Talking Sirius Bizinus: The “intimate relations” of slippery slopes, redefining marriage and the Left


I accidentally published an incomplete draft of this post earlier this month — WordPress is screwy sometimes. While published, that article had already attracted some attention, so I apologize for the mix-up and confusion.


Over at Amusing Nonsense, Sirius Bizinus is periodically providing his analysis of Hodges v. Obergefell, which is in front the Supreme Court. He has allowed me to comment on his posts here. So, when time permits, I’ll try to critique his arguments. My first rejoinder concerns procreation and marriage. In this case, it pertains to slippery slope arguments and redefining marriage.

To be honest, if I had one word to describe my reaction to Sirius’ response here to Justice Alito’s questions about why not recognize other types of relationships such as polyamorous or incestuous ones if same-sex marriage is ratified, it would be naive. Two words: hopelessly naive. And if I was allowed three or more, hopelessly naive and ignorant. This isn’t to claim that Sirius is unintelligent because clearly the opposite is true, as he has earned a graduate degree in law from some university in the Deep South — I can never remember which. But when matters extend beyond his legal pedigree or require more than a lawyer’s take on it, he stumbles. The more I read his blog, the more I become convinced he is oblivious to political and social theory, especially the ones that underlie today’s conservatism and “liberalism,” and how it has influenced past events and movements. I know I’m being a tad harsh, but I can’t help but find his post hastily uncritical and indicative of a self-imposed blind spot. Hence, it beckons for stark exposure, ripped limb from limb, so to speak, as it’s put me in a dismembering sort of mood, but all in good time, dear reader. All in good time.

First, let’s talk about slippery slopes, which are injected regularly into many discussions of same-sex marriage and gay rights. According to definition, a slippery slope argument is reasoning that “asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any rational argument or demonstrable mechanism for the inevitability of the event in question. A slippery slope argument states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect”. For instance, I’m sure you’ve seen these infuriatingly fallacious commercials:

Critically, these style of arguments are always invalid, but this does not mean what you probably think it does. Validity refers to argument structure in logic and philosophy; more specifically, for an argument to be valid, if the premisses are true, so must be the conclusion. Validity does not guarantee soundness, however, as the premisses could be false. To better illustrate my point, behold these rudimentary syllogisms:

  1. Socrates is a man
  2. All men are mortal
    Conclusion: Socrates is mortal

or

  1. Socrates is a woman
  2. All women are mortal
    Conclusion: Socrates is mortal

The first argument is sound: It’s valid because the conclusion must follow if the premisses are true, which they are. Moreover, the conclusion is also true. On the contrary, the second argument is unsound: It’s also valid because the conclusion must follow if the premisses are true, but premiss 1 is false; Socrates is not a woman. It’s pivotal to note that the argument still fails even thought the conclusion is true. Furthermore, it’s significant to identify these examples as deductive arguments, which strive to be valid with their conclusions being inexorable as mandated by logical certitude. They’re what’s known as proofs.

Yet, we actually prove very little — colloquially asking for it way too liberally for my tastes. Most of the reasoning people do is inductive in nature, with the submitted conclusions intended as probably true. Of course, these arguments are invalid, but that does not make them poor. Rather, they live or die on how well the conclusion is warranted as likely. As a fallacy, slippery slopes  are either presented as valid or the premisses don’t adequately support the conclusion as plausible.

Now, returning to the question of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, claiming that if we recognize genderless marriage, then we’ll also legally acknowledge bestiality, polygamy, pederasty, necrophilia, etc. is indeed guilty of “slippery” thinking and overall an incredibly feeble argument. But at the very least, proponents of same-sex marriage are not being charitable if not outright dismissing based on mere caricature the challenge to “marriage equality,” as betrayed by this same slogan. For Justice Alito was not claiming that this “parade of horrors” would occur but on what objective basis would prevent it: Not would but why, as in theoretically or “by what principle,” as Robert P. George seems to like to phrase it.

As such, this is no longer an invalid slippery slope argument. There is no direct attempt at establishing a metaphysical causal chain between states of affairs, as in A will unavoidably lead to G. Rather, in this case, this claim belies deductive, valid reasoning. It’s reductio ad absurdum, which is pretentious Latin for basically taking your interlocutor’s logic to its idiotic conclusion and then thrusting it back against your opponent.

See, although “marriage equality” advocates find it irrelevant that there is a categorical difference between opposite-sex and same-sex couples — the former are innately procreative, while the latter are innately infertile — it means a commonality between the two must be given for them both to be marriage material. Remember, “equality” is what they’re all about. On this account, intense romantic feelings are proffered, but this is as vague as believing in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Love, after all, is as amorphous in meaning as in the multitude of shapes it comes in. Limiting the institution to two people surely seems as arbitrary as maintaining it as husband and wife.

Therefore, all those sophistic platitudes for same-sex marriage now can be sallied against the post-gay marriage, two-person status quo of the institution as unfairly discriminatory: Who’s to say single-partnered love is superior to multiple-partner love? Isn’t it “as good as you”? What about the romantic sentiment shared between siblings? Isn’t denying them “marriage equality” not just institutionalized incestophobia? What about the amorous desire a secluded rancher has for his stallion? If inmates can marry, surely a hardworking society-contributing person like he should have the right to marry the object of his affections. Can you say that these the listed hypothetical individuals in these cases are not “born this way”? If we now have multitudes of genders, and Facebook has 56 options, why don’t we have more than two or three sexual orientations? Isn’t it entirely possible that “familials,” “beasties” or some other Orwellian obscurities can be coined and applied to each group as they are shepherded under the LGBT alphabet soup umbrella for political capital, while a concentrated public image campaign via TV, cinema and news is conducted to normalize what was considered abnormal and abhorrent as “just another thing”? I mean, It worked for homosexuality and now transgenderism. Or what about the phenomenon known as singlism? They’re tax-paying individuals whom the state discriminates against by recognizing marriage at all. Truly, the equitable thing would be to abolish the institution. Summarily, there’s just a lot of holes in theory within “marriage equality” that makes it a highly spurious for public policy making.

In short, if marriage has no basis in rigid objective reality, say human sexual complementarity, as it had been grounded in for millennia, then it and its natural fulfillment, family, is purely an expression of subjective whim and preference that’s subject to anyone’s inner proclivities. If you loosen the bonds that define marriage in the spirit of “tolerance,” you must recognize everything and distinguish nothing. If there is one thing both sides agree on, it’s that marriage is distinguished. Why else are we fighting about it? Digression aside, this is just simple deduction and logical entailment. It’s also the sturdiest of justifications for a premiss in an argument becoming less slippery but more sure-handed in its descent to the “parade of horrors” and marriage’s eventual resting place six feet underground. Hence, Sirius cannot be more mistaken, utterly inconsistent and self-contradictory to his greater cause when he asserts, “The bottom line here is that recognizing same-sex unions does not by itself require recognizing other unions, just as recognizing heterosexual unions did not require recognizing all other unions.”

