Why I’m not a progressive


In 2000, The Guardian in a profile reported the event that prompted the junior Roger Scruton to be a conservative with the help of the philosopher’s own words:

cover-scruton
Sir Roger Scruton

For Roger Scruton, as for so many of his generation, the Paris riots of May 1968 were the defining political moment of his life. He was in the Latin Quarter when students tore up the cobblestones to hurl at the riot police. His friends overturned cars and uprooted lamp-posts to erect the barricades. Representatives of his own discipline, old philosophers like Marx and new ones like Foucault, were providing the intellectual fuel for the fire raging on the ground.

As he watched the events unfold from his apartment window, and listened to his friends, drunk on revolutionary hope and excitement, Scruton found his own emotions and opinions crystallising. “I suddenly realised that I was on the other side,” he says. “What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilisation against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.”

Sir Roger’s reason is as good and lucid of an illustration as to why one should oppose the Left. Not that I have such a experience that so encapsulates the nature of Leftism, but I would like to detail a recent epiphany as to why I reject the synonymous progressivism.

Consider the term “progressive.” People who are progressives identify by being for progress. Duh, I know, but note that to identify by something suggests strong emotions for and fervent belief in it. To identify by progress is to advertise robust attachment for progression. Such strident convictions compel action toward their actualization, nurturing an agent for progress. Being for progress, change, by default, is being against the status quo. Hence, a progressive is someone who actively works to abolish the current state of affairs.

Now, change, in it of itself, is not a terrible thing. There are times when it’s justified. Rather, the fetishization of change as a good in it of itself is what’s grossly insidious. Identifying as progressive makes change a fetish; the act extols it. Then what constitutes progress for a progressive, someone, who as a matter of self-realization, is against the way things are? Simply what isn’t — what ought to be, his moral convictions regardless if they’re rational or possible. Taken together, the contrarian nature that inheres in progressive identity and the notion of change as intrinsically good, we have a potent and toxic recipe for radicalism.

Then there’s the problem that not everyone shares moral values and convictions. Disagreement is an obvious feature of the world. So, what then? If progress demands legalized abortion but others maintain abortion is infanticide, then what gives? Well, whoever’s convictions represent the de facto status quo, of course!

The moral stench is now becoming ever more pungent, I think. Behold its foulness: As agents radically pursuant to their own moral dogmas, progressives must impose their change as a matter of righteousness. If other people’s morals hinder it, they have a holy mandate to neutralize them, thus the eagerness to socially engineer. Nor is this crusade content with redefining a society’s morals. The cultural web of films, art, traditions, language, institutions that disseminate information — mass media, schools, churches, etc. — reaffirming these norms must also be dealt with. Every facet of society must be altered. Thusly, we see progressivism entails and justifies totalitarianism in theory, engenders it in practice.

When one examines Hegelian-influenced Marxism, which maintains that change occurs as a matter of dialectic — a clash of contradictions or polar opposites, where Aughebung is the negation or overcoming of the status quo, and with it, its assimilation into the greater totality and higher reality — one finds an intellectual penchant for such all-consuming tyrannical aspirations. Accordingly, everything is interconnected with mediated relationships between one another. As per this progressivism, totalitarian aggression is normalized as well as ennobled. And make no mistake, progressives are the aggressors, and they are motivated to act aggressively.

The point I’m making in a very roundabout way is, no matter how crude or refined, progressivism is totalitarianism. Period.

Like Scruton, it disgusts me,

Modus Pownens

“Clump” theory Kant buy an abortion


Perhaps you’ve heard this feminist folly about a human embryo shrilly pronounced in defense of abortion: “It’s just a clump of cells!”

Well, I mean, so are you, dear feminist. If we assume a strictly materialistic and naturalistic account of human beings, each woman, whether pregnant or not, is also “just a clump of cells,” only bigger. Hence, why does a woman, as a clump of cells, have the right to terminate an embryo or a fetus, whom too are clumps of cells? Mere difference in size between “clumps” seems to be an arbitrary reason. For the naturalist and materialist advocate of abortion, the issue is not just how one gets the immaterial goodies of rights and value solely from the material cellular composition of bodies but also why only women-as-clumps (WAC) have them and the unborn-as-clumps (UAC) don’t, much to their lethal expense.

I will now consider some possible responses to these problems implicated by this “clump” theory:

A. WACs are rational beings; UACs are not.
Immanuel Kant famously held within one of his formulations of the categorical imperative that we ought never to treat rational beings only as means but as ends in themselves. So, in a Kantian deontological framework, the hurdle of human dignity and personhood must be overcome to justify abortion. Bifurcating between WAC as rational agents and UAC as non-rational agents accomplishes this as it allows the latter to be used solely as a means — in this sense, subjects to abortion — in service of the will of the former. Under this interpretation of Kant, UAC are not persons and thusly don’t possess rights, such as the universalizable right to life.

