Contra Contraception

David Ellis asks:

(quoting me) The experiential part is that a lifelong and very tortuous process of logical reason, requiring the utmost in clear eyed intellectual courage objectivity has lead me, one after another after another, to discover inescapable secular reasons to support all the social teaching of the Church, namely, her opposition to abortion, to euthanasia, to sexual liberation, to sexual perversion, and to contraception.

I had laid out these arguments in excruciating detail in years past, hoping to provoke some interesting counter-arguments. No reader was kind or skilled or patient enough to construct any counter-arguments, or even to raise a single logically valid objection.

You decided contraception was morally wrong prior to becoming a theist? I hadn’t heard that before. What line of reasoning lead you to this conclusion?

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I would be delighted to answer this question, if my readers will be patient enough to heed the answer. The reasoning, as I mentioned above, is not straightforward.

Let me open by explaining an anecdote that most strikingly brought the matter to my attention: I was speaking with a friend of mine about the nature and morality of copulation. It was his position that any copulation between two lovers was licit, provided only that no one was harmed nor defrauded. My position at the time was that prudence required copulation be limited to those partners willing to vow lifelong fidelity, forsaking all others. He was a Christian at the time and I was an atheist: the irony here cannot be overlooked. The Christian Sexual Revolutionary was arguing free love to the atheist rationalist arguing strict chastity.

The first thing I noticed was that he and I spoke a different language using a different vocabulary. He used the word “sex” to mean the physical outward stimulation and nothing more. To him, “sex” was something man or woman or both or neither could do, with any number of partners, human or not, either involving the sex organs or not. At one point, I asked him whether there was any relationship, either causal or categorical, between sex and sexual reproduction, and he stared at me in bafflement, as if I had asking him about the relation between cabbages and kings. He said no. Sex was not sex.

At another point, as an excess of rhetoric, I demanded of him what in the act of coupling between man and women was more than merely a pastime? How was it different from a sport, such as mixed doubles tennis, which just so happened to require two members of the opposite sex to play?

To my enduring shock, he took me completely seriously, and answered that the sex act was indeed a sport or pastime and nothing more.

Now, at the time, as I said, I was already convinced of the utility and even (though I did not, being an atheist, use the word literally) the sanctity of marriage, and I have always been convinced of the glory and the beauty of romance.

I have always thought romance, erotic love that leads to true love, transcendentally paramount to human existence, perhaps the most powerful impulse in the human mind. Part of this is due to my background as an attorney and a newspaperman. The two murderers I know both committed their dark crimes over women. Part is due to seeing the effect of happy marriages on those I know: the happiness of a good marriage forms an atmosphere which allows the couple to be fully human, complete rather than alone, and it is like seeing the difference between sickness and health. There is no mistaking it and no pretending it does not exist.

By true love here I mean exactly that. Love that is not false, love that endures and does not betray, love that is not merely lust or infatuation or passing fancy.

My friend’s world view had nothing like erotic romance in it, nothing like true love, and could never have anything like that in it. So he had been, at one stroke, deprived of the most glorious and beautiful thing in human existence; and the closest thing mortals can achieve to the bliss and sanctity of which the fables of heaven spoke.

Thunderstruck, I asked myself who or what could have deprived him of that beauty and that bliss? What could permit such an obviously false to facts belief to develop?

The answer: contraception.

Now, this was merely what got me thinking along these lines. This was not the logic that convinced me.

Here is the logic.

1. Of things, some are in our power, and some are not. Within our power are impulse to act, the desire or aversion we attach to objects of desire or aversion, the consent or dissent of the reason to true and false propositions, and, in short, everything that is within our power. What is not in our power is body, property, reputation, public office, dignities, fortune and fame, taxes and death, and, in short, everything not in our power.

2. The human mind is an admixture of reason, passions, and appetites. The appetites consist of bodily cravings for bodily things: salivating at the sight of an apple. The passions consist of cravings for imponderables, such a love and honor or revenge or property: cheering for a sports team, wooing a bride, lying down one’s life for the ashes of thy fathers and the alters of thy gods. These are instilled or influenced by upbringing. One might have a sexual appetite for congress with a curvaceous maiden, but the desire for the imponderables, respect and love from her and marriage and an acknowledgment or celebration of the honors of marriage from the tribe and city, that is a passion.  Reason is the general name for the faculty by which we distinguish true propositions from false, and is also the seat of judgment by which we judge the rightness or wrongness of actions, their blameworthiness and praiseworthiness, whether they are fit or right to do.

These above, I take to be axioms. While I can see how one might object to the words use to describe these things, I do not see how any man can deny these things. One might have a different opinion of the trustworthiness of reason or a different account of the origins of the standards used by which the reason makes its judgments, but to deny that the reason exists at all is self contradictory. There is no faculty by which to judge the rightness of the proposition that the reason does not exist if it did not exist.

Simple experience shows that while a healthy man can move his limbs, external accidents as fetters or amputation can remove that power; and that not even a healthy man can reach up and pluck a star from the sky with his naked hand. To be sure, we can influence, to a degree, the course of the world around us, but we have the power only over our intentions, not over any outcome where accidentals can intervene. You can decide to be a good sport; you cannot decide to be good at a sport.

Simple experience also show that the essential thing that makes all humans human rather than creatures of pure reason like Houyhnhnms or creatures of pure appetite like Horses, is the existence of appetite, passion, and reason in the mind, and the conflict, the lack of coordination, between them.

Let us establish a common notion to go along with these axioms.

3. Happiness consists of achieve one’s objects of desires and avoiding one’s objects of aversion. A man who fails to achieve the objects of his desire is unhappy, and who fails to avoid objects of his aversion is miserable.

I do not mean anything esoteric by this terminology. I merely mean desire is what one would rather get, and aversion what one would rather avoid, be it whatever it may be.

From this, a conclusion immediately follows:

4. If the reason establishes true and false, as well as blameworthy and praiseworthy, then any appetites and passions which align with the true and praiseworthy are feasible and praiseworthy, and any which do not are vain and blameworthy.

Again, nothing complex is meant here. If you desire to get something reality says you can get, you will not necessarily be disappointed, whereas if you desire something reality says you will never get, you will necessarily be disappointed.

We have established reason as the name of the faculty which distinguishes true from false, that is, accurate ideas about reality versus inaccurate, so that faculty, if consulted, and if it has the power to restrain unrealistic and vain desires, of necessity produces happiness, or, at least, deters some degree of unhappiness and misery.

There is an implied moral imperative which should be stated openly: it is futile to seek vain desires, and blameworthy to seek blameworthy ones.

Hence, all men desire the good. This is true both as a definition, that is, “good” is what men call what they seek, and true as an imperative, that is, men ought to seek and ought to desire what is good.

The most important question any human being can ask must be asked next: how do we know the good? How do we distinguish blameworthy from praiseworthy acts?

Whatever the answer is, the answer must at least contain this minimum admission: We know the good by the nature of the act, by the nature of the means used to seek the desire, by the nature of the desire. To be right and praiseworthy, the act itself must be praiseworthy, the means used must be licit, and the ends sought praiseworthy.

This, because logically the other alternatives are consequentialism (the ends justify the means) and moral relativism (the good is whatever I arbitrarily say is good). Let us not dwell on these alternatives, since they are not serious: Consequentialists cannot propose as a general rule that any means are justified by the ends, because there is no end which might not be a means to a further end, no would they be willing to suffer the evils of dishonest means at the hands of other men merely if the ends the other men sought were honest. Moral relativism is self-contradictory, because an arbitrary standard is not a standard. The Relativist cannot condemn the immorality or dishonesty of a man who falsely says morality is absolute.

And if we are praised for blameworthy acts and blamed for praiseworthy acts? This touches on the question of reputation, given above: whether the act itself is worthy of blame or praise is a man’s own doing. Whether the act in fact is known to fame and receives the praise and blame it is due, depends on factors beyond that man’s necessarily sphere of control. It is not his doing.

The next conclusion follows logically, and forms the basis of Stoic doctrine:

5. We should be concerned only with what is within our control: thought, impulse, desire. What is outside our control is beyond praise or blame, and so it means nothing to us.

We play the game for the sake of being a good sport; winning or losing come according to factors beyond our control, therefore, if we have played our part well, we should accept winning without vaunting and loss without despair, but instead show an equal countenance to all. This is the serenity sought by philosophers—to accept loss philosophically, nor be elated by vanities.

Since happiness, or, at least, the serenity sought by philosophers, consists of a meeting or match between the object of desire and the success of desire, to limit one’s desire to that which is necessarily within one’s control ensures serenity.

Since praiseworthiness consists of a meeting or match between the praiseworthy acts using licit means in pursuit of praiseworthy aims, to limit one’s desires and acts to that which is praiseworthy is a necessary precondition for serenity.

Despite the appearance to the contrary, happiness and dishonest character are mutually contradictory.

A man with no self command is not serene: if he just so happens not to be caught up in a whirlwind of rage or despair or lust or envy or malice at the moment, it is an accident; it is merely because the winds of passion are not blowing in his heart at the moment. It is not because he has earned or can retain a dispassionate serenity.

A necessary precondition to the ability to limit desire to proper objects (proper here meaning reasonable and licit) is the subordination of the appetite and passions to the reason. Should this prove to be impossible, then all philosophy is vain: but neither does experience show that men as they mature fail to bring some or all of their passions under their self-command.

The beginning of Stoic doctrine is this: to control one’s appetites and passions by the reason.

6. Self-command is called virtue since it is power to coordinate the appetites and passions with the reason. It is both necessary and desirable for the serenity of the philosophers, and praiseworthy in and of itself.

We see that virtue is praiseworthy in itself when we admire, for example, the virtue and courage of an enemy, even one who does wrong. The virtue is being misused, but it itself is not a bad thing.

What makes a good thing like virtue into a bad thing, like a courageous criminal?

7. The nature of the ends and means selected define the praiseworthiness and blameworthiness of the act and of the actor. A brave criminal is bad not because he is brave but because he is criminal, that is, he is using his bravery against its natural end.

Now, at this point, we run into a concept that cannot be explained to the modern mind, because the modern mind is too shallow. The modern mind refuses to admit that final causes exist in nature, even though the modern man will talk and act as if final causes do exist in nature, and even though no coherent picture of the world can be imagined lacking final causes in nature.

Teleology can be proved to be a category of human thought which is inescapable by a simple thought experiment: suppose there is an object A. Let us say this object A is the argument against teleology. Can the argument A be described as anything other than an argument whose purpose and final cause is to prove the statement that teleology exists in nature is false? Now, this property would exist in the argument no matter who or what spoke or used the argument.

If I spoke this argument to impress my girlfriend with my intellectual prowess, that would be my purpose, or one of them, but the purpose for which the argument exists is independent of this, and, since that purpose would exist no matter who spoke the argument, it is independent of any human actor. By its very nature, the argument that teleology does not exist in nature, has a teleology. Therefore the argument disproves itself.

One might object that this deals with the “nature” of an argument, and arguments are admittedly and manmade things.

But the examples of teleology in nature also include things that are not manmade: it is the nature of heavier object to fall, for example; the wing to the bird is “for” flight; the teeth of an ox are “for” chewing grass, whereas the fangs of a wolf are “for” tearing meat, whereas the fangs of a serpent are “for” injecting poison; the stomach is “for” digesting food; the eye is “for” receiving sight as the ear “for” hearing; the hand “for” grasping and pointing and manipulating; the teat “for” nursing; and the natural selection of Darwinian evolution is “for” preserving the fittest to survive to the next generation. Ants lay down their lives to defend their threatened anthills because they die “for” the sake of the colony. Bird build nests “for” rearing their young.

The word “for” is put in quotes to draw the reader’s eye to the implied assumption of a teleology or final cause in nature.

Keep in mind that final cause does not imply any other type of cause. The wing of a penguin or the wing of an ostriches is still a “wing” as the gross shape and fine structure and possible movements of the bones and feathers do not make sense and we cannot make sense of them, unless we recognize that they are wings, limbs meant for flying. Even if, as in this case, they cannot fly, nonetheless that is their final cause. By way of illustration, imagine finding an ostrich on the moon, where this is no air. Could the bird’s upper limbs have that form? Could they have evolved to match that shape? Would you be able to understand why they were that shape until and unless you realized that the ostrich came from Earth where there is an atmosphere thick enough for organisms to wing through? In what sense could the upper limb of a moon-ostrich even properly be called “a wing”?

Unless we attribute reasoning powers to birds and insects, their behaviors are goal-directed rather than random, and possess a teleology or final cause even if they are not deliberate means selected to achieve deliberate goals.

Anyone arguing that final causes do not exist in nature is challenged merely to describe an act like nest building by a bird in spring without reference to a final cause. Will this description be accurate and complete? Will it reflect reality?

If this description were given to a stranger from another planet who had never seen a bird nor a nest, and that stranger were not told that the nest is meant to hold that eggs that hold the hope for the next generation of birds, will the stranger actually understand what a nest is? Even if he is told every physical and mechanical property of the nest and the building of the nest, if he is not told what it is for, he has not been told what it is. Therefore the purpose of the nest is part of what a nest is. In this as in all like cases, final cause exists in nature.

When contemplating praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, the reason is required to contemplate reality, and, as here shown, that includes contemplating the nature of the act and the nature of its natural end, independent of the end to which the person himself uses that act.

8.  It is praiseworthy to act with one’s desires in accord with nature, and blameworthy to go against nature.

Again, this is difficult to explain to the modern mind. The simplest way to explain this is to say that the relations of man to wife, child to parent, father to son, brother to brother, and leader to follower, master to servant, comrade to comrade, king to subject, or citizen to the laws, are relations which by their nature carry certain obligations and responsibilities. You did not pick your brother nor were you consulted on the question of where and when he should be born, older or younger, and with what talents and capacities and personality. Nonetheless, if your brother is starving while you feast, the act is blameworthy. A justification to excuse the behavior would be just that: an exception to the general rule.

The natural, that is, non-manmade, character of the basic human relationships is sufficiently attested by the near-uniformity of the moral norms throughout history, across all differences of race and land and culture. The natural and non-manmade nature is also attested by the nature of the argument against the provisions of universal moral norms: the mere fact that they are urged as exceptions tacitly implies that they are exceptions of a recognized standard.

I need list none of the natural affections of human relationships, since all humans, even those who argue against them, know them. A son who hates his father is unnatural; a brother who lusts for his sister is unnatural.

The modern doctrine that all natural affections are arbitrary, or may be disregarded at the will of either party, is false, and needs no further investigation, since were it so, all philosophy is vain, and the reason is and should be supinely subordinate to the appetites and passions.

The culmination of Stoic doctrine is this: to control one’s appetites and passions by the reason according to nature.

And, please, let us hear no plays on words pretending to be arguments. By “nature” I mean the nature of the act and the nature of the desire, that is, there essential and definitional properties. I am not talking about the way animals behave in the woods, or they way Mowgli or Tarzan or Caliban would behave if they had not been raised properly by wolves or apes or magicians. Such sleights of rhetoric are beneath contempt.

9. The virtue of self command of the passions to their natural objects is called temperance, and in due degree is called moderation. The moderation and temperance of the sexual passions is called chastity.

This is definitional. If you do not like these terms, substitute others to your liking.

10. Adultery, fornication, sexual perversion are unchaste.

Here is the only controversial link in the chain of reasoning.

To affirm the truth of the proposition, I propose one simple test: Are the other natural relations disordered by the disorder of the sexual relations? If so, the sexual relation is an unchaste one, that is, one where the reason should govern the passions, and check rather than indulge them. By our reasoning given above, the serenity sought by the achievement of desires within one’s power impose natural duties running to family and clan and society, and even a desire that is otherwise licit should be ruled illicit if it disorders or hinders the exercise of those natural duties.

The type and degree of disorder unchastity creates can be tested by a simple thought experiment:

If your own wife, sister, mother, queen, cousin, or other relations engaged in adultery, fornication and sexual perversion, would it or would it not necessitate that other obligations natural to the human relations (other natural duties, in other words) would be torn from their proper objects?

For example, if your brother fathers a bastard out of wedlock on one of the many whores he patronizes, and she raises the child without your brother, is it licit for her to approach you for the child’s support and upbringing? By the nature of family relations, and uncle should protect and love his nephews, and such support is a normal feature of the uncle-nephew relation.

Again, suppose the whore is merely pregnant, and approaches you asking you to pay an abortionist to kill your niece or nephew in the womb. By the nature of family relations, and uncle should protect and love his nephews and nieces, and to assist in the destruction of your brother’s child is unnatural.

Again, suppose merely that your mother is carrying on an extramarital affair with your father’s knowledge and consent. Suppose she comes to ask your advice and support on how best to please and flatter her lover, perhaps on the occasion of his birthday, and she wishes your enthusiastic assistance to bring happiness to the man with whom she is infatuated. Is her demand compatible with the filial obligations and loyalty you owe your father?

