeutic, not merely legislative, since one shall never be happy in marriage if one doesn't know how and why.

In other words, there is no general response: every marriage would have to be treated differently to address the problems and risks facing that particular marriage. This is all well and good, but (1) it leaves utterly unclear how one would even go about doing something that would require such scale; and (2) it doesn't actually rule out that 'the legislative' might be worth doing on its own as at least a minimum.

Jordanes551 said...

Just thought I'd point out that Facebook has banned this excellent, well-reasoned essay because some unnamed persons reported it for being "abusive." I tried to share it on Facebook the usual way, but was blocked from doing so, getting instead a message telling me it has been blocked. So instead I had to copy/paste the entire essay, without a hyperlink.

Don't you just love the leftist commitment to the free exchange of ideas?

iwpoe said...

There is no such commitment amongst the contemporary left: just a blind commitment to preserve the feelings of certain select groups.

Peter Smith said...

Well we can't change what has happened but we can choose how to respond. As Edward Feser has said, the term 'marriage' is becoming degraded to the point of uselessness. In that case we must leave the term behind and adopt a new term that they cannot appropriate. I suggest 'holy matrimony'. Are you married? No, I am in a state of holy matrimony. Or perhaps we could use the term 'sacred marriage'. What we need to do is recover the connection with the sacramental notion of matrimony and sever the connection with secular marriage which is becoming degraded to the point of irrelevant worthlessness.

Are there better terms than the ones I suggested?

Kirill Nielson said...

Peter Smith, no, none of that is going to be exclusive. In fact, you'll quickly get accused of "...phobia" for trying to distinguish between your marriage and other marriages. I suggest we simply give up. The war for marriage is lost. It's going to die out. We need to concentrate our attention and energy on other fronts where there is still hope, like building bridges with the Islamic world before the WWIII breaks in.

Greg said...

@ Don Jindra

IMO, the money thing is a horrible analogy. Love is not a zero sum game. It's nothing like common currency. The love or lovelessness of my neighbors has no effect on the value of my love for my wife, or the strength of our marriage. A marriage is not about how well others are doing it. It's about how well my wife and I are doing it. The rest of the world be damned.

Crude's pointed out why this is naive. But it also misses the point. Ed's argument is: People regard marriage as something important. Some contracts aren't important. Say there were some arrangement that any group of people, of any size, can form; there's no costs, no requirements, no presumption of responsibility or anything. It can be terminated at any time by any of the members (or, rather, any member can exit at any time).

The question is, who cares about these arrangements? People can form them and destroy them willy nilly; they are not a sign of anything important; there's no reason for the government to confer benefits upon them. They are just less important than marriages, traditionally conceived, which, as Anthony Kennedy pointed out, virtually everyone recognizes as important.

Ed's point, I take it, is just that, insofar as you make marriages like the second sort of arrangement, you make marriage pointless.

The college grade is another bad analogy. Nobody grades my marriage but me and my wife.

This sounds nice but seems obviously false. Strictly no one "grades" a couple that divorces. But to divorce just is to fail as a married couple. So is, generally, to take no joy in each other's presence, or to be obstinate and make your spouse do all of the housework, to make no time for your kids, etc.

But Ed's not using it in that sense anyway... he's just pointing out that egalitarian schemes often devalue what they are trying to make equally distributed.

Don Jindra said...

Crude,

You've been around here for years so you have no problem with being lectured to. :)

"We're talking about a guy who was banned from this blog and repeatedly showed up, precisely because the political and social ideas promoted freaked him the fuck out..."

I can guarantee I don't come here to save my marriage. :) But am I freaking out? In 1981 Reagan fired all air traffic controllers. He needed to hire 13,000 new ones. My dad, who knew me better than you do, suggested I apply for the job. Why? Because he thought I had the personality for it: Nothing freaks me out.

I don't know how you invented a version of me who sneers at culture or tradition in general. It's nowhere in my words. I'm a pretty traditional guy. I value culture, especially American culture. I agree that maintaining and building a culture is praiseworthy. But only if everyone has the right to participate -- that is, culture has to evolve freely from the bottom up.

Do I think our culture is so weak it needs governmental protection? Not at all. Do I think culture is or should be a top down design? Not at all. Your rhetoric about culture is communitarian and socialistic. It's the direction "conservatives" are moving.


"The fact that some people can be led astray by negative social influences, or supported in their lifestyles by positive ones, is treated as an occasion to sneer by DJ."

I wonder why you put those strange words in my mouth? I argue the opposite. People will not be led astray simply because a gay couple moves in next door. I do not believe people are so weak. I don't sneer at people. But I think you might. That's what your communitarian rhetoric says to me: You're basically saying these people are too weak to survive culturally on their own. But you're being very vague on just how that gay couple is going to tempt us. I see no hazards there. So please be specific. As a typical heterosexual married guy, what pressures am I supposed to feel? What's so flimsy about my 40 year marriage that a gay couple will cause me to jump ship?

Don Jindra said...

Greg,

Do you regard marriage as important simply because the government recognizes it? Call me old-fashioned, but I think marriage is important regardless of what the government says.

"So is, generally, to take no joy in each other's presence, or to be obstinate and make your spouse do all of the housework, to make no time for your kids, etc."

Agreed. But what does a gay couple next door have to do with any of that?


"But Ed's not using it in that sense anyway... he's just pointing out that egalitarian schemes often devalue what they are trying to make equally distributed."

And I point out this is not an egalitarian scheme. Ed is flat wrong on that. It was not egalitarian to let blacks into major league baseball. Something is egalitarian only if you force equal outcome. I don't think it's possible to do that with marriage. Even if we were forced to draw lots to be paired in marriage, we still couldn't be forced to be as happy as the next guy.



Greg said...

@ Don Jindra

Do you regard marriage as important simply because the government recognizes it? Call me old-fashioned, but I think marriage is important regardless of what the government says.

No, I don't think that. Government redefinitions are problematic because they teach that marriage is of such and such a nature; if that nature undermines the intelligibility of marriage, then people learn that marriage is not important. For instance, if marriage is about the loving, emotional commitment of adults, to which children are accidental, optional accessories, then it doesn't make sense for marriage to be permanent. (Adults might stay together for their entire lives nonetheless; that's not the point. The point is that there's no reason for marriage so-conceived to be permanent.)

Agreed. But what does a gay couple next door have to do with any of that?

I don't understand your response. Your claim was that only you decide the "grade" of your marriage; I was pointing out that, attractive as that sounds, it's not the case: quite independently of what you think of your marriage, it could objectively fail in various respects. And you agree with me.

And I point out this is not an egalitarian scheme. Ed is flat wrong on that. It was not egalitarian to let blacks into major league baseball. Something is egalitarian only if you force equal outcome. I don't think it's possible to do that with marriage. Even if we were forced to draw lots to be paired in marriage, we still couldn't be forced to be as happy as the next guy.

I guess I don't know what you mean by 'egalitarian'. I take it that there's some connection between some sense of 'egalitarian' and the sense of 'equality' used in a self-described movement for 'marriage equality'. You might be using 'egalitarian' in a difference sense from me, Ed, or most proponents of SSM, which is fine. I just don't think anyone else is interested in your sense.

DNW said...

" But only if everyone has the right to participate -- that is, culture has to evolve freely from the bottom up."

"Right to participate" More of that inclusion, shit. Nonetheless, I guess the "evolv[ing] freely from the bottom up" view puts the writer directly in opposition to all the judicial fiat in favor of so-called "gay marriage".

He need not respond.

Glenn said...

In 1981 Reagan fired all air traffic controllers. He needed to hire 13,000 new ones. My dad, who knew me better than you do, suggested I apply for the job. Why? Because he thought I had the personality for it: Nothing freaks me out.

It is good that you don't "freak out" when, e.g., gaping holes in your reasoning are pointed out. The absence of "freaking out" in such cases could be an unhealthy sign of apathy on the one hand, or a healthy sign of interest in learning to reason more cogently on the other hand.

Greg said...

@ me

I guess I don't know what you mean by 'egalitarian'. I take it that there's some connection between some sense of 'egalitarian' and the sense of 'equality' used in a self-described movement for 'marriage equality'. You might be using 'egalitarian' in a difference sense from me, Ed, or most proponents of SSM, which is fine. I just don't think anyone else is interested in your sense.

Just thinking a bit more... As Ryan Anderson tends to say, everyone believes in marriage equality, the question is just: What is marriage (and, consequently, what is marriage equality)?

In that sense, I think "traditional" marriage and letting blacks play baseball are egalitarian, in the minimal sense that they constitute both marriage equality and baseball equality. They do not exclude anyone from marriage or baseball arbitrarily. Excluding blacks from playing baseball is an arbitrary exclusion, because baseball is not defined in terms of race, and a definition of something like baseball that made reference to race would not be intelligible. On the other hand, marriage as a union of man and woman is not arbitrary, so the fact that man-man and woman-woman pairs can't marry is consistent with "marriage equality."

thefederalist said...

Unknown said: "the opposition to gay marriage is based on the premise that heterosexual couples need something that they can believe is for them and for them only, and the ability of gays to refer to their husbands or wives makes heterosexuals feel less special".

This isn't even wrong. This nothing close to a "premise" in the anti-SSM argument, despite it's being Justice Kennedy's only argument for overturning a millenias-old universal understanding. Societies have managed to come up with lots of ways to punish homosexuals; one punishment none of them has come up with is to create a special club - married folks - whose purpose is to taunt homosexuals by their exclusion from it. That's a narrative so stupid only a Supreme Court Justice would believe it, and not even all of them.

Seamus said...

Okay but in fairness nobody legally discriminates against the undignified heterosexual couple. You can tell Rush Limbaugh his marriage to his fourth wife is undignified, immoral, etc. all you want but you should expect a lawsuit if you deny him a business service because of it.

In most cases, a businessman doesn't know that the couple requesting a wedding cake, a DJ for the reception, or a photographer is entering a third or fourth "marriage," but shouldn't one who *knows* who Rush Limbaugh is and what he's trying to pull off be entitled to refuse to participate in his blasphemous parody of marriage?

Anonymous said...

The problem with equating same-sex marriage with racial segregation of the past is that they don't equate at all. Marriage has not become more equal, its only that the restrictions on what counts as marriage has changed.

Gay members of society could still marry, it just had to be someone of the opposite sex, but it doesn't officially stop them from marrying. A gay man could still marry a women. The women could be gay as well. So no one is excluded or segregated here.

In terms of baseball and Blacks, Blacks were excluded from playing. So it doesn't even equate at all.

TheOFloinn said...

"Actually, it was more like 20,000 years."

I hardly count unopposed rule with little effort as political success.
That you think of it as"unopposed rule" says a great deal about your lack of historical consciousness.

Tell us why you think that marriage was a civil obligation for so many millennia while other forms of close attachment were not.

iwpoe said...

@TheOFloinn

Calm yourself. I mean merely that the West was never in the position of having to defend, politically, marriage as such, not even in places where homosexuality was to some extent tolerated. That is, as far as I'm aware, a twentieth century development, and one that was resisted poorly.

Crude said...

DJ,

Nothing freaks me out.

With respect, Don - evidence indicates otherwise. If you wanted to preserve your image as the calm, cool guy who neither needs cultural assurance nor worries about it, I'm sorry to tell you, that ship has sailed. Stories about imagined glory that took place three decades ago won't change that.

You do, in fact, freak out. I get banned from places, and I simply walk. You? You, even on a small blog like this, angrily evaded the ban because the potential politics of it all shook you up. You've got many other bullshit labels you can pretend apply to you, but 'above it all, worried about no cultural influence' is unavailable. That was the cost of admission to stick around here, and you paid it.

Your rhetoric about culture is communitarian and socialistic.

And your reading skills are what they always are - lacking. Same goes for your thought process. Culture involves community, by necessity. And socialism? You're projecting. While the idiot-ravings of Kennedy make believe that it was otherwise, monogamy was not barred from the LGBT subculture before their ruling - they gave that up quite willfully.

I wonder why you put those strange words in my mouth? I argue the opposite. People will not be led astray simply because a gay couple moves in next door.

Hey look, DJ's lying again. As usual, it doesn't serve him well.

True to the pattern, you're incoherent. On the one hand, widespread open relationships in the LGBT culture are regarded by some - with no criticism by you, and implied agreement - as the necessary outcome of same-sex marriage being barred in some states. Apparently when the outcomes are ones DJ and company purport to dislike, they can locate the cause with cultural practices and attitudes they dislike, serving as a corrosive influence. In fact, the very existence of widespread rejection of monogamy in the LGBT community can be explained by a collective lack of character on their part.

But suddenly all that talk about 'finally allowing same-sex couples the chance' to form monogamous relationships - something which was not barred to them for a long, long time previously - well, it's simply not possible for cultural influences to have a negative effect, and to think otherwise implies everyone is weak.

But hey, let's run with your mode of thinking:

The very idea that out of wedlock births will increase in this country is absurd. Nay, it's insulting to women. To believe that cultural influences could possibly make women more prone to having sex outside of marriage and getting pregnant is an insult to all of womankind. It'll never happen.

Also, divorce won't increase. Another insult, suggesting that there can be /influences/ on behavior at large, such that commitment to one's spouse will be different now than in the past.

Of course, these are crazy people, prone to conspiracy theories. Why, some of them even believe that fertility rates will drop, and some countries will see demographic crises. That, my friends, is insane. People have been getting pregnant and having children since as far back as anyone can remember. A demographic crash? Never.

