Further on the 3rd position on SSM and Procreative Concept

1003px-World-Population-1800-2100.svgI still intend a more systematic treatment on the issues raised by the SSM phenomenon – by which I do not mean “new reasons to attack SSM” – but for the moment I’ll just re-produce another comment at OT, this one at the end of (or as latest as of ca. 1022 PDT 2015.05.08 statement in,) a discussion that took a familiar course: Discussants assigning views to the disagreeable commenter that the disagreeable commenter has not offered, and in the process, in the view of the disagreeable commenter, lending support to the point that the disagreeable commenter meant to make, but which seems to remain largely unheard.

Jaybird: If someone argues “The institution has always been like this” and I, in response, argue “Not in my experience. Not in the experience of my peers either. Our experience is that the institution was completely different than that”, then I will have to have explained to me why I should pay more deference to this thing that I’ve never seen than this thing that I have directly experienced.

That might be an issue for someone who is trying to persuade you to “pay more deference to this thing,” but I’m not trying to persuade you to pay more deference to anything. I also have my doubts that you and I are speaking about the same things, even when we marginally narrow the definition of “marriage” by referring to the “institution.” I am cognizant of the fact that you do not pay deference (or, perhaps, that you do not recognize the ways that you still do defer to the institution in its second-natural manifestations), I am acknowledging that the view is representative in its way, and I am suggesting that it tends to reinforce, not contradict, Shafer’s stronger point or the general justification for Shafer’s argument, which, in my view, goes well beyond the political focus on SSM. [ ((Jeff Shafer: “How Same-Sex Marriage Makes Orphans of Us All at The Federalist.)) ]

The problem with Shafer’s argument, and with his politicization of it, is that he identifies a long-term trend, pointing to an alteration in the human concept or self-concept, with what would be only its latest manifestation in law and politics. It was Dostoevsky who suggested, via the Man from Underground, 150 years ago, that soon we would “contrive to be born of an idea” rather than of parents of flesh and blood. As for when that moment occurred, it might have occurred before the Man from Underground. In your view of marriage (which I think you exaggerate or simplify for effect) as an institution for the protection of mutual masturbatory exclusivity – or perhaps Burt would say exclusivity in “sexplay” – you point to the early 1960s, with the advent of reliable birth control as the key moment when the detachment from a biological-procreative concept of marriage took place. Others would point to easy divorce and abortion on demand, alongside social-economic changes in the composition of the work force under mid-20th century conditions. Others would point to the substantial eradication of childbirth mortality and reduction of medical complications of childbirth, both for infants and mothers, once a leading cause of death and debilitation overall and all the more for young, otherwise healthy women. Others would point to consumer-technological advances of different types freeing those traditionally designated to perform “domestic labor” to other tasks (or to no tasks at all). Still others would point to the exponential increase in the sheer numbers of living human beings: No one can say that a specific number of living human beings at any time is the correct number, or a better number than any other number, but an approximate tripling since the point of inflection reached in the middle of the last century at least puts in doubt the placement of going forth and multiplying at or near the top of the human agenda – a major problem, but also an opportunity, for religious traditions in which it remains there.

Taken from one point of view, the above would represent tremendous human progress, a set of advances whose attractiveness only very few of us are even minimally inclined, must less able, to resist. Yet just as all of those technological advances also facilitate the extinction of species and cultures, the manufacture and deployment of omnicidal weapons, and the potential catastrophic destabilization of the environment, the alteration of the human concept, the pure transactionalization of human relations, the conversion of a web of affiliations organized by blood ties across the generations into a system of human atoms exposed to a massified state may also produce unique dangers or even the worst dangers.

I am hardly the first to point this out, but I don’t happen to think that same sex marriage is in any sense a major source of danger in itself. I think it might even reasonably be viewed as a resource, under the right conditions. I think that many of the people involved in one way or another in that movement or supporting it are our best people or typical of the best in us, and that goes for some of the people with whom I regularly disagree about the subject, but I think that even our best people are as subject to those larger, two-sided trends, and that the tendency of the movement, in the arguments and attitudes of its supporters, reflects that fact.