In order to decide this question we first must decide whether the nature of erotic love is shallow or profound. If erotic love is shallow, then for your mother to ask you to make her adulterous lover’s birthday as success is no different than if the man were her tennis partner, or a mere passing acquaintance.

If erotic love by its nature is shallow, to treat it shallowly is licit, that is to say, not unchaste.

If erotic love is shallow, that is, a love that requires neither commitment nor union, a one-night stand or hook up with a buxom young virgin who neither gives her name nor asks yours is licit.

If such momentary sexually alliances are licit, then you suffer no loss nor lost opportunity if the anonymous lover departs the next day without informing you whether or not she is pregnant nor what she intends to do with or to your son or daughter, whether to kill or raise or give away.

We are now confronted with a stark and incontestable mutually exclusive choice: if you couple with a women for the sake of the erotic pleasure of coupling, a love that does not lead to true love and does not come from it, you are shallow; if you couple for the sake of an erotic love that lead to true love, and she alike with you, the love is profound and romantic.

The additional factor in coupling as opposed to mixed doubles tennis or other possible human interactions between the sexes, is the possibility of a difference of shallowness. When one hires a whore, the matter is sufficiently commercial to admit of no ambiguity, and likewise when one marries a bride the matter is designed to be public and permanent, and is surrounded by the sanctity of religion and the terror of the law (or had been at one time). All other situations are ambiguous and hence exploitative: one partner seeks a permanent and profound relationship, the other seeks the momentary comfort of physical release, or to indulge an emotion no more profound than tenderness or friendship.

If the ambiguous middle course is forbidden by prudence, the remaining choices are the unambiguous ones: the shallow sexual alliance of a whore or the permanent and revered and profound and permanent sexual alliance of matrimony.

11. Matrimony is the prudent and licit check on romantic and erotic passions, as well as the mechanism for their safe (or, at least, safer) culmination and expression.

Despite that this is the most frequently controverted link in the chain of reasoning, it is the easiest to defend, since the arguments against it are not arguments, merely impatient expressions of the desire to do unwise or evil deeds.

Suppose you are sexually attracted to a glancing-eyed maiden with a well-turned ankle and charms both of demeanor and physique. Logically, if you are sexually attracted, you wish to perform the act of sexual reproduction with her, since that is what ‘sexually attracted’ means. It means being attracted to the opposite sex qua sex, for the purpose of sex.

The final cause of sex is sex. Your personal goals might differ from this, in the same way you might wish to put objects that are not food in your mouth and swallow them, or a bird might wish to use its wing for some purpose that hinders rather than accomplishes flight, but your personal goals aside, the final cause of sex is sex.

Sex does two things: it unifies the two couple in a romantic bond, and it reproduces the species. In other words, sex celebrates and creates romantic love, and it leads to childrearing.

Even absent the natural human desire for permanence in romantic love, mere prudence, by itself, would forbid sex outside marriage, and this for several reasons, any one of which, by itself, is sufficient:

First, even if the possibility of childbearing is as remote as that of Sarah and Abraham, prudent provision should be made before sex anticipating the possible outcome of sex, namely, reproduction. That provision includes rearing even an unexpected child. No one seriously supposes rearing a child alone is preferable to rearing a child with a mommy and daddy who love him. Hence, no matter how small the possibility of childbirth, copulation should not take place unless the couple first creates a permanent household prepared to receive and raise a child.

Second, the father of the bride has a vested interest in the well being of his grandchildren, on the grounds that it a natural duty of his to love and protect any grandchild. Even if the daughter herself is willing to bear the risk of copulation out of wedlock, in the hopes that any offspring produced can be quietly killed either in the womb (as is the post-Christian practice) or by exposing the child to the elements (as was the pre-Christian practice) or be given to strangers to raise, nevertheless the father’s natural duty is to drive away or kill any sexual partners of his daughter who copulate with her unwed. Since nephews naturally can demand  the love and protection of uncles, the brothers of the daughter likewise have such a duty. In a civilized nation, this duty can be carried out in the name of the family by the sovereign, who alone has the right to take human life, and then only when lawful.

Mothers and sister of the adultress likewise are under a duty to shame and humiliate her so as to deter the imprudent behavior.

Those that say that it is a private matter whether a woman chooses to bear or a man to father a bastard, it is sufficient to say that it is not, on the grounds that grandparents and other relations are bound by the duty to love and protect their grandchildren and nieces and nephews, and that interference in this duty is itself imprudent and illicit.

Third, as sex has two final causes, the unity of the couple and the bearing of offspring. Even absent any offspring or possibility of offspring, the unitive final cause imposes a duty of prudence on those contemplating copulation. Hence the act of copulation for the sake of not achieving romantic love is illicit: logically, coupling for the sake of lust without love either requires that one adopt a shallow character, or it necessitates a betrayal of one’s expectation of profound love at the hands of a shallower lover, who is not seeking a deeper or a permanent relation.

Fourth, lust for its own sake and lust that leads to permanent romantic love is mutually exclusive. Since the latter contains and indeed culminates all the former has or pretends to have, logically there is no reason to prefer the former to the latter.

Fifth, a women who couples with a  man unwilling to wed her is, whether she acknowledges it or not, demeaned, since she did not demand as high a price for her favors and services as a woman who demanded the man vow eternal devotion, nay, his entire love, soul, and heart to her and forever to the exclusion of all else. In sum, if he does not love her, why is she sleeping with him? If he does love her, why doesn’t he put a ring on her finger?

Sixth, even if a woman says she is satisfied with loveless lust that leaves her lonely, such satisfaction is illicit, because she would not satisfy this passion where her passions governed by her reason. Her assessment of what will satisfy her is not the concern of this argument; only what her appetites and passions would be were they governed by her reason.  As a thought experiment, imagine one stood at the end of one’s life, or, better yet, in the prospect of eternity, and examined the whole of it: to prefer (1) a sequence of deliberately meaningless and demeaning sex alliances with men (whose character, logically, must be assumed to be of the low and semisadistic character suited to taking joy from demeaning women) who prevent the growth either of the union of romantic love or of a child versus (2)  a devoted husband, a household where one is queen, children and the love of children; and grandchildren in older age. As above, there are no advantages to the first not also present in the second.

Seventh, since the natural goal of sex is union, and permanent union, the trial and error of many lovers is destructive rather than satisfactory of that purpose. We are not discussing shopping for  car, where the features of one might not be known before the feature of another without a test drive: we are discussing an emotional investment in permanence. By definition, you cannot try out different states of permanence one after another after another.

Eighth. Human nature being what it is, a man cannot tell lies without being a liar, nor can a man indulge in self-indulgence without being self-indulgent. Temporary acts form permanent character. If the government of the appetites and passions by the reason is temporary and intermittent, the reason in effect governs nothing, no more than a sovereign is said to govern a territory over which he has partial control, and whose laws are sometimes obeyed and other times not.

Likewise here: a man seeking a bride is imprudent to ally himself with anything other than a virgin, and likewise for a woman selecting between suitors. Independent of any other reason, it is imprudent to expect that a mate who has displayed little or no ability to check the erotic passions before wedlock will have the ability to check the erotic passions after. Nearly every bride gets an infatuation out of wedlock five to seven years after the marriage; likewise every husband. No one who has not practiced the self restraint of resisting the arrow of Eros before wedlock is likely to be able to do so during this dangerous year.

Ninth, the only justification for sex out of wedlock is if the erotic passions are considered legitimate in and of themselves. But if the erotic passions are considered legitimate in and of themselves, then the attempt to check those passions by matrimony is illegitimate.

Tenth, the natural impulse among men is to kill their sexual rivals. As I mentioned above, I speak from experience. In order to check that murderous impulse, it behooves all men in rivalry with each other to treat the bounds of matrimony with respect, and neither to take nor seduce another man’s wife. In return, his own wife is safe from the erotic attentions of others. For prudential reasons, the marriage status of every woman should be visible to casual inspection, as if by the public display of some ornament like a wedding ring, of by some change of title, as taking her husband’s family name. Logically, where a system exists to contain sexual rivalry within such bounds, it cannot exist outside such bounds, or, in other words, if a another man’s wife is not a proper target for flirtation, another man’s girlfriend, by the mere fact that she is not his wife, and might be willing to be yours, is.

Similar considerations should likewise surround female rivalry for mates, but since women rarely kill their sexual rivals, and since feminine women attract mates by alluring them rather than hunting them, other considerations apply.

Eleven, the natural inequality of men means that, if fornication is licit, the most desirable men or ‘Alpha Males’ will indulge in polygamy, or serial polygamy, or keep a series of mistresses, and the less desirable males will enjoy few mates or none, and then only in the years of their prime. Women will be abandoned the moment their attractiveness fades. The general unhappiness involved in living in such a society are obvious.

Twelve, among the other disorders of the surrounding natural social relations, instead of customary and informal enforcement of sexual and marital norms, recourse will be had to courts of law and formal regulation. Again, the awkwardness and unhappiness involved are obvious.

Thirteen, no child will form a normal set of emotional relations with father, mother, siblings, extended family. This sociopathic inability to form emotional relations will be carried into adulthood, giving rise to a generation of narcissistic and egomaniacal neurotics unable to govern themselves personally, but addicted to medications to control their emotions, and unable as a group to govern a republic, such as, by no coincidence, we see around us.

I could list other reasons, again, any one of which would be sufficient to prove the point. The idea that fornication is licit is not only rare in human history, it is unheard of, and exists in the modern day only by dint of an extreme effort of mental dishonesty forcing the minds of men continually away from the truth that is otherwise painfully obvious.

12. The laws and customs of men influence the men around them, and their training and upbringing influences the children.

This is self-evident, for if laws not meant to influence human behavior are not laws; and custom is defined as those things men habitually do because of the influence of the men around them, and often in expectation of reciprocity of the men around them.

Logically, if each man is under a moral obligation to do praiseworthy acts via licit means for good ends and to avoid blameworthy illicit and bad, then he is under an obligation to learn and practice virtue and self command because the one is not possible without the other; and his natural duties toward his children and his commonwealth or kingdom require likewise that he train his children in virtue and self command, and take steps that the laws and customs of his commonwealth or kingdom uphold and encourage virtue and self command, to the degree they can, because the same logic that applies to him as an individual applies to him as a father of a child or as a citizen or subject of a commonwealth or kingdom.

For reasons both prudential and virtuous, it is in the self interest of the bride and the best interest of society at large and in the best interest of any children who eventuate from the mating to have the any sexual alliance with her husband be open, public, enforced by the sanctity and religion and the terror of the law, and for this reason: the temptation to adultery is stronger than nearly any other in human experience, is more widespread, and leads to more disastrous results.

Eros, the purple winged god, promises PERMANENT and ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC bliss, a love to which all other emotions are pale, the love which makes a man willing to leave his kith and kin and forsake all others and to kill his rivals or even himself.

Sad experience shows those promises, for the most part, are false and damned lies. The same magnetic power of Eros which is able, when rightly used, to pull a bridegroom into the blind and dangerous adventure of marriage, when wrongly used, can pull the bridegroom out of marriage and into the adulteress’ bed. (These days, it is the bride more likely than the bridegroom to be the one pulled into an affair, or to seek divorce.)

It is to channel this most potent and creative force in the human psyche as well as this most potent and destructive force into lawful and useful channels, that it may ennoble mankind rather than tears us into miserable shreds, that the institution of matrimony must be propped up by informal social sanctions and severe legal sanctions.

This generation and the one immediately past has abandoned those laws and those informal sanctions, and the social pathologies that have resulted are too obvious and too many to bear repeating here, but juvenile delinquency, the rise of crimes committed for no purpose whatever,  and a culture of multicultural self loathing which seeks as quickly as possible to obliterate Western civilization, a cultural where drug addiction and torture-porn at movies and porn in every home is the norm, are partly or wholly the effect of the rejection of chastity and matrimony in favor of vice and isolation and free love.

I will only mention that, in my own life, my parent divorced, my stepmother’s husband left her, and brother’s wife left him, my best friend’s parents are divorced, my another close friend’s sister has been divorced and remarried six times, my male friends my age are unmarried and have no prospect of marriage, my wife’s friends her age hate children and hate men and have no prospect of marriage.

13. If the use of contraception is legal, the extramarital sex and premarital sex become and must become the social norm. Since the normalization of extramarital sex and premarital sex creates the disorders among the natural relations identified above, it is not in keeping with, and cannot be harmonized with, the effort to achieve serenity through the pursuit of virtue.

The cause and effect is not difficult to detect: once a society admits as a fundamental social and philosophical principle that the role of the state is to be neutral on matters of morality, it must shape its laws to encourage immorality. To be specific, as an attorney, I believe Griswold v Connecticut to be correctly decided given the precedents of prior cases and given the modern interpretation of the Constitution which provides no role for the government, federal or state, to encourage virtue over vice. Griswold v Connecticut is the inevitable decision of any society that has accepted hedonism rather than stoicism as it core cultural mythos and paramount philosophical value. And the holding in Griswold makes the holding in Lawrence v Texas likewise inevitable.

Addendum:  Comment made below tell me this paragraph is unclear. Let me clarify. I am not here arguing and do not mean to imply that using contraception within a given marriage will break up that given marriage. I say that if a society alters its laws and customs so that the use of contraception is allowed in the laws and approved by the social mores and manners, those laws and customs cannot logically at the same time disapprove of unchastity.

Society can maintain two contradictory mores or customs for a time, until the matter is brought before the law. The nature of the law is that it is, for the sake of clarity and uniformity of the law, governed by precedent. Once the precedent evolved into a clearly articulated standard, laws defying that standard tend to be struck down, one after another. Laws defying any informal standard tend not to be enforced, because the reluctance of the public to approve of their enforcement.

Absent a legal sanction, the informal social sanction is progressively weaker the more individualistic the people are. In an arch-individualistic society like ours, where to defy the social norm is rewarded by applause, the set of those things which are legal but which social convention by informal pressure prevents is vanishingly small.

The cause and effect is not entirely clear. I venture to speculate that the matter has to do with the consequences of thought. Once society has tacitly acknowledged and tacitly made part of its law and manners that the sex act is a personal matter of seeking personal pleasure, unrelated to reproduction (and thus not a social matter where informal pressure rightly can be used to deter vice and law rightly use to punish vice) then chastity is abolished, first in small vices and act of self indulgence, then large, then abominable.  For the same logic of the same precedent which excuses the small vice, namely, that sex is private, excuses the abominations. End of addendum.

Even were it theoretically possible to imagine a society which might, somehow, have laws and customs to allow contraception but scorn, deter, discourage, and punish fornication, adultery, perversion and divorce, in reality there is no example of human beings ever behaving this way. The burden of proof is on those who claim it is possible. I am content to conclude that since it has never happened, it cannot.

Again, those who cannot or pretend they cannot distinguish between contraception and the rhythm method, or natural family planning, which uses the natural monthly periods of infertility in women to avoid childbirth, have the burden of explaining the historical reality that societies where such means are licit are able to scorn, deter, discourage, and punish fornication, adultery, perversion and divorce; whereas societies where contraception is permissible are not. The distinction that they say does not exist somehow has a practical and obvious visible side effect.

All this to one side, the neutrality of the state and society is not logically possible. Either the society is fundamentally grounded on hedonistic and emotional principles, which rules that private vice is permissible and therefore licit, or society is grounded on stoic and rational principles, which rules that virtue alone is licit, and the reason must govern the passions.

In sum, even without establishing a strict cause and effect, it is enough to notice that widespread socially accepted use of contraception in a society makes the illusion of consequence-free sexual vice possible, and that illusion is not possible otherwise.

A rational society must choose matrimony over contraception and sexual anarchy, aside from considerations of vice and virtue, if only for prudential reasons.

Such is my conclusion.

Please note that this is not a theistic argument. No reference is made to any supernatural entities. It is purely prudential and secular in its assumptions and reasoning. Whatever errors or lacunae it may or may not have, it does not ask anyone to take anything on any supernatural authority.

That point I wish to emphasize most strongly, since it make a lie of the entire atheist world view: for at once it both shows that the Christian principle you deride as arbitrary and superstitious are purely reasonable and wise, and it shows that your atheists principles are insufficient to reach reason and wisdom.

 

143 Comments

  1. Comment by Sandy Petersen:

    As a non-atheist, who regards fornication and adultery as wicked, but not contraception, I reason as follows:

    Sex obviously is for the purpose of continuing the species. However, in humans, it also has other functions. It enhances marital love, can help bring about a fullness of joy, teaches patience and romance, and can even be used for such “lesser” purposes as a nonverbal apology. These other purposes are unknown in the animal world. Even animals (such as albatrosses) which “mate for life” do not engage in the act of mating all their lives, but only in breeding season. Bonobos, which do use sex socially, do not mate for life. Mankind alone has been designed to use sex as one of the primary bonding mechanisms between mates. I regard this as the design of heaven.