Why, if these things came to pass, it would blow DJ's pontifications completely out of the water, and what are the odds he's wrong again?

Crude said...

Kirill,

Peter Smith, no, none of that is going to be exclusive. In fact, you'll quickly get accused of "...phobia" for trying to distinguish between your marriage and other marriages. I suggest we simply give up.

I have another suggestion: we stop acting like being accused of this or that 'phobia' means anything. We stop apologizing, and we only care about appealing the others' sensibilities on this front to a point.

'Marriage' isn't lost, because the fight never ends. And frankly? In 10 years, it may well be the case that the only people who give a shit about marriage ARE the religious people.

Flynn,

Thank you for catching that bit with the actual success of the argument, politically. You're correct.

As for the rest - we've got a new, shitty SJW religion we're living in the midst of. My advice? Discover the joys of blasphemy regarding it.

Anonymous said...

"The opposition to gay marriage is based on the premise that heterosexual couples need something that they can believe is for them and for them only, and the ability of gays to refer to their husbands or wives makes heterosexuals feel less special."

You have been arguing this for years? As an equivalent:

"The opposition to polygamous marriage is based on the premise that monogamous couples need something that they can believe is for them and for them only, and the ability of polygamists to refer to their husbands or wives makes monogamous couples feel less special."

Would you accept or argue that too? I could have replaced this with a far more imaginative description of marriage. There are men who want to marry their sex dolls. According to you, any opposition to this is also for this same reason.

One point that ruins your whole narrative: Gays can marry and have been able to marry for some time now. They just could only marry someone of the same sex.

TheOFloinn said...

I mean merely that the West was never in the position of having to defend, politically, marriage as such

Who is restricting this to the West? Name any milieu in which marriage was anything other than what the name implies?

There was only one primary reason why the clan or tribe had to intervene to regulate marriage; viz., to ensure that there would be some mechanism for raising whatever children might result naturally from their activities. Hence, the host of obligations visited upon the couple.

jmhenry said...

Unknown: I have been arguing this for years: the opposition to gay marriage is based on the premise that heterosexual couples need something that they can believe is for them and for them only, and the ability of gays to refer to their husbands or wives makes heterosexuals feel less special.

Perhaps another analogy (however imperfect it may be) will illustrate why this is wrong.

Let's say human beings had incomplete but complementary digestive systems. In other words, you needed another person to digest food, because you were biologically incapable of doing so on your own. A truly digestive act would be a coordinated act between people with complementary digestive systems -- the only sort of act that can be ordered towards the nutritive end.

Now imagine society developed an institution regulating the complementary "digestive unions" that people formed in order to ensure the common good: to keep people from shirking their responsibilities to their digestive "mates," which could result in people starving. The institution imposed certain duties and obligations on the parties of these unions: for example, one party couldn't just leave the other, and dissolving the union could not be done without reason.

And let's say that, traditionally and historically, when the two people entered into these unions and engaged in the digestive act for the first time together, this was said to "consummate" their union.

Eventually, perhaps a minority of non-complementary "digestive unions" started to demand entrance into this institution and access to its benefits and support. These "liberals" even began to make the argument that the institution that was created to regulate complementary digestive unions for the good of nutrition was not even about nutrition at all.

In response, some “conservatives” pointed out that, whatever one thinks of a non-complementary "digestive unions," it would be a mistake to admit them to the same institution and call them digestive unions, since digestion is a process ordered towards the nutritive end. But non-complementary digestive unions can obviously never be ordered to this end. So that would uproot the original purpose of the institution: to regulate complementary digestive unions for the common good by protecting the good of nutrition. In other words, it would sever the nutritive norm from the institution...

LIBERAL: That's just prejudice and bigotry. Non-complementary digestive unions have as much right to be a part of the institution of digestive unions as anyone else. These unions are about so much more than nutrition: they’re about mutual support, love, sticking together through thick and thin, etc.

CONSERVATIVE: But all those norms only make sense within the distinctive nature of the union between two people of complementary digestive systems. It makes sense to say that two people who cannot digest food on their own -- but can do so together -- should stick together and be faithful. Without one another, the two of them would starve. So, long ago, society enforced duties and obligations on such unions: the digestive norms of monogamy and fidelity, which are ordered towards the nutritive end and are unified and made intelligible by it. Outside that context, there is no rational basis for them.

LIBERAL: Non-complementary digestive unions can be monogamous and faithful too! Yes, maybe some reformists think that monogamy is outdated, or that they can settle for being "monogamish." But, for the most part, we believe in those traditional norms too. So allowing non-complementary digestive unions into the institution won't hurt those norms.

(cont.)

jmhenry said...

(cont.)

CONSERVATIVE: But, again, the question is whether those norms have any rational basis outside a complementary digestive context. Maybe the reformers will decide to uphold the old norms. But what reason is there for their preservation once the nutritive norm that made them intelligible is removed?

LIBERAL: There you go again, talking about nutrition! I told you, digestive unions are about more than that.

CONSERVATIVE: Right. But nutrition is the ordering and unifying principle of all the other goods of a digestive union, and is what makes such a union a distinctively digestive union. So you can’t just ignore it. Otherwise, any sort of union could conceivably be admitted to the institution of digestive unions.

LIBERAL: We’re not talking about letting those poly-digestive unions in. Or unions between people and animals; or people and buildings; or people and robots. Stop it with the slippery slope stuff.

CONSERVATIVE: It’s not slippery slope stuff. It’s a logical inference from what you’ve stated. If we can admit a union that lacks the nutritive end (and is therefore not digestive) into the institution of digestive unions, then conceivably any union could in principle be called a "digestive union."

LIBERAL: But people in non-complementary digestive unions just want the same dignity as those in complementary digestive unions. Why would you want to deny them that?

CONSERVATIVE: It’s not about denying reformers dignity. It’s about affirming the objective nature of a digestive union, as opposed to saying that a "digestive union" is simply whatever society or convention says it is. It doesn’t cause dignitary harm to simply affirm that a union that is not ordered towards the nutritive end cannot be a digestive union; and that protecting the good of nutrition is the reason why there is civil enforcement and regulation of such unions.

LIBERAL: I think the real reason why you don’t want to admit people in non-complementary digestive unions into the institution is because you think it will make your union less special. Well, it won’t! Digestive union equality won’t effect people in complementary digestive unions at all!

CONSERVATIVE: Well, as I explained before, the norms of digestive unions are ordered towards the nutritive end and are unified and made intelligible by it. So by severing the nutritive norm from the institution of digestive unions, there would no longer be any rational basis for the preservation of those norms. Perhaps, then, those norms might steadily erode, as people began to see that they lacked such a rational basis. Consequently, they might begin to demand additional kinds of unions to be admitted to the institution of digestive unions.

LIBERAL: Gah! That slippery slope again!

CONSERVATIVE: Not really. The possible scenario simply follows from the logical inference we made earlier: that if a union lacking the nutritive end (and being therefore non-digestive) can be admitted into the institution of digestive unions, then conceivably any union could in principle be called a "digestive union."

LIBERAL: But digestion is about more than nutrition. It’s about tasting the food, enjoying the textures, the rich aromas that evoke old memories, bonding emotionally with another person, and all that good stuff. Does it matter that two people are non-complementary, if they can have all the other stuff?

CONSERVATIVE: It matters whether we call their union a digestive union, since digestion is ordered towards nutrition, which is the good that the institution was created to protect. Whatever else those two people have, it’s not a digestive union. Shouldn’t it matter that we affirm the objective structure of an institution that our ancestors devised so as to keep people from starving? To make sure people fulfilled their duties and obligations to their digestive mates, lest the two of them perish?

Craig Payne said...

Dear Anonymous: I think in your last sentence you meant to say "opposite" instead of "same."

Otherwise, your point is valid. The argument is not over the right to marry, which homosexuals have always had. The argument is over the re-definition of marriage.

Crude said...

To sharpen a point here:

The idea that 'LGBT people couldn't be expected to be monogamous before - they couldn't get married!' is wrong, sure. Same-sex marriage may have been without legal support in most states, but same-sex monogamy sure wasn't. And anyone here who's ever dated for an extended period of time, or known someone who did, should be able to testify as to whether heterosexuals show a capability to commit to monogamy (problems though there are morally with it) in absence of marriage.

But beyond that, think about what's really being said here.

'Sure, that couple is utterly unfaithful to each other now. But man, marriage would nip THAT in the bud.'

Would anyone buy this sort of crap in any other context?

'Sure, he cheats on her. But they'll be married soon - that'll solve it!'

'Alright, she's an alcoholic. But hey, they have a kid on the way soon. That'll help!'

Even on a societal scale, the idea that single motherhood will promote responsibility and down to earth values among young women rather flies in the face of the effing facts.

Especially when the fight for same-sex marriage rode strongly on the back of the cultural ideal that it is literally impossible for someone (particularly women and gay men) to make a bad choice in their sex lives, so long as it was consensual, no one picked up a disease, and (for many) no one got pregnant.

I'm supposed to believe modern social liberals are ready and willing to, say... condemn a woman for the sexual choices they make with consenting partners, as opposed to beg for forgiveness when accused of so much as implying she made an immoral choice with her body?

You'd be better off expecting that the whole thing will just lead to some weird Japanese-style implosion where large numbers of people lose interest in sex altogether and prefer to go it alone.

d said...

You guys making all the cute analogies (well, not-so-cute really - profoundly silly maybe) about digestion might have the beginning of an actual point if:

- People were unambiguously able, at some point in their lives, the choice to be oriented heterosexually or homosexually.
- Homosexual relationships never ever "bear fruit" (sort of like how drinking battery acid, never improves ones health)

If we were able to choose sexual orientation like we could choose deserts, one might make the case its never better to choose homosexuality. But that choice really doesn't exist.

And, quite frankly, there are plenty of homosexuals who are *clearly* better off in their monogamous marriage-type relationships, in the same way you are I are better off, by being in those same kinds of relationships. Their needs are similar, and the character of those relationships are similar - enough so that the ought to be considered to be of the same kind. Getting hung up on the mechanics of the way the sex organs fit together and acting as if that has some normative force here is just laughably ridiculous.


Brandon said...

And, quite frankly, there are plenty of homosexuals who are *clearly* better off in their monogamous marriage-type relationships, in the same way you are I are better off, by being in those same kinds of relationships.

I find it interesting that your argument goes vague at precisely the point at which you need to be specific. Let's hear the precise account of how I would be better off in such a relationship, and how people in open marriages and gays who don't want such relationships, would be better off by being in such relationships.

iwpoe said...

@ TheOFloinn

"Who is restricting this to the West? Name any milieu in which marriage was anything other than what the name implies?"

I limited to the West because I personally, for instance, have no idea how east Asia handled its sexual history or what pre-Colombian America was doing. The same patterns likely hold. I simply have no knowledge because of lack of interest in one some cases and lack of record in others.

"There was only one primary reason why the clan or tribe had to intervene to regulate marriage; viz., to ensure that there would be some mechanism for raising whatever children might result naturally from their activities. Hence, the host of obligations visited upon the couple."

Well, it might also genuinely be bad for people that they flit around from sexual relationship to sexual relationship for 40+ years, though you are surely right about the core motive.

Scott said...

d:

You guys making all the cute analogies (well, not-so-cute really - profoundly silly maybe) about digestion might have the beginning of an actual point if:

- People were unambiguously able, at some point in their lives, the choice to be oriented heterosexually or homosexually.


Nothing in the digestion analogy depends on people's ability to choose which half of a digestive system they'll be attracted to. All it depends on is that someone of Type A can digest only in combination with someone of Type B. Whether they want to digest or not has not a blessed thing to do with it, let alone whether they're able to choose their desires.

- Homosexual relationships never ever "bear fruit[.]"

If by "fruit" you mean "offspring," then I'd be really really really interested in hearing about what you regard as a counterexample.

And, quite frankly, there are plenty of homosexuals who are *clearly* better off in their monogamous marriage-type relationships[.]

Than they are in non-monogamous relationships? I suppose they might be. And?

Anyway, who was ever stopping them from being monogamous? And what is there in current marriage law requiring that a same-sex (or any other) marital relationship be monogamous?

Getting hung up on the mechanics of the way the sex organs fit together and acting as if that has some normative force here is just laughably ridiculous.

I suppose it might be, if anyone had done that. Now, thinking that that's what the argument at issue amounts to…that's laughably ridiculous.

d said...

@Crude

"The idea that 'LGBT people couldn't be expected to be monogamous before - they couldn't get married!' is wrong, sure. Same-sex marriage may have been without legal support in most states, but same-sex monogamy sure wasn't. And anyone here who's ever dated for an extended period of time, or known someone who did, should be able to testify as to whether heterosexuals show a capability to commit to monogamy (problems though there are morally with it) in absence of marriage."

You've been making this point about various stats regarding monogamy in homosexual relationships... however...

Take your average heterosexual population... social policies and attitudes (and perhaps how words are defined) can have a *huge* impact on how that population behaves, correct? Thats the line we're supposed to be buying right? The Decline is real you say.. no fault divorce, sexual revolution, etc - all destroying our once healthy happy heterosexual monogamous traditional values culture, and sending into a tailspin of destruction and broken homes.

So... if social attitudes and policies and word definitions trend one way, the population can become increasingly promiscuous, more and more children out of wedlock, spread more sexual disease, the destruction of the family unit etc - even despite the predilections of their innate orientations and nature.

