Now, though the divisions that are amongst sects should be allowed to be never so obstructive of the salvation of souls; yet, nevertheless, adultery, fornication, uncleanliness, lasciviousness, idolatry, and such-like things, cannot be denied to be works of the flesh, concerning which the apostle has expressly declared that "they who do them shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Whosoever, therefore, is sincerely solicitous about the kingdom of God and thinks it his duty to endeavour the enlargement of it amongst men, ought to apply himself with no less care and industry to the rooting out of these immoralities than to the extirpation of sects. But if anyone do otherwise, and whilst he is cruel and implacable towards those that differ from him in opinion, he be indulgent to such iniquities and immoralities as are unbecoming the name of a Christian, let such a one talk never so much of the Church, he plainly demonstrates by his actions that it is another kingdom he aims at and not the advancement of the kingdom of God.
John Locke (2004-08-10). A Letter Concerning Toleration (Optimized for Kindle) (p. 3). . Kindle Edition.
Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration, watershed of political theory that it is, arguably marks the point where mention of religion and, as a result, what used to count as morality started getting swept out of the public sphere and, ultimately, into the void. Private religion being an oxymoron. So I had to rub my eyes when I picked it up to see this on its opening pages:
The apple, it would seem, has fallen far indeed from the tree.
I’ve recently been reminded of the distinction in German between essen (eating like a person) and fressen (eating like an animal). There’s a similar distinction in Greek which plays a prominent role in the meaning of John 6:52-58. At first Jesus tells us that unless you eat (φάγητε) his body and drink his blood you will not have life within you. Now φάγητε, from the aorist tense of ἐσθίω, is a bit like the latter’s cognate essen in connotation: the Middle LSJ gives simply “to eat”.
But at this point Jesus leaves off use of φαγεῖν to adopt a more provocative tone: he who eats (τρώγων) his body and drinks his blood will have eternal life. Now τρώγων, a participle of τρώγω, in a sense bears more resemblance to fressen: the Middle LSJ gives “gnaw, nibble, munch”. And this, the Catholic exegete (e.g. Robert Barron) will tell you, would have shocked the listener. Unlike φαγεῖν, τρώγω, which calls to mind the animal act of eating, is much harder to dismiss as figurative speech. This passage begins with the debate over how Jesus is supposed to give us his flesh/body (σάρκα) to eat. How is this possible? Jesus does not answer directly, but assures them, in effect, that they are to really, physically eat his real, physical body. And, as if they had missed it the first time, Jesus hammers it in three more uses of τρώγων.
But, interestingly, there’s enough of a difference between τρώγω and fresse to preclude any German translators that I know of from using fressen to mark the variation in Jesus’ speech. I suppose this is because fressen above all connotes the abandon with which animals devour their food. And if anything, what Jesus had in mind was a civil and communal meal. Still the animal associations of τρώγων, to meditate on the image a moment, recall the manger that Jesus, who now calls himself the bread of life, was first placed in a town notably called Bethlehem - the House of Bread. I don't know how long it took me as kid to figure out that a manger is something animals eat out of, but this is doubtlessly more than a fact Luke picked out to indicate the meager circumstances attending the birth of Jesus. Just as mention of Bethlehem was more than a means to reconcile the messianic birth with the prophecy of Malachi. Just as, for that matter, calling attention to Jesus' swaddling clothes foreshadows the wrappings worn by Lazarus and those left neatly folded by Jesus himself before leaving the tomb.
On the patristic reading, the entire Bible is steeped in eucharistic imagery, and when it comes down to it, expressions of the Real Presence of the table-pounding variety such as the one above. Another, just for fun: the emphatic use of ἐστιν (is) in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19 (Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου) and 1 Corinthians 11:24 (Τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν). In Greek the appropriate form of "to be" is very often omitted.
Going though the Gilson some these days...
