Leiter on ‘Bigotry’

In a post yesterday, Brian Leiter continued to report on the Swinburne controversy. He also responded to my comment regarding his original post.

On the one hand — aside from his silly and tendentious characterization of the traditional Christian view of sexuality as “anti-gay bigotry” — Leiter does make legitimate points concerning the Swinburne debacle. He also notes the characteristically imperious devices of the academic left, a la Stanley, Kukla, et al. (Fortunately, Leiter has not generally chosen to partake of these sorts of tactics himself.)

On the other hand, Leiter does manage to address the actual content of my remarks.

I suppose the best response is to do what one would do with any interlocutor: Acknowledge the good, and admonish the bad. However, given the context, it is probably more fitting to address the bad first, and save what’s good for later.

This is for two reasons: In the first place, Leiter’s rebuttal is not convincing in the slightest (Sad!) and, as he says, some of us are “adults with real jobs and limited time.” So I will try to keep my response to only one post. However, I do think this is a good opportunity to investigate the charge of “anti-gay bigotry” that is taken to be a justification for the supercilious rhetoric which, if not taken to its full by Leiter, is certainly exhausted by “propagandists” like Stanley and his kin. This seems more important given the context. So, in a follow-up post, I will add some of my own comments on the Swinburne controversy, specifically in relation to the charge that Swinburne exposed himself as a “bigot.” This is more relevant and more consonant with the general tenor of our posts here lately.

But concerning Leiter’s response to my comments:

First, Leiter simply does not address the point that Swinburne and natural law theorists (which, by the way, Leiter made no effort to distinguish) only morally condemn particular actions. But I am no more a bigot for disapproving of a particular form of sexual act than are the over-represented vegans in my department who condemn — maybe even strongly condemn — particular gustatory acts of mine. Are they anti-carnivore bigots? Obviously not.

Second, Leiter does not address the fact that the arguments given against homosexual activities are meant to apply to the exact same activities, even when performed by heterosexuals. If disapproval of certain non-marital sex acts makes me anti-gay, then it also makes me anti-straight; but if I judge these two groups in a morally equivalent way then there is no reasonable basis for calling my views “bigotry.”

Similarly, these same arguments are fully taken by their proponents to entail moral condemnations of other, predominantly heterosexual vices, including divorce, polygamy, fornication, adultery, and even contraception. Keep in mind that at this point I am not even addressing whether these arguments do entail such conclusions; the question here is simply whether putting these arguments forward is to “display irrational animus.” And if the arguments against homosexual acts constitute “anti-gay” bigotry, then, by this sort of reasoning, the above condemnations must be even more an expression of “anti-straight” bigotry; but, again, to call a general misanthropy of this sort “bigotry” is to make the term completely vacuous.

Obviously, my point about qualifying some bigotry as “actual” bigotry was to contrast it with Leiter’s false notion of “bigotry”: The mere moral disapproval of a certain sexual activity. This, of course, is not bigotry at all.

This law-like failure of leftists to distinguish so-called “homophobia” from actual homophobia makes comparisons to Nazis, such as Stanley’s, seem reasonable. For instance, Stanley understands “homophobia” to be “that sickness that has led people for thousands of years to kill my fellow human beings for their sexual preferences,” proceeding to specifically identify Oxford donRichard Swinburne, as one so afflicted.

swinburne

(Look at him, foaming at the mouth!)

This is the sort of rhetoric that gives bite to the leftist charge that we are “beyond the pale,” and that justifies all manner of hatred and venom toward conservatives with traditional moral views. It is the sort of rhetoric that encourages the social exclusion of Christians and conservatives from the academy. But would academia really be better off without Anscombe? Or Finnis? (Or, apparently, Scott Soames?)

(Side-note: I am glad to hear that Leiter teaches Finnis and Murphy, and that he is not dismissive toward their views, at least on other matters.  However, in that case, it is not clear to me what the intended effect of the scare-quotes around “natural law” in the phrase “natural law theorists” was supposed to imply. That those who oppose the libertine zeitgeist are not really natural law theorists, but mere “natural law” theorists? I don’t know.)

