Monday, May 26, 2008

Contra a poor argument

This is essentially a comment I posted in response to a comment on this post over at the Touchstone Magazine blog, Mere Comments.

I was responding to an argument which stated that any kind of natural law argument against homosexual "marriage" is bound to fail, since people who make such arguments do not refuse to acknowledge marriages between couples who are infertile due to certain medical conditions or to age.

I responded as such:

[This argument is] False.

The definition of marriage does not include the essence of each particular conjugal act, but rather the essence of the conjugal act in view of the marital union as a whole. The union between a man and a woman is essentially fertile. That some particular privation may render some particular conjugal acts infertile does not change this any more than the roof of my house changes the essence of the helium in a balloon simply because it gets in the way of the helium finding its natural level.

Homosexual acts are essentially infertile rather than being rendered infertile by some privation. It is impossible for two men or two women to produce children. Homosexual acts are different in kind from the conjugal act, and thus homosexual unions are different in kind from the marital union. That the law should recognize this is a matter of justice, since justice involves treating similar things similarly and different things differently.

23 comments:

ontheturningaway said...

If justice treats similar things similarly and different things differently, then why do you appear to argue that the law should treat "acts" and "unions" similarly, since they seem quite different to me.

Homosexual unions are indistinguishable from heterosexual unions in all but that "act." Unless you believe that marriage is based on fertility and only fertility, than that is not a sound basis on which to limit marriage to only heterosexual couples.

You also fail to distinguish between the two definitions of marriage: the civil one, and the religious one. The religious marriage may contain the definition you mention in the first paragraph of your excerpt, but the civil one carries no such distinction or criterium.

brendon said...

If justice treats similar things similarly and different things differently, then why do you appear to argue that the law should treat "acts" and "unions" similarly, since they seem quite different to me.

I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean that "sex" is in some sense distinct from marriage, I suppose that is true. But marriage is built upon "sex." That is why they are respectively called the conjugal union and the conjugal act.

Homosexual unions are indistinguishable from heterosexual unions in all but that "act." Unless you believe that marriage is based on fertility and only fertility, than that is not a sound basis on which to limit marriage to only heterosexual couples.

Not fertility. The potential for fertility. The union between a man and a woman is, by its very nature, capable of producing offspring, since the sexual complementary of male and female is ordered towards the production of said offspring. That not every conjugal act produces children is accidental and by chance. That some couples cannot produce children for various physical reasons is because of privations that are accidental, not essential.

Whatever union can be considered to exist between two men or two women, both are essentially infertile. There exists in them no sexual complementarity ordered towards the production of children.

Now, since the conjugal union is built upon the conjugal act, the fact that homosexual acts are essentially different from non-homosexual acts means that homosexual relationships cannot be the same as the conjugal union that exists between husband and wife. But this is what is being said is such unions are called "marriage" by the law. Thus the attempt to stop homosexual "marriage" is in keeping with the virtue of justice, specifically with the connected virtue of truth.

You also fail to distinguish between the two definitions of marriage: the civil one, and the religious one. The religious marriage may contain the definition you mention in the first paragraph of your excerpt, but the civil one carries no such distinction or criterium.

I am aware of the distinction between natural marriage and sacramental, or supernatural, marriage. Only the latter is related to religion. But this distinction is irrelevant to the discussion, since the production and raising of children is the primary end of both, thus homosexual relationships fail to meet either definition.

I also deny that so-called "civil marriage" does not meet the definition given. "Civil" does not primarily mean "legal," but rather "pertaining to society or the commonweal." The family is the building block of the commonweal. Thus it is illegitimate to try to draw some kind of distinction between marriage as traditionally understood and marriage as recognized by the commonweal.

This is supported by the historical evidence. At no time has marriage ever been defined by a society as being anything but the union of a man and a woman ordered towards the generation and raising of children. Even cultures that were tolerant of homosexual relationships, such as existed at certain periods in Greece and Rome, did not call them marriage.