A moral doctrine whose principles are so profoundly rooted in the real, so strictly dependent upon the very structure of the being they rule, experiences no embarrassment in solving the much-debated problem of the basis of morality. The basis of morality is human nature itself. Moral good is every object, every operation enabling man to achieve the virtualities of his nature and to actualize himself according to the norm of his essence, which is that of a being endowed with reason. Thomistic morality is, accordingly, a naturalism. But it is by that very fact a rationalism because reason acts as its rule. Just as nature makes those beings which are not endowed with reason act according to what they are, so it insists that beings endowed with reason find out what they are so that they may act accordingly. Become what you are is their highest law. Actualize to their ultimate limits the virtualities of the rational being that you are!
Going through some of First Things online matter I came across R.R.Reno's The Closing of the American Mind, Revisited. There have been a spate of misty-eyed tributes to Bloom's runaway success on the web recently, and none of them, Reno's included, give me the impression that the writer in question actually went through the entire book. Indeed, it seems few ever did, except for Alexander Nehemas, who in his review of Bloom descried the strong Straussian influence on Part III. What we usually hear of, though, is Bloom's savage and largely accurate criticism of the University as it was in 1987--and sadly still remains--the "professional training of clever and sybaritic animals, who drink, vomit and fornicate in the dorms by night while they posture critically and ironically by day...[all the while] moved by no desire to know good or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness". Yes, Reno certainly can turn a phrase. But then so can Augustine, who described the very same phenomenon back in the 5th century: To Carthage then I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a cauldron of unholy loves. My freshman dorm in nuce. Was there a time, somewhere between the Fall of Rome and the Savings and Loan Crisis, when we were better? I'd like to think so, and Reno evidently does:
I don’t think that the lectern should be turned into a pulpit, but the soul of Catholic education requires classrooms haunted by the authority of the Church and the holiness of her saints. That was the actual, experienced effect of the old system, when large numbers of faculty were priests and nuns.
But back to my main point, what Bloom's book really is--as those who did in fact trudge through Bloom's protracted analysis of Nietzsche, Freud and Max Weber and all the rest might surmise--is a Straussian induction rite, and a good one at that. At some point I'll expound.
Yes, First Things excels at hand-wringing, and maybe that's why I love it so . Another one of their online pieces notes the verbal subterfuge with which Planned Parenthood covers over the plain facts of biology: "product of conception", "embryo", "fetus", but never "baby". We might as well throw in conceptus, too, but here we might note that, if the point is in fact to efface the humanity of our little ones, conceptum would do a lot better, right? Or am I too much the pedant?
Speaking of Latin and pedantry, I am next setting my sites on Summa Theologica, Part I, Question II for my next translation etude. I once had the good fortune of listening to John Wippel himself lecture at length on Questions I through XIII. But it was my first pass through the text and I'm sure the real subtlety was lost on me. And so, back I go.
At long last my translation of Descartes second meditation is done...
"Beyond the Fact-Value Dichotomy": Hilary Putnam takes on scientism, arguing that such guiding principles as simplicity, coherence and continuity are themselves values and, moreover, are values whose understanding depends on contexts.
Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen: the young Friedrich Nietzsche hones his philological and rhetorical prowess on the Pre-Socratics, and in doing so intimates his future course as philosopher. So for instance in his exposition of Heracleitus we find the roots of his later attacks on the self-identical and the concepts of good and evil. Damned fine writing. Maybe I'll do a translation with commentary one of these times.