I see some troubles with this move:

  1.  It fails to take into account the potential for rationality that inheres within a freshly formed, normal human zygote, that, as being a member of the sort of natural kind that it is, if left unabated in the womb would likely further develop, be born and actualize that potential for rationality over time. This actualization of latent rationality has been, as a matter of common experience, if not scientific observation, readily justified a posteriori. Following from this, it’s arguable (as Bill Vallicella does here) that this inherent potentiality for rationality, “confers a right to life”and thereby Kantian personhood. Thus, treading on this right, as abortion certainly does, given this case, is a moral evil and violates Kant’s categorical imperative.Moreover, Vallicella also notes another issue to which I find myself concurring: The “post-natal,” the newly born, can’t be considered as rational agents. They are utterly helpless and dependent on adults to make judgments on their behalf. Several years must pass before they become apt for rationality and develop the cognitive faculties for reasoning, moral decision-making and the like to the extent they incur the mantle of rational agent. Yet, they are ascribed as persons and possessors of the right to life before all this occurs. This fact seems problematic for the proponent of abortion, especially given any time during pregnancy, say even in midst of labor, the pre-natal baby is still a “clump of cells” with no rights — as per the official platform of the Democrats — but somehow a second after birth becomes a person, fully fledged in inviolable dignity. Both the uterine wall and vaginal canal seem to be very thin membranes constituting the special threshold between personhood and non-personhood. But how and why? Why does the act of being born result in a sudden transformation in ontological status for the fetus-clump?
  2. Secondly, it errs in that Kant is neither a naturalist nor a materialist. Hence, it’s not at all obvious as to how his ethics are compatible with “clump” theory. This all goes back to the first part of the issue — how naturalists and materialists get the immaterial out of the purely material. They would have to provide a compelling materialist basis for rationality as well as value and goodness. These are challenging metaphysical and metaethical quagmires that go far beyond the scope here, and in my opinion, typical attempts at solving them are rife with difficulties. But once again, addressing those attempted solutions is not within the purview of this post.

B. UACs are inside of WACs, violating the latter’s bodily freedom to control their own inner physiological processes, thereby threatening their greater autonomy.
I believe there’s two ideas here: (A) There’s a right to control one’s bodily processes, and prohibiting abortion limits said right; (B) Given the nine months of physical and psychological demands of pregnancy and the years of responsibility caring for a new human person, unwanted fetuses hamper women from actualizing their aspirations, goals, desires and otherwise curtail their abilities to achieve economic and cultural parity with men. In other words, their autonomy — which literally means self-legislation — is diminished…

  1. …Or so the narrative goes. Implicit within A, there’s the assumption that the UAC don’t have the right to life, which is the matter of contention, and begs the question against the Pro-Life movement. It’s undoubtedly uncontroversial that people, regardless of sex, have the right to do with their individual bodies as they please. It’s also true that most everybody accepts there are legal and moral limits with what one can do with one’s meat suit. For instance, murder often involves using your body, whether it’s enacted with hands bare or wielding weapons, but both morally and legally, murder is an impermissible use of one’s body. Furthermore, it’s evident that abortion terminates life, i.e kills. So, once again why does the UAC’s size and location inside women’s wombs make abortion permissible and not murderous? A woman’s rights trump a fetus’ (that is if it’s even recognized as a person)? But that changes nothing, as both are clumps with only relative location and size differentiating the unborn from the woman. Isn’t it arbitrary to favor the woman, especially in lieu of  we often consider the innocent and defenseless — both of which the fetus instantiates — especially warranting special recognition and protection? Well, the fetus isn’t a person with rights. Yet, once more this begs the question against Pro-Lifers and takes us back to the post’s original dilemma about clumps.
  2. As for B, I don’t see how pregnancy impairs or — to borrow a currently infamous term — causes an “undue burden” on feminine autonomy. Women are CEOs, high-ranking government officials, academics, entertainers and all manner of active and successful contributors to society outside of the home. Taking away abortion as a last resort likely wouldn’t “relegate” the fairer sex to domestic servitude in the kitchens. With the mass accessibility of varieties of birth control, including abstinence, pregnancy can be forestalled, parenthood planned. Admittedly, everything doesn’t often occur as planned, but whose fault is that? If you play fast and loose and or gamble with the action that creates life, why should it be unjust that responsibility actually comes a’knocking to collect on that semen deposit with interest? Alas, this is the sort of moral dereliction and accompanying depravity that manifests when you sever freedom from personal responsibility.
  3. Lastly, how does A and B not violate Kant’s principle of universalizability? Is it not the case that aborting a fetus disrupts permanently its control of its bodily processes that grows more independent daily? Moreover, abortion doesn’t just ruin the UAC’s days. It rather definitively puts the kibosh on the greater future autonomy that belongs to the fetuses, many of whom are female. Thusly, A and B seem to be self-vitiating. There’s always the response UAC have no rights, but I hope it’s obvious now there’s a theme of begging the question and continual not moving past Go in such a such a retort.