To his merit, though, he does seem to anticipate the strength of the above reasoning after breaking the dam, so to speak, and tries to pragmatically posit an objective bulwark to suppress it until the rush of social consensus, of course, becomes irresistible. He writes:

One could point to trends of excessive force, unequal social status, and other points of reference to show why polygamy should not be recognized (at least as of right now). Furthermore, one can point to all sorts of psychological damage should siblings and other family get married.

One also could point to trends of excessive force (here, here, here), unequal social status — as in an estimated 700,000 same-sex households out of 115,227,000 American households ( ~ 0.6%) that apparently justifies gutting humanity’s first institution as essentially nonprocreative and blood ties between child and parent as optional in the view of the state — and other points of reference (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) to show why same-sex relationships should not be recognized (at least as of never). Furthermore, one can point to all sorts of psychological damage children suffer with surrogacy and divorce among other related and correlated factors involved in nontraditional households (here, here, here, here, here).

Ah, but this all is rank bigotry on the level of notorious Bull Connor because, well, HRC, GLAAD and all those well-dressed, good-looking, likeable, eloquent demagogues on the news and in TV and movies and such shout it really, really loudly — so, it must be true! I feel like those who are taken with this rhetoric have an arbitrary double standard here. After all, Sirius’ listed reasons not to acknowledge polygamy and incest would and are outright condemned as prejudicial by his side — including himself, I bet — if nearly exactly applied to same-sex relationships as done above.

I also “feel like I’m taking crazy pills here!” because Sirius and other well-intentioned LGBT allies are also seemingly unaware what other advocates for “marriage equality” pretty candidly admit about this embroiled front in the culture wars, among other related trends. For instance, Jillian Keenan writing for Slate shamelessly transposes the above “bigoted” reasoning as the next step in “marriage equality”:

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.

Or as George, Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis cite and observe in their defense of marriage, the Orwellian re-education has already begun with terms like “throuple,” “wedleases” and “monogamish” starting to make their rounds, thereby impugning the conventions of monogamy, exclusivity and permanence within marriage. Dan Savage is a big proponent of “monogamish”ness and resorting to profanity such as “suck my cock!” to those who disagree with him. Yet, for some reason, CNN features him to debate for the LGBT side of things as if he is a knowledgeable, qualified source and is conducive to civil discourse, though his regular polemics show him instead as a detriment to it. New York Magazine has run this Q & A with a man in a monogamous relationship with a mare. Wikipedia actually has an article documenting the cases of “human-animal marriage.”

Note also the sources for these stories come from well-known organizations and not just some lilliputian rag. New York Magazine and the New York Post also frame their subjects sympathetically or at least with a hint of curious optimism. The fact others consider it at all newsworthy, publishable and worthwhile to inject into the marketplace of ideas for the readership to consider, especially coming from allegedly reputable news sources like The Washington Post and CNN, suggest what we conservative conspiracy theorists have always been harping on about: The press at large are heavily predisposed for the Left, and as such, are corrupt and irresponsible when feigning objectivity and moderacy — whether they realize it or not. Likewise, this litany of examples also points that the alleged regression into depravity won’t occur ex post facto of same-sex marriage recognition but that we are well on our way sliding.

Some would contend that this moral decline has been going on for decades, centuries even. Perhaps Nietzsche or more accurately Dostoevsky was right: “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” Assuredly though, if the mainstream press are flirting with these notions that not only sex and gender are irrelevant for marriage or for general courtship but also norms pertaining to exclusivity, permanence, monogamy and keeping it in the species can be discarded, then these ideas must certainly not be too far removed from the public consciousness either. So, it would appear the “bigots” are not merely fear-mongering but are actually being reasonably observant.

The even more observant also notice the disparity between what image media perpetuates about gay rights and what lesser publicized voices and queer theory have to say. They take it straight from the gay activist’s mouth. For starters, the 1989 manifesto After the Ball lays out an extensive game plan to persuade America “to conquer its fear and hatred of gays” via “propaganda” — authors Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen’s word, not mine. Apart from opining that marriage is a patriarchal, sexist institution that ought not exist but suits their designs, here are some highlights:

You can forget about trying right up front to persuade folks that homosexuality is a good thing.  But if you can get them to think it is just another thing–meriting no more than a shrug of the shoulders–then your battle for legal and social rights is virtually won (p. 161).

[…]

Constant talk builds the impression that public opinion is at least divided on the subject and that a sizable bloc — the most modern up-to-date citizens — accept or even practice homosexuality. …. The main thing is to talk about gayness until the issue becomes thoroughly tiresome (pp. 177-178).

[…]

[G]ays can undermine the moral authority of homohating churches over less fervent adherents by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology… [This] has already worked well in America against churches on such topics as divorce and abortion.  With enough open talk about the prevalence and acceptability of homosexuality, that alliance can work for gays. Where we talk is critical . . . In the average American household the TV screen radiates it’s embracing bluish glow for more than 50 hours every week…. These hours are a gateway into the private world of straights, through which a Trojan horse might be passed (p. 179).

[…]

In any campaign to win over the public gays must be portrayed as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to adopt the role of protector…First the public should be persuaded the gays are victims of circumstance, that they no more chose their sexual orientation than they did say their height, skin color, talents or limitations.  (We argue that, for all practical purposes, gays should be considered to have been born gay– even though sexual orientation, for most humans, seems to be the product of a complex interaction between innate predispositions and environmental factors during childhood and early adolescence.) . . . And since no choice is involved, gayness can be no more blameworthy than straightness.
In order to make a Gay Victim sympathetic to straights, you have to portray him as Everyman.  But an additional theme of the campaign will be more aggressive and upbeat.  To confound bigoted stereotypes and hasten the conversion of straights, strongly favorable images of gays must be set before the public.  The campaign should paint gay men and lesbians as superior — veritable pillars of society (p. 183).
Our primary objective regarding diehard homohaters is to cow and silence them as far as possible (p. 179).

Moreover, listen to Marsha Gassen in 2012:

Anderson further provides several examples here, but I’ll give you some of my favorites:

Anti-equality right-wingers have long insisted that allowing gays to marry will destroy the sanctity of “traditional marriage,” and, of course, the logical, liberal party-line response has long been “No, it won’t.” But what if—for once—the sanctimonious crazies are right? Could the gay male tradition of open relationships actually alter marriage as we know it? And would that be such a bad thing?