    The vast majority of sex acts do not result in childbirth. This is trivially obvious. In addition, a husband and wife who are sterile for whatever reason do not, in my opinion, suffer less marital love as a result. Take my own life for example – my wife has just undergone menopause. Therefore, any sexual union on our part willy nilly will be childless. So?

    Even Catholics recognize the need to sometimes restrict childbearing, as witness their support for the rhythm method, or the less-certain extending lactation method. Surely if two methods of contraception is acceptable, others could be – why not all? (Excepting of course the murder of infants.) The mere fact that some methods of contraception involve chemicals or devices cannot be any more evil than the device I am now using for my argument, rather than taking the time to drive over to Mr. Wright’s house and made my argument in a more civilized manner, directly, over a beer (or, since I’m a Mormon, over a root beer).

    I think that every married couple with the opportunity should have children. I have had five. Four of my children have been married in turn, and two of them have even produced grandchildren (and a third is expecting). But saying that every married couple, if possible, should have children, doesn’t mean that they have to accept the influence of chance as to when they have those children. For that matter, even childless married couples can consider options such as adoption. Frankly, I regard it as a big waste of medical effort to render a barren but loving couple fertile when children are available across the world to adopt.

    I am convinced that contraception has a place in a loving marriage, and my personal observation of my own marriage, my parents’ marriage, and the marriages of my children, gives me six case histories in which contraception has not seemed to lead to any such disastrous, however esoteric, effects as you seem to think possible. All of our marriages have been loving, devoid of adultery, and devoid of divorce.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Even Catholics recognize the need to sometimes restrict childbearing, as witness their support for the rhythm method, or the less-certain extending lactation method. Surely if two methods of contraception is acceptable, others could be – why not all?”

      The argument here is whether contraception has other consequences which are inevitable (or highly likely) and bad. My argument given above does not explore the cause and effect connection between the rise of contraception and the rise of the current culture where divorce and pornography is the norm: only if this link were clearly identified could the reasonableness of allowing contraception within marriage be assessed.

      So much for the secular argument. As a Catholic, I can state that your denomination, no matter what it is, before the 1930’s supported the Catholic position, because in those years and through all times past it was the universal Christian position. What changed the minds of your leaders?

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      “Surely if two methods of contraception is acceptable, others could be – why not all? (Excepting of course the murder of infants.) The mere fact that some methods of contraception involve chemicals or devices cannot be any more evil than the device I am now using for my argument, rather than taking the time to drive over to Mr. Wright’s house and made my argument in a more civilized manner, directly, over a beer (or, since I’m a Mormon, over a root beer). “

      NFP and Rhythm method work with the nature of the sexual organs. Chemical contraceptives seek to deliberately counteract the end for which the organs are designed. That is the difference.

    • Comment by lotdw:

      “Frankly, I regard it as a big waste of medical effort to render a barren but loving couple fertile when children are available across the world to adopt. ”

      Do you see that this is related to acceptance of contraception? In each case it is a decoupling of one of the two ends of sex. Note that in both cases, accepting the natural course is NOT the norm. Most barren couples would rather do in vitro over and over again rather than adopt (a decision I understand, certainly, though I cannot in the end agree). Note also that both patterns are often present in the same persons and same populations – among the affluent in this country, childbirth is first put off via contraception until the mid-thirties; then the same population spends thousands or more on medical procedures because the biological equipment, so to speak, is well past its prime.

      I stress again that I understand the difficulty in bucking the usual trend. It is a matter of great personal sorrow that it is all but impossible to find an acceptable spouse who believes in any sort of sexual morality in the modern world, even when one leaves contraception out of it.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “I am convinced that contraception has a place in a loving marriage, and my personal observation of my own marriage, my parents’ marriage, and the marriages of my children, gives me six case histories in which contraception has not seemed to lead to any such disastrous, however esoteric, effects as you seem to think possible. All of our marriages have been loving, devoid of adultery, and devoid of divorce.”

      Again, sorry if I was unclear. I did not say and did not mean to imply that using contraception within a marriage will break up that marriage. I said that if a society alters its laws and customs so that the use of contraception is allowed in the laws and approved by the social mores of society, it cannot logically and at the same time disapprove of unchastity.

      The cause and effect here was not mentioned, because it is not entirely clear. I venture to speculate that the matter has to do with the consequences of thought. Once society has tacitly acknowledged and tacitly made part of its law and manners that the sex act is a personal matter of seeking personal pleasure, not a social matter where informal pressure rightly can be used to deter vice and law rightly use to punish vice.

      The argument I give is not a Catholic argument but a secular one, concerned only with the logical and expected effects of an act, and the nature of the act: a couple on a deserted island could use contraception to their heart’s content without any lapse of self-command.

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        . Once society has tacitly acknowledged and tacitly made part of its law and manners that the sex act is a personal matter of seeking personal pleasure, not a social matter where informal pressure rightly can be used to deter vice and law rightly use to punish vice.

        The society of the Mormons has very strong informal pressures and church punishments for any sexual activity that is not between a husband and wife. If one has been to the temple then one makes covenants to be chaste which if broken always leads to at least dis-fellowship and often to excommunication (if one has not been to the temple then dis-fellowship is usually as far as it goes under normal circumstances). If a couple is dating or engaged and they mess up then the expectation is that they will have a civil marriage if both still like each other. Civil because they can not get married in the temple until a year after having a civil marriage due to the nature of their transgression.

        Also, the focus of the leaders of the church has always been on the fact that the command to multiply and replenish the earth is still valid, that children are a blessing, and that reproduction is one of the most important things we can do in life. The delaying of having children has always been discouraged by the church and having as many children as can be cared for, even in the most recent conference. Being cared for has been taught since at least 1916 to mean more then just being born but fed, clothed, housed, so forth. The health of the mother has also been a consideration from before the 1930’s.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          “The society of the Mormons has very strong informal pressures and church punishments for any sexual activity that is not between a husband and wife”

          The zeal and common sense of the Mormons should excite the shame and envy of every denomination whose members call themselves Christian and do not act it.

    • Comment by deiseach:

      “Surely if two methods of contraception is acceptable, others could be – why not all?”

      Because we make a distinction between what is the natural behaviour of the body, and what requires artifical interference.

      You instance that animals do not mate all the time, but only in the mating season. What would happen to a species where, when the females are at their peak of fertility and the males are in rut, the animals did not mate or, if mating, they immediately killed the females to prevent pregnancy, or killed the resulting litters when born? We would not consider this ‘natural’ behaviour; even when natural behaviours are mirrored by human society – as when infanticide is considered, where animals will kill the offspring of rivals to take their mates as their own and father their own offspring, or kill the offspring of other females in times of scarcity to ensure their own offspring survive, no-one has (as of yet) offered this as a reason why we should permit step-fathers to kill their wives’ children or as a defence where a woman has killed her children because her new boyfriend didn’t want to marry her and have to support them.

      Let me make an analogy between the natural periods of infertility in the human female, as during the menstrual cycle and after menopause, and artificial contraception and eating disorders.

      If you go to a doctor and say “I throw up immediately after eating”, how he or she treats you will depend on whether you are, say, suffering from the effects of a norovirus (in which case this is natural) or from something such as bulimia (in which case you may be recommended to join and have the support of such a group as here, and a plan of treatment will be worked out for you).

      Artificial contraception is like a bulimic going to a doctor and being prescribed diuretics and appetite suppresants, and society demanding that such behaviour should not be considered going against the natural uses of the body but instead perfectly innocuous. And then forty years on, we find it has wider effects on the biosphere than we ever anticipated.

      I would also say your caveat about abortion is hopeful but mistaken. If we permit contraception within marriage (as the Lambeth Conference of 1930 legalised for Anglicans), and we say that it is for good reasons, e.g. a family cannot economically support another member or it is a threat to the mother’s health and life, what happens if a pregnancy occurs despite contraceptive use (because no single method is 100% effective)? Force the wife to bear the unwanted child? By the logic of contraception, abortion as a “last-resort” method cannot be far behind.

      The 1930 Lambeth Conference approved the use of birth control in limited circumstances and declared induced abortion “abhorrent”. The Church of England currently opposes abortion, decries the number of abortions carried out each year, but recognises that (1983) “That in situations where the continuance of a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother a termination of pregnancy may be justified and that there must be adequate and safe provision in our society for such situations”, (1993) “The number of abortions carried out since the passage of the Abortion Act 1967 is unacceptably high” and “The Church of England combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be – strictly limited – conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative.”

      It does not seem to see any link between the limited permission it gives for “morally preferable” abortion and the rise in the number of abortions, year on year, since the passage of the 1967 Act.

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        a family cannot economically support another member or it is a threat to the mother’s health and life, what happens if a pregnancy occurs despite contraceptive use (because no single method is 100% effective)? Force the wife to bear the unwanted child? By the logic of contraception, abortion as a “last-resort” method cannot be far behind.

        Not being able to support the child is not a legitimate reason for abortion per the LDS church. If the mothers life is at stake then abortion may be necessary, the decision would still rest with the mother. If an abortion is had for any reason other then certain exceptional circumstances then everyone involved in the abortion (the person that had it, performed it, transported the person that had it, paid for it, suggested they have it, encouraged, whatever) will likely get excommunicated.

        Children are a gift from the Lord and the decision to have a child lies between the couple and the Lord. If the couple is on contraceptives and the Lord decides to give that couple a child (assuming the child will not kill the mother) then that couple will gratefully and joyfully accept the gift that the Lord has given them, despite any hardships they may experience in doing so.

        • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

          Why the sudden limitation of “unless the child will kill the mother”? It’s as though you say to your god, “this far but no further”. Presumably, if children are gifts, and a particular child will kill or injure the mother, then the gift-giver intended precisely that outcome. Then what business have you to say anything but “Thy will be done”?

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            I suppose you would have everyone that believes in God take the view that since everything comes from God we should likewise just accept everything and do nothing at all? God commands us to provide for our families, to seek assistance when sick, to care for our children, and other similar things.

            If the pregnancy will kill the mother and not result in a viable child then your comment is similar to asking why treat any illness? (which is similar to asking why plow the ground and plant seeds?)

            If the pregnancy will kill the mother but might result in a viable child then we are trading one life for another life. The mother has the responsibility of raising her other children and caring for her husband so preference is given to the mothers life. It is still up to the mother to choose whether to carry the baby to term and die or not have the baby and live, and some do choose to have the baby and die because of it.

            • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

              I suppose you would have everyone that believes in God take the view that since everything comes from God we should likewise just accept everything and do nothing at all?

              I did not state such a straw man. I asked how you reconcile the specific statement, “X is a gift and not to be rejected”, with the statement “Except in circumstances Y, when it may be rejected”.

              And once you allow an exception for the purpose of taking care of other children, then why stop at the actual death of the mother? Suppose, for whatever reason, the mother would become paraplegic if the birth went ahead, but it would produce a healthy child. Is she obliged then to accept that, which obviously would reduce her ability to meet other obligations? What if the child were not healthy, but would survive at least until age 30? Or to age 15? Once you accept that there is a tradeoff between this child and the other children, or future children, then you’re on a slope which is not necessarily slippery, but which is at any rate continuous. You then have to give some justification for standing in the particular point on the slope that you’ve chosen. A discontinuous cliff such as “no abortion even for the mother’s health” has its problems, but at any rate there’s no sliding scale; you’re either at the top of the cliff or at the bottom.

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                I think you are not getting the seriousness with which abortion is viewed.

                But even these exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Because abortion is a most serious matter, we are counseled that it should be considered only after the persons responsible have consulted with their bishops and received divine confirmation through prayer

                With regards to a child that might not live until x age or is otherwise considered defective:

                Many devoted parents have proved that the birth of a defective child need not be tragic; often such a child becomes a focal point of family love.

                If one is paraplegic then one is still alive and medical science could be wrong about being paraplegic or could improve so that one may recover the use of the limbs. However, if one has an abortion then the baby is really and truly dead.

                • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                  If one is paraplegic then one is still alive and medical science could be wrong about being paraplegic or could improve so that one may recover the use of the limbs.

                  This is the fallacy of updating on anticipated evidence. Let us suppose it is five years later, and in hindsight we find that the paraplegia still exists. Also, the child is dead, and now it is not the mother who cares for the other children, but rather vice-versa. In the light of this information, would it not have been better to abort? Or if not, can you really imagine no scenario short of death in which it was so?

  2. Comment by Sandy Petersen:

    I might add that I do support the concept of going to the wedding bed a virgin as a desirable one. I and my wife did so, and as far as I know, so did all of my married children except one. *sigh*

  3. Comment by Ishmael Alighieri:

    “the happiness of a good marriage forms an atmosphere which allows the couple to be fully human, complete rather than alone, and it is like seeing the difference between sickness and health. There is no mistaking it and no pretending it does not exist.”

    No *honest* pretending it doesn’t exist. Sophomores of all ages delight in such pretending.

    One difficulty, in my personal experience, is that I needed 20+ years of marriage to finally fully appreciate how profoundly happy being married has made me, which has thrown into sharps relief how miserable so many people living ‘enlightened’ lives ‘free’ of all the guilt and shame around the simple pure expression of uninhibited sexual desires: the wrecked marriages, damaged children, lonely adults – and there the ones ‘pretending it does not exist’.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “No *honest* pretending it doesn’t exist. Sophomores of all ages delight in such pretending. ”

      You have adroitly identified both the source of most or all modern thought, particularly politically correct thought, and the source the frustration one encounters in attempting to reason with them: they have no interest in reason, merely in pretense. Their whole world is make believe.

  4. Comment by Ishmael Alighieri:

    This frighteningly evocative phrase:

    “One might have a sexual appetite for congress…”

    brought forcefully home the need to read ALL the way to the END of the sentence, lest one spew coffee all over one’s monitor.

  5. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    Even absent the natural human desire for permanence in romantic love

    If such a desire existed universally, why would enforcement be necessary? You assume your conclusion.

    Final causes exist in nature

    The culmination of Stoic doctrine is this: to control one’s appetites and passions by the reason according to nature.

    The final cause of sex is sex. [..] Sex does two things: it unifies the two couple in a romantic bond, and it reproduces the species. In other words, sex celebrates and creates romantic love, and it leads to childrearing.

    The existence of a final cause does not imply that the final cause is a good one, to be taken as a guideline for action. The final purpose of a gun is to kill; yet making or owning a gun does not oblige anyone to kill. Your reasoning from stoicism to sexual morality hides an assumption, namely that what you describe as the nature of sex is good. And, of course, what you take as the nature of sex happens to be the conclusion you want to reach anyway. In other words, your logic is circular.

    All other situations [than prostitution and marriage] are ambiguous and hence exploitive: one partner seeks a permanent and profound relationship, the other seeks the momentary comfort of physical release, or to indulge an emotion no more profound than tenderness or friendship.

    Well, that just does not follow. You probably meant to say that all other situations admit of such asymmetry; it does not follow that they are actually asymmetric.

    First, even if the possibility of childbearing is as remote as that of Sarah and Abraham, prudent provision should be made before sex anticipating the possible outcome of sex, namely, reproduction. That provision includes rearing even an unexpected child. No one seriously supposes rearing a child alone is preferable to rearing a child with a mommy and daddy who love him. Hence, no matter how small the possibility of childbirth, copulation should not take place unless the couple first creates a permanent household prepared to receive and raise a child.

    Once again you assume your conclusion, namely the desirability of marriage. In the first place, you assume that a household of two people, one of each gender, is the only desirable provision for a child; in the second place, you assume that such a household must be set up while the child is only a possibility, however slim. To the first assumption, I respond that even if you could demonstrate that marriage was the best possible arrangement for caring for children – and please note, you don’t do this, you merely argue that it is better than single parenthood, ignoring all other options; a false dichotomy – it does not follow that the best arrangement is the only possible one. It may be the case that accepting a small chance of a non-optimal arrangement in one matter, childrearing, can be compensated for by a large probability of a superior arrangement in a different matter, intimacy. You speak as though there could never be any tradeoffs in the world, and as though technology could never change the optimal point of a tradeoff.

    a women who couples with a man unwilling to wed her is, whether she acknowledges it or not, demeaned, since she did not demand as high a price for her favors and services as a woman who demanded the man vow eternal devotion, nay, his entire love, soul, and heart to her and forever to the exclusion of all else.

    PCs are cheaper than Macs. Is Microsoft therefore demeaned by the act of selling its products? And anyway, whence this commercial metaphor? One could just as well say that the woman is sanctified by the charitable act of giving her favours generously, receiving nothing in return. Or one could say that both man and woman do well in giving each other intimacy, neither party taking advantage, but both giving in full measure of their best. As usual you assume your conclusion.

    [T]o prefer (1) a sequence of deliberately meaningless and demeaning sex alliances with men (whose character, logically, must be assumed to be suited to taking joy from demeaning women) who prevent the growth either of the union of romantic love or of a child versus (2) a devoted husband, a household where one is queen, children and the love of children; and grandchildren in older age.