6 comments on “Further on the 3rd position on SSM and Procreative Concept

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  1. It would seem that CK MacLeod’s has become a satellite blog of Ordinary Times–a regrettable turn of events, in my view. Like so much else in contemporary America, it’s an instance of the more noble subordinating itself to the much less so. That you would relinquish your high calling as a thinker and writer in order to become a volunteer webmaster and commenter at OT…

    Well, I won’t continue to lament it except to say that your comments there seem to be going over like the proverbial lead balloons with the Social Justice Warriors who make up OT’s commentariat. So much so, in fact, that you appear to feel the need to make an occasional tactical retreat from the lion’s den (or is it sheepfold) comment threads of OT and present your projected comments here rather than there, in order to let the righteous indignation of the lion-hearted SJWs cool down a bit. As you’ve observed, the moral rectitude of that lot is so perfectly pure that it can admit of no taint of compromise: “Give me gay marriage or give me death!”

    And so it is that I–a miscreated “white supremacist”, virulent homophobe, anti-Semite, fundamentalist Christian, and all-around fascist sympathizer–am adjudged to be a more benign auditor (along with your one or two other loyal readers, of course–may my sins be no stain upon them!) than the right-thinking, morally hyper-rectitudinous liberal progressives at OT. (And to think I always pay less than $37 for a cup of coffee! Truth is stranger than fiction.)

    In any event, CK, I have to hand it to you–I’m impressed with how you’ve framed this issue. You’ve somehow managed to make the utter lunacy of “gay marriage”, “same-sex marriage” (SSM), sound eminently reasonable, while at the same time treating traditional marriage (aka marriage)–what you term the “procreative concept” of marriage–with all the observational detachment of a cultural anthropologist carrying out field research on the culinary practices of Polynesian cannibals. In fact, I’m about half-convinced that this rhetorical frame can do service in a manifold of other settings and thus do a world of good in maintaining the non-stop forward progress of our Western utopias.

    For example–to speak of culinary practices…

    Despite all the momentous progress and progressive momentum of our never-been-better modern age, there remains a regnant prejudice against High-Quantity Eating (HQE). Anti-HQE sentiment no doubt derives from the infiltration of certain religious fundamentalisms that arrived in Western culture with the coming of Christianity. These religious fundamentalisms gave rise to a “sustenance concept” of eating, a concept of eating which intensified with the increasing Christianization of Europe in the Dark Ages. Then, HQE began to be stigmatized as sinful “gluttony” and the HQE community–slurred as sinful “gluttons” and subjected to intensive persecution–was forced to go underground, into the shadows.

    In pre-Christian classical antiquity, however, HQE was not only tolerated but even embraced. Some ancient thinkers and statesmen–among them, the Emperor Nero–held that HQE was more noble than the sustenance concept of eating, precisely because it was divorced from such coarse utilitarian aims as “sustenance” and “nutrition”. HQE was believed to nobilize the eater due to its exclusive focus on the pleasurable aesthetic sensations of taste, without regard for base considerations of physical health or bodily limitations such as the finitude of the stomach. Such limiting concepts were thought to be the purview of lowly proletarians and slaves–and with that in mind, the Roman nobility went on to create the famous vomitoria which permitted the flourishing of vibrant HQE lifestyles and practices. The proletariat and slave caste alone occupied themselves with the imaginary consolations of priestly Christianity and its narrow and joyless “sustenance concept” of eating.

    The sustenance concept of eating with its correlative phobia against HQE carried over into our own time as a prejudice against “over-eating”, a modern reformulation of the medieval “gluttony” slur. While few today would have recourse to such retrograde anti-HQE slurs as “sinners” and “gluttons” to characterize members of the HQE community, HQErs are yet abused with terms like “overeaters”, “fatsos” and “pigs”. At the same time, with the decline of Christian-inspired prejudice and bigotry, there is a growing awareness that HQE possesses an inherent validity of its own (in many ways superior to a utilitarian, religiously-derived “sustenance concept” of eating) and constitutes an essential component of a vibrant and diverse society–taking its rightful place alongside Thai restaurants, Islam, and Somali refugees in the vibratingly ever-diversifying Western liberal progressive utopias.

    What’s more, anti-HQE prejudice disproportionately impacts the much-beleaguered-on-every-front African-American Community (AAC)–particularly its females–and we all know that whatever disproportionately impacts the differently-abled AAC must never be countenanced, not even for one millisecond. It’s bad enough that the AAC is being subjected to ever-increasing racist calls to obey the law like everyone else (normonormativity), without further adding to their historic burden of woe by slurring the hindquarters of AAC females as “gigantic mutha f***in boo-tays”. Thankfully, many members of the AAC are beginning joyfully to appropriate the slur–much as they have done with the so-called “n-word”–thereby effecting an empowering self-emancipation from bigotry and prejudice.