See, abortion supporters who happen to be materialists and naturalists want morality and rights without invoking God, the supernatural or the transcendental. They love their Kantian dignity, autonomy and equality; that’s why I brought up der Alles-Zermalmer. Pity their precious social justice also faces pulverization but not from Kant. Their mores just are not very compliant to their preferred metaphysics. Atheism, let alone New Atheism, struggles to alchemize blood from this stone.

Clumps get in the way,

Modus Pownens

Of vaginas, penises, urethras and where to put them


And I mean that all figuratively and literally when it comes to the culture wars. Figuratively, as in up until yesterday in human history, the vagina denoted femininity while the penis signified masculinity except apparently in these tumultuous times. In the literal sense, I’m not referencing some grotesque sexual fetish. Sorry perverts, my aim today is toward the mundane excretory chore of expelling urinary and fecal matter from the body strictly for detoxification and the public facilities inside of which we — a sexually dimorphic species in which the fact that male urethras are located in the male sex organ seemingly correspond with the existence and design of urinals — answer nature’s undignified call. This post is all business, not pleasure, especially in lieu of the sick and twisted.

Speaking of the sick and twisted, I would be remiss to not mention how deranged it is to craft bathroom policy such as the Obama administration’s edict unilaterally rewriting Title IX. Now, the unambiguous, objective meaning of sex includes the entirely arbitrary notion of gender identity. Worse yet, it makes it easier for anyone with a “John Thomas” to expose the offending appendage to the fairer sex, who typically only welcomes JT’s saluting in the bedroom. Voyeurism, rape and sexual molestation have only been around since the first human orgasm, so yeah, what could go wrong?

But, but, but what about the transgendered, bigot?” Well, for starters, they’re deluded; riddle me this, social justice warrior: Is society obligated to indulge this delusion and punish and treat the vast majority who don’t want to endorse it as tantamount to racists? Yeah, I’m sure you have a well-rehearsed narrative about restroom violence perpetrated against the transgendered individuals whose appearances don’t conform to traditional gender norms. Can you substantiate it? Is there really an epidemic of this alleged manifestation of animus? Do you have any statistics? On the contrary, here’s 25 recent cases of bathroom malfeasance against women and children with a host of more examples likely ready to be found thanks to a minimal amount of search engine diligence.

And even if rape and sexual assault are exceedingly rare, say as uncommon as getting zapped by lightning or attacked by a shark, it’s still prudent to take precautions and not invite disaster. The very grave nature of an incident like suffering a lighting strike, the maw of Jaws or sexual assault renders unjustifiable the willful dereliction of commonsense serving the prevention of such death and injury. We put up nets at beaches and strongly advise against, if not prohibit, golfing during storms. Likewise, public policy should and ought not be made overlooking how evildoers could take advantage of it in their pursuit of villainy regardless if many of them actually do so. This issue is not a matter of likelihood as much as principle.

Moreover, how does the privacy and safety concerns of .07 percent of the population — which are worth consideration but I don’t grant as terribly pressing — overrule the privacy and safety concerns of the rest of 99.03 percent? They don’t. The “right” to use a preferred bathroom becomes to look a lot less like an expansion of liberty as its increasing implementation imposes the wills and values of a tiny, tiny minority and its influential cadre of supporters upon everyone else. Not to mention such policies promote discrimination against the “cisgendered,” as I might too prefer to enter into the ladies room insofar as heterosexuality inheres within and thereby “matches” my chosen gender identity. Again, boys will be boys; perverts will be perverts. Girls just have to get past their discomfort.

Still, let’s for the moment disregard the constitutional qualms about the separation of powers and preserving our governmental republic or valid practical safety concerns. It’s been made abundantly clear in the last 50 years that the sexual revolutionaries don’t give a damn about them. Whether it’s defending free speech on campus or upholding due process in rape allegations, they view those type of acts as shams hiding prejudice if not also outright deferrals toward rotten institutions and traditions deserving of incineration with the rest of the world. Our conflict is no longer one of honest disagreement between differing visions of constitutional liberalism but a fight to the death about competing values. Progressives, even unconsciously, behave as privy to this fact; conservatives in general still seemingly project their own goodwill onto their rabid opposition, whose latent totalitarianism becomes more evident each year.

So, I’m going to plant my ideological flag here, stop appealing to reasons that are ineffectual on the Leftist demagogue and pretending there’s any philosophical common ground to be shared. I reject gender as merely a “social construct” with nothing to do with sex. Hell, I believe there’s real differences between the sexes and therefore also genders. Thus, men ought to act as men and women ought to act as women, as in accordance to their respective naturally-set masculine and feminine ends. As a result, I maintain the ludicrous idea of society at large ought to reflect this good within its norms and institutions instead of continually trying to deny and destroy the metaphysical and moral realism embedded within them, the latter of which is achieved in the passing of nondiscrimination statutes defending gender identity sought after by the LGBTSTFU brigade.

