April 17, 2017 § 27 Comments
I’d be the first to admit – nay, I’d strongly assert – that there is no satisfactory comprehensive theory of the essence-accident distinction. On the other hand we can’t really even have a coherent conversation about basic matters like ‘what is a defect?’ without some metaphysical common ground.
But there is no need to make things too complicated. At the level of essence human beings are the same: we all are essentially human beings: not beasts, not rocks, not moss, not stars, not angels, but human beings.
My own belief is that sex is also essential: that is, that “Martha who is not female” isn’t really Martha. Attempts to de-sex Martha fail at the level of necessity: if “she” isn’t a she, we aren’t actually talking about the actual Martha. We are writing Martha fan fiction.
(I’ve been accused of having Scotist tendencies for this sort of belief.)
In a nutshell, as an analog Platonic rogue in a digital Aristotelean (hate that spelling) world I’m pretty sure that essence has ‘deeper roots’ than the perhaps oversimplified picture drawn by Aristotlean realism.
So I’m willing to consider the possibility that we use the word “race” to refer to (technically essences which underly) essential properties: that abstracting away a person’s race leaves us with an idea of ‘something’ which isn’t – the ‘something’ isn’t – really that person at all [*]. Zippy the blogger imagined as a winged unicorn in one sense does successfully refer to me, of course: but successful reference probably accomplishes substantially less than meets the modernist eye.
Given all that though is also certainly the case that race — unlike deafness or gayness — is not an ontological defect. Gayness and deafness are ontological defects; blackness and whiteness are not ontological defects. The distinction between objective goods — which may in general be essential or accidental — and defects is, um, essential to discussion of the modern tendency to assert that objective defects are principles of identity.
The reason modern folks are always attempting to make their favorite defects into principles of identity rests on a deeper commitment. This intuitively-appealing lie is that while politics must at times (out of unhappy necessity in an otherwise live-and-let-live context) discriminate based on what people do, it must never discriminate based on what people are. So claiming something as a part of one’s identity shields that particular thing, whatever it may be, from the reach of authority. If voluntary acts of sodomy by the incontinent are part of the makeup of what someone is, then voluntary acts of sodomy are a human right.
I’ve even considered the possibility, given my openness to speculation about man’s own powers qua Imago Dei, that Hell is a state wherein a particular man has successfully and ineradicably incorporated an ontological defect into his own essence through his own free choices.
April 3, 2017 § 24 Comments
Man’s true nature is that he is a creation of God, but many superficial thinkers leverage the “human nature” bit as if to say “man understood apart from the fact that he is a creature made by God”.
We can talk coherently about natural law as something which arises from man’s nature. But we can’t talk coherently about man or his nature as if they were wholly independent things which just sprang into existence without God. The “things which sprang into existence without God” part is contrary to man’s actual nature: it is contrary to the sort of thing that man actually is in fact. It is a non-human theory of man.
More succinctly, theology is the queen of the sciences. Anti-realist modernism rests on non-theological theories of various parts of reality: on non-reality theories of reality.
Liberalism in particular rests on an anti-anthropology all the way down, starting with its attempt to develop a political doctrine (an understanding of authority) while prescinding from religious questions.
Other non-liberal political doctrines might theoretically be developed from the same starting point, but would in the end be just as wrong: would be non-authority theories of authority.
And we all know the consequences of embracing a contradiction.
February 11, 2017 § 50 Comments
[St. Goretti] did not die for her purity. She died for [her attacker’s] purity. Stop calling rape victims sinners. Stop committing idolatry by worshipping mere hymens. Stop allowing a demonic obsession with physical virginity to pollute you and make you a destructive force in the world. When you call rape victims sinful you’re committing an act of Satanic worship.
St. Maria Goretti is not just a martyr to purity. In my view she is also a martyr to metaphysical realism. If rape isn’t an objective violation of sexual integrity worth resisting when possible then why is it wrong at all?