If social attitudes and policies and word definitions trend the other way, that same population can drastically veer the other direction - and become strong in sexual discipline, more monogamous, bring about more stable marriages and families, etc.

And yet... we asked (rather, demanded) to believe that the same mechanics cannot possibly apply to the homosexual population. Whatever their current monogamy rates are, are just obvious immutable facts arising from their homosexuality, revealing the truth of their malfunction. No matter what happens, gay people just can't not be promiscuous, can't be monogamous, etc and can not at all be affected by social attitudes or policy.

That about right?

TheOFloinn said...

If social attitudes and policies and word definitions trend the other way, that same population can drastically veer the other direction - and become strong in sexual discipline, more monogamous, bring about more stable marriages and families, etc.

Muddying the definitions impairs our ability to talk about something coherently. The natural pairing of men and women is simply a biological fact. See Darwin for details. In fact, that is just what marriage is -- the natural pairing off of men and women. That's why in the traditional churches, the ministers of matrimony are the couple, not the priest (who is simply an official witness for the Community). It's even more informal among muslims. Societies devised various strategies to control the behavior since, without some controls, it would spell demographic disaster for the clan. For example, the man cannot abandon the woman for frivolous reasons. He must support the woman and defend her and her children with his life if need be. In return, she guarantees that her children will be of him. There may be rules of moeities or consanguinity, or who can arrange the marriage. Some societies permit alpha males or Big Men to support multiple wives. (Among muslims, the man has to demonstrate that he has the means to do so.) etc. All of these rules and obligations are intended to inculcate stability, faithfulness and most of all to ensure that offspring do not become a burden on "the king's purse."

None of this is needed for other sorts of pairings, since there is no comparable consequences.

That was why it was so important to push easy divorce, trophy wives, contraception, single-motherhood and other things before anyone suggested extending the term to cover things that were no marriages.

moduspownens said...

Pray tell, d,

A triangle has three out of the four sides of a square, approximating squarehood, is it "similar (sic) enough so that it (sic) ought to be considered to be of the same kind"?

"And, quite frankly, there are plenty of homosexuals who are *clearly* better off in their monogamous marriage-type relationships, in the same way you are I are better off..."

That may very well be true. But again, that can be applied to any form of community and or friendship. Presumably, I'm better off having friends than not having them. And just like those amicable associations, homosexuals are free to choose to be monogamous and "better off" in their relationships without being seen as married by the state? In other words, why does that status of being "better off" justify state recognition? I would hope that it would be obvious that we don't want the state involved in all our personal relationships. That, its hand in marriage must be warranted. And procreation and socialization of its future citizens -- interest in its own perpetuation not romance -- seemingly is the rational reason for its participation.

And I'll be less bold than jmhenry and weaken my conclusion. Given certain uncontroversial facts such as the existence of the marital norms of monogamy and permanence, the historical and anthropological truth that marriage has remained static as a union based upon sexual complementarity across time and civilizations up until 15 years ago, the cultural, economic, religious and political significance the institution has attracted over the millennia and the social reality that the government takes special interest in marital unions over other personal relationships, what is the best explanation of these facts? Procreation, not intense romantic or emotional attachment, best explains why marriage is essentially a heterosexual union.

So, what is your non-procreative and non-unitive account of marriage that better explains these facts and includes same-sex couples?


Billy said...

"The argument is not over the right to marry, which homosexuals have always had. The argument is over the re-definition of marriage."

That can't be all of it though. SSM supporters clearly believe that gay couples are being treated unequally by not being able to get married to each other. The term 'marriage equality' is used and fought for by them. It implies that before SSM, marriage was not equal, which is not the case. Before and after the definition was changed to ignore sex, it stayed just as equal as before.

d writes: "Their needs are similar, and the character of those relationships are similar - enough so that the ought to be considered to be of the same kind."

One is, in general and on a grand scale, capable of bearing children together, and the other is not. Married couples who are incapable of having children are exceptions, they do not disprove the rule.

If bearing children is of little importance to marriage, then what is an argument that can be made for this that can't be made for the claim that bearing children is of little importance to rearing children? As far as I can see, if one goes then the other goes with it and no parent has any responsibility to the children they bear, nor do they have any claim to who raises their children.

Anonymous said...


LGBT people

Redundant? Should be named solely, and with person(s) so representative to the comment/point. Who speaks for "them," when? For this "group" parading as some institution seems to have accomplished enough with any number of hosts to thrive on.
Without any order of their own. They probably would not have thrived this long on their own. Let them specify and burn out the pronouns.

Billy said...

Sorry, "married heterosexual* couples..." it should read.

jmhenry said...

To continue my almost science fictional, parallel universe dialogue...

LIBERAL: But I don't understand why people in non-complementary digestive unions can't be permitted into the same institution. Their needs are similar enough to those in complementary digestive unions: enjoying the tastes and textures of food, sharing fond recollections, emotional bonding, etc. So what if those things don't end in nutrition?

CONSERVATIVE: Because protecting the good of nutrition is the unifying purpose of the institution in the first place. Without the nutritive norm, the institution has no reason to exist at all. Our ancestors needed a mechanism for enforcing the digestive norms so that people didn't shirk their responsibilities, resulting in starvation.

LIBERAL: But people in complementary digestive unions already shirk their responsibilities. They dissolve their unions for frivolous reasons. Many use contra-nutritive pills so that they can engage in the digestive act for pleasure or bonding while blocking the nutritive end.

CONSERVATIVE: True. And those things have led to all sorts of bad consequences for society: malnutrition has become an epidemic, many starve to death, people have come to view digestive partners has objects for their own pleasure, and many now believe in "casual" or "no strings attached" digestive acts, which leads to more malnutrition and starvation. The old norms of monogamy and fidelity have indeed already been weakened by severing the digestive act from its nutritive end. Eliminating digestive complementarity as an essential feature of a digestive union will make it even harder for people to see the link between digestion and nutrition.

LIBERAL: But some people just have a non-complementary digestive inclination or orientation. It's not a choice!

CONSERVATIVE: Perhaps not. But that's irrelevant to my point, which is that there is an objective structure to a digestive union. You are arguing that we ignore that objective structure to admit unions that are objectively non-digestive into an institution whose purpose is to secure the good of nutrition.

LIBERAL: Stop being so obsessed with nutrition! A digestive union involves so much more: self-sacrifice for another, life-long commitment, devotion and mutual support. Non-complementary digestive unions can all have all those things, but you keep ignoring that.

CONSERVATIVE: Maybe they have all those things. But I will repeat: whatever else those unions are, it makes no sense to call them digestive unions, since digestion is ordered towards the end of nutrition. It's the nutritive end that unifies and makes intelligible a union a distinctively digestive union. And from this arise all of the digestive norms of monogamy and fidelity to one's digestive mate, lest the two people starve and perish. If it weren't for this grave matter that effects the common good, there would be no need for civil regulation and enforcement of digestive unions in the first place.

LIBERAL: Getting hung up on the mechanics of how the digestive organs fit together and acting as if that has normative force here is laughably ridiculous.

CONSERVATIVE: Umm, well, not quite. The natural pairing of complementary digestive persons is simply a biological fact. And without some regulation and control, it would spell disaster for the society: people would starve and die. Malnutrition would become rampant.

LIBERAL: Nutrition again! It keeps coming back to that.

CONSERVATIVE: Yes, it does...

Bill said...

Gay members of society could still marry, it just had to be someone of the opposite sex, but it doesn't officially stop them from marrying. A gay man could still marry a women. The women could be gay as well. So no one is excluded or segregated here.

Correction, gay members of society were getting married to each other long before nut-job Kennedy joined the court. Show me a law in any state that forbade homosexuals from marrying. They couldn't get a license, but they could exchange vows with anybody or anything they chose. There was no law prohibiting them from exchanging vows with their trees, lawn mowers, or their same-sex live-in.

Daniel said...

Society institutes marriage to control procreation and the immorality (as opposed to just irrationality) of contraception i.e. controlling procreation is determined by its relation to society/the common good? The reasoning seems to verge on cyclicality here.

@Brandon, cries for you have probably already gone up multiple times in this thread but could you(or anyone else of course) suggest a book or article which clearly sets out the role of society/the common good in determining morality on a Natural Law account?

Don Jindra said...

Greg,

It's true egalitarianism is used in different ways. But --

"In general, where X is perceived to have greater value than Y and you try to raise the value of Y by assimilating it to X, the actual result will instead be simply to lower the value of X to that of Y."

That's a formula for distributive egalitarianism -- equalizing outcome. But I think gay rights advocates see the issue as an equality of access thing.

I agree marriage as a union of man and woman is not arbitrary. If marriage was only about the biology of reproduction, that would be the end of the story.

This issue is not dear to my heart. Frankly, I wish the courts had stayed out of it. But now that the reality is here, I think the prognostications about the end of marriage and even civilization are a stretch of the imagination. To claim that gay marriage is identical to traditional marriage is also a stretch of the imagination. But I also think it's good citizenship to try to see issues from the POV of those with grievances.

From the gay POV, marriage benefits are gender neutral. This is in fact true, since both male and female get those benefits in equal portion. This wasn't always the case. Historically the woman was in the inferior legal position. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was correct in her argument that traditional marriage has already changed dramatically in the past 200 years. The government was part of that change. It already treats the pair in a generic way.

The rules in baseball are color blind. But the rules in marriage are gender blind. If a traditional couple adopts, they are equal guardians under the law, no matter the sex. So from a gay couple's POV, a refusal to let both of them be equal guardians of an adopted child does seem arbitrary. From a legal POV, it's hard to argue with that.

Don Jindra said...

Crude,

"With respect, Don - evidence indicates otherwise."

I have fun here. That's why I keep coming back. So how about if you entertain me with topics you might know something about?

It looked like the rest of your post was spent charging at windmills. OTOH, maybe it was a cleverly disguised argument that, with gay marriage included, culture is just a bunch of people mud wrestling. But that really doesn't answer my question: As a typical heterosexual married guy, what pressures am I supposed to feel? What's so flimsy about my 40 year marriage that a gay couple will cause me to jump ship? If you don't mind, I'd really like you to look into your crystal ball and tell me my future.

thefederalist said...

TOF: Your insights are excellent, except for a small technical detail. I believe the Orthodox churches teach that the Church, in its ordained minister, marry the couple. They do not administer the mystery to each other.

Scott said...

thefederalist:

As I understand it, an Orthodox wedding makes a marriage Christian, but it's simply recognizing and "baptizing" the marriage itself. I could be wrong, though.

Mike M. said...

The monogamy of a marriage comes from a procreative-unitive gift of self. You can't give all of yourself to your spouse if your giving yourself to someone else too (unitive) . You can't give the gift of yourself physically unless it's of a procreative nature otherwise you're denying the spirit in which the gift is meant to be given. The unitive arises out of the procreative. So SSM is to put it bluntly playing house. It's not food because it tastes good it's food because it's nourishing. The taste is prior to the nutritive. I don't have my lingo down but do you see where I'm trying to go with this?

d said...

"""
That may very well be true. But again, that can be applied to any form of community and or friendship. Presumably, I'm better off having friends than not having them. And just like those amicable associations, homosexuals are free to choose to be monogamous and "better off" in their relationships without being seen as married by the state? In other words, why does that status of being "better off" justify state recognition? I would hope that it would be obvious that we don't want the state involved in all our personal relationships. That, its hand in marriage must be warranted. And procreation and socialization of its future citizens -- interest in its own perpetuation not romance -- seemingly is the rational reason for its participation.
"""

On the contrary, we DO want government in our personal relationships, since government is the authority charged with the enforcement of contracts. Its job is to stand its weight behind mutual commitments and obligations made between parties to a contract by:

- Providing some kind of legal consequence should any party fail to fulfill their obligations.

- Requiring society at large to recognize (note I didn't say "endorse") the contract, and preventing others from imposing any barriers upon the contractees that would unreasonably hinder them from fulfilling their obligations. This is especially important for spousal relationships.

Without that protection, many of the commitments and obligations that would-be spouses would make to one another could be infringed arbitrarily, by anybody, or may even be impossible. Just imagine, assuming you have a spouse, if people or institutions could just decide not to treat you as a core family unit when it suited them, and the harms that could result from it?

State involvement here isn't just *justified*, in my view, its both *justified* AND *obligated*. Securing those kinds of rights is one of its core obligations, if not THE core obligation.

(Honestly, we should fear a government that would hold "state self-perpetuation" as something so sacred, lest it find something all-together more efficient at self-perpetuation, and does not so happily align with our own individual well-being and liberty.)

We should call same-sex marriages, marriages, because the relationship is indeed a *spousal* one (and as such, demands all of the legal insurances designed to serve and facilitate any other spousal bond).

Think about that. Just imagine doing an exercise, where you observe various groups of people, and try to pick out the spouses from non-spouses? The presence of children could certainly be a good indicator, but it isn't definitive (also, many gay-people DO have kids). Lack of children definitely isn't an indicator one way or the other either.

Of course, the obvious retort here would to look at gender... but you still must pick out opposite-gender non-spouses from opposite gender spouses. What are the things that would make them distinct? Aside the presence of wedding rings, the same last names, or children, and sexual relations, is it just impossible? Would there be no other defining properties that set apart non-spouse from spouse?