As just exemplified, I’m too prone toward polemic to be a philosopher, but I’m versed enough in “the ways of the Force” to remember Plato observed that “philosophers are spectators of all time and all existence.” With this hindsight and foresight, it’s hard not to see what’s really at stake. That, the ever steepening trajectory the Left is piloting civilization on will lead to ruin. As a matter of necessity, lines must be drawn, resolute stands taken.

Does this all mean I’m obstinately against any accommodation or tolerance, properly understood, for those experiencing “gender dysphoria” and or choose to frustrate their Aristotelian natural end in favor of disordered behavior? Of course not. It does mean, however, I’m staunchly opposed to legitimizing penises in public places where they have no non-nefarious reason of residing. Whether the intent is sexual predation or social engineering, it’s all still molestation. Therefore, conservative resistance in the bathroom front of the “culture wars,” as witnessed in North Carolina’s HB2 and other states’ religious liberty bills, isn’t the new “Jim Crow” or any form of insidious discrimination. Anyone who declares otherwise is a slanderous bigot (ahem, LORETTA LYNCH!).

My stance: No transgender penile colonies; no transgender penal colonies,

Modus Pownens

What is it like to be batshit crazy?: Nagel, qualia versus “Caitlyn” Jenner, transgenderism


Oh, boy–I mean oh, cisgender boy, behold the “T” in LGBTQ: transgenderism. It has become an especially prominent starlet of late thanks to the transformation of Bruce Jenner into “Caitlyn” Jenner. So, you know I’m about to put my hands on something I shouldn’t, the inviolate, the politically correct. As my saucy title illustrates, I relish tackling one of the Left’s sacred cows, but “tackling” is not the appropriate verbiage (I’m all about propriety when it comes to suitable word choice). Rather, I’m about to butcher the blessed bovine.

Before we can enjoy steak though, the proper niceties of a token disclaimer are to be observed in order for them to be sequentially disregarded by any rabid progressive nincompoops (Yeah, I said it!) who only see the world via outrage. Oh, and I probably should begin by explaining that naughty and meanspirited marquee offending Lady Social Justice from above.

In addition to all its key words and proper nouns primed for search engine optimization, the profanity works as crude click bait (After all, hasn’t it taken you this far, dear reader?). Granted, it’s a bat pun — a philosophical one at that — but if the average social justice warrior can’t understand a little provocative crassness in the solicitation of readers, well, I suppose it’s too late to issue a “Trigger Warning,” huh?

Frankly, I can’t help but despise political correctness. However, I do not hate transgender people, at least not in any accurate sense of the word that remains unmolested from the Orwellian manipulations of those who have already mauled the adjective by which they pharisaically and erroneously identify as — “tolerant.”

Really. Compare my obscenity with the sort of “polite” hospitality conservative writer Ben Shapiro faced — and not just from Robert Tur (“Zoey”), as what followed after 05:35 from everyone else made abundantly lucid — for dissenting from progressive groupthink. Whose transgressions surrounding this issue here are honestly more reprehensible and actually hateful?

Now, with such thuggish machismo displays out of the way, let’s give a brief account of transgenderism. By definition on Wikipedia, transgender “the state of one’s gender identity or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex at birth

“Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these.”[2]

I found the use of “assigned birth” rather question-begging of a radical position that is expressed on related transgender Wikipedia pages that “xx” and “xy” chromosomes and the broad sexual categories of male and female are social constructs and don’t reflect the empirical realities of sex variation found in humans. I’m not going to deal with such a position here.

Anyway, there typically is a critical distinction made between sex and gender, with gender notions of masculinity and femininity being socially constructed, while sex is determined by biology. For example, the color blue is associated with boys, while pink is girly and has cooties or something like that; at least I never liked it, you know, ‘cuz I’m a dude. I’m biologically male, but my reaction/rejection of pink is and was informed by cultural norms surrounding masculinity and femininity in youth.

Hence, the argument is made that there is no essence to masculinity and femininity outside of the changing attitudes of societies and people. At best, they’re subjective guidelines that can tested, bent and broken to the point that self-identification, i.e., personal whim, dictates an individual’s gender. If you’re born with he-parts, but believe yourself to be a she, then you’re a she, according to a traditional advocate for transgenderism.

The problem, however, is that what’s fundamentally subjective for a tiny, tiny minority — their wills — is a hard sell to impose on the whole of the body politic as public policy. So, current supporters of the movement, searching for an objective basis to advance their cause, have resorted to an oldie but a goodie from the gay activist playbook. Transgendered people are now “born that way.” In the mainstream, transgenderism suddenly has roots in the biological sciences, don’t ya know?

