Monday, September 26, 2016

Michael Rea owes Richard Swinburne an apology


Richard Swinburne, emeritus professor of philosophy at Oxford University, author of many highly influential books, and among the most eminent of contemporary Christian thinkers, recently gave the keynote address at a meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP).  In his talk, which was on the theme of sexual morality, he defended the view that homosexual acts are disordered – a view that has historically been commonly held within Christianity and the other major world religions, has been defended by philosophers like Plato, Aquinas, and Kant, and is defended to this day by various natural law theorists.  So, it would seem a perfectly suitable topic of discussion and debate for a meeting of Christian philosophers of religion.  Of course, that view is highly controversial today.  Even some contemporary Christian philosophers disagree with Swinburne.  I wasn’t there, but apparently his talk generated some criticism.   Fair enough.  That’s what meetings of philosophers are about – the free and vigorous exchange of ideas and arguments.
 
Yet for some reason, Michael Rea, president of the SCP, posted the following statement on his Facebook page over the weekend:

I want to express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent Midwest meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself. Though our membership is broadly united by way of religious faith, the views of our members are otherwise diverse. As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community. Consequently (among other reasons), I am committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again. Nonetheless, I will strive for them going forward. If you have thoughts or feedback you would like to share with me, I would welcome hearing from you via email or private message.

End quote.  Rea’s statement has received a lot of feedback on Facebook – both positive and negative – and has gotten attention elsewhere online as well (such as at Rod Dreher’s column at The American Conservative).

There are several odd things about Rea’s statement.  First, Swinburne was invited to present the keynote address, and SCP members, including the society’s leaders, know his work well.  But no one who knows that work could possibly be surprised that Swinburne holds traditional views about homosexuality.  Indeed, he defended the position he expressed in his keynote talk in the second edition of his book Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy.  If Swinburne had given a talk defending a dualist view of human nature, or the resurrection of Christ, or the possibility of eternal damnation -- views also all standard in Christian theology historically even if highly controversial today – no one would have been surprised, and Rea would not have seen fit to issue any statement. 

So why issue a statement in this case?  If you invite someone well-known for his traditional views to give a talk, don’t be surprised if he expresses traditional views during the talk.  If you don’t like the views he’s likely to express, don’t invite him in the first place.  But it is rude and unfair to invite him, let him give the talk, and then disavow him after the fact.

Second, why the frantic assurance that Swinburne’s views “are not those of the SCP”?  Who would have supposed that they are the views of the SCP?  The SCP is an organization of academic philosophers, and everyone knows that academic philosophers disagree about all sorts of things.  If Swinburne had defended Cartesian dualism in his talk, or Kantian ethics, or scientific realism, no one would think “Hmm, the SCP must be officially endorsing Cartesian dualism [or Kantian ethics, or scientific realism].”  Nor would Rea have issued any disclaimer.  Everyone would know that Swinburne was speaking only for himself, just as any philosopher does when he gives a talk.  How are things any different in this case?

Third, what is this business about the “hurt” Swinburne’s views allegedly caused?  Philosophers discuss and defend all sorts of ideas that some people are bound to find offensive.  So what?  If, to take just one example, a philosopher defends the moral legitimacy of abortion, he may well offend those who regard abortion as a species of murder; whereas if he argues instead that abortion is a species of murder, he may well offend those who have had abortions.  Still, philosophers discuss and debate abortion all the time, and no one regards this as noteworthy or in need of some disclaimer.  So why are things different in the case of Swinburne’s chosen topic?

Perhaps Rea is worried that some will be offended by Swinburne’s specific way of arguing.  Swinburne holds that a homosexual orientation is a kind of “disability” (a view he put forward in the Revelation book).  No doubt some will be offended by such language.  But again, people are bound to be offended by all sorts of things philosophers say.  Again, an argument for either side of the abortion debate is bound to be offensive to some people who come down on the other side.  So what?  If the arguments for the side you disagree with in the abortion debate are not good arguments, then that is what you should be trying to show.  Going on about hurt feelings doesn’t add anything at all to the philosophical critique.  On the other hand, if the arguments for the side you disagree with are good arguments, then you should stop disagreeing with them and stop being offended by them.  In either case, hurt feelings are neither here nor there.  And every philosopher knows this where other topics are concerned.  Why are things any different in Swinburne’s case?

Fourth, Rea says that because he is “committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community,” he is “consequently… committed to the values of diversity and inclusion.”  Well, fine.  So what’s the problem, exactly?  “Diversity and inclusion” in the context of “the intellectual life of [a] philosophical community” surely entails that a “diversity” of opinions and arguments be “included” in the discussion.  Now, Swinburne’s view is unpopular these days.  It is often not “included” in philosophical discussions of sexual morality, discussions which tend not to be “diverse” but instead are dominated by liberal views.  Hence having Swinburne present the views he did is precisely a way of advancing the cause of “diversity and inclusion.”  Yet Rea treats it as if it were the opposite.  Why? 

Fifth, Rea speaks about the SCP having “fallen short” of the ideals of diversity and inclusion and of his resolve to “strive for them going forward.”  Well, what does that entail exactly?  Evidently he thinks that letting Swinburne say what he did amounts to having “fallen short.”  So is Rea saying that, “going forward,” he will work to make sure that views like Swinburne’s are no longer expressed at SCP meetings, or at least in SCP keynote addresses?  How would preventing views from being expressed amount to the furthering of “diversity and inclusion”?  And how would that square with the free and open debate that philosophy is supposed to be all about? 

So, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for Rea to have made the statement he did.  There are, moreover, very good reasons why someone in his position should not have made such a statement.  One of them I have already mentioned.  If you don’t like what someone is going to say, don’t invite him to present the keynote address at your meeting.  It is unfair to invite him and then sandbag him after the fact.

But it’s worse than just being unfair to Swinburne.  Civil and reasonable discussion about questions of sexual morality is increasingly difficult today, and it is precisely those who are most prone loudly to express their “hurt” feelings who make it so.  Even the most polite, reasoned, and carefully qualified objections to homosexual acts, transgenderism, etc. are routinely dismissed a priori as “bigotry,” fit only to be ridiculed and shouted down rather than rationally engaged.  In extreme cases those who express such views face cyberbullying, loss of employment, and the like.  As Justice Scalia pointed out in his dissenting opinion in United States v. Windsor, such views are now widely treated as “beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement” and their proponents shunned as if they were “enemies of the human race.” 

To pretend (as some Christian philosophers I know do) that this sort of thing is essentially just a regrettable but understandable overreaction on the part of wounded souls who have had some bad experiences with obnoxious religious people is naiveté.  It is often rather a calculated political tactic aimed at making public dissent from liberal conventional wisdom on sexuality practically difficult or impossible.  Some activists admit this.  For example, in their 1989 book After the Ball, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen called for a long-term propaganda campaign to change attitudes about homosexuality by shaming, social ostracization, and other tactics deliberately aimed at manipulating emotions rather than appealing to reason.  They write:

The trick is to get the bigot into the position of feeling a conflicting twinge of shame… This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, all making use of repeated exposure to pictorial images or verbal statements that are incompatible with his self-image as a well-liked person, one who fits in with the rest of the crowd. Thus, propagandistic advertisement can depict homophobic and homohating bigots as crude loudmouths and assholes… who are 'not Christian.'  It can show them being criticized, hated, shunned… It can, in short, link homohating bigotry with all sorts of attributes the bigot would be ashamed to possess, and with social consequences he would find unpleasant and scary…

When [the bigot] sees someone like himself being disapproved of and disliked by ordinary Joes… he will feel just what they feel -- and transfer it to himself. This wrinkle effectively elicits shame and doubt…

Note that the bigot need not actually be made to believe that he is such a heinous creature, that others will now despise him... Rather, our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof…  [but] through repeated infralogical emotional conditioning… (pp. 151-53)

[P]ropaganda relies more upon emotional manipulation than upon logic, since its goal is, in fact, to bring about a change in the public’s feelings. (p. 162)

The objective is to make homohating beliefs and actions look so nasty that average Americans will want to dissociate themselves from them… We also intend, by this tactic, to make the very expression of homohatred so discreditable that even Intransigents will eventually be silenced in public… (p. 189)

End quote.  In an earlier 1987 Guide magazine article “The Overhauling of Straight America,” these same authors described their strategy this way:

At a later stage of the media campaign for gay rights… it will be time to get tough with remaining opponents.  To be blunt, they must be vilified... [W]e intend to make the antigays look so nasty that average Americans will want to dissociate themselves from such types.

End quote.  Now, “homohatred” is indeed wrong, because hatred is wrong.  But of course, disapproval of homosexual acts simply does not entail hatred of homosexuals themselves, any more than a vegetarian’s or vegan’s disapproval of eating meat entails hatred of meat-eaters.  But Marshall and Kirk and like-minded activists believe that this follows (or pretend to believe it, anyway), so that what they intend is that those who merely disapprove of the acts in question, and not just those who literally hate others, be vilified, hated, shunned, silenced, etc.  The situation Scalia described in his dissent is thus exactly what such activists have tried to engineer. 

So pervasive have tactics of this sort become in recent years that one sometimes finds even professional philosophers resorting to them, at least in online contexts (blog posts, comboxes, Facebook posts, etc.).  Common examples are:

• preemptively dismissing any argument in defense of conservative views vis-à-vis homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. as a “cloak for bigotry” – a blatant example of an ad hominem fallacy of poisoning the well, or rejecting an argument based on a purportedly disreputable motive on the part of the person giving it, rather than fairly addressing the merits of the argument itself

• matter-of-factly characterizing such arguments as comparable to a defense of racism -- a blatant fallacy of begging the question, since whether the views in question really are comparable to racism is, of course, precisely part of what is at issue in the dispute between defenders of traditional sexual morality and their critics

• mocking such arguments as “obviously” terrible, too stupid for words, not worth anyone’s attention, etc. – a blatant appeal to ridicule fallacy

• matter-of-factly dismissing all such arguments as something which few in “the profession” of academic philosophy take seriously anymore, etc. – a manifest appeal to majority fallacy

• casually insinuating that anyone who presents such arguments really isn’t a serious philosopher, is therefore bound to lose standing in “the profession,” may have difficulty getting a tenured positon, etc. – an argumentum ad baculum

• objecting even to the civil and dispassionate discussion of such arguments on the grounds that some will find them “hurtful,” “offensive,” etc. – a fallacy of appeal to emotion, since what ultimately matters are the logical and evidential merits of a claim or an argument, not how we “feel” about it

Now, as every philosopher knows, tactics like these are textbook examples of sophistry and thus entirely antithetical to genuine philosophy.  They are exactly the sorts of rhetorical tricks that every philosopher teaches students in logic and critical thinking classes not to employ.  For a philosopher deliberately to employ or approve of such tactics is gross malpractice, comparable to a physician violating the Hippocratic oath.  For a philosopher not to condemn such tactics when employed by others is comparable to a physician refusing to treat his patients or to warn them away from dangers to their health.  For a philosopher not to condemn them especially when they are employed by other philosophers is comparable to a physician who turns a blind eye to the malpractice of other physicians.

What does all this have to do with Rea and Swinburne?  Just this.  Sophistries and ruthless political pressure tactics of the sort just described succeed only when people let them succeed – when they let themselves be intimidated, when they acquiesce in the shaming and shunning of those who express unpopular views, when they enable the delegitimization of such views by treating them as something embarrassing, something to apologize for, something “hurtful,” etc. 

This, it seems to me, is what Rea has done in the case of Swinburne.  Given current cultural circumstances, Rea’s statement amounts to what philosophers call a Gricean implicature – it “sends a message,” as it were -- to the effect that the SCP agrees that views like Swinburne’s really are disreputable and deserving of special censure, something to be quarantined and set apart from the ideas and arguments that respectable philosophers, including Christian philosophers, should normally be discussing. 

That is unjust and damaging to philosophy itself, not merely to Swinburne.  It is especially unjust and damaging to younger academic philosophers – grad students, untenured professors, and so forth – who are bound to be deterred from the free and scholarly investigation of unpopular ideas and arguments.  If even the Society of Christian Philosophers is willing to participate in the public humiliation even of someone of the eminence, scholarly achievement, and gentlemanly temperament of Richard Swinburne, then why should any young and vulnerable scholar trust his fellow academic philosophers to “have his back” when questions of academic freedom arise?  Why should he believe they are sincere in their purported commitment to reason over sophistry?

Rea is an excellent philosopher from whose work I, like many others, have profited.  But in this recent statement he has in my opinion done a disservice to his fellow philosophers and an injustice to Swinburne.  He owes Swinburne an apology. 

231 comments:

1 – 200 of 231   Newer›   Newest»
MrMosis said...

Right Own! Seconded.

Anonymous said...

There is an open letter to the SCP that is circulating. Feel free to sign. https://sites.google.com/site/theswinburnecontroversy/

Anonymous said...

Is the reference to "enemies of the human race" a quote from St. Paul? Seems more people than just Joe Biden know who is behind gay marriage. Or is it bigoted to mention this?

Anonymous said...

Looks like SJW virus has also infected SCP. Michael Rea needs to be quarantined before the viruses spread throughout the body of SCP.

One Man's Chorus said...

Why is hatred wrong? Surely it is not wrong to hate someone who wants to destroy you and your family?

A purely philosophical objection to homosexuality (not merely homosexual actions, but the orientation itself, which is a disorder) will not put a dent in homosexual liberation. Homosexual liberation is here to stay, unless the natural revulsion people feel for men who not only sodomize each other, but shun their natural duties as men, is openly expressed.

Timocrates said...

"he defended the view that homosexual acts are disordered – a view that has historically been commonly held within Christianity and the other major world religion"

Love you Ed but this is wrong. It doesn't happen to all of us but it happens to some of us that real love is perfectly naturally between a man and a woman, even young ones. They give up kith and kin for it; however, as we live in the societies we do, this is always vain.

It has nothing to do with philosophy. It is very easy to make sure natural love never bears fruit. All one has to do is guarantee prior instability - especially selfishness of the would-be loved ones' parents- and, viola love will never bare proper fruit. That is the point of Shakespeare's play. Love doesn't happen because of the sins of men: it happens in spite of them.

And fine, let us be polite about homosexuality. Let us pretend as etymological philosophers that the act of homosexuality is based in "love." We cannot. I'm not sure if anyone here ever had a friend, but frankly I pity you if you think homosexuality is a good thing. It is not. It is the coward's way out of love and responsibility. It is a direct assault on the greatest love there exists: brotherly love.

Feminism complain. Anti-Americans say it has something to do with economics or social security or whatever. Or privilege.

Truth is... well, I don't need to say it. That is the truth.

Anonymous said...

In scholarly and popular commentaries on religion, it seems that no religion is ever indicated to be called "great" unless it has, by some historical means, acquired sufficient political force and power within some large geographical region, to enforce its views on the mass population. Such is of course the situation/motive with the "catholic" church which presumes that it has right to impose its view on and exercise power and control over ALL of humankind.

Indeed, before there was the modern political trend towards the proliferation of pluralistic democracies, religions grew in size and "greatness" mainly by political conquest (and not, at large, by argument, evidence, or proof of Truth.
However, the time has come when it should no longer be presumed that any religious institution. tradition has the right to presume that it, by virtue of some past conquests (or any history of presumed worldly power, has the right to ENFORCE its views on the general population of any presumed democracy.

Surely the time has passed when any pluralistic democracy should be "officially" identified with any particular religious tradition.In a democratic society every human individual must be free to choose his or her form of religious, and sexual practice and commitment.

Strong objections must be raised whenever any particular religious institution, sect, or community presumes the OFFICIAL right to speak for ALL members of any general general, and generally pluralistic democratic gathering, or even for the pluralistic ALL of humankind.And thus presumes the right to UNIVERSALLY declare, make, and ENFORCE laws, rules, and principles based on the power and control motives of some particular institution or sect.
Again this is particularly the case with the "catholic" church which has always used sexual "rules" and laws as a means for imposing their sectarian very worldly control on the behaviors of mass populations.

Timocrates said...

"In a democratic society every human individual must be free to choose his or her form of religious, and sexual practice and commitment."

Strong argument, my friend. However, only in a Christian one will this or has it ever been true.

But my argument against you is this my friend: Say you deplore my religion. Say you have a perfect vision of Utopia in your eyes. Say your vision causes (subjectively in my eyes) a sin against one of my near relatives: say, for example, my own sister.


My conscience commands I resist you. But this is "sexual." If you dare force yourself on my sister, then it is personal. My sister has hated me most of my life. But she is my little sister and a voice told me when I first held her that I must protect her.

Dream of your Utopia. But remember that some men experienced hell first.

Lastly, it is a bit childish to appeal to sexual wants. All men have them. But wiser men know the better things in life, without ever denigrating that which is good.

TheOFloinn said...

@Anonymous
It is less a matter of the Catholic church (or even the "catholic" church) imposing anything by political conquest in this area (The Church, generally speaking did not have an army) than it is that the aversion has been more or less universal. Granted, the Hellenes had boy-brothels and encouraged older men to take teenagers for sexual relief when on campaign; but this was precisely to foil the natural conjoining of man and woman that would temper the warlike temperament of the phalangist. In some places, sodomy was used by rulers to enforce subordination and humiliation on their subjects. ("I'll send Mahmud after you...") Other societies have tolerated without approving the relatively uncommon behavior, as in Latin Europe or I think India and China. (However, I was once assured straight-faced by a Telugu friend that "there are no queers in India.") OTOH, the practice was reviled across East Africa and the Roman Republic prescribed the death penalty for homosexual acts. Few of these places were conquered by the Catholic church. I may have missed the "political conquest" of Ireland, Poland, Hungary, Germany; and Gaul, Iberia, Italia, and North Africa had already been conquered... by the pagan Romans. England was then conquered by the pagan Saxons and it is unclear when the troops of the Church stormed the beaches and politically reconquered the island. (And what of the Orthodox churches? Did they politically conquer Ethiopia? Russia?)

Gottfried said...

My impression is that part of the controversy is due to Swinburne suggesting that homosexuality is a disability that can be cured. Not that it makes Rea's statement any less contemptible.

KOJohnson said...

People have simply forgotten what "disordered" means. They take it as an expression of opinion, as an arbitrary pejorative. I do find that when I define the term as it's used in moral theology they tend to say, "Oh. Well. Then yes." They still defend the actual disordered act, but at least they understand the meaning of the term.

Tim Lambert said...

Sounds like virtue signaling on Rea's part.

Terence M. Stanton said...

AMDG

Thank you for all of your outstanding work, Dr. Feser. You have a great deal of common sense. It is in short supply these days.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but you lost me on "Plato defended the view that homosexual acts are disordered."

Phil K said...

I was actually at the conference and I find it ironic that you used abortion as an example of an offensive viewpoint because in the same talk where he argued that homosexuality is a disorder Swinburne also argued that abortion prior to 22 weeks is justified. He argued that prior to that point the baby is not yet a person, so it's fine to abort it. I object to Swinburne’s view here and many other people at the conference did as well; he was actually challenged on it in the Q&A.

But I don’t think anyone of us who think Swinburne’s view on abortion is justifying murder felt the need to complain or demand apologies from people. I expect to hear things I think are wrong at a philosophy conference. If I thought everyone at the conference was right that would probably mean it was a bad conference where I didn’t learn much. It’s simply childish and immature to take offense when a Christian philosopher at a Christian philosophy conference argues for orthodox Christian morality.

Further in the Q&A one person purposed a substantial objection (philosophically speaking) to Swinburne’s argument about homosexuality, but I haven’t read anyone actually discussing that. This childish instance on hurt feelings and the need for apologies is drowning out/making impossible actual discussion about the actual issue and actual objection(s) to Swinburne’s viewpoint.

Crude said...

To pretend (as some Christian philosophers I know do) that this sort of thing is essentially just a regrettable but understandable overreaction on the part of wounded souls who have had some bad experiences with obnoxious religious people is naiveté. It is often rather a calculated political tactic aimed at making public dissent from liberal conventional wisdom on sexuality practically difficult or impossible.

Sharp, Ed. You know your stuff when it comes to this kind of maneuvering.

Anonymous said...

if homosexuality could be cured via gene therapy or some psycho analysis i think many ppl would opt for it especially teenaged boys. if it is physical which i don't think is true then why wouldn't we want to find a cure for it? the CDC stats on it are shocking.

David B Marshall said...

"Ideas are scary things! Not everyone agrees with me! Aghhhhh!"

Poor Michael. Philosophy needs a safe space for people who are troubled by ideas that challenge one's orthodoxies. Might I suggest the Democratic Party?

Vida Ética Hoje said...

I disagree with you Edward. Rea wrote in his facebook, a private way of communication, not an official SCP. Neither He can not more talk as M Rea because He is part or president of SCP. Even if none should apologize for what He sees as hurting people, anyone should have the right for apologizing if He wants, if He understand certain people were hurt, and I think Michael e many christian think gays were. Not ideias about homosexual acts, but view about homosexuals persons. (I do not think so, but I think the Swinburne theory is wrong religious and ethically, and I think to fell like Michael e others fellI expressing their personally views is not exactly a political agenda). Thank you for sharing my opinion. Best Wishes, Alcino

Greg said...

@ Vida Ética Hoje

Rea wrote in his facebook, a private way of communication, not an official SCP. Neither He can not more talk as M Rea because He is part or president of SCP.

The post is publicly visible, and in it Rea explicitly invokes his authority as SCP president:

As President of the SCP, I am committed to promoting the intellectual life of our philosophical community.

He takes the opportunity, again explicitly, to disassociate the SCP from Swinburne:

The views expressed in Professor Swinburne's keynote are not those of the SCP itself.

It is specifically the organization's viewpoint which he says he is articulating:

As an organization, we have fallen short of those ideals before, and surely we will again.

So there is no plausibility to the view that he was merely expressing a personal opinion in a private venue here. As president of the SCP, he has responsibilities to be diverse and inclusive. In a Christian and philosophical society, that will involve allowing mainstream Christian ideas to be aired civilly, without disavowing a speaker the content of whose remarks were foreseeable in advance.

jmhenry said...

I suppose, like everything else, academic philosophy has succumbed to the "two faces of tolerance."

It is especially unjust and damaging to younger academic philosophers – grad students, untenured professors, and so forth – who are bound to be deterred from the free and scholarly investigation of unpopular ideas and arguments.

In many ways, that may be the point. We can't have Richard Swinburne "corrupting the youth" with ideas that are no longer considered politically correct. Furthermore, as Anonymous indicated above, you also must not "fail to acknowledge" the gods that pluralistic democratic society acknowledges (sexual libertinism, relativism, etc.), otherwise you will be guilty of "impiety" to democratic pluralism.

Maybe it's a good day to re-read The Apology.

Gottfried said...

I'm sorry, but you lost me on "Plato defended the view that homosexual acts are disordered."

Try the Laws, Books I and VIII.

Michael Potts said...

I was shocked by some of the philosophers, whom I thought were traditionally orthodox (with a small "o") who praised Rea's post. The reaction is very disappointing, but I was glad that a number of philosophers attacked Rea's post in their comments.

Anonymous said...

I must disagree with your comment that "Rea is an excellent philosopher."

Extreme intellectual dishonesty is inconsistent with being a philosopher at all, let alone an "excellent" one.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

We have gone from gay demands for tolerance to demands of assent & woe to him who doeth not give'th assent.

Gay fundamentalism man.

Crude said...

Looking over some of the Facebook responses (including, as always, a 'The fact that you all are arguing over this is helping me doubt my faith!' type), all I can say is that Christian academia is of little use to faithful Christians in this age. There's some encouraging replies. Too many, unfortunately, just seem like quislings.

Tim Lambert said...

Son of Ya'Kov, how would one get access to your blog?

DNW said...



Gottfried said...

I'm sorry, but you lost me on "Plato defended the view that homosexual acts are disordered."

Try the Laws, Books I and VIII.
September 27, 2016 at 11:49 AM "



Yes, it appears that many whose familiarity with Plato extends to reading The Republic in "Humanities 101" never got to the presumably later work, and just figure that Rival Lovers is authentic.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

>Son of Ya'Kov, how would one get access to your blog?

I don't really have one. I am a combox guy.

If you ever saw HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART ONE by Mel Brooks they had a scene of the birth of the first Artist. A caveman who drew animals on the wall. Then they had the scene of the birth of the first art critic a caveman who wazzed on the poor shlub's wall painting.

I'm the second guy. ;-)

Cheers.

jmhenry said...

It might be instructive to contrast this incident involving Richard Swinburne with what happened last year, when disability activists (not for the first time) protested Princeton University's employment of Peter Singer, since he has argued for the permissibility of infanticide and the killing of disabled infants. Like those who were "hurt" by Swinburne's remarks, these disabled activists have been hurt over the years by Singer's advocacy for the killing of disabled infants. But while Michael Rea expressed his "regret" for the hurt Swinburne's remarks caused, Princeton's director of media relations, Martin Mbugua, defended Singer with these words:

Princeton is strongly committed to ensuring the academic freedom of members of its community and to ensuring that the campus is open to a wide variety of views.

So what is the lesson here? If you argue that homosexuality is a "disability" that may be merely "cured," then you have threatened the "values of diversity and inclusion" and such a view must be apologized for. But if you argue that disabled infants may be killed, since they constitute a burden on the rest of society (and they have less of a "quality of life" anyway), then that is just part of the "academic freedom" scholars have to express "a wide variety of views." On the one hand, Swinburne argues that we ought to merely "cure" those whom he regards as having a disability; while on the other hand, Singer argues that small and vulnerable human beings who have disabilities ought to be rendered non-persons and killed. And yet it is the former argument which results in collective spasms of pearl-clutching, attacks of the vapors, and breathless apologies, while the latter argument is treated with respect as part of the "wide variety of views."

