Thursday, July 28, 2016

Liberalism and the five natural inclinations


By “liberalism” I don’t mean merely what goes under that label in the context of contemporary U.S. politics.  I mean the long political tradition, tracing back to Hobbes and Locke, from which modern liberalism grew.  By natural inclinations, I don’t mean tendencies that that are merely deep-seated or habitual.  I mean tendencies that are “natural” in the specific sense operative in classical natural law theory.  And by natural inclinations, I don’t mean tendencies that human beings are always conscious of or wish to pursue.  I mean the way that a faculty can of its nature “aim at” or be “directed toward” some end or goal whether or not an individual realizes it or wants to pursue that end -- teleology or final causality in the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) sense.

Aquinas famously identifies what he takes to be the basic human inclinations in Summa Theologiae I-II.94.2.  Commentators often summarize these in a list of five items.  For example, the Dominican moral theologian Servais Pinckaers lists them as follows:

1. The inclination to the good

2. The inclination to self-preservation

3. The inclination to sexual union and the rearing of offspring

4. The inclination to knowledge of the truth

5. The inclination to live in society

(See Pinckaers’s books Morality: The Catholic View, at pp. 97-109, and The Sources of Christian Ethics, chapter 17, for his detailed treatment of each of these.)

Some comments on each: Our inclination to the good is the most fundamental of the inclinations.  It is what Aquinas is talking about in his famous first principle of natural law, viz. that good is to be pursued and evil avoided.  The idea is that in acting we always pursue what we take to be good in some way or other.  Aquinas doesn’t mean that everyone always chooses to do what he thinks is morally good, or that everyone believes that there is such a thing as an objective standard of moral goodness in the first place.  He is well aware that people sometimes do what they know to be morally wrong, that there are people who reject the very idea of morality, etc.  His point is that even these people still regard the object of their action as good in the thin sense that it provides some benefit, would be worthwhile to pursue at least in some respects, etc.  Given this very rudimentary inclination to the good together with complete rationality and knowledge of what is in fact good, we would do what is morally right.  But of course, these latter conditions often do not hold.  (See my paper “Being, the Good, and the Guise of the Good” in Neo-Scholastic Essays for detailed discussion and defense of Aquinas’s first principle.) 

Pinckaers emphasizes that there is a special connection between this basic inclination and love, since to love something is, for the A-T tradition, to will the good of that something.  The less perfect is one’s orientation toward what is in fact good, the more deficient will be his love, as I noted in a recent post

The inclination to self-preservation is obvious enough, though some may think that the existence of suicidal people is counterevidence.  It is not, and Aquinas is of course well aware that there are such people.  A suicidal person is not someone who lacks this inclination, but rather someone who intentionally frustrates it.  (And even then, not perfectly.  Even a suicidal person will initially tend to duck if you fire a gun at him, will struggle if you try to drown him, etc.  He has to work to overcome these spontaneous tendencies.)  As always, we must keep in mind that by “inclinations” Aquinas does not primarily have in mind the conscious desires we happen to have, but rather the deeper level of natural teleology or final causality which exists below the level of consciousness.  To be sure, our conscious desires generally track that deeper level; we usually do consciously want to preserve ourselves.  But as with everything else in the world of changeable, material things, imperfections and disorders are bound to occur, and our conscious desires sometimes come apart from the natural teleology of our various faculties.

That is certainly true of the third natural inclination, toward sexual intercourse and the child-rearing that is its natural sequel.  In general, people want to have sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex, and also want to have children.  But of course, there are exceptions -- people with homosexual desires, people who lack any interest in sex, people who don’t want children, and so on.  That is not counterevidence to Aquinas’s claim, because, again, he isn’t in the first place making a claim about what people all consciously desire, but rather a claim about the natural ends of our faculties.  As with suicidal people, conscious desires in this case too can come apart from natural teleology.  (See my essay “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument,” also in Neo-Scholastic Essays, for detailed exposition and defense of the A-T account of the natural ends of our sexual faculties.  See also some relevant earlier blog posts.)

Similar remarks can be made about the natural inclination toward knowledge of the truth.  Here, though, it seems to me that it is even more difficult for natural teleology and conscious desire to come apart.  It might seem otherwise given that there are people who claim not to believe in objective truth, people who engage in even overt self-deception, and so forth.  But even cognitive relativists and other anti-realists about truth think that it really is the case that there is no such thing as objective truth and that those who suppose otherwise are mistaken.  (This is why such views at the end of the day simply cannot be coherently formulated.)  And someone who wants to avoid knowing certain truths, who won’t let himself dwell on uncomfortable evidence, etc. thinks that it really is the case that it would in some way be bad to know those truths or dwell on that evidence.  In these ways, our inclination toward truth is operative even in the very act of trying to frustrate it. 

Aquinas makes special note of knowledge of the truth about God as being among the ends of this fourth of our natural inclinations.  The idea is that as rational animals we are naturally oriented toward finding the explanations of things.  God qua First Cause, knowable by way of philosophical arguments, is the ultimate explanation of things, and thus knowledge of God and his nature is the ultimate fulfillment of our intellectual powers.

The fifth inclination is what Aristotle and Aquinas have in mind when they say that man is a social and political animal.  We are oriented by nature to organize into families, extended families, villages, and the like, and to set up institutions with the authority to govern these social organizations.  And for the A-T natural law tradition, this political authority derives not from any social contract but from the natural law itself, which preexists any contract.  Moreover, our social nature is not reducible to the herd behavior of non-rational animals, but participates in our rationality.  It is manifest in language, culture, religion, science, and the other social activities and institutions that other animals lack because they lack intellects.  The good we realize by virtue of being social animals is also a common good in the sense that it is not reducible to the sum of private goods of the individuals who make up society.  The good of one’s country (say) is not just the aggregate of the private good of this particular citizen, the private good of that particular citizen, etc.  Being an organic part of the larger social whole is itself a good over and above the private goods each individual could enjoy on his own.

The ordering of the five inclinations is not accidental.  At least in a rough way, the list moves from inclinations we share with many things to inclinations more specific to us.  The first inclination, toward the good, is one shared in a sense by all things.  For goodness or badness, on the A-T analysis, is defined in terms of how well or badly a thing manifests its nature, and everything manifests its nature to some extent (otherwise it wouldn’t be the kind of thing it is in the first place) and is in that sense and to that extent good.  The second inclination, toward self-preservation, is found in living things specifically, and thus also in man as one living thing among others.  The third, toward sex and child-rearing, is even more specific, limited to certain kinds of animals.  The fourth, toward truth, is (among animals, as opposed to angels, who are incorporeal) limited to us as rational animals, where rational animality is our essence.  The fifth, toward sociality of the higher, rational sort we exhibit involves a property or proper accident that flows from our essence as rational animals (in the A-T sense of the word “property”).

Because they are natural to us, these five inclinations cannot be extinguished.  They are always present in human beings and always manifest themselves in some way and to some extent.  However, and as has already been indicated, their manifestation can be frustrated and distorted in various ways.  Intellectual error can lead us to deny one or more of them, and moral vice can make us reluctant to affirm or consistently to pursue one or more of them.  Historical and cultural circumstances can also obscure our view of them and distort their manifestation.

This brings us to liberalism -- again, in the broad sense of the tradition extending back to Hobbes and Locke and represented today by positions as diverse as the egalitarian liberalism of Rawls, the classical liberalism or libertarianism of Nozick, and so forth.  The characteristic thesis of liberalism is that society and government are not natural to us, but artificial.  They arise out of a contract or agreement of some sort (what sort depending on what version of liberalism we’re talking about), between individuals who do not have any preexisting obligations to one another or to any larger social whole.  Indeed, there is no social whole of which the individuals are naturally a part, and thus no common good.  There are only the private goods of the individuals, and if they decide to form some larger whole it is only for the sake of facilitating those private goods.  Moreover, for the liberal, unless the individuals in some way consent to there being a political authority (via a Lockean social contract, bargaining in Rawls’s original position, an initial group of clients signing on with a Nozickian dominant protective agency, or what have you) then there simply cannot be such an authority, and the individuals have no obligation whatsoever to recognize any purported authority.

In short, liberalism essentially rejects the fifth of the basic natural inclinations and is therefore to that extent fundamentally at odds with the A-T natural law tradition.

To forestall misunderstandings, note that I am not here talking about questions such as whether it can be legitimate to resist or overthrow an unjust government, whether popular elections are the least bad way to determine who holds office, etc.  An A-T natural law theorist certainly could answer (and many A-T theorists in fact have answered) such questions in the affirmative.  But those are essentially questions about which specific persons get to exercise political authority, who gets to hold office and how to determine that, etc.  What is at issue here is the more fundamental question of whether the consent of the individuals is the ultimate foundation of there being any such thing as political authority, any such thing as offices of government, in the first place.  The liberal tradition says Yes, the A-T natural law tradition says No.  Again, for the A-T tradition, society is natural to us rather than artificial and political authority (as a general, background condition of the existence of society, as distinct from some particular concrete form that that authority might take) derives from natural law rather than consent. 

Nor is its rejection of the idea that man is a social animal (as A-T understands that claim) the only characteristic feature of liberalism.  The other characteristic feature is its insistence not only on the distinction between church and state (which Christianity has always affirmed) but on a sharp separation in principle between church and state, so that the state can in no way favor or be influenced by the doctrine of any particular religious body.   (Traditional Christian doctrine holds that such a rigid separation cannot be absolutely required as a matter of principle, even if it is sometimes necessary or advisable in practice.)  In Locke, this separation did not rule out a generic philosophical theism as something the state ought to favor, but the subsequent liberal tradition has tended to exclude even this.  (I discussed the nature of the traditional Christian view of the relation between Church and state and how liberalism departed from it in some detail in an earlier post.) 

Associated in the liberal tradition with this exclusion of religion from politics has been a tendency toward skepticism about the possibility of genuine knowledge where theological matters are concerned.  For if we really could have such knowledge, it would seem unreasonable for government not to take account of it in setting policy, any more than it would be reasonable for government to ignore scientific knowledge.  Locke’s contemporary Jonas Proast noted the skeptical implications of Locke’s doctrine of religious toleration.  A more thoroughgoing and emphatic skepticism about the possibility of religious knowledge has become ever more deeply ingrained in the liberal tradition in the centuries since, to the point where contemporary liberals tend to think it self-evident that religion as such is a matter of “faith” understood as an irrational commitment, which for that reason ought to have no influence whatsoever on public policy.  (I discuss Locke’s position and Proast’s criticisms of it in chapter 5 of my book Locke.) 

Now, as I’ve noted, Aquinas held that knowledge of God was the ultimate fulfillment of our natural inclination toward knowledge of the truth.  To the extent that liberalism presupposes skepticism about the possibility of theological knowledge -- and indeed tends to promote such skepticism as a way of making sure that religion will be kept out of politics -- it is incompatible with the fourth of our natural inclinations.

There is another respect in which liberalism is at least in tension with this fourth inclination.  Hobbes had an extremely “thin” conception of the moral law.  In Hobbes’s state of nature, everyone is at liberty to do whatever he likes, not only legally but morally.  It is the chaos that this inevitably generates that leads individuals in the state of nature to give up their absolute liberty and form civil society.  The tendency of Hobbesian contractarian thinking about morality, though, is in a decidedly libertine and minimalist direction.  If the individual does not consent to some restriction on his liberty of action -- not just a legal restriction, but even a moral restriction -- then he cannot be bound by such a restriction.  Locke’s conception of morality is much “thicker,” even if not nearly as thick as the A-T conception.  In Locke’s state of nature, we are not at liberty to do whatever we like.  Even if we are not yet obliged to submit to any government, we are still obliged even in the state of nature to submit to a moral law that is in no way the product of human convention or contract and is knowable by reason apart from special divine revelation.  Hence, though Locke would not permit any but the most generic religious belief to influence government policy, there is nothing in Lockeanism per se that rules out letting various moral considerations influence government policy.  For example, there is nothing in Lockeanism per se that would prevent the outlawing of abortion.

However, the liberal tradition has tended over the centuries to follow Hobbes rather than Locke on this particular matter (even if it has of course preferred Locke’s limited state to Hobbes’s absolutist state).  That is to say, just as the liberal tradition has over the centuries tended toward increasing skepticism about the possibility of theological knowledge, it has also tended toward increasing skepticism about the possibility of moral knowledge of anything more than a very ”thin” or minimalist “live and let live” sort.  That is why it has tended increasingly to insist that matters of “personal morality” (e.g. concerning abortion, homosexuality, etc.) not be allowed to influence public policy.  It is why Rawls will not only not permit any sort of religious doctrine to influence the basic structure of society, but will not permit any other “comprehensive doctrine” (of even a secular moral or philosophical sort) to do so. 