At The Public Discourse, for instance, Jennifer Gruenke claims:

“there are good scientific reasons for supposing that subjective experience of gender can legitimately diverge from the sex of one’s reproductive organs…, show(ing) that developmental biology demonstrates that there are multiple pathways of sexual development, that one of those pathways is in the brain, and that the pathways of sexual development can diverge from one another.”

Likewise, at Ethika Politika, Christopher Damian refers to chimerism, vanishing twin syndrome, unclear genitalia, contrasting levels of hormones, etc.

Nevermind that previously a clear demarcation had been struck between the social (gender) and the biological (sex), where the fact a person had a penis and testes had no sway in mandating one’s gender if said person wanted to identify as a woman. Well, intellectual honesty and logical consistency for the mainstream Left be damned! What the sociologists tore asunder so that no bigot could join in protest, let the neurologists and geneticists hastily mate together in blissful union, as we have a world of hearts and minds to conquer— er, change.

Also, nevermind that the phenomena Gruenke, Damian and others are bringing up are rare and varied medical cases. That, they are exceptions to the highly successful and overwhelmingly common results of biological reproduction that helped us become the dominant species on the planet. Prior to his assault on Shapiro, Tur mentions Klinefelter Syndrome, the condition of a male having two or more “x” chromosomes, which approximately occurs 1:500 to 1:1,000 male live births at its most frequent. Compared to CAIS (Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome), which affects an estimated 2 to 5 per 100,000 individuals, Klinefelter Syndrome is rather regular.

Moreover, if the word “syndrome” is any indication, these happenings are abnormal and aren’t considered typical of a functionally biologically healthy person. So, how these conditions can be used to justify or normalize gender dysphoria and its behavioral transitioning between male and female as copacetic like being left-handed is beyond me.

What all this amounts to is obfuscation, scientifically, as explained above, and metaphysically, as properties, which are known as accidents from my Aristotelian-sympathetic perspective, are not identical to essences but flow from them. Their failure to manifest in contrast to what’s regular or average, such as dogs having three legs instead of four or a man suffering from Klinefelter Syndrome, does not show that the essences of doghood and manhood are not what they are purported to be nor does it demonstrate that essences don’t exist at all.

What this explanation via science, as argued by transgender advocates, does, however, metaphysically demonstrate is a sort of presupposed determinism about social behavior like gender identification and a physicalism that underlies it all. In other words, the social is ultimately reducible to physical biochemistry and physiology and thereby explainable by it as well. Therefore, those feelings and thoughts of anxiety about really being a woman trapped in a man’s body can be completely accounted for via genetics, hormones and neurology.

Now, such a view is batty. Enter Thomas Nagel and his famous essay, “What is it like to be a bat?“. Here, Nagel draws a pivotal distinction in regard to experience, referring between its inherent subjectivity and attempts at equating it in objective physical terms, i.e, purely material or physical accounts of the mind. He writes:

It is impossible to exclude the phenomenological features of experience from a reduction in the same way that one excludes the phenomenal features of an ordinary substance from a physical or chemical reduction of it—namely, by explaining them as effects on the minds of human observers(4). If physicalism is to be defended, the phenomenological features must themselves be given a physical account. But when we examine their subjective character it seems that such a result is impossible. The reason is that every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view (2004, p. 2).

What Nagel means here is that the conscious mental states animals and persons have in life, the subjectivity embedded within instances of conscious experience, which are known as qualia, by their nature, remain elusive and indescribable by objective, external means. In other words, what’s experienced in the first person cannot be completely understood via third person methodologies, including empirical investigation.

That isn’t to say science has nothing to tell us about, to borrow from Nagel’s example, a bat echolocating, e.g., how it’s done, what sort of pitches or noises the bat makes, its range of effectiveness, etc., but that it remains incapable of translating for us what it is really like to echolocate as a bat; or as encapsulated by Nagel’s pithy and eponymous phrase, what is it like to be a bat?.

Then, circling back to transgenderism, all this poses the question, what is it like to be a woman? Or, inversely, what is it like to be a man? According to transgenderism, someone like the feminine “Caitlyn” Jenner, who, when he identified as the male “Bruce” Jenner, had access to the inner knowledge of what it was like to be a woman. Yet, given Nagel’s argument, this seems impossible. What is it like to be a woman can only be fully appreciated from the subjective experience of growing up as a girl and living as a woman, and Jenner’s understanding of the femininity he apparently identifies with was learned from his male, third-person perspective of it. So, it is utter rubbish to say that a man is indeed a woman because he feels like he’s a woman, and no amount of pointing to brain scans and the like makes such a claim any more intelligible.

