Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Pilkington responds

Philip Pilkington sent me a response to my reply to his American Postliberal article. I thank him for it and am happy to post it here:

Feser's response to my piece is a welcome effort at clarification. We need such clarification if postliberalism and related thought is to move from the abstract to the concrete. Here I will address the key points, as best I can.

Regarding the base versus superstructure distinction, we should probably better determine what we are talking about. When Marxists discuss them – typically in the broader context of their ‘science’ of ‘dialectical materialism’ – they appear to be engaged in something in between metaphysics and political economy. As Feser says, for them the economy truly determines all – and it does so on an a priori basis.

I would suggest that, to the extent that postliberals choose to use this terminology, they completely abandon any a priori conceptions beyond the terminology itself. Base and superstructure should be seen as metaphors – rather loose metaphors in many ways – to organise thinking on political and policy issues. Feser's terminology of spheres is probably, as he says, less loaded. On the other hand, the base and superstructure terminology plugs into decades of political economy discussion.

More importantly is the question of cause. Here we truly descend into the realm of the practical. Yes, the norms that we may seek to set are grounded metaphysically in the natural law tradition. But beyond this, everything is empirical. The problem, of course, is that social science cannot really determine cause in any meaningful sense. The best that can be done is to establish correlation – and, perhaps, in the best case correlation at a lag (econometricians call this ‘Granger causality’. In such questions, we are all Humeans whether we like it or not.

Feser hints that I may be emphasising economic causality over cultural in my initial essay – and I think he is correct. Some of this is rhetorical – I want to shake conservatives into seeing these connections. But some of it is not. I do increasingly think that many of the developments we are seeing in our culture are being driven primarily by liberal economic relations being pushed past the point where they yield anything positive.

Take the example of birth rates in Islamic countries that Feser references. It is no doubt true that birth rates in Muslim countries are higher than in post-Christian countries, but this is only true on a diminishing basis. Many Muslim countries simply remain economically undeveloped. In these countries, people live for most part as they have for centuries. In the countries that have made efforts in the direction of economic development – most notably Iran – birth rates have fallen precipitously.

In 1978, when the Iranian Revolution was launched, Iran's fertility rate was just above 6.3. Recall, this was the fertility rate in an Iran run by the famously rather secular Shah. Today, after years of economic modernisation, the fertility rate is well below replacement at 1.7. Recall, in contrast to the Shah's secular state, this is Iran under the Mullahs – complete with its infamous morality police. If we look at indicators of economic change, this starts to make sense. At the time of the Revolution less than 5% of Iranian women were enrolled in tertiary schooling. Today this number is around 60%. Iran is a fascinating case study because it is a model in tension with itself. The revolutionaries wanted to modernise society but maintain an Islamic state. The results have been, shall we say, mixed.

But let us think about this in positive terms. Imagine if we could run a successful family policy that pushed the fertility rate back up to around 3 (similar to what exists in Israel today, but we would hope one more spread out and less concentrated amongst the Haredi). In such a society, the average family would have three children and the state would be promoting this as something great. Could this possibly not drastically change the culture? It seems highly unlikely to me that a nihilistic, hyperconsumer culture that we have today would fit in such a society. People would simply not have time to be interested in such frivolities and much of it would be driven back underground, the province of bohemians and oddballs.

On the other hand, do we really think that a conservative cultural turn would vastly impact these trends? We had a conservative revolution of sorts in the late-1970s. And even though the 1980s and 1990s were far more culturally conservative than the 1960s and 1970s, none of the fundamental forces were reversed. Divorce continued to rise, family formation fell, birth rates fell – and so on. As with Iran, the packaging can look as conservative as you please, but it matters little if people are not living it out.

A few years ago I visited Croatia. On Sunday the churches were full. I expect that attendance rates were around 80-90%. All over the towns were spontaneous Catholic shrines. The air was thick with conservative sentiment. And yet, for all that, there were few families. People were just sort of milling around aimlessly. While on the beach I looked up the fertility rate on Google. It was 1.5.


  1. "When they were fed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me." (Hosea 13:6)

    "I do increasingly think that many of the developments we are seeing in our culture are being driven primarily by liberal economic relations being pushed past the point where they yield anything positive." Hmm. Now what does that mean??

    Anyway, the underlying premiss of the discussion is that there are two spheres, economy and culture, that causally interact? Seems suspect. Economy is inherently cultural, an incarnation of culture. Culture is inherently economic, dependent on and a manifestation of economic relations. The distinction is one of reason, not a real one, such that the things distinguished could have real causal relations. It may be that I'm just not sufficiently conversant with the use of terms here, but for the purposes of meaningful analytical discussion the concepts of Culture and Economy here seem to me to be -- rather like the people in Croatia -- "just sort of milling around aimlessly."

  2. I don't know if Mr. Pilkington will read this, but if I might quote from his original article:

    "It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say, given how integrated personal and economic life are in today’s intensive consumption-production economy, the only way to engage in meaningful reforms is to tackle them first at an economic level."

    Well enough, but your economic analysis gives too little regard to perverse incentives that exist within modern tax codes, regulations, and the welfare state.

    Mind you, I can only speak to the American case. But with the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment to our Constitution, Congress gained the ability to levy an income tax (which was supposed to be temporary, funding our participation in WWI). The original tax code was four pages long. Between statutes and regulatory rulings, it's now roughly sixty thousand. Depending upon where you live in the US, federal, state, and municipal governments might be seizing half your income. How many households are forced to have two income earners because of that burden?