In fact, I suspect that Leiter is close to very few devout, conservative Christians. Of course, he has no experience whatever of my interactions or personal attitudes toward the homosexual people in my life. Nor, probably, of the conservative philosophers who have argued about these things. If so, then it turns out that I was only half-right: Leiter’s a priori judgment extends not only to arguments he has never heard, but also to psyches whose acquaintance he has never enjoyed!

Of course, maybe Leiter does not mean to condemn particular individuals, but is instead conducting some sort of a priori faux-sociology. In that case, I suppose we can extend Leiter’s a priori powers to the motivational sets of nearly half the country; it is not clear that this makes his case more reasonable. It is unlikely that he has a reasonable understanding of the attitudes or outlooks of Christians who happen to have a moral stance different from his own. He does not realize that, in their daily lives, Christians are among the most kind, hospitable, and understanding people you will meet — including toward homosexuals — and that most of them are only ever willing to judge conduct rather than hearts.

And so he has no evidence for thinking that such people are “homophobic” as opposed to simply disagreeing with a certain sort of activity he finds unproblematic.

Now, much of this is avoiding the main issue: Are the arguments any good? I said: “The most reasonable conclusion I can draw from the evidence is that Leiter either doesn’t understand the argument or he does not know how to refute it.” Leiter suggests the following alternative possibility: “Life is short, the world is full of idiotic arguments that depend on absurd premises, and this is particularly true when it comes to arguments inspired by religious dogma.”

Maybe. But more likely, based on the evidence I have (viz., Leiter’s failure to discuss or rebut in any way the actual arguments), Leiter, beholden to the spirit of the age, holds to a sort of unjustified belief in liberal morality, analogous to the sort of unjustified naturalism and secularism widely-held in the academy that I mentioned in my earlier comment.

Admittedly, this gives rise to another possibility that Leiter and I both may have overlooked. Maybe Leiter has simply fallen into the same tendency as the rest of the academic establishment: A tendency whereby philosophers simply do not want to discuss these arguments, because it is easier to magisterially declare them wrong a priori — “beyond the pale” — than to have to engage in any serious way with one’s deep-seated commitments. Unfortunately, this is precisely the sort of attitude that creates a seemingly unbridgeable gap between conservatives and liberals in the academy. And it is not clear to me that this is even what Leiter would like to see happen. But it is the inevitable effect of a widespread rhetoric that reduces serious thinkers (like Finnis or Anscombe) to mere “bigots.”

Ideal Observer

An academic philosopher someplace, somewhere. A dispassionate judge of facts and evidence. Interests include politics, economics, religion, and morals. Obviously a devout Christian, and obviously very conservative.

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29 Comments

  1. A residual concern here is with Leiter’s understanding of bigotry. Normally understood, the word ‘bigotry’ applies to an irrational or unjust intolerance toward a some person(s) or ideas. But I see nothing intolerant in what Swinburne said, for while he might have offered an offensive depiction of homosexuality, he did not argue for there to be any violence, oppression or censorship, nor anything like that. And that Swinburne merely disagreed with the politically correct view on homosexuality is no grounds to think he is intolerant, for the definition of tolerance presupposes disagreement; hence, disagreement is a necessary condition for there to be any tolerance in the first place. What makes a person “intolerant” is how else he behaves, not that he disagrees.

    Perhaps Leiter does not mean to rely on the issue of tolerance when he speaks of bigotry. That is a departure from how the word is normally used, but that’s fine. Perhaps he means that the viewpoint offered is irrationally hostile toward some social group, in this case, homosexual persons. What then? If he only presumes its irrationality and uses that as an argument to dismiss Swinburne’s arguments, then he begs a question. Of course, he is free to claim that he doesn’t have the time to address “nonsense”, because he has a job, or whatever else, but considering the fact that natural law reasoning within Roman Catholicism (Catechism, para 2357-2359) is still used to derive conclusions similar to those of Swinburne, we can safely presume that his dismissal is premature and a little too hopeful considering the reality in which he finds himself. Indeed, the Catholic religion, that religion that is 2000 years old, has a billion adherents, has its own state, and is a bulwark of the Western intellectual tradition, is lined against him. No big deal, right? Who has time for that, right? Small potatoes and all.