An interesting contrast, and one that says a lot about the postmodern age.

Crude said...

And yet it is the former argument which results in collective spasms of pearl-clutching, attacks of the vapors, and breathless apologies,

From self-described Christians, no less.

dover_beach said...

The worst thing about Rea's apology was that it deliberately avoided pointing out what was specifically wrong with Swinburne's address. It was the sort of apology you might expect of a business venture looking to mollify customers than of an academic looking to address certain aspects of a purportedly 'controversial' paper.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

Here is the thing about homosexuality to those who might suffer a "Just World hypothesis". Even if you could prove homosexuality is hardwired into the brain, is "incurable" and has a genetic cause. The moral and natural law would still be binding on gay people. At best under those conditions there might be a reduced culpability when they stumble from sin. But the acts themselves would alway be evil and even a gay person under those conditions would be obligated to avoid them.

I've had some harsh fights over at Crisis over this. Some people dogmatically insist that homosexuality must be curable & on the other side gay fundamentalists insist "Once Gay Always Gay". I say a pox on both their houses.

My own personal opinion is homosexuality as a psychological condition isn't just one thing (even if identical in it's accident of want to have sex with persons the same gender as yourself). So some people it seems can be cured and become heterosexual. Some at best might learn to become functionally bisexual to various degrees & thus they can marry the opposite sex and have a relationship with someone within the divine, moral and natural law. Some people no matter how hard they try can't seem to pray the gay away and will always be attracted to their own sex. The later I believe are called to chastity & deserve our infinite compassion.

Now if I may close with an off color joke. As Paul Lynn once said standing in the middle of a gaggle of playmates at the playboy Manson "It's not hard".

Cheers.

Irenist said...

@Anonymous:
Is the reference to "enemies of the human race" a quote from St. Paul?

Doubtful. I think the late, great, much-lamented Justice Scalia was referring to this concept from admiralty law, with roots in Roman law:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostis_humani_generis

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Rea did not apologize for the Swineburne's address itself, nor did he state that he regrets having invited Swineburne to give the keynote speech, on the contrary he says that he values diversity and inclusion. He only apologized for the hurt which as a matter of fact the keynote speech caused to some. He writes that Swineburne's views are not of the SCP, but from this it does not follow that SCP has opposite views in this matter, clearly the SCP que SCP has no view in this matter. - The trouble I have with Rea's post is that even though carefully worded is misleading. Even to fellow professional philosophers. Some reason for a greater worry here.

My two cents: First it is clear that a philosopher's duty is with speaking the truth and that a Christian's duty is with charity – and this creates some tension for the Christian philosopher. That tension between truth and charity is not exclusive to the philosophical discourse by the way, but also exists and is important in everyday life, a fact masterfully developed in Ibsen's play “The Wild Duck”.

My second cent: The meaning of a word and is not only given by its definition but also by its use. Normally we use the term “disability” in those cases where the affected people would like to have their condition cured. But homosexuals do not normally wish to be cured of their sexual orientation, rather they wish society to be cured of its homophobia. Also, speaking of sexual love, not only a homosexual “is unable to enter into a loving relationship in which the love is as such procreative” as Swineburne puts it, but also, say, the old. But we don't say that the old suffer from some disability. Nor do I think that the old (or at least old philosophers) wish their condition to be cured. So, I conclude, Swinburne's choice of words was wrong.

Finally we all agree that Swineburne is one of the greatest Christian philosophers of our time. I can't imagine he was hurt by Rea's post, on the contrary I think he was pleased with the discussion that issued. There is no such thing as a bad philosophical discussion.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I'm confused why it is relevant that homosexuals don't see themselves as disabled or wish to have their disability cured if they do see themselves in such a way? Swinburne presumably has arguments why homosexuality is a disability (which to me seems a term more or less synonymous with disordered). And presumably, like in natural law theory, he has arguments that differentiate between the intrinsic inability of homosexual acts to lead to procreation from heterosexual sterility.

I don't think charity and truth actually are in tension. To say they are is to suggest that it is charitable to not tell the truth. It may be the case that we can't quite see what is truth, and we may wish to err on the side of charity, but real truth cannot conflict with charity.

DAS said...

Rea's apology I believe stems from the same motivations that gave us gays (and now transgenders) in the military and women in combat.

There is this egalitarianism-run-amok notion that everyone should be able to engage in any possible pursuit his or her heart desires. So if a high-testosterone marine wants to get in touch with his feminine side, yet still remain on duty, then the taxpayer must pay for his estrogen treatments and silicone implants so that he can become a less effective weapon.

Likewise, if the only way to rise in the military is to engage in combat, and women must be able to rise in the military, then we must demand that they be allowed, or even required, to engage in combat.

Likewise, all people should feel qualified to engage in philosophy. If metaphysical and moral arguments suggest that some people by dint of their sexual proclivities may be suspect in their morality, then those arguments must be suppressed.

The only arguments that can be allowed are those that do not castigate any who might wish to become or remain philosophers.

Of course, there are certain individuals such as traditional Christians, Jews, etc. who are by dint of their 'bigoted' beliefs unworthy to become philosophers. So denying them tenure track positions is perfectly acceptable.

The hypocrisy in philosophical circles is beyond belief.

I imagine that if Dr. Feser had not been an atheist when he matriculated that he would not now be where he is in the profession.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Jeremy Taylor

“why it is relevant that homosexuals don't see themselves as disabled or wish to have their disability cured if they do see themselves in such a way?”

I am not criticizing Swinburne's premises or argument but his choice of words. When one does not choose words properly then one's argument suffers. In the case at hand the choice of “disability” to characterize homosexuality strikes me as unwise, because by reason of its common use “disability” entails some properties which in the case of homosexuality do not hold. Swinburne could have stated his argument without using the concept of disability at all. I haven't heard his keynote (I understand it's not yet published) but all the usual arguments do not critically depend on using the concept of disability. Actually the problem cuts very deep since improper use of words not only leads to confusion but also to error, since such use may introduce into the argument unstated assumptions.

Let me give a few examples to clarify what I mean.

Suppose you have an argument according to which being lefthanded is a violation of the way God ordered nature, and that therefore it is a sin when lefthanded write using their left hand and they should do their best to write using their right hand. You can argue all this without characterizing lefthandedness as a disability, and if you don't do so you violate the order of how this word is used. What is worse, the very use of the word “disability” suggests that if possible the state should try and cure lefthandedness, which is an implication that is not there in the original argument. Similarly, suppose an atheist has an argument according to which natural evolution has ordered our cognitive faculties towards truth and that therefore theists suffer from a disability, from which they should be cured by the proper state policies.

Sometimes using words improperly is done on purpose. So, to mention an important example, the concept of “freedom of will”, as we have been using since the beginning of language, entails that one could have chosen differently than one has actually done. Now enter some philosophers who dislike this entailment, but also wish to avoid claiming that we don't possess free will. And therefore come up with the idea that there are different kinds of freedom of will, and the “compatibilist” kind does not entail that people could have chosen to act differently than how they in fact did. The result is nonsense since it follows that a cuckoo clock possesses free will albeit of the compatibilist kind. It's like wishing to avoid calling a black-and-white photograph “black-and-white”, and arguing that it is a color photograph because it is full of colors albeit of the greyish kind.

I say philosophy is hard enough and that fooling around with the meaning of words, whether unconsciously or on purpose, is at best a bad practice and at worse is sophistry. If the common use of the available words does not fit will with the philosopher's purpose then she is free to coin a new word. Doing so will clarify her argument, and even more importantly clarify her own thinking.

Irenist said...

@Dianelos Georgoudis:

Left-handed people are not intrinsically less able to manipulate objects than right-handed people. Technological defaults often favor the right-handed, but the capacity of left-handers to employ all human faculties is not intrinsically limited.

Now, one fundamental human faculty is reproduction. On the traditionally orthodox Christian view, the normal expression of this faculty entails lifelong heterosexual pair bonding and shared parenting. Homosexual inclinations do not typically mechanically prevent the reproductive act, but they do psychologically inhibit lifelong heterosexual pair bonding. Thus, homosexuals may be referred to as disabled vis-a-vis the heterosexual marriage aspect of the human reproductive faculty, if, of course, one agrees with Christian tradition in holding that heterosexual marriage is indeed essential to proper expression of the reproductive faculty.

Now, none of this entails that the State should intervene to "cure" homosexuality, any more than the fact that Down Syndrome or nearsightedness are properly speaking disabilities would logically entail support for some Nazi-style eugenics program to eliminate them. Indeed, the Catholic Church, one of the traditional bastions of orthodox Christian thought on sex and marriage, was one of the most vociferous opponents of eugenics in the decades when State-enforced eugenics was quite fashionable among Western secular progressives.

If you disagree with the characterization of homosexuality as a disability, infirmity, abnormality, or whatever, you may argue so. But you ought to drop the idea that acknowledgement of something as a disability logically entails support for State action to eugenically eliminate it. The connection you're seeing is spurious, and distracts from the core issue. If you view a gay couple's use of IVF and a surrogate mother as just as valid an expression of the human reproductive faculty as natural conception and raising the child with its own biological mother and father, then you will disagree as to whether homosexuality is any kind of disability or abnormality. In other words, the question is whether homosexuality is abnormal, which is to say, a negative departure from the norm of heterosexual marriage. Whether heterosexual marriage ought to be seen as such a norm--i.e., whether society ought to endorse something like the traditional "heteronormative" view that has characterized almost all human societies in history--is where the core issue lies. Eugenics (State-enforced or not) is a distraction from that. The word "disability" does NOT entail support for eugenics.

Crude said...

Dianelos,

You suggest that it's wrong to term homosexuality as a disability because homosexuals typically do not wish to be 'cured' of their homosexuality, 'but rather for society to be cured of its homophobia'. There are deaf people who likewise think that being deaf isn't a disability. Their opinions don't determine reality - both can be wrong. More than that, people who regard homosexuality as immoral, disordered, even disgusting, don't think of themselves as having some irrational mental state. But you threw out 'homophobia' as if that's not a controversial term, even though there's vastly less ground to call the rejection of or even repulsion to said lifestyle or sexual acts a phobia.

It's all especially odd since you make it sound as if 'being old' is not a condition most people wish to be cured of. I assure you: many people don't like it and would, in fact, prefer to be cured of it. As noble as it can be to describe, getting old sucks.

To then suggest that Swinburne wasn't hurt by this interaction but was likely delighted not only engages in a strange amount of non-evident mind-reading, but misses a good portion of the conversation: not just Swinburne is harmed by Rea's actions. If you tut-tut and suggest that those philosophers who criticize homosexuality can be good sports and take one for the team in the name of charity or whatever other virtue you favor as an excuse here, I suggest that Team LGBT could do with a bit of professional criticism instead. Call it a good opportunity for the activists to display their graciousness in accepting and welcoming critique in the profession dedicated to questioning.

Finally, you suggest the improper (indelicate) use of words can lead to confusion and error. I reply, so can over the top delicacy and, frankly, bullshitting in the service of protecting the perpetually aggrieved from criticism. In fact, that seems to be the far more common pitfall, such as when we end up not calling deaf people 'disabled' on the grounds that some deaf activists bristle at the term and thus we should make up a brand new word for the not-an-affliction-that's-offensive.

But kudos for the attempted argument aikido that manages to chide against 'fooling around with the meaning of words' while engaging in a whole lot of fooling around with the meaning of words, to the point of suggesting making up whole -new- ones to describe otherwise straightforward issues. It's very bufuldaish of you, a word I just made up which will no doubt help clarify the argument.

Craig Payne said...

I was at the conference and heard the paper (hello, Phil K). Prof. Swinburne covered (in one paper!) the topics of divorce and remarriage, fornication, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and male family-headship. His paper was occasionally strongly worded and therefore, of course, controversial. He was not in any way speaking as a representative of SCP. That should be the end of it.

If I were to be offended, I would be a bit more offended at the paper verging on heresy. However, I suppose no one complained about that.

Craig Payne said...

To make myself a bit clearer: The paper I just referred to as "verging on heresy" was a different paper from a different speaker.

Anonymous said...

Crude:

Bow and accept the prize of Best Follow-Up Post So Far.

"Call it a good opportunity for the activists to display their graciousness in accepting and welcoming critique in the profession dedicated to questioning."

Savage.

Sage McLaughlin said...

"But we don't say that the old suffer from some disability."

Um, yes we do. It's called the infirmity of old age, and everybody recognizes that the condition of becoming infertile (or of losing one's sight, or of becoming deaf, or of losing strength and flexibility) is a case of the body's normal, healthy functioning going south. Nobody suggests that blindness or deafness are NOT disabilities merely because they appear in the aged and the infirm.

Or I guess, nobody has done so until now, so it's no surprise that we've reached the point of such confusion that some deaf people really DO believe that deafness is just a "culture" and something they can inflict deliberately on their children without any moral blame.

moduspownens said...

@Dianelos,

I don't see why professional philosophers in a professional philosopher context, i.e. the SCP meeting, should at all be offended by choice of the words, namely, disability. Anyone who has spent enough time in the history of Western thought, which academic philosophers certainly have, knows each philosopher has jargon specific to him and specific to the discipline as a whole. Aristotelian "form" differs from Platonic "form," and both classical versions of "form" diverge from how it's colloquially used. "Modern" philosophy refers to the philosophy starting with Rene Descartes to roughly Wittgenstein, but not the work of Quine, Kripke and a host of influential philosophers either alive or recently deceased in the modern world of today. "Intention" and "extension" have technical meanings. Kant wrote of the phenomenal and noumenal and the synthetic a priori; Sartre: Being-in-itself (être-en-soi) and being-for-itself (être-pour-soi) and was riffing off of Heidegger. For Marxists, a "fetish" means something quite different than what is commonly meant by the phrase, "That's a fetish." Plantinga distinguishes between the de dicto and de re. I could go on and on...

The point is there is vast philosophical vocabulary for not only for the discipline but for each philosopher. Surely, the offended members of the SCP know this trivial truth. So shouldn't they extend to Swinburne the same courtesy of allowing him to argue in the language and terminology idiosyncratic to him -- that, he wasn't using "disability" in the common sense of a deaf person suffering a hearing disability -- and that a homosexual is disabled in a qualitatively equivalent sense -- but a technical sense specific to Swinburne's philosophy? Nope, instead Rea and his apologists decided to stop being philosophers and go all social justice warrior on his ass.

Hence, the rest of us Christians, with at least a bit of a background in philosophy, are outraged at this ordeal for both Christian AND philosophical reasons. Neither Christianity or true philosophy are compatible with "social justice" ideology.

Irenist said...

Worse than reactions than Rea's have now polluted the public square:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/swinburne-jason-stanley-homosexuality/

Shorter Prof. Stanley: disapproval of homosexual acts is a sickness that makes you personally responsible for Nazi treatment of LGBT people. A world where Yale hires Stanley instead of, say, Feser, is a very decadent one indeed.

Crude said...

Irenist,

If Stanley wants to play that game, then I'll reply that blood's on his hands when it comes to the deaths of any Christians in the world owing to anti-Christian rhetoric, the likes of which he reproduces.

I think, unfortunately, Rod Dreher underestimates the problem. He frames it as the SCP allowing itself to be bullied. We should be so lucky; bullied people may find a spine. This is a case of, with some SCP members, aiding and abetting attacks on Christians for defending (in a philosophical context no less) attacks on Christians. If they can't stand and defend orthodox belief and argument now, then they're as Christian as a partial-birth abortion.

jmhenry said...

Crude: There are deaf people who likewise think that being deaf isn't a disability.

Not only that, but there are perfectly able-bodied people who actually seek to become disabled. It's called "transability":

"The person could want to become deaf, blind, amputee, paraplegic. It’s a really, really strong desire."

Kirk Durston said...

Disclaimer: I am a Christian philosopher who publishes in the area of the problem of evil, though I am not a member of the SCP.

Philosophy should pursue truth, even if truth is difficult to accept or at odds with the pop thinking of any society. Central to that pursuit ought to be reasoned arguments rather than knee-jerk parroting of whatever society currently deems to be the official correct thinking. Dr. Swinburne appears to have presented an argument, precisely what we should expect of philosophers. Whether the argument is compelling or not depends upon its validity, as well as how confident we are that the premises are true (and that confidence may well fall into a spectrum described by a probability of 0 to 1). Philosophers ought to, and must have, the freedom to present an argument for ANYTHING at all. We must not censor reasoned arguments, even if we believe they fail on the basis of a particular premise.

If civilization muzzles the arguments, any argument at all, of philosophers, then it is no longer interested in the pursuit of all truth.

A couple side comments:

a) it is observationally false that of the set of all humanity, the number of members contained in the subset of those with disabilities, is zero.
b) it does not logically follow that if a person has a disability, then they are sub-human, or cannot be included
c)given my knowledge of genetics, it could be argued that all humans currently alive have at least one disability on the spectrum from benign to lethal.
d) we think nothing of acknowledging those who have physical disabilities (consider the Special Olympics for example) and we are entirely happy to include them in whatever group they care to be part of. Why then, if as Swinburne argues, homosexuality is a sexual disability, do LGBTQ individuals insist on special treatment over any other person who has, say, a physical disability in that they demand it not be called a disability? It would seem that whether or not it is a disability stands or falls on the arguments pro and con, not on demands for political correctness.

In my view, Michael Rea needs to do two things:

a) if he does not like the conclusion of Swinburne's argument, then the correct response is to present a counter-argument or defeat one of Swinburne's premises, not abandon critical thinking in favour of the current pop 'thinking' (or lack therefore)
b) given Rea's disappointing lack of philosophical thinking in favour of knee jerk pledges to politically-correct 'inclusiveness', he owe's Swinburne an apology.

Anonymous said...

Br!an Le!ter's take (from his website):

"...Swinburne offered the usual awful arguments for anti-gay bigotry that 'natural law' theorists and Christian philosophers usually trot out. No one outside the sect takes the arguments seriously, because they aren't serious arguments, but put that to one side. ...Professor Swinburne's views really are a philosophical embarrassment,..."

Surely this must be the solution to some kind of argumentative fallacy packing problem.

David B Marshall said...

"We apologize that there are, in this fallen -- I mean imperfectly evolved -- world, dark minds on whom the full glory of the Enlightenment has yet to shine, as it has upon our own. We apologize that one of them managed to rudely sneak into a philosophy conference, after being invited by us, and state (his / her / otherized pronoun) views, which (he /she / otherized pronoun) has been publishing for years. If anyone has been hurt by the realization that not all the world has yet embraced the full glory of gender truth we declared orthodox five minutes ago, in defiance of human tradition and biology, we will be happy to conduct a ritual sacrifice of the eminent career of a great philosopher, to propitiate the gods we created out of the dust of the earth five minutes ago."

Bob Sacamano said...

Haha, very good David!

In the grand scheme of history, it really is almost like 5 minutes ago that such views have become dogma. But I suppose as moderns it's easy to think our morality improves right alongside our technology.

Crude said...

By the way, is there an alternative to the SCP? For Christians with a faith at least resembling the traditional one.

Daniel said...

Might anyone oblige the absent and tell us what Swinburne's new non-NL objection to homosexual activities happens to be?

A number of that individual's views could be taken as monumentally offensive, not least his persistent refusal to admit God as a necessary being. Quite frankly the fact that own of his philosophical ideas attracts such attention only because it touches on the gay issue is a damning indictment of both atheists and Christians.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Dianelos,

If the argument is that homosexuality is not in fact disordered (and/or immoral) - that it is no different to old married couples, etc. - then it seems just a red herring to be fighting over the use of the term disabled. Instead the focus should be on the substance of whether homosexual acts are immoral and whether the attraction to one's own sex is disordered.

Otherwise, I don't really see the point. Yes, you can argue that disabled doesn't quite mean disordered - that it refers to a disorder where the negative effects are recognised and the sufferer wishes therefore to have the disorder cured. But I don't see why one would be offended at equating disorder with this definition of disability, unless the real problem is the whole suggestion of there being something disordered about homosexuality and immoral about homosexual acts.

Really, the problem is that Swinburne dared to call homosexuality disordered and homosexual acts immoral, and he didn't even do so in simpering, half-apologetic terms.

jmhenry said...

"...Swinburne offered the usual awful arguments for anti-gay bigotry that 'natural law' theorists and Christian philosophers usually trot out. No one outside the sect takes the arguments seriously, because they aren't serious arguments, but put that to one side. ...Professor Swinburne's views really are a philosophical embarrassment,..." -- Brian Leiter [emphasis mine]

Even if that were true, are Swinburne's views any more embarrassing than other views that are routinely taught in university philosophy departments across the United States and around the world? We've already noted Peter Singer and his advocacy for the killing of disabled infants. But let's take a supposedly less controversial example: Judith Jarvis Thomson's "A Defense of Abortion" has been required reading for pretty much every philosophy undergraduate for decades. And yet it puts forward the embarrassing view that disconnecting oneself from a violinist to whom one has become unwittingly attached is somehow morally comparable to the abortion procedure, in which the unborn human is not merely "disconnected from" but is actively killed by being cut up and dismembered.

Thomson's paper has many more problems than that, which have been detailed over the years. Indeed, I would say that the paper is a "philosophical embarrassment." And yet every philosophy undergraduate is required to read it, as a way of "getting us thinking." (But heaven forbid an undergrad be required to read, say, Sidney Callahan's "Abortion and the Sexual Agenda," at least with the same frequency as Thomson's paper.) If Swinburne's views are "embarrassing," then they would just be one among many other embarrassing (and far more monstrous) views that are commonly taught in philosophy departments every day.

Crude said...

It's less that Swimburne's views are embarrassing anyway. It's more that they're terrifying because they have some (or a lot of) merit. Let that kind of thinking get a foothold again and we may be in for another millenia of relative sense on the topics of sex, relationships and society.

Anonymous said...

One conclusion we may safely draw from all of this: Professor Swinburne almost certainly possesses--in his eighties, no less--higher testosterone levels than several of his much younger counterparts.

He's an alpha, ladies and gentlemen. (His critics are pathetic betas.)

Anonymous said...

@ Crude:

Hear, hear.

By the way, I'm surprised that What's Wrong With the World hasn't covered this story yet. Since it represents a somewhat serious row within Christian philosophical circles, it seems odd to me that Lydia hasn't offered her two cents. Perhaps she will in time.

Jersey McJones said...

I have heard the opinion that religiosity is a form or symptom of mental disorder or disability.

JMJ

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'd like to make a few clarifications about my argument.

1. Charity is an important Christian virtue. So if a Christian philosopher can make her point equally well causing less pain to others then this is clearly what she should do. So, for example, if in an argument about race the philosopher can make her point equally well without using the word “niger” (which as a matter of fact hurts some people) then she should do so.

2. Clarity is an important philosophical virtue. So if a philosopher can make her point equally well without using a word in a way that contradicts its normal usage then this is clearly what she should do. In my judgment the fact that in general homosexuals *enjoy* being homosexuals and don't wish to change is significant and implies that the use of the word disability to describe their condition is improper. The lack of some ability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition in the proper use of the concept. That's why I mentioned the examples about lefthandedness or about the inclination of many people to form religious beliefs where I think its improper to speak of disability.

Now the discussion about the improper choice of words concerns the value of clarity and is independent of the issue of charity above. According to my argument about clarity it is irrelevant that a few deaf people dislike it when deafness is called a disability, since it is not the case that in general deaf people enjoy being deaf and don't wish to acquire the faculty of hearing.

3. Charity and clarity sometimes conflict. In the context of our current discussion some Christian philosophers believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, and in Christianity the concept of sin has a clear and important meaning. It is also true that arguing that homosexual behavior is a sin will cause pain to many Christian homosexuals. In my judgment the Christian philosopher's primary duty is with the truth and indeed with the salvation of her homosexual neighbor to the best of her understanding. Even so the Christian philosopher may try to be charitable too, for example by adding something about the seriousness of that particular sin. I am not entirely certain but I understand overeating is considered by the Catholic church to be as great if not a greater sin than homosexual behavior, correct? Especially given the fact that gluttony contrary to homosexuality does not in general seem to have biological roots, and thus the temptation is much weaker. (Also, come to think of it, does it make any sense to claim that gluttony is a disability, since it represents a lack or failure in a fundamental human faculty which is that of proper nourishment?)

What about the everyday non-philosophical context? As usual there don't seem to be any clear ethical rules but it seems to me that in everyday life when charity and clarity conflict then in general charity should be given preference. It is sometimes sinful pride or sinful lack of love that move us to insist on speaking the truth even in the face of the pain caused. Fixating on the sins of others (which, given that homosexuality is rare, most people who think homosexual behavior is sinful can comfortably do) is also a case of the sin of hypocrisy, a particularly ugly version of the sin of pride and one that according to the Gospels especially bothered Christ.

Brandon said...