Moreover, even if by "civil" you mean "according to law," your statement is still incorrect. If civil law did not recognize the difference between homosexual relationships and non-homosexual relationships, then there would be no movement to overturn and redefine the laws regarding marriage. But since such a movement exists, one can only assume that the law does not recognize homosexual relationships as being equivalent to marriage.

The problem that exists here is that marriage is not about "love," were love is understood primarily as romantic feelings and physical attraction. Marriage is primarily about the generation and raising of children. Insofar as love has a part to play in this, the primary definition of "love" thus involved is "willing the good of the other for the other's benefit." It is the will to sacrifice one's own happiness and comfort for the benefit of one's spouse and one's children. While it would be foolish to say that homosexual relationships cannot possess this kind of love in any way, it is irrelevant, since such relationships are essentially incapable of producing the children that this marital love is properly ordered towards.

ontheturningaway said...

I believe we have reached the foundation of our disagreement, which can be found primarily in your third response, relating to the two definitions (or institutions) of marriage, and the paragraphs following it.

I would tend to vehemently disagree with your assertion that both institutions of marriage are founded with the same goal in mind. If the civil institution of marriage actually had the goal of producing children, as you say, then there would be some kind of penalty for a marriage that does not do so, even a heterosexual one. Likewise, there would probably be a test of some sort to determine the viability of a marriage and its ability of producing children. In short, if that were true, then infertile couples would be forbidden from marriage.

While there are numerous examples to support that argument concerning religious marriage, there is none for civil marriage. In no law or statue can be found marriage defined as "for the purpose of producing children" or any similar phrase. That must be inferred, and it has only been inferred by those who wish to equate it more with its religious counterpart.

The idea that civil marriage is for the purpose of procreation falls short because of this. If that logic were to be applied, it would necessarily void all marriages between heterosexuals who simply choose not to have children, despite being biologically capable of doing so. Obviously, those marriages are not void in the eyes of the law, so I do not believe that logic applies.

I also take issue with you assertion that marriage has always been between a man and a woman. That belief requires overlooking the several countries of the world that currently provide homosexual couples with marriage rights, as well as the states of Massachusetts and, starting June 14th, California. The idea that "it's always been that way" is not a sound basis for denying marriage to homosexuals, not only for the obvious common sense reasons, but also because that argument could be (and was) applied to other civil rights struggles in America's history, and has been found to be unethical and unsound in every case.

brendon said...

If the civil institution of marriage actually had the goal of producing children, as you say, then there would be some kind of penalty for a marriage that does not do so, even a heterosexual one. Likewise, there would probably be a test of some sort to determine the viability of a marriage and its ability of producing children. In short, if that were true, then infertile couples would be forbidden from marriage.

Again, this is a confusion of the accidental with the essential. That a particular marriage actually produce children is accidental. That marriage per se be potentially able to produce children is essential. A man and a woman are, by definition, essentially able to produce children. That some particular man and woman do not for some reason produce children is accidental to the relationship between a man and a woman as such.

But no same sex relationship can produce children. This is not accidental and particular, as it is in the case of the relationship between a man and a woman, but is essential and universal. The relationships are different in kind.

Perhaps an example will make my point more clear. "Every man has the power of sight" is a true statement. It speaks truthfully of human nature. That there exist a number of particular men who are blind does not falsify it. Privations which prevent the actualization of a power do not render the power non-existent except accidentally. And accidents do not change the natures of things.

However the statement "every man has the power of non-aided flight" is a false statement. No man can fly simply by willing himself to do so through the use of some inborn power. It is not within the bounds of human nature to fly. There is a difference between a power that is kept from actualizing, and thus exists only potentially, and a power that is non-existent.

While there are numerous examples to support that argument concerning religious marriage, there is none for civil marriage. In no law or statue can be found marriage defined as "for the purpose of producing children" or any similar phrase. That must be inferred, and it has only been inferred by those who wish to equate it more with its religious counterpart.