    • Thanks! I think this is entirely on point. I plan to write another post soon on Swinburne’s actual conduct. I think it is completely obvious that nothing he has said or done could reasonably be taken to be “bigotry.”

  2. Justin Weinberg did reply to the substance of these arguments in the comments section of his Sept. 25 post “A Tale of Two Conferences” on Daily Nous. I am most curious how you would respond to that discussion. There, commenter “Mike” lays out the argument for the immorality of homosexuality:

    “The traditional argument about homosexuality as disordered goes like this:

    1. Our desires (when rightly ordered) are ordered towards certain goods.
    2. The good our sexual desires is ordered towards (when rightly ordered) is generative, conjugal unity.
    2.a. Corollary: If one’s sexual desires are ordered otherwise, this is dis-ordered.
    2.b. Corollary: If one’s sexual desires are directed towards those of the same sex, then one’s sexual desires are not ordered towards generative unity.”

    Granted, you are careful to make the distinction between homosexuality as a disposition and same-sex sex acts, so this argument isn’t identical to the argument you would endorse. But I suspect it is pretty close, mutatis mutandis.

    Commenter “Mike” ended the comment with:

    ” I would at least like to hear from Justin as to why belief in (1) or (2) would so obviously qualify as ‘stupid.'”

    To which Prof. Weinberg replied, ever so succinctly, “Premise 2, ‘the.'”

    While this is about as brief an answer as could be offered, it seems the precise point that nearly all opponents of this argument would make. So, if we want to consider the merits of opposition to the claim that same-sex sex acts are immoral, this seems like a good place to start.

    I take it the Prof. Weinberg’s reply is meant to criticize the assumption that there is a singular good toward which sexual desires and, by extension, sex acts are ordered. Even if we accept much of the teleological metaphysics that is necessary to support the claim that sexual desire and sex acts are ordered in anyway, it takes additional argument to get from “activities are ordered to an end” to “there is a singular end toward which each activity is ordered.”

    I am genuinely interested in how this logical gap can be bridged. The standard line, one that I suspect Swinburne would take, is to appeal to some variety of divine command theory. But, without knowing the content of God’s commands and thus assuming a bunch of religious premises to ground a supposedly philosophical argument, divine command theory can’t help us here since God could have commanded a pluralistic ordering of sexual desire and sex acts. Are there other reasonable ways to argue for a singular ordering of human sexuality?

    It seems to me that a compelling response to the substance of the criticism of the “same-sex sex acts are immoral” position requires an answer to this question. Does that seem right to you? If so, how do you answer the question?

    • Hi, Scott.

      On the NL reasoning with which I am most familiar, our sexual desire and sexual organs have both a procreative and a unitive end; hence, you could understand these ends as distinctive goods; and moreover, you could also understand that our sexual desire and sexual organs exists for the sake of those goods. However, this distinction between the goods does not suggest that one good can be frustrated or perverted and the other can be properly obtained. These are distinct ends, though they are properly co-extensive.

      • “However, this distinction between the goods does not suggest that one good can be frustrated or perverted and the other can be properly obtained. These are distinct ends, though they are properly co-extensive.”

        And this is where the critics worry that things have gone off the rails. Clearly, sex acts can achieve their procreative end without achieving their unitive end. Sex acts can also achieve their unitive end without achieving their procreative end. Further, the natural lawyer agrees that sex acts can achieve their unitive end even when it is naturally impossible for those sex acts to achieve their unitive end, for example, in the case of sex acts involving infertile couples. One of the points of the critics, as I understand it, is that same-sex sex acts can achieve the unitive purpose of sex without being naturally able to achieve the procreative purpose of sex.

        So how can it, coherently, be claimed that these two ends are “properly co-extensive” while categorizing the unitive sex acts of infertile couples as moral but the unitve sex acts of same-sex couples as immoral?

        I know there is a well-worn natural law answer to this question. But that answer involves subordinating the unitive end to the reproductive end, as “dover0beach” does below. This gives us a singular, albeit hierarchical, ordering in which the goods are not distinct but essentially connected to one another. So this option is not open to those claiming multiple distinctive ends.

      • Hi, Scott.