If you were to pin that distinction on the way certain private parts fit together in a sexual act, isn't it, pray-tell, really the anti-SSM side who really wants to make the government overly concerned with sexual mechanics? (And of course, let's not forget that, for various reasons, a sexual relationship may typify spousal relationships, but is not an absolute or necessary component).

Glenn said...

If you don't mind, I'd really like you to look into your crystal ball and tell me my future.

You will continue to present yourself as one holding the opinion that what he believes does not affect him as an individual cannot affect other individuals or society as a whole.

jmhenry said...

(Partly inspired by this exchange.)

LIBERAL: But aren't we just talking about equality? People in complementary digestive unions (CDUs) have all kinds of benefits. People in non-complementary digestive unions (NDUs) just want the same. True digestive union equality would treat them the same, giving both the same benefits.

CONSERVATIVE: Historically, our society has conferred such support to CDUs because they are the only kind of relationship ordered towards the nutritive end, which provides the ordering and unifying purpose of the institution. Imagine a race of people who were not like us: instead, they had complete digestive systems, and didn't need to bond to another in a life-long commitment which is naturally fulfilled by nutrition. They could eat and digest and derive nourishment all on their own. Such a people might not have ever even developed an institution of digestive unions at all, much less have become mired in a debate about "digestive union equality" like we have.

LIBERAL: That's a silly hypothetical. The fact is that we are digestive-bonding beings. NDUs can still have loving, committed, devoted relationships, sharing the tastes and textures of different foods, sharing stories and good conversation, laughing and growing together. They just want equality before the law that people in CDUs have.

CONSERVATIVE: But we're all in favor of equality. We just have a disagreement about what a digestive union is.

LIBERAL: A digestive union is whatever the government says it is.

CONSERVATIVE: Well, by that logic, the government could never define a digestive union wrongly. The question is: How should the government define a digestive union, based on what it is? Your argument presupposes that a digestive union has no objective, natural structure.

LIBERAL: But its structure is just set by lawmakers.

CONSERVATIVE: That's part of our disagreement. I believe the state recognizes digestive unions based on what they are. The natural pairing of complementary digestive persons just is a digestive union. Government simply recognizes, regulates, and promotes and enforces the norms associated with, this natural institution.

LIBERAL: You're talking about that natural law stuff. The government doesn't have the power to do what you're saying.

CONSERVATIVE: I would argue that, not only does it have the power to do so, it has the obligation to do so. Human positive law should be rooted in the natural law, otherwise it is unjust, and there would be no standard of right beyond whatever the government says. Imagine if we said that a person is whatever the government says it is.

LIBERAL: Okay, but you said earlier that government promotes and enforces the norms of digestive unions. So isn't that all a digestive union is -- a contract and its enforcement? People in NDUs can form contracts with mutual obligations and commitments just as must as people in CDUs, or whatever the partners consent to.

CONSERVATIVE: So can people in poly-digestive unions. Remember, I argued that the obligations and commitments of a CDU logically follow from what a digestive union is; they aren't determined by whatever the partners consent to. If a digestive union were merely a contract, it wouldn't be a distinctively digestive union. The norms of monogamy, exclusivity, fidelity, and permanence to one's digestive mate logically follow from the nutritive end. But if the union in question is only a contract, then there's nothing distinctively digestive about it, since contracts can come in all forms. In which case, it would make no sense to call them "digestive unions." So is the government interested in a digestive union merely as a contract, or is there something unique about it that draws the attention of the state?

George LeSauvage said...

This topic always brings two things to my mind. First, from Orwell: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."

The second is an that one of the most ordinary and foolish characters in the history of opera got it:

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


@Brandon:

In response to this:

My argument re marriage is that we've lost any sense of that except the bare imperative to wed, and that a proper rational response to the crisis of marriage is didactic and therapeutic, not merely legislative, since one shall never be happy in marriage if one doesn't know how and why.

You said this:

In other words, there is no general response: every marriage would have to be treated differently to address the problems and risks facing that particular marriage. This is all well and good, but (1) it leaves utterly unclear how one would even go about doing something that would require such scale; and (2) it doesn't actually rule out that 'the legislative' might be worth doing on its own as at least a minimum.

Your reply certainly makes sense to me. Would it not also be true that if there is no general response, we are in a condition of speaking of "marriage" as if it meant only something like "the class of all things I want to call marriages"? Which of course is something someone might say, but isn't it per se begging the question if one comes to an avowedly Thomist blog to say it?

George LeSauvage said...

Can anyone explain why so much talk is thrown at us which has no reference to the case virtually all marriage-defenders make? I mean speech about lonely old age, or tax deductions, and the like, which don't even approach the question of what marriage is? I don't get it.

For instance, above we hear this: "Those against gay marriage cast themselves like major league baseball in the 1940s refusing to let blacks compete against whites." Now, whatever point this is making, it certainly doesn't touch that issue. No one (using the analogy given) denied that Satchel Paige was playing baseball in the Negro Leagues; certainly not the many major league players who played against him in the off-season. John McGraw - who certainly knew as much about the game as anyone who ever lived - said Oscar Charleston was the best player he ever saw. (I could go on for quite a while, but I'll spare one and all another of my hobby horses.)

Whatever is clear, it is that no one who observed the color line thought it was between baseball players, and non-players. They thought they had reasons to keep blacks out of the major leagues, as they thought they had reasons to keep the Black Sox out. We disagree with them about the former, but not about the latter, but none of this claims that the excluded players weren't playing baseball. So why even bring it up? It looks for all the world like a bit of Bulverism, but perhaps that is uncharitable. In any case, it surely seems irrelevant.

Brandon said...

Daniel,

could you(or anyone else of course) suggest a book or article which clearly sets out the role of society/the common good in determining morality on a Natural Law account?

In terms of natural law and common good, I don't think there's all that much; it's not controversial that natural law has human common good as its final cause, and things that are not controversial tend not to get much study in comparison with things that are. You might find Mary Margaret Keys, Aquinas, Aristotle, and the Promise of the Common Good interesting, but I don't know how far it intersects with what you're looking for.

George LeSauvage,

Would it not also be true that if there is no general response, we are in a condition of speaking of "marriage" as if it meant only something like "the class of all things I want to call marriages"?

I'm not sure what would follow from it, actually; but I did have a similar thought: the problem with therapy as policy, i.e., with therapeutic responses that aren't focused on particular treatments, tends to be that they are formless, and thus Modernist in the old fashioned sense of 'subjective assessment and personal experience rather than reason and authority'.

GoldRush Apple said...

*reads all comments*

Nice.

*grabs popcorn, sips loudly on Pepsi*

GoldRush Apple said...

@ George: The point of that piss poor analogy was that it was trying to attempt to mirror racists and "stubborn old bigots," with those opposing anything other than one man one woman marriage. It's the same card with who use the anti-miscegenation laws to tell the opposition "Look! Funny how history repeats itself! Now, you don't want to be like them, do you?" If they can't bring in race they'll try to use women. If they can't use either one they'll use people who deny science. If they can't use any of those three they'll say "Why does it matter? Just let people live their lives. They aren't hurting anyone." Feels. So reliable.

TheOFloinn said...

now that the reality is here, I think the prognostications about the end of marriage and even civilization are a stretch of the imagination.

How so? There hasn't been enough time? Look how long it took to mess up the Catholic priesthood. Rome wasn't sacked in a day.

Besides, it's a symptom of the untergang, not a cause.

The rules in baseball are color blind.

But they are not blind to the four bases or to the distance between them, or to the infield fly rule.

Crude said...

As Goldrush Apple says: The point of that piss poor analogy was that it was trying to attempt to mirror racists and "stubborn old bigots," with those opposing anything other than one man one woman marriage.

I agree, think it's obvious, and people who are trying to answer the barb by providing arguments about why it fails miss the point of it. It simply doesn't matter that it's wrong, or even dishonest - the point is to make the association and stand by it, right or wrong. A bit of shaming.

Would you like them to stop? Your best bet isn't proving by argument the flaws in their analogy.

Crude said...

Don,

I have fun here. That's why I keep coming back.

Nah, you come back because the arguments and views stir a bit of pants-shitting in you. You've already gone down the 'The political ramifications of these ideas, OH MY GOD' road before.

So I'm pointing out that when you talk about how you're above the political fray and you don't regard any of this affecting /you personally/, well, as usual you're lying. You've established as much as the past. As I said, that was the admission cost for you evading bans and squealing about the politics.

But that really doesn't answer my question: As a typical heterosexual married guy, what pressures am I supposed to feel? What's so flimsy about my 40 year marriage that a gay couple will cause me to jump ship?

Let me guess. You also make similar claims:

'So this particular school has a lot of drug use and teen pregnancies. Why in the world should those facts impact my decision to let my daughter attend it? Those are all willful activities. I have no responsibility to shield her from such people. Denying her experience of the real world will only harm, not help her.'

'So this particular man has a habit of watching simulated pedophilic pornography in this living room. Why in the world should I care that he does this around my twelve year old son? Those are mere pictures, and clearly cartoons. My child can tell the difference between reality and fantasy. There's no problem here.'

Go ahead, DJ. Sign on with the claims. Win 'Father of the Year' right here.

TheOFloinn said...

On the contrary, we DO want government in our personal relationships, since government is the authority charged with the enforcement of contracts.

The contract is between the couple and society that they (the couple) assume responsibility for nurturing and raising any children that may result from their copulation.

Historically -- as in the Code of Khammurapi or in Plato's The Laws -- the State's only concern was for adjudicating property inheritance and joint/separate responsibility for debts and crimes or (in Plato's case) to provide for the increase in population. In the West, the State did not seize control of the formation of marriages until the middle of the 19th century. (About the same time it seized control of education; and it took about the same length of time for them to break both.)

Further, marriage existed prior to the invention of States, since it can be found in chiefdom-, tribe-, and band-level societies. In not a single case is there a civil institution to regulate and control other sorts of sexual behavior.

jmhenry said...

But that really doesn't answer my question: As a typical heterosexual married guy, what pressures am I supposed to feel? What's so flimsy about my 40 year marriage that a gay couple will cause me to jump ship?

But I don't think that's the argument that traditional marriage advocates are making. They're not saying that recognizing same-sex unions as marriages will necessarily cause this or that particular heterosexual marriage to suddenly dissolve. They're arguing that marriage has a particular objective, natural structure -- a distinctive kind of activity aimed at some good, as Aristotle would say. And the traditional marital norms logically follow from the objective good that marriage as a distinctive kind of activity is aimed at.

If the state does not recognize this objective structure, and the objective good that it's aimed at, as well as the norms that logically follow from that ordering and unifying good, then the law will "teach a different lesson." So this idea presupposes the notion that the law acts as a kind of teacher in virtue, something common in ancient and medieval thought. This or that particular heterosexual marriage may not suddenly dissolve, but human positive law as a matter of justice must reflect and be subject to the natural law. And, in the long run, when positive law fails to do that, it has bad consequences for society.

Crude said...

jmhenry,

But I don't think that's the argument that traditional marriage advocates are making. They're not saying that recognizing same-sex unions as marriages will necessarily cause this or that particular heterosexual marriage to suddenly dissolve.

Exactly. The idea of 'Okay now that same-sex marriage is legalized tell me how my marriage is going to collapse within 3 days!' is baloney. It's about cultural influences.

But then, they know this.

d said...

"""
The contract is between the couple and society that they (the couple) assume responsibility for nurturing and raising any children that may result from their copulation.
"""

I concede, that is one very large part of it - but thats a conveniently deficient view of a much larger institution - and this is *obvious* to basically everyone all of the time - except in the context of this debate - where that convenience serves the purposes of same-sex marriage opposition.

Its precisely because marriage, ideally, is such a source of enriching goods for the married spouses (before we even start counting what children can potentially be added to the mix), that its even considered the ideal environment in which children should be raised in the first place. In other words, marriage isn't just good for children, its good for the other two participants - the *spouses*.

(And presumably, the actual act of bringing children into the world, is at some point, supposed to actually realize goods for the *kids themselves* even after they become adults - unless we are to believe the summom bonum of life is simply to support an infinite progression of baby making that holds no regard at all for the actual *lives* of the actual the babies that are made.)

Ok sure - maybe the legal needs and protections required in order to facilitate spouses to carry out their duties to one another are are perhaps artifacts of the other legal, social and technological developments of our age - maybe many of those protections would have no intelligible place in the chiefdom/tribal/band level societies of the past. They certainly didn't have insurance back then. But thats completely and utterly irrelevant.


Scott said...

d:

I concede, that is one very large part of it - but thats a conveniently deficient view of a much larger institution…[M]arriage isn't just good for children, its good for the other two participants - the *spouses*.

All right, never mind the term "marriage." Let's grant at least provisionally that your "larger institution" in which two people (of any combination of sexes) cohabit and act as domestic partners is in some way good for those who participate in it.

What we're still missing here is any reason why the State has any interest in regulating, protecting, or even recognizing such relationships in cases where it's impossible in principle for them to produce children. Do you have one to offer?

Also, is there any reason that such relationships themselves require State acknowledgement in order to exist? If not, then what's keeping people from forming such relationships whether they're legally recognized or not? If so, would you also deny that people who are married only in the Church are "really" married, on the grounds that they haven't had their relationship recognized by the government? If you wouldn't, then you're admitting that there are two kinds of relationship; what's the difference between them?

Finally, is there any reason that such relationships must, by nature, involve the use of the parties' sexual organs? Is it impossible in principle, or merely unlikely, that two people who form a "domestic union" won't regard bringing each other to orgasm as an essential function of that partnership?