Danielos,

I thought I understood your position until you made your clarifications; none of these points seems to be very plausible. Christian charity is not about causing less pain except insofar as this is consistent with supporting real good; clarity is not a philosophical virtue at all but a rhetorical effect that depends on one's audience; the normal usage of 'disability' does not appear to depend on any assessment of whether people enjoy their disability or not; your claims about the Deaf are certainly wrong, since the Deaf are in very great numbers happy about being Deaf, often actively hope that their children will be Deaf as well (because if they aren't, it reduces their chance of participating in their communities), and tend to shun and shame those in the community who try to get cured; Christian charity is not something separable or able to be opposed to a Christian's duty toward the truth and for the salvation of others, because it is what constitutes both; gluttony is a sin of excess corresponding to lust, not homosexuality, but if we make the analogy closer, an appetite not merely excessive but intrinsically disordered -- for instance, gluttonous appetite for eating mud -- would indeed be considered a disability by many people; and hypocrisy is a refusal to repent of one's own sin, which indeed may happen under the cover of fixating on the sins of others, but may equally well happen under the cover of being nice to them -- as the normal usage of the word 'hypocrisy' implies.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Danielos,

Even if what you say is true, you seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill. The use of disability instead of disordered hardly seems to make a huge difference, as far as I can see. I just can't see why the nuance in meaning between wishing to be cured and not is especially important when it comes to charity. The claimed offence seems to have been caused, really, by Swinburne arguing that homosexual acts are wrong and that homosexual orientation is disordered. The only role the term disability seems to have played is that, having a more concrete and everyday meaning for many than disordered, it brought home Swinburne's point.

I would add that I don't think charity need mean that the Christian must be more or less apologetic in putting forward controversial views on these issues, especially when they are the universal teaching of the divines of the traditional Church - Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Too often this seems to be what is meant by calls for charity (for example, I cannot understand how else the response of those like Stump or Rea himself can be read); or, worse, the abandonment of truth entirely is being advocated under the cover of charity. Obviously, in almost all cases it is not a matter of going up to individuals and accusing them of being sinners. But there are times when the nature of sin and the morality of particular acts must be openly discussed. Christ calls us not to judge, but it would be the height of absurdity to interpret this as referring to judging moral acts in the abstraction, rather than individuals.

By the way, I find your definition of disability dubious. There are those with disabilities, such as severe intellectual disabilities, who are not even aware they are disabled. So, I don't think wanting to be cured is a necessarily part of being disabled.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- that should be I can't understand how their responses can be read any other way.

Fred said...

Funny,I've heard the same thing about internet trolling.

Crude said...

Dianelos,

So if a Christian philosopher can make her point equally well causing less pain to others then this is clearly what she should do.

No, it's not. Not when 'causing less pain' - in this case, the pain of being criticized - mandates obfuscating the point, confusing others, or even giving the impression that airing the opinion at all is wrong on the grounds that someone may be distressed at hearing it.

Rea nowhere said 'We welcome arguments like Swinburne's, but we just want him to make them more respectfully.' It's noteworthy that Swinburne's critics aren't asking for that either. What's being demanded is the elimination of the arguments, period.

That causes pain as well. Will Rea now apologize to the Christians who feel as if, once again, they're being silenced and attacked by the leaders of yet another Christian organization?

In my judgment the fact that in general homosexuals *enjoy* being homosexuals and don't wish to change is significant and implies that the use of the word disability to describe their condition is improper. The lack of some ability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition in the proper use of the concept.

Many alcoholics also enjoy being alcoholics. Heroin use, I hear, is actually pretty great in some ways - it's lacking heroin which really sucks. The morbidly obese tend to love eating.

Since when is 'regards their disability as a disability' a necessary condition to call a disability exactly that?

I am not entirely certain but I understand overeating is considered by the Catholic church to be as great if not a greater sin than homosexual behavior, correct? Especially given the fact that gluttony contrary to homosexuality does not in general seem to have biological roots, and thus the temptation is much weaker.

No, it's not. Overeating/gluttony is the excessive use of a proper end, not the utter abuse of that end. Further, as with many things, overeating supposedly has some genetic basis, and the genetic basis of homosexuality is questioned.

Fixating on the sins of others (which, given that homosexuality is rare, most people who think homosexual behavior is sinful can comfortably do)

Most people who think homosexual behavior is sinful are harassed in the media, in the culture at large, legally and professionally. The amount of 'pain' caused by that, bolstered by the actions of men like Rea, is substantial. The relative rareness has nothing to do with it; it's like suggesting that communist party leaders, being relatively rare, were safe to criticize during Soviet times. Not quite.

The supposed 'fixation' is a function of this particular sin being a warzone. It's ironic that you purport to lecture on the sin of pride, when discussing a group whose political and cultural scene centers heavily around pride, to the point of having 'pride parades'. In fact, a good share of this confrontation is over concerns about pride, and the fact that allowing criticism like Swinburne's will impact that pride.

I suggest that hypocrisy is on display here, but not in the way you think.

Anonymous said...

Right on. What is now needed is an invitation for another Christian philosopher to provide a critique of homosexuality, etc. to prevent an academic chill from setting in.

Daniel said...

Not even a hundred posts in and the thread has already descended to crude satire (which I expected) and an impromptu appraisal of Swinburne's 1336 pick-up artist skills (which I don't think anyone expected).

If a tenth of the attention wasted on gays, guns and gnostic government was actually spent dealings with proper Philosophy of Religion problems like PSR formulation and the MPOE Atheism would be dead and buried decades ago.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

Greg said...

@ Daniel

If a tenth of the attention wasted on gays, guns and gnostic government was actually spent dealings with proper Philosophy of Religion problems like PSR formulation and the MPOE Atheism would be dead and buried decades ago.

I don't have statistics on this, but my sense is that far more attention is given by theistic philosophers to problems in the philosophy of religion than to sexual ethics. In Swinburne's career, that is absolutely true. To people who have heard of him but are not really familiar with him (like me), it was news to hear that he had already argued against homosexuality in one of his books, but of course he has several books, for which he is best known, on natural theology.

Feser's natural theology and metaphysics are more developed than his ethics. Ethics gets a chapter in Aquinas and in The Last Superstition, and he has written a few papers on it. The first book focusing on moral theology will be the one on capital punishment, which'll be followed by books on philosophy of nature and the existence and nature of God.

Besides the new natural lawyers and J. Budziszewski, I can't really think of any major theistic philosophers who devote more time to debating sexual ethics than to philosophy of religion.

And my sense is that natural law is much more up-in-the-air than natural theology.

Anonymous said...

Daniel:

Ah, the classic "Why can't we all just get along and ignore these touchy culture war issues" approach. I call it the 'John Kasich approach.' As the latter put it when asked about the new fad of allowing males and females to enter opposite sex bathrooms based on their gender 'feelz': "Can't we figure out just how to get along a little bit better and respect one another? I mean that's where I think we ought to be. Everybody chill out. Get over it if you have a disagreement with somebody. So that's where I am right now...and unless something pops up, I'm not inclined to sign anything."

Yeah, that's the ticket. Cave and cower to any and all of the nonsensical demands of the secular left by acting like you're simply too busy defending the PSR to be concerned about the socio-cultural shipwreck and demolition of morality happening all around you.

Crude said...

Anon,

I'm reminded of a time a Christian blogger started to lecture Christians who didn't want to take part in same-sex weddings, saying that 'they're getting upset over PASTRIES' and 'just bake the stupid pastries.'

I suggested that if they were 'just pastries', then LGBT activists - especially LGBT Christians - should get over the pastries, and get their pastries somewhere else.

That was the moment where 'just pastries' stopped being a frivolity. In fact, those pastries were a bulwark against the rise of a new and more terrifying Third Reich, which got a step closer to firing up the gas chambers with every pastry that went unserved.

In this situation, Rea chose to call attention to what was just one part of a larger talk by Swinburne. Lecture him about having blown this up. But strangely, the cry that these topics aren't important to merit discussion are directed squarely at one portion of the audience.

Tim Lambert said...

When I see Jersey McJones cowardly hit and run comment strategy over here it really makes his "putting forth an effort" approach at Briggs blog that much more entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Crude,

Good points, esp. this one: "But strangely, the cry that these topics aren't important to merit discussion are directed squarely at one portion of the audience."

It's similar to the classic: "Why are you so obsessed with what gay people do privately?" line, together with the insinuation that the person who dared to challenge the implementation of LGBT agenda item #358,304 is himself/herself a closeted homosexual.

No one ever thinks to ask: "Why are you in a state of perpetual fury and agony that not every single person in existence wants to cooperate with, loudly affirm, and celebrate your lifestyle? I thought you just wanted people to bug out of your private life."

Tim,

Out of curiosity, I clicked on Jersey McJones' name. On one of his blogs he features--you guessed it--a giant rainbow-colored heart. Interesting, let's take stock: he professes universal love (e.g., #loveislove, #love wins, etc.) and yet spends his free time seething with rage, spamming Christian blogs, mocking religion, etc. Yeah, sounds about right.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I think Daniel's point should be taken at face value. He really is just talking about the time spent on issues like this compared to matters of philosophy of religion and natural theology. I can understand where he is coming from, even if I don't quite agree.

Daniel said...

Who has implied Swinburne himself to be a homosexual? I seem to have missed that part.

"But strangely, the cry that these topics aren't important to merit discussion are directed squarely at one portion of the audience.

I repeat my earlier request: can someone please enlighten us as to what Swinburne's new non-NL objection to homosexual praxis is?

@Anon,

What's a John Kasich when it's at home?

Re your main contention, I do indeed hold questions as to whether there is any objective meaning to existence which might prohibit one arbitrarily cutting others to bloody ribbons in arbitrary sadistic pleasure to be of more pressing existential concern to humanity (homosexuals included) than U.S. politicking.

That people are keener to talk about bathroom preferences than the PSR precisely encapsulates said socio-cultural and moral shipwreck.

@Greg,

Probably true with regards to philosophers of religion but not with theists or even theist intellectuals as a whole. The latter, who form a sizeable percentage of the conservative media class, are often keen to give crude an inaccurate paraphrases of the perverted faculty argument (if just condescended into the phrase 'against nature'). When the great, media controversy about transexual bathroom preferences kicked off said intellectuals spent a hundred+ times the number of words on that topic than they did on important philosophical developments pertaining to theism e.g. Maydole's Perfection Argument or the ongoing progress of sceptical theism.

(Did any major newspaper respond to Plantinga's work with multiple headlines along the lines of 'LOGICAL PROBLEM OF EVIL SOLVED?'? It would both amuse and delight me if they did)

As to NL being more up in the air than Natural Theology, are you sure? From what I've seen most Philosophers of Religion, when they do actually going into background ethical principles, tend to either opt for it or some kind of Divine Command theory (although that's an unfortunate term).


DNW said...

Crude said...
Anon,

I'm reminded of a time a Christian blogger started to lecture Christians who didn't want to take part in same-sex weddings, saying that 'they're getting upset over PASTRIES' and 'just bake the stupid pastries.'

I suggested that if they were 'just pastries', then LGBT activists - especially LGBT Christians - should get over the pastries, and get their pastries somewhere else.

That was the moment where 'just pastries' stopped being a frivolity. In fact, those pastries were a bulwark against the rise of a new and more terrifying Third Reich, which got a step closer to firing up the gas chambers with every pastry that went unserved.

In this situation, Rea chose to call attention to what was just one part of a larger talk by Swinburne. Lecture him about having blown this up. But strangely, the cry that these topics aren't important to merit discussion are directed squarely at one portion of the audience.

September 29, 2016 at 12:17 PM"



It's strange how the dynamic described always directs to the same logically absurd result whether it is the particular one you speak of, or one more explicitly based on some version of the: deny natural kinds denial and then appeal to them , quickstep routine.

So if we accept the predicate assumptions of the secular sodomite, and grant that they are another kind with different appetites and different life aims and interests; or, that there are no real natural kinds with deducible moralities, and then apply a libertarian shrug and say that we will grant everyone the right to form the mutual benefit associations they find most congenial, and the devil take the hindmost, then what is the problem?

There should not be one. Different kinds, different life interests and aims - and everybody's happy, right? Wrong, apparently.

No, because somehow, once again, the negation of the sense of the mooted class term and the moral implications that went along with it, still leaves mirable dictu! the now nonexistent class with a real residual membership; identical to the previous moral class: i.e., the taxonomic class of all genetically homo sapiens sapiens, but not entailing the same morals nor applying distributively.

So, "How does this miracle argument work, exactly?" we beg to know ... and have for years. But no answer that makes any logical sense is ever forthcoming.

Whether you view it in supernaturalist, or purely materialist terms, can it be anything than a scam worked by one self-interested party, against the interests of another in the name of a common humanity which they deny is objectively real?

The bugger is either fundamentally unlike and "other" per definition, or disordered.

In a world sans the Christian God, there is nothing to make "gay" anything respectable to a man who is not. You might as well talk about respecting and socially accommodating the "inner call" someone who wants to eat gravel or jam sticks into their ear canals.

And in a world where the Christian God (or class Logic) sets the standard, the importuning of the gravel eaters is not only a nuisance and a wasted focus for the non gravel eater, but an example of an objective disorder as well.

Gravel eaters cannot logically have it both ways though they certainly make every attempt to do so.

DNW said...

Trying to quick edit so as to get out of the office ...

Read:

"deny natural kinds denial and then appeal to them ..."

as,

"deny natural kinds and then appeal to them ..."

Greg said...

@ Daniel

Probably true with regards to philosophers of religion but not with theists or even theist intellectuals as a whole.

But do we really expect theists (even theist intellectuals who don't specialize in philosophy) to make significant progress on formulating the PSR or solving the modal problem of evil? It's probably true that First Things dwells more on sexuality and its relation to the public square than on the argument from contingency. But is that really what makes the difference between atheism as it is and atheism "dead and buried for decades"?

And in any case, Swinburne is a philosopher. Maybe it is true that conservatives should disseminate their natural-theological arguments a bit more; that is a project Feser has been part of for a decade or so now. But as far as the philosophical division of labor goes, there remains a lot of work to be done on the topic of sexual ethics, I think, while there is a lot of working being done on natural theology. As far as philosophical progress on reformulating PSR etc. goes, that is where progress is going to be made. (I think we can be pretty confident too that, if atheism is ever dead and gone, it won't be by dint of philosophical argument.)

The latter, who form a sizeable percentage of the conservative media class, are often keen to give crude an inaccurate paraphrases of the perverted faculty argument (if just condescended into the phrase 'against nature').

...

As to NL being more up in the air than Natural Theology, are you sure? From what I've seen most Philosophers of Religion, when they do actually going into background ethical principles, tend to either opt for it or some kind of Divine Command theory (although that's an unfortunate term).


Well, what I mean is not the extent to which natural law is (notionally) accepted. I mean the extent to which it is understood, by philosophers as well as laymen. For people in the "conservative media class", saying that something is "against nature" is a way of insisting that it depends on human nature, is thus permanent, and cannot be overridden by force of autonomy. The nature of that dependence, though, requires substantial philosophical clarification.

(I also think, from a theoretical standpoint, that there are tons of unresolved issues in casuistry. I suppose a large amount of natural lawyers are more confident than I am and would disagree with me on this, but having spent a lot of time on these questions I haven't been able to resolve them to my satisfaction, and I believe they require more philosophical work.)

Jeremy Taylor said...

I would add that there is perhaps too much time given to sexual ethics relative to other ethical issues, even important ones that frequently play out in modern society. For example, how much time is given to discussing gluttony or pride or materialism (in the popular sense)? Our society spends billions of pounds on stimulating desire for the acquisition of the latest consumer goods, but the moral issues involved get nothing like the attention from Christians.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I'm not making the usual liberal point about obsession with this issue. I understand why sexual ethics are important, and I think there are real reasons why homosexual is a flashpoint for discussion and debate over them. Indeed, I think it is social liberals who are at least as much to blame for making homosexuality such flashpoint. I just think a little more time could be given to some other pressing moral issues in our society that don't get enough discussion.

jmhenry said...

Reading the emotionally irrational and appallingly adolescent comments on Facebook from professional philosophers (see here and here) -- again, professional philosophers -- is a truly bewildering and dizzying experience. They're worried about those in positions of power advancing views that they believe oppress the weak and vulnerable. That's fine. But, again, there are other (far more monstrous) views that are advanced in academia every day that threaten the weak and vulnerable, but which are treated by many of these same critics of Swinburne with deference and respect.

Take, for example, Steven "The Stupidity of Dignity" Pinker. There's no greater threat to the weak and vulnerable than a view like that, and yet I don't think the New Republic issued any expression of "regret" over the "hurt" that his infamous article caused -- even though Pinker's argument risks undermining not just the intrinsic value of gay persons, but of all human beings. But it is Swinburne who is subjected to such adolescent vitriol, while many of these same critics consider Pinker to be a "respected scholar."

Jeremy Taylor said...

Greg,

I do have a suspicion that little progress will be made on issues like homosexuality without some kind of religious revival. At least in Britain and Australia, I can't imagine that, without a Christian revival (or some major demographic shift, like the rise of a substantial Islamic minority that some fear), there will be any progress towards rolling back same-sex marriage or more concern with traditional sexual morality. In this sense, I think that more time spend on apologetics and evangelism, and natural theology so far as it supports them, would better advance the natural law view of sexual ethics than just trying to propound that view (although I'm sceptical about how much of a Christian revival there can be without great social and cultural changes). Perhaps the situation is different in the US though.

Greg said...

@ Jeremy

I agree that there are a lot of issues that need more care. In general, natural lawyers focus almost exclusively on arguing against behaviors that are malum in se. Most of the energy, in my estimation, is devoted to ethics of killing and truth telling and, in some authors, sex.

I have in mind a couple reasons for this. A typical philosopher's vice is to deal mostly with what can be argued "in principle" and to disregard as "empirical" everything else. I frequently do this, as well. It's not necessarily wrong, but it can be a way of hedging one's bets against certain forms of objection. I suppose the strategy is particularly prominent in analytic philosophy, perhaps owing to Kant.

Another corresponding reason for this may be a certain interpretation of the principle of double effect. That interpretation would have it that it is pretty "safe" to argue against actions that are evil in object or in end. When they are not, though, it comes down to "proportionality", and where proportionality is concerned, there is no hard and fast answers--either because there will always be a range of "reasonable views," or else proportionality is conceived in a utilitarian way and thus the matter is empirically contingent. (And if it's empirically contingent, then it's a matter of estimation. The prudent person may be able to recognize what is right in such cases, but utilitarianism is practically unworkable, and no one can really do "calculations" here.) To see this understanding of the principle of double effect at work you just need to watch Catholics discuss voting for the lesser of two evils.

My sense is that this approach to double effect is wrong simpliciter and qua interpretation of Aquinas. "Proportionality," even in Aquinas's treatment of self-defense, is not a utilitarian criterion "balancing" net goods and evils. It is a matter of the aptness of circumstances for the performance of actions, and I think Aquinas probably has a "pluralist" approach here (whereas the homogenous "balancing" conception would really eliminate every moral virtue, since someone who has prudence will balance goods and evils well).

Anscombe and Geach are two authors who, I think, resolutely managed to avoid turning double effect into utilitarianism with side contraints, and as a result they have great insight into non-culture war topics (see Anscombe's "On Attachment to Things and Obedience to God" or her writings on simony; see Geach's The Virtues). (Of course Anscombe has also left us excellent and difficult writings on sexual ethics and killing as well.) But few are so careful.

Greg said...

@ Jeremy

When I say natural law theory needs more attention and work, I don't necessarily mean that more natural law arguments have to be made in the public square at this point. I just mean that, in the academic-philosophical division of labor, there is proportionately not a lot of work done on sexual ethics, and there are questions that remain to be resolved.

What to do with one's academic arguments once one has them is a separate question. I can't just submit arguments for God's existence to the New York Times or, for that matter, First Things; if I did, I wouldn't be changing anyone's mind. I don't think philosophical arguments of any form are directly effective in converting anyone; philosophy is notoriously unpersuasive. There can be cases where people are struck by their prior ignorance, or where people become aware of poor cognitive habits that they've been working, and those are occasions of receptivity. But people are generally not that open to considering carefully philosophical arguments, whether or not those are sound. God has to lead them to that point, and conversion requires grace. It's often patient personal encounters and the examples of other Christians through which God can work on people.

So I entirely endorse the view that the West's sexual trajectory is set for the time being, and I think any progress that comes in the future would have to follow some substantial change. I just think that having theory in hand will be important when that time comes, and natural theology is fairly well developed, whereas natural law remains underdeveloped.

laubadetriste said...

@Greg: "I don't think philosophical arguments of any form are directly effective in converting anyone; philosophy is notoriously unpersuasive."

Is that so? I admit I've heard it said. I can only reply that in my own experience, and in that of some people close to me, there are few things more persuasive.

(Ah, but "The plural of anecdote is not evidence," and also, many things are not heard by those without ears to hear.)

"But people are generally not that open to considering carefully philosophical arguments, whether or not those are sound. God has to lead them to that point, and conversion requires grace."

Who can say whether it is not God at work where He is not evident? Not me, anyway. But I would take this rather as counsel to provide more and better philosophical arguments.

Is it not true that at many great moments of history, the work of changing the world, for good or for ill, was done with seeming *philosophical arguments*? Picture Lenin or Pol Pot in Parisian cafes, or (if you prefer) Augustine reading *Hortensius*, or--well, readers of this blog will be able to multiply examples.

"Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."--Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, ch. 24

--or of some unacknowledged legislator or philosopher or (like Quixote and Arabella), of some romance...

It seems that when "people are generally not that open to considering carefully philosophical arguments," upon asking what they *are* open to, one finds that they are open to *careless* philosophical arguments; and from this to the better kind, there is no step greater than that from loving bad music to loving good music, or from practicing vice to practicing virtue--the point being, not that the difference is little, but rather that when we consider ourselves, the very last thing we ought to do is to abandon speaking of *the love of wisdom*...

(I do not say that "patient personal encounters and the examples of other Christians" are not requisite as well.)

"I can't just submit arguments for God's existence to the New York Times or, for that matter, First Things; if I did, I wouldn't be changing anyone's mind."

I reply that, for example, I was much persuaded by Thomas Nagel's brief piece in the NYT, and David Z. Albert's review there of Krauss, and David Bentley Hart's FT satire on Dennett, and--well, readers of this blog can multiply examples. :)

laubadetriste said...

Followup to the above, on the power, and powerlessness, of philosophy: 'Gabriel Gale, poet, artist and detective, is accused of a terrible crime. It seems that on a wild and stormy night Gale had thrown a rope around the neck of a young man who was preparing for the Anglican ministry. After dragging the poor fellow into a wood, Gale pinned him for the night against a tree by forcing two prongs of a large pitchfork into the trunk on either side of the man's neck. After Gale is arrested for attempted murder, he suggests to the police that they obtain the opinion of his victim.

The surprising reply comes by telegraph: "Can never be sufficiently grateful to Gale for his great kindness which more than saved my life."

It turns out that the young man had been going through the same insane phase that had tormented GK in his youth. He was on the verge of believing that his phaneron did not depend on anything that was not entirely inside his head. Gabriel Gale, always sensitive to the psychoses of others (having felt most of them himself), had realized that the man's mind was near the snapping point. Gale's remedy was radical. By pinning the man to the tree he had convinced him, not by logic (no one is ever convinced by logic of anything important), but by an overpowering experience. He found himself firmly bound to something that his mind could in no way modify.

"We are all tied to trees and pinned with pitchforks," Gale tells the half-comprehending police. "And as long as these are solid we know the stars will stand and the hills will not melt at our word. Can't you imagine the huge tide of healthy relief and thanks, like a hymn of praise from all nature, that went up from that captive nailed to the tree, when he had wrestled till the dawn and received at last the great and glorious news; the news that he was only a man?"

The story ends when the man, now a curate, remarks casually to an atheist, "God wants you to play the game."

"How do you know what God wants?" asks the atheist. "You never were God were you?"

"Yes," says the clergyman in a queer voice. "I was God once for about fourteen hours. But I gave it up. I found it was too much of a strain."'--Martin Gardner, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, ch. 1: "Why I Am Not A Solipsist"

(Note that the author assumes that "logic" is *not* an "overpowering experience".)

GoldRush Apple said...

Excuse my ignorance but it seems that many who come to the defense of the LGBT, as a victim group, tend to paint them as a strange mix of a kid just minding his own business eating a PB&J sandwich on the baseball bleacher at a local park with the tragedy of the Holocaust. I get the feeling the extent of marginalization is grossly exaggerated, at least here in America. Out of all the victim groups cherished by The Left LGBT seems to rather lightweight in legit grievances. Add in my opinion that they're the most obnoxious and insidious when compared to women's "rights", BLM, and Muslims. Not even the illegal Hispanics complain as much (probably because most of them don't speak English).

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Brandon

“Christian charity is not about causing less pain except insofar as this is consistent with supporting real good”

Exactly my point. I wrote “if a Christian philosopher can make her point equally well causing less pain to others then this is clearly what she should do”.

“clarity is not a philosophical virtue at all but a rhetorical effect that depends on one's audience”

Surely all things considered a good philosopher is one who is understood by others, in which case clarity is a virtue. And it goes without saying that a good philosopher thinks clearly.

“the normal usage of 'disability' does not appear to depend on any assessment of whether people enjoy their disability or not”

Let me formalize my argument as follows: “If (1) in common use concept C implies property P, and (2) in some context X property P does not obtain, then the use of the concept C while discussing X can be confusing and should be avoided.” I think this makes sense. And, as I argued, “confusing” here applies not only to a third party who reads the philosopher's argument but also to the philosopher herself since it can introduce an unnoticed assumption into her thinking.

Now the application in our case is this: In common use the concept of disability implies a condition that is normally not enjoyed by those who have it and who would gladly escape it if possible. Homosexuals normally enjoy being homosexuals and do not wish to escape their condition. Therefore to use the concept of disability while discussing homosexuality can be confusing and should be avoided.

The improper use of concepts is in my judgment a major cause of confusion in philosophical discourse. One that sometimes reaches the level of self-deception as in the case of “compatibilist free will” which is equivalent to saying “unfree free will”. There are many other less discussed serious cases. Take for example the proposition “according to general relativity time can accelerate or slow down”. This is a completely confusing way to speak about time since time in all systems of reference always flows exactly the same; what changes is not how time flows but how one observes one's surrounding. To mention an analogy, when one watches a video at a slow speed it is not the case that time has slowed down. I say sloppy use of words leads to sloppy thinking and ultimately to error.