        You said that sex acts can achieve their procreative end without achieving their unitive ends. But what I said was that procreative and unitive ends are properly co-extensive, which means that they properly go together as the natural ends of sex. So if people procreate in sex without the unitive element, then they are doing something bad. In a way, however, whenever two persons of the opposite sex perform the sex act, there is always some element of unity, even if radically diminished and retarded. I say this because their bodies and being as a man and a woman are complementary, always ordered to each other.

        In the case of barren couples, the unitive end of sex can still be met, of course. That they are physically barren makes their sex accidentally non-procreative, not essentially so by force of nature itself. Hence, their sex remains natural in the relevant sense. Here I suspect you fallaciously conflate two senses of nature.

        It is important to understand that when we say that the unitive and natural ends are co-extensive, we don’t mean that the women must be able to conceive or else they cannot have sex with men. We simply mean that the natural end of sex and our sexual organs is always and essentially directed toward the procreative end and the unitive end. That the former can be impeded by disease or injury does not negate the natural end of those respective organs.

        If you now wish to claim that these ends are not distinct, then I’ll ask for an argument.

      • Ask and ye shall receive!

        If, as you say, “the natural end of sex and our sexual organs is always and essentially direct toward the procreative and the unitive end” then any acts using our sexual organs that are neither unitive nor procreative are not sex acts since the lack the essence thereof and to lack the essence of the kind is to not be that kind at all. For example, when someone uses their penis for urination, it is not a sex act but an act of an entirely different kind. Since it is not a sex act, questions about whether or not urination, in isolation, is a moral or immoral sex act are not meaningful questions.

        If same-sex sex acts are not unitive, as implied by your claim that “their [hetero-sex couples’] bodies and being as a man and a woman are complementary, always ordered to each other,” and not procreative (let me set aside the fact that plenty of same-sex acts are procreative, albeit not essentially so but only with the assistance of some technology), then same-sex sex acts are not sex acts.

        So, if what you claim is correct, same-sex sex acts aren’t sex acts – unnatural or otherwise – since they lack the “co-extensive” essence of the acts. If this were so, the prescriptions and prohibitions of sexual ethics would not apply.

        But, of course, you do think that the prescriptions and prohibitions of sexual ethics apply to same-sex sex acts and, thus, that same-sex sex acts are, indeed, sex acts. The only way to resolve this contradiction, other than abandoning teleological metaphysics altogether, is to make the ends distinct such that the same-sex sex acts are understood as unitive by nature but not procreative. That could allow you to still consider them sex acts but, yet, those that fail to achieve all of their ends and are, thus, lacking their full nature. Once you claim that the ends are not distinct but are properly coextensive, your claim entails that same-sex sex acts aren’t even sex acts at all and, thus, can’t be “immoral” sex acts or “unnatural” sex acts or “insert negative moral evaluative term” sex acts.

        As it turns out, I think this shows that the natural law defender is the one who equivocates on the meaning of ‘nature’ here, not the critic. Because, as you see, the line of argument above takes the teleo/metaphysical meaning of ‘nature’ seriously throughout. But when the defender of natural law says “gay sex is immoral” they use the teleo/metaphysical meaning to explain what ‘immoral’ means but a non-teleo/metaphysical meaning to explain what ‘gay sex’ is.

        So, in short, I ask, with humility and curiosity, how can you coherently claim that sex acts have an essence that is co-extensively procreative and unitive, that same-sex sex acts are niether procreative nor unitive, and that these acts are still, even though they lack every aspect of essence of sex acts, sex acts?

      • (Unable to reply to Scott C’s last response CH, so adding this here)

        Scott C,

        “If same-sex sex acts are not unitive…and not procreative…then same-sex sex acts are not sex acts.”

        That is confused. Of course they are sex acts. This kind of reasoning would mean that if an act of communication, which the faculties have as their natural end to convey the truth, is to tell a lie, then its not an act of communication. Clearly it is, but the faculty of communication is being used to an opposed end than its natural one.

        Another example would be to use your brain to think evil thoughts. Following your logic, you are not actually thinking.

        Everything you said after what I have quoted here follows from it so the rest falls apart with it.