We often protest when homophobes insist that same sex marriage will change marriage for straight people too. But in some ways, they’re right (The Advocate).

Michael Signorile strongly advises gay couples to “demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution.” They should “fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely, because the most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake…is to transform the notion of ‘family’ entirely.” According to Professor Ellen Willis, “conferring the legitimacy of marriage on homosexual relations will introduce an implicit revolt against the institution into its very heart.” Surely, all this casts doubt on and contradicts the highly publicized and seemingly innocuous meme of “how will allowing gay couples to marry affect you or your marriage?”. They also strongly indicate that HRC, GLAAD and others, whose campaign and tactics uncannily resemble those prescribed in After the Ball, have been far less than truthful to the American people surrounding this issue.

And then again for the Left, truth and civility — those pesky things that help keep a free society free — are not virtues, and altering and doing away with marriage and the family has traditionally been one of its long-held ambitions. Let’s just say, same-sex marriage aligns with or is and has been very much in bed with Marx. According to Paul Kengor, the cranky German mused frequently about “abolishing the family” and how his workers’ revolution would be “the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.” Likewise, Marx’s successors were the academic pioneers to scrutinize and radically challenge Judeo-Christian ideals on sexuality, gender and identity at large. They never conceived of same-sex marriage, but its legal and social affirmation would see them overjoyed. And this all makes sense. After all, under communism, your first loyalty is to the state, the community. The church and the traditional family are competition in this regard and overall impediments to utopia. Why else would the Soviet Union praised Pavlik Morozov as a state hero for betraying his family to the secret police and thus rendered as exemplary for all adolescents? Out with everything that upheld the old order, for the new world, a future free of inequality, awaits.

Additionally, if you look at other well-known authoritarian regimes, you’ll see they have a tendency to blur this distinction between the domestic and the state. We’ve already met Pavlik. Hitler had his infamous youth program. To this day, China’s government limits the number of children couples are permitted to have. In all these cases, the state does not recognize the family as a separate entity, and as such, has and uses the authority to extend its control where we don’t want it: our private home life. Same-sex marriage necessitates that the boundary between family and state is a function of malleable subjective preference and personal whim instead of something fashioned from the timbre of objective reality like biology. In other words, why should government heed me at all when I object to sexual education that explains BDSM to my ninth grader if my relationship to my child is ultimately just another social construct devoid of actual meaning and clear demarcation when there’s “the common good,” as defined by faceless bureaucrats? Why would I endorse public policy that undermines my claim to my kids and their inherent rights to me?

I’ll let you chew on that one for awhile, so let’s once again return to Marx. He also put a lot of stock and faith in change qua change as both a unequivocal and unilateral force for good: “The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it.” And so did Lenin: “What is to be done?”; and so did Trotsky; and so did every good Bolshevik, Stalinist, Maoist, etc., possess unflinching confidence in the future they were deceiving and or murdering to build. The ends justify the means.

So, it’s much to my chagrin when Sirius expresses the following:

What we are looking at is the residual process of trying to normalize marriage across the nation. As people clamor for marriage equality, the uniformity is upset. We must either be okay with having different marriages in different states, or we must come to a new consensus.

That new consensus does not necessarily include people who want to limit marriage to man and wife. Young people overwhelmingly support marriage equality. Even when balancing things out with other voters, in the U.S. support for marriage equality has reached an all time high. As older people give way to newer sensibilities, the consensus will go against people who oppose marriage equality.

At the least, then, both sides need to be careful for what they ask for.
With any social change, there are always going to be arguments that claim the change will go too far. That in and of itself is no surprise, especially in this case. But really nobody is advocating for drastic changes to marriage law. Instead, they’re asking for states to recognize marriages granted in other states. While it raises concerns, the U.S. hasn’t imploded any other time it enacted social change.

Now, of course, he isn’t a communist as in like “Comrade Sirius,” but he does naively echo the Marxist fatalistic and blind adherence for change with little concern for the costs. He’s so self-assured in the righteousness and inevitability of “marriage equality” as a cause that he tends to overlook the harm to American civil health its supporters are doing in service to it. The defamation and slander the gay rights movement have repeatedly used to get to this point is seemingly fine. Sirius also alludes to federalism and an inexorable “new consensus” but is not only ok with unelected judicial fiat overturning the current official and recent consensuses, as established in state constitutional amendments, he seems to welcome it coming sooner rather than arriving later by its alleged natural course. As this sets precedent in judicial activism, it weakens those “laboratories of democracy” of the states in favor of further centralization of power.

In addition, Sirius expresses no qualms over but approval for the zealotry to put First Amendment-inspired negative freedoms of religion, association, speech and conscience in a collision with public accommodation law. I’m referring to Christian wedding bakers, florists and the like. Never mind civil rights and civil liberties are in tension with one another, and each needs to limit the other to some degree to ensure balance. According to Sirius, “Freedom of religion does not trump basic human rights,” which broadly is right. But by “basic human rights,” he means nondiscrimination rights to equal treatment based in statutory law, and that these measures take precedent, in principle, over freedoms of religion, conscience, association and such, as enshrined in the Constitution. This view seems radically backwards, as constitutional rights are more fundamental than ones found in the nondiscrimination statutes for employment and service as enacted by legislatures. What he’s espousing sees the scale tipped heavily against the Bill of Rights. It’s no longer the supreme law of the land but a vassal to progressives’ “tolerant” convictions and “more enlightened” modern anti-discrimination laws. This is hegemony, not equality. Moreover, he’s running contrary here to the driving spirit of many of the first Europeans who immigrated to these shores. Groups like the pilgrims fled the Old World so they could have the liberty to live by their principles in the new one without reproach from the state. Summarily, what good is having my mind if I can’t speak it or act upon its precepts?

Additionally, I feel obligated to point out his faith in the steady march of progress and social change is gravely misplaced. I bet Lenin and the Bolsheviks were equally assured of their impending “new consensus” and the paradise they were forging, except it resulted in miseries for 70 years like gulags, abject poverty and Lubyanka killings. Western Europe faced centuries of disunity and stagnation after Rome was sacked by Alaric and the Goths, and it did not perhaps completely recover until the Carolingians. The French Revolution was done for “liberty, equality, fraternity” but led to Robespierre, the guillotine and eventually Napoleon. The Nazis gave rise to Hitler, the Holocaust and World War II. China’s Cultural Revolution slaughtered an estimated 30 million over a course of a decade. Sure, “the U.S. hasn’t imploded any other time it enacted social change.” It was just torn asunder by the bloodiest conflict in our history due to the growing influence of the abolitionist movement against slavery and the election of Abraham Lincoln. It also wasn’t too long ago that the intelligentsia were fawning about abortion as a foregone conclusion. Roe v. Wade was supposed to be the formal resolution to the issue, period. Yet, now some would contend it’s Sirius and his pro-choice leanings that are on “the wrong side of history.” History, she’s hard to pin down.

