Feser speaks up. Zmirak digs deeper.

Thomist Edward Feser defends the natural law prohibition on lying here, before going off on a tangent attacking the “new natural law” theorists.  I don’t see why this was necessary.  New natural law proponents may think they are attacking the idea of normative natural ends, as Feser says, but I’m hoping their writings will have a more constructive effect, that of helping people who have grown up in a Cartesian, personalist mental universe see how nature can be normative at all.

Meanwhile, John Zmirak has posted another defense of lying in extreme circumstances, and again he seems to be inadvertently doing everything in his power to convince me that this position is heretical.  He starts with some more belittling of sacred tradition.  He reminds us that the Church once didn’t recognize the wonderfulness of usury, a practice he thinks to be the key to modern prosperity.  The Church could always allow lying under extreme circumstances without throwing away the virtue of honesty altogether.  After all, “The Church’s embrace of religious liberty did not (as [traditionalists] feared) cause the Church to teach religious indifferentism.”  (I’d say the jury is still out on that one, actually.)  Then Zmirak introduces a new argument.  Given the evidence, he suggests that the Church hasn’t definitively settled her doctrine on this issue yet.  Faithful Catholics can disagree over whether Live Action did anything sinful.  I will agree with him there.  Therefore, people who think Live Action did do wrong shouldn’t present their arguments publicly, because that would be slandering people who haven’t violated a settled Church teaching.  So, the fact that we are allowed to disagree means that one side is not allowed to make its case!

Is forgiveness just? Is it supernatural?

Sometimes, people say that Christianity makes some weird and implausible dogmatic claims, but that everyone can agree that it made some decisive contributions to morality.  The idea is that you don’t have to accept specifically Christian doctrines (the Incarnation, the Trinity, etc) to accept what was once thought of as specifically Christian morality (love your enemies, forgive offenses, turn the other cheek, etc).  I’m not so sure.  Let’s take the example of forgiveness.  People who think this is a virtue for export may not realize how radical it is.

To be fair to both Christians and pagans, we must not alter the Lord’s command to forgive offenses in such a way as to make it “reasonable”.  Reasonable it is not, at least by natural standards.  Forgiveness doesn’t just mean to avoid vigilantism and let the police do their job.  It doesn’t just mean not retaliating disproportionately.  Pagans knew all about that.  Forgiveness means not even holding a grudge, not wishing ill.  It certainly doesn’t mean excusing offenses, imagining that the offender didn’t really know what he was doing or couldn’t really control himself.  When Aeneas spared Helen because it wasn’t her or Paris but the gods who brought down Troy, this was not Christian forgiveness.  The latter faces the evil will in all its monstrosity and still forgives.

Forgiveness is not just.  Justice doesn’t mean equal benevolence to all, like the rain falling on good and evil alike.  Justice means giving each person what he deserves.  A tooth for a tooth is justice.  Nor does justice limit itself to praising or condemning acts; it must praise or condemn their actors as well.  Everyone agrees that we should be grateful to those who do us a good turn.  In the same way, natural justice demands that we hold a grudge against those who wrong us.  Treating them the same as those who’ve never harmed us whouldn’t be fair.

Desire that wrongdoers be punished isn’t always selfish.  Not only our self-love, but our love of justice demands vengeance.  We often find it harder to forgive those who harm others rather than ourselves, because in this case the craving for justice stands in all its naked purity, with no mixture of self-interest.  Love of justice is a good thing.  An insensibility to wrongs is not Christian forgiveness.  A dog “forgives” like this, and it’s no virtue.  God–subsistent Justice Himself–shares our love of justice, so much so that He could not simply forget humanity’s transgressions without betraying His own nature, but rather sent His Son to become man and make expiation.

Christian forgiveness in its fulness is, I think, not a natural virtue at all.  It takes supernatural knowledge to see its goodness.  It’s only just to forgive the wicked because Jesus Christ has taken the world’s sins upon himself.  Though sinners, we are members of Christ; he takes our sin and shares his righteousness.  That may be hard to believe–or even understand–but if it’s not true, then vindictiveness is better than forgiveness.

Nonresistance to aggression (“turning the other cheek”) is the same, I think.  Naturally, this is no virtue at all, but rather a contemptible vice.  It only becomes a virtue in light of Jesus’ own nonresistence unto death, Jesus whose example we follow and whose image we more perfectly bear in the act of deliberate nonresistance.