      • In response to Billy, I’m pretty sure it is not me that is confused about the nature of teleological metaphysics and how acts are individuated relative to their ends. Both of your examples smuggle in part of the essence of to identify the act as a member of the kind in question. But, as was my point, if you claim that sex acts have an essence defined by their co-extensive procreative and unitive ends, and also claim that same-sex sex acts are intrinsically (and that is key here) neither procreative nor unitive, then same-sex sex acts lack the essence, not just the perfection, of sex acts. Thus, they are not sex acts. Let me explain.

        This is just teleological metaphysics 101. A thing’s nature is determined by the essence of the most specific natural kind to which it belongs. The essence of a natural kind is defined by the end to which it is ordered. If something intrinsically lacks the essence of a kind, then it is not a member of that kind.

        As for your examples, the end of communication is clearly not simply truth telling. Rather, the end of our communicative faculties is to convey ideas to others with a wide range of virtues, truth being just one of them. This is evidenced by the fact that many successful forms of communication don’t have truth as a virtue, the writing of fiction, for example. Thus, this example is disanalogous in a crucial way since lying will be achieve part of the end of communication, failing to achieve another part of the end whereas Catholic Hulk was claiming that same-sex sex acts are intrinsically unable to achieve any of the ends of sex acts. The same considerations apply to your thinking evil thoughts example, mutadis mutandis.

        Think of it this way. Suppose, even though it is a serious over simplification, communication does have only the two distinct co-extensive ends of conveying ideas to other minds and doing so truthfully. Now we have a case that is analogous to the one offered by Catholic Hulk. If I were jabbering unintelligibly such that I conveyed no ideas to any other mind, I would fail to achieve both of these ends. I would not just fail to communicate well, I would fail to communicate at all!

        Now there is still a disanalogy here that is very important. If I am jabbering unintelligibly, I am still engaging in an activity that might plausibly be understood as intrinsically ordered toward conveying ideas and doing so truthfully. So one might still have a reasonable case to make if they claimed that I had engaged in a communicative act as I jabbered unintelligibly, just a really poor one. But this option isn’t open to Catholic Hulk or anyone who accepts his principles. This is because they claim that same-sex sex acts are intrinsically disordered. Unlike my jabbering which is just extrinsically unable to convey ideas because I failed to vocalize in a language that anyone else happens to understand, the very nature of same-sex sex acts, supposedly, is non-procreative and non-unitive.

        So we have, on the one hand, the claim that sex acts are, by nature, procreative and unitive but that same-sex sex acts are, by nature, non-procreative and non-unitive. Two different natures means two different things; again, this is just teleological metaphysics 101. Hence, if you assume that the unitive and procreative ends are distinct, as Catholic Hulk claimed, the only possibly conclusion is that same-sex sex acts are not sex acts at all since their nature is completely distinct from the nature of sex acts.

        I agree that same-sex sex acts are obviously sex acts. The arguments I have laid out here show that this claim is inconsistent with claiming both that sex acts have co-extensive procreative and unitive natures and that same-sex sex acts are intrinsically non-procreative and non-unitive. I’m happy to give up on both of these latter claims that Catholic Hulk endorses. I doubt you’ll go that far, though. Which one(s) will you reject, in light of this inconsistent triad?

  3. 2* The good our eyes are ordered towards (when rightly ordered) is vision.
    2a* Corollary: If one’s eyes are ordered otherwise, this is dis-ordered.
    2b* Corollary: If one’s eyes are directed towards having a modeling career, then one’s eyes are not ordered towards vision.”

    • If this was a response to the question I posed above, then it begs that question. This clearly assumes a singular ordering rather than arguing for it. But it is a nice example because it can bring to light the worries of the “same-sex sex acts are immoral” position in a less controversial case.

      I suspect the critic would object to 2* in the same way they object to 2. While vision is a good to which our eyes are ordered, it is not the only good. Experiencing pain is another end toward which our eyes are ordered. You see, those who lack vision may still experience eye pain and those who have vision may lack the ability to experience eye pain. Both of these functions are part of the overall ordering(s) of our eyes. Hence, so the critic would object, the “the” in 2* is mistaken. (Well, that is, if the critic accepts the teleological metaphysics necessary to get to this point. The critic might just say, “Why aren’t our eyes, if we are models, ordered toward a modelling career in addition to vision?” But I’ll set that line of thought aside.)