It does seem to me that any defense of SSM that ignores such questions is, well, "conveniently deficient."

iwpoe said...

@ Scott

"What we're still missing here is any reason why the State has any interest in regulating, protecting, or even recognizing such relationships in cases where it's impossible in principle for them to produce children. Do you have one to offer?"

Psychological health and good of the members and the uniform regulation of their property distribution and mutual behavior. State issuance grants the relationship a kind of honor and seriousness.

Also, it presumably has relevance with respect to family law in the case of adoption, though I don't know the case history on the matter.

"Also, is there any reason that such relationships themselves require State acknowledgement in order to exist?"

No, but this isn't something exclusive to homosexual unions.

"If not, then what's keeping people from forming such relationships whether they're legally recognized or not?"

Nothing in principal, but there seems to be a higher honor that has a psychological effect. Also, *legal* spouses in the US have certain rights with respect to each other that are not clearly derivative from the childbearing aspect of their union.

"Finally, is there any reason that such relationships must, by nature, involve the use of the parties' sexual organs?"

In principal? No. Sexless marriages are both real and possible, though usually at lest psychologically deficient.

Crude said...

Psychological health and good of the members and the uniform regulation of their property distribution and mutual behavior. State issuance grants the relationship a kind of honor and seriousness.

...

Nothing in principal, but there seems to be a higher honor that has a psychological effect.

Notice how the psychological effects, the social effects, the cultural effects are taken seriously and regarded as both certainly real and praiseworthy when it's same-sex couples who are discussed.

But when it's not same-sex couples but traditional couples, then the psychological, social and cultural effects are treated as a complete fucking joke, and indeed the very idea that they're worth discussion is treated with derision.

Open relationships are the norm in the majority of same-sex relationships? The culture is to blame, not the people.

Can culture negatively impact anyone else's relationships? They don't matter, and if they do they're weaklings who have only themselves to blame.

iwpoe said...

@ Crude

I should hope you don't mean me personally. I'm consistent on the matter. I think homosexuals should seek monogamy and that they have unacceptable and harmful cultural practices mixed up with better ones. (That said so do heterosexuals.)

Anonymous said...

"In principal? No. Sexless marriages are both real and possible, though usually at lest psychologically deficient."

This doesn't really address the original question, though, which was whether or not there is any reason that two people acting as domestic partners need also be sexual partners. Two female roommates have a domestic partnership.

In fact...

It is presently the case that, legally, two (wo)men can marry who are entirely without sexual interest in each other. There are a number of reasons for two such (wo)men to do this. The only reason I can see not to is that there will be the expectation that, since they are married, they also are engaged in a sexual relationship, and they might want to avoid communicating that to others. Still, let's suppose that they are entirely up front about the lack of sexual activity between them, and that they even maintain sexual relationship with members of the opposite sex. Why would this be a psychologically deficient marriage? Psychologically deficient with respect to what? Why should they marry the person(s) they are sexually involved with?

Santi said...

Marriage inflation?

Feser writes: "The more kinds of arrangement there are which people are willing to call 'marriages,' the less big a deal it is to have your own favored arrangement labeled a 'marriage.'"

Wouldn't that be marriage deflation? Feser's analogy is with marriage as a currency or commodity, not as, say, a television set to be purchased with a currency or commodity. Price inflation is not currency inflation.

When you print money, debasing a currency, you've let the air out of its value; you've deflated its value. What gets inflated isn't the currency, but the price to be paid for goods and services with the currency. Likewise, when you mine gold, flooding the market with it, the price of gold comes down; it suffers deflation.

What Feser wants is marriage inflation, where it's a rare currency or commodity, dear in value. Feser wants a high entry and exit price to be paid for the privilege of being in a marriage.

And here's why Feser is wrong about this: segregation. Gay and lesbian segregation.

The price of hoarding marriage as a clubbish currency or commodity means segregating a whole class of tax paying citizens from equal participation in society as a whole. The price is too high. Better to deflate the marriage currency a bit than to treat gays and lesbians as second class citizens.

In a democracy, the reason we want to deflate the marriage currency is for purposes of inclusion. Unnecessary segregation is sin in a diverse democracy. Democracies tend to be prepared to pay a price for ending forms of segregation. It's good for society as a whole. In this instance, that price for ending segregation is some currency deflation--some marriage currency deflation.

Because gay lives matter.

Debasing the marriage currency a bit--making civil marriage licenses accessible to all taxpaying couples regardless of their sexual orientation--buys justice. That's a good deal. Deflation is what you do when old debts need to be paid up.

A long outstanding debt is owed to the gay community. For millennia, they have been deprived of dignity; they've had violence directed against them. Now our democracy is saying their lives matter. And that costs something. Giving them the marriage franchise is part of that cost.

Giving blacks and women the right to vote also cost something. It deflated the value of each white male's vote, but it was a price worth paying. And in retrospect, it raised the value and dignity of voting as an institution. It didn't debase it.

So to those who see the beauty and value in gay and lesbian intimate relationships, there's actually no debasement of the marriage currency and franchise at all. Marriage is not in fact a currency or commodity that is being exchanged in a zero-sum game. It's a lack of imagination that insists on seeing marriage as a zero-sum game. It's a way of justifying gay and lesbian segregation, which is a form of bigotry akin to racism.

Because gay lives matter.

iwpoe said...

@-Anon

"This doesn't really address the original question, though, which was whether or not there is any reason that two people acting as domestic partners need also be sexual partners. Two female roommates have a domestic partnership."

Because they are mutually sexually attracted one to the other and most people cannot bear celibacy?

jmhenry said...

Scott: Finally, is there any reason that such relationships must, by nature, involve the use of the parties' sexual organs? Is it impossible in principle, or merely unlikely, that two people who form a "domestic union" won't regard bringing each other to orgasm as an essential function of that partnership?

That's the crux of the issue, though, isn't it? Our culture is one which can see no further beyond the sexual act than the orgasm. In other words, things like contraception (to use one example) have completely severed the link between sex and procreation. But because the procreative end of the male-female union is what makes marriage intelligible as a distinctive kind of activity, by severing the link between sex and procreation, we've also ended up severing the link between marriage and procreation.

In that kind of cultural environment, it's no wonder that people think that any sort of sexual arrangement between consenting adults make be counted as a marriage. But it also becomes harder to see why sex (or at least the presumption of sex) must confer special status on marriage. Or, to use the words of Michael Cobb in the New York Times, it becomes harder to see "why [sex] orders the world and civilization."

iwpoe said...

"Because gay lives matter."

Ja und!?

Nothing follows from this sloganeering, and you are not an inspiring writer.

DNW said...

" It's good for society as a whole."

Distributively, i.e., for each and every individual? And by what standard of "good"; by what metric of assessment?

Oh yeah, hippie Bonobos and "Love Inc."


"Because gay lives matter."

To whom? Why? And how do you know?

You need not actually reply. I have seen it all before.

Anonymous said...

"Because they are mutually sexually attracted one to the other and most people cannot bear celibacy?"

But they don't need to bear celibacy. Why do they need to be attracted to each other, sexually, for the sake of a domestic partnership. Why does a sexless domestic partnership entail celibacy?

DNW said...

TOF rightly states,


" ... the clan or tribe had to intervene to regulate marriage; viz., to ensure that there would be some mechanism for raising whatever children might result naturally from their activities. Hence, the host of obligations visited upon the couple. "

" ... these rules and obligations are intended to inculcate stability, faithfulness and most of all to ensure that offspring do not become a burden on "the king's purse." "

Yes, anyone who has read widely in legal or social history, would recognize that the predicate of the historical civil marriage contract has virtually nothing to do with an entitlement of the participants to an emotionally satisfying life experience; except, insofar as it secondarily relates to the satisfaction they might receive from a legal confirmation that they have a right to expect under such a contract, sexual exclusivity and emotional fidelity.

Whether it is the King's purse that is burdened or the average innocent citizen's life disrupted by the antics of the behaviorally incontinent and the abandoned needy, the primary legal aim is to place the burden of responsibility for the reproductive and other fallout of their activities, back on the responsible parties.

What else makes such a contract worthy of the social notice and respect of largely otherwise uninterested neighbors?

"Responsible parties", there's the rub for the thoroughgoing progressive; the one who cannot even admit the reality of agents and causes.

Which is perhaps why so relatively few modern Americans in an age of "no-fault divorce", can even come to grips with an associative concept which doesn't include as one of its elements the notion of all their fellow citizens being placed in potential thrall to whatever dysfunction it might be that the wanting "citizen" may that day wish to express.

No wonder Pygmy Chimps and termites represent the apex of the aspirational pyramid of social life for so many political progressives.

Don Jindra said...

Crude,

"So I'm pointing out that when you talk about how you're above the political fray and you don't regard any of this affecting /you personally/, well, as usual you're lying."

When I ask you to tell me just how this affects me personally you come up with this:

"The idea of 'Okay now that same-sex marriage is legalized tell me how my marriage is going to collapse within 3 days!' is baloney. It's about cultural influences."

I'd like specific evidence of the cause (gay marriage) tied to the effect (stress on my marriage, or your marriage). Absent that, vague "cultural influences" is pure speculation.

To be fair, you did make two small steps. I'll dismiss the pedophile first.

A convicted pedophile did live directly across the street from me for many years. I learned this when a frantic neighbor knocked on my door for help getting rid of him. I thanked her for the information. But there was no way I was getting involved in a losing cause. I told my young sons to stay away from the "nice" guy across the street who liked to mow his lawn two times a week. That was the end of that. But there's even less to the "cultural influence" angle. It's my belief that a pedophile is not made by the culture. In fact, the culture is adamantly against pedophilia. Things happen whether the culture condones it or not.

On the drugs/teen pregnancy issue:

I have to assume the public schools my sons attended did have drugs and sex. Any parent would be naive to think otherwise. I never worried about it. I don't think I ever told my sons in so many words they shouldn't do drugs. They knew how I felt. They knew I never did drugs, never drank or smoked, never even took an aspirin. Our family "culture" was drug-free. It baffles me how some parents "freak out" about outside influences as if their parental example has minimal effect. As a parent, I never had that fear.

We had another neighbor across the street. (We lived on a corner.) They were a great couple with three girls. We lived in a college town. Every year there was a popular music festival near campus and near home. I let my oldest son go there alone. The neighbors were concerned. What about the drugs, the sex, the who know what? Well, I trusted our son. He never gave us any cause for suspicion.

My wife taught ESL. It was probably around 1981 when she invited two colleagues to the house to watch All That Jazz then running on HBO. One of the women was a psychologist. She was aghast we let our sons pop in and out of the room freely. My sons were around five to seven at the time. What about all the sex, the drugs? We explained, no problem. They had seen the whole movie several times. Both grew up to be fairly normal, I think.

And the thing is, I was not a permissive parent. My sons knew where the lines were. They knew I was inflexible on those lines. They knew what I expected. They knew arguing with me in the heat of "I want" was futile -- kind of like the impression I give around here. I tried to set a good example. IMO, that's the best a parent can do and it works wonders.

I haven't changed much since my "glory days," as you put it. I could give you many other stories. Perhaps I'll write my memoirs -- but not here, I promise.

The bottom line for me is this:

Culture tugs many different ways, some good, some bad. To blame outcomes on culture seems to me to be a shirking of personal responsibility. Culture presents choices. It doesn't make those choices for us. Yes culture is full of temptation. But it's our job as citizens and parents to created that model of temptation for the good. If it *is* good, things will work out. In my opinion, many "conservatives" have lost confidence in their model's ability to tempt. And that's a shame.

Don Jindra said...

Crude,

This brings me to the most fascinating part of this discussion. To me the issue is cultural influences. You also talk about cultural influences. But then you claim I pretend to be above the "political fray." Culture and politics are distinct. Sometimes they're opposites. When I say the culture of gay marriage won't affect my marriage, that does not imply your politics won't affect me. Some say politics is an ennobling of the culture. Leo Strauss made that case. The opposite is often the case, too. Politics can be a degeneration of the cultural. It's what's wrong with much of the politics today on both left and right. I would never say politics can't affect me. Politics is meant to affect me. My "lying" is mainly your confusion of the differences between those terms.

iwpoe said...

@ Anon

"But they don't need to bear celibacy. Why do they need to be attracted to each other, sexually, for the sake of a domestic partnership. Why does a sexless domestic partnership entail celibacy?"

Because non-monogamy is a threat to the stability of the domestic partnership for most people most of the time.

Brandon said...

Because non-monogamy is a threat to the stability of the domestic partnership for most people most of the time.

In other words, non-monogamy is a threat to the stability of domestic partnerships deliberately entered into as monogamous to begin with. This doesn't address the question.

Scott said...

iwpoe:

Because non-monogamy is a threat to the stability of the domestic partnership for most people most of the time.

Very well, then: if they're concerned about the stability of their domestic partnership, why doesn't celibacy do the job? Must they give one another orgasms in order to refrain from giving them to anyone else?

And assuming that there's a compelling (at least prudential) reason for the State to acknowledge and register domestic partnerships, why shouldn't such partnerships (whether homo- or heterosexual) be legally treated as a "lite" version of marriage, while full benefits are reserved for unions of partners who expressly elect fidelity, indissolubility, openness to childbearing, and so forth? If you want the benefits of traditional/natural marriage, why shouldn't you have to check those boxes? And if "openness to offspring" is on the list, how would same-sex partnerships qualify?