As in the case of religion, the skepticism and the attitude toward public policy go hand in hand.  If it were admitted that we really could have genuine knowledge where “personal morality” is concerned, then it would be hard to justify letting government ignore this knowledge any more than it could ignore scientific knowledge.  Hence, just as the liberal has a strong incentive to insist that theological claims are merely matters of irrational commitment, so too does he have a strong incentive to insist that beliefs about “personal morality” are matters of taste, subjective emotional reaction, etc.

In this way too, then, liberalism, at least in its dominant contemporary manifestations, is at odds with the fourth of our fundamental natural inclinations, as it is understood in the A-T tradition.  For of course, the A-T natural law tradition holds that there is a great deal of genuine knowledge to be had where matters of “personal morality” are concerned.

Now, the matters of “personal morality” about which contemporary liberalism exhibits such skepticism have largely to do with sex, so that there is an obvious sense in which liberalism tends to be at odds also with the third of our natural inclinations as A-T natural law theorists understand it.  But there is another and more specific source of tension between liberalism and this third natural inclination.  The family is the most obviously natural form of social organization.  It is also the context within which we are most obviously obliged to submit to an authority we never consented to, viz. parental authority.  Accordingly, the family sits uneasily with the core liberal ideas that society is artificial and that there can be no authority over an individual to which he has not in some sense consented.   There is thus bound to be a strong temptation in liberalism to extent its analysis of society on the large scale to the small scale case of the family.  The modern attitude toward marriage and family as essentially about individual personal fulfillment, toward the having of children as an option which a couple may or may not wish to exercise (rather than the reason why the institution of marriage exists in the first place), easy divorce in the name of personal fulfillment, the redefinition of marriage to fit current attitudes about homosexuality, etc. all clearly reflect this tendency to try to make of family something approximating an artificial and contractual arrangement.

The current push for the legalization of assisted suicide indicates that liberalism is not fully consistent even with the second of the five natural inclinations.  And the prevalence within liberal societies of moral minimalism, moral skepticism, subjectivism about value, and moral relativism is evidence that liberalism sits poorly even with the first and most basic of the natural inclinations.

This is not to say that all forms of liberalism are in every way, and to the same extent in the case of each inclination, at odds with the five on the list.  Much less is it to say that all individual liberals are personally hostile to the general conception of moral life summarized in the A-T account of the five inclinations.  All the same, liberalism’s emphasis on individual autonomy has over the centuries been taken in increasingly extreme directions, in ways increasingly at odds with the A-T understanding of the five inclinations.

In recent decades, some Catholics have thought that concepts like “human rights” and the “dignity of the human person” might provide conceptual common ground between liberalism and Catholic moral thinking (the latter having, of course, been deeply influenced by the A-T natural law tradition).  This is naïve, because such expressions bear radically different meanings in the minds of liberals on the one hand and Catholic and A-T natural law theorists on the other.  For the latter, our dignity lies precisely in our capacity as rational animals to pursue the five natural inclinations, and the function of rights is to safeguard the possibility of pursuing them.  For contemporary liberalism, by contrast, our “dignity” and “rights” entail that we may if we wish be indifferent to these inclinations or even opposed to them. 

99 comments:

Timocrates said...

I think this is why modern liberalism is hyper-emotive. Like why the DNC is all about, y'know, love. And inclusion. And unity. And togetherness. And - in a word - feeling good. Every time I watch it on CSPAN I am disgusted at the blatant emotional manipulation and blackmail that is used.

The days when liberals were intellectuals is over, in my mind. Now it is the question whether or not conservatives presume to try to fight fire with fire or rather actually be conservative and preserve the best traditions. Time only, I guess, will tell.

Edward Feser said...

Yes, and I loved how Obama condemned last night the tendency to "demonize" one's political opponents -- like, you know, all those racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic bigots who want to poison the air and water and throw grandma in the street like to do. Clueless hypocrisy or complete cynicism? Both, I'd say.

TheOFloinn said...

The second inclination, toward self-preservation, is found in living things specifically

There is something in inertia of inanimate bodies that is like the inclination of life toward its self-preservation. The struggle to maintain existence of a living thing is a higher form of the stubborn determination of a boulder to maintain its place.

Elizabeth Gormley said...

I think that people today are taught to see everything from the first person point of view. Everything becomes distorted from that point. The inclination towards good is set aside for a subjective good, my good. Self preservation is more about the preservation of a mind set that one is comfortable with rather than with physical preservation. Children are seen as a threat to my life style and so must be rejected to preserve my way of life, etc. A happy fiction is to be preferred over a hard truth - so I must reject the truth. Society now means a group of friends I meet with every night for entertainment. It's all selfish and yet self destructive thought.

Timocrates said...

Well, I think in terms of hypocrisy President Obama took the cake when talking about how, ostensibly, here in America we the people have the power and are necessary for any change, except, of course, when it comes to whether or not gay-marriage is actually marriage or deciding national bathroom policy. That, of course, needs the autocratic enlightened hand of the few to determine it for "the rest of us." That, I guess, is "democracy."

I will give the USA permanent credit for this forever: they couldn't even pass democratically gay-marriage in California - of all places - and this is the one country that had to have a body of unelected plutocrats literally force it on everybody (i.e. the Supreme Court, which decided against even recent precedent that it had no business determining marriage). That's democracy, for you. That was and is such a transparent failure on the part of modern "liberals" here that they now have to use Hollywood relentlessly to alter "attitudes and opinions": 'These pesky Americans who are so stubborn in their beliefs!' Lol. 'If only they believed in "love" and would hold hands and chant koombaya like every other "good," decent, liberal, bankrupt and now decrepit Western country does!'

Anyways, that end my rant against modern liberalism.

Timocrates said...

@ Elizabeth,

I definitely think you are right. It is the most glaringly proof of failure of a society, qua society, that children are feared. Maybe that's something we can say: "Why are you, an adult, so terrified of a helpless baby?" But I think we know the answer: "It's exactly because they are helpless and will need me." For all our grandiose political talk about how great or strong we are/will be/have been, we become living witnesses by our birth rates and our fear to welcome children into the world that we are, in fact, suffering from a radical lack of confidence.

Y'know, someone once told me that at high-end fraternity clubs there was a ceremony called "the crucifixion of care." Let's let it be an idle tale, but I think that is one of the most haunting things threatening humanity today: this belief that if I sacrifice caring about things - anything - then I will be free. Throw off my burdens and responsibilities. Just let life be: stop caring about the future or the past, even. Just ignore it. Just be and just be indifferently.

Screw the marriage debate or abortion or human sex trafficking or high unemployment or whatever. Coming out of the closet as someone who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman because there is something in man and woman that, when united, really can produce something special is just irrelevant. If I care about that, or if I care whether or not our elderly and sick people are treated with respect - that is all just burdens to me. I will likely get fired from my (admittedly rather lame anyways) job if I dare to care about such things. It will do nothing anyways. I will just end up on welfare, alone and sad, etc. Nothing would change anyways. But if I rather refuse to care or pretend not to, then I can afford HBO, at least, at the end of the day. Maybe afford some semblance of a normal life.

Back in Canada, more than two years ago, it was the common opinion of my friends - who are fairly salt of the earth, by and large - that having kids was simply wrong. Not because it prevented them from doing what they pleased, but because it was morally wrong to subject children to modern life. That is the human reality behind statistics and polls that never gets mentioned. The volume of pointless craziness and absurdity has reached such a thresh hold that average, ordinary people have effectively condemned it to die a very natural death. Now for young people - full of vim and vitality - to hold such an opinion should be extremely alarming to anyone in responsibility of a sane society.

Now, "accidents happened" and many of my friends changed their minds afterwards. Their opinions about the world they lived in didn't change, just their perspectives. They wouldn't trade the world for their kids. I think this simple reality is part of the reason there are such drives to make sure "accidents" never happen at all. Like I said, they were salt of the earth enough so I wasn't surprised things changed. But they changed, mind you, only by "accident."

Steven Dillon said...

I don't know the extent to which the religious beliefs of guys like Hobbes and Locke influenced their political positions, but I do wonder how much Protestant theology in general helped to propel liberalism away from the basic inclinations, at least insofar as its emphasis on the depravity of human nature rather muzzles inclinations 1 and 4.

Timocrates said...

@ Dillon,

I think that is an important question with Hobbes, but not so much Locke. Locke was more enlightenment than Protestant, imho, though I suspect Protestant disputes - or Christian division - strongly propelled him into that direction. A fruit of the consequence of the scandal of schism. Locke was seeking a common denominator or a via media - which is about as Anglican as he got.

I'm thinking that the terrible wars Hobbes saw and the virtual anarchy he experienced had much more to do with his Leviathan than Protestantism ever did. He recoiled - as any good Greek would - back to reason in the face of scandals against reason. It was reported the Greeks worshiped an animal once; and as far as I can reconstruct history from the evidence, almost immediately after that event the Greek materialist philosophers "suddenly" appeared. To this date, there is no official reason for why they appeared. I'm thinking there is a resemblance here to Hobbes. It was - as with the Catholic Machiavelli - the anarchy and unreasonableness of the age that produced their philosophies: I mean, crimes against religion or irreligion that produced such philosophers and philosophies, rather than the religion of those who founded those philosophies. The human inclination for society seems to have compelled these men insofar as they saw it threatened.

In many respects, I think Donald J. Trump has of late been playing to Hobbes. Locke, unfortunately, has been tossed into the dustbin: there really are no more liberals anymore, which translates into a serious crisis the UK, Canada, USA and Australia. In my opinion, the only liberals left are in fact sincere Christians. Clinton, Obama and the LGBTQ movement don't really have any philosophers to represent them, because (in my mind) it is too much of straight-up inclination (in the more common usage) or a reactionary movement than a thought through, meaningful program. But that is of course not of moment in a populist contest. No one thinks that through; rather, they are the kind of movement that causes situations that result in Hobbes or Locke or Machiavelli, imho. Indeed, I dare say Donald Trump is an extremely mild reaction to such a movement; in fact, seeing as he was liberal most of his life, he's probably more likely to segue such a radicalism into a farcical normalcy than to effectively combat it, though this would be just another sweeping under the rug, which will makes this worse.

jmhenry said...

That is to say, just as the liberal tradition has over the centuries tended toward increasing skepticism about the possibility of theological knowledge, it has also tended toward increasing skepticism about the possibility of moral knowledge of anything more than a very ”thin” or minimalist “live and let live” sort. That is why it has tended increasingly to insist that matters of “personal morality” (e.g. concerning abortion, homosexuality, etc.) not be allowed to influence public policy. [emphasis mine]

But even on this thin, minimalist, "live and let live" sort of moral knowledge, abortion should be impermissible. Why doesn't the "live and let live" sort of moral knowledge apply to unborn humans as well? Why don't we let them live? Unless one is presupposing that they aren't really alive, then even this minimalist sort of morality should render abortion morally impermissible.

Timocrates said...

@ jmhenry

(Forgive me, Dr. Feser, you started a conversation I am now apparently addicted to! P.S - your Last Superstition was one of the best finds - in my darkest days - I ever found at a public library; and I know exactly why it was there: someone it that someone might read it!)

That aside, jmhenry, you are (frankly) darn right.

This is the problem of what's left of the modern farce of liberalism: the painfully obvious contradictions, contrary to what the human intellect - or, in fact, even brain - is designed for: truth. Hence all the emotional appeals.

If the pro-abortion state cared, they would have undoubtedly collected statistics about (anonymously) who was receiving abortions and why. No doubt they probably would have found that women who

1. never had children,
2. were unmarried and
3. were young

Were among the highest percentage of those receiving abortions; likewise, they would have noticed as male culture changed (e.g about when it is appropriate to marry, etc.), then the age of women having abortions correspondingly went up. The fact that more men are postponing marriage as an after thought - and the fact that this is common knowledge - can only increase the use of contraception and the age that women are having abortions at. Frankly, too many people post Roe vs. Wade are alive today because of women who "decided to keep it" (and right on them) and too many children aren't because of a prevalent assumption that men are unwilling to, well, man up (which is not without good reason). Too many boys were taught for too long they could lie in a bed and not have to make it. Too many women have been made to think they have to have sex outside of marriage as if it were a necessary offering to retaining a man's interest of affection. Men are taught not to be men; women are taught to treat men as if they were boys. Perfect storm.

I personally think there is a strong connection between Feminism and homosexuality. They represent the fruition of a dichotomy. Women will always be attracted to men; and men, to women. Deplete or pervert one end and you get a reaction from the other. Women will become more masculine; men, more feminine: that, or each will become a kind of parody of themselves.

Don Jindra said...