      So, can you give us a reason to support the claim that our eyes are singularly ordered? Then, once you have such reasons, do those reasons translate into an argument for thinking sex acts are singularly ordered?

      • Scott, lol, it’s meant as a reductio! I am not insane. Eyes are neither singularly nor disjunctively (or multiply) ordered, though it’s hard to see why it matters. Either *something* morally neutral is bound to fall outside of whatever teleological ordering is proposed, or the ordering is so elastic as to be meaningless.

      • Lol indeed! Sometimes you have to spell things out for me. That being said, I do think that the advocates of the natural law objection to same-sex sex acts would disagree with the implication that vision is morally neutral. As I understand it, part of that view is that abilities such as vision are good. Hence my thinking that your comment might have been meant as a defense of that natural law argument.

        Your point about the difficulty of proposing a teleological ordering is well taken. Even if the ordering doesn’t become “so elastic as to be meaningless,” it will become sufficiently permissive as to endorse same-sex sex on the grounds that it furthers some other end, such as the unitive one suggested in other comments.

      • Hi, Scott.

        I think you might benefit from reading Edward Feser’s chapter on the perverted faculty argument in his book “Neo-Scholastic Essays”. It’ll address a lot of your concerns.

      • As it turns out, I have read that chapter, Catholic Hulk.

        Feser does a good job of articulating the traditional natural law reasons for thinking same-sex sex acts are immoral. But he does not address any of the concerns I have raised. In that chapter, at least implicitly, Feser subordinates the unitive end sex acts to the procreative end. There he claims, see page 403, that the unitive end is frustrated by directing sexual arousal toward “an object other than the one toward which nature has directed it,” more specifically, “toward a person of the wrong sex.” In other words, the unitive end is, essentially, dependent upon a heterosexual ordering which is, essentially, procreative in its end.

        So, again, this either assumes a singular ordering without any reason being provided, or it is actually a pluralistic ordering disguised as a singular ordering. If the former, there is no response to my concerns whatsoever. If the latter, then there is no way to avoid the conclusion that same-sex sex acts can be unitive and, thus, moral.

        I’d be happy to hear you respond to my concerns yourself. If you prefer not to, that is fine. In either case, I’ve benefited from our discussion and I thank you for carrying it on this far.

  4. 2. The good our sexual desires is ordered towards (when rightly ordered) is generative, conjugal unity.

    As Catholic Hulk suggests, there is both a generative and a unitive good that is derived from conjugal union, but the latter is subordinate to the former.

    2* The good our eyes are ordered towards (when rightly ordered) is vision.
    2a* Corollary: If one’s eyes are ordered otherwise, this is dis-ordered.
    2b* Corollary: If one’s eyes are directed towards having a modeling career, then one’s eyes are not ordered towards vision.”

    How does “one’s eyes being directed towards having a modelling career” frustrate the activity of seeing? It seems to me that models on a runaway, or in the gym, or avoiding carbs, need to see where they are going, what they are doing, or identifying what they are avoiding to eat, respectively.

    • Homosexuality need not frustrate reproductive conjugation and so could be subordinate in just manner you suggest. This has been recognized since antiquity and is especially obvious if the wife is *already* pregnant!

      • Hi, Mediocrates.

        Homosexual sexual acts are said to frustrate the procreative end of our sexual organs, for those acts are essentially closed to procreation. This is different from a man and woman having sex while pregnant, for in this case, the sex is only accidentally non-procreative, not essentially so. In other words, the sex organs still fulfill their natural ends.

        NLers can also argue for a unitive aspect, an aspect that nature is said to have placed for the sake of the child and for the betterment of persons. For example, it might be pointed out that only the sexual union of a man and a woman leads to the creation of a new human being. Only their sexual act results in the physical manifestation of their love, a child, who is quite literally of each parent’s being. And who better or more obliged to raise that child than the man and woman who are responsible for his creation? No one, of course. Hence, there is unity in this child’s creation and a unity in seeing to his rearing. So NLers can say sex is naturally unitive in virtue of this. Yet, homosexual sex cannot, by necessity, share this unity, or so it is said.