A smattering of books touching on post-colonialism and the CIA. In The Shock Doctrine, Noami Klein makes the case that you usually hear from the right, viz, that barbarity follows when the abstractions of university intellectuals are imposed upon living cultures. Just as the brain-erasure techniques of MK Ultra amount to instruments of violence, Klein argues, so too did the free-market fundamentalism of Milton Friedman and his epigones at the University of Chicago turn the ostensibly tabula rasa economies of South America into bloodbaths. But Paul Johnson (Modern Times) tells a very different story. So do we attribute the economic turmoil and political repression of Argentina to Juan Peron's efforts in nationalization and welfare, or to what followed? Did Thatcher rescue a foundering economy or spoil an equitable society? Was the Bandung generation largely a collection of savages, political dilettantes and intellectual poseurs, or did they represent an ernest and justified hope for self-determination outside the ambit of the two great superpowers? To what extent were the heavy-handed methods of the US and Britain justified? Stephen Kinzer, in The Brothers, seconds Klein's basic moral indictment of the CIA in the early years of the Cold War: on his telling lack of oversight, lack of accountability, stakeholder involvement, a basic disregard for the lives of third world peoples, along with Manichean anti-communism of Allen and John Foster Dulles, all converged to create a series of human rights outrages the world over. But is this a problem with intelligence per se, or does it stem from the specific configuration of the CIA and the haste with which it was launched? And how much of the problem lay, not in too much intelligence but from not enough intelligence? Kinzer briefly observes that the agency knew so little about their enemy that they missed the glaring fact: in the wake of WWII Russia was in shambles. How much of the Dulles brothers' missionary zeal rested on a gross overestimation of Russia's capabilities? Or, as Tim Weiner puts it in Legacy of Ashes, how would history have played out had the early American cold warriors known that the conflict was to be settled economically and not militarily? We need intelligence, Weiner argues, but we've been going about it all wrong, to which the long string of CIA fiascos attests. OK, he as much as admits, there was the ouster of the communists in the 1948 election in Italy, which the CIA backed. And the long standing anti-left politics of Japan, another CIA coup. And other successes, such as, well, I guess I don't know what they'd be, and nor would Weiner--or Johnson, Kinzer or Klein--because CIA operations tend to be only visible to the extent they fail. CIA people--so I've been told--tend to shake their head with an "if only they knew" when they look at the headlines. But they can't let us in, because that would blow covers and entire operations. So the question is, how much should we be willing to trust? It's an awful question to have to ask.
I'm devoting some time this summer to working up my Latin -- making vocab cards, reading Hobbitus Illus, doing a bit of translation. Check out my St. George and the Dragon. And some of my other translation etudes.
Digging through some old school papers I came up with this minor gem, which I jammed out one night while struggling through Lyotard's Differend.
Scene 1: A Lyotardian Differend
after class, in the hall
TA: Lyotard-lite, can you tell me why a differend cannot be resolved by recourse to a higher reason that encompasses both plaintiff and defendant?
LL: Because all reason is local. Universal reason is a chimera.
TA: And why is that?
LL: Because, following Wittgenstein, the meaning of any word is its use in a specific, lived context.
TA: But isn’t Wittgenstein’s argument itself just such an instance of reason counting in all cases?
LL: Only on the surface. Wittgenstein handles the self-reference problem by recourse to “family resemblances”.
TA: But then isn’t the appeal to “resemblance” itself a universalizing appeal? And moreover one that forces us to consider what it is about things that warrants us, regardless of our language game, to recognize similarities? To ask what it is out there that answers to our repetition of a term? Aren’t we then stuck with the old problem of deciding between realism, conceptualism and nominalism?
LL: One might say that this problem arises from the deceptive use of metaphors, as in Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense.
TA: Which is to decide in favor of nominalism… But let’s agree to disagree on this one — I can accept that we are from different philosophical planets.
TA: But allow me to return to the first question another way. You say you cannot give a universally applicable argument for why a differend cannot be settled by a higher reason. Is this to say that there is no reason why I should adopt your view of the differend?
LL: But that is precisely what I mean by a differend! In insisting that only universal reason can expose the differend for what it is, you have monopolized the establishment procedures! You have conjured up a chimera — universal reason — and now you wish it to breathe fire on any who oppose its reality!
TA: So if you were to experience a burning sensation about now, to what might you attribute it, other than the beast before you?
LL: This is going nowhere.
TA: Agreed. Exeunt.
Scene 2a: An Aristotelian Differend
the student commons
LL: Oh, hello, TA, off to class?