This looks something like George Weigel's "A Better Concept of Freedom" and his "The Cube and the Cathedral," and Rick Santorum's redefinition of freedom in "It Takes a Family." If it's taken as friendly advice for living, no problem. There's lots of good and bad advice to pick through. Friendly advice should be welcomed. But I'm wondering how it applies to freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the rest of the Bill of Rights and even the Constitution and court decisions? If this top-down direction of freedom is meant to whittle away at those, then the friendly advice isn't so friendly anymore.

Timocrates said...

@ Don,

This I don't understand. How can any modern in the Western world pretend that we are living in an age of "advice for friendly living"?

We are forced to accept X, Y and Z. We have watched both candidates promise they will expand government spying; in fact, Hilly Clinton even bragged about hiring cyber trolls on the internet - ostensibly - to fight the ISIS ideology. Because Americans are so stupid and useless they can't monopolize their own invention (for which - though American taxpayers paid for the internet, they haven't seen one red cent). This is appeal to the ignorant, pure and simple.

So both candidates believe in expanding government snooping on Americans. Both believe in American exceptionalism. Both believe in -ostensibly- investing in America's infrastructure. But we are all supposed to believe - us average Joes - that these candidates are democratically chosen.

At least in a Republic by definition a minority sometimes corrects the majority. In Hillary Clinton's/Obama's world, the enlightened few dictate for us all that if a destructive minority hates us, then we must expose our daughters to perverts.

I don't see a difference between Obama and Trump. Obama condemned the Canadian parliament for not paying their dues to NATO. American Presidents ever since the wall fell have been complaining about how hard and expensive it is for America to pay for a wall against Russia.

Russia is a small country of 145 million. You have to be one sort of stupid to think that the entire Western world must fight that. China is dependent on Canada and USA imports. That is exactly why they are forced to tolerate us blaming them for everything.

The strong b*tch. The weak have no voice.

There is no difference between Trump and Clinton.

Sandymount said...

The classical liberal or libertarian position is a 'negative' position, dont take my stuff/harm met etc.

The inclination to live in society is a 'positive' position, eg what the libertarian chooses to do with his freedom is not defined or contradicted by being a libertarian.

e.g. there is no necessary contradiction between being a Catholic and a libertarian. I happen to be both and can exercise my freedom to follow, hopefully, all the inclinations you mention in the post without contradicting libertarian principles.

The fact that some libertarians dont is more a reflection of the moral freedom we have.


Elizabeth Gormley said...

@Timocrates
I agree that it is a way of thinking that leads to a lonely life. I read somewhere that the shift in philosophical thought has shifted from a God-centered universe (Religion), to a mankind centered universe (Humanism), to an "I" centered universe. I suppose the last step has it's roots in Existentialism. The problem, I think, is that an "I" centered and man-centered view starts in the material world whereas a God-centered universe addresses the material and the immaterial. I think it's very hard to allow for the possibility of the immaterial if it's approached as a kind of appendage to one's system of thought.

Gerard O'Neill said...

2 & 3 I can accept, as they are fairly self-evident, though they apply equally to sewer rats as to humans. The others are more problematic.

From the standpoint of "the good" being defined as seeking a personal advantage, then that could be regarded as a natural inclination. But that would be a weak basis for any moral system. Humans are not rational.

#4 is an absolute howler. Humans are stupid, and would rather live in a delusional fantasy world than seek truth or even basic knowledge.

#5 seems to be an accident related to our evolutionary history (first as prey, then as hunters of large game). We seems to relish the opportunity -- when we can -- to build large homes with large fences to keep the outside world at bay. Hell is other people.

George LeSauvage said...

Thank you, Ed. To my mind, the virtual monopoly of liberalism - in all its senses - seems complete. I've stopped reading political sites because of this, unless they are amusing. It's not that I object to classical liberalism being predominant at conservative sites. It always has been in America. But it is now regarded as the ONLY possible perspective. Oh, they like to use congenial quotes from Chesterton, or Waugh, or Eliot. But the real men would raise horror. I am old enough to recall when that was absolutely not so. I've been reading Willmore Kendall lately. He'as not someone I agree with, ultimately, but very interesting. He (and Weaver, and Kirk, and Burnham, and probably even Buckley) would be anathematized by the right today. I think it's analogous to the way in which Marx tends to dominate thought on the left, even among those who are, strictly, not Marxist. (This is so especially in the case of those "Marxists" who espouse doctrines that old Karl wouldn't be found dead in a ditch with.)

The upshot is that political discourse today is very much constricted.

My own reading of Obama is that he is as close to a true solipsist as it is possible for a human to be, and I've thought so for eight years now. All the world is just an extension of Himself, and the one thing he truly hates is any suggestion that this is not so.

@Steve Dillon: Richard Hooker was one Protestant (and there were others) who didn't see his theology as entailing rejection of basic inclinations. But then, he didn't buy total depravity. The funny thing is that Locke gave lip-service to him, but the end result was something much more like a product of the Protestantism you describe. (Haven't read Ed's Locke yet. But I will.)

One last point: while the distinction between Church and State may be implicit in most religions, the actual separation seems to be a creation of Catholicism. This amazes people when I say it, because they think "separation" must mean something along modern American lines. But it needn't do so. The key element - the Church as an institution truly independent of the state - is something I can't find elsewhere. (Some Protestant bodies, after failing to place it over the state, have adopted this. Others have gone full-bore Erastian.)

TheOFloinn said...

Humans are not rational.

Really? Or do you mean by "rational" reaching a conclusion that you find agreeable? (Operationally, this often seems to be the definition used.)

the standpoint of "the good" being defined as seeking a personal advantage

Good thing it's not defined that way.

fairly self-evident, though they apply equally to sewer rats

Do you have something against sewer rats?

Humans are stupid

Do you count yourself as human?

Hell is other people.

Well, there goes that "gregariousness" that inclines us to cluster into settlements, villages, camps, etc.

Don Jindra said...

Timocrates,

"We are forced to accept X, Y and Z."

Then my question is this: Are those A-T "natural inclinations" supposed to be free choices made by relatively free individuals or yet more X, Y, and Z imposed upon us? IOW, there's always the danger that the "natural inclination" driving the whole shebang is Machiavellian in nature. I've been told final cause is of supreme importance and I don't entirely disagree.

Anonymous said...

'and the rearing of offspring'

Soooo...I'd like to know how all this squares with kidnapping Jewish children after a baptism and raising them Catholic? Does revelation trump natural law?

George LeSauvage said...

There is a very strong urge in the modern world to reject the very idea of natural inclination (or natural anything for that matter) as an intolerable violation of human autonomy. The most obvious cases are Marxists and Existentialists (and pomos generally). The more I see of this, the odder it looks. Ever since the very first philosophy class I took, which looked closely at the question of free will, it has been clear that the kind of "freedom" desired is incoherent. It entails making "choices" on no basis whatsoever other than what one wants. But that want cannot be based on anything but a kind of mystical inward volition. (In what sense it is actually a volition, being based on nothing, escapes me.) Even Thomas's first requirement is too restrictive, if one wishes that evil be now one's good.

It is, however, the orthodoxy of the western world today. What's left of it.

Elizabeth Gormley said...


Last thought:

“[Liberalism] has also tended toward increasing skepticism about the possibility of moral knowledge of anything more than a very ”thin” or minimalist “live and let live” sort.”

To the liberal mind whatever is legal is considered moral. And if it’s not legal, but might be in the future because there is a growing consensus that it should be, then it also is moral (an evolution of morality).

The reasons why the new atheists attack the Catholic Church on abortion and homosexuality are:

1. Rhetorical advantage: They believe the Church cannot change its position on either issue – so it’s considered the weakest intellectual (because of the passion it brings to the argument) barrier. For abortion this is true because the unborn child has the same right to life as the mother. I’m not so sure about homosexuality (I doubt same sex marriage will ever be accepted, but I’m not so sure the ban against receiving communion will stand. The same for divorced and remarried persons.)

2. Existential fears. If this life is all there is then this is our only shot at personal happiness. I don’t believe this fear can be addressed purely from an intellectual approach.

Any rebuttal to Liberalism must involve an approach that addresses both the heart and the head. And that’s very hard to do in our 140 character Twitterverse. We dismiss each other too easily when we don’t like what we hear or feel we are wasting time on the willfully ignorant. That, too often, happens on both sides of the aisle.

George LeSauvage said...

Oh, Lord.

On the contrary, It is written in the Decretals (Dist. xlv), quoting the council of Toledo: "In regard to the Jews the holy synod commands that henceforward none of them be forced to believe: for such are not to be saved against their will, but willingly, that their righteousness may be without flaw."

I answer that, The children of unbelievers either have the use of reason or they have not. If they have, then they already begin to control their own actions, in things that are of Divine or natural law. And therefore of their own accord, and against the will of their parents, they can receive Baptism, just as they can contract marriage. Consequently such can lawfully be advised and persuaded to be baptized.

If, however, they have not yet the use of free-will, according to the natural law they are under the care of their parents as long as they cannot look after themselves. For which reason we say that even the children of the ancients "were saved through the faith of their parents." Wherefore it would be contrary to natural justice if such children were baptized against their parents' will; just as it would be if one having the use of reason were baptized against his will. Moreover under the circumstances it would be dangerous to baptize the children of unbelievers; for they would be liable to lapse into unbelief, by reason of their natural affection for their parents. Therefore it is not the custom of the Church to baptize the children of unbelievers against their parents' will.

ST III, 68, A10

Anonymous said...

'If, however, they have not yet the use of free-will, according to the natural law they are under the care of their parents as long as they cannot look after themselves. For which reason we say that even the children of the ancients "were saved through the faith of their parents." Wherefore it would be contrary to natural justice if such children were baptized against their parents' will; just as it would be if one having the use of reason were baptized against his will. Moreover under the circumstances it would be dangerous to baptize the children of unbelievers; for they would be liable to lapse into unbelief, by reason of their natural affection for their parents. Therefore it is not the custom of the Church to baptize the children of unbelievers against their parents' will.'

IIRC, Aquinas was brought up to try to convince the Pope and his minions to let Edgardo Mortara back. Apparently it wasn't convincing.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend this book: https://www.amazon.com/Kidnapping-Edgardo-Mortara-David-Kertzer/dp/0679768173/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469807970&sr=8-1&keywords=edgardo+mortara for the full details.

Brandon said...

IIRC, Aquinas was brought up to try to convince the Pope and his minions to let Edgardo Mortara back. Apparently it wasn't convincing.

In other words, you are saying the discussion of the case is not relevant to the discussion of Aquinas and the implications of his view.

Anonymous said...

"There is thus bound to be a strong temptation in liberalism to extent its analysis of society on the large scale to the small scale case of the family."

. . . to EXTEND its analysis . . .

Edward Feser said...

In other words, you are saying the discussion of the case is not relevant to the discussion of Aquinas and the implications of his view.

Yes, and let's let Anonymous's lame attempt at a threadjack stop right here. Everyone stay on topic, please.

Anonymous said...

Ed, I don't see why it's irrelevant, particularly with regard to natural law, which is what we're all talking about. I found the passage dealing with Aquinas in the book here:

'It is indeed true, Brevi Cenni stated, that the church had always opposed the baptizing of infidels against their parent's wishes. However, church theologians and canon law had always recognized exceptions to this general principle, and one of them was operative in the case at hand, for 'it is permissible to baptize those children who find themselves near death.'
As for Church opposition to the baptism of Jewish children in the absence of consent, the Mortara plea was based on a misunderstanding. The fact that a baptized Jewish child who remained with his parents would be in grave danger of apostasy was it is true, an argument against performing such baptisms. But the implication of this argument was the opposite of that drawn by the Jews: it was just because of this danger that baptized children could not be allowed to remain with their Jewish parents. Recognizing that force would be required to remove such children from their parents, the church has tried to prevent such baptism; nevertheless once it has been conferred on an infidel child, the Church recognizes it as valid, enters in control of its new son, and adopts every means and every care to distance him from the faithlessness of his parents and to nourish him and raise him in the grace of Jesus Christ. The Vatican brief continued, 'In Fact the canonists and theologians are in full agreement on this truth: that in no case can a baptized child be returned to its infidel parents. Between the two competing authorities, that of God and that of the parent's, God's must prevail, for was he not the author of the natural rights that parents enjoyed? The right acquired by the Church of the baptized infant is of a superior and more noble order than that of the parents.'

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

The post is about natural law and liberalism. Issues about the theology of baptism, the details of a specific historical event, the inflammatory side issues that happen to be associated with that particular event (e.g. allegations of anti-Semitism), etc. quite obviously will likely take the thread very far afield of that original topic.

You might as well try to justify turning the thread into a discussion of the metaphysical underpinnings of the Five Ways, on the grounds that this is related to the natural inclination to knowledge of the truth about God; or into a discussion of the details of NFP, on the grounds that this is related to the third natural inclination. Bringing something up because it is remotely kinda-sorta related to one particular point raised in the course of a post doesn't suffice to make it "on topic."