    Meanwhile, there's the "double taxing" of the self-employed (where they're taxed as both employee and an employer), discouraging small business ownership. Or the estate tax, which take can a huge chunk of one's inheritance (and the ceiling on what could be taxed was only raised in the last few years). There's also Social Security, originally billed as catastrophic "social insurance," but has become an intergenerational ponzi scheme where wages are compulsorily garnished to keep the program (sort of) solvent, removing opportunities to save and invest.

    Of course, there's also the regulatory side, where starting a business requires jumping through so many hoops, and having so much of one's revenue taken by the government, it drives people away from starting them. Then there are independent property owners, such as farmers, who might lose control of parts of their property under the guise of things like environmental regulations, even while they still technically own it.

    You surely know the importance of property to the support, stability, and continuity of families. And not only does it serve as a means of support, but helps form ties to our ancestors.

    And while married households or family-owned businesses labor under such burdens, our welfare system incentivizes single parents having a string of kids on the public dole. It's no coincidence that segments of the American populace which have the highest rates of fatherlessness also have some of the highest rates of unemployment and welfare-dependence. In the case of African-Americans, for instance, virtually all (above 95%) children were born into two-parent families. It's after the LBJ's "Great Society" expansion of the welfare state that we see a precipitant rise in fatherless homes.

    You say "capitalism eats itself," but we don't really subsist in a system of free enterprise. Instead, we labor under "mixed market economy," overburdened with taxes, regulation, and the modern "bread and circuses" of welfare, where ownership of property is conditional and the average man is discouraged from being his own boss. We economically discouraged from forming those "little platoons" that make up the organs and sinews of communities. So, before we start talking about financial incentives for starting families or banning dating apps (I would think pornography or the use of abortion as retroactive birth control would be far more pressing problems), perhaps we turn our attention to the eight hundred pound gorilla jumping up and down on people's backs?

    P. S. - I might recommend "The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier," by Terry L. Anderson, as an interesting read.

    1. Wow, David Marcoe, you really don't like taxes - at least, as levied in the USA. But then, who does?

      it's interesting that both you and classical Marxists say that the other side causes producers' alienation.

    2. "Wow, David Marcoe, you really don't like taxes - at least, as levied in the USA. But then, who does?"

      I don't enjoy taxes, but I hate excessive and unjust taxation. Lawful authority has a right to levy taxes. It's doesn't have a right to any and all of people's income and property.

      "it's interesting that both you and classical Marxists say that the other side causes producers' alienation."

      You're assuming a position I don't hold. I don't subscribe to the Marxist theory of alienation, or just about anything else Marxism spews forth.

    3. "I don't subscribe to the Marxist theory of alienation"

      Didn't say you did. I said you ascribe producers' alienation to "the other side," i.e. to the mixed market economy. I think it's fair to say that those things that make our economy "mixed" in your view are borrowings from socialist systems, which have been "mixed" into capitalism. The more socialist borrowings, I am guessing you'd say, the more alienation experienced by producers. If you mean something else, please clarify.

    4. Of course, there's also the regulatory side, where starting a business requires jumping through so many hoops, and having so much of one's revenue taken by the government, it drives people away from starting them. Then there are independent property owners, such as farmers, who might lose control of parts of their property under the guise of things like environmental regulations, even while they still technically own it.

      In my opinion, this comment by David Marcoe rightly intantiates David McPike's comment that

      Economy is inherently cultural, an incarnation of culture. Culture is inherently economic, dependent on and a manifestation of economic relations. The distinction is one of reason, not a real one, such that the things distinguished could have real causal relations.

      I think that Marcoe thought he was making a primarily economic comment, but "regulations" that constrict how to start a business are not primarily economic in substance, even though they clearly have many economic impacts. E.G. saying "thou shalt not pollute beyond X ppm of sulphur" is not economic in nature, it is a health matter.

      There is no bright-line division between matters cultural and matters economic, because an economy subsists within a people, who have a culture made up of 100,000 parts, many of which are economic parts of their culture.

      But perhaps as importantly, the things we typically call "cultural" aren't necessary the root, rock-bottom principles either. Underlying any established culture will be some sort of view of what man is and what constitutes human fulfillment. This view may be not perfectly uniform, and it may be either explicitly stated or held implicitly, but it will necessarily be there. It is inevitable that vastly many of the customs and practices reflect and support that view of man, and it is inevitable that many of these practices will be ones that are economic ones either primarily or secondarily.

      At least part of what we are experiencing, in the US and in "western" (post-Christian) society in general, is that overall our peoples are trying an experiment in rejecting the prior prevailing view of what man is and what constitutes his fulfillment, with various efforts to state a new view (of sorts*), but without (a) having a new root view that is truly dominant, (b) any accepted model by which such new view should become the dominant view, or (c) a plausibly sound way to proceed given a lack of agreement on above.

    5. I don't accept the Marxist concept of alienation, so I'm not posing some alternate theory or ascribing some alternate cause. What I'm pointing to are factors that are materially disruptive of the formation of families and communities and the establishment of financial independence, while creating an incentive structure that encourages contrary behaviors. I'm not addressing the moral, spiritual, or intellectual effects of labor conditions, nor so I accept that our labor is what primarily gives meaning to our lives.

