Pitiless egalitarianism

April 6, 2013 § 48 Comments

There is all the difference in the world between pity and contempt.    The former expresses caritas for someone who suffers from a disadvantage or is lower in the social hierarchy.  The latter treats someone as an outcast from civilized company.  There are times and places for both; but the time and place for the latter obtains only when the person has brought it upon himself.

Parents of illegitimate children have brought it upon themselves.  The children themselves have not.  To express contempt rather than pity for the latter is, itself, contemptible.

Egalitarian modernity struggles with the difference between pity and contempt, because to be “in” society at all just is to be equal.   To egalitarian modernity anyone who isn’t an equal isn’t anyone at all.  He is worse than contemptible: he is subhuman.

Bastard is as bastard does

March 7, 2013 § 20 Comments

It is no secret that children raised in broken homes have more problems than children raised in intact homes under the leadership of a competent father. Illegitimate children tend to do worse academically, they get into more legal trouble, they are more likely to divorce, they tend to be angrier at the world and more self-centered — the list goes on.

But the cluster of characteristics surrounding illegitimacy are a stereotype; which is why, just because someone happens to come from an intact home, it doesn’t follow by logical or ontological necessity that he isn’t a pathetic bastard.

And the converse is also true. Bastard is as bastard does.

UPDATE: The context for this post is the off-topic comment thread below this post.

Turning the innocent into material adulterers

March 5, 2013 § 34 Comments

It is never acceptable to confuse a “subjective” error about moral good with the “objective” truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. – Veritatis Splendour

In Catholic moral theology we distinguish between what is formal (that is, intended) and what is material (unintended).

Most of us are probably material heretics: that is, we believe certain things to be true which are in conflict with sound doctrine. We’ve all experienced that “aha!” moment when we understand a doctrine and realize that we had it wrong before. When we had it wrong, we were material heretics: we didn’t intend to dissent from sound doctrine, and as soon as we realized our error we corrected it. But the ideas we had held to be true were in fact in conflict with sound doctrine.

One of the reasons that the annulment process should be very rigorous, and should err very strongly on the side of declining to invalidate a marriage, is that if the tribunal makes a mistake – and as a juridical institution it is certainly liable to do so – the resulting annulment and ‘remarriage’ turns the parties into material adulterers. This is a gross injustice against everyone involved, and most especially against any “new” spouse not previously married.

More “Spirit of Vatican II” religious tolerance ecumenical madness

February 22, 2013 § 10 Comments

Those who sincerely desire to bring those outside the Christian religion to the correct faith should be earnestly engaged in displays of courtesy, not harshness, lest hostility drive far away those whose minds a clearly thought out reason could challenge.  For whoever acts otherwise, and wants to keep them away from their customary practice of rites under this pretext, is shown to be more concerned with his own interests than with those of God.  For the Jews who live in Naples complained to Us that some people have unreasonably sought to prevent them from celebrating some of their solemn feast days, so that they were not permitted to celebrate their solemn festivals, as they, up to the present, and their ancestors for a long time previously, were allowed to observe or honor.  If such is the case, these men seem to be engaged in a useless pursuit.  For what advantage is there when, contrary to long practice, these have been forbidden and it serves no benefit toward their faith and conversion?  Or why are we setting up rules for the Jews on how they should celebrate their ceremonies if in doing so we cannot persuade them?

This, then, is the agendum: by being encouraged more by reason and gentleness, they are to wish to follow, not flee from us, so that by showing them what we affirm from their Scriptures, we may be able, with God’s help, to convert them to the bosom of Mother Church.  And thus, Your Fraternity, as far as possible with God’s help, should awaken them to conversion by admonitions and not allow them to be further disturbed in their celebrations.  But they should have complete freedom to observe and celebrate all their feast and holy days as up till now … they have possessed.

Pope St. Gregory I The Great, Qui Sincera, November, 602 AD (Quoted in Denzinger)

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Although We have no doubt it stems from the zeal of devotion that Your Nobility arranges to lead Jews to the worship of Christendom, We have nonetheless thought it necessary to send you Our letter by way of admonishment, since you seem to do it with a zeal that is inordinate.  For we do not read that our Lord Jesus Christ violently forced anyone into his service, but that by humble exhortation, leaving to each person his own freedom of choice, he recalled from error whomsoever he had predestined to eternal life, doing so not by judging them, but by shedding his own blood. …

Likewise, the blessed Gregory forbids, in one of his letters, that the said people should be drawn to the faith by violence.