    Again, false dichotomy. These are not the only options.

    • Comment by lotdw:

      The existence of a final cause does not imply that the final cause is a good one, to be taken as a guideline for action. The final purpose of a gun is to kill; yet making or owning a gun does not oblige anyone to kill. Your reasoning from stoicism to sexual morality hides an assumption, namely that what you describe as the nature of sex is good. And, of course, what you take as the nature of sex happens to be the conclusion you want to reach anyway. In other words, your logic is circular.

      I’m not sure you understand how final causes work. That the final purpose of a gun is to kill has nothing to do with any obligation to kill; rather the obligation is that if you use the gun you use it to fire bullets to destroy a target rather than use it to hammer nails or cook as a meal. Likewise, the ability to have sex has nothing to do with an obligation to have sex but rather with the proper use of it. (Instead use a proper parallel – whom to kill vs. whom to have sex with* – and you might see more clearly.) Additionally, it is not exactly that natures are good; it is that natures are inescapable, so acting in accordance with them is what is good. Nor was this a hidden assumption. It is the basis of teleology. Did you miss #4 and #7 when he laid it out quite explicitly?

      Also, every logical procession will have its conclusion contained in its premises (see also: all logic is tautology). Since he did not assume something was the nature of sex but showed it, it’s not circular logic.

      * Clean that up and it’ll make for a perfect giallo title.

    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

      Even absent the natural human desire for permanence in romantic love

      If such a desire existed universally, why would enforcement be necessary? You assume your conclusion.

      Not at all. Permanance is called for, and offered, and sworn in advance, in every love song in the world, in all times and all places. No poet ever tried to woo a woman with a promise not to bother her again after he has had enough.

      Nor is this restricted to monogamous poets. I direct your attention to the Song of Solomon, and to the marital practices of its eponymous author.

  6. Comment by David Finkelstein:

    Even though I agree with your conclusion as a Catholic, I disagree with point 8
    “It is praiseworthy to act with one’s desires in accord with nature, and blameworthy to go against nature” That’s because I view human nature as fallen/damaged by sin and therefore untrustworthy and in need of repair. Simply replacing God with nature fixes it entirely. The difference is between my fallen nature’s corrupt desire, which in my weakness I am inclined to follow, and the end God intended which I can only follow through his sustaining grace. Obviously this arguement only works for the faithful.

    I do get your point that procreation is the natural purpose of sex and since contraception thwarts that end it is unnatural and hence blameworthy. Funny that many vegan/green-minded naturalists use contraception while disregarding this reality.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      My apologies for the ambiguity. The sentence does not mean “it is praiseworthy to act according to human nature” as the previous paragraph, where the conflict between passion and reason was described, was meant to make clear. I am talking about the nature the act, the means employed, and the ends sought, not the internal psychology of the actor.

      In other words, the murder of Abel by Cain was “unnatural” in the specific sense I am using the word here, which I defined at some length, because the “natural” relation of brothers is brother love. To use more modern and therefore less clear language, the status called “brotherhood” makes a moral demand in and of itself that the two brothers have brother love and the status in and of itself and by itself MAKES this moral demand WHETHER OR NOT the brothers wish it, have chosen it, or are inclined by their psychological defects to carry it out.

      I hope this is clear.

      • Comment by David Finkelstein:

        It was clear but read without contextual support and charity easily misunderstood. The ambiguity arises from the multiple interpretations of the word “nature”. While perhaps more elegant your usage is in fact rare, and even if the modern language is more clumsy, your readership is modern or at least prone to the errors of the modern in understanding. I’d substitute “intrinsic” or “essential” or some other construct that captures the concept without the confusion. This is a noble effort by the way.

  7. Comment by David Finkelstein:

    “Additionally, it is not exactly that natures are good; it is that natures are inescapable, so acting in accordance with them is what is good” this line helps clarify things but I also think it puts a hole in the argument. Contraception is precisely the way in which the natural consequences are escaped (at least some of those consequences). Further you can even argue that it’s a natural end of the human mind to try and devise a way to separate the subjectively desirable consequences from the undesirable. I don’t find the idea that nature’s ends are “good” is well supported, while the idea that nature’s ends are more readily achieved (feasible) and with fewer unexpected consequences is clear. In the moral sense “good” doesn’t work here as explained (perhaps I’m missing something) only in the functional sense “good for”.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Again, I specifically asked for readers to avoid making arguments based on pun or plays on words. The essay went to some trouble to define which meaning the word “nature” was being used.

    • Comment by lotdw:

      “at least some of those consequences”

      And that is the rub. Look more closely at what I wrote. It is that NATURE is inescapable – so even if one consequence is “avoided,” another quickly rears its head. There’s nothing unclear about what I said, and a careful and educated reader will quite easily understand.

  8. Comment by Malcolm Smith:

    I have to go with Sandy Petersen. The Church of Rome does not oppose contraception per se, only artificial contraception. I am afraid it do not see the logic of this and, in any case, the doctrine cannot be found in the Bible. Rome accepts and encourages the rhythm method. Indeed, it has refined it so that it is much more effective than in the past, and teaches it to poor people in third world countries who would not be able to afford The Pill, in any case. There are any number of good reasons why a married couple would want to limit, or at least manage, their fertility.
    I would agree that the unrestrained availablity of contraception to all and sundry has done more harm than good, but that is just one more example of the general rule: that when good things are used in the wrong way, or in the wrong quantity, they become bad. It doesn’t mean they are bad in themselves.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “I am afraid it do not see the logic of this and, in any case, the doctrine cannot be found in the Bible…”

      I don’t see the logic of applying a Protestant-only standard to an institution 1500 years older than Protestantism. The people you call the Church of Rome are the ones who wrote the Bible.

      In any case, the prohibitions on contraception go back in Christian doctrine to the limit of the documentary evidence. The pagan Romans practiced contraception, and the Christian Romans gave it up when they gave up the other pagan practices, divorce, abortion, exposing infants, gladiatorial games, slavery, pederasty, sodomy. As society decays, those practices, one after another, come back.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The essay is not making the argument that contraception is bad in and of itself.

    • Comment by deiseach:

      Mr. Smith, do you see the logic in differentiating between a doctor telling you “Your blood pressure is high, cut back on the salt in your diet and maybe drop a few pounds while you’re at it” and the fashion industry telling you “You have to fit into the size zero dress, so emaciate yourself beyond the healthy form of your body”?

      Where the body has natural periods of infertility (though there is still the possibility, though much reduced, of becoming pregnant) and where there are good, prudential reasons why pregnancy is not desirable at that time and where if pregnancy does occur, the parents will welcome and raise that child, and where the temptation to unchastity by abstinence is too much to be withstood, then natural methods of family planning are permissible. Where the body is naturally fertile, pregnancy is threatening neither to the bodily health of the mother nor the livelihood of the family, the avoidance of pregnancy means using both doses of hormones and the use of various barrier methods ranging from spermicides to condoms and where if pregnancy occurs the resultant decision will be “Get the phone book so I can look up the nearest Marie Stopes clinic and book an appointment for an abortion” and unchaste acts are considered the spice to add appeal to one’s sex life, then the crazy, mediaeval, illogical Catholic Church says artificial methods of contraception are harmful to marriage and not permissible by Christians.

      Otherwise, you get the modern, sensible, enlightened view of reasonable Christian denominations, such as the speech about keeping abortion safe and legal given by the Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, current President of the Episcopal Divinity School, back in 2007 to a Health Clinic which ends:

      “And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

      “These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.”

      Yes – much more appealing and sensible! Kill your child in utero because it’s an inconvenience to your plans and that’s not wrong in any sense, it’s a blessing!

    • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

      The Church of Rome does not oppose contraception per se, only artificial contraception.

      There is a problem of terminology here. The Catholic Church does not approve contraception per se because natural family planning IS NOT contraception. In natural family planning, the only means of limiting the possibility of childbearing is periodic abstinence. When performed, the marital act is done according to its nature and entirely, thus there is always the possibility that conception will happen. So it is pro-conception and cannot in any way be assimilated to contraception (‘contra-conception’) as all other methods that use chemical or mechanical means, or whatever, to actively prevent conception.

  9. Comment by Tim:

    My wife and I have practiced NFP now for nearly thirty years. The differences between contraception and NFP are huge in actual practice. The principal difference lies in self-control. All NFP does is educate the couple to understand the natural fertility cycle of the woman. There are periods within each cycle when it is possible for her to become pregnant and periods when she is very unlikely to become pregnant.

    The Catholic Church teaches that if a couple does not want to become pregnant for “grave reasons” it is permissible for the couple to abstain from sex during her fertility. This means doing what the couple and everyone else does 99.9% of every day and night, that is, *not have sex*. I am willing to bet that everyone reading this is doing exactly that same thing right now, (if not they have some serious issues). It is what they do at work, during commutes, while eating, and a host of other situations, (perhaps excluding those in the sex trades).

    Contraception is having sex but making sure that no child occurs as a result, i.e. no self-control. In the case of my wife and I, this may mean a period of 7 days of self control. I really pity anyone who is unable to control themselves for such a short period. In addition, we use this as a time of “romancing” to increase the desire for when the time of waiting is over. It can be very much like a honeymoon every month.

    As for what is the definition of “grave reason to put off having children”, it is understood generally for reasons of health, spacing, and financial concerns. My own opinion on how to tell if it is “grave”: If you cannot control yourself during fertility, you either do not truly have a grave reason or you are some kind of uncaring cad whose desire for sex trumps putting your spouse or family in jeopardy.

    Finally, the pill has side effects that can interfere with becoming pregnant should you desire to do so. The insert that comes with the pill states generally that the couple should wait for 6 months after getting off the pill before attempting to become pregnant. I am unsure how this is accomplished if 7 days is too long. After long usage it can become very difficult to become pregnant as the fertility clinics of today attest. It can affect a woman’s libido as well as her ability to enjoy the act at all. There is also the reality of “break through pregnancies” when a woman becomes pregnant while on the pill, the “unwanted pregnancy”.

    With NFP, the couple can “take a chance” if the woman’s fertility is in a gray area, but the couple knows ahead of time of the chances. The result is there are unplanned but no surprise pregnancies. In addition, when using NFP there is no artificial hormonal residue in the woman’s body ever. If the decision is made to have a child there obviously is no waiting period.

    A decision can be reversed at the cock of an eyebrow.

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      Hear, hear.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “If you cannot control yourself during fertility, you either do not truly have a grave reason or you are some kind of uncaring cad whose desire for sex trumps putting your spouse or family in jeopardy.”

      Hear, hear. Notice that this sentence chops at the root of the assumptions of our modern infanticide-addicted culture: it says that a selfish sexual impulse is not more important than everything and anything else in life.

  10. Comment by Malcolm Smith:

    The people you call the Church of Rome are the ones who wrote the Bible.
    No they’re not. The Old Testament was written by a large number of other people. The New Testament was written by the apostles and their associates. But this demonstrates why we were talking at contretemps in any earlier post. You are unconsciously assuming what what was under contention. You assume that the early church is exactly the same as the church headed by the Pope today, and no doctrinal changes have crept in in the interval. The Eastern Orthodox Church makes the same class for itself. Neither is self-evident to the rest of us.
    In response to deiseach, I do have hypertension. I try to control my salt. But my doctor also prescribes medication. With respect to contraception, I can easily make the distinction between using it in order to live a life of promiscuity and debauchery, and a married couple using it for the same reasons a Catholic couple would use the rhythm method. I cannot for the life of me see why “natural” birth control is legitimate under these circumstances, but “artificial” birth control isn’t.
    I can’t see why we need to bring up Katherine Ragsdale’s opinion. She is obviously a crank and a heretic.

    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

      Compiled, then.

      But, since undoubtedly the mound of sand we call Protestantism has been around less time than the Catholic Church, either the Catholic Church or remarkably similar-in-content Eastern Orthodox has the presumptive case for being the Church founded by the apostles against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail. Protestantism, I believe, bears the burden of proof for showing both the Church with a Pope and the Communion of Patriarchs are not what simple history would otherwise show them to be. I submit that “Catholic Apostasy” is as central to Protestantism as the Eucharist is to Catholics. The Irish in me says: Chew on that.

      Since you have the burden of proof, let us consider what the earliest case against the Catholic Church has been: Luther took scandal as evidence of apostasy. But these are as different as weakness and hypocrisy: scandal is grave public sin leading others into sin; apostasy is officially teaching that this is a-OK. Despite that gloss, the initial force of this argument proposed the sad state of affairs that our only option was sola scriptura, to self-correct a purportedly apostate ecclesiology. Sola scriptura, which you above invoke, is necessary for every other anti-Catholic argument.

      Scandal does not necessitate apostasy; to wit, indulgences for almsgiving, if spun for Protestantism, is at best and at the point of principle only muddy, though at the point of practice certainly abused. However, if we apply this case for apostasy to the Legion of Magesteria called Protestantism, we see a far clearer case for unquestionable apostasy which cannot be sadly admitted as scandal. What small voices in this Legion who keep the faith on, say, divorce — an utterly clear condemnation straight from the mouth of Christ — can be heard over the cacophony of dissent against God we hear from the official voices of Protestantism? To wit, if there was ever a reason to break from the Church with a Pope, there is far, far more reason to break back from the Anarchism of Many Popes.

      As your historical argument unquestionably weighs more heavily against you than we, your burden of proof becomes far more burdensome. You must simultaneously balance justifying the original claim against Catholics while maintaining your own innocence at the same standard, despite the two-edged blade harming you more than us. I submit that your task is to grip that argument tightly, but not too tightly, because otherwise you cannot honestly maintain what I call a faulty Biblical hermeneutic. Moreover, without the sola scriptura shibboleth, The Tradition of Men’s afactual, ahistorical and just plain bad arguments against the Church fail.

      Consider that the theory from pietic impulse called Protestantism is false, that the Church is a hospital for sinners just as Israel is a faithless bride, and that when Christ said the gates of Hell shall not prevail against his Church, the Logos Incarnate spoke plain truth.

    • Comment by Tim:

      Malcolm Smith wrote: “I cannot for the life of me see why “natural” birth control is legitimate under these circumstances, but “artificial” birth control isn’t.”

      First of all NFP is not the rhythm method. It is vastly more informed.

      I already commented on the difference between ABC and NFP. In brief, a couple practicing NFP does nothing and avoids becoming pregnant. A couple practicing ABC has sex using barriers or chemical intervention with the intention of not becoming pregnant and hopes to not become pregnant, using the organs specifically designed by God to make a woman pregnant doing an act designed by God to result in pregnancy. I do not see how these two can be viewed as morally equivalent.

      If this is not clear, I am willing to expound further. I personally came from the contraceptive mentality. I expected my wife to use birth control after we married. She had other ideas. Her reservations so long ago are being affirmed by the research now beginning to come out about the negative effects of long term pill usage.

      • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

        I think our opponents have an important problem of definition. In my post above, I pointed out that NFP is not contraception, but it should be added that it is not “birth control” either. NFP is as efficient as most ABC methods to “limit” conception and has no adverse effects whatsoever, but the possibility of childbearing remains present and accepted in every sexual union of the couple. Control implies that unplanned childbearing is to be dealt with like a failing.

    • Comment by CPE Gaebler:

      “You assume that the early church is exactly the same as the church headed by the Pope today, and no doctrinal changes have crept in in the interval.”

      Are you implying that doctrinal changes would make it not the same church? The laws of the United States of America have changed over the years, but we still recognize it as the same institution.

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        I think he must conflate change with contradiction. Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine would be most helpful reading.

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” Isaiah 24:5

        Changes in doctrine would indeed make it to be not the same thing it once was.

        • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

          Friend, prefer context to prooftext, for your text blushes with pretext. You’ll find that Matt 16:18 stands for itself, and is not a contradiction to, what surrounds it on all sides, while your Isaiah jeremiad is a fish out of water.

          Change is a word I used to mean development and growth, while it is used there in Isaiah to mean apostasy which immediately causes the end times. Funny, too that a Mormon accuses the Catholic Church of changing its doctrine. Gentlemen of the Deseret guard, fire first!

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            Obviously, we are reading the same scriptures so differently such that no appeal to scripture will resolve our differences.

            “Funny, too that a Mormon accuses the Catholic Church of changing its doctrine.”

            Perhaps you would like to explain this.

            • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

              Even before today, I think we’ve determined that you and I read LDS history so differently that no appeal to history will settle our differences.

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                You should probably have left out the LDS part to be accurate:

                I think we’ve determined that you and I read history so differently that no appeal to history will settle our differences.

                • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                  Ugh. We already stated our cases. We can agree on this much: At least one of us is wrong.

                  I believe in the only Church which can credibly claim to have founders at the time of Christ, that one who promised his Church would last to the end of time, which singlehandedly advanced the best innovations of the world, which singlehandedly caught the West when Rome fell and advanced them to the front of the class. Fundamentally, though, I’m sticking with the Church of at least a Presumptive Case, which, looking Jewish, believes the author of all things has good enough timing to choose a time when he may keep his promises. (I believe God keeps His promises.)

