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Practical Philosophy » Homosexuality » 6/16/2017 11:14 am

Greg
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It's a weakness of some presentations of the perverted faculty argument that gravity is generally an afterthought, and it's not clear how the argument factors it in. It often feels like one is, by the skin of one's teeth, managing to show that non-marital sexual activity is wrong, a conclusion which so many find implausible already--how could one go further to say that it's very wrong?

The answer Feser gives, the substance of which has to be right if PFA is right, is that it attacks a very important good, for sexuality is very important to human life. More liberal sexual ethicists will disagree with this. They'll say that sex is really a private matter and an opportunity for having some fun; it can lead to children if you want it to, but there are ways of preventing that these days. (Feser responded once in a blog post to a representative expression of this attitude from Peter Singer.)

I think Feser is correct on this point, and it explains, perhaps, why the disconnect between traditionalists and liberals in sexual ethics is not just a matter of whether homosexuality is wrong (so that if it's wrong, it could only be a rather trivial fault). Sex and childbearing are simply hugely significant, and that it's humanly a very distinctive view to think that it doesn't present any special moral problems. I aluded in a previous post to what Elizabeth Anscombe calls "the celebration of and awe before procreation and pregnancy." These are events that have been almost uniformly ritualized in human culture. That people can now look on them with horror and dread is indicative of a kind of blindness to the most human of things.

All of that said, gravity is a rather vague topic outside of theological contexts. The division between venial and mortal sin in Catholicism is a theological distinction; a mort

Practical Philosophy » Racial profiling and Free speech » 6/16/2017 10:51 am

Greg
Replies: 22

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nojoum wrote:

Honestly, I don't really see why we are so stuck on the point whether it is intrinsically wrong or right?

Well, I think an important question is what makes it wrong when it is wrong. Answering that question is a precondition of assessing the empirical evidence. If it's intrinsically wrong, then the evidence is irrelevant. If it's not intrinsically wrong, then there is still a question of how the evidence is relevant.

Profiling of different forms may prevent some crime, but it might also have negative impacts on minority's psychological health, or it might result in too many false positives, etc.

I think it's rather easy to regard any one piece of the empirical evidence as overwhelmingly decisive if one hasn't adequately thought about how competing considerations will be balanced. This seems to be a general problem with the public consumption of social science. Consider debates over the minimum wage, for instance. Before we look at the effect of changing the minimum wage from $X to $Y, we can say: what sort of consequences (say, tradeoffs between employment and the minimum wage of those who do have a job) would we find acceptable? But one doesn't really find that; one generally finds people on both sides making principled arguments (that it's not fair for people doing easier work to make as much as people doing harder work, or that we must offer everyone a living wage, etc.).

The notion that we should answer these questions prior to consideration of the evidence has a bit of a Popperian-falsificationist flavor to it. So that one is not just rationalizing a policy decision, one should be clear about under what sort of empirical conditions one would abandon that policy decision, before looking at the empirical conditions.

Chit-Chat » What are you reading right now? » 6/12/2017 4:13 pm

Greg
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I'm slowly working through Aquinas' commentary on the Ethics. I'm also working through Feser's new book on the death penalty and several other things.

Practical Philosophy » Ethics of Taxation » 6/10/2017 5:58 am

Greg
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Karl3125 wrote:

While I cannot give you a specific answer to this claim (I've seen many on the blog-o-sphere), I think Thomists would say that man is a political animal, and thus needs government. The purpose of taxes, then, is to support the public functions of government.

Yes, and in particular, the point of property is for humans to use it for the common good. Rights to property derive from the truth that this is best done when men possess and dispose of their own property. But the right to property for Thomas is not fundamental, and the right to property is defeasible; taxation is a legitimate way for those who have care of the common good to raise funds.

This view does raise some questions. If it's the order to the common good which establishes the right to property, can that right be superseded whenever a particular person is misusing his property? The answer, I think, is no, but there is not a formula for deciding which rights are superseded and which are not.

The state needs to do some things which require money, but people also need to pursue the good on their own. So minimally there should be taxation but not collectivism. Further, the laws to which people should be subject should not be applied arbitrarily, for people's lives need to be predictable as well. Exceptions should be rare, and the grounds for a particular instance of (say) eminent domain have to be dire. (In other words, for the institution of private property to work as it is supposed, one must protect rule of law and confidence in institutions.)

Beyond that, there is not a lot for the philosopher to say, I think. These questions can be decided by custom or by empirical considerations. If this policy tends to undermine the economy, then that is a reason to adopt a different one (even though policies that are to the advantage of the many may be disadvantageous to the few, and people are not fungible, so this decision is not neutral).

Chit-Chat » Omitting commas for quotation/dialogue in a subordinate clause » 6/08/2017 10:54 am

Greg
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Ordinarily, dialogue is set off by a comma:

He yelled, "Fire!"

Of these two sentences, though, I have a preference for the first:

When he yelled "Fire!" the other day, I nearly jumped.
When he yelled, "Fire!" the other day, I nearly jumped.

Is there a rule about omitting the commas setting off dialogue that occurs in subordinate clauses? It is a rare case, but I recall seeing this before. But I cannot find anything discussing this case.