Pope Alexander II, Licet Ex (to Prince Landolfo of Benevento), 1065 AD, (Quoted in Denzinger)

Chivalry is dead; long live chivalry!

February 20, 2013 § 336 Comments

And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. – Luke 12:48

In my previous post on chivalry we learned that there are two quite distinct traditional concepts of chivalry[1].   The Catholic Encyclopedia takes a dim view of female-focused “court” chivalry: I’ve attempted to put this dim view in contemporary terms by expressing it more or less as “don’t be a beta orbiter, not even just for a day”.

However, chivalry as a warrior code of honor still echoes down the centuries, and what it represents is a basic moral relationship between the powerful and the powerless: between strong men and the weak and vulnerable.  Powerful men have a moral obligation to use their strength to defend the weak and vulnerable.  Powerful men who use their strength purely for selfish advantage, neglecting the vulnerable, condemn themselves:

There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, 21 Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. 23 And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: 24 And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. 25 And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazareth evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. 27 And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, 28 That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. 29 And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.31 And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead. — Luke 16:19-31

Our world is filled with weak men, men without chests; and “empowered” women, harlots of Babylon.  The problem with chivalry, real chivalry, is not that it is dead.  The problem is that it brings into sharp relief how many modern men and women are in rebellion against what they are supposed to be.

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[1] Actually more than two; but two which are of interest in the current post.

I submit that there are limits

February 1, 2013 § 32 Comments

The Catechism of the Council of Trent:

It is then the duty of the husband to treat his wife liberally and honourably : it should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam ” his companion :” ” The woman,” says he, ” whom thou gavest me as a companion.” Hence it was, according to the opinion of some of the Holy Fathers, that she was formed not from the feet but from the side of man ; as, on the other hand, she was not formed from his head, in order to give her to understand that it was not hers to command but to obey her husband. The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit, with a view as well to provide necessaries for his family, as to avoid the languor of idleness, the root of almost every vice. He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, fix their respective employments, and see that they Duties of a discharge them with fidelity.

On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the prince of the Apostles : ” Let wives be subject to their husbands ; that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives ; considering your chaste conversation with fear : whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel, but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner, heretofore, the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord.” 3 To train up their children in the practice of virtue, and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns, should also be especial objects of their attention and study. Unless compelled by necessity to go abroad, they should also cheerfully remain at home ; and should never leave home without the permission of their husbands. Again, and in this the conjugal union chiefly consists, let them never forget that, next to God, they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them, in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and obsequious obedience.

(Emphasis mine)

This is consistent with the more general teaching that:

In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.

(Emphasis again mine)

The Nine Carat Rule

January 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31

Recently the Golden Rule has been paraphrased thusly:

 The Golden Rule compels me to say that as I would wish to be treated … in [a situation], so ought I to treat anybody else in that situation…

(Emphasis mine.  The elipses contained the words “with great love and mercy”, which begs the question: because precisely what is at issue is what in fact constitutes great love and mercy in a particular situation).

Notice the subtle shift from  “would have them do to you” to “would wish to be treated”.

Now, there is nothing wrong with “wish” if what it means is that from the framework of Eternity, looking back on our lives, we would wish to have been treated that way.  But the word wish has a tendency to subjectify and temporalize into here and now: to make this about my feelings in the moment as opposed to the view from Eternity.

From the perspective of feelings here and now we rarely wish to face difficulties, even when those difficulties are our own creation and responsibility, and even when we acknowledge their justice.  My own experience is that what I wish right now is often very much at odds with what I would have done unto me given the wisdom of hindsight.    Life’s trials, and especially those trials I have brought upon myself, have been tremendous sources of grace.

This brings us to the case of someone who wrongly believes that a consequence of her own immoral behavior is unjust.  From the perspective of Eternity, anything that reinforces an erroneous conscience – even the rare case of a completely non-culpable erroneous conscience – is a very bad thing indeed.  It is difficult to imagine a case where we would, with the perspective of Eternity, have others do that unto us.