                  Yes, there are Copts and Orthodox, but they do not process around as Pastor Bob’s snakehandlers, and they do not teach anything like what the Mormon faith teaches.

                  Knowing only two things about the Mormon faith — the Great Apostasy and that it is an unprovable claim — is enough to condemn it in my eyes.

            • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

              It was an improper jab, and out of order. Not because it was untrue, but because I lack the energy to keep on arguing, the desire to back it up, and my knowledge admittedly comes by way of too-vague impressions of LDS history from non-Mormon sources. I apologize.

              (I don’t use Mormon sources because I don’t trust them. Mormon Ratzingers and Augustines and Chestertons and Tolkiens are rare enough, if they exist at all, and I’ve never known a Mormon author better than Orson Scott Card or more popular than Stephanie Meyers, and the original Battlestar Galactica is no Chronicles of Narnia.)

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                “(I don’t use Mormon sources because I don’t trust them.”

                Which tells me I shouldn’t use Catholic sources because they are untrustworthy.

                “Mormon Ratzingers and Augustines and Chestertons and Tolkiens are rare enough, if they exist at all, and I’ve never known a Mormon author better than Orson Scott Card or more popular than Stephanie Meyers, and the original Battlestar Galactica is no Chronicles of Narnia.”

                I don’t think you are aware of how extraordinarily prevalent LDS authors are in SF/F. I will leave alone the authors dealing with religion as if I listed them there is almost zero chance you would read them. This is a list of SF/F authors with their books that are LDS, I am sure you can find books that you already like on it (and I doubt the list is comprehensive). Also, more popular than Stephanie Meyers would be only J.K. Rowling so I don’t know what that is supposed to mean.

                • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                  It is not a point about quantity, because we certainly have that too and far more so, but quality. More specifically, credibility. As a matter of objective quality and not subjective taste I do not find even Orson Scott Card, a perfectly cromulent author, even equal to Stephen King much less Graham Greene much less G.K. Chesterton, even though, if we leave out Chesterton, I enjoy all of them equally.

                  I do not find Mormon sources credible and am not capable of sorting out the truth from the deductions from faith. If you did not find Catholic sources credible, and had a similar reason, you would and should be in a similar situation.

                  By the way, what else did Sarapion believe?

                  • Comment by John Hutchins:

                    “By the way, what else did Sarapion believe?”

                    Based on Cassian’s Conferences I know very little of what Sarapion believed except that Cassian considered it to be very simple in nature. Perhaps he believed things similar to the others that Cassian talks about, however I don’t think that is a given. Perhaps you would like to explain whatever objectionable thing you think that Sarapion believed.

                    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                      Just the thought that, barring evidence to the contrary, we must assume that he believed what all Catholics at the time believed. Surely, if there were evidence he believed tenets of the Mormon faith that would have been the first thing you said about him.

            • Comment by lotdw:

              “Obviously, we are reading the same scriptures so differently such that no appeal to scripture will resolve our differences.”

              I do not think this is correctly put. When we had our discussion about the “petra” passage, you said the same thing about it. But there is such a thing as a correct interpretation of a text, and proper interpretive techniques can be transmitted, and one’s views can be changed if one is willing to accept better interpretations and interpretive frameworks. Your tactic looks dangerously like a fancier wording of the postmodernist, post-truth dictum “well that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

              I also find it odd that you reject appeal to scripture when half of your posts include a link to something from D&C or other Mormon texts. Why would that be any more successful?

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                But there is such a thing as a correct interpretation of a text

                Completely agree that there is a correct interpretation of scriptures.

                and proper interpretive techniques can be transmitted, and one’s views can be changed if one is willing to accept better interpretations and interpretive frameworks.

                Proper interpretation comes from the Lord. The Jews at the time of Christ had immense amount of experience in interpreting the texts of the Old Testament, which they thought was through proper interpretive techniques. They were drastically wrong.

                The scriptures themselves seem to say that we should rely on the Holy Spirit for the interpretation of scripture, not on mans wisdom. But in saying that we are back at the point of if the Catholics have the Holy Spirit then their interpretation is correct and if the LDS have it then my interpretation is correct.

                Obviously, there are some things in scripture that are very plain in their meaning that everyone agrees on what they are saying to do. The interpretation of scripture could be resolved if there were such plainly laid out passages for the areas of disagreement. If only there was another record that was saying the same gospel but from a different people and in different words so that together the meanings of the difficult parts became clear. If only there were living prophets so that when there was a disagreement about the nature of God or a passage of scripture the prophet could go to God and receive further knowledge on the true points of doctrine.

                • Comment by lotdw:

                  If they say “rock” has nothing to do with Peter, then I mistrust those interpreters and their access to truth I cannot access. If you say that the Holy Spirit alone can interpret Scripture correctly, then you should have no need to argue (or think). If God contradicts himself, then that is not God.

                  If only there were a Magisterium, to say sensible things…

                  (Nor were the Jews wrong, which should be blatantly obvious from the words of Jesus Himself.)

                  • Comment by John Hutchins:

                    Where do you see God contradicting Himself?

                    All scripture is useful for teaching.

                    Peter means rock so your complaint is contradictory. If you are saying that any interpretation that does not have Peter be the Rock of Israel, the only sure foundation on which we may build, then I am sorry you don’t accept the words of Peter, Paul, and many others from the Old Testament.

                    The Scribes and Pharisees said many things that people found sensible. They were also condemned repeatedly by Christ for misinterpreting the Law of Moses, for teaching the commandments of men, for ignoring parts of the scriptures, for not seeing that the scriptures testified of Him, and so forth. I don’t see how you can say that the interpretive techniques of the Scribes and Pharisees, the Magestarium of their day, was not wrong; perhaps you would like to explain?

                    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                      Mr. Hutchins:

                      You have before, if memory serves, denounced the application of compatible Greek philosophy to Christianity as a sign of paganism and syncretism, presumably as evidence for this Apostasy hypothesis. Since you admit to the truth that the Apostles were inspired and were not themselves apostate, please explain, in context, the way Paul begins his sermon at the Areopagus.

                      Also, please demonstrate that “the Unknown God,” the literal Supreme Being the philosophers honored, is incompatible with the God of the Hebrews, whose name is translated I AM THAT I AM.

                    • Comment by lotdw:

                      “Where do you see God contradicting Himself?”

                      In some of the explanations you have given me for how your church interprets certain parts of scripture. If that is God talking, then he contradicts himself.

                      “Peter means rock so your complaint is contradictory. If you are saying that any interpretation that does not have Peter be the Rock of Israel, the only sure foundation on which we may build, then I am sorry you don’t accept the words of Peter, Paul, and many others from the Old Testament.”

                      If you recall our earlier conversation, I did not say that the scripture mandated Papal Supremacy. What I did say was that your own interpretation made no sense given the words of Scripture.

                      “The Scribes and Pharisees said many things that people found sensible. They were also condemned repeatedly by Christ for misinterpreting the Law of Moses, for teaching the commandments of men, for ignoring parts of the scriptures, for not seeing that the scriptures testified of Him, and so forth. I don’t see how you can say that the interpretive techniques of the Scribes and Pharisees, the Magestarium of their day, was not wrong; perhaps you would like to explain?”

                      The Jews are not the same as the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was a Jew and an observant one; so were the disciples. Those Jews who followed the Old Testament correctly, before experiencing Christ, were not wrong. After all, by what right could Christ be angry with the Pharisees for misinterpreting or ignoring scripture unless He thought they should have understood it, without His aid or that of the New Testament? Nor did Christ change any of the proper Jewish explanations of scripture. He fulfilled prophecies, certainly; but anyone who had read scripture properly knew that He fulfilled those prophecies. And so on.

                      So when you tell me things about Scripture that I can see from the basis of the text are clearly erroneous, I cannot agree, and it does not matter if you have all the prophets and new scriptures in the world. They still have to be continuous with what came before and was accepted as authoritative and indeed divine.

                      I hope that I do not seem terribly rude in this post. I have learned a good deal about Mormonism from you and have found it interesting. I just do not find some of your approaches to evangelism to be effective, for the reasons I have given in this and my prior posts.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Lotdw, you are going to have to give examples of contradictions, rather than claim that they are there.

                      In reference to Peter/Rock you might want to look at 1 Corinthians 10:4.

                      The coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospels fulfills prophecy and anyone reading the scriptures properly would see that.

                      Jesus took passages of scripture that were interpreted to be about a conquering hero that would liberate the Jewish people from physical oppression and changed them to be about liberating the captives of sin and death, seems to me to be a major revision in the proper explanations of the scriptures as understood by the equivalent to the Magisterium of the Jews.

                      The Ubiquitous,

                      The idea that there is a supreme deity that made the heavens and the earth and is not an idol and that we are the offspring of is completely compatible with the God of the Hebrews. Ignorant of the nature (ie. not knowing the nature) of the supreme being the Greeks were still worshiping the supreme God of Heaven. He is not a formless sphere or any of the other theories about his nature, but they were ignorant of the nature of God so could not be faulted for getting such details wrong.

                    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                      Good. I agree. In this case, seeing as Catholicism did not syncretize on those problematic issues you mention, I would kindly ask that in the future you refrain from mentioning a link to Greek Philosophy when trying to prove the illegitimacy of Catholic credibility or, for that matter, the apostasy of the Church of the Apostles we both agree existed on at least one point.

                      (For clarification, I further take the position that the Church of the Apostles is not just a title but a mark of the Catholic Church, and it is this matter of identity that you and I definitionally diverge.)

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Apparently you misunderstood me. The Apostle Paul knew of Christ and God, he had true information about the nature of the God that created the Heavens and the Earth. The Philosophers had gotten the existence of God correct but all the details as to the nature of God wrong.

                      It would be like going to the Mayan and using the knowledge of the existence of the Framer and the Shaper to teach them of God and Jesus Christ. There are pieces of true knowledge there but one would not then take the ideas of the Mayan on the Framer and the Shaper and apply those ideas that did not already fit to God and Jesus Christ to Them. Or going to the Aztec and explaining that we too believe in the sacrifice by God to bring light to those that sit in darkness. Likewise, having discovered the existence of God one should not then apply the theories about God of the philosophers to the True and Living God if they are not already part of the knowledge of God.

                    • Comment by lotdw:

                      The question of philosophy vs. Christianity puts me in mind of Augustine’s Confessions (397/98 AD):

                      3 – VI.10 Thus I fell among men, delirious in their pride, carnal and voluble, whose mouths were the snares of the devil–a trap made out of a mixture of the syllables of thy name and the names of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Paraclete.[65] These names were never out of their mouths, but only as sound and the clatter of tongues, for their heart was empty of truth. Still they cried, “Truth, Truth,” and were forever speaking the word to me. But the thing itself was not in them. Indeed, they spoke falsely not only of thee–who truly art the Truth–but also about the basic elements of this world, thy creation. And, indeed, I should have passed by the philosophers themselves even when they were speaking truth concerning thy creatures, for the sake of thy love, O Highest Good, and my Father, O Beauty of all things beautiful.

                      7 – VII.13 And first of all, willing to show me how thou dost “resist the proud, but give grace to the humble,”[184] and how mercifully thou hast made known to men the way of humility in that thy Word “was made flesh and dwelt among men,”[185] thou didst procure for me, through one inflated with the most monstrous pride, certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin.[186] And therein I found, not indeed in the same words, but to the selfsame effect, enforced by many and various reasons that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” That which was made by him is “life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Furthermore, I read that the soul of man, though it “bears witness to the light,” yet itself “is not the light; but the Word of God, being God, is that true light that lights every man who comes into the world.” And further, that “he was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”[187] But that “he came unto his own, and his own received him not. And as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name”[188]–this I did not find there.

                      14. Similarly, I read there that God the Word was born “not of flesh nor of blood, nor of the will of man, nor the will of the flesh, but of God.”[189] But, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”[190]–I found this nowhere there. And I discovered in those books, expressed in many and various ways, that “the Son was in the form of God and thought it not robbery to be equal in God,”[191] for he was naturally of the same substance. But, that “he emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him” from the dead, “and given him a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”[192]–this those books have not. I read further in them that before all times and beyond all times, thy only Son remaineth unchangeably coeternal with thee, and that of his fullness all souls receive that they may be blessed, and that by participation in that wisdom which abides in them, they are renewed that they may be wise. But, that “in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” and that thou “sparedst not thy only Son, but deliveredst him up for us all”[193]–this is not there. “For thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”[194]; that they “that labor and are heavy laden” might “come unto him and he might refresh them” because he is “meek and lowly in heart.”[195] “The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way; beholding our lowliness and our trouble and forgiving all our sins.”[196] But those who strut in the high boots of what they deem to be superior knowledge will not hear Him who says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.”[197] Thus, though they know God, yet they do not glorify him as God, nor are they thankful. Therefore, they “become vain in their imaginations; their foolish heart is darkened, and professing themselves to be wise they become fools.”[198]

                      15. And, moreover, I also read there how “they changed the glory of thy incorruptible nature into idols and various images–into an image made like corruptible man and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things”[199]: namely, into that Egyptian food[200] for which Esau lost his birthright; so that thy first-born people worshiped the head of a four-footed beast instead of thee, turning back in their hearts toward Egypt and prostrating thy image (their own soul) before the image of an ox that eats grass. These things I found there, but I fed not on them. For it pleased thee, O Lord, to take away the reproach of his minority from Jacob, that the elder should serve the younger and thou mightest call the Gentiles, and I had sought strenuously after that gold which thou didst allow thy people to take from Egypt, since wherever it was it was thine.[201] And thou saidst unto the Athenians by the mouth of thy apostle that in thee “we live and move and have our being,” as one of their own poets had said.[202] And truly these books came from there. But I did not set my mind on the idols of Egypt which they fashioned of gold, “changing the truth of God into a lie and worshiping and serving the creature more than the Creator.”[203]

                      From http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/confessions-bod.asp

                      As to your other comments, I do not know what I could say that I have not already said. Apologies.

        • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

          For a better understanding of development of doctrine, I present to you something so rock-solid it ain’t even funny.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      If your version of the Bible contains the Apocalypse of John but not the Apocalypse of Peter, and contains the Acts of the Apostles but not the Shepherd of Hermas, you are reading the Bible that was established in the 3rd Century under Church authority. The Apostles themselves could not have been Protestants since they are the ones who founded the Church that the Protestants broke away from.

      In any case, yes, I am indeed assuming that the Church is what she says she is, and is founded by whom she says she was founded by. The situation with the Eastern Orthodox, Russian, Monophysite, Nestorian and so on is one of schism, not one of doctrinal differences. They have an episcopal structure, a line of descent from the Apostles, belief in the Real Presence, and so on. In any case, the version of the Bible agreed upon by the Church Councils was pretty well established by tradition and then formally established by writ some four or five hundred years before the great East-West schism. Both the Orthodox and the Catholics can point to the Church before that split and correctly say “we”. We were one Church back then. It was orthodox and universal, i.e. catholic.

      Now, if you want to claim that the Church grew corrupt at some point and lost the faith or added irrelevant matters to the dogmas, fine. That is a perfectly honorable stance to take, and if called upon, I am sure you could produce at least some arguments and evidence to back it.

      But to claim that the Bible was written by someone else with no relation to the Church, or has any other authority aside from the imprimatur of the Church is neither logical nor historical. Do you think, like our Mormon friend, that a deluge descended upon the world on the stroke of midnight, AD 201, and that nothing Christ taught, no blessing He granted and no authority nor power He bestowed were passed from Peter or Paul to the immediate disciples of these men?

      Were it not for the Church the writing of the Old Testament would have no more meaning to you than do the Midrashic or Talmudic writings of the Jews, or, for that matter, the tales of the Babylonians.

      You believe the Old Testament because WE, the Universal Apostolic and Catholic Church, under the power of God and by his authority and command, christianized them, gathered them, and spread them.

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        Do you think, like our Mormon friend, that a deluge descended upon the world on the stroke of midnight, AD 201, and that nothing Christ taught, no blessing He granted and no authority nor power He bestowed were passed from Peter or Paul to the immediate disciples of these men?

        That is somewhat closer to what I believe then all the other times.

  11. Comment by Lisieux:

    Perhaps a closer analogy would be that of the bulimic, who overeats in order to have the pleasure of eating and to satisfy the craving, but then goes to the bathroom and makes herself throw up in order to avoid the natural consequences of eating. If one can take away the ugliness of vomiting (which is not in itself desired, but only as a means to an end), it appears to be a reasonably good analogy to contraceptive sex. If one adds in the social aspect of eating, which is obviously important in our culture as a means of bonding, the analogy becomes even closer. The sin (if you accept the idea of sin) or danger (if you don’t) is the separation of the pleasure from its natural end: something most people feel instinctively when it comes to chocolate, but not when it comes to sex. I’m not sure why, since the passion for chocolate is just as fierce as sexual desire :-)

    If there were a drug on the market which would allow all fat and sugar to be excreted (there are already lipase inhibitors around, but they don’t go very far yet), how long would it be until bulimics were regarded as the pioneers of the modern world where everyone is slim, just as now the men who used condoms made of dried sheep gut and the Egyptian ladies who used crocodile dung are today regarded not with aversion (well, perhaps the crocodile dung…) but with pity because their techniques were poor. Lust (in the old sense of any desire) so easily conquers reason.