Anyway, the frightening thing is that sharp individuals like Sirius fight for “social justice,” a euphemism to mask Leftist objectives, and believe such ends to be somehow latent within or mandated by the Constitution. In fact, what they are advancing is born of an ideology that rejects the classical liberalism of the Founding Fathers. They’re all about equality — cultural, material, social or otherwise — but have little to no appreciation of liberty in any form. You know contemporary American “liberalism” is way askew when they start to have more in common with Marx than Thomas Jefferson, the progenitor of the Democrat party. His belief in freedom of conscience, like not coercing someone to participate in something they deem as sinful, would be and is considered cover for homophobia nowadays. We conservatives, on the other hand, are comfortable with good ole TJ.

We also like our Alexis de Tocqueville and his exultation of American mediating institutions, those lesser forms of human association that act as a barrier “between the individual in his private life and the large institutions of public life.” These include the family, as emboldened by marriage, churches and Christian schools and charities, among many other nonreligious “associations.” “Marriage equality” crusaders and their reliance on the courts to seek government to redefine and exert greater control over the sort of things that are supposed to keep it at bay. They instinctually presuppose the state ought to and is in the business to define and regulate mediating institutions. This is evidenced disconcertingly by fact social justice warriors clamor for its interference or edicts and shout “hallelujah!” at Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum because it more than anything bestowed social affirmation and dignity. Apparently, validation is not to be had in who we voluntarily associate with, and integrity isn’t implicit within our natures; both are found in Big Brotherly benevolence and or if something gets carved into legal stone. That’s what is really of import. The licit gains, although nice, were ostensibly a smokescreen. Contrarily, the first Americans escaped Europe to be rid of the overbearing hand of big government; a multitude of contemporary ones now search for its embrace and then its fist to punish those who don’t want to be held so tightly. Truly, Thomas Sowell is right, as we don’t see eye to eye. There is a “conflict of visions.”

Enough analysis, though. Let’s finally get a grip on this slippery slope situation. Given that in theory, redefining marriage means making it a union grounded in the vagueness of intense emotional attachment, this entails that other forms of “love” ought to be recognized, lest we keep affairs unequal. Many people on the Left, including plenty of gay activists, not only realize where the logic leads and recognize gay marriage as a revolutionary overhauling of family, they openly crave it. Therefore, I don’t know how it isn’t unadulterated inanity for Sirius to assert, “But really nobody is advocating for drastic changes to marriage law.” Same-sex marriage is a challenging to our very understanding of family and parenthood as they are conceptualized and forged into current law. The legal framework involving divorce, adoption and alternative reproductive technologies will all demand to be amended to accommodate such upheaval.

Moreover, acknowledging same-sex couples as marriage plays a perfect complement to other Leftist goals. There are feminists scholars who argue marriage is an oppressive patriarchal institution that needs to be diminished if not utterly vitiated for women to truly achieve cultural, legal and material parity with men. Or then there is this professor’s ideas about how parents reading bedtime stories and put them into private school is unfair and contributes to inequality. Speaking of family, all these modern ideologies draw much from their Marxist and neo-Marxist parent philosophies, whose innovators again wanted to subvert the natal bonds between mother-father and child, among other traditional values, according to their writings. They’re all monsters descended from the same Marxist Echidna, and all of them are intent on devouring the individual by isolating him or her from the familial associations he or she is naturally born with. After same-sex marriage, destigmatizing polygamy and company can be conceivably applied to further this end. As severe strains of egalitarianism, these worldviews are innately totalitarian, not liberal. It’s not in their progressive nature to desist and be content.

So, yes, there is plenty of theoretical concern for “the parade of horrors,” but beyond pontificating in the abstract, the actual behavior of nonacademic agents suggest that these fears have basis in the real world too. Journalists and other people in mainstream media are beginning again to popularize and normalize what was considered unthinkable for polite society in the same manner they elevated the once taboo notions of homosexuality and transgenderism. Moreover, the mainstream gay rights movement, at large, has shown itself to spew lies that both deny and disguise its readily apparent insatiability, especially of late — “If you like your morality and civil liberties, you can keep your morality and civil liberties.” Right Christian bakers, florists and photographers? And then there’s the body politic of the movement, the social justice warriors, who are more Marxist and therefore totalitarian in their tendencies and views on equality, liberty and the state than liberal in any robust sense. Domesticity and human worth is grounded in the state are a couple telling examples of their mindset. Moreover, they are the lifeblood of this cause, and they really believe it to be their own and the next front in the inexhaustible war for civil rights. They won’t stop and will swarm the enemy (the social conservative) like killer bees, the good drones that they are, cued by collaborative media for whatever becomes the next stop for the social justice parade.

Consequentially, there is ample evidence and warning that this saga is far from over. It is not at all unreasonable to predict a coming lapse into that ugly (polygamy, incest, etc.) and horrible (further marginalization from those with traditional values from polite public society) parade, though it’s nigh impossible to know how long it will take. The hive is just too frenzied and preoccupied to notice, believe or care about what’s been briskly detailed above. When it comes to “marriage equality,” most of its members only smell blood and pheromones.

Blood and pheromones,

Modus Pownens

Talking Sirius Bizinus: Procreation and marriage


Over at Amusing Nonsense, Sirius Bizinus is periodically providing his analysis of Hodges v. Obergefell, which is in front the Supreme Court. He has graciously allowed me to comment on his posts here. So, when time permits, I’ll try to critique his arguments. In this case, it pertains to procreation and marriage.

First of all, Sirius does an ok job summarizing the “bigots” position in regard to procreation and nuptials:

The idea is that marriage has been defined as between men and women for centuries is because this basic pairing is how children are created. Because it was the only way of creating a family in antiquity, governments decided to enshrine the relationship with marriage. Government has an interest in promoting procreation and stable environments for children because that’s the only way our society can be perpetuated.

I would clarify that society, not government, has enshrined the relationship due to its unique potential of producing children. Not every civilization has had a sophisticated legal bureaucracy to formally acknowledge marriage, yet the institution, as fundamentally a heterosexual union, has been practically a universal idea up until about 15 years ago. It’s this life-giving, species-perpetuating power, the sustaining of the state via its future citizens, that justifies government’s involvement here, as it is clear that we do not want government to regulate every form of human association.