The neighbors are playing their stereotypes too loud

January 12, 2013 § 16 Comments

It is hard to believe that it has been fourteen years since the publication of Jim Kalb’s seminal essay on stereotypes.  Contrary to the demands of the zeitgeist, stereotypes are inevitable.  It doesn’t really matter what one thinks of them: being morally opposed to stereotyping is akin to being morally opposed to oxygen.  Human life isn’t possible without them:

What is to be done? The simple and obvious answer is frank acceptance of stereotypes and discrimination. Such things are often oppressive, just as government, private property, social standards, individual self-assertion, and many other things are often oppressive, but in one form or another they are necessary and inevitable. Treating women as different from men, taking ethnic kinship into account, and treating a judge with special consideration should all be acceptable as expressions of legitimate principles of social organization. Abuses can be dealt with piecemeal; to reject stereotype and discrimination in principle, however, is useless, since we will rely on them in any case. The attempt makes serious political thought impossible, and benefits only those with something to conceal.

At the same time, it is important to understand that our various modes of thought have limits.  In the manosphere, the term “apex fallacy” is just a specific invented label used to object to how women stereotype men without realizing the inherent limitations of the stereotype.

Now I could be a good conservative/reactionary and point out that this is not substantively different from feminists griping about the stereotyping of women, and I actually did point out that the more radically anti-women elements in the manosphere are engaged in their own version of the apex fallacy.

But the reality is that people who object to stereotyping (including the men who gripe about women committing the apex fallacy) do have a valid point: not that stereotyping is objectionable or avoidable, but that it does have its inherent limits.

One of those limits is that a stereotype loses its usefulness as one gets to know individuals better.  I’ve pointed this out before: when talking about hypergamy or the Meyers-Briggs test or any other social model we are basically creating stereotypes.  These are useful in understanding what things are happening in aggregate, and, absent more specific information, they are additionally useful in personal encounters with people, places, and institutions you don’t know (or don’t know very well).  But that usefulness has limits, and it decays as specific knowledge replaces the stereotype.  If I have worked with you for ten years and am still relying on knowing that your Meyers-Brigges evaluation categorized you as an INTJ it is probably a sign of something wrong with my ability to learn.

A second limitation on the value of stereotypes is the one called out by the apex/trough fallacy: that the stereotype is typically constructed based on the most visible members of a group, and therefore will provide a false reading about the less visible members of the group.   Those less visible members will inevitably feel unfairly pigeonholed or ignored, and not entirely without justification.

Cynicism: the starry-eyed idealism of the nihilist

December 27, 2012 § 154 Comments

Some of the commenters on this thread (either here or in trackback) might consider the extent to which their reactions confirm Lydia’s view. By forming what amounts to a cult around a somewhat useful social analysis akin to the Meyers-Briggs test they convince themselves that they know strangers on the Internet well enough to do personal over-the-wire psychoanalysis.

I generally consider over-the-wire psychoanalysis of total strangers to be a reductio ad absurdam of the point of view expressed.

I think there are some valuable facts and insights in the manosphere. But by demonstrating the kinds of behaviors one expects from people in the grip of an ideology, manosphere commenters unwittingly show that the manosphere fosters precisely what Lydia contends it fosters in at least some men, e.g.:

A habitually cynical outlook. A continual view of sexual life as a matter of full-fledged conflict between the sexes.

and

But there are always occupational hazards in continually being immersed in certain kinds of evils. In this case, my conclusion is that the occupational hazard of being immersed (maybe perforce, because of one’s job, for example) in the situations in which women have ruined men’s lives is a particular level and type of jadedness and a damaging of that ability to see a woman as a gift.

… just as two examples.

I hate to break it to the androsphere: but realism lies somewhere in between starry-eyed idealism and black-eyed cynicism. Cynicism is just another way of refusing to come to grips with all of reality: the starry-eyed idealism of the nihilist.

And being a starry-eyed idealist about women is foolish.

[Update 1/1/2013: It has been pointed out to me that this post has a user interface design flaw which may have affected the impression it made on some people. The words “in trackback” link to two different comment threads: the first at The Woman and the Dragon, the second at Dalrock. Depending on what browser one is using and what threads one has previously visited this may not be obvious.]