      That the mixed elements of our economy are socialist borrowings, or at least originate with the Left, are not really in dispute. But whatever my contempt for socialism, I'm concerned with matters of justice, not the particular origin of those elements.

  3. Cultures are a mish-mash of complexity. Unusual developments are becoming more usual. The reported attempted coup in Russia may be a first sign of an awakening, or a random act of desperation.

    1. WCB

      Culrures can be rather varied in style. And alThe Post report goes on to state that it is not known if Smith's investigators have yet been in contact with economic systems. Afghanistan with the Taliban, Communist Chine with it's Uigher forced labor camps. Russia and it's kleptocracy. North Korea. Post Christian Scandanavia and their Scandanavian Model economic systems.

      Here in the U.S. we see the deep South, the m OK st religious part of America with their low tax, low service model. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, last in education spending, last in education quality and achievement. Parasite states taking large amoujts of money from blue states, while its politicians bawl about socialism. Powerful far right organizations like ALEC peddling Supply Side nonsense despite abject failures of SS as seen in Browback' Kansas and Jingle's Louisiana.

      The problem with economics is many supposedly expert economists are driven by ideology, pet economic theories and ignore empirical facts as to what works and what does not. Economic charlatons run rampant who have not been right about anything in 40 years and still end up advising pres8dents and Congressmen.


    2. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, last in education spending, last in education quality and achievement.

      Heh, the old "dumb South" canard. The facts say otherwise:

      Florida: 44th in spending,

      but 1st in effect:

      California, last in outcome, but 17th in spending.

      In reality, even these facts are misleading: schools and colleges have an ever-increasing level of propaganda function rather than training to think critically, so statistics like "has the highest percentage of college graduates" doesn't even begin to say whether they are educated.

  4. excellent thoughts both by Feser and by Pilkington.

  5. I agree with a lot of what had been said in this fruitful discourse but I just can't get myself to get on board with this air of disdain when it comes to women in the work place. It's just doesn't make sense to me. To quote a friend, "Is it too much to ask for both". Work from home models are steadily gaining more traction especially with mothers who find that it allows them to be with their children as well contribute to the intellectual spheres of human life from education to the sciences to engineering to the arts. Women have made very lasting and substantial contributions to the human intellectual life including the school of Thomism. As a result just I feel it's a bit regrettable when respected philosophical giants like the Dr Feser seem to tacitly or implicitly align themselves with figures like Timothy Gordon. Timothy Gordon's shameful treatment and response to Fr Mike Schmitz these days is just horrifying to watch. No one has done more then Fr Mike Schmitz to provide a voice of orthodoxy and clarity in this world where people are easily prone to excesses from both sides, from Sedevacantism to Modernism. Ofcourse Modernism is pervasive but just look at the follower counts and amount of favorable interactions on accounts like Taylor Marshall. It's certainly not a fringe minority. And must be countered with sane orthodoxy.

    1. Read the Catechism of the Council of Trent or the countless encylicals that talk about the vocation of women in the home including Pope John Paul II's encylical Laborem Exercens.

      The thesis of Timothy Gordon in The Case for Patriarchy is simply orthodox Catholicism. You can simply read the primary sources, such as sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers and numerous papal encylicals. If you haven't read The Case for Patriarchy or Ask Your Husband, I highly recommend them both.

    2. The encyclical of John Paul II explicitly qualifies that working outside the home is wrong only when it hinders the natural duties of a mother, it is not wrong absolutely. Trent Horn responds to Gordon well in his issues. I think it's fair to judge that in some instances the Doctor's got it wrong when their conceptualisation of a man's authority led them to the conclusion that it is licit for a husband to strike his wife if she commits adultery or even in general if is she is disobedient.

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    4. "Ask Your Husband" has quotes like, "sins only differ in degree and not kind", which is just bad theology. She has also admitted to helping her husband behind the scenes on set. Writing and Publishing a book of itself is more work then people do for years. All indicators point to the fact that she herself doesn't live up to the ideal she puts forth.
      This review by Abigail Favale I think sums it up nicely...

    5. Norm
      I think Feser et al are against so many women working *outside* the home, emphasis on "outside" not "working".

      Who is going to have kids, raise kids, and make a "home" instead of a "house" if not the woman? Men are just not suited to those tasks, even if, as Professor Cuddeback says, men should be crafting the overall way of life of a family, crafting a "household".

    6. I never used the word "wrong absolutely". The proper term for that is intrinsically evil. I agree that it is not intrinsically evil for a mother to work outside the home. There can be extraordinary circumstances that require a mother to do so. However, a mother working outside of the home necessarily hinders the natural duties of a mother. A mother cannot possibly be two places at the same time. This isn't to say that the culpability of working outside the home is solely the mothers. The culture is radically feminist and it is increasingly more difficult for a family to live on one income. Part of a postliberal economy would be to incentivise marriage and children with subsidies, tax breaks, and other means. It would also require a culture that recognizes the evil of feminism.

      Working outside the home or having a career as a replacement for a woman's vocation is vastly different than the work Stephanie Gordon does in the home. You are not being charitable to what is actually being argued. It is not that a wife and mother cannot have a hobby or write a book or help her husband when the work is done at home with the children. A mother's vocation is not career, but obedience to her husband's authority and the domestication of the home. That is her top priority. This is consistent with Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium.