TA: No. You?
LL: Ditto. Shall we go for a drink?
TA: Absolutely. You’ll probably like me more once the chimera inhibitors have kicked in.
LL: Mine or yours?
TA: A question worthy of research. Come, let us put the question to nature!
…later, at the bar…
TA: You know, a dollop of this reminds me of a crucial distinction my master used to make between universal reason — the very beast I am currently trying to drown — and universal certainty. The one does not imply the other, regardless what Descartes said.
LL: Drink may well be said to be an equivocator…but do continue.
TA: Well, one of Descartes’ mistakes was to deny the diversity of method, to insist that one method can settle all matters — from ethics to medicine (he sincerely expected his research to lead to his bodily immortality). And that this one method, because mathematical in nature, can expect utterly clarity and distinctness from its object.
LL: You say this as if it were news.
TA: My point is that you and I have an interesting area of agreement. Over and against Descartes, my master noted that each field of enquiry requires its own method as well as its own standards of clarity. He notes this in Metaphysics II, and again in his writings on ethics. It’s especially true when you move into ethics, he says, that you find many cases that are not decidable by a universal rule. If my memory serves me:
“Now fine and just actions” - that is, the entire subject of his Nichomachean Ethics - “admit of much variety and fluctuation of opinion…We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, … for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits…” (NE I.3)
LL: You say this as if I had never read your “master”.
TA: My point is that you can, regardless of your stance on universal reason, recognize the need for situation-specific discernment--what Aristotelians call virtue prudence. If a case involves multiple axes of judgment, where focusing on only one axis favors the plaintiff and focusing on another favors the defendant, you don’t have to discard all hope of universal reason in order to judge the matter with sensitivity. Indeed, Aristotle identifies an entirely separate virtue, above and beyond that of justice, called equitability, that excels in just this: “And this is the nature of the equitable, a correction of law where it is defective owing to its universality. In fact this is the reason why all things are not determined by law, that about some things it is impossible to lay down a law, so that a decree is needed.” (NE, V.10)
LL: Well, there are any number of phrases I could link onto that. But I’ll pick the one that Aristotle himself did, the one that follows your quotation from Book I, chapter 3. What interests me is that Aristotle’s universal account of the virtues sits atop a very interesting differend all its own. It goes:
“Hence a young man is not a proper hearer of lectures on political science; for he is inexperienced in the actions that occur in life, but its discussions start from these and are about these; and, further, since he tends to follow his passions, his study will be vain and unprofitable… And it makes no difference whether he is young in years or youthful in character; the defect does not depend on time, but on his living, and pursuing each successive object, as passion directs. For to such persons, as to the incontinent, knowledge brings no profit; but to those who desire and act in accordance with a rational principle knowledge about such matters will be of great benefit.”
TA: So where do you see the differend?
LL: Let’s say there are two guys, Virtuous Guy and Vicious Guy.
Virtuous Guy: Do you want to know how to be happy? Then cultivate the virtues!”
Vicious Guy: I’m already happy, thank you very much. Plus I don’t exactly appreciate the implication that I am ‘defective’.
Virtuous Guy: If you only had but a little experience with virtue, then you’d know how much more there is to learn, and have a chance of achieving it!
Vicious Guy: So let me get this straight. I’m supposed to take a taste of this ‘virtue’ thing, in order to know that it’s good to take a taste of it, and this in order to know I should taste more and have the ability to do so?
Virtuous Guy: Exactly.
Vicious Guy: Substitute narcotics for virtue: from where I am standing, there is no way to distinguish between your eudaimonia and heroin addiction.
Virtuous Guy: But if you just had some experience of what you were missing!
Vicious Guy: Does my own experience, then, count for nothing?
TA: And so?
LL: And so…Virtuous Guy is acting unjustly in silencing Vicious Guy’s way of being. They have incommensurable claims to what happiness is, but Virtuous Guy refuses to admit plurality, and subjects Vicious Guy to this…this…eudaimonic colonialism.