Where I believe Sirius’ bias starts to show is in phrases such as “only way of creating a family in antiquity” and “that’s the only way our society can be perpetuated.” Here, it’s implied that this line of thinking made sense in the remote past when there wasn’t large-scale adoption and artificial reproductive processes like surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. This rendering is incorrect. It’s not that we hold there is one way to promulgate society; rather, what’s known as the “traditional family” is the best way. If government is to have any sort role in the creation and socialization of its future citizens, it ought to promote the ideal. We are aware there are other familial arrangements and there are conceivably other ways for society to sustain itself: The world state in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World comes to mind. Yet, Huxley’s brilliance was to realize the abandonment of procreative sex and blood ties was pivotal in a society that didn’t have individual autonomy and prosperity. In brief, conservatives believe the biological family, as a mediating institution against the reach of the state, furthers the causes of freedom, wealth and well-being. While diminishing it — e.g. abortion, feminism’s belittling of motherhood and advocacy to normalize feminine promiscuity, the trivialization of sex and the formal relegation of mothers and fathers as optional via a SCOTUS decision in Obergefell v. Hodges — works to undermine “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Forgive my pedantry here, but for Sirius to reasonably declare that the procreation argument against same-sex marriage is “untenable,” he must at first understand it and the supporting position. Although he is far from the only person to mischaracterize in this regard, as comments from federal judges illustrate, the remainder of his post is predicated on strawmen.

For instance, he writes,

This idea takes the emotional relationship aspects of marriage and throws them out the window, along with justifications for some of the other ancillary benefits of marriage (like tax breaks). We’re looking at marriage solely for the purpose of creating and maintaining a family here.

But understanding marriage to be essentially defined as a procreative union does not exclude love and emotion from the equation. This simply does not follow. It is entirely possible and happens often for marriage to be both about love and procreation without leaving out the “ancillary benefits of marriage.” How so?

Enter the wonderful world of metaphysics and being philosophers in it by making distinctions. Sirius confuses essential properties with accidental properties as well as natural function/purpose with artificial or user-imposed function/purpose.
Essential property: A property an object, person or thing must have to be what it is.
Accidental property: A property an object, person or thing can have without ceasing to be what it is.
For example, a bachelor must have the property of unmarriedness, for lack of a readily apparent term, to be a bachelor. However, a bachelor can also have the property of being Swedish, French or Cambodian and still be a bachelor.
Natural function/purpose: The goal or directed end an object or thing has by virtue of being what it is. E.g., a squirrel is naturally predisposed to gathering nuts and acorns and burying them to survive the winter because of the fact it is a squirrel. It’s important to note, natural here does not refer to the zoological animal kingdom, as in appearing or existing in habitats found within the likes of African savannah, Australia’s Outback or Himalayan steppe. Rather, it pertains to a thing’s nature and how function or purpose is imbued within that nature.
User-imposed/function or purpose: The goal or directed end an object or thing has by the imposition of some sort of artificer. E.g., the function or end of the twig that’s positioned into the anthill is that of the chimpanzee wielding it for the purpose of procuring ants to eat, but such a purpose is not immanent in the twig itself.

Now, let’s return to the issue at hand, marriage. Sirius seems to think our claims about marriage and procreation entail a user-imposed function. That, as a social construct, the institution is man-made and therefore has a man-made, instrumental end of procreation. But not every marriage produces children, whether by infertility, age, choice or plain dumb luck, yet these couples are still allowed to and are considered married. Likewise, people marry each other because they are in love and not solely to have kids. Therefore, this is a silly excuse to prevent gay couples from saying “I do”.

That’s pretty sound reasoning except that those who raise the procreation objection to same-sex marriage don’t subscribe to the above description. Marriage is not a mere instrumental means to the end of procreation as extrinsically imposed by society. Rather, marriage is essentially related to procreation as intrinsically mandated by its natural foundation in human sexual complementarity, which is what society recognizes in matrimony. Marriage is procreative by its own nature not social fiat. According to us, being procreative, which means being predisposed toward the biological end of procreation and reproduction, is an essential property of marriage in order for it to be marriage. It’s fundamental to what it is, imbued in its essence and thereby essential. It’s not an accidental property like being in love or having the legal benefits that are recent Western additions to the institution. There are, unfortunately, many loveless marriages out there today, as well as the proverbial arranged marriage that were common in the past and still exist today in many parts of the world. Yet, these cases don’t cease being marriages because the individuals involved are not in the emotional throes of love. In other words, the legal standing and amorous feelings are both historically and metaphysically accidental properties of marriage.

What about those old couples that are infertile by nature? They’re still married. As Sirius puts it: “Currently there are no requirements that parties to a marriage must be able to procreate in order to get married” and “What this means, though, is that infertile couples couldn’t get married. Additionally, if there is some tragedy where one person has to become sterile, that could be grounds for dissolving the union.” Summarily, this is no reason to exclude gay couples who are also infertile by nature.

However, once again, Sirius is mistaken and conflates legal requirements with metaphysical ones. The infertility of an old heterosexual couple is not the same sort of infertility of a homosexual couple. Marriage, as a union of persons, is not essentially grounded in singular characteristics of one of the persons involved in it. Otherwise, it’s a fallacy known as pars pro toto, a composition error in reasoning that erroneously infers the parts for the whole. The union is what’s important and not whether one of the people taking part in it is a good person or infertile. This is relevant in that the the old nonprocreative heterosexual couples, whose unions are recognized, are infertile in the likely sense that the singular females members have undergone menopause, while homosexual couples often involve two potent males and two fertile females. So, the opposite-sex couple that can’t procreate is most likely because one of parties involved is infertile, but the same-sex couple that can’t procreate is always because the nature of the relationship makes procreation a default nonstarter.

Why does this distinction matter? It’s not only that marriage refers to a union of person and is not defined by one of the singular members within it. Rather, bear in mind that we are comparing two categories of comprehensive unions. The issue surrounding same-sex marriage ultimately comes down to whether same-sex couples are meaningfully no different than opposite-sex couples. Those for “marriage equality” assert yea — they are the same — while the “traditional marriage” side says nay — they are different. Here though, we have a disparity that philosophically one can drive a mack truck through. In other words, same-sex relationships are essentially and categorically infertile; opposite-sex relationships are essentially fertile even if procreation, gestation, pregnancy and birth doesn’t occur and children don’t always obtain. The relationship is still apt for procreation and is naturally fulfilled when it happens. The elderly pair is just the exception to a very fecund rule; Adam and Steve and Lilith and Eve, though not exceptions, are nevertheless irrevocably bound to it.