      >>On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the Prince of the Apostles: Let wives be subject to their husbands, that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Let not their adorning be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.

      To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of their attention. The wife should love to remain at home, unless compelled by necessity to go out; and she should never presume to leave home without her husband's consent.<< - Catechism of the Council of Trent

    7. Kurt
      When you actually start to consider the implications, it becomes clear that there is a lot of room for prudential judgement. Why would it be wrong for a mom to work outside when all her kids are play school age ? She could drop them off at play school, do her job then pick them up amd be with them for the rest of the evening. This is no different then helping to make videos when the "house work is done".
      Some of the statements of the council which you cite on practical matters, when subjected to a rigorous natural law analysis indicate that they were more prudential judgements of the time then timeless truths. It was just not that safe at the time for women to go out alone. Apart from that there was a clear lack of understanding of the nature amd dignity the of a woman. Aquinas for all his merits considered women to be intellectually lesser then men which is nust patently untrue.
      Women were considered either to be the property of their husband or father. This logic was followed so consistently that if a women eloped with a man against her father's wishes and engaged in consensual intercourse. It was considered as rape, since the unmarried woman was the property of her father ( Look at Aquinas the species of lust). This also meant that women were not allowed to participate in the democratic process of voting. To just parrot out statements without qualification,will lead to people confusing real instances where the Church got prudential matters wrong with infallible judgements . There are also certain professions where it's just better when women are present. Nursing during delivery of babies. You just know that you sre more comfortable with a woman. Even women Gynaecologists seem to be much more preferred especially when they are mothers themselves, the calmness and experience they bring to delivering difficult pregnancies is unmatched. There are areas of parenting where the women just has more authority and have the final word, so I reject your concept pf the husband's total authority. This idea that a mother has to devote every single living moment of her life tending to her child without any time for herself to perhaps have a day out with other moms or something like that is also ridiculous. At times there seems to be no other option I admit, but this seems to be a consequence of the American abandonment of joint familes where you could leave the child with the grandparents for sometime and everyone lived together or close by.

    8. What I sense is that you have a problem with Aquinas, the Church Fathers, and Sacred Scripture. A "rigorous natural law analysis" cannot contradict the Magisterium. It is not within the authority of the wife to make this kind of prudential judgment. Prudential judgment is within the authority of husbands, where "wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything". Secondly, if the social context of the Catechism of the Council of Trent required women to remain at home, the social situations of today require it even more, especially when the public school system is grooming children with intrinsically disordered sex stuff. It is better that a mother raise her own children than allow them to be raised by the blue haired weirdo at school while the mother works at the widget factory. Again, this isn't to say that a mother must give every nanosecond of every day to her children. Nobody said that. What is being said is that a mother's vocation is the domestication of the home, not career. Women continually delay marriage to go to graduate school or delay having children to further a career. Women cannot do it all. That is a feminist lie. We have witnessed the disastrous consequences of feminism with the collapse of the family. It's time for a change.

    9. I agree with a lot of what had been said in this fruitful discourse but I just can't get myself to get on board with this air of disdain when it comes to women in the work place. It's just doesn't make sense to me. To quote a friend, "Is it too much to ask for both"...When you actually start to consider the implications, it becomes clear that there is a lot of room for prudential judgement.

      Norm, I fully and totally agree with you on the last point especially: there is indeed a lot of room for prudential judgment. And in base fact, that is actually how it has mostly played out even in more "traditional" times: there is wiggle room and gray area about how much the mother's non-child-centric work takes up her time, attention, and immediate presence in the home.

      But to the contrary, it is probably too much to ask to propose that MOST mothers can "have both" in the sense of both be fitting, complete and fulsome as mothers and also be "in the workplace" with a full time career. That is not truly feasible, and the actual experience of mothers trying to both is largely a picture of excess stress, too much for a well-knit family - or even for a well-knit mother. I would point out that your own comment addition

      Work from home models are steadily gaining more traction especially with mothers who find that it allows them to be with their children as well contribute to the intellectual spheres of human life from education to the sciences to engineering to the arts.

      is, per se, already a step away from the idea of a mother being in a full time outside the home career.

      Perhaps in some future, it will be economically sensible to train a woman (at the college and post-graduate level) for a high-level kind of job, AND ALSO commit to allowing that woman to be fully out of the workforce while she is raising babies and toddlers, and partially out of the workforce while her youngest children are still under 10. Until that social and economic change can come about, it is hard to see how a woman is plausibly going to even sort of "have both": In fact, the move of women fully into the workforce (from the 1940's through the 80's) has produced the detrimental economic effect that now a family cannot afford a home without her working nearly full time and (usually) outside of the home, so she NO LONGER HAS A PLAUSIBLE OPTION to be a stay-at-home full-time mother.