        It is also said that homosexual sex cannot lead to the unity that the nuptial meaning of our human bodies are supposed to provide. But perhaps that is an issue better situated for matters within Catholic philosophy.

  5. Homosexuality need not frustrate reproductive conjugation and so could be subordinate in just manner you suggest.

    I see a rather obvious problem here. Leaving that aside, it avoids the fact that sodomitical acts are not at once orientated towards generative and unitive ends (the coextensive aspect Catholic Hulk mentioned). BTW, you haven’t addressed how models frustrate their vision by modelling.

  6. Obviously modeling doesn’t “frustrate” vision, though if for some reason it did so occasionally and temporarily with no lasting harm, I don’t understand why that would have to be a problem. Also, modeling is “not at once oriented towards vision,” but why should that matter? Meanwhile, while homosexuality doesn’t promote procreation*, I was serious when I wrote that it doesn’t necessarily frustrate it either (again: suppose the wife of a gay man with 6 kids is once again pregnant, as likely has been the norm since time immemorial). More broadly, isn’t there “surplus” sexual desire that need not interfere with procreation?

    *actually, whether homosexuality is fitness-rasing, and therefore supportive of the primary aim of procreation is an empirical question. Ridiculous? Actually, not really: look up “avunculate homosexuality.” It’s certainly counterintuitive, but mother nature often surprises us! But never mind the particular theory (there are probably a half-dozen evolutionary hypotheses about it): if homosexuality *was* beneficial to human viability, then wouldn’t the NL objection have to be withdrawn?

    • Hi, again.

      I smiled at the idea of a surplus of sexual desire, one that doesn’t interfere with procreation. I have never looked at sexual desire as a surplus.

      Consider an analogy. Many NLers believe that lying is wrong, for it frustrates the end of our reason and faculties of speech. That there are plenty of other opportunities to speak truth does not make a lie any less wrong. Likewise, a lie is no less wrong if a person almost always tells the truth. Why? Well, because the person is still frustrating an end of his reason and his faculty of speech.

      Likewise, masturbation and contraception are also said to be wrong by NLers, for it is said to pervert or frustrate our sexual organs. That there is plenty of semen to go around doesn’t change this fact, just as a lie is no less worse if a person has lots of opportunities to tell the truth, or even if he tells the truth a lot. I mean, if lying itself is wrong, a person cannot say, “Man, I’ve always told the truth, so lying is now permissible here and there.” That is senseless.

      NLers can reason similarly for homosexual sex.

      • Thank you for your reply,

        My understanding of the dialectic is that using one’s eyes to model (while closed if you like) challenges the *framework* for drawing these conclusions about lying, contraception, etc. Either there’s a relevant difference with modeling, or perhaps it is wrong to be a model, or the framework contains an error.

        In the above I was actually speaking of *homosexual* sex while the wife is pregnant, but let me acknowledge your distinction: Modeling with eyelids intentionally closed or covered frustrates the perceptual end of our eyes because those acts are essentially closed to vision. This is different from being “blind” due to a fuse blowing at night, for in this case, the “blindness” is only accidentally non-visual, not essentially so. In other words, the eyes still fulfill their natural end.

        As for the unitive aspect: Again, what was or is good for the betterment of children has empirical content. Homosexuality either has no fitness effects, or ones that are positive, or perhaps negative. According to avuncular theories, homosexuality does indeed have a unitive aspect that mother nature is said to have placed for the sake of child, the family, the clan, and for the betterment of persons. If avuncular theories are correct, then perhaps *only* homosexuality results in the physical manifestation of a class of avuncular adults who because they are not distracted by their own child-rearing responsibilities can play a special role to the child, the family, etc. Though the sexual act between a man and a woman cannot partake in *this* avuncular unity, I would think that’s perfectly ok; there can be different kinds of human unity that don’t conflict.

      • Modeling with eyelids intentionally closed or covered frustrates the perceptual end of our eyes because those acts are essentially closed to vision. This is different from being “blind” due to a fuse blowing at night, for in this case, the “blindness” is only accidentally non-visual, not essentially so. In other words, the eyes still fulfill their natural end.

        Again, no. This would only be true if the model was attempting to read something in particular.