TA: And so Virtuous Guy had just better keep quiet about the life that consists of more than just going from one sensory distraction to the next. Virtuous guy had better keep such things to himself as — how do you put it? — “reflection”, “wasting the time”, “philosophy”, the pursuit of knowledge that does not lead to profit… Does this mean that you, Lyotard-lite, are in fact vicious in promoting reflection and the rest?
LL: Of course wasting the time has its place, and…
TA: And moreover, since justice itself a virtue, doesn’t this mean that Virtuous Guy lacks virtue, while Vicious Guy, in not universalizing his understanding of happiness, has virtue? Or are there — oh just maybe! — virtues aside from keeping your hands off of someone, and vices apart from admonishing someone to avoid something they’d do well to avoid?
LL: But your analysis succeeds only within a pre-adopted framework of Virtue Ethics. And apparently it’s not enough for you to personally cultivate virtue without imposing it on everyone else.
LLL And what’s more, you promised me I’d like you more once the chimera inhibitors kicked in.
TA: Which is just to say that they haven’t. Another round?
TA: But you are right, you know.
LL: In what?
TA: That the virtuous life rests atop a differend. And I’d say that one of the great tragedies of poverty — and I’m thinking particularly of cultural poverty — is that one may never be given the foothold they need to make growth in virtue possible.
LL: …given the pre-adopted framework of Virtue Ethics.
LL: Well, I do hope this works. Though I have a feeling that was dich nicht umbringt, gibt mir Ärger.
TA: You’re not accusing me of bad faith, are you?
LL: I also have a feeling that none of what you have read by me so far addresses what’s coming up. So I shall now respond to you only with the phrase of silence — but be assured it is neither the silence of the incompetent nor of the disinterested. Agreed?
TA: Agreed. And so I shall make myself bold and to capitalize on your silence. Behold as I proceed to unmask your sense of justice as a tacit anthropology, a universally valid rational account of what it is to be human. And that it bears striking resemblance to both Aristotle’s zoon logon echon — man as rational animal, and zoon politikon — man as political animal.
Scene 2.b: A Lyotardian Anthropology?
TA: So, what can we make of it that one can pursue justice and inflict wrongs, and had better do the former? Where a wrong involves silencing the specific language which constitutes the wronged? And silencing is a form of violence? What image of man/woman/anthroposhomomensch emerges this minimal situation?
For one, the person is that which is (1) worthy of justice, (2) capable of justice and (3) obligated to pursue justice, which in turn requires that he is (4) obligated to consider what counts as just in any given situation. And this in turn requires a some rational capacity, without which he could not reason about the just. And, given that he has obligations at all, (5) a capacity to act in accordance with his deliberations.
So far, that is, we have something approaching the zoon logon echon, Aristotle’s “rational animal”.
Now, the above obligations place him on a moral landscape, shared with others, in which it is not possible not to act. Because we are constituted by our language, we are relational, and so “contact is necessary…it is necessary to link onto a phrase that happens (be it by a silence, which is a phrase)…” (Differend, para. 40) Just as you are doing now.
And so now we have something approaching the zoon politikon, Aristotle’s “political animal”.
…more drinks arrive…
Now, what does it mean that he had better pursue justice and avoid wrongs? Is it inherently good? Or pragmatically good? And if it is inherently good for him to pursue x and avoid y, to be morally and rationally oriented, then he would have to have this capacity in the first place, right? And to say he has and ought to cultivate this capacity, to say that this capacity and his good converge, does this not endow him with a telos? (This, of course, requiring that justice and wrong are mutually exclusive, that is, never applicable to the same aspect of the same situation in the same sense at the same time — if I may presume to slip in another universal here in the form of the Principle of Contradiction.) Are we not now wading into Aristotle’s metaphysical biology?