“your claims about the Deaf are certainly wrong, since the Deaf are in very great numbers happy about being Deaf, often actively hope that their children will be Deaf as well (because if they aren't, it reduces their chance of participating in their communities), and tend to shun and shame those in the community who try to get cured”

I don't know what you mean by “very great numbers”. What counts here is the proportion of deaf people who feel happy about being deaf and would choose not to acquire the capacity to hearing if given the opportunity. Do you have any source that shows that the majority or even a significant proportion of deaf people is like that?

“Christian charity is not something separable or able to be opposed to a Christian's duty toward the truth and for the salvation of others, because it is what constitutes both”

Ethics is never so simple. There is the story of Rahab in the Bible. There is the case of people lying to the Nazis about the Jews they were hiding in their home, and surely we all agree they did the right thing (or don't we?). Doctors routinely lie to their patients about their prospects since it is known that optimism has a positive effect in the curative process. Actually a question to ponder is why Christ should have made the world in a way that ethics is often so opaque.

[continues bellow]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

“gluttony is a sin of excess corresponding to lust, not homosexuality, but if we make the analogy closer, an appetite not merely excessive but intrinsically disordered -- for instance, gluttonous appetite for eating mud -- would indeed be considered a disability by many people”

I am not talking about the rare medical cases of some eating disorder. I am talking about the fact that 33% of Americans today are obese, and I notice that in the Christian tradition gluttony is considered to be a cardinal sin. Compare this with perhaps 4% of the population who is homosexual. It would seem that from the point of Christian ethics obesity is the far greater problem. A question then to ponder is why homosexuality is so often discussed.

Incidentally, apart from rare cases obesity has no genetic basis as proven by the fact that in the last 50 years the prevalence of obesity in the US has doubled. As for homosexuality it has been proven that there are some genetic factors that predispose people to homosexuality, but environmental factors may also play a role, possibly the greater role.

“hypocrisy is a refusal to repent of one's own sin, which indeed may happen under the cover of fixating on the sins of others, but may equally well happen under the cover of being nice to them -- as the normal usage of the word 'hypocrisy' implies.”

Failing to repent is tautologically present in all cases of sinning, but is by itself not a sufficient condition for hypocrisy. For example I may refuse to try or I may fail to change my overeating habits without at all being hypocritical. As you say hypocrisy comes in when one covers up one's failure. Flattering others is hypocritical too, but this is irrelevant. I claimed that fixating on the failure of others is hypocritical, not that this is the only kind of hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

It is more like 1 or 2% that is homosexual or bisexual.

laubadetriste said...

@Anonymous September 29, 2016 at 11:10 PM: "It is more like 1 or 2% that is homosexual or bisexual."

This would seem to be already included in Dianelos' statement, "Compare this with *perhaps* 4% of the population who is homosexual." (emphasis mine)--his immediate point there being that there are many more gluttons than homosexuals. If homosexuals comprise some portion of the population less than homosexuals-plus-bisexuals, then gluttons are... wait for it...

...many more than homosexuals, or numerically a "far greater problem".

Anonymous said...

Perhaps 4% means probably about 4%, not 1% or 2%. Just making sure the numbers of homosexuals is not inflated.

Gyan said...

Dianelos Georgoudis,
The 33% people that are obese are not necessarily guilty of gluttony-there are very likely hormonal imbalances resulting from modern diet pattern-for instance greater consumption of refined polyunsaturated oils and sugar.
And the slim people are not necessarily free from the sin of gluttony. To fuss over-much over what one eats is also gluttony.

jmhenry said...

It would seem that from the point of Christian ethics obesity is the far greater problem. A question then to ponder is why homosexuality is so often discussed.

Sure, from the Christian point of view, we all have disordered desires of some kind, and thus we all have a "disability." It's called original sin. The difference is that, if a Christian were to give a talk about the disordered nature of gluttony, it wouldn't result in the president of the organization that invited the Christian speaker to give the talk expressing his "regret" for the "hurt" caused to obese people by the talk; nor would it result in the Christian speaker being instantly inundated with emotionally irrational and adolescent attacks from his fellow professional philosophers (again, see here and here); nor would it result in ordinary people who also believe in the disordered nature of gluttony being accused of being "bigoted" against obese people and threatening or destroying their livelihoods and reputations.

We might imagine such a world, in which gluttony has been elevated to the status of an "identity" and any expression of its disordered nature is labeled as "bigotry", "hate", and "intolerance." Perhaps it would be the same world that C.S. Lewis imagined in Mere Christianity, in which people fill a theater in order to watch a "strip show" of a mutton chop or a strip of bacon. As Lewis noted, in such world, something has gone deeply wrong with the appetite for food. If sexual libertinism has so corrupted the sexual appetite in our culture, such that any argument that homosexual desire is disordered is condemned as necessarily bigoted and hateful, and people who put forward such an argument have their livelihoods and reputations threatened, then it doesn't take much "pondering" to see why it might be discussed more.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Crude

“No, it's not.”

Gluttony is considered to be a cardinal sin. Are you saying that according to the teaching of the Catholic church homosexual behavior is considered to be an even more serious sin than the cardinal sins? If that's what you mean do you have any authoritative source for that? If on the other hand you consider that homosexual behavior is not a greater sin than gluttony, can you explain why there is so much more discussion about the sin of homosexuality? I am really curious – how does one explain the fixation of all the theistic religions with human sexual behavior? It seems to me that other great religions have a lighter attitude towards human sexuality.

“Many alcoholics also enjoy being alcoholics. Heroin use, I hear, is actually pretty great in some ways - it's lacking heroin which really sucks. The morbidly obese tend to love eating.”

Obviously, alcoholics enjoy alcohol, heroin addicts suffer when they don't get their fix, the obese (not only the “morbidly obese”) enjoy eating. But to my knowledge alcoholics don't enjoy being alcoholics, heroin addicts don't enjoy being addicts, the obese don't enjoy being obese. And all of them would gladly change if they could. The difference, I think, is significant.

“The amount of 'pain' caused by that, bolstered by the actions of men like Rea, is substantial.”

Rea expressed his regret for the pain that Swineburne's keynote has caused to some people. He did not express any regret for having Swineburne give that keynote, and on the contrary made explicitly clear that he values diversity and inclusion. Now, are you saying that by doing that Rea caused substantial pain to those who believe that homosexual behavior is a sin? If so I don't see how.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Anonymous at 11:49 PM

“It is more like 1 or 2% that is homosexual or bisexual.”

Right. I googled “homosexuality statistics” and found that in the US 2,2% of men identify themselves as gay, and 1,1% of women as lesbian. That makes about 1,7% of the population. Perhaps there are still many homosexuals who hide their orientation, but it's reasonable to believe that the true proportion is no more than 4%. So probably there are 10 times more obese people than homosexuals in the US. But there is probably 10 times less discussion about the cardinal sin of obesity. Why is that?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Gyan

“The 33% people that are obese are not necessarily guilty of gluttony-there are very likely hormonal imbalances resulting from modern diet pattern-for instance greater consumption of refined polyunsaturated oils and sugar.”

I suppose the doubling of the proportion of obese people in the US in the last 50 years has many explanations. One may be the change of the foods on offer, another may be greater wealth, a third one may be a failure of the Christian churches, and so on. But I don't see how these changes imply that gluttony is therefore less than a cardinal sin.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Dianelos,

Homosexual acts are certainly mortal sins and a species of lust. I agree that more time could be spent on other sins, but the verdict of the Christian tradition on homosexual acts is quite clear.

The reason so much time is spent on homosexuality is that, for a multitude of reasons, it is a flashpoint in the cultural, moral, and spiritual struggle taking place between moral traditionalists and social liberals. It is one of the areas where the different attitudes and assumptions come most forcefully into play. It is much the same reason that Rea felt the need to apologise specifically in this instance. It is at least as much social liberalism that is responsible for the flashpoint.

I believe that other religions, such as the Dharmic faiths, do not quite share the notion of sin with the Abrahamic faiths. There are subtle differences in how one should consider and atone for one's immoral actions. This difference goes beyond the issue of sexuality (where these faiths share the basic assumptions of the Abrahamic faiths - especially if one ignores puritanical extremes on the one hand, and antinomian ones on the other).

On Swinburne, surely the point was about him causing offence, rather than whether, philosophically, he chose the absolute best terms to express himself? I just don't see how someone who wasn't already mortally offended at the expression of the belief that homosexual acts are immoral and the orientation disordered, and had properly digested them, would then be greatly offended by the use of the term disability. I don't see the material difference here so far as offence is concerned.

Now, are you saying that by doing that Rea caused substantial pain to those who believe that homosexual behavior is a sin? If so I don't see how.

Well, I don't think Crude meant to suggest that Christian or moral traditionalists would react in the same way as those offended at Swinburne would. But it can certainly be said that the cowering, simpering apology Rea felt the necessity to put out - in an attitude moral traditionalists see repeated throughout contemporary Western popular culture and society - when an invited speaker dared to defend robustly (but not truly uncharitably) the traditional Christian position on homosexual acts in a explicitly Christian forum, seems something of a repudiation to a traditional Christian.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ jmhenry

“The difference is that, if a Christian were to give a talk about the disordered nature of gluttony, it wouldn't result in the president of the organization that invited the Christian speaker to give the talk expressing his "regret" for the "hurt" caused to obese people by the talk”

Indeed. So, again, why is it that in the context of Christian ethics so much weight is given to sexual ethics? Why so much heated discussion especially on this particular matter?

“We might imagine such a world, in which gluttony has been elevated to the status of an "identity" and any expression of its disordered nature is labeled as "bigotry", "hate", and "intolerance."”

Well, the church is very important in the life of Christians. It is not clear to me how obese people would react if the church were to make as big a deal about their cardinal sinning. In my personal experience when I push friends about their overeating or their smoking they often display a strongly negative reaction.

In general I think we are called by Christ to repent of our own sins. When we do this we certainly help our neighbor through the power of the example. Judging others, especially when it is clear that one is oneself a grave sinner, is not apt to help anybody. And will probably strike others as hypocritical, and thus if anything work against the Christian gospel.

ds said...

I have never found plausible the claim that the church is always talking about sex, or even homosexuality . When I turn on TV, I there is always sex, and there is almost always a homosexual sexual relationship thrown in, turn on the radio the music is about sex, most of the magazines at the stand are about sexual relationships, every movie has to have a love interest so the hero can have sex on the screen and so on.

The church is one of the few places where you don’t here about sex all the time. I am pretty sure I would hear and see a lot more stuff about sex in a pub than I would at church.

It seems much more plausible to me that its secular culture that’s obsessed with sex and wants to talk about it all the time. That’s why whenever it talks to the church it’s the topic of conversation, when you constantly bringing a topic up all the time its not surprising you end up finding it’s the topic people talk to you about.

R.C. said...

Dianelos:


I agree with every sentence of your last reply to JMHenry, but also with every sentence of his own last post. Where do you disagree with his view?


Our culture (and, when weighted in proportion to cultural influence, the vast majority of the population) firmly denies that there is anything immoral or bad about two men enjoying acts of mutual masturbation. Our culture's dogmatists widely anathematize dissent on this topic.


But Christians, to be orthodox, must firmly hold the opposite view.


Surely that disagreement is the reason homosexuality "is so often discussed?"


There is rather less disagreement about pica, or heroin use, or alcohol abuse, or even obesity. So naturally they are not discussed so widely.


Indeed, if we weight the population in proportion to cultural influence, there is agreement in the culture about not only obesity's harms but its general distastefulness and disreputability. In our urban centers the wealthy and popular crowd practice a kind of "fitness religion." When the culture fat-shames a Southern Baptist preacher who visibly has over-indulged in fried chicken, and makes him a derided cliché in television or movies, the actual overweight southern Christians most familiar with the type agree in principle. (Tho' they might not alter their habits.)


There is no danger that most Americans (and most Christians) will be raised in a culture which literally celebrates overeating and obesity, gathering to publicly acknowledge and commend pairs of persons who bond over their mutual inclination to overeat. There is no danger that the admonition that it's better to stay slim and not over-indulge will be forgotten or outlawed. There is no danger that 3rd graders will be taught "obesity is a good thing" in 4th grade without notifying their parents or requiring parental consent.


There is, by contrast, a real danger that a Christian could be born today, baptized, confirmed, engage in premarital sexual acts, "marry" a person of either sex, "divorce" some time later, take up with a different person of a sex opposite to that of their last "spouse" with or without marrying them, part from that person some time later, and eventually go to their grave, and in their entire lives never hear that anything about their sexual activities during their lifetime represented any kind of danger to their souls.


Oh, to be sure, they would hear that Christians used to hold such views. Atheists would throw that in their faces, perhaps, as an attack on the plausibility of their beliefs, much as atheists now say "you know the Church used to support slavery, don't you?" And the 21st-century Christian will say something like, "Oh, you know, the sins and culturally-influenced ignorance of early Christians can't serve as an argument against Christianity. You can't say Christianity is bad simply because some people were distasteful by failing to be good Christians."


Christians who're aware of that danger ought to take action now to help avoid it. Don't you agree?


And since denial that certain sins are sinful is a primary feature of the problem, Christians have to unambiguously state, "Actually, yes, those things are sinful." Don't you agree?

R.C. said...

ERRATUM:

In the preceding post, I said, "3rd graders...in 4th grade" which is obviously nonsensical. (I meant 4th grade, and to only say it once.) I also forgot that this combox, unlike those at NCRegister, doesn't require extra carriage-returns between paragraphs.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Greg said...

@ Dianelos

But there is probably 10 times less discussion about the cardinal sin of obesity.

Obesity is not a sin. Gluttony is. But it is possible to be a glutton without being obese and to be obese without being a glutton.

And I don't merely mean to point out a conceptual distinction. Perhaps there are lots of obese people in the US who aren't gluttons. Someone who is obese "because" he doesn't exercise may be doing something immoral and may not be adequately caring for his health, but he need not be a glutton. Someone else who eats unhealthy food for geographic and financial reasons will, all else being equal, be closer to obesity than those who don't eat unhealthy food, but that doesn't imply that his food consumption is disordered.

There may be a lot of gluttons in the US, but I am not too confident in arguing that from obesity statistics.

Crude said...

Dianelos,

Gluttony is considered to be a cardinal sin. Are you saying that according to the teaching of the Catholic church homosexual behavior is considered to be an even more serious sin than the cardinal sins?

Considering that anal sex would be an act of lust, and therefore a cardinal sin, you've got a problem here - the path you're trying to take won't work as intended. (Heh.)

Beyond that, I can point this out: eating is consistent with natural law. It's eating to excess that is the problem. There is no such thing as 'sodomy, as consistent with natural law'. To engage in the act is to commit a grave moral wrong.

But to my knowledge alcoholics don't enjoy being alcoholics, heroin addicts don't enjoy being addicts, the obese don't enjoy being obese. And all of them would gladly change if they could. The difference, I think, is significant.

Plenty of alcoholics enjoy being alcoholics. Obviously, the alky at AA does not. Neither does, for that matter, the gay man at Courage (and God bless those people.)

And the obese? Yes, some do enjoy being obese - certainly some don't see any problem with being obese, they love eating and engaging in the acts which keep them obese, to the point of there being a fat-acceptance movement. Many don't see a need to change.

So, I suppose, shame on you for causing pain and distress to these people - by your standards anyway. Doubly wrong since most lesbians are obese.

Incidentally, apart from rare cases obesity has no genetic basis as proven by the fact that in the last 50 years the prevalence of obesity in the US has doubled.

Ah, now you're shifting things. You spoke in terms of predispositions before - and there are, in fact, good reasons to believe in genetic predispositions towards gluttony. If you want to argue that the enlargening of the obese over the past decades thus disproves a 'genetic basis' for gluttony and obesity, then bad news: you'll have to accept evidence that homosexuality has no genetic basis for the inclination towards homosexual acts either. If you argue for the complexity of the issue, I'll take every argument as one for the view I've offered.

Rea expressed his regret for the pain that Swineburne's keynote has caused to some people. He did not express any regret for having Swineburne give that keynote, and on the contrary made explicitly clear that he values diversity and inclusion.

For one thing, D - Swineburne? Is that an intentional knock? If so, let me know. I'll come up with an appropriate name for you swiftly.

But further: then let him make explicitly clear that diversity and inclusion means arguments against homosexual behavior, and for the view that such acts are immoral. Saying 'we value diversity and inclusion' typically means 'views critical of the prevailing social dogma are not welcome'. Certainly there's an abundance of 'supporting' philosophers taking Rea to mean that he's discouraging those views and arguments from being presented altogether, and the push for this is not new. And certainly many Christians sympathetic to Swinburne's view - the traditional one - believe otherwise.

As for your claimed lack of sight, pardon me - we're telling you as much. You can see the distress, which is equal to 'pain' typically where LGBT activists are concerned. Once again, the concern for pain seems specific to only particular groups, whereas others are supposed to just assume that they or their arguments are accepted, even if they believe they are not.

Greg said...

@ laubadetriste

My point is that, to someone determined to resist a conclusion, as are lots of people, high-quality philosophical argument is highly ineffective. I cannot with any reliability change people's minds by showing them a slam-dunk argument.

I'm not claiming that history has generally been uninfluenced by intellectual history. I'm also not claiming that people are generally unconvinced by arguments with the conclusions of which they already agree. And I am admitting that there are special contexts in which philosophy can and does persuade; I just think it is not persuasive for most people, most of the time.

(This, I think, is not simply because people irrationally hold onto views that they prefer without good arguments, though that happens too. It is simply not rational, as a general policy, to change your views whenever you meet a philosophical argument for p that you cannot answer. For often there is also a philosophical argument for not-p that you cannot answer, and you should know that philosophical arguments often fail in subtle ways.)

Brandon said...

Danielos,

I don't really know what function your less-pain claim was intended to serve in your argument, then. As I noted, Christian charity is not automatically concerned with giving less pain to anyone; thus the fact that something would cause less pain does not itself, as your original argument suggested, mean that it would be supported by Christian charity. So again, your clarifications leave me less clear about what your argument is actually supposed to be.

Surely all things considered a good philosopher is one who is understood by others, in which case clarity is a virtue. And it goes without saying that a good philosopher thinks clearly.

This comment conflates clarity of language (which is the topic at hand) and clarity of thinking, despite the fact that 'clarity' is not used univocally between them. In addition, stop and actually think about what you are saying. There is no 'surely' about it. Which 'others' are being counted for this claim? How well are good philosophers actually understood by people, in real life, when misunderstandings are common and confusions great? Have you never read Plato, who makes the explicit point in multiple places that what people will find clear and intelligible in any linguistic performance depends on what they themselves have already understood? Why is Plato so 'surely' wrong about this? Talk of 'virtue' indicates something about the philosophy itself, but being understood by others is, again, a rhetorical effect in other people. Why are philosophers being judged by a purely rhetorical effect that depends on which audience they are talking to and the state of mind of that audience, which is obviously something that cannot always be guaranteed or that inheres in the philosophy itself? The kind of claim you are making is the kind of claim made by people who don't actually think about what philosophy actually involves; it has no right to 'surely'.

In common use the concept of disability implies a condition that is normally not enjoyed by those who have it and who would gladly escape it if possible.

As has already been explicitly pointed out, this is wrong in the case of the Deaf.

I don't know what you mean by “very great numbers”. What counts here is the proportion of deaf people who feel happy about being deaf and would choose not to acquire the capacity to hearing if given the opportunity. Do you have any source that shows that the majority or even a significant proportion of deaf people is like that?

(1) Talk of proportions of population is blatantly ridiculous nonsense here. Your claim is about proper and normal use of words, which is not dependent on majorities. The number of people who use 'validity' in the sense philosophers use it is minute in comparison to the number of people who use it as a synonym for 'making sense'. Your argument would therefore commit you to the claim that philosophers are misusing the term. This is simply absurd. There are proper and normal minority usages. You are not even asking for the right kind of evidence for your claims.

(2) Despite your request for evidence here, and even if majorities mattered, you have given literally no evidence whatsoever that the majority of people use the term in the way you suggest. Nor does any such evidence seem likely to be forthcoming; your account of the usage does not, as far as I can see, conform to standard dictionary definitions, or definitions used in disability law.

(3) If you knew anything about Deaf communities, instead of deciding to speak for them on the basis of no evidence, you would know that this is a matter that is discussed within Deaf communities a lot.

Crude said...

A few points, about Dianelos' interaction.

First, the complaint about gluttony is misdirection. The fact is, fat people and gluttony are already addressed - in appropriate abundance. We have programs for discouraging gluttony and overeating at the federal and state level. It's uncontroversially a sin, uncontroversially negative, and Americans' (and others') tendency towards excess is criticized amply. That may change, since now we have a fat-acceptance movement.

This topic comes up not because a real problem is perceived, but because it's an ink-spray - and an attempt to shift the game to one of having to justify ourselves to moral judges who, frankly, aren't fit for the role. Christians do not have to get the acceptance and approval of the dissenting SJW that their motives are pure and their arguments are sound. To feed into that idea that approval is required and that they are justly able to judge it, is a mistake.

Which brings me to this.

Now, are you saying that by doing that Rea caused substantial pain to those who believe that homosexual behavior is a sin? If so I don't see how.

No doubt, Rea doesn't either. Trying to express concerns, distress and pain will be to no avail. They don't see it, just don't see it, will take it under consideration, and this and that until they judge the winds as having changed enough to decisively purge those arguments from discussion altogether in the name of progress.

So, on the chance that there are people here who are in situations where they deal with the SCP and sympathetic to Swinburne and company, I offer up this thought.

If Rea doesn't make it explicitly clear that arguments critical of same-sex sexual behavior, or sodomy in general - or indeed, any other orthodox/traditional Christian sin - aren't welcome, then it will also be clear that the time for arguments is over. It will, in fact, be time to object to the SCP, to withdraw from it, to start another organization - and to reject and denounce SCP in the process.

Easier said than done, sure. But simply grumbling over this and moving on isn't going to work. To do that is to capitulate to a plan Rea pretty clearly has in store, and which he's being openly cheered on at proceeding towards. (You'd think Rea would take pause at the gleeful encouragement of anti-Christians, atheists, and the surprisingly hate-filled philosophers out there. If he is, he's keeping quiet about it.)

Do not fall into the trap of trying to argue with and justify yourselves to people who have made it clear that arguments and justifications for your views are the one thing they think should be discouraged, both by official statement and culture, before - ultimately - law, at least organizational law.

Brandon said...

I am not talking about the rare medical cases of some eating disorder. I am talking about the fact that 33% of Americans today are obese, and I notice that in the Christian tradition gluttony is considered to be a cardinal sin. Compare this with perhaps 4% of the population who is homosexual. It would seem that from the point of Christian ethics obesity is the far greater problem. A question then to ponder is why homosexuality is so often discussed.

(1) You explicitly said that cases involving gluttony were not disabilities. As I explicitly pointed out, this depends on the cases. You don't get to gerrymander away counterexamples to your claims.

(2) As noted above by Greg, obesity is not gluttony, and the former is not itself a moral wrong in any way, shape, or form by any major standard of Christian ethics (or any other reasonable ethics, for that matter). Indeed, this is a truly bizarre identification. And as Crude very right notes, your facile identification of the two falls afoul of your own argument.

(3) Have you somehow been off the planet and not noticed that there is an active gay rights movement that holds pride parades, lobbies for legislative changes, brings court cases against both current laws and people for discrimination (and has had a notable number of successes in the past few decades), and so forth? Are you unaware that it is not difficult to find them criticizing the traditional Christian ethics on this point, despite the fact that prior to the twentieth century this topic only discussed with a grab-bag of other miscellaneous topics as an appendix to discussions that are mostly devoted to adultery and fornication between men and women? Ask them why they insist on discussing it so much.

Anonymous said...

Dianelos wrote: "Are you saying that according to the teaching of the Catholic church homosexual behavior is considered to be an even more serious sin than the cardinal sins?"

In a word, yes. It's one of the four 'sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance.'

Glenn said...

laubadetriste,

(Note that the author assumes that "logic" is *not* an "overpowering experience".)

This reminds me of a couple of snippets from Scott Ryan:

1. [T]here is a clear sense in which relations of necessity (a) exist eternally and (b) govern the course of our thought. ...consider the following short example (due to Blanshard, at least in its application to philosophy; I think the original version of the tale itself is due to Thackeray):

The priest enters the room. "Ladies," he says by way of making interesting conversation, "did you know my first penitent was a murderer?"

Then Smith enters. Upon seeing the priest, he says, "Ladies, did you know that I was the father's first penitent?"

If you understand why the ladies were shocked, then your thought has just now been conditioned and informed by a relation of necessity between two premises and a validly drawn conclusion. (Note that the conclusion isn't stated anywhere; you inferred it at once, probably quite involuntarily.)

Do those relations of necessity exist, and exist independently of your present thoughts of them? I do not see how to deny it. If they do not, indeed if they never govern our reasoning in the manner I have just illustrated, then we never reach a conclusion because the evidence requires it.

2. "I will claim that argument forms qualify, or at least ought to qualify, as 'non-spatiotemporal entities'."

And if so, that puts paid to the notion that such abstract entities can't participate in causal processes.

To borrow an example from Brand Blanshard (who borrowed it from Thackeray): The priest went to visit a country manor, and entertained the ladies in the parlor while they waited for the lord of the manor. "Ladies," he said, "did you know that my first penitent was a murderer?"

Shortly thereafter, the lord of the manor arrived. "Ladies," he said, "did you know that I was the father's first penitent?"