    Nevertheless, I do think we ought to tread with caution when it comes to full-fledged incorporation of HQE lifestyles into our civilization which has for so long been oriented toward a narrow “sustenance concept” of eating. While I personally think that HQErs comprise a valuable resource for our diverse multicultural society, one can never know the unintended consequences that might ensue from an over-hasty reformation of our historic concept of eating. I would recommend a gradual transition from the sustenance concept of eating to full HQE equality, in order to avert any prospect of unintentional systemic catastrophe that an overnight change might bring about.

    [Howls from the OT commentariat: “Out with this pestilent fellow! How dare he express the least misgivings about HQE equality! There’s no place for such bigotry and hate here at OT! If this miscreant wants to express such irrational, unscientific phobias as this–then let him do so at CK MacLeod’s, the last refuge of every scoundrel!]

    • Mr M,

      Since you bemoan my involvement of late with OT, here’s a recent post there that includes some interesting material.


      You will, of course, disagree with many of the sentiments the writer expresses, something that he and almost everyone else involved would take as something of an endorsement. Indeed, I doubt you would be able to participate in the discussion there without getting yourself banned right quick, no regrets from their side – or with little satisfaction on yours, since to participate you’d probably have to sit on your racist homophobic hands. So, I don’t recommend you try the experiment. No one over there would be grateful to me for having sent you, and I doubt it would do anything for my reputation.

      Still, the author poses problems for us all, even for confessed racists like you, that I think are approximately as interesting as they are undiscussable.

      • Oh, I almost forgot:

        4) It’s my very best will for you that you would never be anyone’s “employee”. If I should damage your prospects of ever being “employed”, I might consider that one of the greatest services I could render you. I wish I could get you to abandon your ostensible career as a computer programmer.

        What I want is for you to step into your destiny as a thinker and writer.




        • What I want is for you to step into your destiny as a thinker and writer.

          I’m afeared you’re looking at it. Meanwhile, the notion that in sabotaging whatever opportunities I encounter for making a living you would be doing me or my “destiny” a service, I am hesitant to endorse. Now, if you’re in a position to cut me a check for the equivalent of one or a few “genius grants,” then that might affect my thinking. My seldom used donation widgets appear on every page, and I do not believe that Paypal enforces an upper limit.

  2. Thanks for the link. I’ll have a look at it and, if I have a thought I deem to be interesting, perhaps I’ll share it–here and not there.

    No, don’t worry–I’ve no intention whatever of commenting at OT. Firstly, it’s your stomping grounds, and I respect that. Though I really don’t think there’s any point in denying our political (and thus, presumably, philosophic) enmity, I’m not your stalker or your heckler–at least I don’t intend to be. In fact, I’m your admirer–all enmity notwithstanding.

    Secondly, I’ve really no interest in OT at all–the “Ordinary” seems spot-on to me. OT strikes me as an almost unfathomably quotidian undertaking. Having said that, I’ll admit that I do enjoy reading your comments there–as I enjoy reading you generally, particularly when you aren’t writing about your family or technical considerations of web design (though I would like to read your father’s eulogy, not because I want to get personal with you–I don’t–but rather because such a momentous occasion is bound to bring out the best in a writer of your excellence).

    Speaking of your comments there…

    When I wrote my comment above, I hadn’t really followed the relevant discussion at OT in anything other than a cursory way. Afterwards, I began to follow it more closely. I thought you acquitted yourself admirably–and, as always, “impressively articulately”. I really would have felt pity for your dwarfish interlocutors there, except they didn’t seem at all to recognize that they were dealing with their intellectual superior. For all the flaws you impute to me, I won’t make that mistake.

    (As an aside: you really ought to be a blogger there, not a commenter or glorified janitor. If you were, you’d be the pre-eminent one–and the problem of your desire for a larger audience would be solved. Has anyone there offered you such? Isn’t it at least somewhat remarkable that a “racist homophobe” like me can recognize your worth, but all the Social Justice Warriors at OT seemingly can’t?)

    And may I say–despite the effusive offers of drinks all round there at the end–it did seem at times that the OT commentariat almost came close, mutatis mutandis, to reviling your comments as much as you seem to revile mine, here at my stomping grounds. (Well, I guess there’s something to be said for the notion that everything’s relative, right?)