There’s a counterargument to all this.  Even nonbelievers can appreciate the beauty of the Christian way, of forgiveness and passivity.  How can this be if they lack the supernatural knowledge that would justify this way of life?  Perhaps there’s a natural justification for Christian morality that they see and I ignored?  I think there are two cases here.  First, there are those who seem to appreciate Christian morality but actually misunderstand it.  For example, those who don’t believe in sin or personal responsibility may think they like the idea of forgiving, when they really like the idea of excusing.  These will praise Christian saints while thinking God the Father a monster for demanding payment in blood for original sin.  Second, there are those who truly grasp and appreciate the aesthetic of a Christian life.  I suspect that the Holy Spirit is at work in these, and I hope he will finish the work he has begun.

Foreign devils

We reactionaries are a proudly provincial bunch, at least where the interests of the Church are not concerned.  The less we have to think about those foreign devils and their strange ways, the better.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife said to me, “Have you heard about what’s going on in Egypt?”

Said I, “That’s where that whole Antony-and-Cleopatra thing happened, right?”

More on the Catholic argument about lying

Behold, a philosopher throwing away his integrity for a cheap rhetorical point:

Do you care more about protecting your own moral correctness than protecting your kids’ lives?

Because only pharisees worry about “moral correctness” when really important things are at stake, right?  I’ve just lost most of the respect I once had for Peter Kreeft.  Sophistry like this has no place in philosophy.  What Kreeft has just done is surrender to consequentialism.  But once he starts down that road, why stop there?  What if some people’s life fulfillment depends on those kids not existing?  After we’re done with our fun harassing Planned Parenthood, why don’t we settle down and work there?

As I said, I’m not completely sold on lying being an intrinsically immoral act (and therefore never justified), but these defenses of lying are pushing me in that direction.  I often find that my mind is made up on an issue by being repelled by one side’s arguments rather than attracted by the other side’s.  It was reading Thomas Bokenkotter’s celebration of modernism that turned me into an integralist.  It was reading Philippe Nemo’s celebration of capitalism that turned me against this inhuman system.  Evil and heresy seem to have a logic of their own.  At first, they seem reasonable, their deviation from orthodoxy ambiguous, but just let their followers work on them for a while, and their true nature becomes clear.  Let people remarry under extreme circumstances?  What could be more reasonable?  But there’s not much point arguing the issue either way, because those who decided to make the exception quickly found that everybody’s case is exceptional, and now they divorce and remarry at the drop of a hat.  The “reasonable” position proved remarkably unstable.  Similarly, the “birth control is okay, but only for married couples” position.  Logically, one can say birth control is acceptable, while fornication, masturbation, and the like are not, but no one seems to be able to hold this position for long.  Make the procreative end optional, and it’s hard to see why one should hold the line against the other stuff.

The first step toward evil is small, but the seed of what’s to come is all in that step.  Suppose the captain of a boat gives orders to his crew, and they all promptly carry them out.  Who is running the boat?  The captain, of course.  Suppose after the captain gives his orders, the first officer tells the crew to carry out all the captain’s orders except for one little thing, which he tells them to leave undone, and this the crew does.  Who is running the boat?  Just as obviously, the first officer.  Even though what the crew does is only slightly different, the essential structure of the chain of command is entirely different.  So it is when we say to God, “I will do all you ask, except this one little thing.”  Needless to say, given a little time, the deviations introduced by the first officer will cease to be minor.

In contrast, the anti-lying group seems to be avoiding these problems (see Kevin O’Brien and especially Mark Shea).

Zmirak flirts with consequentialism

Should one ever lie, even to save lives?  Catholic philosophers are arguing the point back and forth on the web.  Catholic moral theology is anti-consequentialist:  good intentions can only justify intrinsically good or neutral acts, never intrinsically evil acts.  On the other hand, does lying always fall into the latter category?  Are we so sure that we’d allow someone to be killed rather than fib and send the killer in the wrong direction?  John Zmirak has entered this debate on the pro-lying side, but in a distinctly unhelpful way.  People who say lying is intrinsically wrong are “pharisees” for obsessing over whether this or that act is “technically” immoral.  Worse, they are “heretics” who have distorted the gospel, hiding the reality of God’s love behind their scruples.  Oh, sure, there’s a lot of support from the Fathers and Scholastics for this “heresy” that Zmirak has identified, but that doesn’t matter.  Augustine and Aquinas (the two examples he mentions and dismisses) also believed some things that most modern Catholics don’t believe (e.g. that unbaptized infants can’t be saved, although I’m not sure why Zmirak is so convinced that the modern, optimistic view is correct–what evidence does he have?), so they can be ignored.