Hardly arbitrary, it’s not the law that excludes same-sex couples from marriage, but instead its the constituent individuals’ freely-enacted choice in partner and the essence of such companionship that precludes them from the institution. That’s no more unfair than a nonprofit charity receiving tax breaks instead of a for-profit corporation. Though similar, as they are organizations of people, they are inherently separate types of entities. Likewise, although a same-sex relationship approximates an opposite-sex relationship in some respects, they too are inherently distinct in the same manner a triangle, which although comes close to having four sides, just simply in no possible world can be a square.

Moreover, we proponents of this conjugal view of marriage view the institution comprehensively, and as such, realize the coital act, although critical to marriage, is not everything that marriage is. So, yes, love is still very much in play and helps make sense of and enhances our understanding of marriage instead of diminishing it. To show this is not just subject to me and a bunch of uneducated bigots, I’ll let esteemed Princeton legal scholar Robert P. George describe our position. Writing for The Public Discourse, he summarizes:

Historically, and, in my view, rightly, marriage has been understood as the distinctive and distinctively valuable form of human association that is oriented to procreation and would naturally be fulfilled by the spouses’ having and rearing children together. It is a comprehensive (and thus conjugal) bond inasmuch as it unites persons not merely at the level of hearts and minds, but in the bodily dimension of their being as well. In this way, it differs from ordinary friendships and other non-marital forms of companionship. And it requires commitments of exclusivity (“forsaking all others”) and permanence (“till death do us part”).

Bodily (“one-flesh”) union is possible in virtue of the sexual-reproductive complementarity of male and female. It does not consist, and has never been regarded as consisting, merely in the juxtaposition of flesh. It consists, rather, in the capacity to combine to form a reproductive unit. Thus, marriages are consummated (i.e., completed) by coitus; and marriage is inherently, and not merely incidentally, a sexual bond (and not just an emotional one). Sexual-reproductive union, as an integral aspect of the conjugal relationship, is—like the relationship itself in its totality—intrinsically and not merely instrumentally valuable. Although the marital bond is inherently oriented to procreation, it is not the case that procreation is an extrinsic end to which marriage or the marital embrace is valuable merely as a means. Rather, marriage is indeed a “one-flesh union.” And this explains why, in virtually all cultures throughout history, (a) marriage has been understood as a child-centered institution, yet (b) infertility has not been regarded as an impediment to marrying or a nullifier of existing marriages.

To be honest, George articulates a much stronger version of how comprehensive marriage is than I do above. I make a point to identify and separate procreation and love — one as essential and other as accidental in how they relate to marriage — while George better synthesizes them together. George completely follows through on the natural law basis of marriage, inserting value while I just describe what is the case. These differences, however, are more rhetorical than ideological. Furthermore, George being George and I being a nobody influenced by him means his iteration is superior. In addition to his eloquent prose, it is more palatable to the average American, who strongly equates love with marriage, and also more extensive because he and his colleagues go on to show that this conjugal account also demonstrates why we have marital norms like monogamy and permanence that the “revisionist” view — marriage is merely a social contract centered around intense emotional attachment — simply cannot provide.

Finally, I suppose one could read all these abstract distinctions, chalk it up as mere semantic word games and object as to what does philosophy and metaphysics have to do with the legal case for and against same-sex marriage. Well, in a word, everything. Metaphysics, broadly speaking, is the study of what is the case. The social justice crusaders who wield the slogan of “marriage equality” are making a claim that presupposes certain metaphysical assumptions for legal application. Namely, same-sex and opposite sex couples are virtually the same and should be treated accordingly via 14th Amendment-inspired “equality under the law” considerations. Therefore, it’s only rational to examine these underlying assumptions and our understanding of what is a marriage. After all, law operates with certain presumptions about what is the case, and notions of fairness and justice can only be meted out from a basis found in real states of affairs.

In my view and experience, advocates for same-sex marriage utterly avoid the nitty-gritty here. Whether this is just a mere act of hasty misunderstanding and overlooking one’s biases, agenda-driven subterfuge or a combination of both, as I suspect, pausing to expose its position’s supposedly sound metaphysical assumptions to greater public scrutiny is something Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and the horde of courted social justice fodder seemingly don’t have enough interest in to halt their inexorable romp through our judicial system. Instead, they advance convoluted legal arguments that sneak in controversial theses like a same-sex relationship is applicable to marriage, and it’s people like George who question these implicit assertions.

The argument from procreation is fundamentally a metaphysical argument not a legal one. Therefore, when those like Sirius, who has a background in law, responds to it from a purely legal framework that just reasserts the same contentious claims that are being contested, as he does throughout his commentary, it amounts to just talking past, or more accurately, over what is being argued, as questions of law and issues of legality are ultimately rooted in the primacy of philosophy and its metaphysical considerations. For instance and more specifically, “Remember, the whole point of this idea is to show that the state has an interest in how new citizens come about to the exclusion of other marriages” is a prime example. If you start from the premiss that a same-sex relationship is already a marriage and marriage is just an emotional union, as Sirius implies here, his reasoning is insurmountable, but this is heavily begging the question in his favor. It is whether or not that it is a marriage that the procreation argument, in large part, challenges.

George and company (Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis) actually do more than merely argue from a procreative definition, as people do have varying conceptions of marriage. As noted earlier, they compare and contrast their conjugal view with the “revisionist” one that belies the push for same-sex marriage. They basically conclude that the former can account for other marital norms like monogamy and permanence. The latter, on the contrary, is not only insufficient in this regard but undermines these norms and ultimately entails and engenders the abandonment of the institution. The social repercussions of such a collapse are very much among the state’s concerns if SCOTUS carves in stone a right to same-sex marriage: rising out-of-wedlock births rates, an increase in poverty and greater numbers of children growing up without one or more of their biological parents. All these consequences are foreseeable and plausible if the court formally recognizes marriage as merely an emotional, adult-centric union. Moreover, making it far less probable that these three are outliers who boast an “untenable” argument motivated by animus against same-sex couples, more than 100 academics from a variety of disciplines agree with them.

For whatever it’s worth, so do I,

Modus Pownens

Contentious Pretentious Musings II: Deconstruction of social construction and other nuptial clarifications


*For those following at home, here is my original post, Oscar’s first response, my rejoinder and Oscar’s second response.

Sorry, that it’s taken forever, but I need another say in this dialogue. So, I was “disappointing.” Hmmm…I can see why you think I grouped you into pro-marriage equality clan, so yes, I suppose I owe you an explanation and an apology, Oscar, for the manner in which I responded. Honestly, I did not mean to misrepresent your position or put words in your mouth on the issue, so to speak. I’m sorry if it appeared that way, as it wasn’t my intention.