Thursday said...

The "all men desire to know" of Aristotle does not mean that most people are intellectually curious. It means all men desire to know something: how to use their smartphone, how to get that cute girl on a date, how to fix their truck. Anything with any intellectual content at all.

Anonymous said...

It's your blog, so if you don't want it to go in that direction, that's fine. I was just kind of surprised that a Catholic philosopher writing a book on the New Atheism doesn't go into the Mortara case, since Dawkins brings it up in the God Delusion. I enjoyed your layout of Aristotelian metaphysics even though I'm not a believer myself but have always found that case disturbing and wondered why you didn't delve into it. (Dawkins does, after all, point out that he doesn't go into the Crusades or the Inquisition since abuses happen under any institution but mentions the Mortara case due to the specifically religious nature of the controversy.

George LeSauvage said...

I can't put my hand on it just now, but IIRC, Lewis, in his OHEL volume, quotes one of the Florentine Platonists (Ficino?) to the effect that man has no fixed nature, but makes his own nature. CSL notes the parallel with Sartre. If I haven't misremembered, this would be about 2 centuries before Hobbes & Locke. Apparently this desire runs pretty deep.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous,

I didn't go into issues like that because the book wasn't about Catholicism or even Christianity per se, but about the more generic theism vs. atheism debate. Can't do everything in one book. Anyway, we're definitely off topic now.

Michele Arpaia said...

All things considered and with a pinch of Catholic realism, I'd say Trump for president.

jmhenry said...

Don Jindra: Then my question is this: Are those A-T "natural inclinations" supposed to be free choices made by relatively free individuals or yet more X, Y, and Z imposed upon us?

Well, the problem with a question like this is that it presupposes a particular conception of freedom -- one that is taken by the very sort of liberalism that is being critiqued in the original post. For example, the Aristotelian-Thomistic analysis would say that, to the extent that you are being frustrated from pursuing and achieving the ends to which you are directed in virtue of those "natural inclinations" (either because of "internal" frustration, such as habitual vice, or because of "external" frustration, such as a morally corrupted culture, society, or government which do not acknowledge and secure the possibility of pursuing these ends), then you are in fact not free.

However, the sort of "freedom" being presupposed by your question is one that simply says that we have no ends to which we are directed, and the realization of which constitute our flourishing as the kinds of beings that we are (or, at the very least, that society and government have no moral obligation to acknowledge and secure the possibility of pursuing these ends, if they exist). Rather, the conception of freedom presupposed in this case is one which says that our freedom merely consists in the maximization of choices in a consumerist marketplace, and that no particular choices can make any objective demands on us. We sort of "hover" above these choices in a supposedly neutral space, and "freedom" is merely the ability to select whichever choice I desire at that particular time, depending whatever my subjective preferences happen to be at that time.

Society is reduced to a collection of human beings conceived of merely as consuming, autonomous units possessing only subjective preferences wanting to be satisfied, rather than relational beings possessing an objective nature which orders them to particular ends which constitute our flourishing. (Such a conception of human beings has been strongly criticized by certain secular feminists, also known as "care feminists," as Alasdair MacIntyre notes in his book Dependent Rational Animals). Government is consequently reduced to a mere referee between the "autonomous units" that make up society, keeping them from stepping on each other's toes too much, but otherwise refraining from acknowledging any particular set of choices as putting one on a path to "the good life." Indeed, government is to refrain from acknowledging that there is such a thing as an objectively "good life."

So, in order to answer your question, we must first answer the more fundamental questions: What is freedom? Does society and government have any obligation to acknowledge and secure those things which may be the precondition for the exercise of freedom? What is the good life? Can I achieve it in a society which fails to acknowledge and promote our genuine nature as social, relational animals, rather than consuming, autonomous units?

Anonymous said...

Prof. Fesser,

1) How is your / A-T criticism of liberalism different than "classic liberals" such as Hayek /Hume (particularly Hayek's critique of "constructivism" on society and moral sentiments)or Elinor Ostrom's conception of how we operate on a local level?

2) Even if liberalism was very damaging (and I agree that the "constructivist" version of it has been) and broke down and undermined a lot of things it shouldn't have, how does one envision something else? It's not like we can reconstruct the damage it's done except by some "piecemeal" and rather limited means. When it comes to liberalism, what's the alternative? Every extant opposition government in the past one hundred years has been an abysmal failure. What model are we actually looking towards? Doesn't the endurance and performance of liberalism at least signal one should be cautious when attacking it?

-William

Don Jindra said...

mhenry,

I definitely have a preconceived notion of freedom, but that preconception is not relevant to the two posts I made above. I'm merely trying to understand the scope and level of commitment to whatever one counts as X, no matter how Orwellian the language of X becomes. On the one hand we have a doctor who diagnoses the patient as having a rather serious liberal disease. I'm trying to establish the type of cure the doctor recommends. How invasive is the procedure? The patient doesn't really care what the doctor names the disease. That's for textbooks. The patient is concerned mainly about what treatments he is about to endure. If the doctor has no treatment recommendations at all, then how seriously should we take his critique of the disease?

I bring up the US Bill of Rights and Constitution because those are classic symptoms of the liberal disease. Are these considered permanent scar tissue? Or does the good doctor think a scalpel will clean everything up nicely? Or perhaps an amputation is not out of question once the patient is fully sedated? The doctor's recommendation is critical in the patient's decision in getting a second opinion, or even in choosing the almost unthinkable -- letting the disease run its natural course.

Peter Smith said...

I tend to see six and not five natural inclinations, organised as follows

The transcendent

1. The inclination to knowledge of the truth;

2. The inclination to the good;

3. The inclination to the beautiful;

The material

4. The inclination to self-preservation;

5. The inclination to sexual union and the rearing of offspring;

6. The inclination to live in society.

Timocrates said...

@ Dr. Feser,

"The second inclination, toward self-preservation, is found in living things specifically, and thus also in man as one living thing among others."

I actually think this is more universal. The modern, Newtonian principle of inertia is just a physically specified application of this truth: that physical things will generally continue as they are unless acted upon by some intervening force. Arguably things tend toward a state of natural rest in such a way that they are preserving as best they can their own existence: the heavy things collect together at the bottom; the lighter things, together at the top.

Indeed, I have seen how engineers will typically apply the action-reaction principle of Newton as, in practical effect, really just being the belief that that which is moved is moved by another. Notice that these are closely related beliefs. Indeed, the inclination to self-preservation of all things ties into the inclination to the good found in all things and is the manifestation of it. Of course, inanimate things are excluded from literally having a desire for sexual union and procreation, but when we consider principles like inertia, they are preserving their own likeness and even inanimate things tend to imbue or reproduce their likeness into other things, especially those things in some respect subject to them, as the Sunlight causes things to become bright and warm or hot to varying extents; as liquids tend to round and smooth things and even, at times, liquefy or disperse things, thus, to a degree, reproducing their likeness. Hot, moreover, travels to cold and so on. Hence there almost needs be of necessity a real hierarchical order in nature, otherwise there would have to be a kind of inevitable super egalitarian levelling of nature, reducing and removing difference and diversity and making everything into a kind of homogeneous soup. But the difference or diversity in the innate powers of things prevents this from occurring and so diversity is maintained and perpetuated indefinitely.

laubadetriste said...

@Anonymous (William) July 29, 2016 at 6:21 PM: "Even if liberalism was very damaging (and I agree that the "constructivist" version of it has been) and broke down and undermined a lot of things it shouldn't have, how does one envision something else? It's not like we can reconstruct the damage it's done except by some "piecemeal" and rather limited means. When it comes to liberalism, what's the alternative?"

I am confused at these seeming objections. "'[P]iecemeal' and rather limited means" would seem to be the means that have effected every social change, in at least the sense that no social change has been effected by total and unlimited means; and famously, at least some thinkers have thought that the endurance of some world-historical changes (such as those attending upon the American Revolution, in contradistinction to e.g. the French) have obtained precisely because they subsisted in a preponderance of greater continuity (which is to say, because they were in a sense rather more piecemeal and limited).

As for "the alternative", shouldn't that be plural?--so as to include at least every alternative from before the advent of Locke, and also every alternative since, and also every alternative from outside the ambit of the West...?

("Conservatism" is one alternative that comes to mind. Of course, that is a broad term, and would need some spelling out. Luckily, I hear Dr. Feser is thinking of starting a blog. Maybe one day he'll write a book.)

"Every extant opposition government in the past one hundred years has been an abysmal failure."

A failure in terms of accomplishing what? And opposition to what? It seems you are smuggling your premises into your choice of terms. As I can instance several opposition governments which have succeeded in accomplishing some things, I suspect you can do the same; and therefore I suspect you are using those terms in eccentric senses, for surely you do not mean to maintain the obvious falsehood that every opposition government has abysmally failed in everything.

I stipulate that no opposition government has succeeded in employing total and unlimited means to utterly destroy liberalism as something envisionable.

"Doesn't the endurance and performance of liberalism at least signal one should be cautious when attacking it?"

:) That's just what I told Dr. Feser when he stepped out on the platform of the Finland Station. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" he cried out in response, shocking the respectable folk next to us, for there was no need to shout.

laubadetriste said...

Oops. For "have obtained," read "has been".

laubadetriste said...

@Don Jindra: "The patient doesn't really care what the doctor names the disease. That's for textbooks. The patient is concerned mainly about what treatments he is about to endure. If the doctor has no treatment recommendations at all, then how seriously should we take his critique of the disease?"

This seems a badly chosen metaphor. The implication is that if "the doctor has no treatment recommendations at all", then we should not take seriously "his critique of the disease". The silliness of this is apparent if you consider any disease ever treated, before its proper treatment was found; and also if you consider how a proper treatment might be found, without "critiquing" a disease (so as e.g. to identify it and distinguish it from other diseases).

Add to that that in this case, it is claimed that we have great evidence of the "healthy" state of the "patient", provided by many "doctors", and also many proposed and even actual "treatments".

(Not to mention that taking DJ's analysis here seriously would ruin a lot of good books, from Thucydides to Defoe to those consumptive Romantics...)

Step2 said...

There is no difference between Trump and Clinton.

One is from Mars and the other is from Venus. You’re welcome to use that.

Don Jindra said...

laubadetriste,

"The implication is that if 'the doctor has no treatment recommendations at all', then we should not take seriously 'his critique of the disease'."

That could be one implication. There are at least three others. The first option recognizes a range of seriousness. The second implication is that there is no disease at all. The doctor builds demand before he reveals his $2 cure, which happens to be snake oil. Some accuse Donald Trump of this tactic. Others accuse "Black Lives Matter." The third possible implication is that the doctor has no clue what the disease is, but in order to get funding he has to give the impression he's on to something big. Think Global Warming from some skeptics' POV.


"Add to that that in this case, it is claimed that we have great evidence of the 'healthy' state of the 'patient', provided by many 'doctors', and also many proposed and even actual 'treatments'.

Then please do tell if the treatment will affect the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it? That's all I ask. It's like asking a doctor if he intends to bleed his patient since it was thought to have worked so well in the past.

As to me ruining good books, I'll quibble a bit. If the intention of the doctor is to entertain and weave moral tales, I have no major objection. I enjoy a good yarn. Again, I ask only how seriously we should take the tale?

Gerard O'Neill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Jindra said...

Gerard O'Neill,

With that I think your credibility quotient has dipped below mine.

Step2 said...

Gerard,
Go spew your rabid vomit elsewhere.

Taylor said...

I've warned about interacting with Gertard before. He took offense at my claiming he was a troll.

It is so nice to have my claim confirmed, yet again.

laubadetriste said...

@Don Jindra: "With that I think your credibility quotient has dipped below mine."

So far as I remember, Don, *you* have have never said anything cowardly, and in fact are very civil, given the opposition you face, including from myself.

@Gerard O'Neil:

My. That came out of left field. Are those words new to you?

laubadetriste said...

@Don Jindra: "That could be one implication. There are at least three others. The first option recognizes a range of seriousness. The second implication is that there is no disease at all. The doctor builds demand before he reveals his $2 cure, which happens to be snake oil. Some accuse Donald Trump of this tactic. Others accuse "Black Lives Matter." The third possible implication is that the doctor has no clue what the disease is, but in order to get funding he has to give the impression he's on to something big. Think Global Warming from some skeptics' POV."

That first option seems idle, for if that "range" is nearer to not taking seriously "his critique of the disease", then it is subject to my previous criticism; and if it is nearer to taking seriously "his critique of the disease", then you concede Dr. Feser's point; and if that "range" is wide enough to cover both, then you haven't really said anything.

That second option is self-undermining, for if "the doctor has no treatment recommendations at all", then he does not have "his $2 cure, which happens to be snake oil".