That lying is okay under extreme circumstances seems to me a defensible position (although I haven’t made my mind up).  It bothers me, though, that Zmirak has, the instant Catholic tradition says something he doesn’t like, embraced wholeheartedly liberal Catholicism’s favorite slogans.  The bull shit about moral absolutes being “technicalities”, that concern about them is being a “pharisee”, that a loving God would necessarily command utilitarian happiness-maximization, all this comes straight, word-for-word from the “Catholics for a Free Choice” play book.  You can use it to justify anything:  abortion, divorce, torture, bombing of civilians, euthanasia, adultery, apostasy, you name it.  Zmirak doesn’t even seem to realize that he’s giving the whole game away.  His goal is to support lying to discredit Planned Parenthood, but to do so, he’s banished the moral absolutism without which it becomes impossible to criticize their murderous business (a business that, after all, makes some people happy).

Suppose lying is not intrinsically immoral, but is immoral only when done with evil intent or in the face of foreseeable evil consequences.  In that case, it would seem that the martyrs were stupid and perhaps wicked.  If somebody points a gun at your head and says “Say that Jesus is not Lord or die”, how do you justify throwing your life away for a little matter like the truth?  Surely the Kingdom of Heaven will not receive “pharisees” who get bent out of shape about stuff like that.

Apology to readers

Since one of my criticisms of The Spearhead was that they’d published a defense of onanism, I had thought it would be cute to end that post with an insulting allusion to the solitary activities of men’s rights advocates.  I now realize that this was a mistake.  It lowered the tone of the ensuing discussion and unnecessarily gave offense to people who hadn’t attacked me.  I apologize to all of you.  I am convinced now more than ever that my general policy of avoiding personal insults (even of outright enemies) is a good one.  I’ll try to stick by it more carefully in the future.

A revolutionary today

Just saw this at Don Colacho’s Aphorisms:

A “revolutionary” today means an individual for whom modern vulgarity is not triumphing quickly enough.

I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t understand how Leftists can always be going on about how “enraged” they are, how “subversive” their beliefs are, and so forth.  If I were one of them, I’d be deliriously happy.  They’re the establishement.  Everything’s moving their way.

Is the MRM wrong but useful? How then can we fight feminism?

I’ve gotten lots of great feedback from men’s rights advocates, which is pretty big of them, given that I basically called them a bunch of socially-stunted monkey-spankers.  I’m still working through the comments, so please don’t feel insulted if I haven’t addressed yours yet, or if I addressed it only flippantly.

I especially appreciate Novaseeker’s thoughtful defense of MRM from a Christian standpoint here.  He makes a couple of important points that I would like to address.  First, in the political arena we must often form broad alliances which will necessarily include people we don’t like.  Refusing to do this condemns one to impotence.  He gives the example of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Now, to be honest, if the American electorate were evenly divided between three parties–the Republicans, the Democrats, and a men’s-rights party, I’d vote straight-ticket for the men’s-rights party at every election.  In a “who’s-the-least-evil” contest, they win hands down.  However, as it is, both patriarchists and MRM are politically insignificant, so these sorts of considerations don’t apply.  (I realize that Novaseeker will probably dispute this claim, but it seems depressingly clear to me.  The world is moving in a direction of more aggressive feminism, with no major force in the West standing in opposition.)  Supporting MRM or patriarchy won’t help you change the world, but it will change yourself.  I assert that embracing patriarchy will make a man better, while embracing MRM will make him worse.  Of course, there are many virtuous men, loving husbands and fathers of daughters, who support MRM, but I think their virtue exists in spite of, rather than because of, MRM.  No man was ever made a better person by being told that he’s a victim.  this does raise a problem: if both MRM and patriarchy are politically irrelevant, how should we address the larger culture?  Am I preaching political resignation?  No, I’m not.  In a minute I’ll tell you what I do recommend.

This brings us the Novaseeker’s second point, that MRM can be thought of as a sort of grab-bag of materials to help men navigate the hostile modern world.  Some of the tools in the bag are morally objectionable, but most are neutral–i.e. they can be used for good or evil–and so men, including Christian men, can use what they find morally unproblematic.  This is a good point, and it does cause me to qualify my condemnation.  There is some decent material on MRM websites.  There’s nothing wrong with men knowing how deeply the state is beholden to feminists and how greatly men are held in contempt by feminist activists.  MRM is a good place to learn about this.  However, Novaseeker and I disagree about the proportion of objectionable material.  He brings up the example of men learning game to improve their marriages, but in fact this is impossible.  Game is always morally corrupting, and it always poisons relationships, not because of any particular advice it gives me but because of the very framework I am to use when thinking about a woman.  The image of women as amoral, instinctive animals is the heart of game.  Take it away, and you’re left with common sense advice to be bold and self-confident, and one doesn’t need game for that.