        According to avuncular theories, homosexuality does indeed have a unitive aspect that mother nature is said to have placed for the sake of child, the family, the clan, and for the betterment of persons.

        This simply equivocates with respect to what is meant by unitive in natural law theory, it also ignores the concern with the licitness of acts by simply talking about ‘homosexuality’.

      • Hi.

        Eye modelling with our eyelids closed is not an action performed with the intention of frustrating or undermining our faculty for sight, nor is the act of closing our eyelids for a brief amount of time an unnatural act. Claiming our eyes for a moment is not to use or direct them to an unnaturally improper object or end, say. We do it a lot, in fact, particularly when we blink, rest our eyes and sleep. In contrast, contraception is used precisely for the sake of preventing the natural ends of our sexual organs; and moreover, homosexual sex is itself an unnatural, for our sexual organs are used in ways that pervert their natural end, much like masturbation. In both cases, the use of the person or vagina is not just used in ways other than their natural function, but are directed to unnaturally improper ends.

        I think you might benefit from reading Edward Feser’s chapter on the perverted faculty argument within his book entitled “Neo-Scholastic Essays”. He addresses many of your concerns in ways far more thorough than I can here.

        In regards to your ideas on the unitive aspect of homosexuality, I am unsure that I see your point. We were talking about the unitive ends within the sex act. That homosexual persons would not be “distracted” by child rearing has no pertinence to my concern about the unitive ends within sex itself. In fact, your point does not even address this concer in the slightest, only addressing whether homosexual persons have some sort of natural role within the family or clan; it does not address the unitive end in sex.

    • Obviously modeling doesn’t “frustrate” vision, though if for some reason it did so occasionally and temporarily with no lasting harm, I don’t understand why that would have to be a problem.

      So you haven’t identified a problem yet with theory, good.

      Also, modeling is “not at once oriented towards vision,” but why should that matter?

      It doesn’t.

      Meanwhile, while homosexuality doesn’t promote procreation*, I was serious when I wrote that it doesn’t necessarily frustrate it either (again: suppose the wife of a gay man with 6 kids is once again pregnant, as likely has been the norm since time immemorial). More broadly, isn’t there “surplus” sexual desire that need not interfere with procreation?

      It does frustrate it because we are concerned with the sexual act itself, not with what a person may or may not achieve generatively and unitively, however he behaves, over a lifetime.

  7. This site is really a God-send. I’m in a PhD program where the set of beliefs on morals not towing the “party line” (*cough* Rawls *cough*) is considered identical with the set of irrational beliefs about morals. I’ve been scouring the web for any sort of camaraderie for Christian-Conservatives in philosophy and hadn’t been able to find much at all. I think it’s telling that those of us on the right feel the need to obscure our identities. Apparently we do this because we have so much power and single-handedly have prevented the world from reaching a liberal utopia somewhere after Aristotle but before Augustine. While Brian Leiter et al are free to proclaim their views in public with names fully attached. (I understand Leiter came into a lot of trouble, for supposedly being “sexist”… the irony!) And they apparently do this because they are powerless.
    But hey, if you’ve got Leiter coming after you, chances are you’re doing something very right! (In more ways than one, eh?) I just discovered this blog tonight, and I’m thankful, even though my own conservatism seems to be a bit different. (I’m not a Trump supporter, for example.)
    My last thoughts are to chime in regarding Natural Law theory. I’m by no means an expert on it, but I personally prefer Divine Command Theory instead. Under such a view, one need not ground moral pronouncements in the vicissitudes of a fallen creation, but rather in the unchanging perfection that is unaffected by biological or moral devolution or digressions.

    • Hi Pooh Bear,

      Welcome to the blog; we’re glad you like it so far.

      We’re a broad church, as it were. Our contributors include Christians and non-Christians (including non-theists), divine command theorists and natural lawyers, Trump supporters and Trump haters, etc. But all of us are in some sense right 😉

      • Ahh, thanks for the clarification. That’s a wide enough swath to capture where I’m at, certainly. What are the plans for the blog, as I understand you’re pretty new? Will it be mostly current events or will there be more technical works responding to arguments? Just curious. Someday I’d like to see a philosophy journal opened up and run by conservatives to allow the questioning of the “received tradition” in a number of areas.

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