In my mind, I was being charitable. To me, your act of responding implied you did have somewhat of a firm stance on the issue, despite your assurances you didn’t. It came off as logically inconsistent like writing, “I don’t know a word of English.” I refrained from mentioning this evidently false inference, as psychological speculation about your motives and framing you as self-contradictory would be getting close to a tu quoque and was irrelevant to what was in contention, namely the ontology of marriage.

Secondly, my response was written for more than one audience; it was as much a reply to you as a strategic commentary for those who on either side of this matter. This was never explicitly stated when it probably should have been to prevent the very misinterpretation we’ve had here. Like any good debater, I had to reveal the implications of your deft use of the “social construct” foil. Your “critique” was an attempt to demolish any rational or moral debate on the subject, an overturning of the entire game board and a fact you don’t seemingly dispute. Within its efforts and actions, the same-sex marriage movement assumes there is a game board with moral and rational pieces to move. I was endeavoring to show your denial of objectivity on the matter was a road to a nihilistic destination, a place where they should not be comfortable.

Do I think I was convincing or even comprehensible to anyone who is on the other side of the issue? Nah, it’s not what they want to read, and there’s a massive shortage of intellectual honesty in this country. But hey, I had to try.

Niceties aside, I must warn you, Oscar, that I’m going to probably disappoint you more if not totally irritate you. Please remember, I’m not being pedantic in an attempt to spitefully humiliate you. Rather, I’m endeavoring to refute a line of argument of same-sex marriage apologists, so anyone who feels like or he or she has skin in the marriage debate, as I do, and is convicted enough to read our correspondence can see how claiming marriage has no essential properties is untenable. There is no ill intent against you in this post, just resolve to do by best in a fight against a great injustice I perceive. No disrespect but an opportunity that can’t be squandered because of my moral principles that have next to nothing to do with Exodus, Leviticus or anything in the Bible. If you do not respond to this post for any reason, I will not view that silence as defeat nor construe it as such. Granted, my wanton tardiness does not warrant a reply. I’m just compelled to show the facts about our point of conflict here, and let whomever reads our dialogue to privately decide for themselves who is right, and who is wrong. So take a deep breath. It’s now down to business.

Firstly, I feel your claim to knowledge about that the public currently believes marriage to be merely “a declaration of love,” although tentative, is completely unsubstantiated. As much as you opine about how people view marriage now, I feel compelled to point out vestiges of this notion that children and procreation are still associated with marriage, at least in the conservative circles I keep. There is an expectation they come after the marriage ceremony. It’s not uncommon to hear, “I want to get married and then start a family.” Even with the emergence of cohabiting couples, who are in love and resemble a married couple without children in many cases, their unions aren’t culturally considered marriages by default, though in nearly every respect they look married, according to how you think society has already defined the institution. And I fail to understand why your experience of how the country views marriage is more authoritative than mine, if we are to assume — quite falsely, I might add — that our individual perceptions here can be epistemically justified.

Secondly, “the slew of legalizations” you mention is hardly representative of what people have democratically declared in regard to marriage. They are judicial rulings overturning constitutional amendments ratified relatively recently by public referendum. Moreover, mainstream news outlets did not cover of it, but traditional marriage advocates marched in Paris earlier this year with some estimates putting their ranks in the hundreds of thousands. Sure, there are the polls in the last few years that show the growing support for same-sex marriage. However, polls and the press who push them are both notorious for being misleading, and the polls that really matter are done at the ballot box. So, no, I don’t think it’s accurate to conclude that society solely views marriage as just a committed, amorous relationship between individuals.

Segueing into the theoretical underpinnings of traditional marriage, your response here misrepresents my position, though the fault probably lies with me because I have not been precise and rigorous in its articulation. You write, “The OI argument stands only if we believe that marriage is defined, in principle, for the purpose of procreation, but who really defines marriage like this anymore?” I’m under the impression you think under my view, procreation is necessary for marriage and the reason why people marry. That marriage is a means to an end, namely procreation.

Let me be lucid: Whether or not procreation occurs or that children “obtain” is not what makes a marriage. In my account, marriage is defined in the terms of the type of relationship, which must be procreative in nature, not in result. This distinction still entails the sexual complementarity of man and woman. Only sperm from a male can fertilize an ovum from a female for a pregnancy to occur, or in an Aristotelian framework, only a man and a woman can physically coordinate together in the coital act for the biological whole and purpose of reproduction. This union is implicitly oriented toward procreation, while you and many others mistake marriage as defined as instrumentally or incidentally related to procreation, an accidental means to an end. As Patrick Lee, Robert P. George and Gerard V. Bradley writing for The Public Discourse note:

“…the institution of marriage is not primarily about procreation as an end or goal distinct from marriage. The institution is directly about the marital communion itself, which in its fullest fruition is family; and so it is about children, but principally as members of families. True marriage can exist even where children do not come of the union, but it always remains the type of union that would naturally be fulfilled by children, were they to come.

Sure, it’s a “baby-making institution,” but the “purpose” and the emphasis here is intrinsic, not extrinsic in kind.

Similarly, there is no dilemma between whether marriage is either “a declaration of love” or “a baby-making institution.” For me, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Love between members in a couple seems to facilitate the “baby-making” and vice versa. As Sherif Girgis argues also at The Public Discourse, “marital love also makes new life, so marriage itself is uniquely enriched and extended by the bearing and rearing of children, and the wide sharing of family life.” Marriage is both a physical and emotional, and thereby comprehensive, union between a man and a woman in which their subsequent children are a cultivation of. For advocates of the conjugal view of marriage like myself, marriage is a human good in it of itself.

These are not poison pills for me to swallow, Oscar, nor is this some ad hoc, “disingenuous” sallying of an absurd definition to defend traditional marriage. Just because many of the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage do not or cannot argue or perhaps don’t even know the underlying philosophy of their position is not a black mark against it either. They still express the tautological conclusion of marriage as being between man and woman, which is not only consistent with everything I’ve argued but is entailed by it. There are scores of atheists who justify their unbelief in God due to the existence of evil. Yet, I bet most of them don’t understand the Epicurean roots of their reasoning or that it is an attempt to show that the notion of God is inherently contradictory and therefore logically impossible. Does this mean that these claims are bankrupt because most lay people don’t know and can’t articulate the presuppositions that led to them? Of course not. To also borrow a phrase, I also suspect the only people who would espouse your critique of the OI argument are those who already are for same-sex marriage — even though such a position is foolishly self-contradictory. But so what? I find these veiled appeals to consensus and speculation about whom subscribes to what position as vacuous and irrelevant to determining the worth of our respective arguments.