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I am still on track. Here’s an interesting connundrum: doesn’t this rational and universally valid anthropology I have descried beneath your sense of justice, in claiming omnicompetence, tend toward the very sort of terror that motivates you to write about justice in the first place? That is, isn’t your sense of justice self-defeating?
But, on the other hand, if in this anthropological image we also find the capacity for the virtue of equitability, which as explained above, excels in those cases of justice where universals are not available, why would we knowingly forgo that virtue, along with the anthropology which illuminates it?
LL: You are doing me much violence…
TA: And returning to the beginning of my anthropology, might I have been too hasty in calling it an “anthropology”? Don’t we have to determine precisely who, even what, is worthy of this much-vaunted justice? The healthy, the handicap, the senile, the comatose, embryos, animals, “the paradigm of the victim”? Plants? The environment? And is this at all possible without recourse to a rational scheme? And then: don’t we have to do more then just identify who and what is worthy of justice? Don’t we also have to say why, lest we end up acting justly only to those we happen to like, so long as we happen to like them? Yes, why should anything at all be worthy of justice? And why these things and not those? Now there are some demanding questions!
…more drinks arrive… and the time passes… and yet more drinks arrive…
Scene 3: At the door
LL: Are you sure you’re alright to drive home?
TA: Fie! I do this all the time!
LL: I thought you were all virtuous and everything!
TA: Silly goose! You don’t have to actually be virtuous to argue Virtue Ethics!
LL: Then that would make you … let’s see, hmm … a hypocrite, right?
TA: Chalk it up to akrasia…
LL: “Harrumph”, as you say.
TA: Let me go one further and argue that you cannot be virtuous, if you are to argue Virtue Ethics!
LL: This I’ve got to hear.
TA: No, really. There is a real distinction to be drawn here. One guy promotes virtue, while personally failing in in it. I contend that it is impossible not to fail, given that one necessarily starts at the beginning and moves toward an asymptotic telos. So at any given point in his development, he is still not “there”, he is still lacking in some regard. And for me, tonight, this regard just happens to be an indifference to possible vehicular manslaughter.
LL: I like you even less now!
TA: And on the other hand, there is the guy who promotes virtue, while never intending to cultivate it in the first place. Now this guy is the hypocrite, not the viator who tries and fails.
LL: Why does this sound like sophistry?
TA: Wait a minute…you’re not trying to silence me, are you?
LL: Just trying to make sure we all get home alive…
TA: No, you’re clobbering my Virtue Ethics with an appeal to Utilitarianism. You are muzzling me! In everything I have read by you, the act of silencing someone appears as the one capital sin. But now it would appear as if silencing were not the only sin, nor the worst sin. In this case, it sounds like it is not even a sin at all! Who’s the hypocrite now?!
LL: …pure sophistry…
TA: …do we not here again discover that your true concern is not with silence, but with physical violence? As it is in The Differend, which you open with a reference to gas chambers? I mean, it’s not just that those victims did not have the means to describe their physical suffering, but that they physically suffered as they did in the first place, right?
LL: Never argue with a drunk Aristotelian, and especially with a drunk and tendentious one…
TA: In fact, I submit it to you, Lyotard-lite, that your entire philosophical life has consisted in acts of silencing!
LL: You are reckless…
TA: Let me explain. As you would have it, the subject is a plurality. There is not just one unified Lyotard-lite, but many.
LL: So far, so good.
TA: Now, judging by your rich set of philosophical references in The Differend, it is clear that at some point you sat down to muscle your way through the entire Platonic corpus, and again Kant’s critical system. And that you returned to these texts time and again.
TA: Now, who can possibly perform these feats — for feats they are — without hearing a little voice time and again saying, “come, let us drift off in thought about tomorrow’s party”, or “isn’t it about time for a snack?”, and the like.
LL: That happens…
TA: And the mere fact that you finished each of these massive texts in question testifies to the fact that you successfully silenced each of these rival voices, right?
LL: You are very reckless…
TA: Well, since I don’t seem to care at all about anything anyways, permit me to unmask the inglorious motives behind your whole-hearted adoption of “language games”.