Practical Philosophy » Racial profiling and Free speech » 6/01/2017 8:02 pm

Greg
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AKG wrote:

On another related note not to imply anything Dennis or give hostility but most defenders of profiling I've met usually mean for African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims or other minorities yet when white supremacy is shown as the greatest domestic terrorism threat in the USA, these people are rarely advocating a profiling in this regard and are silent about it.

It isn't magnitude but proportion that is relevant for profiling. Imagine a society in which only 1% of the population is white, but 99% of white people have committed a crime, whereas some smaller number, say 10%, of the rest of the population has committed a crime. In such a society, most crimes are not committed by white people, but it's reasonable and just to profile white people.

Practical Philosophy » Racial profiling and Free speech » 6/01/2017 7:57 pm

Greg
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AKG wrote:

Yes, racial profiling is intrinsically wrong because to me it blatantly leads to discrimination and can easily be abused as the history of the USA up to today shows.

What some action tends to "lead to" can't be the reason for calling it "intrinsically" wrong. Intrinsically wrong actions are wrong in themselves, not by reference to what they lead to or to their susceptibility for abuse.

Chit-Chat » Explaining Catholic teaching on sexuality » 5/31/2017 1:59 pm

Greg
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It's sort of shameful, I suppose, given the amount of time I have spent reading and thinking about Catholic teaching on sexuality, that I don't have a direct answer to this question.

I think Elizabeth Anscombe's writings on the topic are fantastic. Here she is in an undated manuscript, only recently published:

Remember that we are intellectual animals, whose vegetative and animal life is part of a life framed by our intellectuality: we are nourished, for example, not like plants but like other animals, but our eating is conducted in a specially human way, reason entering into the getting and preparation of food and into the conduct of meals. Similarly our sexual activity and reproduction is all tied up with our intellect, our not merely animal emotions and our aesthetic feelings. Reason and love enter into most, and certainly into all characteristically human exercise of this vital function. Hence marriage and the celebration of and awe before procreation and pregnancy.

There isn't an argument here, in the sense of an attempt to list premises and defend them against the objections of those who want to deny them. Rather, Anscombe is gesturing toward a fact of every human's at least occasional acquaintance: the saturation of our animal functions by reason. Eating is in one sense just part of our animal need to sustain ourselves in existence, but in humans it is surrounded by what you might be convinced to see as the most absurd pomp and circumstance. And similarly for sexuality: it is typical for humans that sexual activities take place in rather scripted contexts (after a marriage ceremony, say).

And standardly love (a response of the rational appetite, the will) is the human's response to the result of sex, hence "the celebration of and awe before procreation and pregnancy." There's something very odd about a couple which becomes pregnant and is not amazed and excite

Chit-Chat » Explaining Catholic teaching on sexuality » 5/31/2017 1:31 pm

Greg
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DanielCC wrote:

Ironically I find myself wondering whether the denial or points 2 and 3 can be used to push a disputant towards a non-naturalistic position on persons (or at least non-Quinean ScienceTM based naturalism). I would certainly deny both on the grounds that they verge too close to biological reductionism.

Lots of naturalists and reductionists (Parfit and other mainstream defenders of psychological accounts of personal identity) deny (2). And those folks are among the most likely to think reproduction is not relevant, except accidentally, to sexual ethics (recall Singer's dismissive comment that ethics is not about sex).

Generally, though, there is a gaping difference between taking human embodiment seriously and being a biological reductionist. That the latter is the only way to do the former... there is just nothing obvious about that. Unless one is a reductionist about animals and about life generally, the view that human persons are embodied beings does not seem to threaten biological reductionism.

DanielCC wrote:

Regarding point 1, be careful as the same point can be made about 'classic' Natural Law teachings where the end of relationships and procreation is taken to be self-perfection.

I think the extent to which this is a risk depends on how one conceives the role of perfection and of the notion of the good in intelligent action. My own view (which I take to be Aquinas's view) is that pursuing what is good for human beings is not a means to self-perfection; "self-perfection" is not a goal of intelligent agents in the same sense that "pulling a lever" or "avoiding driving off the cliff" are goals. Goodness is rather the aspect under which what's pursued is judged worthy of pursuit.

So a person having sex is not inevitably doing what he's doing as a means to his self-perfection, and his partner isn't a means to his self-perfection. That he regards it as good is rather constitutive of his pursuing it.

Religion » The Nine Most Intelligent Takes on the Benedict Option » 5/30/2017 7:21 pm

Greg
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I've taken a look at one or two of these already, but I look forward to combing over the rest.

My short analysis of the book is that it is generally good, but that the Benedictine framing is not necessary and is part of the reason why the book is critiqued so heavily. I think that Dreher would consider any truly Christian community a "Benedict Option community."

I haven't read Archbishop Chaput's column, but I'm absolutely on board with Dreher's alarmism. The situation is quite dismal. Demographic shifts will put the Church in a very tough spot in the future. Young liberals simply have no sympathy for religious freedom for orthodox Christians. It isn't hard to imagine the sort of people I went to college with tolerating just about any form of coercion of churches--revoking of tax-free status or fines for illiberal views, or whatever--if they formed a sufficiently large portion of the electorate.

That said, it's hard to imagine any grassroots movement preventing that. Maybe in the long term.

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