The third option is not a genuine option, for as I noted in my previous criticism, it is not the implication that if "the doctor has no treatment recommendations at all", therefore "the doctor has no clue what the disease is". I before noted the example of every disease we have treated, before its proper treatment was discovered. Global warming skeptics notably are not skeptical *because* there are "no treatment recommendations at all" for the "disease" of global warming; in fact, in many cases they are skeptical precisely because there *are* "treatment recommendations", which the skeptics consider worse than the purported "disease". And in some other cases, they are skeptical because of the "'critiquing' [of the] disease (so as e.g. to identify it and distinguish it from other diseases)" (as I put it), which is not because of "treatment recommendations", and is (as I also pointed out) usually necessary before "treatment recommendations" can be found.

"Then please do tell if the treatment will affect the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it? That's all I ask."

Yes, the treatment will affect the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it. It could hardly not. *Every* significant social change has affected the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it. Civil rights, video games, Prohibition, organ transplantation, drone warfare, gay rights, birth control, the internet--*every* significant social change has affected the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it.

"It's like asking a doctor if he intends to bleed his patient since it was thought to have worked so well in the past."

Who, pray tell, has claimed that bleeding patients "worked so well in the past"?

Craig Payne said...

Gerard O'Neill: I am unsure whether your most recent comment, from your perspective, is supposed to be a point against Prof. Feser or against him.

Craig Payne said...

Too clever by half. Of course, that was supposed to be "or in favor of him."

Anonymous said...

Calling someone a pedophile is where I draw the line: somebody needs to delete that, and ban this man.

Peter Smith said...

He is spectacularly condemned by his own words. It is as if he gazed into his own latrine and chose to dive headfirst into it.

Glenn said...

Well, he did say, and not all that long ago:

"I'm not joking[ --] I'm a sick man[.]"

And he certainly seems bent (on proving the point).

A sick man is need of help. And a sick man who knows he is sick does have a chance. Alas, this is a philosophy blog. But may he get the help he needs, and from where it is available.

Steven Dillon said...

The first time I read Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority, I remember thinking how bizarre this deeply familiar concept suddenly seemed. How come the state gets away with doing things that no one else can get away with doing -- like kidnapping (arresting) someone and locking them in a cage (cell)? He seemed to do such a good job of showing that political authority was accidental to society. But, he fails to interact with any A-T arguments to the contrary, and it was only in coming to see the state as a sort of vis regativa that I overcame the impression Huemer's arguments gave me.

It's too bad that A-T arguments for the naturalness of political authority don't get more attention, but given how far liberalism has strayed from our basic inclinations and how ingrained these deviations have become in developed countries, maybe it's not all that surprising.

And A-Ter's have quite a fight on their hands, it seems to me, because this sort of derailed liberalism appeals to one of our greatest temptations: selfishness.

Don Jindra said...

laubadetriste,

I remember an old movie called The Wheeler Dealers. James Garner's character creates demand for Consolidated Widgets -- a company that has no product and no real value. It's a dumb movie but it's not too far off the mark on how some marketers create demand before they worry about the actual product. In fact, some marketers never care too much about the product. Demand is their game. It doesn't matter how well the product works. The sell is all that matters. That's the sort of disease I have in mind -- a minor ailment that's overblown into a major threat by clever marketing. Any success in past or future is merely the placebo effect.

That's much of politics.

We're sold a drug. We're told it lowers by 15% the odds of getting a very bad disease. Marketers don't mention what this means -- that for 85% of those who buy the drug, it will not help them at all.

When it comes to our health we're natural pessimists -- or overly cautious -- or some might say, conservatives.

OTOH, that doesn't explain smokers who must have a tinge of optimism somewhere.

That brings up a very important issue.

Is smoking the effect of liberalism? Smoking certainly effects the natural purpose of heart and lungs. Should we therefore ban it in the name of natural law?

It reminds me also of Bloomberg's attempted big-soda ban. Should we say Bloomberg was acting as a liberal or as an Aristotelian policeman imposing his natural law agenda?

Maybe you can see my dilemma. It's tough to find a coherent ideological justification for these acts. It looks to me that it's all about searching for ideological justification after the fact. I'm not suggesting ideology is a good way of deciding between moral alternatives. But I do think that if it's used, it has to be consistently applied. Otherwise it's not the real reason at all.


"Yes, the treatment will affect the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it. It could hardly not. *Every* significant social change has affected the US Constitution and/or our interpretation of it."

You imply choice means we must choose the bad. I'll refer you to a link our gracious host provided in "Putting nature on the rack" (Michael Levin's “skim milk fallacy")

"I begin with the more familiar mistake: that of reifying society. This is the belief that the word 'society' names an entity with its own causal powers, and that people are the way they are because 'society' makes them so."

[snip]

"Don’t blame bad, unproductive, reckless behavior on the tiny cog [the individual], but on the big social machine of which it is a helpless part. But the flip side of absolution for vice is disrespect for virtue. Tiny little cogs can hardly be autonomous, or have rights to freedom. What individuals think of as their own decisions are forced on them. Thus, the only way to improve society is by tinkering with the big machine en gross, sweeping individuals along in the process. Such systematic intervention, of a sort only government can undertake, seems to conflict with individual liberty, but hey, individuals are not really free anyway."

The courts have provided us with the freedom to fail. This does not imply there's no freedom to succeed.

DNW said...



"I begin with the more familiar mistake: that of reifying society. This is the belief that the word 'society' names an entity with its own causal powers, and that people are the way they are because 'society' makes them so."

I cannot believe Don quoted that, unless it was in order to criticize it.

Among people otherwise inclined to reductionism, the only phenomenon usually left standing and unchallenged as real, in and of itself, is "society". Peace Be Dogmatically Upon Its Holy Name.

Don, you somehow leave me speechless. I, who am never at a loss for words about anything.

Don Jindra said...

DNW,

I'm kind if surprised you think I disagree with that quote. I do not think society has causal powers -- at least not in the sense leftists puff up that power. I never have believed society molds us in a deterministic way. Of course it tugs us. But many people manage to resist that tug. Many people do the opposite of what society wants of them and then they rub our noses in it. I don't have much sympathy for the poor, disadvantaged kids who grow up and blame their conditions for failure. I admire those who break free of low expectations put upon them by bleeding hearts. I am not on the political left in case there's any question about that.

Edward Feser said...

Been out of town for a couple of days and thus couldn't attend to this earlier.

Gerard O'Neill, get lost. You've now joined that very small (though hardly elite) group of people I've banned from the blog. Any further comments from you will be deleted. Get some psychiatric help while you're at it.

Timocrates said...

@ Don Jindra,

"I remember an old movie called The Wheeler Dealers. James Garner's character creates demand for Consolidated Widgets -- a company that has no product and no real value. It's a dumb movie but it's not too far off the mark on how some marketers create demand before they worry about the actual product. In fact, some marketers never care too much about the product. Demand is their game."

Yes Don, and observations like this are one reason why - though I'm a conservative - I am as critical of hyper-libertarian so-called "free markets" as I am weary and suspicious of socialist utopian and Marxist economics. What the criminal code is to murderers and rapists, state regulations are to corporations and private firms. In fact, the easiest way to have a maximally dignified and free economy is to have a highly regulated economy - regulation understood here as primarily punishments for vicious and anti-social, short-sighted or wasteful behaviour; otherwise, I argue, you end up almost necessitating a socialist economy. The law of jungle ends up with centralized and arbitrary authorities becoming more acceptable and even needful: human beings can only tolerate so much instability and systemic disorders.

The micro-economy requires the profit motive to function. Businesses must maintain a profit and be profitable; however, the macro-economy as guided by the political authority of society is economical in the truest sense: i.e., it encourages the production of wealth as such, not profit, which is an artificial construct.

Let's say a Wall Street investment firm manages to swindle millions of Americans into investing into an empty "widget" corporation/stock that they personally already invested in, then selling their stock once they had artificially super-inflated that stock (effectively selling their own shares to their clients at super-inflated value). They then proceed to cash out; however, the regulatory body -after complaints from the clients- begins to suspect them of fraud and begins an investigation. Someone on the inside tips off the swindling investment or stock management firm about the investigation. The scoundrels again literally cash out, buy some yachts, and sail to some uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere. They arrive, and realize all that cash they stole is completely useless and totally worthless. That is the difference and relationship between profit seeking and economics: profit seeking is only possible inside of a functional economy, which presupposed a semi-functional civilization (law and order or at least a measure of stability from custom and tradition), which just is a semi-functional human society.

1/2

Timocrates said...

2/2 (cont'd).


Neoliberal economics takes functioning human societies totally for granted, and by overemphasizing profiteering and imagining "the market" will magically correct itself - as if car dealerships that shot their competition shouldn't be punished by the state because, ostensibly, "the market" will not like their slaying of the competition and stop buying cars from them, which is debatable at best. Modern neoliberal economics is just anarchism and its own sort of utopian dreaming. North American manufacturers can't compete against virtual, e.g., slave labour or covertly subsidized firms: their reaction will be to blame, e.g., unions or "regulations": i.e., good labour standards that do indeed, of course, raise operating costs but guarantee, e.g., safety so that teenagers are burning to death working a summer job at McD's. That's not problematic so long as the regulations are reasonable and also - and this is most critical - so long as every other competitor/firm has to follow the same standards/rules, which results in a level playing field. In such a system, the government sticks to what is most proper to it; namely, justice, law and order: punishing the wicked and striving to guarantee a system of incentives and rewards (in the form of profits or profitability) for those who actually do what is good or truly economical: i.e., those whose profits actually increase and make available more real wealth in and for the broader society.

Timocrates said...

Of course, above should read: "safety so that teenagers aren't burning to death working a summer job at McD's": not "are"!

Timocrates said...

@ Don,

"I admire those who break free of low expectations put upon them by bleeding hearts. I am not on the political left in case there's any question about that."

I think we all can admire Rocky :)

But I would only caution this-much in such a philosophy: those who raise themselves above and out of brutal situations typically become brutal themselves, notwithstanding. Much of the abhorrence expressed at laws found in the Old Testament - that such laws sometimes even needed to be spelled out - is exactly because you had a brutalized people who were, unsurprisingly, brutal in turn. What seems like common sense morality or decency needed to be enforced by law in order to recapture a natural or humane habit: the system of blood for blood, etc., had to be replaced: that it almost certainly wouldn't be, things like sanctuary cities had to be instituted, etc. For these reasons I tend to believe that society and its functionary, the state, can and should intervene in any number of deteriorating social situations. Again, I would argue that human beings just do have practical limits, and if their context is dog-eat-dog or effective depravity, then those who liberate or overcome that depravity are only likely to replicate it as it has become normalized for them. So, for instance, you are likely to see children of divorce have higher rates of divorce themselves, and so on.

Bullying in my past I think became a character builder in my own personal story; however, there is danger in that I am tempted to think of people as soft who ultimately cower in the face of bullying; and insofar as being bullied helped me to develop a measure of personal character by standing up for myself, I am tempted to imagine that bullying is a good thing: i.e., a source of character building. But that is not correct at all: there are far more positive and healthy ways of building up people's character, and the spirit of the bully, so to speak, is not good or healthy for the bully either. Oftentimes we find that the kids who are bullies had extremely serious issues at home or in the family, and may well have been the products of grievous abuse.

It is certainly true that young people tend to take their cues from society at large: thus, if teachers for example do not constantly prompt their pupils to engage and do better, a child or young person is likely to come to the conclusion that they can't do better or are not worth such effort. Young boys, especially, tend to require a lot of prompting and positive reinforcement to achieve their potential. They need to be challenged and they need to learn both failure and success. Lowering bars will of course - it is true - lower results. But even if a young person voluntarily sets higher standards for themselves, there is grave risk they will end up holding their fellows and peers in great contempt, honestly imagining that that is all such people are: i.e., failures or losers and ultimately just, so to speak, cattle for the service of the strong. They are thus tempted to systemically perpetuate a status quo. I hope I got my mind and meaning across here.

Anon2 said...

@Anon2
Gerard O'Neill must have said something really bad while I wasn't looking! I hope he gets help.

Fred said...

Yeah, I never had any use for ol' Gerard. He was a gnu atheist troll and was shallow and silly even for one of those. I tended to ignore him most of the time. But when I saw the reaction to whatever it was he posted, I have to admit, I wish I'd seen what it was.

Don Jindra said...

Timocrates,

You seem to be saying that if biblical law was brutal, it was brutal chiefly because it came out of a brutal environment - that is, like breeds like, even to the extent that brutal law is a justifiable reaction against a brutal culture. The conversation could go wild from that. One possible direction: it throws natural law into a whole other context -- law being against our brutal nature, kind of like Hobbes did; or law being by and for the "best" natural brutes, kind of like Nietzsche did.