Examples of calumnies against Todd Akin

November 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

Calumny is when someone tells falsehoods about a person in a way damaging to that person’s reputation or standing in the community. In the case of the Todd Akin affair, many people have told lies about what he actually said.  I’ve said my piece about that here, here, here, and here; but one thing I haven’t done is explicitly give examples of the lies.

There are far too many to document, in truth, and in any case I’m not interested in making accusations against particular individuals. But to the extent that my thesis has been resisted it has mainly been by those who object by characterizing lies as not lies: by claiming some right to uncharitable interpretation, such that one may licitly assert that Akin said something when he actually didn’t say it, contributing to the pile-on damage to his reputation in the process, without committing calumny.

It has also been suggested that if a lot of the lies told about what Todd Akin said really are lies then a significant amount of political speech and blogging is immoral. With this latter I agree. I’ve suggested before that things like voting and blogging provide plenty of vicarious opportunities to do evil; and where there are pervasive opportunities for fallen human beings to do evil we usually see lots of fallen human beings doing evil.

Notice what I am not addressing here: I am not addressing Todd Akin as a candidate, politician, pro-life leader, or human being. I am addressing specifically and only what he actually said in his widely disseminated comments about rape and abortion. It is not acceptable to tell lies about what he actually said just because we object to other things about him. To take it all the way to the Godwin asymptote, it is not morally acceptable to lie about Hitler: lying about Hitler in a way which damages Hitler’s reputation is still calumny, and we shouldn’t do it.

Notice also that I am not accusing people who think his actual remarks were untoward or insensitive or whatever of asserting falsehoods. What I am addressing specifically is claims that Akin said X, when in actual fact he did not say X and may have even said the opposite of X. Lying about what someone said in a way that piles on damage to his reputation doesn’t become morally acceptable under some postmodern subjectivist rubric of “interpretation”. Either he said it or he didn’t; and if we claim he said it when he didn’t actually say it, we are liars.

Finally, I am not addressing someone’s intentions or culpability in committing calumny against Akin. I am addressing the behaviour such a person chooses. Someone who commits calumny against Akin may have all sorts of conflicting feelings, rationalizations, or what have you. I don’t care about those things. Someone might even have done so while making a completely non-culpable error in judgement. Again, I don’t care: it is never acceptable to equate evil done, even through a non-culpable error in judgement, with a good act. An evil act is a disorder in relation to the truth about the good, and a calumny against Akin is a calumny against Akin no matter what subjective protestations are raised. What people have actually said matters and cannot be swallowed up in the moral disinfectant of subjectivity. Someone who has committed calumny against Akin should retract it, in at least as public a way as it was initially done, and even if doing so was based on a non-culpable error in judgement (trusting some media paraphrase or seeing only some truncated quote that leaves the impression that he said something different come to mind as possible conditions for such a non-culpable error).

I’ve personally only seen one single person retract and apologize, and good for him. That’s the kind of guy I want in the moral foxhole with me.

So without further ado, here are just a few examples of how ostensible pro lifers have falsely characterized Akin’s words.  Maybe I’ll add some more over time; maybe not.  I am not going to link or attribute them, because the point is not to call out particular individuals. The point is for people of good will to wake the Hell up to what they are doing and stop doing it:

Akin’s deplorable comments were a psychic re-rape.

… when [the victim is] basically being blamed for being raped, …

… implies she should just get over [rape] or not let it bother her … 

So there’s nothing offensive about [Akin’s] notion that pregnancy is proof the rape victim Really Musta Wanted It?

The implied conclusion that a woman seeking to abort a pregnancy resulting from rape may be assumed to be lying…

Akin demonstrated he believed one of the following:

1. Pregnancy from rape is impossible. This would reveal scientific ignorance, and, in my view, be disqualifying.

2. Pregnancy from rape is too rare to require being addressed specifically.

[Notice how this one is set up too. The first is ludicrous and bears no resemblance to what Akin actually said, but it poisons the well to set up the second falsehood to look like it is a reasonable “interpretation” of Akin’s words. In fact Akin not only didn’t say the second, he actually specifically addressed pregnancy in the case of legitimate rape in the very comments under “criticism”.]

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