Most of what one finds in the MSM bag isn’t distinct facts, but mental categories that one uses to interpret facts.  Nothing wrong with that in itself; no one can think without categories.  Some of the MSM ones are of questionable value in interpreting the world, though.  The idea of men and women as two opposed interest groups is feminist and evil, but it lies implicit in some MRA comments.  The category of “mangina” probably obscures more than it reveals, because it lumps together men who oppose MRM for very different reasons.

How, then, do we fight feminism?  First, some unpleasant facts:  both Christianity (patriarchy’s main support in the West) and classical liberalism (of which MRM is one of the better advocates) are doomed, at least as socially relevant forces.  The feminist steamroller is too powerful.  Another generation of persecution and propaganda will seal its control of the West.  Then two great forces will remain in the world:  the feminist-materialist Left and Islam.  These two will battle for the ultimate fate of mankind.  Islam has the numbers and fanaticism, but it doesn’t yet know the enemy it’s facing.  That’s where we Christian patriarchists come in.  We have studied this enemy; we know its tricks, and we have meticulously dissected its ideology.  When the time comes, when the Left throws off its pretended friendship with Muslims, we must offer Islam our services.  In the battle between Islam and the Left, there can be no doubt who we should wish to win.  A final victory of the Left would mean the extinction of humanity’s spiritual heritage.  Even with the help of Christianity’s remnant (which, truth be told, won’t be that significant), it’s not clear that the Muslims can win.  What is clear is that they’re the only ones left with a shot.

So you see, I’m not totally lacking in grim realism.

Game is stupid

Justin explains here and here.

Patriarchists should shun The Spearhead

There are two positions from which to attack feminism.  First, there is patriarchy, the consensus of Christianity, Islam, and pagan antiquity.  The patriarchist opposes the liberal’s project of smashing social roles and norms in the name of individual autonomy.  Our roles and duties give meaning and dignity to our lives, none more so than our gender roles.  Masculinity finds its meaning in fatherhood, femininity in motherhood.  Through these ideals, men and women find written on their very flesh the calling to a distinct form of self-sacrificial love.  The “men’s rights movement” (MRM), on the other hand, accepts liberalism’s philosophical premises, but criticizes feminists for not weighing men’s wills and desires equitably with women’s.

MRM spokesmen have often criticized, and more often just rudely insulted, holders of the patriarchal position, most recently in The Spearhead’s attack on Laura Wood.  Ignoring the moment the rudeness of the post and comments (which should never be directed at any lady, much less one of the foremost champions of the patriarchal movement), notice what it was that provoked their ire.  It was Wood’s advice to a young man to preserve his honor before all other things, both because it’s most important, and because it’s the one thing wholly under his control.  That the MRM finds this—and any other summons to masculine virtue—offensive shows how deep is the separation between the MRM and us.  Also on The Spearhead, I see, have been articles trying to win over homosexual men to their movement, because of the common interests all men allegedly share.  Of course, anyone who cares about maintaining normative gender roles knows that we have no more fanatical enemy than the male sodomites, who work tirelessly to destroy the patriarchal family so that they can gratify their obscene lusts without social censure.  Anyone who wants sodomites on his side isn’t on our side.

I do realize that The Spearhead publishes work from some worthwhile authors, such as The Elusive Wapiti, a patriarchist for whom I have great respect, but they certainly do not set the dominant ideology of the site.

Why is The Spearhead’s ideology evil, and why should all right-thinking men shun it?  Let me count the ways:

Juvenile name-calling

MRM’s usual modus operandi is to dismiss criticism by hurling insults.  The most common insults they use to make good seem evil, and evil good:

mangina”:  any man who criticizes the MRM

shaming”: any appeal to morality or masculine virtues

white knight”: a chivalrous man, his commitment to protecting women and children being an object of ridicule

Consequentialism and Hostility toward Virtue

Being liberal at heart, the MRM sees men primarily as interest and desire-bearing subjects, rather than duty and virtue-bearing subjects.  Therefore, appeals to virtue and the importance of maintaining one’s integrity are dismissed (“shaming”) as sneaky ways of keeping men from pursuing their interests rationally.  As mentioned above, chivalry, the ethos of a protector, receives their particular scorn.  Most of them also despise chastity, going so far as to endorse the abominable practice of onanism.  (For a defense of the traditional view of the solitary vice, see here and here.)  Here they do a great disservice to men, helping them become enslaved to sexual sins from which it can be very difficult to free oneself.  Of those who discourage marriage, few ask men to embrace the life of celibacy that chastity demands of the unmarried.  Rather, they encourage men to seduce women using “game” and then discard them, that is when they don’t simply have recourse to their own hands.