  12. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Malcolm Smith says:
    (Quoting Mr Wright) “The people you call the Church of Rome are the ones who wrote the Bible.”
    No they’re not.

    You cannot be judge in that matter. You are using the Bible put together by the Catholic Church in the first three centuries. In a literal and historical sense, Catholics did not write the OT but our God and founder (who might be your God also but is certainly not the founder of your sect) is the one who wrote the Bible in its entirety, working through his faithful up to the councils that fixed the Canon of Scripture and all along Church history to preserve its right interpretation.

  13. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Your subargument under point seven proves an instance of teleology. I do not see that it proves a principle. Please respond.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I don’t understand the question. To disprove the statement “there are no final causes in nature” one needs only find a single counterexample.

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        Very good, and thank you. (I misread.)

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        Good sir — for I love old-fashioned, obsequious affectations — what of the objection, basically transhumanist in nature, that a rational animal, having the capacity of choice, is not beholden to natural ends? More specifically, in something I don’t think is quite a syllogism:

        M. Man’s natural end is making tools.

        m. Toolmaking involves frustrating the natural ends of things and making them for other things.

        C. Man’s natural end includes redirecting the natural ends of things towards other purposes.

        If we are to follow our nature, then we are encouraged to redesign our, ahem, tools to do exactly what we want them to do. This is a pun and gloss, but we need some other principle to show that Man, particularly oneself, may not be tool. And, if Man may not be tool, we must also define our terms in such a way which does not lead to the counterargument about using our leg to, say, prop up a table, or some other neutral act which is neither for nor against the natural end of our leg.

        This is all blather, but I react from reflex, not from logic. What is the proper refutation of this absurdly false argument and others like it? What is the principle which prevents an engineer from engineering himself?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Sorry, is this directed at me? I specifically rule as out of bounds any arguments based on puns on the word “nature.” I used the word because the Stoics used it, and I intend it to be understood in the fashion they used it, which I defined.

          You question is basically why, given that mean should do evil, they should refrain from doing evil. The question of what constitutes evil or good, virtue or vice, is the only question where the word “nature” comes into play. When a stoic says some acts are naturally good or bad, he means they are essentially good or bad. For a son to hate his mother is essentially against the essence of the mother-son relationship.

          Not being modern thinkers versed in word games, the Stoics assumed, as do I, that any man seeing a son hate his mother rather than respect her and love her has a perfectly clear notion that this is wrong and bad.

          One need only hear arguments raised to justify filial hatred to realize that they are always urged as exceptions to a general rule, that is, the mere act of arguing that one’s own private vice is excused on the basis of an exception tacitly confirms a general rule.

          This is not to say that there are not imaginable exceptions. A son who hates a mother who slew his father — as Orestes — has at least an argument to raise to excuse him from the general duty of filial love.

          You see, I do not accept the modern assumption that a duty which we all know to be true must prove itself against a skeptic. The skepticism belongs on the other side: the man who wishes to claim that some proposition all men know to be true, and which we have no power not to believe true, is false is the one making the extraordinary claim, and on the one making the extraordinary claim, the burden of proof lies.

          Does that answer your question? Having the ability to become unnatural, that is, evil, is not a point in dispute. All moral codes assume tacitly that morals are imperatives, not descriptive, and tacitly assume that the norms are obvious and that deviation form the norm, if without justification or excuse, is wrong.

          The Stoic position is that the norms are natural, that is, essential to the act being discussed, as we as natural in the sense of not being artificial, manmade, or matters of mere custom or convention.

          While Stoic assumption can be questioned — it is legitimate to ask a Stoic why he believes it — no non-self-impeaching argument so far has been raised against it by any philosopher I’ve read.

          (This is because all philosophical arguments tacitly assume a duty of honesty, that is, that the questions and the answers must be sincerely meant and honestly debated by men willing to put aside personal bias and stare at the truth unblinking. Absent a devotion to honesty, one cannot ask a philosophical question, one can only utter hypocrisym rhetoric, propaganda.)

          Does that answer the question?

          • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

            “Tool” was the pun, not “natural.” (I’m a child, really.)

            My question involves reading up until the point of steps seven and eight and nothing afterward. In the proof so-called that I provided, I say “natural end” and, as I thought you were doing, invoke only telos. I’ll repost and edit the relevant portion:

            M. Man’s telos is toolmaking.
            m. Toolmaking involves frustrating the telos of things for the purpose of invoking a new telos, (i.e. just as a tree branch becomes the shaft of a spear, or a rock of obsidian into a spearpoint, or his naughty bits into, well, spearing his shaft wherever he wants.)
            C. Man’s natural end includes redirecting the telos of things to a different telos than it originally had.

            If I have missed something, and if this is nonsensical, I would appreciate being pointed in the right direction. And, in case it is not clear, I do not believe my argument, but I have heard it and am yet unprepared to fault it. If there is one flaw, please do not stop at that point, for I want to be prepared for as many derivations as I can.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              I simply don’t see where your argument fits into the discussion, sorry. Are you asking why the Stoic philosopher identifies the natural of the act as the touchstone for whether the act is good or bad? I suppose because anything else not actionable: utilitarianism founders on the uncertainty of outcomes. Whether or not a good end results from a bad act or not is up to chance, and so that same thing might be good or bad according to slightly different states of partial human knowledge; on the other hand, the essential nature of the act does not change.

              I am nowhere making the argument that morality is deduced from the final cause of the act. The final cause of the oak tree is to grow; the lumberjack cuts down the tree to use the lumber for some human good that is outside the final cause of the oak. Nothing wrong with that.

              I suppose I simply do not understand your argument. If the telos of man is toolusing, the only way to “frustrate” the telos of man would be to make him no longer a tool-user, perhaps by lobotomy. Of course, and oak tree can frustrate this end by dropping a limb on a lumberjack and killing him.

              I don’t understand the second premise. In what sense is tool-user related to frustrating final causes? One might as well saw tool user is related to frustrating historical causes or formal causes.

              The conclusion seems true in a limited sense. Man certain changes elements in his environment, drains swamps, clears forests, kills vermin and pests, domesticates livestock, and substitutes the Hobbesian war of All Again All for the conditions of peace and civilization.

              My only comment is that man can, at his option, do this either in a moral fashion or an immoral, depending on the ends at which he aims and the means selected to achieve those ends.

              Let me state my point again, if it is unclear. A moral standard is either objective or it is not a moral standard. The nature of human relations, as of parent to child or brother to brother or teacher to student or subject to lord or citizen to laws has an essential character to it which imposes moral obligations on those roles independently of the consent of those in those roles. The objection that there are no natural duties is most commonly met in the modern age with the argument, or, rather, the assumption, that no Telos exists in nature. The argument is easily refuting by finding abundant examples, including the example that the argument that no Telos exists in nature has a Telos and therefore contradicts itself. Absent that objection, there is no reason to question the rightness of the proposition that the moral code of man is sufficiently well known from the conscience of every man of healthy conscience to admit of no doubt.

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                What is Step 7 reliant on but teleology?

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                Re-expressing the same argument, for we are talking across each other:

                There are duties, and we have a Duty Itself to follow them, but why may we not break out of even this Duty to shape it? Why is man subject to even the highest Duty? We observe as you did in step 7 that teleology exists in nature and for all other forms of life, but we also observe that man is quite above these other things. Why is man not also above Duty Itself? Man, unlike animals and plants and the lifeless things, is a rational animal with not just the capacity but the final cause of consciously shaping nature to his desires. Why must man be subject to anything? Why must he be only shaped and not be Shaper?

                As I think about it, I think this objection is basically that of rejecting induction.

                My frustration: I find my objection to this argument as obvious as a punch in the gut but as inexpressible as a cloud and as inevitable as gravity, in part because I restrict myself from approaching Christian doctrine, which by design has no explicit place in your argument. The more I articulate this argument of insanity, the more it becomes the one and only temptation of Satan: Ye shall be as gods.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  I am merely left in confusion as to what you are saying. No doubt the fault is mine, but you will have to go a little slow, and say what you mean in a more step by step fashion.

                  “There are duties, and we have a Duty Itself to follow them, but why may we not break out of even this Duty to shape it?”

                  Forgive me for being slow, but this seems to me to be a nonsense question. If there is an English alphabet, why may we not write English words not made of English letters? The answer is that words or expressions in Cyrillic or Hieroglyphs or Cuneiform are not English words.

                  Likewise, here: if duties exist, to violate them is a violation of duty. Men have the power to do so, but we cannot arrogate to ourselves the right to do so.

                  “Why is man subject to even the highest Duty?”

                  Because if man is not subject to it, it is not a Duty but a suggestion. What does high or low matter?

                  “We observe as you did in step 7 that teleology exists in nature and for all other forms of life, but we also observe that man is quite above these other things.”

                  What? Final cause is a type of causation, an answer to the question “why is this event happening?” — we cannot be “above” a type of causation, any more than we can create ex nihilo, neither worlds nor loaves of bread.

                  Everything has a cause. Actions directed toward a goal are “caused” by the goal toward which they are directed. The unique feature of mankind is that we can decide between various ends and goals.

                  But we cannot make goals unrelated to ends out of nothing. We are not above cause and effect. We are not independent of logic and reason.

                  “Man, unlike animals and plants and the lifeless things, is a rational animal with not just the capacity but the final cause of consciously shaping nature to his desires. Why must man be subject to anything?”

                  I don’t understand the connection between these two sentences. They seem to be random. Since man is a rational animal, why can he not make twice two equal five? Why must he be bound to twice two being four? Why can he not make evil good and good evil? Why can’t he make his conscience shut up?

                  I do not see how being a rational animal makes you immune to reason — if anything, being a rational animal makes you beholden to reason. The only thing we can do is lie, that is, use words without meaning to fool ourselves into thinking reality is unreal and unreality is real. See, for example, the elliptical way our friendly neighborhood materialists define their terms, using words carefully etiolated of meaning. (and these freedom to pervert the meaning of words is not freethinking: it is the very chain of bondage. It is Newspeak.)

                  “Why must he be only shaped and not be Shaper?”

                  My guess: Because it is totally impossible and absolutely illogical? Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing happens for no reason. No effect is its own cause. No man is his own father.

                  “The more I articulate this argument of insanity, the more it becomes the one and only temptation of Satan: Ye shall be as gods.”

                  That is my impression as well. But even by the artificial constraints of sticking to a purely atheist and secular logic in this argument, the non-Gnostic, non-Leftist atheist, the man of pure reason, can reason that gods do not exist any more than Santa Clause or Tinkerbell — why should I want to be as Tinkerbell? The expression is a null set.

                  The desire to be free of cause and effect and final cause is an impossible desire. By Stoic logic, the reason must govern that desire and put it aside, or else happiness will be thwarted.

                  • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                    I think I’ve boiled it down: That it is true everywhere in the world does not mean it is true for us. By this argument, Man is the One Exception.

                    This is basically the problem of induction. It is about saying, with an absurd seriousness, that even if everything else in the world follows certain rules — Narnia’s Deep Magic — it does not necessarily follow that Man must follow these rules.

                    It is also relativism. You define praiseworthy as “being aligned with truth” in step three or so, but this argument I wore requires forging one’s own truth, as if truth were a lesser thing than man that man could form.

                    It is also pride and sin and the fall and the eternal temptation, not just to be as gods but to be as God. It is having such a sense of one’s own worth that is no limit to what we can bite off, for we can chew anything.

                    As a Christian, I reject these points, but I may not interject doctrine. How would a stoic reject them? Is it simply by believing truth exists, and is unalterable?

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      The word “truth” by definition cannot refer to something humans “forge” — nor can it refer to a private property, something that is my own, private and not public.

                      You have not yet articulated the premise on which all these arguments rest, and I, for one, cannot imagine what it can be. Nietzsche, that mountebank, had a similar problem: in order to say something nonsensical, he would resort to a metaphor, speaking of the superman as being “beyond” Good and Evil, as if Good and Evil were in Calais, and the Superman’s moral code was a mile to the West, somewhere in the English Channel.

                      Stoics, being from before Nietzsche, used logic rather than metaphor for their logic. Man cannot forge his own truth in the same way and for the same reason a man cannot be his own father. The things about a person a man can change include that which is in his power: assent, impulse, desire. The things about the universe a man cannot change include that with is outside his power: his physique, his wealth, his reputation, his dignities, and everything under the control of his fortune.

                      Modern philosophy consists of pretense, a make-believe, that we can (somehow) control things we cannot control, such as the nature of reality or the nature of truth. Nothing is more obviously nonsensical and more blatantly false. Stand under the noonday sun and convince yourself that it is midnight. You cannot do it: the attempt leads to insanity. Stab an innocent child to death for cigarette money and convince yourself that it is right and just. You cannot do it: the attempt leads to the moral disease called sociopathy or moral relativism. You cannot make “A is A” a false statement: attempt leads to the modern totalitarian political disease ironically called Liberalism (which, by no coincidence, grows out of Nietzscheanism.)

                      I am not saying you can do these things and ought not: I am saying no human has the power. Nietzsche and the moral relativists merely play pretend that they have done something no one can do and no one can imagine: erect a new moral code out of nothing.

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                Please respond to each of the two queries separately, because I must have seriously misunderstood teleology as invoking telos. This must be a critical error in my reading comprehension if those paragraphs are meant as a sidebar. I am completely baffled. Mr. Gaebler, if you could intervene? I think you’re understanding what I’m getting at.

                Thank you again for your patience. Sometimes I feel like, to paraphrase “A Picture of Tuesday” by Chesterton, “the great test and trial of true Christian philosophy.”

            • Comment by CPE Gaebler:

              I’d like to note that to the Christian, the final end of Man is not “toolusing” but to exercise Dominion over creation. Taking pieces of wood and metal and making a hoe to till the ground to produce crops is an exercise of dominion. Vice, specifically putting various organs in places they weren’t meant to go to obtain temporary pleasure, is not an exercise of dominion over the created order but an abuse of it.

              Also, I have to wonder where they got the idea that the purpose of Man is tool-using. It is only one of the functions of Man, as it is also a function of chimps and crows. But the highest and most unique feature of Mankind is that humans are rational creatures. This is a bit more important than our function as tool-users.

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                Oh, yes — but man’s dominion over things is limited by Christian doctrine. Without this, we are left with man to seize dominion over Althings. What principle can a non-Christian have against this attempt?

                • Comment by CPE Gaebler:

                  The more I think about the argument, the more I find that my arguments against it echo Mr. Wright’s responses. Perhaps he understands it well enough, which is to say, understands that it is nonsensical.

                  As originally stated, it is an attempt to generalize from the fact that humans make tools to saying that humans can frustrate Nature in any way we choose. In order to do so, it relies on a grotesquely blatant fallacy. Toolmaking, which may be said to be an EXAMPLE of “frustrating the natural ends of things” (although I am not certain that it always does so – does carrying something hot on a flat rock frustrate the natural ends of the rock?) is not DEFINED AS frustrating the natural ends of things! (Generally, “toolmaking” requires that one be obtaining some sort of mechanical advantage, as a chimp uses a stick to transport termites to the mouth while keeping them far enough away to avoid being bitten, or a human slices off a branch to use as a spit to keep the game out of the fire – but I digress.)

                  In short: The argument as you originally stated it is as absurd as “Dogs bark, a dog is a mammal, therefore mammals bark.”

                  Beyond that, I must object to the idea that the nature of Man is to overthrow Nature. As mentioned, does this include overthrowing this very principle? That is absurd.

                  Beyond this, it is 2:30 AM and my brain is running out of juice; I will attempt to ponder it more tomorrow. I am currently mulling over a potential revision of the argument wherein someone could note that our capability as rational creatures means we can reshape Nature to suit our desires, thus we can frustrate Nature with contraception, or reshape our own nature so that vice is not vice… right now I have nothing to offer, other than that: My responses to your two inquiries start to merge here; one reason we cannot engineer ourselves is that our knowledge of ourselves is flawed, and thus we cannot do more than dream about reshaping our nature. For those who dream of a day when we can alter our brain-patterns so that conscience and jealousy no longer prevent us from whatever sexual license we desire, I submit that not all science fiction is going to come true. For those who think we already can do so through the sheer act of willing it to be so, I have nothing to offer to one so benighted.

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                Since you seem to understand what I’m getting at, could you perhaps translate to Mr. Wright? It’s all Greek to me.

          • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

            Also, what is the principle which prevents an engineer from engineering himself?