    To close, a few odds and ends:

    1) What I admire about you above all–if I may be permitted to employ the old Heideggerian distinction–is that you exemplify “meditative”,  “reflective” thinking as opposed to the “calculative” sort (for a rarefied example of the latter, see Edward Feser).

    2) More than once, I’ve adverted to the “temperamental” difference that holds between us. For all my love of philosophy, I have to admit that I really don’t possess the proper temperament for it. My own gift as a disputant has more to do with rhetoric than philosophy. In some respects, in your criticisms of me, I can’t help but feel that you are asking me to be more like you–and I can’t do that. But I really do want to joust with you, for reasons that I’d like to think I’ve made abundantly plain. I feel a bit like David confronting Goliath.

    (Or is it the other way round? Yes, indeed it is. I needs must rather fancy myself to be like Goliath coming into the camp of Israel and challenging it to send out a champion. Come, young David, with your pouch full of smooth stones…)

    3) I doubt you’ll ever take me up on it, but you’re always welcome to e-mail me–whether you want to denounce me, analyze me, counsel me, recommend a book to me, etc. Few things would delight me so much…



    • Without endorsing your several estimates of the participants, or for that matter your estimate of the differences between you and me and your declaration of a state of enmity between us…

      I take it from your mention of concluding offers of drinks and so on you followed the conversation to its continuation or second phase: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2015/05/09/ive-never-been-there-but-the-brochure-looks-nice#comments. Certainly such conversations become frustrating and repetitious, but I don’t begrudge the OGs their right of intellectual, emotional, and political resistance, and I am grateful for the opportunity to test my thoughts against it. Perhaps during our extended epoch of “philosophical depravation” – a Straussism you may recognize – one must rely for moral and intellectual sustenance on the obstinacy of the honest ideologue, as encountered in the virtual agora, where the citizen’s interest in “the issues” justifies an investigation of widely held premises, taken to matter in the way they are taken to matter, as comprehensibly stated, for practical purposes, at ground level.

      As for OT in particular, there are several regular commenters there who are quite expert in their areas of interest, a few quite formidable in their way, many quite pleasantly collegial, while the confrontations even with the intellectually least sensitive and most immature, or even mentally quite chaotic, still may induce me to check my work and allow me to check my sanity or its remnant, or inspire me to useful re-consideration of my assumptions. So, for example, the challenge to me by DavidTC on my knowledge of paleo-anthropology forced me to update my own references, and led me to research in which insights popularized as revisionism turned out to be supportive, in unexpected ways, of the traditional position on the sexual division of labor, answering the contrary notions seized upon by those constantly re-discovering new supposed proof from the field for the complete overturning of common sense that goes for common sense among the chattering class today. (I’m referring especially to the paper I linked over there from Kuhn and Stiner.) Though the condition was never likely to last for long, I thought that by the end of phase 1 we had even gotten near a meeting ground – a necessary step if communication is any part of the goal – at which a broadly understandable definition of differences, not just a definition of differences between DavidTC and me, but between “conceptions of conception,” might be possible.

      Some of the work of my own that I have found to be most readily graspable by others, even though on complex topics, and most satisfactorily re-readable for me, has emerged from such discussions. As for writing for OT, I am in a position to write anything I like there whenever I like. I was invited to write specifically with a focus on foreign policy, but I have lost contact over the last months with the pulse of foreign policy discussion and have not found the time or will to relocate it. My other interests and observations I have not yet been moved to share, and I think you misinterpreted me from my comments on the Open Thread, that my first goal or among my first goals is to access a larger readership – even if at this point, of course, any readership at all would qualify as a larger readership.

      My web design work there represents a unique opportunity for me to test some ideas out on a busy site. Though the multiple purposes I have in mind for developing the “Commentariat” may not yet be clear to anyone, I outlined the concept a few months ago when writing against “Don’t Read the Comments!” Put differently, I might enjoy writing a piece or several on the philosophy of discourse, but much of whatever I would have to say on Peirce and Hegel and even Strauss and Kojeve might, I find, be enacted instead in a different code, which, once in place, could make the rest of the investigation, and others like it, both more accessible and conceivably even sustainable. Perhaps not, but that’s the course I’m on for now. As long as I don’t frighten the faint-hearted too egregiously, and presuming health and luck hold out, the “perch” should still be there in a few or several months, and better sited.

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