      The underlying constraints are biological and psychological: a pregnant woman cannot sustain most full time jobs in the later months of her pregnancy, nor in the period of the child's infancy. A family which plans to have more than one child will ideally want them close enough for the children to play together. And while toddlers can stand to wait 10 or 20 minutes to get a mother's attention (unlike a baby), they cannot wait 8 hours for Mom to get home from work for that attention. And a couple who are having children should generally expect to have "some", that is, not some pre-planned low number like 1, 2, or even 3: the moral and revealed norm is toward fecundity. Hence in the ideal (and forming a norm, a rational expectation in planning) a family will generally expect the mother to be fully occupied in the primary duties of full-time motherhood for upwards of 10 years. And even after that, while children are young (ages 5 to 10) still involved in motherhood throughout the day in bits and pieces. So, (in the ideal) even when the youngest child is 6, while the mother may indeed have time, energy, and attention to devote to a job, it should still be AT HOME, and structured so that she can "drop in" on the children as needed.

      If we can economically structure education and job-training to account for THAT model of motherhood, I am tentatively in favor of women being employed for "work", i.e. non-child-centric work. But we don't yet have that, and the model we currently live in is damaging motherhood and childhood.

    10. That last comment was mine. I would add that the idea of a mother working while all the kids are in school is born of a contingent and (hopefully) temporary condition, that of education carried out as a mass production operation, with all children being "in school" at designated times of the day, for most of a day. As homeschooling families quickly discover, that model is not essential, and tends to be invalid as an ideal: not all children are equal in terms of (a) the time of day they best learn; or (b) how long their attention can be fixed before they need a (big) break. Not to mention all of the learning disabilities that require alternate methods, and for which mass production is simply not viable. It won't surprise me if, in 20 or 50 years, we have published studies that indicate that large schools with upwards of 300 little kids (and high schools with upwards of 2,000 big kids) are defective models on several different fronts, psychologically, socially, and morally, and that better models require much smaller (and more flexible) structures to the learning apparatus than we now use. (I.E. models that look a lot more like the incredible variation you find in successful homeschool situations.)

      Hence it is not a given that a truly sound social structure will imply that a mother will even have a large block free of the kids when the youngest reaches age 6 or so. Maybe, but maybe not, or perhaps only for a modest percentage of such mothers, not for virtually all of them. So, in order to be able to expect and plan for mothers (whose youngest child has reached age 6) to be working at least half-time (or more), society might have to change to create far more jobs whose structure allows these mothers both to do the job at home and to do the work in and around mothering / educating tasks.

      Perhaps the most important change would be a social change that allows a mother to say to her boss, quite explicitly, "your work takes second fiddle to my mothering" when they happen to be in direct competition, and to make that stick. That is a social change of large proportions, not some simple tweak to "the system".

      But that's on top of the even bigger social and economic change required (which I outlined above) wherein a young woman is educated and trained for high level jobs knowing full well that she will be out of the workforce for a decade or more, and then only in the workforce part-time for more years. It is not at all clear such a model can be made economically viable.

    11. Let me add one last point: now that we have morphed our society so that all women expect (and are expected) to work full time and (preferentially) have "a career" at least until she gets married - and probably after - this makes it virtually impossible (economically) for single-worker families to own a house. If we (per my suggestions above) are willing instead to accept social forms such that (a) most women, say 85%, will get married in their young adult years, and (b) that most such married women will have children, (with a preferential expectation generally toward fecundity, so that society's fertility rate is above the replacement level of 2.1), and (c) that most such mothers of children will be out of the workforce for most of their adult years before they are 40 or 45, it is less than clear how such a social situation fits smoothly and easily for the other 15% of women, and their careers (at least for the ones who are not nuns).

      In particular, it is unclear how to run things educationally and socially so that ALL women get trained up for professional / academic careers immediately after high school, only to have 85% of them become full-time mothers and need to be re-trained 20 years later when they are ready to become full-time careerists; and (this is my additional point) it is unclear how to socially manage the education / training for the 10 to 15% of the other women who WILL use that training right out the starting gate, when we don't know, for any given woman, whether she is going to be in the 85% or the 15% before she embarks on that professional training. Psychologically speaking, treating them as if ALL women are destined (in the near future) for a professional career, and all trained for such after high school, is turning out to be a wrecking ball with respect to getting mothers who want and expect to be excellent, full time mothers fully employed in motherhood.

      Now, part of this might be due to the deformed mantra of radical feminism that idiotically taught women that they could SHOW that they are "just as good as men" ONLY by aiming them to take the very same jobs as men, as if "just as good" leaves no possible room for serving other roles. But we have had that mantra directed ad nauseam at women for decades, and we are stuck with that fact, it cannot be unwound (in the past) merely by now pointing out its defects. It is not clear what would unwind its effects and enable women to expect and desire to be full-time engaged in the tasks of motherhood, and their husbands to expect and desire to be the main (or sole) breadwinner for the family, but whatever would achieve that, it seems likely it will have some impact (socially) on the (modest) percentage of women who would not be getting married and having a family.

  6. I think Pilkington does have a point. Our Lord says wide is the path that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. That implies that many will act on self-interest. If having lots of children in a monogamous heterosexual marriage is not economically beneficial, only virtuous people will do it. The virtuous always make up a minority in society.

    But I do think it is a both/and approach. Legislating morality will force people to come to terms with reality. Reality is difficult. The only way to deal with it for most people is to run away (which is our current approach) or get help. The government can play a role in the “get help” method if it takes the “run away” method off the table. But again this would need to be done with moderation to avoid greater evils.

    I think the main take away is to not settle for one side of the coin and fight both fights simultaneously.