Nevertheless, it would be bizarre for you to argue that the current moral environment in the USA is dog-eat-dog. It would be difficult for you to argue a legal action against that dog-eat-dog environment is not brutal itself. So if you are correct, and that brutality breeds brutality, your law is a losing proposition.

Personally, I don't agree that the best children need teachers to constantly prompt them to do better. They don't need them to prompt them to make better snowballs for their snowball fights, or hide better when they're playing hide and seek, or hit harder when they're playing baseball with their buddies. If the best children hold their peers in great contempt (isn't that part of Carl Schmitt's philosophy?) then we have to say law makers will likely hold their subjects in great contempt.

I have a different perspective on both human nature and the best of it. It's not the best gang member in the hood. Tomorrow the Olympics start. That's the ultimate for me, along with Beethoven's Ninth, Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, landing a man on the moon, and even the modest car in the driveway and the tiny computers in every pocket, etc. If natural law tends to diminish those sorts of human achievements, then natural law is a fraud. There's a higher order of things than the purpose of our sexual organs.

Timocrates said...

@ Don,

"You seem to be saying that if biblical law was brutal, it was brutal chiefly because it came out of a brutal environment - that is, like breeds like, even to the extent that brutal law is a justifiable reaction against a brutal culture."

No no, that was not my intention there. I am saying that some of the Mosaic code existed to put limits on, halt or reverse/undo the consequences of brutalization. We need only look at the paranoid reaction to Moses's slaying of a slave driver in Egypt by a fellow of Moses to get a glimpse at the psyche that existed for the Hebrews during their enslavement in Egypt.

Indeed, the ultimate spirit of Moses's law or code was perfectly manifested by our Lord and Saviour in His sermon on the mount: that men do evil to you, do not return in kind as if this were justice; rather, be perfect as God is perfect, and return not evil for evil but rather do good. Love those who unjustly and evilly spite and hate you, etc. Now I would argue that the Hebrews were just not ready for that leap yet. God is patient. The laws of Moses were pedagogical.

As further evidence that some of Moses's laws were instituted to put limits on the habits and customs of a brutalized culture or people and that these people were effectively brutalized and, hence, tended to be brutal in turn, I again point to what our Lord said about Moses's license for divorce. What did the Lord say? Moses suffered divorce because of the hardness of Israelite hearts. Hence, the laws of Moses were and are a stepping stone to the law of the Gospel: they were transitional in character.

"Nevertheless, it would be bizarre for you to argue that the current moral environment in the USA is dog-eat-dog."

I do not believe that proposition is even controversial. There is without doubt in my mind a tendency to inculcate such a mindset into society. It follows logically enough anyways on Darwinism and evolutionary theory, which is part of the official and state sponsored philosophy of not only the United States but virtually all Western governments and post-Soviet governments too. It is hyper-individualism. Of course, dog-eat-dogism (so to speak) is a calumny on dogs, who do not eat other and to the extent it is in fact a vicious and ultimately intolerable doctrine for human society (because man is a social animal) any number of limits are placed on it. But it is not impossible for people or societies to fail or refuse to follow through on all the logical consequences of their own beliefs or belief systems.

Timocrates said...

@ Dr. Feser,

"In recent decades, some Catholics have thought that concepts like “human rights” and the “dignity of the human person” might provide conceptual common ground between liberalism and Catholic moral thinking (the latter having, of course, been deeply influenced by the A-T natural law tradition). This is naïve, because such expressions bear radically different meanings in the minds of liberals on the one hand and Catholic and A-T natural law theorists on the other."

I have to say that I am in radical disagreement with this. The entire Catechism of the Catholic Church was formulated in the given cultural context of the language and thinking in and behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which had a strong Catholic influence. It is solidly and perfectly Catholic notwithstanding.

Objectively, we could rationally force our liberal opponent to simply abandon any pretext of believing in human rights and the dignity of the human person; for while these terms and concepts do, of course, have radically different interpretations in the mind of a radical liberal they nevertheless do have definite and concrete meaning when we analyze the terms. In other words, we can demonstrate that certain aberrations in modern, so-called "liberal" understanding of these terms simply have no basis or justification in them.

To quote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

"(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

And the preamble of said Declaration,

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

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

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

Abortion is an abomination to human rights. No liberal can avoid this. Abortion is anti-human rights. Extreme violations of the natural law are by international law punishable by overthrow of any government perpetuating and especially forcing or itself committing such crimes on the population.

Again,

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Modern liberal "progressiveness" is obviously at war with this.

Again,

"(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection."

The modern liberal "progressive" has to ditch such talk all together. The words are of sufficiently definite meaning that they cannot justify their perverted interpretation of them. We can bind liberals to accept such conditions at any time, because it is an objective social duty. They are not free to dispense with it in act or practice: they may vehemently disagree, etc., but this does not give them an actual right at any time or place to violate the natural law.

Don Jindra said...

Timocrates,

Other than abortion, which is a sink-hole of wasted debate, please give some examples of this dog-eat-dog moral environment of which you speak. And with one of those examples, please tell me why your solution wouldn't be the real fox let loose in the chicken pen -- let loose again, that is. After all, people have not totally forgotten some social engineering failures from the anti-liberal past.

Timocrates said...

@ Don,

Do you not believe that individualism is itself a dog-eat-dog morality or of logical necessity leads to it? Is not the human atomization - every man is an island unto himself, social-contractarian thinking - a dog-eat-dogism?

Again, is not evolutionary theory an individualistic, self-ambition type of system, where one progresses and the rest are left behind? Indeed, nature shows a remarkable solidarity, especially in terms of male and female complimentarity, which makes evolution a rather unlikely mechanism for producing it, as evolution occurs on a micro or individual scale - not on a holistic social scale. Hence, of course, gradualism becomes necessary.

As I said, the extremes are arbitrarily mitigated in these systems on the basis of individual desire and benefit; e.g., we all agree not to murder and steal from each other primarily because we each do not want to be killed or lose our property and not because it is simply unnatural or contrary to the natural law. It is totally self-referential. Consequently, people could practice homosexuality, incest or even bestiality and it would not be any business of mine because it does no personal injury to me; indeed, people openly insist on a human right to do even such things. This is not possible except on a hyper-individualistic, self-referential moral system that must become ultimately explicitly pessimistic (humanity is a virus and plague on the earth anyways, type thinking) to justify things like abortion and other aberrations against the natural law. This cannot but inculcate that nature or reality is ultimately dog-eat-dog in effect or operation, and to act contrary to this is to act contrary, ultimately, to reason or nature.

Furthermore, is not the equivocation between profits and wealth in modern, mainstream economics also a dog-eat-dogism? Magically self-correcting markets that will supposedly weed out immorality of their own accord? As if producing unhealthy foods will inevitably cease as people will not want to eat it or because those who do will die off (a social Darwinism)? The neoliberal economic revolution that began determining policy in the 80's and was crowned in the 90's appealed directly to our very personal vanity and private ambitions. We would all get personally rich, even though in reality wealth was further diminished and more of the population entered into poverty while only very few became spectacularly wealthy. Neoliberalism already appealed to our individualism and individualist sense or concept of freedom: that was its springboard. It could not have worked unless there was already something of a dog-eat-dogism in the West.

Euthanasia and the neglect of our veterans are also evidence of a dog-eat-dog, individualistic mentality. In the first case, if someone wants to have themselves killed, what business is that of anyone's? That sort of mentality is absolutely rampant in the sphere of sexual morality and shows up in increasing rates of broken relationships, then homes and even split families, where one or both spouses contradict their union and consequently place any children at risk as a consequence, exposing them to strangers who might seem them as threats or competitors with their own children and exposes children to the alienation of their birthrights: and all of this is facilitated and even normalized by the apparatus of the state through the instrument of its courts. The children have no meaningful rights or voice: they are forced to suffer the real damage and danger of the divorce. It cannot be refused merely for their sakes or on their account: the weak suffer what they must.

Don Jindra said...

Timocrates,

Thanks for your examples. I count myself as an firm believer in individualism so I'll answer for myself only.

Euthanasia:

I admit I'm uncomfortable with the practice. But John Doe's choice to terminate his life has no effect on me. He sure doesn't force or persuade me to do the same. So I don't think euthanasia counts as dog-eat-dogism. I'm not even sure natural law theory is a good counter to it. It's a counter to a healthy person committing suicide, but for a terminally ill person it seems to be a mute point.

Support of veterans:

What does natural law theory have to say on this? Besides, were the ancients better at providing for their veterans? I support our veterans. There are some who don't. There are some who oppose the military. Some of those claim to be pacifists. If they are liberal individualists who think only of themselves, how do you explain their objection to soldiers killing an enemy? It seems to indicate a concern beyond themselves and is pretty good evidence that your characterization of individualism is inaccurate.

Sexual immorality:

In this one there's a technically possibility for dog-eat-dogism. An abandoned spouse or child has no say-so in the matter. A male sexual predator can jump from bed to bed through lies and deception. But outside the lies, isn't this natural law at work -- at least from the male's point of view? It's certainly optimal usage of his sexual organ -- the purpose for which it was designed. It could be argued that a true natural law theory would encourage men to have as many sexual partners as is practical, and for women to have babies as soon as they are able, no matter what human invented marriage customs say. An A-T natural law theorist wouldn't have solid theoretical reasons to demand monogamy. He could do so only by imposing his ends on nature.

But what's the natural law solution to sexual immorality? More laws? Bedroom police? Do you think this works? Do you think the state has the wisdom and authority to decide these matters? If you do, you have much more confidence in the state than I do, and a lot less confidence in nature than a supposed natural law theorist should have.

Economics:

Your rhetoric sounds a lot like a "bleeding heart liberal," though it's more leftist than strictly liberal. It's an overstated case. There's a lot of cooperation in corporations and not all capitalists or individualists exploit, exploit, exploit. An individualist is no more likely to be a de facto hedonist than what I would label a moral collectivist or moral authoritarian. Nevertheless, considering your portrayal of evolution, this exploitative economics is perfectly natural. Therefore A-T natural law shouldn't have a problem with it unless it has a problem with nature. OTOH, your portrayal of evolution is not quite right. Ants evolved. Yet they cooperate wonderfully. Fact is, evolution is neutral on the issue. One species tends to cooperate while another is ruthlessly individualistic. Mankind is a strange mix. But in the end we have a strong cooperative instinct. To think our individualism necessarily leads to a dog-eat-dog morality, one has to ignore the many things people have in common and do in common. The owner and employees of a typical ice cream store depend on it.

Finally, I've never understood those who claim we "agree not to murder and steal... primarily because we each do not want to be killed or lose our property." I've never had a desire to kill anyone. Nor do I have a secret desire to steal from my neighbors. If those desires were natural, no police force on earth could prevent mass anarchy. Civilization would be impossible.

George LeSauvage said...

@Timocrates:

You go over the deep end when you refer to "Magically self-correcting markets that will supposedly weed out immorality of their own accord?" First, because "magically" is a bit of Dawkinsesque dismissiveness. Defenders of free markets give arguments for why they think market forces lead to self-correction. Failure to at least indicate why you think they are wrong is, again, Gnuspeak. The second reason is that it's really irrelevant, because the point is not that they "weed out immorality"; only that, at best, they limit certain alleged problems, e.g., they hold that market forces are inherently anti-monopolistic.

Of course, those arguments may be wrong, but you really have to at least point to arguments refuting them rather than simply asserting that you reject them.

Further, not all defenders of free markets advocate dog-eat-dog competition. They're not all Herbert Spencer. (Hell, Herbert Spencer, in this sense, wasn't entirely Herbert Spencer.)

Now, I'm not trying to argue for anything close to Spencer or Rothbard libertarianism; I too am anti-libertarian. But I don't think that you are making a very convincing case. Another example of this is your paeons to regulation, which sit oddly beside your statement (in an earlier thread) that government agencies have a malign influence on science. What in the world leads you to think that, because they are regulating businesses, they will not act likewise? It is a stock argument of pro-capitalists that government regulation inevitably becomes market interventions in favor of the very people they are claiming to restrain. And that is a very tough argument to rebut.

(cont)

George LeSauvage said...

(II)

Now, I do have to point out that the problem I cited at the end of the previous comment does also apply to the free market position. I confess I do accept that, in itself, the market will correct anti-competitive forces which its opponents allege that it creates; I've never seen a convincing argument to the contrary. Nor do I see any grounds to believe Marx's notion that the proletariat will inevitably suffer increasing misery. The opposite seems to be what actually happens.

But the weak point of this is that the market as so portrayed doesn't exist, and won't. There is no possible case where the laws will not be used to enrich those favored by the rulers. (And, even if that were to miraculously occur, so inert a government would certainly be overlooking those abuse which libertarians overwhelmingly think the state should punish, like breach of contract, fraud, and extortion.) Markets, like governments, will be be WAD, so long as people are involved in them. To my mind, that would be a far stronger argument. Its only disadvantage - that I can see - is that it is most unsatisfying to both those who worship markets, and those who worship government.

