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

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