Suppose instead of a rapist St. Goretti’s family had been attacked by marauding Barbary slavers, she had died resisting the breakup of her family, had forgiven her attackers, her attackers had later converted, etc. Suppose the hagiography was basically the same, in other words, but the objective violation in question was different.
Years later she is canonized a saint and celebrated as a martyr to family integrity.
This leads to an annual freakout by protesting orphans and runaways, who feel aggrieved that anyone could celebrate the defense – to the death, by a saint and martyr – of family integrity.
November 26, 2016 § 21 Comments
There is a struggle going on to define the soul of the United States of America, because modern people are under the impression that reality can be controlled by controlling the contents of the dictionary. This is because modern people are nominalists; though like the dead people in Bruce Willis movies, they don’t know that they are nominalists.
The soul of a thing is, roughly speaking, what unifies it and animates it as the kind of thing that it is.
What we might call the actual soul of the United States of America is what actually unifies and animates the USA in reality as a real community. This can’t be reduced to a formula or definition, but we can say things about it. It involves primarily shared religion (fundamental beliefs about reality and our place in it) and the shared history and historical connections of particular people.
Communities are a kind of fractal of the family. Modern people have the conceit that we can destroy the family and recreate its benefits, but subject to supreme human reason and will rather than to a nature which places inherent limits on what we can choose. So modernity is always trying to destroy natural family-fractal community and replace it with daycare-fractal community. Tending a garden and raising your children are out; food and children manufactured in a laboratory are in. If we control the owner’s manual and the design specifications we control the soul in the machine.
So there is a war on over the contents of the magic dictionary which defines the soul of the USA, and there are three main competing definitions: the proposition nation, economic nationalism, and ethnic nationalism. The first of these has dominated recent history in the USA, but conflict with actual reality has produced a perceived need to revert to other magical definitions while still preserving unifying worship of the god Liberty. We are by definition either a nation of anyone and everyone who professes fealty to the intoxicating horror of liberal principles, of liberal Walmart whales with citizenship papers united by our common love of Black Friday stampedes and murder over cheap consumer goods, or of disparate groups of inbred genetic stock who need to be segregated into corrals by an emperor where we can be free and equal among our own kind.
This battle is futile and self destructive, because any ‘soul’ which can be captured by a dictionary definition is not a living soul. There is just enough truth in the views of dictionary tyrants, of positivist reductionists, to make them dangerously stupid. It is true that communities tend to share religion (beliefs about the fundamental nature of reality and our place in it); it is true that communities tend to have common economic interests; it is true that mostly unforced intermarriage within communities produces a unique and particular ethnic and racial character.
But these are all natural products of community. Treating them as the controllable parameters of a big civilization machine always leads to unspeakable horror.
October 10, 2016 § 6 Comments
The point of playing the lottery is winning the jackpot. The action is buying a ticket and waiting around for the results.
Winning the jackpot is a wonderful thing, but it comes with responsibility. To be a property owner is to be a steward of that property. Being a good steward of property involves risk, work, and expense; all of which increase with the value of the property. (These don’t exhaust the requirements of being a good steward: they are just some of the requirements).
Someone who buys a lottery ticket and immediately throws it away is a lottery pervert: he acts contrary to the nature and purpose of lotteries, and contrary to accepting the responsibilities associated with the possibility of winning, a possibility intrinsic to buying a ticket. A lottery pervert who buys a lottery ticket and throws it away would do better to just not play in the first place — even though playing may give him a thrill. In general someone who seeks the experience of playing the lottery while ruling out the possibility of winning attacks, by doing so, the nature of playing the lottery as an act of a rational being. This approach to lotteries sets itself in opposition to the nature of lotteries and/or the rationality of the person playing.
If he already bought a ticket but feels unequipped to be a good steward of the jackpot, he ought to at least wait until the payout and donate it to someone who will be a good steward. Throwing either the ticket or the winnings into the trash is perverse, with respect to the nature of lotteries.
Lottery perverts act perversely no matter what the odds of winning happen to be; whereas someone who buys a ticket and waits for the result is not a lottery pervert, no matter the odds of winning.