The obvious conclusion is nowhere explicitly stated, and yet of course every one of the ladies drew it at once (just as every reader of this post will). So the situation is not that anyone was entertaining that proposition already and saw that it followed from the two premises; it's that the proposition itself appears on the scene in the first place in part because it's entailed by the premises.

Of course such entailment isn't a sufficient condition, else our minds would be flooded with implications every time we entertained a proposition. But if it's not a necessary condition, then there's no such thing as reasoning.

Now reasoning, I take it, is a causal process—not necessarily deterministic, but not just random either. If so, then it seems that argument forms can participate in at least some causal processes, namely processes of reasoning.

- - - - -

It may not be the case that "logic" is always an "overpowering experience". Indeed, I know of no good reason to think that it is. But this isn't to say that it is never -- or even hardly ever -- efficacious, influential or suasive.

(And, of course, those who would claim that "logic" is not efficacious, influential or suasive, will provide reasons for why they think that is so -- and expect their audience to accept, or at least acquiesce to, what they themselves take to be an obvious conclusion.)

Timocrates said...

@ Kirk Durston,

Very well put. Thank you for that contribution.

Timocrates said...

"But of course, disapproval of homosexual acts simply does not entail hatred of homosexuals themselves, any more than a vegetarian’s or vegan’s disapproval of eating meat entails hatred of meat-eaters. But Marshall and Kirk and like-minded activists believe that this follows (or pretend to believe it, anyway), so that what they intend is that those who merely disapprove of the acts in question, and not just those who literally hate others, be vilified, hated, shunned, silenced, etc."

And this is the whole game. Modern "progressives" must pretend like criticism of aberrant behaviour is necessarily motivated by blind prejudice and animus. But increasingly this irresponsible tactic is backfiring on them as more and more young people on campus deliberate immitate throwing a senseless and hysterical hissy-fit or temper tantrum to get whatever it is they want. Of course, the responsible thing to do is categorically shun and ignore such stupid, unbecoming and immature behaviour. Educational institutions are not your parent and even your parents ignored and shunned such ridiculous stunts and refused to allow you to emotionally blackmail them.

jps said...

The gay rights juggernaut brooks no enemies and tolerates no dissent. Those last remaning islands of dissent, such as Christian Philosophy, must be obliterated and universal assent to the unconditional acceptance of same-sex relationships must be constitutionally gauranteed. That's where this is heading, make no mistake.

Anonymous said...

Homosexuality is clearly a disability from a strictly biological viewpoint. To be solely or mostly sexually attracted to persons who by definition are sterile to you, is a monstrous frustration and obstacle to your poor genes who wish to reproduce themselves. It's like being solely attracted to octogenarian ladies.

laubadetriste said...

@Greg: "My point is that, to someone determined to resist a conclusion, as are lots of people, high-quality philosophical argument is highly ineffective. I cannot with any reliability change people's minds by showing them a slam-dunk argument."

Well, then...

...I think you are correct. :)

@Glenn: "This reminds me of a couple of snippets from Scott Ryan:..."

Well put, as his points always were; and perspicacious, as your points invariably are. God bless you, and God bless him.

Robert Byers said...

They are imposing a moral conclusion that homosexuality is right and moral. Thats why the only way to fight it is to insist its immoral, repulsive, and the right of a nation to ban it as far as possible.
the bad guys are not debating the merits of its moralness but demanding submission to it being moral.
Those os us who say what God and man has said everywhere forever MUST aggresively say it clearly on how evil it is without saying the gay person is evil.
Then they say WE are evil for saying this.
Its a moral conflict unique in human history.
In the future teenagers will write school papers on these days that are deciding if homosexuality becomes a moral right demand or a moral wrong demand or a moral indecision.
if its that important then its that important.
Everyone beware of punishment and oppression from the gay supporters but still fight them where you can.

laubadetriste said...

@Greg: "...and you should know that philosophical arguments often fail in subtle ways."

Let me not be accused either of understanding or of subtlety. :)

laubadetriste said...

@Robert Byers: "Its a moral conflict unique in human history."

I was about to say that that was a bit much, but I suppose I do not know *in what way* you take that conflict to be unique.

jmhenry said...

Dianelos: So, again, why is it that in the context of Christian ethics so much weight is given to sexual ethics? Why so much heated discussion especially on this particular matter?

Because, in sexual ethics, our culture has gone insane, especially in the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution. So let's extend C.S. Lewis' analogy from Mere Christianity in order to better see the depth of this cultural insanity. Imagine a world in which:

(1) People habitually watch "strip shows" or similar imagery of food in theaters, on television, or on other electronic devices. Some become so ensnared by this habit that they become physically starved. (Analogous to pornography use.)

(2) People habitually engage in a "binge-and-purge" culture in which they eat real food, but it is of minimal nutritional value, then they immediately vomit it up before eating something else that is of minimal nutritional value, and then vomit that up as well. Over and over again. Many of these people also become physically starved. (Analogous to the "hookup" culture.)

(3) Some have an inclination to eat what is in fact not food at all. These inclinations are considered to be "digestive identities" of the individuals who have them. And these identities become part of an ideology of "digestive expression." A mild critique of them results in being called a "bigot" or a "hater" and having your reputation and livelihood threatened or destroyed. (Analogous to, e.g., homosexual desires, sexual inclination as "sexual identity", and the ideology of "sexual expressionism.")

But the insanity is worse than that because a major court decision has stated that current attitudes about sex and relationships have made it necessary to elevate to the level of a right the ability to kill one's own offspring in the womb:

[F]or two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

So let's modify our analogy. Let's say our evolutionary history had been different. If you were to eat a certain food (which, in this world, is particularly pleasurable), you might become pregnant. Now, let's say that our culture had undergone a "Digestive Revolution" which resulted in the habitual practices outlined above, especially widespread libertine indulgence in the "procreative food," since it is particularly pleasurable. So we might add a fourth point:

(4) People indulge in the "procreative food," but it becomes a common practice for them to take a special pill or use a special device in order to frustrate the procreative end from being realized. But these methods often fail, or people don't use them regularly. So, as a necessary component of an ideology of "digestive freedom," people demand the right to kill any offspring that may result from one's indulgence in the "procreative food." Millions of such killings are performed every year. (Analogous to contraception use, abortion, and the ideology of "sexual freedom.") In fact, a major court decision, recognizing this, ends up concluding:

[F]or two decades of economic and social developments, [people] have organized their digestive habits regarding the procreative food and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of digestive-abortion in the event that digestive-contraception should fail.

Given this insanity, isn’t it understandable why we might spend a considerable bit of time critiquing these practices and the ideologies that support them (inclination as "digestive identity"; "digestive expressionism"; and "digestive freedom")?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (September 28, 2016 at 5:33 PM )

By the way, I'm surprised that What's Wrong With the World hasn't covered this story yet. Since it represents a somewhat serious row within Christian philosophical circles, it seems odd to me that Lydia hasn't offered her two cents. Perhaps she will in time.

She has now. Here.

Art Deco said...

It comes as no surprise anymore that a soi-disant "Christian" academic exposes himself as an other-directed social-climbing poseur, or repairs to therapeutic language, or maintains the same set of mascot groups as other academics. Academic life is decadent and soi-disant 'Christian' institutions are mostly hopeless. Neither Indiana nor the country at large has any need of Notre Dame and the world would be improved by the loss of a high-priced private tertiary institution. Do what Bishop Sheen suggested: sent your kid to a state school. They're more reasonably priced and their scam-the-alumni capers are less pronounced.

Eric Rasmusen said...

The original post is a very good rant. It should be assigned reading for philosophy students--it, or something on the same theme of openness and inclusivity. The abortion example is perfect--- people who think abortion is murder listen patiently while other people proclaim its virtues, even though they are in a position similar to a Jew listening to a Nazi justify the Holocaust. If we can do that, the snowflakes can listen to Christians.

Two other things, though:

1. Hatred is not always bad. It is good if people hate sin and injustice passionately. I would say this could extend to hating the individual who commits abominable crimes also, though that is more controversial.

2. I notice that Professor Rea, after numerous blistering but polite comments on the Facebook page where he issued his statement, first asked commenters to leave and then shut off comments. Here we have independent evidence of his hypocrisy and dislike of free expression. To be sure, it's his Facebook account, but it's the same as refusing to discuss the subject with critics or even to let his critics and defenders talk to each other about it. My guess is that he issued the original statement, which was somewhat vapid, out of cowardice and then closed off comments for the same reason. Cowards should not take positions of responsibility like his conference leadership--- there's nowhere to run when things get hot.

Eric Rasmusen said...

This is a good original post and very good comment thread. I find myself wishing I knew who some of the commenter were— Brandon and ds, for example.

That gave me an idea. How about organizing a conference on philosophical arguments against homosexuality? If these topics are too hot to handle for normal conferences, we could put together a single conference for all the papers that would never get accepted in other conferences. I am thinking of a conference restricted entirely to philosophy papers critical of homosexuality and, perhaps, not using non-Biblical arguments. Also, the papers would on particular arguments, not Supporters of homosexuality would be very much welcome, and it would be useful to include papers or notes in rebuttal of the anti-homosexuality papers.

An alternative would be a web conference with most participants using pseudonyms. This would attempt to replicate a live conference, with authors presenting their papers orally but via online conference software with the audience asking questions in real time during and after the presentation. Those afraid even of their voices being recognized could type papers and questions.

I’m not a philosopher (though I once presented a paper at a SCP conference), but I’d be willing to help organize. I’m tenured and chaired already, and being 57 and in a business school means I have more academic freedom than most folks. I would hope the papers could go in journals the usual way, but a conference volume would be a possibility.

By the way, it’s an interesting question whether gluttony is a sin. In the Middle Ages, a glutton was consuming food that someone on the verge of starvation could have eaten. Nowadays that’s not true. There are lots of possible arguments, and I’d enjoy reading papers analyzing them. But there’s less danger from the politically correct with regard to gluttony, so such papers could be presented wherever ethics scholars usually present their papers.

ficino said...

All you dudes, young and not so young, no one is asking you to marry another dude. So what is the big deal to you if some other guys do? To say nothing of two women, a grouping that is almost never mentioned.

Stephan Burton said...

All very well said, EF, my friend.

I was especially struck by this: "to pretend...that this sort of thing is essentially just a regrettable but understandable overreaction on the part of wounded souls who have had some bad experiences with obnoxious religious people is naiveté. It is often rather a calculated political tactic aimed at making public dissent from liberal conventional wisdom on sexuality practically difficult or impossible."

Precisely so. All this stuff about "hurt feelings" might have made sense thirty or forty years ago - but in the current year? No way.

To see those who now hold the whip-hand playing the victim, for advantage - it's a spectacle for the ages. Has anything even remotely like this ever happened before, in all of human history?

We live in remarkable times.



laubadetriste said...

@ficino: "All you dudes, young and not so young, no one is asking you to marry another dude. So what is the big deal to you if some other guys do? To say nothing of two women, a grouping that is almost never mentioned."

I was about explain the way in which this begs the question--but let me try this instead:

"All you dudes, young and not so young, no one is asking you to cheat on your taxes. So what is the big deal to you if some other guys do? To say nothing of two women, a grouping that is almost never mentioned."

"All you dudes, young and not so young, no one is asking you to lie. So what is the big deal to you if some other guys do? To say nothing of two women, a grouping that is almost never mentioned."

"All you dudes, young and not so young, no one is asking you to murder someone. So what is the big deal to you if some other guys do? To say nothing of two women, a grouping that is almost never mentioned."

"All you dudes, young and not so young, no one is asking you to expose yourself in front of children. So what is the big deal to you if some other guys do? To say nothing of two women, a grouping that is almost never mentioned."

etc...

Now, ficino might reply that those are all *very different* cases. And if he did, he would be correct. Then I might urge him to consider *just why* he thinks so. And thereby he might gesture in the direction of an actual response to "the dudes".

Edward Feser said...

Steve Burton! Hello! Long time no see!

Robert Byers said...

laubadatriste
It is unique moral conflict because its about people are are just 1% of the population and invisable to 80% of the percent or so.
in fact it would be the same conflict if bthere was no gays.
its about more then real people lives. its about abstract moral concepts.
its unique also because its about human conduct that everryone doesn't interfere in if its private.
The gay problem is because its forcing moral conclusions on a nation.
Neutrality is impossible.
The nations must be pro gay or anti gay in the relationship.
I can't think of any other sexual/relationship contentions that ever were so important and desperate or fanatical .
Of coarse I see the pro gat side as the fanatical side.
Its a great contention yet the state tries to deny the people their will by invoking the laws made hundreds of years ago by people who would never allowed any gay presence.

Parobi said...

This discussion reminds me of a passage from Josef Pieper emphasizing philosophy's need for freedom in order to attain its ends. A discussion he had with some East Germans before the fall of the wall brought this need home to him. Here is the quote:

With regard to the [connection between knowledge and freedom] I wish to relate an experience of several years ago that brought home to me, suddenly and quite forcefully, some important insights. In those days it still was possible, though only halfway legal, for groups of students from the [East German] totalitarian area to visit us [in West Germany] for talks and discussions. In one such circle there was mentioned, casually, a novel that at that time enjoyed much public attention but by now is virtually forgotten. When asked, our friends from “over there” reported that this novel would not be published in their country because it contained serious historical errors about the Russian Revolution, which in reality (for example) had by no means stifled the development of the individual. We replied that such things, after all, could be researched and determined objectively—could they not? For this, of course, a totally independent discussion would be required, not necessarily a discussion in public but at any rate without “official” interference. It was further pointed out that there had to be, after all, some free space in society where such discussion could take place unimpeded. The conversation, which had begun innocently enough, at this point suddenly brought home something quite decisive—to all participants, not only to those from “over there”. More precisely, two things became strikingly evident.
First, how important it is whether or not such a “free” space exists in a political commonwealth, a space where in fact and contrary to the proclaimed maxim “the class struggle is suspended”, as well as the five-year plan, and all “politics” to boot, all special interests, be they collective or private. A space of precisely this kind is meant by the ancient term schole, which designates “school” and “leisure” at the same time. It means a refuge where discussion takes place, in total independence—that is, without the interference of practical goals—on just one question: How are things, “What are the facts?”
And this, secondly, suddenly sprang fresh into focus: this free space, true, must be safeguarded and protected from without by political power, but the possibility, even the very constitution of its freedom derives primarily from within—from nothing else than the irrepressible determination to search for the truth, the exclusive interest, be it only for this specific moment, to find the true facts about the matter in question.

Craig Payne said...

Just read this today from Joseph Sobran:

"It's not that we don't pity the homosexual; we do, as we pity the pedophile, the drug addict, or anyone else who suffers from temptations most of us are mercifully spared. But the moral order is objective, after all, and it can't be denied just because our desires clash with it. Why is this so hard to understand? Not long ago we would have found it comical, in a grim way, for sexual perverts to assume the moral high ground vis-a-vis the Church. Today it's considered bigotry to speak of 'perversion' at all."

That was written in 2005, only eleven years ago.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Thanks everybody for the interesting and sometimes intriguing feedback. Plenty of food for thought there, a philosophical feast as it were. Still, one thing that once more becomes apparent is how difficult communication is, even among Christian philosophers. And discussion seems to get a life of its own and run towards a thousand different directions.

I would like to focus on sexual ethics from the point of view of Christianity, and explain in a bottom-up fashion why I believe that sex within a loving relationship between two persons of the same gender is not a serious sin. And indeed is a much lesser sin than disorderly lust whether heterosexual or homosexual.

I note that according to the gospels Christ found it not expedient to mention homosexuality even once (compare that to how often He spoke about the evil of greed, for example). St Paul few words about homosexuality in his letters refer to general depravity and thus to lust, but given his cultural background I think it is probable that he considered any homosexual behavior to be a great sin. The same goes for Christian tradition in general – I know of no instance where some Christian authority opined that homosexual behavior is not a serious sin. So I am aware that my position goes against tradition. I'd like to start with the fundamentals of Christian understanding, and which I hope can serve for the common ground on which to argue about the specifics.

I take it Christianity's view about our place in the world is as follows: All creation is ordered and directed towards God's purpose for it (this much is obvious to reason, and indeed strikes me as a tautology). Salvation then comes from comporting with the natural order willed by the Creator, while perdition comes from failing to do so. Since we are imperfect persons we have the inclination to ignore and to contravene God's natural order, and these latter choices are called sins. The change of our fallen character as to conform with the natural order is called repentance. Repentance and good works are on equal standing since the one leads and strengthens the other. In God's revelation in Jesus of Nazareth we are insistently asked to repent and to do good works, and in short to become like the incarnated Christ was.

This then is the revealed fundamental natural order of creation: To become like Christ and love each other like Christ did love us.

Around this fundamental order all other secondary order turns, and in relation to this fundamental order all other secondary order must be understood. Losing sight of this is a mistake. One should never lose sight of the only light who is Christ, for doing so can easily lead one towards darkness. I hold that the presence of the Holy Spirit is continuously attracting the church towards Christ, and thus I believe that there has been and there will always be an ongoing true advancement in Christian understanding. Still, the gospels, the Fathers, tradition, our great churches, reason itself – they are not the light but serve only as pointers towards the light. It is extremely foolish to ignore them, but our salvation lies in seeing and following the light itself.

[continues bellow]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

Assuming that this far we basically agree, let me now turn to the specifics of our discussion. A secondary natural order is that of the physical world in which we exist, and more particularly the biological order since we are incarnated biological beings. In this context the natural end of eating is the nourishment of the body, and thus gluttony is by definition a violation of that order. The natural end of sexual intercourse is procreation and thus lust is by definition a violation of that order. I was moved by the current discussion to look up the seven cardinal sins we have in the Christian tradition, i.e. the seven serious ways by which we disrespect the natural order of creation and thus lose our way towards Christ: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and laziness. We immediately see how each one of them is strongly present in our fallen character, and how each one plays a big role in our everyday life. Now the right way to understand these sins, and indeed why they are cardinal sins that seriously hinder our salvation, is in relation to the primary order of becoming like Christ.

Gluttony (in the wider sense of seeking the pleasure we take from material things) and lust (in the wider sense of seeking the pleasure we take from the bodies of our fellow beings) when in excess do violate the biological order of creation and in this secondary sense are sinful. But gluttony and lust are not great sins on this account. The cardinal sins that lead to spiritual failure concern the fundamental order as revealed in Christ's command. Neither is the pleasure of eating or of sex what makes these sins so harmful. In general the fact that there is so much natural pleasure to be had in our life is a good thing; it is part of the goodness of creation and a sign of God's love for us. Not to mention that the picture we get of the incarnated Christ as recorded in the gospels according to the witness of those who know Him personally is not that of stern ascetic and strict disciplinarian, but of an easygoing fellow who enjoyed life's many pleasures, including, say, playing with children, drinking wine, a good argument, the company of women, and so on. And surely it's not like that He who perfectly loves us is not content when we are content.

What then makes gluttony and lust such harmful sins? It is not the pleasure itself but the desire for that pleasure beyond what's natural according to the biological order in which we are created. Beyond that order all our desire should be for Christ, for any other desire distracts us from following the light of creation, hinders us from becoming like Him, stops us from loving each other the way He loved us. Desire then for the pleasure of food and for the pleasure of sex is natural and not sinful at all when it stays within the bounds of the biological order in which we are created. But when we turn our attention to these pleasures for pleasure's sake, and in particular when we become the slaves to such desires – then very clearly we are kept from becoming perfect like Christ, and this is what makes gluttony and lust such harmful sins. Finally we recognize that the sinful conditions of gluttony and lust have taken epidemic proportions in today's modern rich societies. Our intellectual understanding of Christ has grown through history, but, given how extremely far we are from Christ, one may wonder whether our spiritual similarity with Christ has also grown.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

The sin then is the wrongful desire since that desire keeps us from salvific repentance. The actual sinful act is the visible implication of the sin. Now there are several paths to repentance, but perhaps the primary one is changing the way one acts. If one overcomes one's sinful desire by stopping one's sinful behavior then that desire is apt to wither away. The sinful state of the soul survives and grows only when one feeds it. So for example stopping one's overeating behavior is apt to decrease one's desire for it. Significantly, good deeds are also a path towards repentance. Also significantly, there is not a one-to-one relationship since all sin is interconnected (as it where there is but one devil albeit with many faces). So doing a charitable deed to one's neighbor will also tend to decrease one's unnatural desire for material things. This is significant because if one finds oneself unable to overcome a particular sin one need not be afraid since one can work for one's salvation in many other ways. What counts is the overall similarity with Christ. In many cases one benefits more if instead of trying to overcome some sin here, one does some good there.

Now finally, what about homosexual desire in particular? If the above account about sinning and repentance is correct then clearly homosexual behavior in the context of a stable and loving relationship is much less a sign of sin then the disorderly heterosexual lust with many partners and with no love. The far greater problem then in our societies in the second one – that of considering our fellow beings as bodily sources of pleasure. But what about the argument that homosexual desire and acts even within a loving relationship is a sin since it violates the secondary biological natural order? My immediate answer is that even if it is so, it is such an innocuous sin that it does not deserve much discussing about. But the love I feel for my homosexual neighbor makes it difficult for me to concede even that much – it feels unjust. After all love entails empathy, and when I put myself in the shoes of the homosexual neighbor I see that were I to find myself in her place and feel a sexual desire for the person I adore, and experience that only good comes from the consummation of that desire, it would strike to me to be evil if people came to me and sternly castigated me for it, and even moved the state to enact laws that prohibit the expression of what to me is natural and positive, and which in no way hurts them. Thus, I conclude, who am I to insist that on biological grounds that which is so good and fruitful in her life is “unnatural”? Sure, it is unnatural in relation to the biological order, but perhaps it's not unnatural to the human condition.

Lastly, a clarification. I understand there is this social/cultural/political war going on around the issue of what rights homosexuals should enjoy. But this is a separate issue. I understand Swinburne's keynote was about sexual ethics in the context of Christianity, not philosophy of politics. My argument above is exclusively about ethics.

Anonymous said...

Dianelos:

"it feels unjust".

Dianelos, just want to fill you in on something: this is the lion's den, man. If you bring that flavor of argument here--i.e., rank emotivism--I can only assume that you're a glutton for punishment.

So standby, brother. Standby.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Anonymous 6:58 AM

“this is the lion's den”

I like it very much here. Feser opens interesting themes and commentators put forward arguments which make me think. For example the current discussion moved me to look up the seven cardinal sins as defined in the Christian tradition - and it felt like reading about my life.

“If you bring that flavor of argument here--i.e., rank emotivism”

You picked a minor bit at the very end in the context of discussing empathy.

What I set out to do was to “explain in a bottom-up fashion why I believe that sex within a loving relationship between two persons of the same gender is not a serious sin. And indeed is a much lesser sin than disorderly lust whether heterosexual or homosexual.” This was defended by an argument. The basic premise of the argument is that the fundamental natural order of creation is not the physical/biological one, because the fundamental purpose of creation is not a physical/biological one either. The fundamental purpose as revealed by Christ in his commandment is for us to be as perfect as He is - atonement. This is what all is directed to. All other natural order is secondary, indeed serves the first order.

“I can only assume that you're a glutton for punishment”

I am curious to see what the counterarguments are.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

Sure, it is unnatural in relation to the biological order, but perhaps it's not unnatural to the human condition.

One might similarly intimate that sin ought to be brooked by saying, "Sure, sin is unnatural in relation to what God wants for us, but perhaps it's not unnatural to the human condition."

- - - - -

If it is fitting for one of the seven deadly sins to be hinted at (see the comment by Anonymous just above), perhaps it is also fitting for two of the four cardinal virtues to be (more than) hinted at:

o [T]he need of putting the order of reason into the passions is due to their thwarting reason: and this occurs in two ways. First, by the passions inciting to something against reason, and then the passions need a curb, which we call "Temperance." Secondly, by the passions withdrawing us from following the dictate of reason[:] and then man needs to be strengthened for that which reason dictates, lest he turn back; and to this end there is "Fortitude." STI-II Q 61 A 2

o [T]he human will is hindered in two ways from following the rectitude of reason. First, through being drawn by some object of pleasure to something other than what the rectitude of reason requires; and this obstacle is removed by the virtue of temperance. Secondly, through the will being disinclined to follow that which is in accordance with reason, on account of some difficulty that presents itself. [I]n order to remove this obstacle fortitude of the mind is requisite[.] STII-II Q 123 A 1

- - - - -

As for using empathy -- or for using the mercy which might be shown in response to an experience of empathy -- to render in accordance with the rectitude of reason that which on its own does not stand in accordance with the rectitude of reason, it must be conceded that St. Thomas does have this to say,

o As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 5), mercy is heartfelt sympathy for another's distress, impelling us to succor him if we can. For mercy takes its name "misericordia" from denoting a man's compassionate heart [miserum cor] for another's unhappiness. Now unhappiness is opposed to happiness: and it is essential to beatitude or happiness that one should obtain what one wishes; for, according to Augustine (De Trin. xiii, 5), "happy is he who has whatever he desires[.]" ST II-II Q 30 A 1

Alas, the purported concession is false. The reason why the purported concession is false is because the last phrase of the quotation has been truncated so as to omit an important qualifying clause. The non-truncated version of the last phrase -- with its important qualifying clause intact -- is as follows (with emphases added):

o ...for, according to Augustine (De Trin. xiii, 5), "happy is he who has whatever he desires, and desires nothing amiss."

OceanD said...

@Dianelos Georgoudis

I am not sure if you have read Bad Lovin

Eric Rasmusen said...