LL: I’m calling the cab…
TA: The whole “language games” thing — you’ve got yours and I’ve got mine — is very easy to learn. It demands none of the rigor required in facing up the problem of universals, the persistence of identity over time, and the rest. And yet it comes across as so sophisticated and magnanimous. And then: it can be invoked to avoid any personal conflict, any moral demand or any truth claim you find inconvenient. And lastly: you can invoke it to avoid taking risks, say, of having to defend your claims, of being called intolerant or arrogant or downright stupid. It’s the ideal camouflage to run with the herd!
LL: Look, the first thing you need is to get in the cab and go home. Then a good nights sleep. And then you will need to carefully consider the rest of my writings listed for discussion in Phil 721.
TA: But permit me one very last question.
LL: What’s that?
TA: Can you spot me $50?
§1. The consummation of some 50 years of legal and cultural activism, SCOTUS has just ruled the biological factor in marriage irrelevant. Marriage is now officially reduced to a merely affective union, maybe permanent, maybe exclusive, maybe fruitful, heck, for that matter maybe even affective or maybe not. In principle, it is now no more than a legal contract on par with any other, stipulating whatever to whomever for any reason whatsoever.
§2. And as for affection: why, oh why, must we ask the state to recognize our love for one another? Or rather specifically those forms of love currently on headlines? Because wouldn't it naturally follow to demand the state to recognize my intense feelings of love for my nephew? To deploy fleets of lawyers to officially declare our love of chocolate truffles and scratchy Barry Manilow records?
§3. Of all possible pairings of human beings, exactly one is capable of acts reproductive in kind if not in fact; and when these acts do result in children the burden on the parents is so enormous, and the rights and demands of the child (including to know, love and be loved by his/her own biological parents where possible) so profound, and the impact on society so foundational (family instability, for instance, being one of the great predictors of future criminality)...Is it not irrational to fail to create a privileged institution promoting the formation and maintenance of stable families? Should we really allow exceptions to trump ideals that clearly flow from the reality of our bodies?
§4. And further: does not this official rejection of the biological mark one further step in our collective Cartesian error, according to which the body merely a sub-personal aspect of ourselves, so much raw material to be employed according to our will, tastes and whims? That the body has nothing of consequence to tell us about ourselves, that it gives us no norms but those instrumental to our disembodied dreams? For this is surely one of the great ironies, that by attending too closely to the body's passions we lose sight of what the body is.
§5. I consider it great progress that our children can come to understand their sexuality free of some of yesterday's stifling tabus (and they were at times, and sadly even remain, very cruel). But to genuinely, objectively flourish as humans, to discover our deepest identity, we must also discover the virtue of temperance, by which along with the other virtues--prudence, justice, fortitude, faith, hope and love--we shall come to be who we truly are. Our deepest identity is neither straight nor gay--those crude categories introduced by 19th century social scientist in their emulation of physical science; it is rather that we are such beings as, though cultivation of the virtues, to find our completion in the gaze of that which is Being itself, face to face, πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον.
Yes, somebody actually asked that on a chat group the other day.
Adding to the poignancy of the question was that I had just been watching Conspiracy, about the 1942 Wannsee Conference, in which Reinhard Heydrich and his cronies hammered out the details of the Final Solution.
A throng of problems has always attended this recurring question. But one interesting problem specific to its current incarnation, in this tellingly clumsy formulation, concerns the ambiguity of multiculturalism and tolerance as popularly understood: celebrate those expressions of diversity pre-approved for celebration by those who celebrate the same expressions of diversity. And woe betide those who don't celebrate said groups: whoever cannot keep up with this protean feedback cycle, or harbors scruples regarding its methods, shall be known as a hater.
In effect, the cause of putting an end to in-groups has only succeeded in creating a new one, but one with the conceit that it has overcome in-groups.
And then there are the magically benevolent powers it assigns to science...