The Federalist‘s D.C. McAllister astutely targets the same problem while candidly sharing some personal details about her childhood and her psychological development into a woman. She recounts the indignity of “the trials of growing up as a girl, of longing to be a beautiful woman”:

My development was particularly humiliating. While all my friends had developed nice, full breasts early, my boyish looks held fast—until the little buds began to grow in middle school. The thing was, with me, they didn’t exactly grow evenly. The right one developed before the left one. I was painfully self-conscious about it, and would wrap myself with tape when my mom had me wear a fitted shirt. Not knowing much about such things, I became convinced something was terribly wrong with me and that I probably had breast cancer…

…he (Bruce) will never know what it’s like to wait expectantly for that first period…Then…the magic happened. My heart raced, and my face flushed. I was so relieved, so happy. I was finally a woman like my friends. I wasn’t destined to be a freak like I was afraid I’d become…

…That early delight faded pretty quickly as the pain and drudgery of menstruation set in. I had heavy flows, cramps, and lots of accidents. The worst was in ninth grade, when I was sitting beside a boy I liked at school. It was an extended class because we were testing that day. I was wearing blue slacks and had lost count of my days between periods. As I sat there, pink-cheeked and stealing glances at the boy next to me, I felt that sudden warm flow, and knew I had to get to the bathroom. I raised my hand, and the teacher excused me.

When I got there, I realized I had leaked all the way through. Thankfully, my mom worked at the school, and she went home to get me a change of clothes. When I returned to the classroom and approached my seat, I looked down in horror to see blood smeared on it, now dry and browning. The girl who sat behind me snickered, and the boy wouldn’t look at me. I considered that a kindness. I sat down and tried to clean it off with my palms. I never looked at that boy the same way again.

Jenner won’t have to endure such humiliations. He’ll never know what it’s like to be a girl, to bravely face the realities, not the fantasies, of nature.

I think McAllister has made the point both graphically and rather eloquently, but I’d like to pile on a bit. For example, what about being the victim of sexism that feminist harpies like to harp on about. Surely, every woman knows what it’s like to be a woman living in man’s patriarchal world: The catcalls, you’re worth and success judged by your sex appeal, etc. I mean, it’s not like Jenner has been objectified like Alex Morgan of the women’s US national soccer team has been — as in posing for Sports Illustrated for ogling — prior to accomplishing great athletic feats like winning the Women’s World Cup, or in Jenner’s case, winning the men’s Olympic Decathlon. On the contrary, he’s been primarily valued for his achievements and not his looks, while Erin Andrews is more renowned for her fetching appearance, not her skills as a sideline reporter. Moreover, pregnancy, birth, menopause and a life growing up acknowledging and mentally preparing for these realities that most women face, are all phenomena of which “Caitlyn” Jenner is also intimately familiar, right?

On the flipside, for any woman “transitioning” to become a man, it’s also impossible for them to know what it’s phenomenally like to be manly. Like the experience of getting racked in the nuts: The pain, the tears streaming down the eyes, the sudden drop before rolling on the floor and the all the guys present howling with laughter while simultaneously offering solutions to assuage the discomfort like lying on your back and humping the air. Nor do they really have any clue what it’s like to have sexual thoughts and desires always lurking in the back of your mind like a shark, all day, every day. What’s that oft-cited statistic that men think about sex every 7 or 15 seconds? Or the what it’s like to have your first erection, fathering a child, etc., and how these experiences formulate the male psyche.

Admittedly, even all these relayed examples are still impoverished third-person accounts and fail to capture the richness of what it is like be a man or a woman. Yet, I think they do invoke the right kind of memories to “get” what I’m driving at.

All these qualia or these types of exclusively male and female subjective moments are necessarily elusive to the transgendered individual claiming to be a member of a club that requires this similarly shared, personal life experience to gain entry. Whatever is Jenner’s notion of what it means or feels to be a woman, it was inspired by a third-person, objective conception as created by culture like that found in TV, music and other forms of media — which are notorious for being littered with false and or misleading stereotypes; so the cues aren’t very accurate — and was unequivocally influenced by his perception of femininity while being a man. Hence, at best, transgendered individuals like Jenner can and only do is approximate their chosen gender based on unauthentic and corrupted experiential inputs. The facsimiles constructed from the best fake breasts, prosthetic penises, makeup, plastic surgery still fall incredibly short, as phenomenally, something inherent to being either male or female is very much missing.

So yes, thanks to Nagel, we have a good reason to not only suspect that transgender individuals actually can’t really be men or women in the wrong bodies but also that scientific justification for such a misconceived phenomenological event is also hokum. And with the latter conclusion, it’s not that the explanation is false. In “What is it like to be a bat?,” Nagel refuses to rule out physicalism as such. His critique is actually more withering, arguing we can’t claim it as false because currently we don’t actually have a comprehensible understanding of what it means when the physicalist asserts that the mind is exhausted by the brain and its accompanying physiology. It’s gibberish. Likewise, to assume as Gruenke does, that the feelings of gender dysphoria, i.e. qualia or conscious subjective experience, is at bottom just a chunk of grey matter composed of synapses and can be neurologically detected as such is also sheer nonsense.