Dianelos, what you've written are good (if wrong) comments, but it's hard to address them here, because they go to the big issue of whether homosexuality is a sin. That can be addressed theologically by appeal to the Bible and to Tradition. I, unlike you, think the answer is clear beyond serious discussion from those two sources--- they unambiguously condemn it. Then there are more general theological arguments, like your argument that the duty of a Christian is to become more like Christ. That sounds nice, but even taken as given, is it really grounds for sodomy? It seems like a better argument for chastity. Personally, I would say that the Christian's duty is to obey God, which entails trying (but not succeeding) to avoid all sin, as Jesus did, and hence is becoming more like Christ only in avoiding sin (which includes doing acts which one ought to do).

A point you really need to reconsider is this:
"when I put myself in the shoes of the homosexual neighbor I see that were I to find myself in her place and feel a sexual desire for the person I adore, and experience that only good comes from the consummation of that desire..." It's an empirical claim, which I would dispute, that only good comes from consummation. Some good does--- bodily pleasure per se is good rather than bad--- but not only good. Indeed, what bad comes from consummation is the big question in this subject.

The Swinburne argument at issue here is just one part of the answer to that question. In our academic fashion, he focuses on one point, probably more because it is novel than because it is the most important. Scholars don't spend time researching what's well established, even if it's important: they try to advance knowledge. Swinburne's argument, I think, is that it is very good for a man and woman to generate and raise a child. Acting on one's homosexual desires diverts some people from doing this, merely for the sake of bodily pleasure, which is less important. Thus, homosexual desires should be discouraged. The main discussion would be over whether his premise, that a family is important, is true.

His argument actually has more relevance, I think, as applied to fornication. There it would be: it is very good for a man and woman to generate and raise a child. Pre-marital sex diverts some people from doing this, merely for the sake of bodily pleasure, which is less important. Thus, pre-marital sex should be discouraged. Or, more simply, it is what one's mother would say: quit fooling around and settle down and raise a family.

jmhenry said...

Dianelos: Not to mention that the picture we get of the incarnated Christ as recorded in the gospels according to the witness of those who know Him personally is not that of stern ascetic and strict disciplinarian, but of an easygoing fellow who enjoyed life's many pleasures...

Actually, the picture we get of Jesus from the Gospels is of a Jew who not only affirms traditional Jewish sexual morality, but raises it to an even higher standard of discipline over the previous, more "easy-going" standard:

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28, NRSV)

and

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

"Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
(Matthew 19:3-9, NRSV)

What a disciplinarian! And strict. Becoming a disciple of Jesus apparently requires submitting a strict discipline in certain matters. (As should be obvious, the two words are etymologically related.) That discipline doesn't overthrow traditional Jewish sexual morality, but raises it to an even more demanding -- and less easy-going -- standard.

Furthermore, the argument you've made could similarly be made about contraceptive acts as well: that they are not a "serious in" so long as they are done within a loving relationship; and that, in such a relationship, they are "such an innocuous sin that it does not deserve much discussing about." But, of course, traditional sexual morality doesn't forbid certain acts because they lack the right circumstances which would make them "innocuous" or less "serious." Rather, certain acts are considered to be intrinsically wrong, regardless of their circumstances. Hence contraceptive acts are still wrong, even in a "loving relationship" between a man and a woman.

Indeed, the whole question of whether a sexual act is truly "loving" if it fails to become "justified" by being conformed to the "order of nature" and the "personalistic norm" (to use Karol Wojtyla's words in Love and Responsibility) is precisely what's at issue. By positively excluding the possibility of procreation from the sexual act, Wojtyla says, the man and woman act contrary to the order of nature (which, he says, is to be distinguished from the merely "biological order"), reducing the act to one of "mutual use" (despite the subjective intentions of the man and woman) and thus violating the personalistic norm. The act is thus objectively not loving, since a "thorough contradiction exists between 'to love' and 'to use' in relation to the person." (See Chapter 4 of Wojtyla's book.)

You could similarly argue that homosexual acts are objectively not "loving" and are merely "using" (despite the subjective intentions of the partners), since they violate the order of nature and thus the personalistic norm. Speaking of homosexual acts within a "loving relationship" would simply beg the question against this sort of argument.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Glenn

"One might similarly intimate that sin ought to be brooked by saying, "Sure, sin is unnatural in relation to what God wants for us, but perhaps it's not unnatural to the human condition.""

I contrasted the biological order with the order of the human condition. Here I don't see why there can't be some differences. Indeed there plainly are some. For example it violates the biological order to want to share with your biological sibling the food your parents bring home. Thanks to science we know that biologically our bodies are ordered towards the greatest possible dissemination of our own genes. In the context of the biological order, that's why we procreate, that's why we feel it's so important to survive.

Now above you suggest another contrast. On the one side of the contrast you put what God wants. (And, let's not forget, what God wants for the people of homosexual orientation is exactly the question here, isn't it?) On the other side of the contrast you put the human condition created by God. By reason alone we see that what God wants for any of us cannot be something unnatural to that person's human condition. Fortunately, the human condition itself is factual and indisputable, since we know it by acquaintance. We know then that on the one hand we are weak of will, but on the other hand we recognize and value what is good, and we admire those who are good and would like to be like them. The flesh is weak, but *our natural orientation is plainly towards the good*. In the general case then I take it we agree there is no contrast between what God wants for us and what is natural in the created human condition. (If there were then we'd have an argument against theism, one much more serious than the problem from evil.)

Now the human condition in its foundations is identical to all, but there are of course differences in each case. Here we are discussing homosexuality, so we must use empathy and try to see how the condition of the homosexual is (I assume you are a heterosexual male). Empathy works with people we love, but in our discussion perhaps mere imagination suffices:

Imagine then that you wake up and discover that in the real world the natural act which leads to procreation is homosexual intercourse. But being heterosexual you are simply incapable and actually find it disgusting to have sex with other men, while the church teaches that sex with a woman or even to feel attracted to a woman is a sin. A terrible sin, one of the four “that cry out to heaven for vengeance”. Even though as a matter of fact it is simply impossible to overcome your attraction to women, you are told by the church to suffer a sin which you cannot possibly overcome. You know of course that you can't procreate with the woman you adore and thus are denied one of the great joys your homosexual brothers enjoy, but wonder why this makes the kind of love you feel for your wife and the joy of the sex you have with her and the emotional bond with her that sex produces – a terrible sin. Sure, biologically speaking your lovemaking with her is a barren behavior, but what is the relevance of biology in your case? Everything else – the last fiber in your spirit – tells you that sexually loving your wife is a good thing.

What I mean to say above is that religion is about the human condition and not about human biology. I understand that there are some metaphysical views in Christianity according to which our material make-up is considered to be fundamental, but even here it's not the case that we are just biological beings. Clearly we are incarnated spiritual beings called to become similar to the incarnated Christ. (Our spiritual nature may supervene on the physical structure of our bodies, but is not identical to it.) Not to mention that if we were just biological beings Christ's words “My Kingdom is not of this world” makes no sense.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

“perhaps it is also fitting for two of the four cardinal virtues to be (more than) hinted at”

When we discuss whether homosexual desire and acts are sinful then we must indeed take into account the whole of tradition. For the record the four cardinal virtues are: prudence, justice, temperance and courage. It strikes me as evidently wise to remember them.

“the passions inciting to something against reason, and then the passions need a curb”

Right. That's why sexual lust, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is considered a cardinal sin. And I find it significant that the text mentions the “passions” and not in particular the behavior towards which these passions drive us.

On the other hand I am somehow confused with the choice of the word “reason” in this context. Isn't it more appropriate to use the word “faith” here? On theism (and arguably on any coherent epistemology) faith and reason are two major dimensions of our cognitive nature, with faith being the more fundamental since faith provides the ground on which reason takes traction. Faith, in short, concerns truths we know immediately (which does not mean that we can't be wrong about beliefs we think are based on faith). This is particularly significant in ethics since on theism we are endowed with the natural ability to directly see what is good. Reason helps us connect the various dots we see, and make sense of the whole. Consider for example the structure of my argument above: By faith we see that the fundamental order of creation is for us to become like Christ, and reason helps us see more clearly a point of ethics, namely what is right and wrong for the homosexual neighbor, and what is right and wrong for us who have the homosexual neighbor.

“being drawn by some object of pleasure to something other than what the rectitude of reason requires”

If you are in love with your sexual partner and experience a spiritual profit from sharing your life with her – then what does the “rectitude of reason” require?

I wish the church were more down to earth. It seems to me that the incarnated Christ was, and often spoke with examples from everyday life everybody could understand. And gave more weight to the pragmatical needs of the people than to formalisms of the religion (including such an important formalism as the Sabbath – which of course drove the conservative theologians of His age quite mad).

ficino said...

@laubadetriste:

I'm not a member of the SCP, and I don't have standing to weigh in on how the SCP should respond to the language some of its members used in reacting to Swinburne's address. Academic organizations to which I belong have had some nasty go-rounds, but I don't recall keynote speakers being silenced. It would bode ill for the SCP if "silencing" starts to become a thing.

As to a response to your response to my riff on the Beatles' song etc., I don't have any new argument to formulate. Like many people, I remain unconvinced that harms accrue to third parties from the fact that a same sex couple gets married. In the cases that you offer as examples, some harm accrues to others as a result of the actions described in your thought experiment. And I haven't found the premises compelling in natural law arguments I've seen against same sex marriage.

Anonymous said...

" It would bode ill for the SCP if "silencing" starts to become a thing."

Yet I suspect if it does start becoming a thing, you'll do nothing to stop it. You'll be content with walking in lock-step with your secular co-religionists.

"I don't have any new argument to formulate."

You never had an argument in the first place.

"Like many people, I remain unconvinced that harms accrue to third parties from the fact that a same sex couple gets married."

Appeal to personal incredulity.

"And I haven't found the premises compelling in natural law arguments I've seen against same sex marriage."

Appeal to personal incredulity.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

In the general case then I take it we agree there is no contrast between what God wants for us and what is natural in the created human condition.

What is the point of transcendence if there isn't anything to transcend?

I certainly haven't ever given any indication that I might agree with something like you say above. And if I did agree with it -- which I don't (and don't imagine I ever will) -- then I'd be agreeing that there isn't any need for either the bestowal or reception of grace. I'd also be agreeing that there wasn't any need for the incarnation of Christ in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Dianelos:

"If you are in love with your sexual partner and experience a spiritual profit from sharing your life with her – then what does the “rectitude of reason” require?"

The same thing it would require otherwise. Stop being an emotivist.

"Even though as a matter of fact it is simply impossible to overcome your attraction to women, you are told by the church to suffer a sin which you cannot possibly overcome."

One cannot "suffer sin." Sin is necessarily something one does voluntarily. (Otherwise it isn't sin.)

Don't waste our time. Obtain at least a rudimentary grasp of basic theological concepts before you presume to run your mouth about them.

"...while the church teaches that sex with a woman or even to feel attracted to a woman is a sin."

The Church doesn't teach the latter.

Don't waste our time. Obtain at least a rudimentary grasp of basic Church teaching before you presume to run your mouth about it.

Anonymous said...

Brief (hopefully unnecessary) clarification: In saying "the Church doesn't teach the latter," I refer to the latter half of the disjunction, not to the statement itself.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Anonymous:
You said to Dianelos,

"...while the church teaches that sex with a woman or even to feel attracted to a woman is a sin."

The Church doesn't teach the latter.

Don't waste our time. Obtain at least a rudimentary grasp of basic Church teaching before you presume to run your mouth about it.

That is too harsh, particularly to someone who seems to be using his real name. Dianelos is commenting seriously, whether he is doing it well or poorly. And you are quite free to skip his comments.

I would say to both of you that this blog is a better setting for philosophic argument than theological. It is interesting to know what the church traditionally has taught on the sinfulness of desire and what it teaches now. Now, at least, I wonder if the church has a catholic, a universal, teaching on it. Many, perhaps most, individuals think lustful desire is a sin. Leaders will hasten to say that it is not, because you can't help it, but the logical foundation for that is dubious. It is, indeed, an open philosophic question as to whether you can be morally culpable for desires that you abhor.

ficino said...

@ Anonymous: I was not setting forth an argument, so I did not use my incredulity as a premise. There is no fallacy in what I wrote.

And you misuse the term "emotivist." That refers to someone who holds a particular metaethical theory.

You are confused.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ OceanD

“I am not sure if you have read Bad Lovin”

No, I hadn't, thanks. As always an interesting read, but I don't agree with Feser's analysis of love there. For example I don't agree that it's possible to love the criminal while finding it agreeable that the criminal gets her just deserts. One will not find it agreeable to see a person one loves being punished or hurt in any way whatsoever, even if one thinks it's for her own good. One may agree with the punishment or with the pain, one may even contribute towards it (a parent sometimes has to do it) – but one will never find it agreeable. That much is I think obvious from our own experience.

Of course what Christ means by love is a fundamental issue. In our context we all agree that to love the homosexual does entail to will the good for her. But if in fact homosexual desire and behavior is not a great sin then to loudly claim that it is – does no good to her. Even if one means well. There is a difference between wishing and willing – in willing one affects others.

Now salvation is certainly the greatest good, and we must certainly wish salvation for all. But what are we to do about it? It seems to me that we are called to work towards our own salvation, and by giving the good example we will help others in their path towards salvation also.

But what about the Christian philosopher, the theologian, and the priest? Well, I think the philosopher and the theologian should speak the truth as they see it according to their best of their abilities, and always driven by love for God, and always in humility. For the priest, the shepherd of souls, the situation is especially difficult. But even the priest should in humility recognize how limited he is and that the true shepherd is the Holy Spirit, who is present and working in the world. And also realize that he is to guide his flock mainly by example.

I think it's impossible to overstate the importance of humility. By coincidence I saw yesterday the movie “The Lady of in the Van”. The story is about a young woman in England who is a very gifted piano player and who wants to become a nun in a Catholic convent. There she reveals that it comes easier for her to play the piano then to pray. In response her mother superior prohibits her to touch the piano again, and by doing so ends up destroying the young woman's life. According to my argument above the mother superior's decision was the right one: one should desire only Christ and starve any other desire beyond one's biological order. But evidently in that case the mother superior's decision went wrong. Why? I think mother superior's pride pushed aside the humility and the charity that love inspires.

Crude said...

Dianelos,

For example I don't agree that it's possible to love the criminal while finding it agreeable that the criminal gets her just deserts. One will not find it agreeable to see a person one loves being punished or hurt in any way whatsoever, even if one thinks it's for her own good.

One will, in fact, find exactly that. Justice is how we atone, and to atoning is an act of love. It's not just that a criminal should get his just deserts - the criminal should desire to atone and do what's just, even if mercy would be welcome. For many people, indeed most, this is easy to see - even CS Lewis saw a version of this.

The desire to shield someone from atonement, to keep them from justice, is not rooted in love. It's rooted in fear.

I think it's impossible to overstate the importance of humility.

It's always striking that these appeals to humility are given by people who don't wish to partake in it, or to wish it on their allies. I await to see you urging humility on Michael Rea or his cohorts in their attempts to belittle and silence Christians who actually believe what Christ and His disciples taught. I await the urging for humility, for second-guessing and self-doubt that you'll have for advocates of same-sex marriage, pride parades, and more. Well, no, I won't await for very long, because I know it's not coming. Humility is for the people you disagree with and wish to discourage. For the rest, encouragement, pride parades, and applause.

But evidently in that case the mother superior's decision went wrong. Why?

Maybe you shouldn't be looking to dramatized movies for deep teachings. But as we've seen, the one thing you fall back on, again and again - after each argument is examined and found empty, or even dishonest - is pure emoting.

Here's a thought: you reference, again and again, emotion and feeling, and plea for empathy that amounts to granting that someone with a powerful emotional yearning cannot be wrong in their yearning. Well, maybe it can be. In fact, maybe those emotions are, in fact, disordered. So too may be the case with your own, and those you speak of.

Humility would demand you realize that possibility.

Crude said...

I'll add to the previous.

If you're wondering why, Dianelos, the soft-spoken, emotional, 'think of their feelings' act isn't going over so well lately - it'd be because the mask has slipped on Team Tolerance. Rea and company regard us with disgust or worse and want us gone, re-educated, scared and/or silenced. Again, the 'humility' you speak highly of - and indeed, the tolerance - seems rather targeted. I suppose it's a failure of them to lead by example.

No doubt you'll excuse their behavior - multiplied amply across many of the 'loving and tolerant', I assure you. Or maybe you'll be moved, however hesitantly, to chide them and add a rapid 'but...!' The point is that we're able to get a glimpse of the goings-on when they think they're out of public view, and it ain't pretty. Ain't very loving either, by the by.

You won't have to forgive us if we decide we're getting awfully sick of the pleas and hand-wringing and appeals for delicate choosing of words from people who otherwise hurl hate at us. You will, however, have to deal with it, because standing up for ourselves and our friends and family and having some self-respect is the right thing to do. We've been insulted and backstabbed a time too many.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Eric Rasmusen

Nothing is well established among scholars, not even the truth of theism. Now in the context of our discussion we take Christianity as given. I will agree that according to the Bible and Tradition homosexual desire and behavior is a great sin, but this does mean it is so. We have the evident fact that Christian philosophers disagree about this very issue. (Incidentally I understand that Swinburne and Feser also disagree, since the former believes that homosexuality is not intrinsically wrong.) Above I argued that if homosexual desire and behavior is sinful then it is a much lesser sin than heterosexual lust or common gluttony. So even given Christianity nothing is really established about the truth in this matter of ethics.

Why God should make it so difficult for us is a separate interesting question. Given this difficulty many Christians decide to trust the official position of their church, since they trust her more than their own judgment. I think this is a reasonable position, but the fact remains that should one err in that trust then one's salvation will suffer. (Not to mention that sometimes the official position say of the church is not crystal clear either, but let's overlook this possibility.) At this juncture I would like to point out a bit in the Gospels that strikes me as eminently wise and eminently relevant to our discussion: “You will know them by their fruits”. The idea I take it is this: If a teaching is fruitful in that it moves one to repent and follow Christ, then it deserves our trust (for the obvious reason that it produces the fruit we seek). So I say our trust need not be blind – not to the teaching of others, nor to the deliverances of our cognitive abilities which are known to fail – but can be informed by the actual spiritual fruit realized in our souls in our path through life.

You write: “Swinburne's argument, I think, is that it is very good for a man and woman to generate and raise a child. Acting on one's homosexual desires diverts some people from doing this, merely for the sake of bodily pleasure, which is less important. Thus, homosexual desires should be discouraged.”

Unfortunately Swinburne's actual argument was not published, but let us assume it is like you say. I notice that my argument has the same structure, only does not concern itself with good of generating and raising a child, but with the far greater good – the greatest good and the end of all creation – which is for us repent and become like Christ. In that context gluttony or lust (whether heterosexual or homosexual) for the sake of bodily pleasure divert people from the greatest good there is. Therefore gluttony and lust should be discouraged much more than homosexual desires.

That's my argument. If one agrees with the structure of Swinburne's argument and agrees that salvation is a far greater good than the generation and raising of children, then it seems to me one has to agree with the implication of my argument too.

Crude said...

Dianelos,

Therefore gluttony and lust should be discouraged much more than homosexual desires.

Homosexual desires, as it keeps being repeated, are lust. And, newsflash: we can, and do, discourage both.

At least until recently, where now lust and gluttony are both encouraged or tolerated. Don't fat-shame! Don't show intolerance!

Above I argued that if homosexual desire and behavior is sinful then it is a much lesser sin than heterosexual lust or common gluttony. So even given Christianity nothing is really established about the truth in this matter of ethics.

Whether or not something is 'established' isn't determined by your personal willingness to admit to it.

Once again, this 'I beseech thee, my brethren, be humble' act of yours turns out to be exactly that: an act. You urge care, caution, humility, and skepticism when it's an argument you dislike, offering that 'nothing is well-established among scholars'. Then you pivot and treat your own views as evident to the point that your rejection of a view shows that no truth is established.

I wonder if your hand-wringing act about the lack of clarity about the Bible or God or Christ - nothing is well established - means therefore that God's admonitions to love, or forgive, or be kind are likewise up in the air. There exist abundant atheists who insist that the God of the bible, even in the NT, isn't loving or forgiving. Somehow, I suspect the bit about 'nothing is well-established' will fall off the rails. Because it's not an honest and sincere claim on your part.

Phil K said...

The talk Swinburne gave is up at youtube now.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLpQsaU_CMbWtxiO2o20g0tA29RPr1Qq_
As someone who was there I have a hard time understanding why some people are making so much of a fuss.

jmhenry said...

I notice that my argument has the same structure, only does not concern itself with good of generating and raising a child, but with the far greater good – the greatest good and the end of all creation – which is for us repent and become like Christ.

Dianelos, it seems like you truly wish to show compassion to your fellow human beings who have homosexual desires, which is admirable, but it is statements like the above that seriously hinder your argument. If your argument is concerned about the "far greater good" of becoming like Christ (as opposed to generating and raising children), then rather than arguing for the moral permissibility of homosexual acts, you could just as easily argue instead that disciples of Christ just shouldn't marry and have sex at all, or at least it would be preferable not to. Indeed, Paul makes this very argument in 1 Corinthians:

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:7-9, NRSV)

So, Paul puts himself up as a model for other Christians -- being unmarried so as to pursue Christ without the distraction of other subordinate goods (marriage, procreation, etc.). Thus, even if we conceded that homosexual acts are morally permissible, your argument for pursuing the "far greater good" of becoming like Christ (as opposed to other subordinate goods) would entail that the heterosexual and the homosexual Christian alike should forego sexual relations and marriage entirely. That would, according to Paul, be an even greater help toward "becoming like Christ." If your argument hinges on pursuing the "far greatest good" as opposed to more subordinate goods, then why not make that argument? Why not advise celibacy, for the heterosexual and homosexual Christian alike?

Your argument also fails to engage with the idea that the male-female union (which is intrinsically procreative) has a central place in God's providential plan (Genesis 1:28; 2:24), so that the use of our sexual faculties must conform to the norms arising from the nature of that union. That is, if one is not going to be celibate (which would even more perfectly facilitate the pursuit of the "far greater good" of becoming like Christ), then one must use one's sexual faculties in a manner that is consistent with God's providential plan: a permanent, exclusive, monogamous, sexually complementary union that is welcoming to the fecundity that constitutes a central part of God's providence. You have yet to satisfactorily engage with this argument, but have instead -- in various ways -- simply begged the question against it.

Anonymous said...

@ficino

"I was not setting forth an argument, so I did not use my incredulity as a premise. There is no fallacy in what I wrote."

Of course you weren't setting forth an argument--when have you?--but I figured I'd point out that you were appealing to your own credibility, just in case you thought you were. :)

"And you misuse the term 'emotivist.' That refers to someone who holds a particular metaethical theory."

Hardly. Dianelos, in making the statement to which I referred, was indeed at that moment 'acting as' someone who holds the metaethical theory of emotivism.

"You are confused."

You're confused about my supposed confusion.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Anonymous 6:05 AM
@ Eric Rasmusen

“The Church doesn't teach the latter.”

Of course the Church doesn't teach that a man feeling attracted to a woman is a sin. Please read again the context in which I wrote that. In order to help us all reach some understanding of the condition our homosexual neighbor lives in, I proposed that we male heterosexuals *imagine* how it would be like if we woke up in a different reality. Here is what I wrote in the assumption that the reader is a heterosexual male:

“Imagine then that you wake up and discover that in the real world the natural act which leads to procreation is homosexual intercourse. But being heterosexual you are simply incapable and actually find it disgusting to have sex with other men, while the church teaches that sex with a woman or even to feel attracted to a woman is a sin. A terrible sin, one of the four “that cry out to heaven for vengeance”. Even though as a matter of fact it is simply impossible to overcome your attraction to women, you are told by the church to suffer a sin which you cannot possibly overcome. You know of course that you can't procreate with the woman you adore and thus are denied one of the great joys your homosexual brothers enjoy, but wonder why this makes the kind of love you feel for your wife and the joy of the sex you have with her and the emotional bond with her that sex produces – a terrible sin. Sure, biologically speaking your lovemaking with her is a barren behavior, but what is the relevance of biology in your case? Everything else – the last fiber in your spirit – tells you that sexually loving your wife is a good thing.”

I understand this has been a long discussion and that attention may wander – but I must say I find it striking that in this paragraph you objected to the sentence “the church teaches that sex with a woman or even to feel attracted to a woman is a sin”, and not, say, to the sentence “the natural act which leads to procreation is homosexual intercourse” :-)

Crude said...

Dianelos,

In order to help us all reach some understanding of the condition our homosexual neighbor lives in

First, you make the assumption that everyone here is straight. Bad assumption.

Second, it's very easy to conceive of 'desiring greatly something which is nevertheless a sin'. The difference is that you seem to think 'Well gee that's rough, ergo it's not a sin, in fact it's not even a bad thing' flies. And it simply doesn't.

And this...

Sure, biologically speaking your lovemaking with her is a barren behavior, but what is the relevance of biology in your case? Everything else – the last fiber in your spirit

...Doesn't come close to accurately representing what goes on with the modern LGBT community. This idea of the forlorn homosexual, desperately trying to mate for life, flies against the reality of the rampant state of 'open marriages', or the lifetime number of sex partners.

But even putting that aside, the answer is straightforward: we've all had scenarios like this explained to us in dramatic fashion. It is not an argument in favor of gay marriage, or sodomy. No more than wistfully describing the allure of a bottle of whiskey to a lifelong alcoholic manages. Which is why the standard reply is to imagine the same scenario you speak of, with a twist:

"Sure, biologically speaking your lovemaking with her is a barren behavior, but what is the relevance of biology in your case? Everything else – the last fiber in your spirit – tells you that sexually loving that eight year old girl is a good thing."