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  8. Mr. Pilkington's argument about fertility confirms how faulty his social absolutism (in its economic form) is. Socially determinist ideologies like conservatism believe that society can be made answerable to no principle from without, like natural law or the Church. This social absolutism was quickly transferred to the market, which also becomes absolute and "sovereign".

    Not only injustices follow; society and the market as self-ends ultimately ruin themselves. The market, once it follows only rules it sets itself (the same occurs in Burkean civil society), becomes a monstrosity. As the market has discovered that the socially disfunctional or less reproductive consume more indiscriminately, it creates a vicious circle. Put the market and civil society back in their proper roles of serving the ends of individuals who possess a soul and an eternal destiny, and fertility rates of 1.2 become unimaginable.

    Continue with conservatism, and these rates will remain. Hungary, Russia, can't make them budge today, any more than Italy of Germany could in the 1930's.

    1. Of course, this stands only for one version of conservatism, and not conservatism as such. Hint: take Feser's comment

      Now, many modern conservatives are liberals in the broader sense in question. They are not egalitarian liberals and they are not libertarian liberals, but they are still liberals in the sense that they regard the work of thinkers like Locke and Smith as foundational to a sound political philosophy, and more or less take for granted liberalism’s commitment to individualism, the idea of political authority as deriving from contract, and state neutrality on matters of religion.

      His point is that this applies to a slice of conservatives, but not to all of them: some conservatives are NOT conservative liberals, they do not agree with liberals in their root commitments to individualism, contract theory, and state neutrality on religion. In fact, it is quite proper to true conservatism to be rooted in natural law, (i.e. a principle outside of itself). Burkean conservatism was, historically, a distortion of the preceding conservative impetus in social affairs, one that neither captured the essence of conservatism nor took conservatism in a fruitful expression of the root principles.

    2. My name didn't appear here for some reason.Thank you for your hints and comments. Indeed, some conservatives are not conservative liberals but, as my comment on the other thread mentioned, no ideologically conservative stream accepts the Christian approach to natural law, among other things.

      It's extremely hard to argue that Burke was a distortion of conservatism, as he (along with de Maistre) founded the movement, and huis basic theories are not disputed by "religious" conservatives in particular.

      What is more, his erroneous theories were not discarded by subsequent "traditional" conservatives: Coleridge was even more religiously heterodox; Russell Kirk, who relaunched the movement to some degree, subscribed to Burke's view of natural law (despite doing semantic gymnastics to try to reconcile this with his own sui generis Catholicism), as for Scruton, he confirms what I say about conservatism and religious to the last degree.
      There was no conservative movement prior to Burke - only the social and political Enlightenment establishment he and de Maistre defended. Their ideas go no further back than that.

    3. There was no conservative movement prior to Burke - only the social and political Enlightenment establishment he and de Maistre defended. Their ideas go no further back than that.

      This is simply not true as a historical fact. What is true - or at least far more true is that Burke's reaction to Locke et al incorporated some relatively new political threads of thought alongside of already existing threads of political thought, SOME of which fall in with the Burkean preference for continuity / custom. The actual expression "conservatism" was initially applied to a post-French-revolution political movement in France, and while it obviously bears some overlap with Burkeanism, it initially regarded the restoration of French monarchy (e.g. by Chateaubriand), not the continuation of the British monarchy and allied political elements.

      But the essential point is that the conservative IMPETUS long preceded Burke, whose particular expression of it was idiosyncratic and a narrowing of the overall impetus. Long before Burke, most people would ascribe to a feeling that "we have a right to our customs", which is - broadly speaking - a true claim, and that feeling was given express moral and political foundation by earlier thinkers, such as Isidore, Aquinas, Vitoria, and Bellarmine. When (during that earlier period) such political formulations were not expressly defied by new political theories (like those of absolute monarchy, or liberalism), they did not generate explicit new political movements that arose as parties and regimes, but they were certainly present as (mostly implicit) beliefs. When the new theories did arise, the conservative impetus found expression BOTH in terms of those re-stating ancient truths (such as that all authority comes from God, and that the political community stems from natural law), and those like Burke who tried to reformulate the conservative impetus in terms more amenable to liberal root concepts. It is understandable to suppose that only the latter group is accorded the name "conservative" but it is still a mistake. This expression of conservatism

      Conservatism is a preference for the historically inherited rather than the abstract and ideal. This preference has traditionally rested on an organic conception of society—that is, on the belief that society is not merely a loose collection of individuals but a living organism

      falls in equally with both the Burkean vision and with the older thinking that explicitly refers all authority originally to God, and derives the political community from natural law.

    4. Thank you for your comments. Burke wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France in response to the revolution, and the name, Conservatism, was tacked on to this body of thought in connection with debates in France.
      De Maistre recognises the debt to Burke. Kirk and Scruton also recognised this genealogy of conservatism. Kirk would
      pretend Conservatism was the old Christian West (as well as paganism). Scruton was honest enough to rubbish the beliefs of that West as myths, but spent most of his time trying to explain how medieval Europeans were actually just acting out his scepticist mythologism.

      It is one ideology. Burke, de Maistre, Kirk and Scruton share its main postulates. These are not the sentiments of
      conservationism which exists in all societies. The impetus for Burke was the preservation of the Enlightenment
      establishment. The forerunners to this establishment were Renaissance jurists like Hooker and Bodin, whose theories did not yet describe contemporary society.