            • Comment by CPE Gaebler:

              If a blind man leads a blind man, they both fall into a pit. How much more doomed is the blind man leading himself?

              • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                I think I’ve figured out the cheat of the argument, that that the armor starts to chafe: It is merely the problem of induction. Yes, a blind man may lead a blind man into a pit, but he may not. If nine times out of ten a blind men is doomed for leading himself, that means in one glorious time out of ten he is not!

                This is trying the same thing again, expecting different results, and is an ungrounded hope. It is a perverse optimism which never questions its premises. To wit, it is insanity.

                • Comment by CPE Gaebler:

                  It is insane, yes. But such an insane idea arises because the faculty of reason is perverted to justify a desire that one already has. One has the desire to use contraception or commit adultery, is faced with the knowledge that it’s a bad idea, and then must convince themselves that it isn’t a bad idea in THEIR case.

                  That, and, I think, some think that any difficulties which are a matter of psychology can be overturned by a sheer act of will. My sense of jealousy tells me that I will be in pain when my many paramours show affection to their other lovers? Eh, I can just ignore it indefinitely, no problem!

                  The fact is, our knowledge of our current state is defective, and we lack sufficient means to effectively rework ourselves even if we DID know how to use such a power.

  14. Comment by David_Ellis:

    What stuck me most in reading this essay is how focused on abstractions it was in deciding moral questions. How distant the line of reasoning is from the messy world of actual human experience. It is not until rather late in the essay that he begins to talk in any substantial way about the real world consequences of one’s policy on contraception:


    This generation and the one immediately past has abandoned those laws and those
    informal sanctions, and the social pathologies that have resulted are too
    obvious and too many to bear repeating here, but juvenile delinquency, the rise
    of crimes committed for no purpose whatever, and a culture of multicultural
    self loathing which seeks as quickly as possible to obliterate Western
    civilization, a cultural where drug addiction and torture-porn at movies and
    porn in every home is the norm, are partly or wholly the effect of the rejection
    of chastity and matrimony in favor of vice and isolation and free love.

    Unfortunately, this is simply stated as a bald assertion with no evidence marshalled to support the claim. I’m reminded of my conservative Baptist aunt who attributed all the social ills since the 1960’s to the end of school led prayer….as if that were the only thing about society that had changed in the sixties. One could as easily, and equally unreasonably, have attributed it to the end of segregation.

    Additionally, like Wright, she failed to notice that many indicators of social well-being have improved significantly since that time. But why should one let empirical facts interfere with the attribution of all social ills to those things one disapproves of?

    • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

      “I’m reminded of my conservative Baptist aunt who attributed all the social ills since the 1960′s to the end of school led prayer….as if that were the only thing about society that had changed in the sixties.”
      Your aunt was in the right more than you think, maybe more than she thought herself. The prohibition, or attempt thereof, of prayer and traditional religious signs in public institutions is the most obvious sign of secularization, an avowed purpose of agnostics and atheists in the line of Enlightenment philosophy. I mean the French Enlightenment, that made its way through its heirs, English and American Enlightenment, which were milder than the original until the 1960s. I speak from experience: in Quebec we had practically no Enlightenment influence until the 1960s and it had here the same rapid effect than the French Revolution, minus the blood bath.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I suppose you are talking about the engel vs. vitale case? Yet your response didn’t bolster his aunt’s case at all. Merely describing it as secularization proves nothing. Without David Barton’s retarded bar graph argument, can you state what the causal chain is?

        Committing post hoc ergo proctor hoc is a fallacy not an argument, well, not a valid one. It wouldn’t even be an accurate description since we were inarguably in decline before this.

        Although I think these lawsuits have reached reductio ad absurdum (since I am spouting latin) heights such as busy bodies suing to get Christmas mangers removed from a piece of public property. Offended? Put a giant dradle out there as well. How about a jolly St. Nick? I think a lot of that started from that disgusting O’Hair woman. I mean, really? Astronauts shouldn’t pray? With that job? Pray away, you’re not selling religion, you are explorer heroes!

        Regardless, I have to find that prayer in public schools is a no no. But, but, but, I am against public schools. The government has no more business in the education business than it has in the promoting a religion business. Additionally, the government has no business telling a private school (Catholic for instance) whether or not it can have prayer, since it is a private transaction of the parent and the institution selling education and moral teaching. The beast in the room isn’t the banishment of prayer in public schools. It is public schools themselves. Imagine controlling the development of the majority of minds in a country. Now imagine that control gets turned against the development of thinking (and the teaching of relativism, beastiality etc) and into the process of social adjustment. You don’t have to imagine it.

        By removing education from the market, one removes competition and one removes the power of choice over their own children’s education. Including whether or not their children will get any moral education – or its exact opposite. And, although I haven’t looked into it, I would be willing to bet an arm that the existence of public schools makes the existence of private schools horrendously more expensive than they otherwise would be, thus also effectively barring many parents from being able to decide how their children are to be educated.

        Granting public schools, I don’t really think the prayer issue was that big of a deal. My wife did 10 years at a Catholic school and she developed nothing but a fuming disdain for the Church – and nuns. I doubt the public school prayer decided things for any youngster one way or the other. Do we think kids really got a good benefit from saying it? Bad?

        Even private schools, if they haven’t already, will be required to drop their religious content just as private pharmacies are being forced to sell contraceptives when their owners do not want to. There is a case in Arizona just about this. And there are the other violations that Mr. Wright has enumerated over time.

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          I am against pharmacies being forced to offer contraceptives, btw, and for the same reason against the banning of prayer in private schools for the same reason. That last paragraph was vague.

          • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

            “I suppose you are talking about the engel vs. vitale case?”

            No, I don’t know this case and I’m not talking about court battles. As useful as they are when they are ruled right (my brother-in-law ruled one that was blissful to read, and he probably is an agnostic), I was only speaking of the worldview under the more recent symptoms, seen through personal experience like the one Mr. Ellis mentioned about his aunt. However, I think it is a valid chain of causes and not a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (taking antecedent facts for the cause). Enlightenment philosophy really is at the root of elitist and agnostic-atheist socialism pretending that some elites are entitled to rob others from their freedom and to decide for them up to whether they should live or die or reproduce. (French Enlightenment is also at the root of men deciding for themselves what is good or true without any reference to objective goodness or truth.)

            And I agree with you entirely that public schools should not exist, as parents have no power left on most school boards any more (I’ve been on a school board). And education departments should only exist for general administrative purposes and have nothing to do with the curriculum.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Unfortunately, the counterargument given here is too vague to allow for an answer. It seems to start out with the abstract generalization that abstractions in general are a bad thing, and then is segues into a gratuitous statement, offered without proof, that those social pathologies over which there is no serious doubt (as the rise of the divorce rate) cannot be proven to exist.

      In logic, a gratuitous statement can be gratuitously denied. If Mr Ellis insists that some undefined indicator of social well being may or may not exist in some fashion somewhere, perhaps caused by something have either something or nothing to do with the topic under discussion, he may insist without fear of contradiction by me. The statement is too vague to admit of confirmation or contradiction. Perhaps the weather is better. Maybe the infant mortality rate is down. Perhaps girls are prettier. I am not sure what this has to do with the argument that lowering the moral hazard that deters an unchaste behavior can be expected, all other things being equal, to encourage the behavior: which indeed no observer can miss in our society, since that immorality is boasted from every available avenue.

      There was also some analogy between Mr Ellis’s aunt and the argument here. Mr Ellis’ aunt makes an argument without specifying a cause and effect, and I make an argument specifying a cause and effect. I do not see how sociological or economic matters can be argued empirically, since the decision of what factors to examine as causal or not depends on the theory brought to them, which is what we are discussing. There is no laboratory where the variables can be isolated.

      I don’t give enough facts to show that we now live in a culture where pornography is everywhere, homosexuality is aggressively being normalized, no-fault divorce is legal, contraception is not only normalized but those who have religious objections to it are being required by Federal law to provide it, and deaths of unborn infants by abortion exceed the deaths caused by Stalin … I invite the reader to investigate for himself, to his hearts content, whether the world around him matches the description I give, but let me propose that the burden of proof is on the person proposing we believe the make-believe version of the world provide the proof. I need no other witnesses aside from the experience of anyone old enough to remember when divorce was rare.

      • Comment by David_Ellis:

        “It seems to start out with the abstract generalization that abstractions in general are a bad thing….”

        No, abstractions are not a bad thing. I’ve just noticed, over the course of many debates on moral questions, for people to retreat into abstract language when dealing with things that involve real human suffering and well-being. I think it a dangerous habit—one which I’ve all too often seen cause people to put ideology or religion over real human suffering (and it’s not just religious people I’ve seen doing this; objectivist and libertarian atheists do it a lot in my experience).

        “…and then is segues into a gratuitous statement, offered without proof, that those social pathologies over which there is no serious doubt (as the rise of the divorce rate) cannot be proven to exist.”

        First, the social ills mentioned in the quote I responded to were juvenile delinquency, the rise
        of crimes committed for no purpose whatever, a culture of multicultural self loathing which seeks as quickly as possible to obliterate Western civilization, drug addiction, torture-porn at movies and porn in every home is the norm.”

        Not divorce.

        Second, I pointed out the fact that you gave no evidence supporting the claim that contaception causes or contributes to the social ills mentioned.

        And I pointed out that many (NOT
        portant measures of social well being have actually improved since contraception was legalized.

        • Comment by David_Ellis:

          Accidentally posted that before completing it (and while revising that last sentence). Continuing:

          And I pointed out that many (NOT all) categories of social well-being have improved since the legalization of contraception.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          “First, the social ills mentioned in the quote I responded to were juvenile delinquency, the rise
          of crimes committed for no purpose whatever, a culture of multicultural self loathing which seeks as quickly as possible to obliterate Western civilization, drug addiction, torture-porn at movies and porn in every home is the norm.” Not divorce.”

          Ah! I retract the comment and apologize for misunderstanding you. Yes, I agree that an empirical study showing the degree to which contraception fostered these other pathologies would be useful. I have no such study at hand.

          I am arguing there is a link between single-parent homes and a rise in gang membership correlated to a risk in juvenile delinquency; juvenile crime is more often performed for whimsical reasons, and this is a type of crime very nearly unique to the modern age, mere vandalism. The addiction to drugs and porn are symptomatic of a generation of young hooligans reaching the age of majority without ever once learning how to be men, or even seeing or hearing rumors of such a being.

          Multiculturalism has a number of factors that give rise to it, the argument here being that nothing aside from a widespread and un-admitted guilt of a whole generation could account for the persistence of an pathological cult-belief in the absence of moral standards: this is not a human psychological norm. The guilt includes guilt over the inability to raise our young to inherit their legacy.

          I freely confess the degree to this these various influences influenced each other is unknown to me. It is like arguing about prices and wages: one can know without doubt that an increase in supply tends to lower price, without knowing the degree to which, or even if, the real price will go down. All one can say is that it is lower than it otherwise would be if the supply remained level or decreased.

          • Comment by David_Ellis:

            I am arguing there is a link between single-parent homes and a rise in gang membership correlated to a risk in juvenile delinquency…

            Being a single parent contributes to the likelihood of poverty which is an obvious factor in crime. So that’s probably true. But how banning contraception will decrease single parent homes is far from apparent.

            The addiction to drugs and porn are symptomatic of a generation of young hooligans reaching the age of majority without ever once learning how to be men, or even seeing or hearing rumors of such a being.

            You’ve neglected to provide statistics on drug use over the decades before and since the easy availability of contraception. As to porn, I suspect that the culprits are a) the technological changes that have made it more easily available and b) the Supreme Court decision that declared it free speech rather than what it is: the filming of acts of prostitution. The contraception connection seems, to put it charitably, tenuous compared to these two factors.

            Nor do I think it likely that the sons of unmarried mothers consume porn more than those with a mother and father. I certainly see no reason to assume it to be the case. I suspect that consumption of porn is correlated most strongly to availability: if boys, of whatever background, have the opportunity to view it, the vast majority will.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              “But how banning contraception will decrease single parent homes is far from apparent”

              No, it is quite apparent. Or do you think that if every man who takes on a mistress or hires a whore faced the prospect of bringing a bastard into the world, that the presence of this risk would leave his calculus of the risk and reward ratio unchanged? Likewise, do you think a decrease in the adultery rate (it is now around one marriage in five) would leave the divorce rate unchanged?

              “You’ve neglected to provide statistics on drug use over the decades before and since the easy availability of contraception.”

              It is not neglect since I do not require the provision of such statistics to be meaningful for the argument given here. Nor, I venture to say, would you embrace the Church teaching on contraception if I provided such statistics. You are merely adopting the pose of a skeptic without doing the work of a skeptic. Being a skeptic means providing contrary evidence.

              “Nor do I think it likely that the sons of unmarried mothers consume porn more than those with a mother and father. I certainly see no reason to assume it to be the case.”

              The reason to make the assumption is that by nature and inclination and tradition, in a family, the fathers often act as the disciplinarians and leaders of the family, and the maternal role is gentler. Discipline includes moral instruction.

              • Comment by David_Ellis:


                No, it is quite apparent. Or do you think that if every man who takes on a mistress or hires a whore faced the prospect of bringing a bastard into the world, that the presence of this risk would leave his calculus of the risk and reward ratio unchanged?”

                I suspect it’s primary result would be an increase in abortion. Does that possibility even enter your calculus?

                Likewise, do you think a decrease in the adultery rate (it is now around one marriage in five) would leave the divorce rate unchanged?

                I don’t see much reason to think the unavailability of contraception would do much to deter adultery. Do you have data showing that it was lower before contraception was easily available? I do, however, suspect that venereal disease among the spouses of the unfaithful would increase markedly.

                “You’ve neglected to provide statistics on drug use over the decades before and since the easy availability of contraception.”

                It is not neglect since I do not require the provision of such statistics to be meaningful for the argument given here.

                It was you who claimed that contraception has resulted in increased drug use. How is the question of whether drug use has increased not relevant to the argument?

                Nor, I venture to say, would you embrace the Church teaching on contraception if I provided such statistics. You are merely adopting the pose of a skeptic without doing the work of a skeptic. Being a skeptic means providing contrary evidence.

                I will not do your research for you. This is your argument we’re discussing. I’m pointing out a few fairly obvious ways you could improve it. If you don’t care to follow up that’s your choice.

  15. Comment by Andrew Brew:

    Mr. Ellis,

    You are being dishonest. Univeral laws are, by their nature (there is that word again) abstractions. To urge us to abandon abstractions in favour of “the messy world of human experience” is merely to urge us to ignore the law (and the question of whether there is such a law, which I believe is the question you originally asked) in favour of subjective judgement.

    As for the “bald assertion”, have you not seen the symptoms referred to in society? Are you blind? If you really want evidence, read some Theodore Dalrymple. Then come back and return to the topic at hand. You are willing to let facts interfere with your judgement, aren’t you?

    • Comment by David_Ellis:

      “You are being dishonest. Univeral laws are, by their nature (there is that word again) abstractions. To urge us to abandon abstractions in favour of “the messy world of human experience” is merely to urge us to ignore the law (and the question of whether there is such a law, which I believe is the question you originally asked) in favour of subjective judgement.”

      I will say to you what I said to Wright on abstraction:

      No, abstractions are not a bad thing. I’ve just noticed, over the course of many debates on moral questions, for people to retreat into abstract language when dealing with things that involve real human suffering and well-being. I think it a dangerous habit—one which I’ve all too often seen cause people to put ideology or religion over real human suffering (and it’s not just religious people I’ve seen doing this; objectivist and libertarian atheists do it a lot in my experience).

      What exactly is it about this opinion that is dishonest?

      “As for the “bald assertion”, have you not seen the symptoms referred to in society? Are you blind? If you really want evidence, read some Theodore Dalrymple. Then come back and return to the topic at hand. You are willing to let facts interfere with your judgement, aren’t you?”

      Some measures of social well-being are up as I said. Some others are down. The primary point was and remains that no evidence has been provided to support Wright’s claim that contraception causes or contributes to the social ills he mentioned in the quote I was referring to.

      • Comment by Andrew Brew:

        What is dishonest is that you blame Mr. Wright for answering your question in the only way it could be answered. You asked for a “line of reasoning” (inevitably an abstraction, or series of abstractions). You were given one. You then objected (without evidence) that abstractions were used to avoid the difficulty of dealing with the “real world”.

        He went beyond what you asked, in fact, anticipating your objection by pointing at the evidence of the real world. What we see around us indicates that the (abstract) reasoning he had offered is borne out by our experience. This you rejected as a “bald assertion”. The argument does not rely on all “measures of social well-being” being down compared to some decades ago, but that relevant measures (acceptance of abortion, fornication, adultery and divorce, rising support for infanticide, euthanasia) all point in the direction that the argument would predict does lend it some weight.