Strong argument there, Dianelos?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ jmhenry

“You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28, NRSV)”

Interesting you should point this out, since it supports a major point in my argument, namely that what's sinful is really the desire (for it represents a depravity of our soul) and not just the behavior (which is the visible implication of that desire). To argue crudely about this, by encasing our body in cement we will succeed in stopping most of our sinful behavior but we we won't therefore be less sinful. Or, to use a more modern idea, if we were to plant in our brain a chip which would electrically hinder our body from committing sins (or even hinder us from having sinful desires) that wouldn't make us less sinful either. The essential goal is not to avoid the sin, but repentance – which makes only sense in a condition of essential freedom.

Now I understand you offer the passage above as evidence that Christ was a strict disciplinarian, but I don't see that. Rather He is here explaining to us an important truth about sin. Repentance can be aided by willing oneself to not commit sins, but repentance itself is not the absence of sinful behavior but is the perfected state of the soul in which one freely does not desire to sin. And of course it goes without saying that Christ's ethical teaching is of an amazingly high standard.

I can't right now think of any passages from the gospels that would support my claim that Christ was not a strict disciplinarian. I suppose this is my overall impression of His character taking into account how inclusive and forgiving He was even to the most sinful people He met, and how He disagreed with the religious authorities of His time who were strict disciplinarians. In any case, my impression that Christ was not a stern ascetic or a strict disciplinarian plays no critical part in my argument.

“Rather, certain acts are considered to be intrinsically wrong, regardless of their circumstances. Hence contraceptive acts are still wrong, even in a "loving relationship" between a man and a woman.”

It doesn't affect your point, but I think it is more precise to say “certain desires and the behavior they may cause are considered to be intrinsically wrong, regardless of their circumstances”. A case in point is the desire to have sex in a way that avoids the generation of children. And if I understand you correctly you suggest this desire is wrong regardless of whether it is having sex with your wife whom you love, regardless of whether you already have many children and cannot afford more, regardless of whether making sex with your wife strengthens the emotional bond between the two and helps in the difficult business of both in sharing your life and raising children, regardless of whether your wife has a medical condition that would put her life in danger should she become pregnant, and so on. Regardless of these circumstances one should not have sex nor desire to have sex with one's wife – even though the use of a simple contraceptive would be an effective solution.

Well, if that's what you are suggesting then I don't agree. It seems to me that the wrong desire and wrong behavior is that which in one's actual circumstances hinders one from following Christ. The only fixed point in creation is Christ, but the direction we have to follow to reach Christ will often depend on our actual circumstances – both personal and external.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

As for the personal circumstances I thought this much is agreed: God judges differently the Christian from the pagan, the knowledgeable from the ignorant, the rich from the poor, the healthy from the disabled. By “judging” I here mean how God will perfect the soul of one who repents. Little repentance by those in difficult circumstances will go further towards perfection than much repentance by those who are more lucky in the world. Herein lies perhaps the logic of some difficult to understand beatitudes. Those of us who fancy ourselves blessed because we are smarter and have the education and time to increase our understanding and enjoyment of Christ, should realize that this blessing is a two-sided sword for it also raises our duty towards Christ. - I hope I am not misunderstood here since it may sound like I am suggesting ethical relativism. I say that ethical truth is always and entirely objective, but the ground of that objectivity is Christ and thus one measure of ethics is one's position relative to Christ. Thus what is true for one person may not be true for another. A good example here might be celibacy, which is good for the monk but not good for the husband. An analogy from geography would be the fastest way to reach the peak of a mountain. The truth about the fastest way is objective but is different for two persons who start out from different positions, say one from the north and one from the south of the mountain.

But not only one's personal circumstance counts, but also clearly the circumstances one finds oneself in. For example I would “never” take a stone to crush a kitten's head. But suppose that while driving I hit a kitten, step out of the car, and find the kitten painfully and slowly dying with all its bones broken and its innards spread on the asphalt. Surely in those circumstances simple kindness will move me to put an end to that pointless suffering, even though crushing a kitten's head with a stone is a very difficult act for me and driving away would be much easier.

So, finally, what about the claim that “certain sins are intrinsically wrong, regardless of their circumstances”. I agree that there are such sins, namely sins of such generality that they in all circumstances, personal or external, hinder one from following Christ. A case in point would be to wish someone ill (a common sin since it is present every time we dream of revenge). But it is false to believe that sins are usually intrinsically evil, since we can think of a plethora of counterexamples. And this false belief strikes me as quite harmful in the serious business of one's personal salvation since it will lead one to misjudge others and thus will harden one's attitude towards them. (Perhaps that's part of the reason why Christ asks us to never judge others. For in our own circumstances we know it when we sin in the sense that we know what hinders us from following Christ, but in other peoples' circumstances which we may misunderstand it is easy to be wrong.) In general it seems to be hypocritical when a deeply sinful person loudly worries about the salvation of others.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

“By positively excluding the possibility of procreation from the sexual act, Wojtyla says, the man and woman act contrary to the order of nature (which, he says, is to be distinguished from the merely "biological order") [snip]”

Really, how interesting. So the one who were to become John Paul II kind of foresaw my argument in his early book. Now the concept of “nature” is used in various ways, but here Wojtyla explicitly means something more than the physical/biological order. So far I fully agree. Arguing only about what is natural according to the physical/biological order is not advisable when we talk about ethics.

“[cont] reducing the act to one of "mutual use" (despite the subjective intentions of the man and woman) and thus violating the personalistic norm.”

I would agree if it were true that making sex in a loving relationship while positively excluding the possibility of procreation is always an act of “mutual use”. I know from personal experience that this not always the case. When it is the case then we are talking bout the cardinal sin of lust.

“You could similarly argue that homosexual acts are objectively not "loving" and are merely "using" (despite the subjective intentions of the partners), since they violate the order of nature and thus the personalistic norm.”

Sorry, here you lost me. I thought we were talking not about the biological but about a higher natural order which is violated when we use each either (i.e. have desires and behaviors towards our fellow beings while considering them as mere tools to an end). But how can such obtain without subjective intention? The very point here is intention. If a king makes sex to a wife he doesn't love because he desires to have an heir, then his intention is what makes it true that he is using her.

So, it seems to me, to have sex with one's wife using her for one's own pleasure while not positively excluding the possibility of procreation is a greater sin than to have sex with one's partner in the context of a mutual loving relationship while positively excluding the possibility of procreation. Since the former violates a higher natural order than the latter.

jmhenry said...

Crude: First, you make the assumption that everyone here is straight. Bad assumption.

Indeed. Plus, as I said before, even those who do not have homosexual desires can still sympathize, at least on some level, since we all have disordered desires of some kind.

Dianelos: Sure, biologically speaking your lovemaking with her is a barren behavior, but what is the relevance of biology in your case? Everything else – the last fiber in your spirit – tells you that sexually loving your wife is a good thing.

Again, you could make the same argument about contraceptive acts: that "the last fiber in your spirit" tells you that sexually loving your wife is a good thing. So instead of abstaining from sex during your wife's fertile periods (if you are trying to reduce the chances of conception for prudential reasons), then go ahead and sexually love your wife using contraception. But, once again, this would simply beg the question against the argument that contraceptive acts are objectively not loving. By positively excluding the possibility of new life from the sexual act, the person in their totality (including their bodily capacity for procreation) is rejected, thus rendering the act objectively one of use and not love. Hence the husband who truly wants to love his wife, in this case, would abstain from sex with her during her fertile period. In this case, the truly loving choice is not to have sex with her, since having sex with her through a contraceptive act is objectively not a loving act.

(And, besides, it's difficult to speak of "simple" contraceptives as an "effective solution" after reading this just yesterday. And that's just one of many risks to women's health that various contraceptives pose. So, even putting aside the natural law and considering the matter on strictly consequentialist grounds, contraceptives are morally problematic at best.)

As you noted earlier, we are embodied beings. And part of our embodied existence is our capacity for procreation. You describe sex as an act of "lovemaking," but that lovemaking -- if it is to be fully justified (that is, made just) -- must be a mutual giving and receiving of the persons in their totality, including their procreative capacity. Otherwise it will not be lovemaking at all. From Chapter 4 of Love and Responsibility:

What must be particularly emphasized here is the word “can,” for it indicates the potential character of this new relation. The conjugal act of both persons “can” give new life to a new person. So, when a man and a woman who are capable of procreation unite themselves in conjugal intercourse, the following state of consciousness and of the will must accompany their union: “I can be a father,” “I can be a mother.” Without this their reciprocal relation is not interiorly justified, but, in fact, unjust. Reciprocal spousal love demands the union of persons. However, the very union of persons is something different from the persons’ union in sexual intercourse. The latter rises to the personal level only when it is accompanied in consciousness and the will by this “I can be a mother,” “I can be a father.” This moment is so important, so decisive, that without it we cannot speak about the realization of the personal order in conjugal intercourse of a man and a woman.

[cont.]

jmhenry said...

[cont.]

You talk about lust being a problem in our culture. Well, imagine how radically attitudes about sex and relationships would change if people adopted that mindset. One of the principal reasons why lust is such a problem in our culture is because sex has been completely severed from procreation (e.g. through contraceptive use), which in turn creates the demand for abortion as a backup birth control measure (again, see the Casey opinion). And yet all of this could be avoided if people respected the intrinsically procreative nature of the sexual act, and kept in their minds the important and decisive "moment" that justifies it: "I can be a father," "I can be a mother." With that kind of mindset, the so-called hookup culture would evaporate overnight.

Really, how interesting. So the one who were to become John Paul II kind of foresaw my argument in his early book.

No, his argument is completely different. You should do yourself a favor and get a copy of the book and read it. In fact, everyone should read it. The "order of nature," he says, concerns the "order of existing and becoming" (of which procreation is a part). And the use of one's sexual faculties can only be justified (again, that is, made just) by respecting the order of nature, of which procreation is a part.

But it is false to believe that sins are usually intrinsically evil, since we can think of a plethora of counterexamples. And this false belief strikes me as quite harmful...

Actually, what is harmful is the implicit notion in your remarks here that those with homosexual desires can only express passionate love for others (and thus channel their desires) through sex. In fact, that's a problem in our culture among heterosexuals and homosexuals alike -- the identification of love with sex. It's the kind of mindset that created in our culture the pernicious notion that a passionate friendship between two men simply must be homosexual (a symptom of our sex-obsessed times that C.S. Lewis addresses in The Four Loves). Fortunately, there are homosexual Christians who are being witnesses to the more deeply human message that passionate love need not be sexual, but that the "yearning for same-sex closeness" can be "elevated, altered, transformed" -- which is a message that our entire culture needs right now, heterosexual and homosexual alike. Indeed, perhaps their witness is part of God's providential plan -- to remind us all that there is more to love than sex.

Brandon said...

What then makes gluttony and lust such harmful sins? It is not the pleasure itself but the desire for that pleasure beyond what's natural according to the biological order in which we are created.

This is not right. What makes gluttony and lust such harmful sins is that they almost immediately begin leading to other sins; that's literally the whole and entire reason for calling gluttony and lust capital vices. Acts of lust and gluttony are sins in the first place because they are typical acts of vices of excess. But the excess is not in desiring pleasure, even if that is excessive, unless this excessive desire is deliberately cultivated; it is in letting the desire for pleasure have an excessive role in one's actual choices. And it is not excess "according to the biological order" but excess according to reason, which indeed does have to take into consideration the biological order, but is not in any way limited to it. This is how these things have always been understood.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Phil K said...
The talk Swinburne gave is up at youtube now.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLpQsaU_CMbWtxiO2o20g0tA29RPr1Qq_
As someone who was there I have a hard time understanding why some people are making so much of a fuss.

Thank you, Phil K.

The reason some people are making so much of a fuss is tactical, a well-known technique. It may seem that the more offensive the act, the more effective it is to attack it, but not so--- rather, the reverse. What is really effective is to get people embarassed and apologetic about a *trivial* offense. That's what shows your power and makes people think before they show even the slightest opposition to your position. This tactic is especially unnerving to academics, because we start doubting our sanity, thinking there must be something real in the offense, and we start doubting our every statement.

My own field is game theory.

Anonymous said...

Dianelos:

"I understand this has been a long discussion and that attention may wander – but I must say I find it striking that in this paragraph you objected to the sentence “the church teaches that sex with a woman or even to feel attracted to a woman is a sin”, and not, say, to the sentence 'the natural act which leads to procreation is homosexual intercourse' :-)"

Good grief, man. It should have been obvious that I was quoting you with the understanding that you had reversed the genders per your hypothetical. (Of course, in that case, what I wrote makes perfect sense.)

Mr. Green said...

Dianelos Georgoudis: I am aware that my position goes against tradition.

You may also know that you are not speaking of a "tradition", a historical custom like wearing green vestments on certain days, but of Tradition, that is, the unbroken and authoritative teaching of the Church. You have extolled humility, but not demonstrated it: in acknowledging the Church’s teaching but rejecting it, you are putting yourself above the apostles and doctors through whom we have received that teaching. Do you know better than St. Paul? Than St. Augustine, or St. Basil, or St. Chrysostom, or St. Thomas, and all the rest?

However much you try to distance the Church and the Fathers as mere "pointers", you distance yourself more. If the Fathers are not reliable, then you are even less so. If Tradition is not an authority, then the only honest conclusion is that your own reasoning — or feeling, as the case may be! — is even more to be doubted.

The same problem arose during the previous thread about capital punishment: sure, the truth is "obvious" to everyone… but every man’s "obvious" truth is different from every other’s. What is the proper meaning of Christ’s teaching? To what authority can we appeal to decide? The Church of course; that is why we have it.

clearly homosexual behavior in the context of a stable and loving relationship is much less a sign of sin

It’s not a "sign" of anything; it is a sin. Having some genuine love for another does not turn a vice into a virtue. The glutton who donates to charity does not stop being a glutton. The adulterer who "loves" his accomplice is still an adulterer. Homosexual practices are using someone as an object because they have no proper reproductive function, they do not engage human biology for its natural end. There is nothing to them other than their lustful qualities.

it is unnatural in relation to the biological order, but perhaps it's not unnatural to the human condition.

That makes no sense. There are not two things, the "human condition" and the "biological condition" as though our bodies were something alien. Christianity is not gnosticism or spiritualism or materialism. Some goods are more noble and more worthy than others, but the lesser goods are still goods. Something properly part of human nature cannot at the same time be unnatural.

You picked a minor bit at the very end in the context of discussing empathy.

Emotional pleading pervades your entire position.

What I set out to do was to "explain in a bottom-up fashion why [it’s] not a serious sin.

We need less exploration of bottoms and more understanding of top-down principles. Morality is not something atomic, to be composed by aggregating particles of behaviour or attitude. (Hard cases make bad law.)

The basic premise of the argument is that the fundamental natural order of creation is not the physical/biological one

This sounds gnostic. You are trying to divorce humans from their biology, which is as grisly as it sounds. Christ calls us to be perfect, but perfect humans. He did not become incarnate to teach us to shed our bodily natures, but to fulfill them. You must be aware of the etymological root of phusis, which makes it all the stranger that you attempt to pit "physics" against "nature". Our nature is to be physical, so to pervert our biology is to pervert our nature.

[…Everything] tells you that sexually loving your wife is a good thing.

Isn’t it rather patronising to suppose it never occurred to anyone that people have different feelings? If I were to copy your paragraph substituting the words "adulterer" or "pederast", would you find yourself newly enlightened on those subjects?

I wish the church were more down to earth.

Since its purpose is to lift us up from the earth, that would be unwise.

Mr. Green said...

I don't agree with Feser's analysis of love there.

The analysis is correct whether you agree or not. Since Christianity is centred on love, it is vital to understand what love is; indeed Who Love is. Emotional feelings are not love, and could not make sense of the Christian message. This is not some personal view of Feser’s, or of Aquinas. This is the traditional understanding, at least until our brave new century decided that if it claimed love was lust long enough, people might believe it.

One will not find it agreeable to see a person one loves being punished or hurt in any way

Infants lack the intellectual maturity to understand how something that doesn’t feel good may in fact be for the best. But parents want to see their children eat their vegetables, no matter how much the children may feel "hurt" by them [either the parents or the vegetables]. And any just man wants to see justice served, even if it involves his loved ones. In fact, especially if it involves his loved ones, because if he truly loves them, he wants what is best for them, and a genuinely merited punishment is by definition good for the sinner.

if in fact homosexual desire and behavior is not a great sin then to loudly claim that it is does no good to her

Though not as much harm as loudly claiming that is it not sinful when it is. For one way, one simply fails to partake in something that might be good, which is not in itself sinful. But the other way, we are encouraging another to participate in serious sin, which is a double wickedness.

But evidently in that case the mother superior's decision went wrong. Why?

Because the musical cues called for such an emotional reaction, surely. The vast majority of humanity never got near a piano. Someone's life being "destroyed" by giving up a rare luxury indicates a serious psychological problem that is hardly the Mother Superior’s fault.

Nothing is well established among scholars

Then listen less to scholars and more to saints. Of course, we have a ready list of scholars who are saints in the Church Fathers, so the obvious solution is to turn to them for instruction.

Why God should make it so difficult for us is a separate interesting question.

It wasn’t hard for nearly 2000 years. God has been around that whole time, as has human nature; the only new thing is us. For anyone who chooses Christianity over modernism the principle is still easy. It’s difficult only if one ignores the first twenty centuries of Christian teaching in favour of the first twenty years of this particularly debauched century.

Of course the Church doesn't teach that a man feeling attracted to a woman is a sin.

The context is that of feeling an attraction. The Church does not condemn "attractions" (per se), so your parody is parodying the wrong thing, as Eric clearly understood.

because he desires to have an heir, then his intention is what makes it true that he is using her.

By "love", do you mean "having mushy feelings"? Because it sounds as though he loves her more than a king who would cripple his wife by polluting her body in order to incapacitate her natural, healthy functioning. But one cannot "intend" to have feelings, nor are feelings the measure of right or wrong.

I know from personal experience that this not always the case.

Rationalising your own behaviour is not an adequate argument. By some strange coincidence, your position basically aligns with the "TV view" of Christianity, the one offered by the surrounding culture. "Think happy thoughts" is not an adequate remedy for sin.

I will agree that according to the Bible and Tradition homosexual desire and behavior is a great sin, but this does mean it is so.

Indeed it does. (How’s that for a Freudian slip?)

Crude said...

"Sure, biologically speaking your lovemaking with her is a barren behavior, but what is the relevance of biology in your case? Everything else – the last fiber in your spirit – tells you that sexually loving that eight year old girl is a good thing."

Strong argument there, Dianelos?

C'mon, fake. Let's hear your answer.

So, it seems to me, to have sex with one's wife using her for one's own pleasure while not positively excluding the possibility of procreation is a greater sin than

Offending God, the Church, natural law and tradition are offenses that concern me. Offending Dianelos Georgoudis, not so much.

You've got nothing left, gent. Your arguments have been eviscerated. You're down to emotional pleading, and avoiding others' arguments and evidence - and if you answer my question, you've got two choices. 'Fervent emotional desire does not confer truth or justification, even with the last fiber of your spirit', or defending pedophilia.

Pick your poison.

Anonymous said...

A here comes Crude with the devastating coup de grâce.

This is how it's done, gents. Take notes.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

At least two of our party (Crude and Mr. Green) have raised the issue of pederasty, suggesting that my argument is such that if applied to this case it would conclude that pederasty too is a minor sin at worse. I would like to respond to that.

In my argument I distinguish between lust – heterosexual or homosexual – which is a sin in which I consider my neighbor as something to be used for my pleasure, and homosexual desire and behavior within the context of a loving relationship. The former I agree is a cardinal sin because it seriously hinders us from following Christ and his command to love each other as He loves us. What is different in the latter case is the fact that the homosexual genuinely loves her partner.

I was pointed to Feser's piece “bad lovin'” which starts with “To love, on the Aristotelian-Thomistic analysis, is essentially to will the good of another.” I don't fully agree with this analysis, since I believe that love is a state of the soul, indeed a measure of the soul's perfection (hence “God is love”). In general the state (whether virtuous or evil) of the soul necessarily affects our experience, and more specifically affects what we value and what we desire. In turn desire sometimes drives the will. Thus I would agree that love always makes us desire the good of whom we love, and often that desire is made visible in the deeds we will.

But the above specific analysis is not really critical to my argument. What's critical is the fact that there is such love among some homosexual couples, cases where our homosexual neighbors love each other and have sex with each other desiring the best for each other. My argument refers to their case, the case of homosexual desire and behavior in the context of a loving relationship.

Now compare pederasty. I understand that in pederasty it is never the case that the pederast desires the good of the child she has sex with, but the child is used for the sake of the pederast's pleasure. This then is very clearly a case of lust. Indeed an especially evil case of lust, since given the child's limited faculty of judgment it can't be the case that the child consents to having sex with the pederast. Therefore pederasty is rape.

Thus I think my argument does not at all fail in the case of pederasty.

In the interest of completeness I would like to clarify how I mean “pederasty”. There are cultures in which the marriage of underage girls is common and socially accepted. Perhaps most societies in history were like that. Today some of the countries with the highest incidence of child marriage are Christian countries in Africa and Latin America (the critical factor is poverty and not religion or religiosity). I would like to suggest that in this case one shouldn't speak of pederasty. (Actually here we have an example of how ethics is objective but objective in relation to the internal and external circumstances.) On the other hand, in the rich western societies pederasty as defined by the law is not only a very great sin but seriously injuries its victims and is therefore justly outlawed.

Anonymous said...

For context, watch Dr. Swinburne's complete lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6J_nPeF_lQ

Anonymous said...

Dianelos:

"Indeed an especially evil case of lust, since given the child's limited faculty of judgment it can't be the case that the child consents to having sex with the pederast. Therefore pederasty is rape."

Replace 'pederasty' with 'incest.'

But...but...muh 'consent'...muh 'limited faculty of judgment.'

Yep, I just kicked out those old, trusty SJW fallbacks from underneath you. Your move, bro.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

You write, "...the picture we get of the incarnated Christ as recorded in the gospels according to the witness of those who know Him personally is not that of stern ascetic and strict disciplinarian, but of an easygoing fellow..."

I think this is true, to an extent. I also think a supporting example may be drawn from John 8:3-11.

You may recall that in those verses it is reported that a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus by some scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, "Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" Jesus didn't respond at first, but after being continually pressed for an answer, He finally said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Naturally, no one threw a stone, and one by one the scribes and Pharisees wandered away. When it was just Jesus and the adulteress left, Jesus said, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" The woman said, "No man, Lord." And to this Jesus responded, "Neither do I condemn thee[.]"

Now, this seems to me to serve well as an example of Jesus coming across as an 'easygoing fellow'. It also seems to me that we should do more than just notice, and be guided by, Jesus’ lack of condemnation. That is, we should also ask whether, in not condemning the woman, Jesus also condoned either adultery in general or her adultery in particular.

Since Jesus didn't merely say, "Neither do I condemn thee", but actually said, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more", it seems clear that He wasn't condoning either adultery in general or the woman's adultery in particular. It also seems clear that in addition to being guided by the fact that Jesus didn't condemn the woman herself, we also are to be guided by the fact that He didn't condone her behavior.

In short:

a) not condoning a person's behavior need not entail condemning the person;

b) not condemning a person need not entail condoning the person's behavior; and,

c) you can make your case that people are not to be condemned for certain of their behaviors without also -- contra the example set by Jesus in John 8:3-11 -- insinuating that those behaviors are to be condoned.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Eric Rasmusen

“this blog is a better setting for philosophic argument than theological”

I would say that theology concerns itself with the premises revealed by God, seen by faith, and elucidated by reason. Whereas theistic philosophy takes these premises as granted and uses only reason to see where they lead. According to my definition then theistic philosophy is grounded on theology.

In this thread I proposed a philosophical argument grounded on theological premises which I think are broadly accepted. The most important premise I used is that in Christianity the highest natural order – the orientation of all creation – is atonement. And in particular for all humans to become similar to Christ.

“the church traditionally has taught on the sinfulness of desire”

If by sin we mean the fallen state of the soul then sinful desire is a necessary implication. The sinner cannot but have sinful desires. This I think is a factual truth of the human condition, and it is only natural that the church would speak of it.

“Many, perhaps most, individuals think lustful desire is a sin.”

I think so too. There is not way around it. An ugly desire is produced by an ugly state of the soul. In the context of lust to wish to use our neighbor only for our own pleasure is clearly a desire born in an ugly state of the soul, albeit perhaps a common one. We are after all born in sin, since we are all born with a soul which is far from perfect. (By “being born” I don't mean the actual event of birth, but the human condition we find ourselves in when we start making ethical decisions.)

“It is, indeed, an open philosophic question as to whether you can be morally culpable for desires that you abhor.”

To use a common example from the human condition: I like sweets, and often succumb to the temptation and eat them, while being aware that that the desire and the behavior are contemptible. Am I therefore “culpable”? Well to the degree I could by faith strengthen my will, and by strengthening my will avoid eating sweets, and by avoiding eating them make the desire wither away – in short to the degree I could repent but don't – I would say I am culpable. Perhaps I am missing something, but I wonder why philosophers find this to be a difficult question.

On Christianity I think it helps a lot be aware that God wishes the best and Christ is our helper – so we confront a path which looks to be very difficult but we also have the greatest possible advantages. On the other hand to try to convince our neighbor how culpable she is, does no good and probably causes harm. And becoming ourselves swamped with feelings of culpability is harmful too. Even psychology teaches this much. I'd say it's better to be cool-headed about our state, not become too anxious about our failings, and realize that there are many paths towards repentance.