October 10, 2016 § 5 Comments
As incarnate beings, our bodies bear witness to many of the choices we have made.
A more or less neutral term for this is scars. Scars may be the result of accident, of injustices committed against us, of noble acts, or of shameful acts.
When our bodies bear witness to noble actions on our part, we might refer to these as stigmata. (The most noble of stigmata are the fatal wounds of the martyr and, well, stigmata).
When our bodies bear witness to shameful actions on our part, we might refer to these as brands.
Stigmata are ennobling; brands are shameful; mere scars in themselves are neither ennobling nor shameful.
Examples of stigmata include the physical signs in a woman’s body caused by bearing children for her husband. The same scars on an objectively unmarried woman or an adulteress are brands: signs of her immoral actions.
Tattoos in modern liberal societies are most often brands: self inflicted scars which make personal flaws manifest in literal scars deliberately engraved into the body. Sometimes though tattoos can be stigmata, as when they symbolize the brotherhood of a particular group of men fighting for a noble cause. The same kind of common mark is a brand when the cause is ignoble, for example, in gang tattoos. As deliberately self-inflicted, no voluntarily acquired tattoo is a mere scar.
Sterilization deliberately acquired is a brand. Sterilization accidental or forced is a mere scar.
These are objective characterizations. You don’t get to choose in an act of will whether a particular wound on your body is noble stigmata, ignoble brand, or mere scar: it is what it is because of how it got there. You can choose whether or not to mutilate your body with brands; but you cannot in a revisionist act of will turn what is objectively an ignoble brand into mere scar or noble stigmata. It is no genetic fallacy or retreat to subjectivity to observe that noble stigmata and ignoble brands are different kinds of objects, with different moral implications.
Most people understand this to some degree, whether or not they want to accept it. Thus things like fat shaming as a reaction to fat acceptance: fat acceptance attempts to neutralize the shame associated with gluttony (a vice which is all too easy to indulge in modern society); or even to turn it into something noble. But of course not all fat is shameful brand. Some, as with the aforementioned fecund wife and mother, is noble stigmata. Stereotypes are useful, but they aren’t an excuse to turn off your brain.
 Or, as we might say today when referring to her actual husband, her first husband; with all the usual caveats about widowhood, prior fornication falsely labeled ‘marriage’, etc.
September 25, 2016 § 24 Comments
The subject of money is pervaded by all sorts of unreal mysticisms. If you want to better understand economic reality it is important to hunt down these unreal mysticisms in your mind and kill them.
All economic exchange is barter. If you get nothing else out of this post, take this one concept to the bank. All exchange is barter.
Attempts to segregate property bartered in marketplaces into ‘money’ versus ‘other property’ is one of those fuzzy social conventions which is fine as long as it isn’t taken too seriously. Taking ‘money’ as something categorically distinct from property in general distorts and obscures reality. Any property at all might be used as money (sunk in exchange); and even property conventionally thought of as “money” — coins, bills, and the like — can be displayed or put to other uses than exchange. This was all perfectly obvious to Aquinas, but modern people are frequently incapable of seeing the obvious when it comes to the subject of money.
We typically think of money as a special kind of thing which can be easily transferred and exchanged. That is fine as long as the term “money” denotes property with the further connotation that the property is easily transferred and exchanged. Money can be thought of as a kind of property fuzzily distinguishable from other kinds of property by its ease of exchange. But it becomes insanity when “money” is viewed as categorically distinct from property in general.
The term “money”, then, does not really describe a specific thing or class of things. It describes a role that some property takes on, some of the time, in economic life. Some property is more suitable in this role than other property. If you transfer or spend some property – exchange it for different property – that property takes on the economic role we call “money”.
The property actually exchanged in barter falls into one of two categories: securities and non-securities. (As it happens, securities are for the most part very easily transferred and exchanged versus most non-security property).