Let me be forthcoming: I don’t argue this thesis to be mean or demean the struggles of transgendered people. Rather, I seek to savagely discredit those ideologues who, in my perspective, demand that we all indulge in the mass delusion of the emperor wearing the empress’s clothes and vice versa.

Therefore, with this in mind, we should empathize and look for real solutions for those afflicted with such psychoses instead of those false ones pushed by dogmatists hellbent on imposing their views on the rest of us at both the transgendered’s and our expense.

Now, wouldn’t that be something?

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

Michael Hanby on the “Brave New World” of same-sex marriage


Sometimes, other people are simply better at explaining the alleged “bigoted” philosophical opposition against same-sex marriage better than me. Published about a year ago, here are some highlights from Michael Hanby’s article at The Federalist, which should be read in its entirety, about the cultural assumptions that underlie the push for same-sex marriage.

The force with which an idea (same-sex marriage) has taken hold that is unprecedented in human history and unthinkable until yesterday, the speed at which it is sweeping aside customary norms, legal precedent, and the remnants of traditional morality is nothing short of breathtaking. That it should have achieved this feat thanks largely to sentiment, fashion, and the brute power of a ubiquitous global media, with so little real thought about its profound effect upon human self-understanding or its far-reaching practical implications, is more astonishing still. Though its power seems inexorable, we would do well nevertheless to exercise perhaps the last reserve of real freedom still available to us—the freedom to think about the true meaning of things—lest we be deceived about what this moment portends or caught unawares as it washes over us. For beneath the surface of this rising tide of ‘freedom and equality’ lies something very close to the brave new world of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian imagination.

Hanby is so very on the ball here. The meteoric rise of this “civil rights” issue is nothing short of remarkable, and the lack of vetting is indicative of the decline of Western civilization. For a society who once touted the use of reason in making law and public policy, to so readily abandon its application in the face a group of clever people asserting their agenda is merely the next step in “freedom,” “equality,” “civil rights” is disturbing of a nation that crafted something as ingenious, revolutionary and influential as the Bill of Rights.

To accept same-sex unions as ‘marriage’ is thus to commit officially to the proposition that there is no meaningful difference between a married man and woman conceiving a child naturally, two women conceiving a child with the aid of donor semen and IVF, or two men employing a surrogate to have a child together, though in the latter cases only one of the legally recognized parents can (presently) contribute to the child’s hereditary endowment and hope for a family resemblance. By recognizing same-sex ‘marriages’ the state also determines once and for all that ARTs (assisted reproductive technologies) are not merely a remedy for infertility but a normative form of reproduction equivalent to natural procreation, and indeed it has been suggested in some cases that ARTs are an improvement upon nature. Yet if this is true, it follows that no great weight attaches to natural motherhood and fatherhood and that being born to a father and mother is inessential to what it means to be human, or even to the meaning of childhood and family. These are not fundamentally ‘natural’ phenomena integral to human identity and social welfare but mere accidents of biology overlaid with social conventions that can be replaced by ‘functionally equivalent’ roles without loss.

Bingo! This paragraph encapsulates what we “bigots” vehemently oppose about same-sex marriage. It has nothing to do with what Adam and Steve or Mary and Eve do behind closed doors. It has everything to do with what it entails about the family in the eyes of culture and law. We just think it is highly foolish, as a society, to view and treat mothers and fathers as optional. That, social disaster probably will unfold from such a publicly accepted sentiment, i.e., more children growing up without either a mommy and daddy. There is a pretty substantial consensus of data that out of wedlock births correlate with poverty (here and here). And that’s not an insult to single parents — who most undoubtedly are doing the best they can for whatever reason they are raising a child alone — but an acknowledgement of what for millennia was obvious: A child’s life generally is invaluably enriched when he or she knows and lives with his or her biological parents and forever complicated, if not diminished, when one or both of those parents are taken away whether by divorce, death or even in more contemporary phenomena such as adoption and assisted reproductive technologies (surrogacy and in vitro fertilization). That’s what we are being unfairly dubbed as on the “wrong side of history” for. Plus, there’s always the fact we are even entertaining the idiocy of granting the state leeway to effectively determine and regulate what is family and how it’s created — although this, as Hanby also notes, is contradictory as the family existed and preceded the first state — sounds like the happy suicide of individual liberty.

Moving on, Handby continues to strike gold:

…worrisome is the fundamental anthropology—the philosophy of human nature—implicit in it (same-sex marriage and the practical policies to implement “equality)…And to declare that there is no difference between conceiving a child through procreation in a marriage and through the technology necessitated by same-sex unions is to say something definitive about what a child and the human being are, even if this goes unrecognized. Indeed it is all the more definitive the more it goes unrecognized.