Crude said...

iwpoe,

I should hope you don't mean me personally. I'm consistent on the matter. I think homosexuals should seek monogamy and that they have unacceptable and harmful cultural practices mixed up with better ones. (That said so do heterosexuals.)

Which doesn't get at what I said.

You keep talking about the psychological and cultural benefits of granting same-sex marriage, or even holding up same-sex marriage as moral and right - but when it comes to talk about the risks involved in that, or even acknowledging these social moves could in fact harm the culture further, you blow right past it. It doesn't even register as a thought - in this case, even when you're replying to me spelling it out.

So we end up on the one hand being told that all the ills in the LGBT subculture (and those ills are only part of the issue here) are all due to the psychological burden of being denied official recognition and endorsement of their relationships, because such things influence the culture, which in turn influences the individuals, who get treated as basically non-culpable. But talk about the negative impact such moves can have on marriage in general, on other relationships, on cultural views of those relationships - and suddenly that doesn't mean a thing, it's not worth a thought, and if any relationship could possibly be negatively impacted by such things then it was a worthless relationship to begin with and it bears no consideration.

Which shows the whole approach is bullshit-laden. Right up there with the people who say that Christian bakers should 'just bake the silly little cake' and how it's 'just a pastry', a silly thing to fuss over... but find the rare judge who upholds the Christian's desire to simply not provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, and they start screaming about how this is a portent of a threatening near-future where gays will be thrown into gas chambers.

Because they are mutually sexually attracted one to the other and most people cannot bear celibacy?

First, most people cannot bear avoiding all kinds of sin. Lying, cheating, stealing - it goes on at some considerable rates. People fail, again and again, throughout their lives. But we recognize that at most that's a reason for understanding and forgiveness - and striving not to commit the same mistake again. Why is the supposed likelihood of people screwing up with sex treated as reason to not even try?

Second, evidence indicates that a substantial number of same-sex couples cannot bear monogamy. But you suggest that, for now, should be treated as non-negotiable. Why? You've already conceded that child-bearing is utterly optional to marriage, and that if sex has anything to do with reproduction, it's a mere irrelevant fact.

But suddenly monogamy is supposed to be the line in the sand, and the clear and obvious good?

I can produce for you numerous gays who say they are in open relationships and they are -happy-. They'll point at infidelity rates, divorce rates and more as evidence that most people 'cannot bear' monogamy either.

Why even hold that line, other than because if you fail to right now, you know a share of Christians will throw up their hands and say 'I told you so' and run risk of a real cultural threat in the process?

Scott said...

I wrote:

And assuming that there's a compelling (at least prudential) reason for the State to acknowledge and register domestic partnerships…

I should probably state for the record that I think there is such prudential reason, at least given the current state of Constitutional law on (civil) "marriage." What I don't think is that it should have the same legal status/protection (for either same- or opposite-sex couples) as what has traditionally been regarded as marriage.

I'm not particularly bothered about the term; I'm happy to live in a society in which "civil marriage" is one thing, "natural marriage" is another, and "sacramental marriage" is yet a third. But I do think that natural (and, a fortiori sacramental) marriages deserve legal protections that merely "civil" marriages don't.

Scott said...

Come to think of it, I seem to recall that C.S. Lewis somewhere proposed something similar (that there be two classes of "civil marriage," one "Christian," one not, the latter admitting of divorce, etc.), but that his friend J.R.R. Tolkien objected on the grounds that the Catholic/Christian view of marriage was supposed to apply to everyone.

For whatever it's worth, I tend to think they each had a point.

iwpoe said...

@ Scott

"Must they give one another orgasms in order to refrain from giving them to anyone else?"

Logically? No.

Practically? For most people most of the time if resentment is to be avoided? Yes.

"And assuming that there's a compelling (at least prudential) reason for the State to acknowledge and register domestic partnerships, why shouldn't such partnerships (whether homo- or heterosexual) be legally treated as a "lite" version of marriage, while full benefits are reserved for unions of partners who expressly elect fidelity, indissolubility, openness to childbearing, and so forth?"

I had no problems with civil unions on pragmatic grounds. They objected, I suppose, on grounds of equal dignity, which I don't grant, but I can't politically sell in this age, and on legal ease grounds: in the US, it was simply easier to try to get into the preexisting institution than to make up a new one.

iwpoe said...

@ Crude

"Which doesn't get at what I said."

I didn't intend to get at what you said because it didn't apply to me. I merely wanted to signal that I'm hardly as pro-gay as you're assuming I am.

"You keep talking about the psychological and cultural benefits of granting same-sex marriage,"

Relative to what they did up till now, yes. Overall? No.

"or even holding up same-sex marriage as moral and right"

I've never done this in this context. They aren't, but I'd have little to say about the law if I only admitted that the strictly moral be the law.

"but when it comes to talk about the risks involved in that, or even acknowledging these social moves could in fact harm the culture further, you blow right past it."

No, I'm willing to discuss that. You don't seem like a pleasant interlocutor, as Scott is, but I'm more than happy to acknowledge that I suspect that the tolerance of open homosexuality is sexually confusing and harmful for many. But now that the cat's out of the closet, how do you propose cramming it back in there? I would start with a constitutional amendment that permits sodomy laws again.

But since no one proposes that, and since the fight to protect marriage in the face of openly tolerated and celebrated homosexuality was doomed to loose in a democracy, I would at least do everything I could to try and cram them into the best least harmful box I could. Start demanding of them monogamy if they're going to go on about marriage. All the movement-homosexual's "cis-gendered closed-marriage white-hegemony queer-theory" crap didn't sell the culture- only the idea that 'people who love each other should be together romantically with equal dignity': I say both culturally (and legally, if you can manage it) demand that they and everyone else live up to that. I also suggest an intellectually broad

"It doesn't even register as a thought"

:chuckles: It's quite a man who speaks for my thinking.

"in this case, even when you're replying to me spelling it out."

I read an angry man who doesn't know someone who thinks homosexuality is just as much a problem as anyone else here does.

iwpoe said...

@ Crude II

"So we end up on the one hand being told that all the ills in the LGBT subculture (and those ills are only part of the issue here) are all due to the psychological burden of being denied official recognition and endorsement of their relationships, because such things influence the culture, which in turn influences the individuals, who get treated as basically non-culpable."

No no no no. This is a vast misreading. Of course they're culpable- as culpable as heterosexuals who grew up their whole lives expecting relationships and marriages to be constantly exciting and constantly personally and sexually fulfilling are for their perpetual divorces and dissolute living. No one has to do as they grew up understanding things, but it's better for people if things are adjusted as much as possible in accords with right.

My problematic is *given* that we aren't going to do anything to punish homosexuals and *given* that they seem unable to help themselves entirely apart from social change what *is* there to do about them?

I want to think about, given all the compromises of the circumstance (primarily the cultural celebration of the equal dignity of homosexuality, the loss of sodomy laws, and the impossibility of holding the line against marriage change given the present understanding of marriage), what it is I should endorse politically. What I would actually want as law, if I could have full control of the state and society, would be *vastly* different.

"But talk about the negative impact such moves can have on marriage in general, on other relationships, on cultural views of those relationships - and suddenly that doesn't mean a thing, it's not worth a thought, and if any relationship could possibly be negatively impacted by such things then it was a worthless relationship to begin with and it bears no consideration."

I think it certainly does bear consideration. I just think the damage was probably already done and that one has to move forward and do the best one can with the circumstance. I don't think gay marriage will make the situation worse and I think it presents an opportunity to demand that both homosexuals and, indeed, everyone focus more on commitment and actual loving relationships.

"Which shows the whole approach is bullshit-laden. Right up there with the people who say that Christian bakers should 'just bake the silly little cake' and how it's 'just a pastry', a silly thing to fuss over... but find the rare judge who upholds the Christian's desire to simply not provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, and they start screaming about how this is a portent of a threatening near-future where gays will be thrown into gas chambers."

Well I agree with you about the absurdity of it. :shrug:

iwpoe said...

@ Crude III

"First, most people cannot bear avoiding all kinds of sin. Lying, cheating, stealing - it goes on at some considerable rates. People fail, again and again, throughout their lives. But we recognize that at most that's a reason for understanding and forgiveness - and striving not to commit the same mistake again. Why is the supposed likelihood of people screwing up with sex treated as reason to not even try?"

Hmm? Why aren't homosexuals punished for their sins criminally as thieves, cheats, and some sorts of liars are? Because....? That would be uncomfortable?

It's painfully clear that homosexuals simply aren't going to form non-sexual domestic partnerships. That I'd like them to act right is of no consequence when every direct rout to encouraging that is clearly and entirely cut off.

"Second, evidence indicates that a substantial number of same-sex couples cannot bear monogamy."

Well, they act like they want to try, and I suggest demanding that they follow through.

"But you suggest that, for now, should be treated as non-negotiable. Why?"

Because they can bear the consequences of non-monogamy even less. And no, for always. Or have you talked to and assessed the sexual happiness of many gay males? The promiscuous ones are *happy* only as a straight "man whore" is, which is to say, mainly superficially. Don Juan gets dragged to hell in the end, and that's not simply a religious fate.

Or perhaps you never had the opportunity to be a very promiscuous man. It is not as great as it's made out to be, I promise.

"You've already conceded that child-bearing is utterly optional to marriage, and that if sex has anything to do with reproduction, it's a mere irrelevant fact."

No, I don't think this is so, but I don't think that's all there is to say about marriage, and I think it's an utterly ineffective thing to say in this cultural context, since people simply don't know what you're talking about when you talk about 'marriage being *for* children and child-bearing being non-optional.'

"But suddenly monogamy is supposed to be the line in the sand, and the clear and obvious good?"

It's the clearest and most obvious one that you can easily appeal to *in common*. The one about children was lost 50 years ago. Try to figure how to get that back, because I don't see how to do it.

"I can produce for you numerous gays who say they are in open relationships and they are -happy-. They'll point at infidelity rates, divorce rates and more as evidence that most people 'cannot bear' monogamy either."

For everyone that claims to be happy in an "open" relationship there is another insecure man. This is the fault of trying to direct two male sexual psychologies into a relationship: stability has no inherent tendency to sustain it, only chance.

However, yes, heterosexual hypocrisy on all these topics is also not helpful, and obscures the understanding of everyone.

"Why even hold that line, other than because if you fail to right now, you know a share of Christians will throw up their hands and say 'I told you so' and run risk of a real cultural threat in the process?"

The fuck are you talking about? I don't know who you've understood yourself as debating. Probably some idiot LBGTXYZ123 supporter pattern of thought you memorized 5 years ago, but if you want to go on in some pattern of argument that doesn't apply to me, go do it by yourself.

I hold the line because it's as close to the good as I'll ever be able to get a homosexual to have if he genuinely can't find himself attracted to a woman.

Brandon said...

Practically? For most people most of the time if resentment is to be avoided? Yes.

In which case marriage would be doomed anyway; much more than half of all women in marriages rarely or never have orgasms at all.

In any case, "for most people most of the time" is entirely consistent with "not for some people"; which gets back to Anonymous's question: Why do they need to be attracted to each other, sexually, for the sake of a domestic partnership. Why does a sexless domestic partnership entail celibacy? In everything you've said so far, you keep assuming that people would only enter into the domestic partnership for specifically sexual purposes; but as Anonymous noted, there seems to be simply no reason whatsoever to think that this is necessary. All the reasons people have historically treated sex as a major issue here are reasons based on the assumption that the institution had something to do with procreation.

And it's worth noting that despite your insistence on monogamy, all evidence suggests that open marriages are more stable than exclusive ones. This is probably not do to the structure of the marriage so much as to the personalities and expectations of people who form open marriages in the first place, but stability is an at least dubious ground here.

Anonymous said...

"The one about children was lost 50 years ago. Try to figure how to get that back, because I don't see how to do it."

If you are interested in doing that, I would think the obvious place to start would be to completely ignore the whole same sex marriage debacle and focus on the relevant issues, namely the out-of-wedlock birthrates, the long term effects on children in those situations and the communities they inhabit, the commodification of human life through artificial reproductive technologies, the 'disparate impact' of abortion in the black community, etc. From that point, I think, one can mount a case that vaginal intercourse entails responsibilities on the part of the participants that e.g. hand jobs do not, and that this is a difference in responsibility that is legally relevant.

iwpoe said...

"In which case marriage would be doomed anyway; much more than half of all women in marriages rarely or never have orgasms at all."

I didn't take him strictly on his use of the word 'orgasm'. Most women do seem to require at least occasional sex, orgasm or no, and indeed it often seems to solve a lot of marital problems to find a way to get them to orgasm, vaginally or otherwise.

"In any case, "for most people most of the time" is entirely consistent with "not for some people"; which gets back to Anonymous's question: Why do they need to be attracted to each other, sexually, for the sake of a domestic partnership. Why does a sexless domestic partnership entail celibacy? In everything you've said so far, you keep assuming that people would only enter into the domestic partnership for specifically sexual purposes; but as Anonymous noted, there seems to be simply no reason whatsoever to think that this is necessary. All the reasons people have historically treated sex as a major issue here are reasons based on the assumption that the institution had something to do with procreation."