      Burke and de Maistre talk about societies which are absolute and unquestionable (parliamentarianism or divine right monarchy work equally well, as all four theorists agree) because they are divinely-ordained. Yet they implacably deny any mechanism for concrete societies to verify whether they conform to divine will, because they refuse ANY
      submission of society to conventions not established by themselves. Societies CANNOT be determined by natural law because this is universal, “abstract”, and implies that society is merely implicit in human nature, whereas Conservatism decrees that society is an artificial yet living thing with a "soul", and the remedy to nature (defective per se, as created)! Original sin plays no part in this ideology.

      The conservative divinisation of secularism is the latter's worst possible form. It divinises a state whose god is not allowed to speak. Burke and de Maistre’s circular logic explicitly affirmed that no society that follows its own conventions can be in the wrong! (Burke defended Genghis Khan for this reason) Scruton and Kirk followed this social absolutism.

      This Conservatism uses religious vocabulary but hates religious dogma; scepticism (religious and metaphysical) was the core of all four conservatives. The Christian West from late antiquity was eclipsed by the ideas taken up by Conservatism (not liberalism or socialism), because they were espoused by the modern state which triumphed in the seventeenth century against that West. Until believing Christians who espouse Conservatism understand this, they will achieve nothing revive the Christian West.

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  10. This article says many women were/are hunters in 79% of hunter/gatherer societies about which there are data.

    1. The human heart is difficult to understand. Sometimes uniqueness is attributable to God-given gifts. Sometimes it’s attributable to wounds and errors that have become ingrained in us. Even if a sizeable minority of women hunted, it doesn’t show why they hunted or whether that is good or bad. Personally, I find it respectable and indicative of a certain virtue. Some women are quite strong, even if not as strong as their male counterparts (e.g. the Lia Thomas fiasco). Nothing per se wrong with that. However, female athletes often cause themselves reproductive harm as a female body under stress doesn’t continue with her regular fertility cycle. Just some things to think about.

    2. Upon further thought, I think this is where we begin to apply the Doctrine of the Mean. Each person is called to exercise a particular virtue only to the degree called upon him or her by his or her nature. For St. Thomas Aquinas, the proper degree of contemplation was very high. Yet, as a man, he would be required to do physical work or physically defend a woman from robbery. However, we expect a lesser degree of physical capability from such a man as he, so he doesn’t have to fulfill the role of a lumberjack or soldier, for example, to fulfill his duty as a man in this way. So too with a woman. One like St. Joan of Arc would be a great example of a warrior. Yet, if such a woman was given an instance to be compassionate and nurturing toward an orphan child found on the street, it would be properly feminine to care, to the best of her ability for that child. Perhaps with a gentle kiss and a handing off to a local orphanage. From the generalities of men and women, we can distinguish a uniquely masculine and feminine essence, yet each person is given certain abilities and weaknesses that will call for unique applications to unique degrees of that essence. God bless.

    3. @ficino4ml:

      The problem is that, if we are to accept the transgender dogma (and now we are coerced to do that by law), we can not trust such statistics. For, since gender is a "feeling, internal to the individual", no scientist can assure what a "woman" or a "man" is. Your statistic is viciated by the new religious dogma.

      Wokism is plunging us into the New Dark Ages at an accelerating rate.

    4. UncommonDescent:
      1. you are wrong about law. There are many new laws against transgender people. And a court has upheld one in Tennessee.
      2. What you write has nothing to do with what I posted. People with vaginas in hunter-gatherer societies are on record as hunting game. You cannot falsify this report with anything you've offered.
      3. You are hysterical. Relax, chill, have a mojita and celebrate the prospect of lower taxes!

    5. People with vaginas in hunter-gatherer societies are on record as hunting game.

      But "people with vaginas" can be accounted as men/ women/ or neither of them (if transgender doctrine is true). That would eschew the statistics.

      Where I live, gender self-determination has been passed into law. You can be a "person with a vagina" but legally a man.

      "Person with vagina" does not equate "woman".

      You have not countered my point.

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  12. Dr Feser
    Happy 4th of July to you and to those on this blog.

  13. OP (by reference)
    "Feser takes issue with this and tries to argue that the culture war remains important because an ordered culture and society is necessary for a functioning economy. Feser is correct,"
    Ok, so Pilkington and Feser get at least one thing correct, capitalism is parasitic upon socialism (although I doubt either man has the insight to recognize their own position in those terms).

    First we need socialism for an "ordered" society. Only in the context of an "ordered" society can capitalism function.

    Absent the "ordered" structure provided by socialism (public schools, public infrastructure, publicly regulated utilities, public law enforcement, government subsidized health care, Social Security, Medicare, AFDC, civil rights enforcement, national defense, public parks and recreation, public science funding) our society would not be "ordered".

    Indeed, capitalism is parasitic upon the order provided by socialism.

    1. Rarely have I seen so many errors in so few words. It misses on the meaning of socialism, capitalism, the structures that are necessary, and the ordering involved. Wow.

    2. Ordered societies of all kind have existed for millennia, the Socialist ones with very poor results. Apparently, however, you don't know the meaning of "Socialism", which is not "having public social institutions".
      Furthermore, no one said that Capitalism is a full-fledged system encompassing every aspect of society or human life (reading Adam Smith could be a good thing); probably you think so because you have this kind of expectations from Socialism.