Returning to the task at hand, one does not have to be a Aristotelian to subscribe to the OI argument; one just has to be realist about essential properties. The fact of the matter is that I hold a realist position in this debate, which reminds me that you do not: “Yes, I still maintain that there is no ought, Pownens. Which means that anyone arguing that marriage ought to be this way is unjustified.”

Dismissing what appears to be equivocation with the use of “ought” (correct me if I’m wrong, but above you seemingly conflate two different meanings and uses of the word), I feel like I need to ask how Nietszchean are you, Oscar? Do you maintain his perspectivism and therefore his rejection and value of truth? I’m really inclined to think that you do from reading your recent posts and your non-realism about social constructs’ possessing essential properties. It’s hard to be certain what exactly is your view, so I will rephrase and elucidate the issue slightly and then proceed accordingly.

I subscribe to an essentialism, which in brief is the view that things have essences — properties that a thing must have to be what it is, i.e., essence or thisness — when it comes to marriage. I don’t deny marriage has social customs that have varied and changed depending on the time and culture. These traditions or conventions, however, are incidental to marriage, as they were erected around the relationship. As the following analogy illustrates, the clothes and styles have changed, but there still remains the same body to wear them that was there from the start and serves as the explanation as to why and how there are clothes to don at all. Likewise, the relationship, which you admit predates the institution, serves as the basis for said institution. This relationship is a social construct insofar that persons individually construct a social arrangement between each other, and we call that type of association, marriage. However, even after these concessions and clarifications, I still maintain that marriage has essential features, and its subsequent cultural and legal institution has rational roots.

On the contrary, Oscar, you appear to maintain an non-essentialism (no “oughts”) for social constructs, which are defined as “created by people for people.” As such, your use of social construct in regard to marriage seemingly refers to a wholesale, institutional product totally derived from cultural whim and devoid of essential characteristics. It’s important to note your notion of the marital social construct is different than the one described in the above paragraph. The former deals with the interaction between individuals and has essential, objective characteristics, which cultures have enshrined into and recognized as an institution; the latter applies to a complete cultural fabrication of the masses that has no objective essence and in which every individual instantiation is arbitrary. It was the latter usage of the term and the positing of no essential features I challenged both as a “bare assertion” and historically and ontologically inaccurate, not the strawman that there aren’t any social aspects to marriage whatsoever, as you seem to imply in your second response.

Now that that’s cleared up, again, I see no given reason to accept that marriage is the social construct you describe it as — a relationship bereft of essential properties. There seems to be many social constructs, “created by people for people,” that have essential features to be what they are. For instance, law must be coercive and authoritative in nature, otherwise, it ceases being law and becomes “more like guidelines than actual rules.” Moreover, here’s another shot from The Public Discourse about a little social creation known as friendship:

For all its cultural variety, it has an objective core, fixed by our social nature: mutually acknowledged good will and cooperation. Without that, two people’s connection simply lacks the value (and special duties) of friendship. To overlook this is to err about a human good, not just the label for a construct.

So too, we argue, for marriage. For all the variety of its cultural supports, shaped by shifting historical demands, marriage as a human good has an objective core, fixed by the demands of our nature as sexual-reproductive beings; to deviate from it is to miss a crucial part of a basic human good.

Social constructs like law or friendship appear to have objective, essential features that make them what they are even if the content of particular laws and friendship vary, and for Girgis and company, marriage is akin to law, friendship and even human rights in this regard.

Then, there’s that little dilemma about another social construct intimately related to marriage that is the subject of a frequent example in rudimentary philosophy courses: bachelorhood. Let’s introduce it in the form of an indirect proof:

  1. Social constructs, as “created by people for people,” categorically have no essential properties.
  2. Therefore, constituent social constructs of institutional social constructs have no essential properties (From 1).
  3. A bachelor is a constituent social construct of the institutional social construct of marriage.
  4. Therefore, a bachelor has no essential properties (From 1, 2, 3).
  5. A bachelor has the essential property of being unmarried.
  6. A bachelor both has no essential properties and the essential property of being unmarried (From 4, 5).
  7. Therefore, 1 is false; there is a social construct with an essential property (from 6, which is a contradiction).

I’m putting  — I’m assuming — your Nietzschean inclinations to the test, as you non-essentialism commits you into denying 5, which means the claim, a bachelor is married, is not contradictory. Maintaining that there is no essence to bachelorhood and a bachelor can be married does seem to be rather inconsistent with the commonsense notion that by definition, bachelors are unmarried. You might be fine with such an implication of your non-essentialism, but I’d know there are philosophers who too would find this claim controversial, those of which would include but are not limited to: Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and more recently, Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam and Alvin Plantinga. You clearly aren’t a fan of their essentialist theories, but given those who have and do disagree with you and the above indirect proof, it at least casts serious doubt that your preliminary assertion is as self-evident as you state if not discredits the whole inference from marriage as a social construct to marital non-essentialism as invalid. Option one is hence clinging to you convictions and going down with the ship to attempt to survive the crushing metaphysical depths below. Then again, you can face the other end of the dilemma’s vise, concede a bachelor must be unmarried, and by extension, there is at least one social construct — though, it seems plausible there’s many more — that has essential and objective features, blunting the entire thrust of your original objection against the OI argument.

I hope you feel a tad awkward here, Oscar, because it would show you haven’t completely embraced the Dark Side of the Philosophy. My feelings, however, tell me that all that I’ve just argued is wasted on you, the good Nietzschean that you intimate that you are. At this point, I suspect we are talking past each other. You sympathize with Continental philosophy, where I align with the Analytic tradition of Western thought. I do have some choice words for Nietzsche and Continental philosophy as a whole, but that is possibly an even uglier and more irreconcilable disagreement than the one we’re having here. I have no qualms about hitting pause for now, as I think I’ve made a fairly compelling case that your philosophical presuppositions have little application to the marriage debate, as public policy-making doesn’t deny the efficacy of truth. Even the non-philosophically inclined should feel uneasy at the counterintuitive notion that a bachelor can exist as married, as your view entails. Plus, judging from the brevity of your posts directed toward me, you seem content with not doing any heavy metaphysical lifting, although I’m not opposed to a second rejoinder that would exercise such pursuits.

In summary, your confession of Nietzsche’s influence on your thinking, as pervasive as it might be, seems entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. When it comes to marriage, as it stands, “Nietzsche is dead.” It’s your choice whether or not to try to persuade me otherwise.

Ball’s in your court,

Modus Pownens