I take it that the institution also has always had a lot to do with fucking itself, as distinct from any resulting reproduction. I do not take it that the average marriage would be particularly functional if reproduction were all done with artificial insemination and no fucking were to occur at all. I take it that sex has a binding force *of its own* as opposed to the child that might be produced, which is why sterile couples stay together and seek adoption or surrogates &etc rather than remarrying.

"And it's worth noting that despite your insistence on monogamy, all evidence suggests that open marriages are more stable than exclusive ones. This is probably not do to the structure of the marriage so much as to the personalities and expectations of people who form open marriages in the first place, but stability is an at least dubious ground here."

Open gay relationships are not particularly stable at all. Are you speaking strictly of open gay marriages? That would be surprising.

Or are you drawing from open heterosexual marriages primarily? As these are clearly rare, those who would declare themselves, as you can see, suffer a kind of survivor bias, since generally "open" marriages are really just affairs, which are not at all stable situations.

Crude said...

iwpoe,

Thankfully, I don't need three pages to get at the heart of this.

I didn't intend to get at what you said because it didn't apply to me.

Yes, it does.

Why aren't homosexuals punished for their sins criminally as thieves, cheats, and some sorts of liars are?

No, that wasn't my question. I pointed out that people do all kinds of things, habitually, which we realize they should not do. Most people, period, do. There's a reason why confession is an 'everyone' activity in the Catholic church - because sinning happens, often.

Yet when it comes to sexual failures, the cries come up - 'It's too hard! See, people keep failing! So it has to change!'

My problematic is *given* that we aren't going to do anything to punish homosexuals and *given* that they seem unable to help themselves entirely apart from social change what *is* there to do about them?

You continue to uphold and fight for what's right. You don't accept as right and celebrate that which is wrong because 'It can't be wrong, because people keep doing it.'

Don Juan gets dragged to hell in the end, and that's not simply a religious fate.

The idea that the immoral person - or the sexually immoral person - always and inevitably having an unhappy life, putting aside the consequences of the hereafter, is a myth.

No one forced non-monogamy on same-sex couples. They managed to produce that subculture, and maintain it. You keep appealing to the current cultural state of affairs as a reason to completely abandon various sexual standards and views, and to stop fighting for them. Save yourself some trouble then, and give up monogamy too.

I mean, you would counsel that if it became more popular, after all.

The fuck are you talking about?

You, of course, protests aside.

I hold the line because it's as close to the good as I'll ever be able to get a homosexual to have if he genuinely can't find himself attracted to a woman.

The Christian who believes that the only worthwhile measure of what to accept, tolerate or reject is 'Are the political prospects looking positive?' has given up the Christian faith - and a whole lot more - for something else entirely.

iwpoe said...

@ anon

"If you are interested in doing that, I would think the obvious place to start would be to completely ignore the whole same sex marriage debacle and focus on the relevant issues, namely the out-of-wedlock birthrates, the long term effects on children in those situations and the communities they inhabit, the commodification of human life through artificial reproductive technologies, the 'disparate impact' of abortion in the black community, etc."

The most direct fix would be to eliminate both contraception and abortion unilaterally across the classes and then wait 1 to 2 generations. Mores would quickly reassert responsibility of fathers unless men didn't want to have much sex any longer. Since this is never going to occur in capitalist democracy, the next best thing is to focus on the actual positive good of childbearing, insofar as that's an actual good for individuals. If it isn't then, I mean, maybe we should all stop reproducing.

"From that point, I think, one can mount a case that vaginal intercourse entails responsibilities on the part of the participants that e.g. hand jobs do not, and that this is a difference in responsibility that is legally relevant."

That's the most pressing, but when births are much less than the past, the question is if there is any remainder.

Anonymous said...

"That's the most pressing, but when births are much less than the past, the question is if there is any remainder."

Wait, what? let's try that again.

Brandon said...

I take it that the institution also has always had a lot to do with fucking itself, as distinct from any resulting reproduction. I do not take it that the average marriage would be particularly functional if reproduction were all done with artificial insemination and no fucking were to occur at all. I take it that sex has a binding force *of its own* as opposed to the child that might be produced, which is why sterile couples stay together and seek adoption or surrogates &etc rather than remarrying.

You seem not to grasp the point, since I already explicitly pointed out that marriage was associated with sex; it's just that I pointed out the reason people actually and explicitly gave for the association. The reason, again, why people historically thought of marriages as sexual contexts was that they were deemed to be the appropriate contexts for procreation. The evidence for this is legion. Whether there was "any resulting reproduction" is not relevant; people don't have magical future-forecasting powers about actual results for that to be part of the causal account of why they associated marriages in general with sex. Marriages that involved no sexual component for religious or medical or personal reasons have never been unheard of, and you are still obviously evading Anonymous's question: "Why do they need to be attracted to each other, sexually, for the sake of a domestic partnership? Why does a sexless domestic partnership entail celibacy?" Not everyone shares your obsession with sex; there seems no particular reason to insist that such partnerships must themselves be entered into or carried on with sexual intent. You certainly have given none; you just keep assuming that they already are.

Or are you drawing from open heterosexual marriages primarily? As these are clearly rare, those who would declare themselves, as you can see, suffer a kind of survivor bias, since generally "open" marriages are really just affairs, which are not at all stable situations.

This manages to be a truly extraordinary muddle. (1) Open marriages are by definition not affairs, but marriages explicitly allowing for affairs. The affairs shift. All evidence, however -- and I am speaking of actual evidence, such as there is, not your gut feeling -- is that the open marriages themselves tend to be very stable, much more stable on average than exclusive marriages. Your reason for monogamy was explicitly stability; marriages with monogamous expectations don't do especially well -- divorces and separations are fairly common -- and there appears to be no evidence at all that marriages without monogamous expectations do worse. For that matter, there appears to be no evidence at all that all-out polygamous marriages are less stable than run-of-the-mill monogamous ones. Your argument seems to fail across the board. (2) On the other hand, if you are counting all marriages with affairs as open ones, or all relationships rather than just marriages, as you seem at various times in your comment to do, it wrecks your argument entirely for very much the reason you note: it makes the association of stability and "monogamy" nothing other than a sampling bias.

And it's worth noting again that historically, stability arguments about monogamy have been based on stability for children -- which in fact is still one of the main reasons people give for staying together. The notion that monogamous expectations in general are a magical stability-improving property of relationships is a recent one, and one that appears to have very little evidence behind it.

iwpoe said...

"Yes, it does."

No, it doesn't. Your general insinuations about what I think are never what I actually think.

If you would like to give a short list of propositions you think I assent to which I can affirm or deny, I'd be happy to do so.

"No, that wasn't my question. I pointed out that people do all kinds of things, habitually, which we realize they should not do. Most people, period, do. There's a reason why confession is an 'everyone' activity in the Catholic church - because sinning happens, often.

Yet when it comes to sexual failures, the cries come up - 'It's too hard! See, people keep failing! So it has to change!'"

It already did! Tighten back up divorce laws, reinstate sodomy laws, and hardline about it culturally if you want to be sane. However, neither you nor I run the state.

We're governed by the insane, so what am I realistically going to get them to do? Are *they* going to accept laws of their own volition that will punish them and the people they like? I'd have to be a magician in a democracy to trick voters who want people to be allowed to be in homosexual unions supported by the state into voting for my legislation that denies this of them.

All I can do is tell them that monogamy is the best thing for them, and that they won't find happiness otherwise and then give them as much positive reinforcement towards that goal as I can.

iwpoe said...

"You continue to uphold and fight for what's right."

Ah, you're a political idealist. This makes more sense now.

The wisdom of the ages in all regimes through history says anyone who follows your advice will never rule, or they will be made to metaphorically drink the hemlock.

The best I'll ever be able to do in this regime with your advice is act as a popular cultural figure- speaker, priest, intellectual, etc -with only attenuated power, and even this will be a rout of great suffering for me.

"You don't accept as right and celebrate that which is wrong because 'It can't be wrong, because people keep doing it."

I never did. To permit in law what is wrong because you govern viscous people is not the same as believing it's right. I think gambling is wrong, but I think it's better that it be permitted and strongly regulated rather than either strongly suppressed (which causes the people to rebel against the general legitimacy of the state) or suppressed only by statute, which leads to abuses.

"The idea that the immoral person - or the sexually immoral person - always and inevitably having an unhappy life, putting aside the consequences of the hereafter, is a myth."

The present sexual immorality does seem to make people unhappy, despite their hopes to the contrary.

"You keep appealing to the current cultural state of affairs as a reason to completely abandon various sexual standards and views, and to stop fighting for them. Save yourself some trouble then, and give up monogamy too."

I don't think we should abandon them at all. I want to know in what direction to move politically given the present situation. Unlike you, I don't pretend that *everything* is politically possible at any given time.

Does that mean that the end result would be "good" absolutely? No. I suppose it would be the best I could do trying to coordinate a bunch of viscous people.

"I mean, you would counsel that if it became more popular, after all."

If the number of people who no longer believed in monogamy became critically low, and I lived in a democratic regime, I would suggest that we used popular force as much as possible to arrange things such that non-monogamy was moderated as much as politically possible, for hopefully even in their non-monogamy they would still favor some sort of moderation to total depravity. To anyone unsatisfied with this, I would suggest the overthrow of the state, if they possibly could.

This is, of course, unsatisfying to an ethical man, but an ethical man always knows that the average man is not ethical.

"The Christian who believes that the only worthwhile measure of what to accept, tolerate or reject is 'Are the political prospects looking positive?' has given up the Christian faith - and a whole lot more - for something else entirely."

***As Christ says:

If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.***

The question is how to deal with the world.

What you have to tolerate legally and publicly is a function of the political, unless you would be a martyr, which is an option.

If you've been talking about how I should conduct my private life, then we have no functional difference of opinion.

If you think a ruler should conduct political life *as* he does his private life, then he must either seize control of the whole of the state or be born lucky enough to not be opposed to the world.

jmhenry said...

iwpoe: I would at least do everything I could to try and cram them into the best least harmful box I could. Start demanding of them monogamy if they're going to go on about marriage.

That's a laudable motive. But the traditional marriage advocate is saying that, if the government promotes a vision of marriage in which the traditional norms have no rational basis, then you've already lost the battle to "demand" that people obey them. Over time, people will inevitably begin to see that the norms have no rational basis on the new vision. Again, the idea here is that the law is a teacher. You will be demanding one thing, the law will be teaching them something else.

iwpoe said...

@ jmhenry

"That's a laudable motive. But the traditional marriage advocate is saying that, if the government promotes a vision of marriage in which the traditional norms have no rational basis, then you've already lost the battle to "demand" that people obey them. Over time, people will inevitably begin to see that the norms have no rational basis on the new vision. Again, the idea here is that the law is a teacher. You will be demanding one thing, the law will be teaching them something else."

But I think monogamy has a rational basis *even when children are impossible*, because it's psychologically better for everyone involved. Otherwise sterile couples would be irrational to either marry or stay together. I simply think that homosexual couples are subject to additional shocks because they lack gender complimentary and social pressure. This may be impossible to fix, but I have to imagine myself the ruler of this state and project my practical options.

Anonymous said...

"...because it's psychologically better for everyone involved."

"psychologically better" depends entirely on whose psychology we are talking about. In the event that monogamy is psychologically worse for an individual, it would be rational to be something other than monogamous.

Crude said...

iwpoe,

Ah, you're a political idealist. This makes more sense now.

No, I'm not. I'm a realist who happens to be a Christian idealist.

You, however, are a political absolutist - in the sense that all that matters to you is political success. By your measure, if tomorrow infanticide became all the rage, the reasonable thing to do would be to give up and say infanticide is a great thing. The idea that you should stand up for a view even when it's very unpopular is, apparently, crazy talk for you.

viscous

vicious

I don't think we should abandon them at all. I want to know in what direction to move politically given the present situation. Unlike you, I don't pretend that *everything* is politically possible at any given time.

I haven't been talking about legislation here for the most part. And 'what direction to move politically'? Am I speaking to a senator here? Or just another voter?

What you have to tolerate legally and publicly is a function of the political, unless you would be a martyr, which is an option.

Whatever, Machiavelli. Save everyone some time and learn how to spit on the cross in public. You can tell the Christians how stupid they are because if they had an ounce of sense they'd realize they have to do whatever it takes to get the approval of the public at large if they wanted to have any substantial public power. And isn't that what this is all about?

Brandon said...

it's psychologically better for everyone involved.

In addition to Anonymous's point that 'psychologically better' seems to be something that can vary immensely from individuals, what actual evidence is supposed to be undergirding this claim (because, regardless of whether it turned out to be right, actual practical response would have to be appropriate not just to the claim itself but to whatever evidence that grounds such a claim)?

iwpoe said...

@ Crude

"You, however, are a political absolutist - in the sense that all that matters to you is political success."

If I seek rule effectively, yes, indeed. One can only get so much done with the state.

I don't *in fact* seek rule both because of practical limitations and because it requires such extreme compromise to accomplish anything. Or would you have a man in a position of power simply parade around his private virtue and *hope* that does something? Every man knows this. Despite heady words to the contrary, not of the self-proclaimed Christian governors are actually going to block gay marriage applications in their sates because they don't *really* have that power and risk all the power they do have to try a futile effort.

Were the Pope himself elected president of the United States he would either have to work within the given constraints of the office, seek to alter those constraints into something else, or else accomplish none of his aims. Them's the breaks. If he really cared about virtue, I'd advise him to not seek power in the US.

"By your measure, if tomorrow infanticide became all the rage, the reasonable thing to do would be to give up and say infanticide is a great thing."