Securities derive their value from the property they impair and the rights involving that property which they assert, as opposed to ‘the paper they are written on’. Yes, ‘the paper it is written on’ can be a kind of property in itself, or a sort of meta-property. But you can’t drive your car’s pink slip to work.
Non-security property derives its value from its own objective attributes.
Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are not a security. They are like virtual gold, except that unlike actual gold they have no useful objective properties at all other than the value intrinsic to authenticated records of wasted computation. Bitcoins are a kind of digital fool’s gold, entitling the owner to nothing other than the pleasure and bragging rights of virtually possessing them, rather like the high scores on your favorite video game.
Now it is true – because human beings are both ignorant and irrational much of the time – that you can often trade worthless things for valuable things under the ‘greater fool’ theory, based on fad and fashion and deluded/false economic theories and the like. Whether someone wants to apply the label ‘money’ to the worthless things traded to ‘greater fools’ is neither here nor there when what we are after is an accurate understanding of reality: it doesn’t turn those actually worthless things into actually valuable things.
Like the market price of gold, the market price of bitcoin is radically distorted when measured against its objective attributes qua property. The difference in the case of bitcoin is that the market price has even less reality baked into it: at least gold actually has objective attributes which anchor its economic value in reality, and has been used as a raw material for making artifacts for thousands of years. Cryptocurrencies are not an escape from the moral and ontological anti-realism of modern finance: they are its apotheosis.
This brings us to the subject of workers and wages. All exchange is barter, and the exchange of work for pay is no exception.
As I explain in the Usury FAQ and elsewhere, a worker is owed wages not simply for time elapsed but for what he, through his own powers exercised under agreement with his employer, makes actual. Because we are finite beings and can only do so many things in our lifetimes, one might poetically refer to wages as representative of human life. It is true enough that cheating workers out of their just wages is wickedness several times over, an unholy combination of robbery, dishonesty, fraud, taking advantage of the good will and often inferior position of one’s fellow man, and destroying his chance to do something different with his finite time alive in this world. (A sudden calamity preventing payment of wages is a different story of course).
But poetry about money representing human life probably obscures more than it reveals here. Burning cash or destroying other kinds of property isn’t murder.
Consider a car mechanic. He works on your car for agreed rates. Until you pay him he retains (whatever the positive law may assert) the moral equivalent of a “mechanic’s lien” against your car, the property into which he put his labor.
Consider a barber who just cut your hair. The tacit agreement is that you have money in your pocket to pay him. If you don’t, then see Question 49 of the usury FAQ for the different kinds of scenarios.
Examples can be multiplied, but note that none of this imparts mystical spiritual human qualities to some particular kind of financial security (e.g. fiat dollars), or to some other etherial being labeled “money”.
Setting aside assertions of the positive law (taxes, etc), there is no moral requirement for a worker to barter for fiat dollars in exchange for his work. Any property – or even trading one kind of work for another – will do. The idea that there is something super special about certain securities labeled ‘money’ that make them ‘wages’ and thus ‘a fungible representation of human life’ is really just errant nonsense, if it is taken literally.
Finally, we come to the idea that inflation or deflation in the market price of currencies versus other kinds of property is a moral travesty, a sin against workers, an offense against the common man: in short that people (as long as they are not wealthy) are morally entitled to have the purchasing power of their property preserved over time as long as that property is of the mystical class ‘money’. This atrocious idea really needs to be hanged in the city square where everyone can see, its broken and destroyed body beaten and desecrated to make it clear how utterly stupid and destructive it is. (It does not follow that ‘currency debasement’ is never immoral, of course).
In general people who think that they are entitled to the magical preservation of the buying power of their own property against the relentless tide of the second law of thermodynamics are in the grip of usurious entitlement. Someone ought to slap them out of it, for the sake of both the common good and their own good.
 This of course is not (and is not intended to be) a complete characterization of, or even a particularly adequate partial characterization of, economic value. It is merely an observation that any attempt to characterize the economic value of property accurately must take into consideration the objective attributes of that property. In general, economic value cannot be reduced to nothing but subjective human preferences as expressed in current market prices.