[…]

To declare same-sex unions marriage and their technological ‘reproduction’ normative is essentially to reconceive the child not as a person but as an artifact. It is to deny that he is essentially the natural fruit of a love inscribed into his parents’ flesh; since love is now a mere emotion with no bearing on the meaning of the body, which has been relegated to the sub-personal realm of ‘mere biology.’ It is to deny that his being from his parents and having a lineage is deeply constitutive of his humanity or his personal identity; since the very notion of ‘lineage’ is confused by these new artificial combinations and since ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are merely names affixed to a social function which can be performed in creative new ways.  And it is to deny that he is his own being with inviolable dignity who cannot be manipulated or controlled; since it was a process of manipulation and control that brought him into being in the first place. The technological dominance of procreation asserts, contrary to the child’s true nature and to his parents’ unquestionable love for him, that a child is essentially a product of human making, an assemblage of parts outside of parts that are the parts of no real whole, whose meaning and purpose, as with all artifacts, reside not in itself but in the designs of its maker.

It’s this type of reasoning that leads people like Robert Oscar Lopez to conclude that surrogacy and other artificial reproductive industries is the new slave trade. That, the child, dehumanized, is commoditized to be bought and sold. The very fact that these practices have grown into multimillion dollar industries firmly suggests that this use of technology to trump biology is no longer the exception to the rule but is the rule. That Katy Perry, a pop culture icon and a role model to many, says she’ll make a child essentially because she wants one and can just demonstrates how children are thought of not as “created equal,” but as tacitly inhuman enough to be coaxed into the world due to the sufficient combination of whim and money. The recognition of same-sex marriage officially legitimizes it as normal and acceptable, and all of this, the playing God and playing parent, is simply abhorrent.

Of course, I expect the typical proponent of same-sex marriage to bristle and dismiss this insinuation as absurd and offensive, like they do with every principled “hey, wait a second” raised to halt their parade. Note, however, this taking offense doesn’t address the argument and deflects from what’s at issue: Should we redefine marriage, as a society, in such a way that makes familial biology irrelevant and enables the widespread creation and purchase of human beings as not only morally ok but good? If the same-sex marriage cause is so righteous, then its apologists should be able to utter a satisfying answer to this question that irks our liberalized American sensibilities without just resorting to red herring epithets of “bigot” about those who pose it.

Experience also tells me that there are proponents of same-sex marriage also will bring up the heterosexual couples, who for the reason of one of them being infertile, utilize surrogacy or IVF to have a kid. Why can’t two men and two women? In other words, I’m being marked as arbitrary.

Again, this criticism misunderstands several important details. The marriage debate, fundamentally, is the question about whether or not same-sex relationships are meaningfully different than opposite-sex relationships. Two classes, types, categories — or what have you — of relationships are subject to scrutiny here. I repeat: classes, types or categories. Therefore, misguided are the appeals to individual members or the parts of members within these classes, types or categories as having sway over the whole class, type or category. Whether or not some heterosexual couples choose to adopt or use artificial means to achieve pregnancy or if a person is impotent is irrelevant. Such reasoning is a fallacy of composition and subsequently a category error. For all intents and purposes, it’s like saying, because some apples in the barrel are orangish in color, then the whole barrel itself contains orange-colored apples, and due to these discolored apples, the company should ship all apples with oranges with the understanding they’re the same type of fruit. Likewise, the context of what’s being argued and proposed in Hanby’s article, my post here and mostly the issue at large is on the level of society and public policy making, not the realm of individual or relatively small groups of couples as exceptional cases. Referring to them misses the point whether or not we, as a society, ought to regularly utilize artificial reproductive technologies and make motherhood and fatherhood superfluous. Carve them into stone and institutionalize them.

Consequentially, as Hanby astutely points out in this “Brave New World” where people confuse apples with oranges:

Thus deprived of the desire or even the capacity to think about the true meaning of things, and unable to perceive the loss, people will not merely be susceptible to manipulation by sentimental platitudes and sophistic arguments—‘People shouldn’t be discriminated against based on who they are or who they love’—they will be eager for it.

The push for the same-sex marriage is not the cause of what Hanby describes but more likely a symptom. One of the crucial ways it became a political hot topic is because the sexual revolution has trivialized sex to the degree where the ability to procreate, the essence of marriage, has been so castrated from the form of human association to which it is unique, anything that can be construed under the nebulous notion of love rings of wedding bells. Same-sex unions naturally fit the bill. Logically speaking, so do polygamy, incest, pedophilia and bestiality, all of which further render successively marriage an even more meaningless and non-distinctive relationship. If the LGBT lobby is truly invested in civil rights and desires to be ineffectual on the traditional family and marriage, civil unions are the apt compromise.

That’s the “brave new world” we ought to live in,

Modus Pownens

P.S. As I have co-opted Handby’s incisive words, I urge you to read it in his intended context.

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