Another tack you might take is the Schumpeter argument that capitalist societies tend (inevitably?) to transform into societies in which capitalism cannot be sustained. That is, they create a situation in which the cultural capital needed to sustain a free market system becomes too scare to stay so. While it is very hard to prove this is so, it is not hard at all to point to evidence tending to confirm it.

Anonymous said...

@Don Jindra:

You seem to refuse to recognize that the sense of "natural" used here is not that which you prefer. (No one says you must accept it, full stop. Only that you must "accept" it in so far as you argue against it.)

This shows in both your second and last comments in this thread.

"Are those A-T "natural inclinations" supposed to be free choices made by relatively free individuals or yet more X, Y, and Z imposed upon us?" - The notion that natural inclinations are "chosen" or "imposed" is pointless here, unless you go full postmodern for the latter, and object to nature "imposing" humanity on us. (The point I was stumbling at in my first comment here.*)

And the last comment shows this in "A male sexual predator can jump from bed to bed through lies and deception. But outside the lies, isn't this natural law at work -- at least from the male's point of view?" - I will grant that this is a fairly common usage of "natural", but you have been around here far too long to think that A-T's use of "natural" can be equated with "biological". Here, as usual, it refers to man as a rational animal, and not a beast. The "selfish gene" argument is irrelevant to this.

A side point: I think you miss Timocrates's point about veterans. OF COURSE, our society, being so very much richer (a big argument for capitalism, right there) can do much more than earlier ages could. They did what they could. For instance, in sailing days, a seaman who was disabled would often have a job - almost automatically - as a cook, or in the dockyards. They also got money from "widows' men", fictional crew members whose pay went into a pool (if officers) or from the naval hospitals (if enlisted). Far below what we can do. The point is that, having committed to doing so, our government quite callously dishonored that commitment. I believe he is drawing a parallel between our indifference to commitments to spouses and children, and those to veterans. At least, that is how I read him. (And again, I think I'm with you in wondering how the same government which does this is to be trusted in other areas.)

*BTW, it was Pico, not Ficino. I should've remembered that, but I must plead that both times I read the Dignity of Man I thought it just gas.

George LeSauvage said...

BTW, that last "Anonymous" was me. Don't know what I hit wrong.

Don Jindra said...

George LeSauvage,

I like your responses to Timocrates.

"The notion that natural inclinations are 'chosen' or 'imposed' is pointless here"

This issue came up because Timocrates claimed X, Y, and Z were imposed upon him by the courts or culture or both. He made it relevant. But it's relevant for other reasons too. Humans can guess at ends, imposed or not. Maybe they're good guesses. Ultimately they're probably our subjective point of view. That POV is a choice. We can choose to believe the primary end of sex is reproduction, or we can choose to believe it's a strategy to combat predators (the Red Queen) and that reproduction, though real, is just as secondary as emotional bonding.

I'll go further.

Our gracious host recently wrote about love. "Christ is not demanding that we have warm feelings toward someone who does us wrong, or even necessarily that we somehow get rid of the negative feelings he generates in us.... Rather, Christ is saying that, whatever it is we feel, what we will should be the enemy’s good...."

Since this love is about acts, suppose Jack is forced into acts of love toward his enemies. Jill is given free will and voluntarily chooses to love her enemies. Which is the more noble soul? IMO, Jill's choice makes her nobility. If we take away Jill's choice, and force her to act as we have forced Jack, we rob her of her nobility. We have become levelers of the moral playing field. Suddenly, Jesus was not sent to separate the wheat from the chaff. I don't think that's a good interpretation of the message of Jesus. It's not a good end for natural law, either. It tends to rob us of what could be the highest end -- a journey to become better human beings. If I interpret you correctly, you acknowledge this effect with "The point is that, having committed to doing so, our government quite callously dishonored that commitment." So IMO, liberalism has the confidence to see us off on that journey and wish us good luck.

Glenn said...

DJ,

It tends to rob us of what could be the highest end -- a journey to become better human beings.rob us of what could be the highest end -- a journey to become better human beings.

Would not my becoming a better human being imply that previously I had not been as a good a human being?

How might I become a better human being without there being a concomittant increase in my goodness (or, more accurately, without there being a concomittant increase in the goodness in me)?

How might I strive after becoming a better human being without also striving after that which is good?

Indeed, would not my becoming a better human being, if such should actually take place, actually be a by-product of my having, in some measure, successfully striven after or for that which is good?

If, as has been suggested, the highest end is, or might be, to become better human beings, would it not follow that a serious traveller on that journey (to becoming a better human being) would need to have an inclination to the good, whether innately or via cultivation, in order that his perseverance in the pursuit of that highest end might be consistently and/or properly fueled?

IMO, liberalism has the confidence to see us off on that journey and wish us good luck.

Well, the inclination to the good is the first of the natural inclinations spoken of in the OP.

And, according the OP, "[T]he prevalence within liberal societies of moral minimalism, moral skepticism, subjectivism about value, and moral relativism is evidence that liberalism sits poorly even with the first and most basic of the natural inclinations."

So, either you need to put forward reasons as to why the OP is wrong on that account, or you need to explain how the liberalism you're talking about hasn't anything to do with the liberalism spoken of in the OP.

Glenn said...

(Somehow I managed to stutter while copying & pasting; obviously, the first quote s/b "It tends to rob us of what could be the highest end -- a journey to become better human beings.")

Don Jindra said...

"How might I strive after becoming a better human being without also striving after that which is good?"

You must know I will say yes to your list of questions. So I'm going to assume you scoff at the importance of the will. But you, yourself, frame the journey in terms of the self and the will: "How might *I* strive..." My point is the *I* can't *strive* if the *I* is forced. If I'm on a desert island with only my wife, I'm forced into fidelity by circumstances. I can be neglectful but I can't be unfaithful with another human being. You used the word, perseverance. Hooray! Great word! Perseverance demands obstacles. If obstacles are artificially removed, there is no perseverance.

"And, according the OP, '[T]he prevalence within liberal societies of moral minimalism, moral skepticism, subjectivism about value, and moral relativism is evidence that liberalism sits poorly even with the first and most basic of the natural inclinations.'"

It's true that liberal societies allow voice to moral skepticism. It does not follow that there is more moral skepticism in an authoritarian society. When people are not permitted to state what they actually think, how would we ever know?

More importantly (much more importantly), this is not a question about what people say or think. If there are moral absolutes (and I think there are), it's a matter of fact, not opinion, not belief, not ideology or culture. It's either true or it is not. No amount of liberalism or authoritarianism will change that fact. If there are moral absolutes, I claim the best ways of finding those absolutes, and discarding the fake ones, is through the freedom in a liberal society. Liberal society permits relatively unfettered seeking and therefore permits alternatives and testing. It would be an incredible accident if an authoritarian society just happened to guess those absolutes correctly the first time. And if its "absolutes" change over time, contradicting its first guess, it refutes its own claim to moral authority and drifts toward a crippled liberalism anyway.

So liberalism does not sit poorly with the first inclination. It tends to permit an individual's seeking of the good as well as failure. Authoritarianism tends to deny both.


Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

"It does not follow that there is more moral skepticism in an authoritarian society" should read, "It does not follow that there is LESS moral skepticism in an authoritarian society."

Glenn said...

DJ,

You must know I will say yes to your list of questions. So I'm going to assume you scoff at the importance of the will.

There's a line of reasoning connecting those two statements in a rational way, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I think I know what it might be, but I won't venture to say specifically what I think it is. I'll just say, enigmatically, that you're still free to exert your will towards some other end, or to find some other wheel to reinvent.

But you, yourself, frame the journey in terms of the self and the will: "How might *I* strive..."

Another way to place the emphasis is as follows: "How might I *strive*..." One cannot strive without making an effort, and one cannot make an effort without employing his will; so, I ask that you reconsider your assumption that I 'scoff at the importance of the will'.

But let's return to the emphasis as it was placed: "How might *I* strive..." It is true that this does implicate the 'self' and the 'will'. But it is also true that it isn't only the 'self' and the 'will' which are implicated. Surely the 'intellect' plays a part, no? I mean, to strive for one thing is not to strive for something else. And an intellect is needed in order to consider, weigh, judge and determine which of multiple somethings one is to (or not to) strive for. Without the aid of the intellect in one's striving, the will ostensibly is nothing more than a leaf blown about by the winds of desire and affect.

My point is the *I* can't *strive* if the *I* is forced.

There’s always something for the so-called *I* to strive for.

If I'm on a desert island with only my wife, I'm forced into fidelity by circumstances.

If you've been faithful all along, that there suddenly aren't other women around won't force you into fidelity; you'll just continue to do what you've been doing all along.

I can be neglectful but I can't be unfaithful with another human being.

Well, yeah, it is true that you couldn't be physically unfaithful. But no other human being need be present in order to be spiritually unfaithful. And given the potential effects of long-term isolation on the human mind -- disorientation, proneness to reverie, hallucination, etc. -- the opportunities to be spiritual unfaithful actually might increase.

You used the word, perseverance. Hooray! Great word! Perseverance demands obstacles. If obstacles are artificially removed, there is no perseverance.

Let’s suppose all obstacles have been removed. Oops, there’s still one obstacle left: how not to go out of one’s mind over not having any obstacles to persevere in the presence of.

So liberalism does not sit poorly with the first inclination. It tends to permit an individual's seeking of the good as well as failure.

Regardless of the type of government under which one lives, it is free-will first and foremost which enables an individual to seek the good as well as failure.

That said, I myself would not chalk up a high tolerance for and indifference towards a creeping disordereness in the general sense of the good to a responsible and honorable acknowledgment of the first inclination.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

"One cannot strive without making an effort, and one cannot make an effort without employing his will;"

I'm glad you take that position. I was almost worried you wouldn't.

I'm not one to disparage the intellect. But spiritually unfaithfulness (spiritual badness) has never made much sense to me. Nobody I know of would but people in jail for spiritual murder or theft. It's not on the same planet as the actual deed, just as spiritual goodness is not on the same planet as the actual deed. I may win an Olympic metal in my mind, but it's a poor substitute for the real thing. We do not live in a Walter Mitty moral universe.

The unfaithful husband tells his wife, "Dear, while I was making love to her, I was really thinking of you!" Wives are smarter than that.

There's also a paradox. If goodness or badness is defined in terms of how well or badly a thing manifests its nature, how can the intellect manifest its nature if it is prevented from entertaining all possibilities? That is, how can a thing manifest its nature if the fear of fully exercising that nature prevents one from exercising it?

If spiritual good is so good, the A-T natural law advocate has no good reason to stress over real-world disorder.

So I won't confuse spiritual liberty and spiritual behavior with real liberty and real behavior. And I doubt you do either. The proof of the pudding is in its eating, not in imagining its eating.




Timocrates said...

@ George,

"
You go over the deep end when you refer to "Magically self-correcting markets that will supposedly weed out immorality of their own accord?" First, because "magically" is a bit of Dawkinsesque dismissiveness. Defenders of free markets give arguments for why they think market forces lead to self-correction. Failure to at least indicate why you think they are wrong is, again, Gnuspeak.
"

I can and do provide examples - plenty of them - of how markets are not necessarily auto-self correcting. I point out that neoliberal free market economics takes, eg., civilization itself even for granted, just assuming that functional, stable, viable "households" exist that will perpetually provide a supply of healthy and rational workers/producers and consumers. That is obviously not strictly necessary and plenty of market activity actively undermines and destabilizes such households.

Again I also point to stock market swindling and also give an extreme example of one firm perhaps even slaying its competition. It does not follow that the market will ever act to correct such activity - at least not before it's too late. Moreover, auto-correcting markets presuppose a tolerance and license for simply immoral behaviour or vice, such as out and out greed. It is at least debatable whether or not it is morally licit to tolerate or allow such vice or activity ever in the first place: the neoliberal market here betrays a social and moral Darwinianism in my mind. A market will take a long time to correct virtual slave labour also, as consumers are actually inclined to prefer such products to the extent that they are indeed cheaper or more affordable. Never in history have I known a market economy to successfully end up correcting a slave market or labour dynamic: to be sure, it has increasingly real and grievous consequences, creating plenty of problems that typically result in anti-market solutions (such as free bread and circuses for unemployed Roman citizens residing in Rome) and creates no shortage of problems, but where was any real market-based drive to correct it? The market can scarcely correct such activity, perhaps exactly because markets presuppose cultures, societies and civilizations and are by nature servants, so to speak, to them.

The neoliberal conception of the free market also allows for predatory practices upon the weak or the ignorant. It's hard to justify any number of safeguards that prevent people from being conned or swindled or not investing in things they know little about or engaging in risks they can little afford in neoliberal economic dynamics, which again are strikingly Darwinian. But I argue that Darwinism here is in fact a barbarism.