    3. Paolo,
      "Ordered societies of all kind have existed for millennia, the Socialist ones with very poor results."
      All nations on Earth are socialist.
      All nations on Earth are also capitalist.
      There are no exceptions, none whatsoever.

      Differences in nations extend to the degree of wealth redistribution, public services provided, government control of administrative and monetary functions, and the degree to which capitalism is regulated and employed.

      Simplistic statements that "socialist nations yield poor results" only display a lack of analytical depth and realism.

    4. Libertarians will define any state that falls short of their minarchist ideal as "socialist" or at least "statist". This means every industrialized state for the last 100 years is "socialist" or "statist", even the UK since Thatcher and the US since Reagan. True non-socialism will be achieved only when government spending is cut 50%, the gold standard is brought back, the IRS is abolished, food stamps are abolished, raw milk is sold in stores, etc. etc. Even when making huge strides, libertarians always fall short somewhere, so they always can complain that socalism/statism remains.

      Conversely, one could call only states with Soviet-style command economies "socialist". By this definition, almost no "socialist" states exist anymore, not even the PRC, and no influential political forces in the West are socialist, not even figures like Melanchon, Corbyn, or Sanders.

      In reality, everybody who is not a tankie or ancap crank supports some type of market system regulated by the government and supported by a welfare state. The difference between "social democracy/democratic socialism/progressivism" and "libertarianism/neoliberalism/conservativism" is one of degree, not kind.

  14. In general, leaving individual peculiarities out of consideration, do the woman and the man have equal potentiality to carry out all the operations of rational soul? Or does the woman have rational soul only to some defective degree, only rational soul "manquée"?

    1. fincino, I believe that the best answer is that women and men are in all essential ways equal in bearing the rational nature.

      The differences that attend on the sex distinction may cause certain aspects of rational behavior to be more easily accomplished by one sex or the other, as a statistical pattern, but I would expect that these variations are distributed equally between the sexes also, i.e. that if there are 20 such differentiating aspects found, many favor men, and many favor women. (For example, suppose (I don't know if this is actually true or not) that men - on average - find it easier to carry out deductive processes successfully. It might readily be found that women - on average - find it easier to carry out inductive processes of reason successfully. And so on, for all the distinguishing behaviors characteristic of the rational animal. We find similar distribution of capability in other traits: men have more upper-body strength, but women tend to have longer endurance (of certain kinds, at least).)

      Also, while there might indeed be some statistical pattern in how well or how easily one sex manages a rational behavior, compared to the other sex, by and large the mean values of the two sexes for measuring that characteristic would probably be found to be quite close to each other. At least, this is generally found to be true of emotional and psychological traits, and it seems likely they would also be found so in traits that characterize the rational soul as rational. As I understand it, IQ is statistically the same between men and women - this is not the only measure of rational behaviors, but it is suggestive that the equality may run across other kinds/measures as well.

    2. @Anonymous: thank you for your answer. I have read that Aquinas wrote that rationality is more actualized in men than in women, speaking generally.

  15. Indeed, capitalism is parasitic upon the order provided by socialism.

    Yes the mass graves provided by socialism throughout history were probably very orderly.

    A mixed system is the best we have come up with so far, based on the realities of human nature. If capitalism is a parasite, then socialism is a predator that is nice and quiet until it snaps your head off. The leech helps keep the predator's violent impulses in check.

    1. "Yes the mass graves provided by socialism throughout history"
      Our bloodiest war was the American Civil War.
      Was it the socialist Blue or the socialist Gray that was to blame?

      Was the African slave trade a socialist enterprise? How many were burred in the mass grave of the Atlantic?

      Were Germany and Japan and Italy all motivated by socialism to kill so many?

      Blaming socialism for mass graves is a particularly idiotic assertion. National greed, despotism, lust for power are primary, religious differences, and revolution are among the causes for war and mass killing.

  16. If you want people to marry young, and have large families with one male breadwinner, you need a certain degree of social paternalism to make this kind of lifestyle seem possible for those with lower incomes and fewer family connections and support networks. The traditionalist Catholic libertarians who get jobs at think tanks and universities funded by billionaire oligarchs are insulated from these realities, so they blame a non-union Amazon fulfillment worker's failure to marry and have 8 kids on moral decadence. Certain people either lack the innate skills to perform work above the low skilled blue collar level, or they have higher skills but there are a dearth of higher skilled jobs available for whatever reason. Market mechanisms will fail to provide the means for basic social flourishing to these people.

  17. ... so they blame a non-union Amazon fulfillment worker's failure to marry and have 8 kids on moral decadence

    That's not true. Not everyone is forced to have 8 children. There are very rich people who waste most of their time fornicating without adding new members to the species. Moral decadence is everywhere, among the humble and among the wealthy.

    What's being pointed at is that, when materialism takes hold on a society, a concomitant descent in reproduction happens. And it makes sense, for if materialism is true, human life is utterly devoid of any meaning. Why care about anything at all? Our only assured certitude is that we're going to die and disappear, all for nothing. The result is that people will engage in hedonism, enjoying the "here and now", because fleeting moments of pleasure are all we can aspire to.

    In my country, a few decades ago, families in which only one member worked (usually the father), tended to have between 4--7 children. Today, with both members working full time, the number of children has dropped to 0-2 at maximum. It's a psychological issue, not a monetary one, which is shaping our society today.