  16. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Mr. Hutchins:

    Since we’ve run out of nesting space, please demonstrate this syncretism you’ve claimed. Also, please keep in mind that development is quite possible within the bounds of truth, for there is only one truth.

    • Comment by John Hutchins:

      lotdw points to Augustine talking about some Gnostic texts (I don’t understand the point of what he was trying to get across though), I will point to Augustine talking about God:

      “As I increased in years, the worse was my vanity. For I could not conceive of any substance but the sort I could see with my own eyes. I no longer thought of thee, O God, by the analogy of a human body. Ever since I inclined my ear to philosophy I had avoided this error — and the truth on this point I rejoiced to find in the faith of our spiritual mother, thy Catholic Church. Yet I could not see how else to conceive thee. And I, a man — and such a man! — sought to conceive thee, the sovereign and only true God. In my inmost heart, I believed that thou art incorruptible and inviolable and unchangeable, because — though I knew not how or why — I could still see plainly and without doubt that the corruptible is inferior to the incorruptible, the inviolable obviously superior to its opposite, and the unchangeable better than the changeable.”

      “By having thus read the books of the Platonists, and having been taught by them to search for the incorporeal Truth, I saw how thy invisible things are understood through the things that are made. ”

      Clearly, Augustine first was taught of God as having a body and rejected that notion in favor of the notions of Greek philosophy, which same thing was done by the Catholic Church as he says. If you look at St. Aquinas he further uses philosophic arguments (all in terms of Aristotle) to prove that God does not have a body, and throws out all the scriptures that say that God does in fact have a body as not meaning what they actually say. If you look at the Nicene Creed the entire thing is framed in reference to Greek Philosophy.

      Where in the Bible does the idea that God does not have a body come from? God is a spirit? Perhaps we should look at the rest of that passage “and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” to see that we are also spirits.

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        He does say “analogy,” too, you know.

        Show me where the Bible says the substance of God has a body? For even Jesus Christ, who is in substance God, has in person a body. Does not God the Father, whose name is translated * *M TH*T * *M, appear many ways in Scripture — as a burning bush, as a cloud, as a still and small voice? Surely there is no Body in the Old Testament. It is not a terribly Jewish idea, this God-in-Body, which seems to make Jesus all the more startling.

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        In case my argument was lost, it amounts to “Show me, from shared revelation, that God as substance has a body.”

        Surely God appears as a burning bush, a small whispering sound, a cloud, but not as a body in the Old Testament. Surely only Jesus appears as a body, for the Holy Spirit appears as a tongue of flame.

        (I understand Mormons do not consider the Holy Spirit a person even if divine, but as a Trinitarian I couldn’t leave out the Ghost.)

        • Comment by John Hutchins:

          “Surely God appears as a burning bush, a small whispering sound, a cloud, but not as a body in the Old Testament”

          You appear to be missing Exodus 24:9-11, Exodus 33. Isaiah 6, Job 42:5, Ezekiel 1 (at least).

          “(I understand Mormons do not consider the Holy Spirit a person even if divine, but as a Trinitarian I couldn’t leave out the Ghost.)”

          “Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.” D&C 130:22

          • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

            Hah! Something solid at last. I shall chew on this and get back to you.

            • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

              I didn’t chew on it for long, though — you must prove that God as substance has a body. Using common revelation:

              – How do you know the appearances of a body were not accidental to God in the points you mention?
              – How do you know that is a requirement — of the substance — of God, that it is necessary to God, to have a body? (For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God…)
              – Disprove this statement: Even if we grant this, which is much in dispute, as I am no scholar, maybe the important part of the story, the purpose of showing Himself, is that God showed himself as a person rather than a force, that Eastern temptation.
              – How do you know that God did not hide himself as he pretty much always did, but this time in a form with which we were familiar?

              (For that matter, I consider prophecy must be read as prophecy, i.e. a series of images to convey a meaning; Job must be read as Job, which is not a literal understanding. It is an anthropomorphic image of God, which is not the point of Job, because, rather, Job’s relationship with God is the point of that — and I write this without sneer — fable.)

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                Man is created in the image (Gen 1:27, Gen 9:6) and likeness (Gen 5:1, James 3:9) of God. We, being Man, are the offspring of God (Acts 17:29) or in other-words His children (Rom 8:16, Deut 14:1, Ps 82:6, Hosea 1:10, Mal. 2:10, Eph. 4:6, Heb. 12:9) as He is the Father of our spirits (same scriptures, though I could add more to this one). Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father in the flesh (I think this point is undisputed, but if you want scriptures I can provide them). He is in the express image of His Father (Rom. 8:29, 2 Cor. 4:4, Col 1:15, Heb. 1:3) and in the same form (Philip. 2:6, Philip. 3:21) to the point that Jesus said: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus Christ rose from the dead (undisputed, unless you want scriptures) and retains a body (Luke 24:39, 1 Jn. 3:2, and others) which is like the body that we will receive in the Resurrection (1 Jn. 3:2, Philip. 3:21) and stands on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56 ). Further when Adam had eaten the fruit of knowledge of good and evil he was declared to be as god by God (Gen. 3:22), likewise as children of God if we keep the commandments and follow Jesus Christ then we will become joint-heirs with Christ( Rom. 8:17, Gal. 4:7) and become like Christ and God, become one with them, and participate in their glory (2 Cor 3:18, Eph 4:13, 1 Jn 3:2, Rev. 3:21, John 17:20-26).

                All of that combined with the reports of the prophets that they have seen God and talked with Him face to face (there are many more scriptures then what I listed above, if you want more I can provide them) and the way image and likeness are used in Exodus 20:4 and that God cannot lie (Numbers 23: 19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2, others) would seem to imply that He really does have a body that looks much like ours.

                Job is not a fable.

                • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                  Why is it that I can never get two Mormons to believe the same thing? Orson Scott Card explicitly made the opposite claim about Job in a forward to one of his short stories. Oy. You wonder why I can’t take the Mormon faith seriously — it’s because, among those who purport to be in the know, it rather varies in teaching as much as Protestants and Anglicans. You’re the first who doesn’t seem so ad hoc about things.

                  You dance around “image.” Moreover, is woman not, therefore, in the image of God? Her body is quite different. Yes, she has one, but it doesn’t look the same, which rather seems to be your argument. Seems to me that an expression or poetry of God in shewing himself is rather in his character — didn’t he create the Cosmos, after all, which proclaim his glory? Demonstrate that poetry is a lie.

                  Here’s the better idea of “image”: We are in the image of God in that we are both beings. That is, we both have the quality of “being.”

                  I do not deny the Incarnation. What makes the Incarnation astounding is that God became Man, twinning a human nature in with his divine nature. You also misquote a figurative “sons of God,” for Jesus is the only-begotten Son.

                  What gets me about Restorationists and Protestants and all of the Apostate Theory: You think that these clues wouldn’t have clued anyone else in for centuries? That after all these years and years nobody noticed that the Catholic faith was so obviously false? That we’ve been consistently lying all this time? No wonder it sounds so much like a conspiracy theory — to paraphrase Chesterton, the Catholic Church, if not the Bride of Christ, must be the Whore of Babylon.

                  • Comment by John Hutchins:

                    “Orson Scott Card”

                    Some of the most sexually explicit things I have ever read were in the writings of Mr. Card. Considering that the Homecoming Saga is a complete rip of the story of part of the Book of Mormon with added sex and God as a satellite network then I wouldn’t take Mr. Card as any sort of doctrinal authority on anything at all. It is odd that so many members and non-members do think of him that way, I can only assume they haven’t read much of his work outside of the Enderverse and his retelling of old testament women stories.

                    “You dance around “image.””

                    I also have likeness and form. 1 Corinthians 11:7 should be added to the image references, it also answers your complaint about women. Also, Woman only looks different from man because you are human (or part of man or mankind), you would never mistake a human woman for a chimpanzee or the other way around.

                    “You also misquote a figurative “sons of God,” for Jesus is the only-begotten Son.”

                    Really, a I thought there were something like seven. Of course if one takes all the Old Testament references to angels where the term is b’nai Elohim or where it says the sons of God but not in explicit reference to men then I could add quite a few more scriptures. Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God in the flesh, he is the only son of God that has for his mortal existence God as his father.

                    “You think that these clues wouldn’t have clued anyone else in for centuries?”

                    Augustine was originally taught of an embodied God, Aquinas felt the need to argue against the idea, others in the early centuries did believe that God was embodied. For many of those centuries one needed to be clergy, noble, or an academic to be able to read the Bible which meant that one was heavily invested in the current system. Further, if one has been taught from childhood a certain way of thinking about things then any scriptures that seemed contrary to that way of thinking would get forced into that way of thinking, as you have so aptly shown.

                    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                      Concentrate on the nut, self, concentrate on the nut:

                      If one has been taught from childhood a certain way of thinking about things then any scriptures that seemed contrary to that way of thinking would get forced into that way of thinking, as you have so aptly shown.

                      Pot to kettle: Go back to Africa. News at 11.

                      Anyway, I could show a better, clearer, inarguable example in Matthew 16:18, a verse which stands in context even alone, of your bending over backwards to fit scripture to fit your theory. It takes an apostolic charism to interpret apostolic teachings. Shame that God-who-is-all-powerful, who kept at least a remnant of Israel awake enough to bring forth prophets throughout the harshest years of captivity, was unable to keep awake the charism he personally came down to establish. Man’s folly, which God knows intimately in Adam, cannot be even slightly compensated for even by God Himself shedding his blood and giving his life.

                      Assume apostasy all you want, but you have yet to prove it in such a way which does not rely on your hermeneutic toward scripture. To wit, you quoting scripture amounts to a circular argument. Until then, I can fairly and easily fault your unjustified hermeneutic for your tendentious readings.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      I suppose I should go over the entire view of apostasy and the intervening time period and the cycle of apostasy as found in the scriptures.

                      Instead I will just point out that you requested “Using common revelation:”, which is what I did. Further, you should really look at 1 Corinthians 10:4 (even in Greek). That is it.

                    • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                      True that. It was me, fed up with silly D&C references, trying to call your bluff. You’re the first Mormon I met who seems to take non-Mormon scripture seriously. Bear with me.

                      1. Remember, my first challenge was to prove apostasy, and you pretty much just appeal to Augustine. Scuttlebutt has it that by the time of Augustine, there is rather substantial proof for the continuity and development of Church teaching which leads, through the use of reason (and, we posit, by the guarantee of grace,) right to the Church today. According to the historical record, it is easier to believe that apostasy is sudden and no proof exists for it than to believe that apostasy was gradual.

                      2. Reading 1 Corinthians 10, it does, in fact, talk about the Eucharist, and the verse right after yours seems to use “most” in a quirky place if apostasy is your solution. Israel was never completely faithless, you know. Neither was the Church, as Christ-who-does-not-lie promises.

                      3. Spirit marriages are rather untenable: “We shall be like the angels in Heaven” when we do not marry, you know. This is no, “call no man father.”

                • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

                  To paraphrase the post I made, it eaten by comment moderation: You do not answer my questions.

          • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

            So does Mormon theology consider the Holy Ghost a person but not divine because He lacks a Body? Here I thought you all thought it was a kind of appendage.

  17. Comment by Brian Killian:

    The Stoic type arguments are the strongest at a very general level I think. But the reason so many people backed the pill was because traditional natural law type arguments about the nature of sexual organs were incapable of dealing with a pill that didn’t require any violating of sexual organs at all to work. Catholic moral philosophy has had to get a lot more sophisticated in order to deal with these challenges. When HV came out, it condemned the *intention* to contracept not simply the physical blocking of sexual processes.

  18. Comment by David_Ellis:

    A point not really discussed so far is that John seems to take the position not just that contraception is wrong (he’s welcome to that opinion and is under no obligation to use it) but that it should also be illegal.

    Do I understand you correctly?

    I should think that one would need to marshal some actual, and strong, evidence that contraception contributes in a significant way to serious social ills for one to have a secular basis for making it illegal (also that making it illegal would not have even worse effects—on HIV rates, for example, since condoms are a form of contraception).

    I note again that this has so far not even been attempted.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “A point not really discussed so far is that John seems to take the position not just that contraception is wrong (he’s welcome to that opinion and is under no obligation to use it) but that it should also be illegal. Do I understand you correctly?”

      Excellent question. The argument given here is that contraception makes unchastity possible by reducing the moral hazard, and therefore is primarily and argument about the prudence of laws and customs. It is not an argument that concludes that contraception is in and of itself immoral. Sorry if those two points were not clear.

      Are you asking for empirical evidence whether the risk of pregnancy is lower if contraceptives are employed? I would have thought that the matter was beyond dispute. Or are you asking for evidence that in a society where the risk of pregnancy is lower, whether this influences human behavior, such as by allowing women to couple with multiple partners before marriage, or such as this behavior, condemned in the strongest possible terms in all previous generations, is not the norm?

      I am not sure what country you are writing from. If you have friends in America, or can see our popular entertainment, I assume you can detect what the modern social norms in the area are.

      Is the question whether or not contraception and sexual liberation are connected by way of cause and effect? I would not know how to control the variables on human behavior in large numbers over the long term to study the matter conclusively: ergo I propose we rely on the testament of history. You list for me the number of writers, thinkers, teachers and philosophers of any land or century before technical advances made contraception readily available who approved of headless copulation for recreation with many unengaged partners, and we can start from there. I assume was can take the written records of a land or century as a reflection of their prevailing attitudes? Provided we have a way of compensating for the particular quirks of partisanship or personality of the individual authors, of course.

      Or is the question whether no-fault divorce and contraception are related as cause and effect? Here I am more wary: they may be correlative of some more general social decay, but, even if so, lowering the moral hazard of adultery by lowering the risk of pregnancy to the mistress would have an enabling or encouraging effect. An empirical examination might give us an idea of the magnitude of such an effect.

      • Comment by David_Ellis:


        Are you asking for empirical evidence whether the risk of pregnancy is lower if contraceptives are employed?

        No.

        I would have thought that the matter was beyond dispute.

        Agreed.

        Or are you asking for evidence that in a society where the risk of pregnancy is lower, whether this influences human behavior, such as by allowing women to couple with multiple partners before marriage, or such as this behavior, condemned in the strongest possible terms in all previous generations, is not the norm?

        The legalization of contraception for the unmarried certainly has contributed to the relaxation of sexual mores. That’s beyond reasonable dispute. What most interests me primarily is why you think it should also be illegal for married people (assuming I’m not mistaken in understanding you to advocate a blanket ban on contraception).

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          “What most interests me primarily is why you think it should also be illegal for married people (assuming I’m not mistaken in understanding you to advocate a blanket ban on contraception).”

          Pardon me for being curt, but I covered that in the original post: the idea of a chaste society which allows contraception is imaginary. It is not what happened in history. The logic of the Griswold v Connecticut case makes it clear that chastity and contraception are legally incompatible; I submit it is philosophically incompatible as well. Under what legal or philosophical theory would contraceptive use by married couples be licit, but use by unmarried be illicit?

          If the laws and customs explicitly promoted chastity, they would perforce discourage or forbid contraception as these lowers the moral hazard connected with unchastity. If not, the laws and customs have no reason to limit contraceptive use to the married. The public interest in deterring unwanted babies and hindering the spread of venereal disease would be served, not dissuaded, by allowing the unmarried unrestricted access to contraception, and banning its use by the married.

          • Comment by David_Ellis:

            Yes, I saw that. But I wasn’t sure that it was the only grounds on which you objected to it. I take it since you mention no other that this is the case.

            The argument has several problems. First, of course, is the fact that banning contraceptives means that unfaithful spouses are more likely to bring home venereal diseases, including AIDS, to an innocent spouse. Second, the claim that legalizing contraceptives for married people will inevitably lead to it being legalized in general is dubious. Whether it will or will not would depend very much on the mores of the society in question. I’m also not convinced your claim that this has always been what happens is true. Have you researched laws in other countries to see if this is actually the case?

          • Comment by David_Ellis:

            “Under what legal or philosophical theory would contraceptive use by married couples be licit, but use by unmarried be illicit?”

            Any theory which holds that sex is immoral outside of marriage but that sex for bonding between husband and wife is not.

  19. Comment by John C Wright:

    If you can ask a specific question, I can expand. Otherwise I am not sure where the ambiguity rests. The idea is that a child raised by a single mother, without a father figure, or raised by a single father without a mother figure, tends not to develop normally. One of the several modern social pathologies involves in broken homes is that the children first, blame themselves for any divorce, second fear marriage, third mistrust human relationships, and fourth have no paternal nor material role models and thus do not know how to act like parents when their turn comes.

  20. Comment by Pierce O.:

    I too was confused until I reread this passage in light of your comment. The ambiguity, I think, lies in the sentence structure. If the first sentence were split into two “…extended family. This inability…”, it would read in a less ambiguous fashion.

  21. Comment by Mary:

    One notes that the widowed tend to raise children with fewer problems than the divorced or never married.

  22. Comment by John C Wright:

    Very well; change made.

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