If I was forced to rule in a populist regime, and there was no means to changing popular sentiment, indeed, yes. I could crack down (and in our state, this is, in fact what I would do because the law would, at least for a time, hold popular sentiment at bay), but that would entail that I had overthrown the popular regime with all the consequent risks.

If I'm taking the state as it is, however, seeking to rule it, and presupposing that large structural and cultural change is not possible, then, yes, if I wanted to do anything I would have to work with infanticide or not rule, in which case some other man would come up in my place or work with the infanticide.

"The idea that you should stand up for a view even when it's very unpopular is, apparently, crazy talk for you."

What do you mean by "stand up"? Do you think I mean one shouldn't express disapproval? Not at all. I've done so already. Protests are even appropriate, even testing the waters for a political campaign or counter-movement *might* still be valid (though, at this point, I doubt the plausibility of such a move). If, however, you're asking what I think *should in fact be done about it* I would say political moderation of the vice as much as possible given the political circumstance, and the SCOTUS has shown very clearly what that circumstance is.

"vicious"

Thank you.

"I haven't been talking about legislation here for the most part. And 'what direction to move politically'?"

When one considers what is to be actually done socially one imagines that one has a position of power within the state and then what is possible in that position. Unfortunately, apart from very good luck, this very nearly always will entail compromise on principals.

iwpoe said...

@ Crude II

"Whatever, Machiavelli."

Apt observation. It is unfortunate that Nick is right about the exercise of effective power. I simply take it that the upshot of the Prince is that power is inherently directed at doing evil.

"Save everyone some time and learn how to spit on the cross in public."

Save yourself some time if you're pretending that somehow, in this situation, your principals, however true they are, shall come to power. They will be torn to pieces. It is one thing to say you have the good on your side, which you do. It is another to believe, against all possibility, that the good shall actually come to rule in a state where the inmates are running the asylum and there is no plausible way of putting things to right again.

I suppose God might do all things, but even Christ councils us to prepare for evil to be the way of the world, and I take him on his word.

"You can tell the Christians how stupid they are..."

No one is required to rule, nor are they foolish for not. I advise against it if you want to actually do the good. But political arguments- and this is one -presuppose that someone should rule and do things in a certain way. The question then becomes 'what can actually be done?' If you suppose that a man should simply go and bring about virtue in a context where he is beset on all sides by disaster and opposition and his subjects are, themselves, vicious persons then you are foolish.

TheOFloinn said...

Its precisely because marriage, ideally, is such a source of enriching goods for the married spouses...

So was the partnership of Sears and Roebuck, but no one says that they were married. There are probably innumerable associations that "enrich goods" for the associates.

State issuance grants the relationship a kind of honor and seriousness.

Everything within the state; nothing outside the state; nothing against the state.
- Benito Mussolini

Debasing the marriage currency a bit--making civil marriage licenses accessible to all taxpaying couples regardless of their sexual orientation--buys justice.

Why are you discriminating against non-taxpayers? Or against non-couples? What if a woman wants to marry herself? Or to marry a roller coaster. And why do you think justice should be for sale?

most people cannot bear celibacy

What are the implications of this rationale for so-called "youth-attracted" individuals.

iwpoe said...

@ anon

"psychologically better" depends entirely on whose psychology we are talking about. In the event that monogamy is psychologically worse for an individual, it would be rational to be something other than monogamous."

So, there are no strong psychological tendencies for man? There is no general way we can try to live to be happy? We all are just groping blind?

I can only be so flexible here, since I think that long-standing human norms represent deeper psychological truths. Much of happiness on my view subsists in a kind of conventionalism, insofar as the general course of things and our common feelings are, at least, a starting place and best guide for how to live well. If most people feel an intense jealousy in non-monogamy, and there are all sorts of checks on it, and there are all sorts of difficulties with it, that's usually a very good hint that it doesn't work and won't make people happy.

Heterosexual monogamy is the naturally optimal arrangement given the kinds of being we are- not *merely* because of children but because so many things about how we work direct us in this direction.

Homosexuality seems to be a kind of sub-optimal deviance with respect to desire. I suspect then that it's much harder for them to be romantically happy, and it may never be possible. I'm optimistic that they can find a kind of happiness if they can settle into monogamy. The other alternative is to try and find therapy of some sort for them, which I can't sell politically, and good evidence of the possibility of such therapy is not, so I've always been told, forthcoming.

@ Brandon

"In addition to Anonymous's point that 'psychologically better' seems to be something that can vary immensely from individuals, what actual evidence is supposed to be undergirding this claim (because, regardless of whether it turned out to be right, actual practical response would have to be appropriate not just to the claim itself but to whatever evidence that grounds such a claim)?"

What do you mean? The evidence generally would be actual experiences in relationships. In my own case, romantic relationships are preferable to celibacy or merely utilitarian sexual relationships (a "friend" who comes over or a prostitute) and monogamous relationships while not necessarily always satisfactory and always better than any of the usual "open" arrangements in the long term since these a destabilizing and do not provide lasting benefits. Serial monogamy is probably the *best* sub-optimal arrangement for me, but even then one always wants the new one to be the one that finally takes. I'll accept lesser arrangements in various circumstances, but that's the general pattern, and it seems to hold for many people.

Did you want more than that? I'm loath to appeal to studies, dominated as they are by a total lack of critical detail on PC relationships. Even studies of monogamy in homosexual couples are quite poor and scarce since the 80s. But I'm willing to concede that homosexuals simply *can't* find monogamy and that this *may* entail that they can't find happiness in their romantic relationships.

iwpoe said...

"So was the partnership of Sears and Roebuck, but no one says that they were married. There are probably innumerable associations that "enrich goods" for the associates."

I was perfectly happy not calling it marriage and encouraging something akin to it, if they were going to insist on fucking their friends. For any number of reasons- some nuts, some sensible -they weren't.

"Everything within the state; nothing outside the state; nothing against the state.
- Benito Mussolini"

That the state can grant dignity does not entail that *only* the state does (nor that it always works- this maneuver could damage state legitimacy, rather than confer dignity on the unions. It remains to be seen.). That is merely a tendency and hope, not a necessity.

"What are the implications of this rationale for so-called "youth-attracted" individuals."

In this state? For the time being? Severe legal and social penalties. Pray that the populace doesn't become confused on that issue also.

I would personally support the return of sodomy laws- or at least further measures to restrict the spread of the most public and absurd homosexual behavior -but I know this to be politically impossible at this point, and I do not speak here as a mere political idealist. What is practically possible rules, not simply what is right.

Anonymous said...

iwpoe, keen to appeal to anecdotes, loathe to appeal to studies.

"I'm optimistic that they can find a kind of happiness if they can settle into monogamy."

In other words, if monogamous then happy or happier than they would be otherwise, but what is it about monogamy that is happiness-making? Or are you saying that if monogamy does not make them happy as they are, they will be happier if they become the sort of person that is made happy by monogamy?

moduspownens said...

@iwpoe

"That the state can grant dignity does not entail that *only* the state does (nor that it always works- this maneuver could damage state legitimacy, rather than confer dignity on the unions. It remains to be seen.). That is merely a tendency and hope, not a necessity."

Do you realize how illiberal a view this is and ought be rejected by every "don't tread on me"-type of American, i.e., all of us? It will be dismissed by everyone with a clear mind here. It runs contrary to the Jeffersonian idea we are implicitly created equal and dignified as such naturally prior to any state conferring anything onto anyone.

Moreover, it definitely does entail that "*only*" the state is the provider of dignity. It won't tolerate competition, as the state is inherently coercive and self-aggrandizing and self-consolidating. Being what it is renders the state already in tension with individual liberty, but you just posited the basis by which to further assert itself and trample on that freedom. That's why when Justice Kennedy, as an unelected agent of the state, waxed poetic about bestowing dignity onto same-sex couples is disturbing and bat-shit crazy -- a "putsch" as Scalia aptly put it -- especially when his office establishes judicial precedence for future cases of Constitutional interpretation.

And even more disconcerting, according to those oft-cited media polls, a majority of Americans would and did applaud this decision. Although I'm loathe to draw on the Star Wars prequels, but excuse me for reiterating that "this is how democracy dies."

Lastly, you seem to think same-sex couples being official recognized as marriages will influence them to be more monogamous. Ignoring the reduction ad absurdum of redefining marriage as non-gendered and without an objective, essential core, you're forgetting that homosexuals have the same impoverished Hallmark Channel view of "love" as heterosexuals do, thanks to Hollywood, TV and other disseminators of culture. If heterosexual unions nowadays are more prone to separation and divorce than they've ever been even though their coupling is naturally directed to the end of procreation that gives rise and need for monogamy, why should we expect to see same-sex unions stabilize and become more monogamous? Their unions are essentially and thereby categorically sterile and are not oriented to producing the reason for monogamy. So being married in the eyes of the state is magically going to make same-sex couples more monogamous? There is no basis to think that such a pragmatic view for positive transformation is sensible.

In fact, historically, homosexual men have had trouble with monogamy and thoroughly rejected it. There was and is a perpetuated counter-culture that intentionally repudiates traditional values, as counter-cultures are want to do. The promiscuity of bath houses and movie theaters and the AIDS epidemic did happen. This legacy hasn't exactly gone away either, as there are plenty of examples today of LGBTQ activists aiming to be culturally and socially subversive. As much as GLAAD, HRC and mainstream media gloss over it and pretend that homosexuals are simply the other side of the same sexuality coin, the "gay pride" parades, drag shows, and overall hypersexuality are too inculcated and the calls to disrupt and change heteronormative society too prevalent to be merely disregarded as "pernicious stereotypes" and cannot be ignored. Your hopeful assertion that same-sex couples could become monogamous because it's "psychologically better" is absurd.

moduspownens said...

*is already in tension...

Brandon said...

The evidence generally would be actual experiences in relationships. In my own case, romantic relationships are preferable to celibacy or merely utilitarian sexual relationships (a "friend" who comes over or a prostitute) and monogamous relationships while not necessarily always satisfactory and always better than any of the usual "open" arrangements in the long term since these a destabilizing and do not provide lasting benefits.

This seems to throw your entire argument into a baffling light. 'Psychologically better' sounds immensely stronger than 'I happen to enjoy it enough to recommend it'.

Santi said...

Something else Feser is missing here is the enormous strain and burden the "ideal" heterosexual marriage (five kids and lasting fifty years) places upon both the global environment and the bodies of women.

In the 21st century, ideal marriage of the Feser sort is highly problematic ecologically and in terms of feminism.

So if the contemporary price of ideal marriage is overpopulation and the reverse of women's life options, then gay marriage has the positive social function of decelerating this impulse. It makes marriage more diverse, and hence less impacting on the environment and women's bodies.

Put another way, in terms of evolution, gay and lesbian marriages help us see that marriage needn't be directed to a golden mean or ideal to which all ought to conform (one size fits all). Instead, marriage can be reimagined as consisting of irreducible variations along a continuum. It's all marriage--childless marriages, open marriages, gay marriages, heterosexual marriages. Marriage doesn't just consist of the eco-catastrophic and anti-feminist forms that Feser idealizes.

And even St. Paul didn't buy into Feser's ideal conception of marriage, seeing it as a good goal unto itself. In I Corinthians, Paul's view of marriage is minimalist while waiting on the return of Jesus: If you can't stay celibate, marry, for "it's better to marry than to burn with lust." Paul doesn't fetishize marriage in such a way that it displaces other things people might regard as goods (waiting on Jesus, cultivating religious fervor before the second coming, etc.).

And in the 21st century, we now have no excuse for not knowing what Paul could not have known: being gay or lesbian is not a perverse choice contrary to one's nature, but an inherited characteristic. If it's better for society that heterosexuals ought, at minimum, to deal with their sexual energies by marrying rather than burning and behaving irregularly, then Paul's compassionate solution ought to logically extend to gay and lesbian people as well. If you aren't of the temperamental sort that you can live celibate, marry rather than have an underground sexual life.

And Christianity has always had a fraught relationship to marriage. Think of the Marcionites and Encratites early on--and celibate priests today. Ideal marriage of the Feser sort is hardly the only way, in the 21st century, to conceptualize marriage, even in Christian terms.

So as a society, what do we want to get out of what we choose to designate as marriage? Paul's minimum or Feser's maximum--or something in-between?

I vote for a definition that is open to variety in such a way that it isn't problematic ecologically or in terms of the burden it places upon the bodies and life options of women.

And demographers tell us that 9 billion people will be on the planet by century's end--and that 90% of those will live in cities--an environment where gay neighborhoods obviously thrive and will go on thriving. Going forward, gay and lesbian couples are going to be a component of city ecosystems, and will have political muscle to flex in that environment. It's pure nostalgia to imagine that a traditionalist backlash might successfully turn back the clock and drive them underground.

Gay is here to stay.

The urban 21st century--the concrete jungle--is a very different eco-world from the dicey rural times of the ancient Romans and Aquinas (when large families as an ideal made far more sense).

So what should monotheistic traditionalists and fundamentalists do in the midst of the new Zeitgeist?

The smart ones won't try to overwhelm national politics with a one size fits all approach to sexual morality, but will instead build thriving urban neighborhoods akin to Orthodox Jews in New York and Muslims in Paris. You think your way of being in the world as a Catholic or Protestant is best? The proof is in the pudding (the practice), not in the politics of forcing a reverse in secular trends.

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