Glenn said...

DJ,

"One cannot strive without making an effort, and one cannot make an effort without employing his will;"

I'm glad you take that position. I was almost worried you wouldn't.


Well, I must confess that I don't really hold that position. I only pretended to in order to save you some worry, and, hopefully, thereby delay the graying of a few more hairs.

That said, maybe I should now confess that it isn't true that I don't really hold that position, and that I only pretended to have pretended that I don't in order to poke fun at the ludicrousness of your having been on the cusp of worrying that I don't make use of my will, or that I might think use of one's will ought not be made, or that I might think using one's will is unimportant (or whatever silly thing specifically was in danger of being the object of your worry about me).

Nobody I know of would but people in jail for spiritual murder or theft.

Regret and remorse, e.g., can be penalties in and of themselves.

If spiritual good is so good, the A-T natural law advocate has no good reason to stress over real-world disorder.

As usual, your logic is impeccable, and easily adaptable to other domains. For example,

If good software practices really are so good, then a project manager hasn't any good reason to stress over the crappy software resulting from the misuse, abuse or lack of use of those practices by the developers on his team.

Glenn said...

DJ,

There's also a paradox. If goodness or badness is defined in terms of how well or badly a thing manifests its nature, how can the intellect manifest its nature if it is prevented from entertaining all possibilities? That is, how can a thing manifest its nature if the fear of fully exercising that nature prevents one from exercising it?

That's an interesting line of thought.

But I wonder just how much thought you have given it.

To wit, and to speak on or in your terms:

If, as you suggest, the intellect needs to entertain all possibilities in order to 'manifest its nature', then either you'll have to, and more than cursorily, entertain spiritual principles and spiritual practices -- as each relates to or has to do with the intellect -- or forever suffer the debilitating effects of an intellect whose nature has not been fully manifested, i.e., or forever suffer the debilitating effects of an impoverished intellect.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

1)

The importance of will came up because of my claim that one needs to exercise the will to become good. You used the word strive, which I like. If a "perfect" culture hands Joey a blue ribbon and says, "You're a good boy now because we force you to obey us," then Joey is going to have a false sense of striving and has no way of proving he's good or even that he understands the good. Your response to this has been to substitute habit for will as if habit has nothing to do with will and that downhill habit without temptation is equivalent to uphill habit with temptation. If that substitution works, all a parent has to do in a degenerate culture is shelter the child to age X. Then all will be well when he's set loose in Sodom. Problem solved, no reason to fret.

In my view, any habit meant to counter Sodom is a habitual exercising of the will. If the will is circumvented by force or circumstances, the will is not properly exercised.

2)

What are spiritually bad practices in software versus actual bad practices? Who would count them as evil? Are there, in fact, best software practices which fit every case and are not open to criticism? I think answers to these questions would end up bolstering my criticism of "spiritual unfaithfulness." Empiricist that I am, I deny the best of anything can be found except through testing ideas in the real world.

I'm not totally unsympathetic to calls for better practices. Our country permits a long list of behaviors which I personally don't like. My objection to authority is practical, not emotional and not ideological. My sons would tell you that early in their childhood I was very strict. So I know authority has its place. But the subject is liberalism and the inclination toward the good. Just to clarify, my position is that too much authority suffocates that inclination and the goal itself. Liberalism was a justifiable reaction to that suffocation. The issue for me is not all or nothing. The trick is to find the best mix.

3)

The thing is, I *have* entertained thoughts about spiritual principles and spiritual practices, but thanks for the tip. Yes, I take a hard empirical stance, but please don't take that as ignorance about and/or disrespect for everything spiritual, even though for me the spiritual exists in a natural world.


Glenn said...

DJ,

The importance of will came up because of my claim that one needs to exercise the will to become good.

The 'importance of the will' first came up when after saying to me, "You must know I will say yes to your list of questions", you immediately went on to also say to me, "So I'm going to assume you scoff at the importance of the will" -- even though the 'list of [my] questions' specifically had to do with striving for the good, and even though striving (for anything, including the good) necessarily entails exercising the will.

Glenn said...

DJ,

If a "perfect" culture hands Joey a blue ribbon and says, "You're a good boy now because we force you to obey us," then Joey is going to have a false sense of striving and has no way of proving he's good or even that he understands the good. Your response to this has been to substitute habit for will as if habit has nothing to do with will and that downhill habit without temptation is equivalent to uphill habit with temptation.

I did not 'substitute habit for will'. A habit can no more be substituted for will than summer can be substituted for spring. A habit, or a habit which is cultivated, simply is a doing which has become second nature after repeated acts, efforts and/or exercisings of the will with regard to a particular end.

I also have not made mention of either a 'downhill habit without temptation', or an 'uphill habit with temptation'. Since I have not mentioned either, it should be obvious that I also have not compared the two. And since I have neither mentioned the two nor compared them, it is likewise should be obvious that I have not equated one with the other.

Glenn said...

DJ,

In my view, any habit meant to counter Sodom is a habitual exercising of the will.

Again, a habit is a doing which has become second nature. So, if one has a habit of countering a particular lure of Sodom, or one has a habit which enables him to counter that particular lure, then that countering is second nature to him. This is not to say he no longer need be on guard against that particular lure (possibly finding a way around or through some hole in his countering), only that his successful efforts against succumbing to that lure, by definition, are not going to anywhere near as great as as they would need to be if that countering had not become second nature to him.

If the will is circumvented by force or circumstances, the will is not properly exercised.

This will depend in part on whether one is aware of the circumvention, and how he might adjust or adapt to the fact of it (if he is aware of it).

Glenn said...

DJ,

The thing is, I *have* entertained thoughts about spiritual principles and spiritual practices, but thanks for the tip.

I have been 99.99% confident for some while now that you have entertained as you say. Not to make it sound as dull and mundane as it really is, but my confidence has been founded on the fact that you once, years ago by now I guess it was, stated that you were serious in requesting recommendations for reading material of a certain kind, and the fact that there wasn't any reason not to believe you were serious as you said you were.

(In fact, it was this 99.99% confidence of mine that was the primary basis of my statement to pck once that I don't think you're as 'oppositionalistic' privately as you publicly appear to be. (You seemed greatly annoyed by my having said that, and went to some lengths to try to disprove it. (Perhaps it came too close to what you thought you were keeping secret. Maybe. Maybe not. If so, again, you did broadcast it loud and clear, i.e, you did let the cat out of the bag, with that request of yours years ago.)))

Glenn said...

DJ,

Btw, and for the record, what you took as a tip was not intended to be a tip, and had no connection to that 99.99% confidence of mine (or what inspired it), but to call attention both to an implication of the line of reasoning I said was interesting, and to an incongruity between that implication and, pardon my saying so, the general character of your usual behavior around here.

DNW said...

" [we can affirm that the]... primary end of sex is reproduction, or we can choose to believe it's a strategy to combat predators (the Red Queen) and that reproduction, though real, is just as secondary as emotional bonding."

"Emotional bonding" to what end again?

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

I'm aware that you weren't offering a tip. That's why I responded tongue-in-cheek (TIC).

"The 'importance of the will' first came up when after saying to me, 'You must know I will say yes to your list of questions',

If you look at my response to Timocrates, August 7, 2016 at 4:56 PM. you'll see that I spoke of the will. This was before your arrival. I was referring to why I brought up the subject. You will permit me to speak of my motivation, won't you? I mean, I should be an expert on my motivation if such expertise exists. (More TIC)

I'm glad you agree habit can't be substituted for will. But some people kind of do. I think I remember that as a theme in Bellah's "Habits of the Heart." Your "you'll just continue to do what you've been doing all along" reminded me of that since, to me, it implied habit is sufficient. Your "habit is a doing which has become second nature" is inappropriate to my example. Remember, my example was forced fidelity on a desert island. That's a situation of, at best, what I called downhill habit. IOW, it's a "habit" that's equivalent to the "habit" of a diet of coconut, seaweed and fish, or bathing in salt water or sleeping on a bed of leaves. None of these "habits" are likely to continue when rescued off the island because none were a free choice. The "habits" were imposed and are likely to be seen as negatives even though they might not be. They were not developed as "the good." They sure aren't habits of "countering a particular lure" since there is no lure in this situation.

If I misread your "not so oppositionalistic privately" remark months ago I apologize. I remember the situation. I could be wrong, but although I addressed both of you, in my mind I was responding to the villain pck (grin) much more than to you because I'm confident he misread your remark, or at least exploited it. On its own, without pck's additional input, I don't think I would have mistaken your intent. In fact, you're not totally wrong. I appreciate your acknowledgement of that and I should have mention it at the time. Btw, I did obtain some of the reading recommendations.


DNW,

Emotional bonding's end is surely not reproduction. Anyway, sharks don't seem to need it.

Fred said...

No, but arguably at least one end of the emotional bonding of a married couple is to provide a loving, stable environment for their children once they have reproduced. And the last time I checked, sharks were not human beings. What is natural for sharks is not necessarily so for humans.

Glenn said...

DJ,

Two things, and in reverse order (so that, in a sense, the 'internal' comes first, and then the 'external'):

1. Your "habit is a doing which has become second nature" is inappropriate to my example. Remember, my example was forced fidelity on a desert island.

My comments about 'habit' specifically had to do with Blue Ribbon Joey, and with Sodom. (Go back and check.)

Nonetheless, and re your desert island example,

Suppose a Don Artemis Jindra -- whose internal belief is that fidelity is a virtue -- is on a desert island with only his wife.

Suppose also a Don Juan Jindra -- whose internal belief is that fidelity is for fools -- is on some other desert island, likewise only with his wife.

Given your, "And yes, I'll stand by my claim that internal beliefs are irrelevant if outward behavior is identical" (second para here), why should it matter that Don Juan Jindra is in fidelity -- 'fidelity' -- only because of the circumstances?

The outward behaviors of Don Artemis Jindra and Don Juan Jindra will be identical during their stay on their respective desert islands, i.e., each with be faithful (in a manner of speaking at least) to his wife during that time; and since their outward behaviors will be identical, their internal beliefs, according to you two months ago, are irrelevant.

Yet, it seems safe to say that:

a) Don Artemis Jindra is less likely to experience a sense of deprivation or resentment;

b) Don Juan Jindra is more likely to experience a sense of deprivation and resentment; and,

c) the reason for that difference can be traced back to the difference in their internal beliefs.

2. If you look at my response to Timocrates, August 7, 2016 at 4:56 PM. you'll see that I spoke of the will. This was before your arrival.

I'm familiar with that response of yours to [George LeSauvage]; my first comment addressed to you in this thread had to do with something said in that response.

But something which I hadn’t mentioned previously continues to puzzle me. In that response to George you said this,

"Since this love is about acts, suppose Jack is forced into acts of love toward his enemies. Jill is given free will and voluntarily chooses to love her enemies. Which is the more noble soul? IMO, Jill's choice makes her nobility. If we take away Jill's choice, and force her to act as we have forced Jack, we rob her of her nobility. We have become levelers of the moral playing field."

Yet, in an earlier reply to me elsewhere (penultimate para here), you had this to say,

"[I]t doesn't matter if one acts 'out of the good of thoughtfulness toward their neighbor,' or out of 'lifeless motions' if the results are identical."

If all that matters is that results are identical, what's up with the championing of Jill's nobility?

That is, why champion Jill's nobility if all that really matters is that results are identical?

- - - - -

o Even as one's liberty is not lessened by one being unable to sin, so, too, the necessity resulting from a will firmly fixed to good does not lessen the liberty[.] -- ST II-II 88.4.1

Glenn said...

Btw, I'll be on vacation in two weeks or so, and there’s a lot to attend to between now and then, so that's likely it from me for a while.

And -- this is just too good to pass up -- this is where where we're going to: a small island off one of the main Virgin Islands (!), and one which has plenty of sand and a fair number of coconut trees. I expect to see lots of fish and seaweed -- if not under the water while snorkeling, then on my plate in the form of sushi. I also don't expect to have occasion to experience a sense of deprivation or resentment; but if I do, it won't have anything to do with fidelity.

Try to behave while I'm absent. It's a struggle, I know; but I also know you like to strive. ;)

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

I've been very busy with work, and you're going on vacation. So it's best if we pick up this interesting conversation at another time. I'll say only this for now. I do not believe that what we believe is of no importance. My past words you quoted need context. In that conversation I began from the position that it does matter. OTOH, if we were only interested in a tranquil or ordered society, that being our overwhelming interest, then what else we believe about it (like our liberty) is irrelevant. That may not be clear. It's the best I can do for now. But let me be slightly more clear about this: Though I'm fond of order, I'm interested in more than a tranquil and ordered society.

Glenn said...

Don,

My past words you quoted need context. [etc]

If that's the case, then fair enough.

'til later.