Which reminds me of a story. It's a true story which I have not witnessed firsthand but which has been recounted to me by an acquaintance who was present. So as it happens until recently there lived in mount Athos alone in a skete a monk named Paisios. Even though he was somehow uneducated and coarse he became famous for his goodness and often small groups of people visited him (so he was not very alone after all). The story is about what happened on one such occasion. As was his custom Paisios asked his visitors to tell him what weighted on their souls and then commented on it. One of the visiting party was a big and handsome fellow, and when his turn came to the surprise of all he broke down and started crying. He explained that even though he loved his wife he couldn't help it and was always cheating on her with other women. After a little while the monk cut him short and responded thus: “Do you really think that God has nothing better to do than worry where you put your dick? If you cannot stop yourself from committing this sin then instead of lamenting go and do some great good somewhere else.”

Anonymous said...

Dianelos:

“Do you really think that God has nothing better to do than worry where you put your dick? If you cannot stop yourself from committing this sin then instead of lamenting go and do some great good somewhere else.”

Well that speaks volumes. This is antichrist talking, folks.

Crude's right, Dianelos: you're a fraud, a phony, a time-waster, and a fake, as well as a faux Christian and a heretic. (I make this assessment objectively and in Christian charity.)

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

Which reminds me of a story. It's a true story which I have not witnessed firsthand but which has been recounted to me by an acquaintance who was present...

Oy vey.

I myself am now reminded of a sort-of conversation which took place in my presence many years ago. A philanderer was complaining about all the problems he had to put with as a result of his fooling around. After listening to his woe-is-me lamentations, the person to whom he had been complaining, spoke simply and directly. That person said, "When you start thinking with the head between your shoulders rather than the head between your legs, your life will begin to straighten out."

Crude said...

Now compare pederasty. I understand that in pederasty it is never the case that the pederast desires the good of the child she has sex with, but the child is used for the sake of the pederast's pleasure.

So there we have it, folks. Remember what Dianelos said earlier: "But how can such obtain without subjective intention? The very point here is intention."

The only way he can salvage his argument is to plea that of -course- 'desiring the good of the child' is never present in the pedophile.

Which, of course... the pedophile would adamantly disagree with. And, they would further stipulate, that their 'subjective intention' is one thing they're privy to.

To which our resident fake has one of two options, just as I said before: say 'Those subjective intentions don't overrule anything. They, in fact, do not matter - your desire and love, even if felt with every fiber of your being, is wrong.' Goodbye, argument in favor of homosexual sex acts. Or, fall on his sword, and defend pedophilia.

Oh, one last thing.

After a little while the monk cut him short and responded thus: “Do you really think that God has nothing better to do than worry where you put your dick?

Something's being left out here, and in generosity, I'll fill everyone in.

The monk being spoken of? He was eventually arrested as a pedophile who was being bounced around from monastery to monastery, and assisting with the coverup of others guilty of the same. Seems that his admonitions against people caring about 'where you (or anyone else) put your dick' was in part an extension of the justification he was allowing for himself and others' crimes.

Mind you, I was not a witness to this, but it was related to me by a third party who was present.

Glenn said...

I retract the "Oy vey." I don't know the full circumstances surrounding the story, and it is possible -- given what the circumstances might have been -- that the point of saying, "Do you really think that God has nothing better to do than..." was not to assert or claim as some sort of unimpeachable 'Gospel truth' that God doesn't care about the man repeatedly cheating on his wife, but something else. Experiencing difficulty in breaking free of wrong behavior is one thing, and allowing oneself to become so paralyzed by angst over the difficulty that one becomes unable to do other things which are good is another thing. Perhaps -- perhaps -- the sole point of what was said was to shake or shock the man out of a state of a state of debilitating self-pity. I wasn't there, I don't know. Again, I retract the "Oy vey."

Glenn said...

(Btw, the sort-of conversation I spoke about did indeed take place; and what was said to the philanderer indeed was said (though probably even more directly than as I had put it).)

Crude said...

Glenn,

I take another interpretation from it - the apocryphal words of monks, while sometimes convenient, don't carry much of value. In case it needs to be highlighted further, there's plenty of monks and priests and nuns with a pretty rotten conception of Christ, morality and argument. Some of them, in fact, are pedophiles.

I wonder, how many of those priests had come to the conclusion that - so long as they reasoned that their intentions were pure, and that they in fact loved those children (as they knew love) - they were causing no real harm? And I wonder how many of their fellow clerics found themselves unable to act as they should, owing to their cries and pleas and appeals to what they felt with 'every fiber of their being'?

Is the morality of their acts just one sincere feeling (however misguided) of willful good towards children away from justification?

Or is it the case that some desires and acts cannot be sanctified by any amount of subjective wishing of good?

Since there's a love and appreciation of pith, I've heard the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Crude said...

And, on the same note...

the picture we get of the incarnated Christ as recorded in the gospels according to the witness of those who know Him personally is not that of stern ascetic and strict disciplinarian, but of an easygoing fellow

And yet...

"Jesus answered, “It was because of your hardness of heart that Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but it was not this way from the beginning. 9Now I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery.”"

[...]

"Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

22When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”"

[...]

"13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”[c]"

[...]

"Mark 9:43, 48-49 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire.”"

Not exactly easygoing, no. And, while not exactly a pure disciplinarian - closer to ascetic than is often given credit. The Prince of Peace had a knack for the discussion of hell.

Not that fire and brimstone is the approach to every situation. But we've hit a point where an awful lot of people think that, if only they say 'I do this in love', they can justify whatever they wish - and, indeed, have license to chastize, condemn, and attack (on Christian grounds!) anyone who defends Christ's and biblical teaching on the matter.

Claims that such people are fakes and about as Christian as a partial birth abortion are rather confrontational, I grant. But then, some confrontation is good at times. Last I checked, the Prince of Peace had a knack for that too.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Crude

I had written: “One will not find it agreeable to see a person one loves being punished or hurt in any way whatsoever, even if one thinks it's for her own good.”

To which you responded: “One will, in fact, find exactly that.”

Feser apparently agrees with you. Now this is a curious situation. Since I assume that we three are not lying while claiming different facts I can see only two possibilities:

One possibility is that you and I experience the same event differently. Even though we all partake in the human condition, it is also true that this experience need not be identical in its qualitative aspects. A case in point is how understanding something changes the quality of our experience of it. So, for example, a musician who looks at a musical score has an entirely different experience than a non-musician who looks at the same piece of paper. So perhaps the way you understand punishment is such that you find it agreeable to see a person you love being justly punished.

Another possibility is you and I are speaking differently. Perhaps what you are saying is “When I watch a person I love being justly punished then, given that I know that it's for her own good, and given that I know that the great good of justice is realized, I find the experience overall agreeable despite the pain I feel for her seeing her suffer like that.”

Glenn said...

Crude,

I take another interpretation from it - the apocryphal words of monks, while sometimes convenient, don't carry much of value. In case it needs to be highlighted further, there's plenty of monks and priests and nuns with a pretty rotten conception of Christ, morality and argument. Some of them, in fact, are pedophiles.

...

Since there's a love and appreciation of pith, I've heard the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


True. But what has that got to do with my having retracted the "Oy vey" because, on second thought, I realized that I myself don't know enough about the intentions or private behavior of that mount Athos monk to hazard a realistic guess either way? If I knew more about his intentions or private behavior, I might found out something that would having me wanting to say something stronger than, "Oy vey." As it is now, however, my knowledge of his intentions and private behavior is scant enough to be deemed non-existent, so I don't know enough to justify standing by my initial knee-jerk reaction. There isn't any more to my retraction than that.

Brandon said...

Since I assume that we three are not lying while claiming different facts I can see only two possibilities

Crude stated exactly the sense in which he meant it (the relation between atonement and love), so there's no need to throw up dust by speculating so vaguely.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@jmhenry

“Why not advise celibacy, for the heterosexual and homosexual Christian alike?”

Because my argument is about how sinful lustful desire and behavior are compared to homosexual desire and behavior in the context of a loving relationship. Celibacy is a condition that lies beyond my argument.

But perhaps you mean your question independently of my argument. Perhaps you are asking this: Suppose our homosexual neighbors love each other, desire to live together as a pair, and desire each other sexually. Which path is more conducive for them to follow Christ: To live together and have sex, to live together but in a celibate manner, or to separate and stay celibate? The best answer I can give is “I don't know”. For the reasons I explained above I hold that homosexual desire and behavior is not a cardinal sin, whereas cardinal sins run rampant in our societies and we ourselves are probably guilty of several of them (I certainly am). But perhaps in some cases the decision of two homosexual neighbors to separate and live a life in celibacy is the way that will help them follow Christ. I don't think there is a general answer here. As you point out St. Paul wrote that celibacy is a gift not given to all and when those who don't have it try it then bad things will probably ensue.

“Your argument also fails to engage with the idea that the male-female union (which is intrinsically procreative) has a central place in God's providential plan (Genesis 1:28; 2:24)”

One premise I used in my argument is that the providential plan in creation is realized in hierarchical natural orders. A further premise is that the highest such order is the salvific order, namely that we are all oriented towards atonement with Christ. (And therefore this is a higher natural order than the biological natural order which includes the procreation by male-female union.) If you disagree with any of these theological premises I'd like to know why, since they both seem to me to make excellent sense in our faith.

As for basing a theological premise exclusively on some quote from the Bible, I'd like to say that in my judgment this is dangerous business. Scripture – an ancient text that was being written up to the first century – records a large part of God's revelation, but is in its details of unequal quality. So there are plenty of apparent contradictions, which later exegesis more or less successfully straightened out, but the fact remains that there are still ongoing disagreements among theologians about the right interpretation. Some conservative theologians still believe in a basically literal interpretation of Genesis for example. So when we put our trust in a quote from the Bible we may well be putting our trust in a particular interpretation of it. But let's focus on the New Testament, which records a higher revelation and which I think is more coherent in many ways. Even here the variance in quality is striking. In the context of our discussion I was moved to read 1 Timothy 2 where St Paul writes that God wishes all to be saved. Continuing reading though I came to the bit about women. Now I fully agree that pronouncements in scripture should be understood in the historical and social context in which they were written, so I don't take issue St Paul's opinion about women. But I take issue with how terribly bad the argumentation he uses for justifying his opinion is. St Paul is arguably the architect of our church (understood as a systematic belief system as well as an organization) and the mason who single-handedly built much of its foundations, but it seems to me that his philosophical acumen is much weaker than, say, that of later Fathers. As I wrote above I strongly believe that revelation is an ongoing process, and that through the grace of the Holy Spirit there will always be a true advancement in Christian understanding.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

I try to write my comments in a linear fashion, but since my story with the monk Paisios was clearly not received well I'd like to make some clarifications and explain why I think his response was wise.

First of all, even though I have reason to believe that the story is true, this is entirely irrelevant. What matters is whether the story has wisdom we can profit from. Secondly the personal condition of the monk is irrelevant also. What makes an advise wise is whether it moves us to follow Christ, not whether the one who uttered it is herself close to Christ.

In the story we encounter a neighbor who gravely sins, who is fully aware of this, and who tries but is unable to overcome his temptation and repent. This is a very common occurrence in the human condition. Moreover that neighbor is torn to threads by feelings of culpability and fear (a passion of exaggeration which is probably unhealthy since it does not comport with faith in the power of Christ). In the story we find him going to the monk and asking for advice. It goes without saying that this is pragmatically speaking an extremely important question and relevant to all of us. I found the monk's answer very wise and I want to explain why.

First of all we must realize that the ethical state of the human soul has structure. There are seven cardinal sins alone, and uncountable other sins some of which extremely serious. On the other hand there are many virtues too. So there are many ways one can fail Christ but also many paths towards Christ. What the monk advices is this: When you find yourself unable to stop failing Christ here, don't waste your life in lamentations but work in succeeding to move towards Christ there. I don't think the idea is that by doing a good there we balance an evil here (actually I tend to think this doesn't hold). I think the idea is that by doing a good there we shall gain strength to overcome an evil here. In other words, a way to ultimately repent this sin here is to first repent that sin there. I this is true (and I have the sense that it is true and even have the very slightest evidence of success in my own life) then this is pragmatically a very useful piece of advice indeed.

Now of course thanks to the age old Christian tradition we have access to a lot of pragmatical advice about following Christ – some of which of general validity such as taking part in Church life, prayer, forgiving the failings of others, spiritual exercises of various kinds, and so on. I wasn't though myself aware of this particular piece of advice. I wonder if the reader knows of an occasion where it had been stated before in the Christian tradition. But if it hadn't been stated before it does not of course mean it must be invalid. Perhaps poor monk Paisios in this particular instance served God's ongoing revelation and special providence in the world.

But is the advise really wise? I am not absolutely certain, but it certainly seems so. It strikes to me as pretty obvious that instead of lamenting one's failings one is better off doing some good instead. And after all this is a testable matter since “by their fruit you will recognize them”.

Anonymous said...

"And after all this is a testable matter since “by their fruit you will recognize them”. "

This doesn't hold if one cannot recognize the quality of the fruit. For instance, you think that rotten, worm-riddled, feces-covered fruit is good fruit.

"Perhaps poor monk Paisios in this particular instance served God's ongoing revelation and special providence in the world."

Or perhaps his words functioned as a rationalization for impenitent sinners (as Crude pointed out) and as a stumbling block to the innocent.

"What makes an advise wise is whether it moves us to follow Christ, not whether the one who uttered it is herself [!] close to Christ."

A pathetic, unnatural, pandering usage of the female pronoun; Paisios is a dude, which means you deliberately went out of your way to pander to feminist directives by using "her."

Vand83 said...

"But is the advise really wise?"

Strange. I was under the impression that wisdom took a back seat to "gut feelings" in your world.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

...my story with the monk Paisios was clearly not received well...

What did you expect?

That is, given that...

a) the crassness of the language used in the monk's question is repugnant;

b) the literal meaning of the question itself is even more repugnant;

c) the statement following the question easily comes across to the reader -- in whom a feeling of repugnance has just been engendered -- as trivializing the sin of adultery; and,

d) the story immediately follows "there are many paths towards repentance", so the reader has a justifiable expectation in mind of the story actually being relevant to repentance, yet the reader quickly finds out that 'stop worrying about it and do something else' is alleged to be a viable path to repentance...

...what did you expect?

- - - - -

It strikes to me as pretty obvious that instead of lamenting one's failings one is better off doing some good instead.

One good one might do in lieu of lamenting one's failings is going about correcting them.

Another good he might do is that which will lead to their correction.

- - - - -

Perhaps some of your assertions are actually conclusions arrived at after having reasoned from a sense of despair. If so, then perhaps it will be helpful to reflect upon the implications in the following from St. Thomas:

"[A] man while retaining in the universal, the true estimate of faith, viz. that there is in the Church the power of forgiving sins, may suffer a movement of despair, to wit, that for him, being in such a state, there is no hope of pardon, his estimate being corrupted in a particular matter." -- ST II-II Q 20 A 2

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Anonymous 7:49AM

“This doesn't hold if one cannot recognize the quality of the fruit.”

Right, theoretically this could be a problem. But given Christ's amazing high standards in His ethical commands I think this problem never obtains in praxis. I mean if you find yourself freely moving into a state of forgiving those who hurt you, of loving even your enemies, of having faith in God and not looking for material security, and so on – then there can hardly be any doubt that the good fruit is being realized in you, don't you agree?.

And, after all, the “You will know them by their fruits” is according to the gospels a piece of advice given by Christ Himself, so there can't be any serious doubt that this is a good advice which we should implement in our lives. Indeed, Christ thinks very highly of this advise as evidenced by how He insists on its logic: “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them”

“Or perhaps his words functioned as a rationalization for impenitent sinners”

I wonder where people read this in the story. Paisios advices that *if* somebody tries but cannot repent a sin *then* instead of lamenting she should go and go a great good deed instead. I don't see any “rationalization” here, but an effort to help the sinner overcome the dangerous impasse she founds herself in. Or at the very least this is the literal and natural interpretation of the answer – why not take it but seek an unnatural interpretation?

“Paisios is a dude, which means you deliberately went out of your way to pander to feminist directives by using "her."”

In that sentence I wasn't referring specifically to Paisios but to everybody who gives advise. In those cases I prefer to use the female pronoun because I think this is the right thing to do. And it certainly isn't the case that I shouldn't do what I think is right only because feminists happen to ask the same. Anyway that's really a minor issue.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

>> "Or perhaps his words functioned as a rationalization for impenitent sinners"

> I wonder where people read this in the story. Paisios advices that *if* somebody tries but cannot repent a sin *then* instead of lamenting she should go and go a great good deed instead.

But that isn't what you had Paisios saying in the story -- this is: "If you cannot stop yourself from committing this sin then instead of lamenting go and do some great good somewhere else."

Stopping oneself from committing a sin and repenting of that sin are horses of a different color. Thus, even though one may no longer commit a sin after having repented of it, merely getting oneself to stop committing a sin is not equivalent to repenting of it. So, insofar as repenting of a sin goes, merely not committing it is insufficient, and one can remain impenitent even though he no longer commits the sin.

Glenn said...

Also, given Elder Paisios: On Forced and False Repentance, I suspect you either misheard the story or have misreported it.

Anonymous said...

"Right, theoretically this could be a problem. But given Christ's amazing high standards in His ethical commands I think this problem never obtains in praxis. I mean if you find yourself freely moving into a state of forgiving those who hurt you, of loving even your enemies, of having faith in God and not looking for material security, and so on – then there can hardly be any doubt that the good fruit is being realized in you, don't you agree?."

No, because if you're doing all those things and, say, looking at p*rnography, then you're in a state of mortal sin.

"And, after all, the “You will know them by their fruits” is according to the gospels a piece of advice given by Christ Himself, so there can't be any serious doubt that this is a good advice which we should implement in our lives. Indeed, Christ thinks very highly of this advise as evidenced by how He insists on its logic: “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them”"

It's a good piece of advice for genuine Christians. For fake, dissenting Christians who don't even understand what good fruit is--or who radically redefine what good fruit is--it doesn't work.

"Or at the very least this is the literal and natural interpretation of the answer – why not take it but seek an unnatural interpretation?"

No, it's not the literal and natural interpretation.

"In that sentence I wasn't referring specifically to Paisios but to everybody who gives advise."

I know. But it's unnatural to go from speaking about a male to switching to a female pronoun for an hypothetical person. Just stick with the 'male' theme.

"In those cases I prefer to use the female pronoun because I think this is the right thing to do."

It's the right thing to do, according to whom?

"And it certainly isn't the case that I shouldn't do what I think is right only because feminists happen to ask the same. Anyway that's really a minor issue."

Nonsense. 100 years ago you'd be writing with 'he' and 'himself' all the way through without batting an eye.

ficino said...

@ Danielos:

Hi Danielos, a few posts ago you wrote: "A further premise is that the highest such order is the salvific order, namely that we are all oriented towards atonement with Christ. (And therefore this is a higher natural order than the biological natural order which includes the procreation by male-female union.)"

Is it correct to call the salvific order a "natural" order? I would think it's supernatural in the literal sense of above or beyond nature. E.g. in the pseudo-Athanasian Liber de definitionibus, the author writes, "three are that which is spoken of among men: what is according to nature, what is contrary to nature, and what is above nature. And according to nature is marriage; harlotry (porneia) is contrary to nature [contrary to Aquinas here], and virginity is above nature."

However we spin the harlotry part of the quotation, I would think you wouldn't want to call the salvific order "natural."

??

Dianelos Georgoudis said...


@ Glenn

“What did you expect?”

I expected that others would see the wisdom I see in the story, a story which is related to the issue of sexual ethics and repentance we've been discussing. Of course if I am mistaken in seeing that wisdom it is only good that others failed to see it.

“a) the crassness of the language used in the monk's question is repugnant”

Well, the slang was present in the original Greek as recounted to me, and I saw no reason to prettify the story in any way. But isn't there a bit in the gospels where Christ tells us to care about the content of the cup and not about the outside of it?

“b) the literal meaning of the question itself is even more repugnant”

The literal meaning refers to the actual natural order of sexual intercourse. But the theological statement itself is obviously true, and it seems to me that the monk's intention was to break down the sinner's unhealthy and overanxious self-absorption.

“c) the statement following the question easily comes across to the reader -- in whom a feeling of repugnance has just been engendered -- as trivializing the sin of adultery”

As I explained to Anonymous above that's an unnatural interpretation of the answer. The wisdom is in the natural and indeed literal interpretation. But I understand that the language and imagery is very uncommon in the context of the salvific advise we read in books or listen in the church. On the other hand I wonder what kind of language and imagery would be more effective in the case of speaking with the actual sinner. I was thinking that those who choose to work for the salvation of others, the people of the cloth, will need to communicate effectively with desperate sinners who might not speak in cultivated ways. (I really wonder how the actual Nazarene was. We know He was of a humble background and spoke Aramaic and not Greek which was the language of the educated. And we know that some of His followers and some of the people He dealt with were very simple and probably illiterate folk. And we know He shocked the religious authorities of His time - perhaps it wasn't only because of what He was saying but also of how.)

“d) the story immediately follows "there are many paths towards repentance", so the reader has a justifiable expectation in mind of the story actually being relevant to repentance, yet the reader quickly finds out that 'stop worrying about it and do something else' is alleged to be a viable path to repentance...”

Not just “something else” but, critically, “some great good somewhere else”. And, yes, the idea is that in so doing one follows a path of repentance. One which according to my understanding will ultimately help one repent the original sin that produced so much anguish.

I do now see that the monk's answer might be interpreted as giving the sinner the permission to continue cheating on his wife and fornicating around. But I don't think this would be my understanding if I were that sinner. “If you can't stop committing this sin instead of lamenting go and do some great good elsewhere” does not strike me as a trivializing my sin or giving me permission to continue with it.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

I expected that others would see the wisdom I see in the story, a story which is related to the issue of sexual ethics and repentance we've been discussing. Of course if I am mistaken in seeing that wisdom it is only good that others failed to see it.

I have not claimed that there isn't any wisdom to be found in the story. You observed that the story wasn't received well, and I gave some reasons why (in my case at least) it wasn't (at first). I will also remind you that twice I gave a short explanation for why I retracted my initial, "Oy vey."

“a) the crassness of the language used in the monk's question is repugnant”

Well, the slang was present in the original Greek as recounted to me, and I saw no reason to prettify the story in any way. But isn't there a bit in the gospels where Christ tells us to care about the content of the cup and not about the outside of it?


Yes, there is such a bit in the gospels, and it goes like this: "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." I take this to mean that repentance entails an internal renovation rather than a whitewashing of externals, and not that vulgar speech is acceptable on the grounds that it is something thought to be good, true, meaningful or wise which is sullied by the vulgar speech.

I do now see that the monk's answer might be interpreted as giving the sinner the permission to continue cheating on his wife and fornicating around. But I don't think this would be my understanding if I were that sinner.

The story wasn't told for the benefit of the sinner in the story, but for others who weren't present when the happenings in the story took place. And if you now can see how the monk's answer might be interpreted by a reader of the story as giving the sinner the permission to continue cheating on his wife and fornicating around, then you now have all you need in order to understand why the story might not have been well-received.

- - - - -

As might be said of the funny occurrence which doesn't seem funny when retold, let's just say of the ill-received story, "Oh well. I guess you had to be there."

- - - - -

As for whether good works in areas not having to do with a particular sin one is having difficulty repenting of might ultimately aid in the successful repenting of that particular sin, I do not see why the answer cannot be, "Yes." While good works do not merit grace, they do remove obstacles to the reception of grace (ST II-II Q 177 A 1 ad 3). If obstacles to the reception of grace are removed, and grace is bestowed and received, then it well may be that that grace will also seep in and work its work in the area of the specific difficulty. Needless to say, this is a circuitous, roundabout way of repenting of a particular sin; and, unless the circuitous, roundabout way is needed as a last resort, the more direct route of sincerely repenting of the particular sin is, one would think, to be preferred.

Crude said...

Glenn,

Beg pardon, sir - I probably came across as brusque with you. Not my intention.

Crude said...

I expected that others would see the wisdom I see in the story, a story which is related to the issue of sexual ethics and repentance we've been discussing. Of course if I am mistaken in seeing that wisdom it is only good that others failed to see it.

[...]

I do now see that the monk's answer might be interpreted as giving the sinner the permission to continue cheating on his wife and fornicating around. But I don't think this would be my understanding if I were that sinner. “If you can't stop committing this sin instead of lamenting go and do some great good elsewhere” does not strike me as a trivializing my sin or giving me permission to continue with it.

D, you've been spending your time in this conversation trying to defend sodomy and gay marriage/sex as right - indeed, so right, that you think Swinburne was rightly attacked for criticizing it with philosophical argument, and that others should be discouraged from doing the same. Then you bring up a story that features the old canard of 'God doesn't care what you fuck', and goodness, you're surprised anyone took an interpretation away of permitting sin?

I've got another idea: people fuck up when they try to do good and avoid sin. The solution isn't to say 'Well you're not sinning' or even 'Stop worrying about sinning and try to balance it out with some good' - which sounds a bit like the old rotten abuses with indulgences. We should encourage them to keep trying to avoid sin, even if they screw up.

No one here is condemning LGBT people for their screwups. In fact, we're not even focusing on LGBT people are all for the most part - it's on their supposedly straight defenders, who at this point are converging Christian organizations with the intention of squelching them from even *arguing* that sin is, in fact, sin.

If the monk of the mountains wants to defend Rea, then make him a hermit and keep children away from him. Come to think of it, send Rea and company there too, where they'll do less harm.

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