The more sympathetic and intelligent MRM advocates, such as Novaseeker, will sometimes express respect for traditional morality, but think it impractical in today’s world.  Of course, the very idea that morality must be practical is a consequentialist error:  the moral law must be obeyed regardless of the consequences for our own happiness.  The “impracticality” argument is also short sighted, ignoring the fact that in the long run, we will all die, and our pleasures and aspirations will be dust, no matter what we do.  To gratify our desires has not been given us, but we can have honor.  This is not, as some Spearhead commenters suggested, exclusively a matter of Christian doctrine; no Stoic would have said differently.

An Unmanly Misogyny

Outrageous claims are often made by MRM advocates, that all women are stupid, or selfish, or sexually promiscuous.  They actually discourage men from trusting their wives, saying that any woman will discard her vows if a higher-status man becomes available.  This unwarranted libel of half the population is grossly unjust.  Consider also the monstrous impiety of these men who say such things about a class of people that includes their own mothers!  Most women are not adulterous, and most do assume the self-sacrificial role of motherhood.  The assumption of uniform female perfidy certainly does not match my experience.  A patriarchist can have no court with woman-bashing.  The role of mother, to which femininity is ordered, is noble and holy.  Furthermore, our calling as men is to protect the weaker sex, and this carping against those we are made to protect is unmanly and contemptible.

Hostility to Western Christianity

The MRM despises the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, saying that Western Christianity was corrupted and sissified during the Middle Ages by its focus on the Good Friday suffering of Jesus at the expense of his Easter victory, and through veneration of the Blessed Virgin.  Particular blame for “feminizing” Christianity is assigned to Bernard of Clairvaux—an odd accusation to  lay at the feet of the founder of the Knights Templar!  MRMers sometimes say that the Eastern Churches have avoided this fate, but I think Eastern Orthodox Christians would reject any compliment that implies that they ignore the Cross or fail to venerate the Theotokos.  That medieval Catholicism innovated in these regards does not withstand scrutiny.  Saint Paul it was who preached Christ crucified, and the first prayer of veneration to Holy Mary was spoken by the angel Gabriel.  Nor does Jesus’ suffering compromise his masculinity; rather it calls into question the MSM idea of masculinity as power and self-assertion.  Our Lord gives a more impressive image of manliness:  the hero who courageously exposes himself to danger and death to save his loved ones.

The Marxist Pseudoscience of “Game”

The MRM advocates using “game” to manipulate their way into women’s pants.  If it were only an aid to fornication, game would not be nearly as wicked as it actually is.  What their art of seduction actually does is to teach them to think of women as biological machines, without conscience or freedom, thus crippling a man’s ability to relate to women in a normal, personal way.  Game is, in my opinion, most dangerous when its advice is most innocent.  For example, for as long as I can remember, I’ve subjected my younger sisters to friendly teasing, joking, and pestering.  Now my wife is the main object of my mischief.  It amuses them.  We have a good time.  The normal human way to think about this is that I have what I think are amusing ideas, and so I share them with other people so that they can enjoy them too.  A student of game, though, would say that what’s really going on is that I’m carrying out a sort of psychological warfare against my wife, with the goal of destroying her self-confidence so that she’ll be open to my sexual domination.  So a warm, human thing is reduced to a cold, alien thing.  This is just one application of the unhealthy Marxist distinction between “base” and “superstructure”, according to which the normal world of human interaction is somehow unreal, a mask behind which work the “true”, impersonal forces.  They will say that their view is more “scientific” than mine, but how can this be, given that we agree about the empirical facts, and disagree only on their interpretation?  Game claims to be applying the legitimate science of evolutionary biology, but that’s as bogus as New Age charlatans who invoke the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

A strategic alliance?

Given that patriarchy and MRM are utterly incompatible, some nevertheless say that the two should form an alliance against their common enemy, the feminists.  This would be pointless, however, because MRM is a marginal, utterly powerless movement; strategically, we gain nothing from such an alliance.  In fact, they would have far more to gain.  Patriarchy holds the allegiance of one billion Muslims strong, millions of traditionalist Catholics, and others.  MRM is mostly the hobby of a few socially maladapted masturbators.