The inference is an obvious one, since the marriage laws, as they exit, prohibit the marrying two people of the same sex to one another. And again, the inference cannot be said to be based solely on religious grounds, since, again, there is no example throughout human history of same sex relationships being called marriage until recently.

The idea that civil marriage is for the purpose of procreation falls short because of this. If that logic were to be applied, it would necessarily void all marriages between heterosexuals who simply choose not to have children, despite being biologically capable of doing so. Obviously, those marriages are not void in the eyes of the law, so I do not believe that logic applies.

This logic fails for the same reason as given above. There is a difference between what is accidental and what is essential.

I also take issue with you assertion that marriage has always been between a man and a woman. That belief requires overlooking the several countries of the world that currently provide homosexual couples with marriage rights, as well as the states of Massachusetts and, starting June 14th, California.

These are all recent examples. That some modern states wish to throw out the wisdom of the past is not surprising, but it does not negate the historical argument in the least. There has not been enough time to say whether or not this latter-day attempt at re-engineering human society, and thereby human nature--for since man is an political animal, i.e. one suited for social life within the commonweal, that is exactly what this is--has been successful.

The idea that "it's always been that way" is not a sound basis for denying marriage to homosexuals, not only for the obvious common sense reasons, but also because that argument could be (and was) applied to other civil rights struggles in America's history, and has been found to be unethical and unsound in every case.

I vehemently disagree. Custom, especially long-lived custom from time immemorial, has the force of law unless it is obviously unjust. Since denying marriage rights to homosexuals is not unjust, for the reasons previously demonstrated, "it's always been that way" is, quite frankly, all the argument needed.

Moreover, your appeal to other civil rights struggles is fallacious. It confuses what is not under a persons control with what is. Race, for example, is not something within a person's ability to choose. Actions, on the other hand, are.

One might argue that same sex attraction has its origins entirely in that which is inherited, genetic and not open to choice. But even if this is so, it does not follow that the actions associated with it are not open to choice. And, quite frankly, if one wishes to argue that genetic predisposition and strong feelings cause these actions to be in some way determined, one must be open to the possibility that many other actions that one finds unsavory also are. If we cannot fight our feelings or our genetic dispositions, then we cannot impute culpability to the drunk driver who comes from a family with a history of alcoholism, or the bigot who comes from a home steeped in race-hatred. Man must be free to be culpable. Either he is free to act or he isn't. If he isn't, then no man is guilty of anything. If he is, then strong feeling and genetic predispositions are not excuses, even if they may be mitigating circumstances.

And, quite frankly, I do not believe that it is at all true that "it's always been that way" has truly been found "unethical and unsound in every case." It may be true that many, even most, people believe this. But most people simply adhere to liberalism* as their default and unquestioned philosophy. Most people have never actually asked real, historical questions about historical actions and their cultural results, instead uncritically accepting the official, Whiggish meta-narrative they vaguely remember from school. Such judgments are of little use in realizing the truth of things.

* "Liberal" is not here used as a synonymy of "leftist," but rather as the name of a political philosophy that holds freedom, and thus the will, as the foundation of a just society and choice as the greatest good. By this definition, even most of America's "conservatives" are really liberals.

As for myself, I hold that the order, and thus reason, is the foundation of a just society and, following from that, I hold truth as the greatest good. I am in no way a liberal. That I am quite politically homeless in modern-day America goes without saying.

ontheturningaway: said...

The distinction of the "accidental" with the "essential" leaves out an important reality that invalidates that argument: Let's call it the "intentional." The intentional refers to a couple, either straight or gay, that enters into a marriage with the unmitigated intention to not have children. Along these lines, you could say that all gay married couples do this out of biological necessity, if you don't count "adoption" and are only referring to actual procreation of children. However, the very fact that some straight couples enter into marriages with the intention of having no children invalidates that argument by definition, since by your logic they must necessarily be void, but by reality and legality they are not.

In case that is not enough to show this argument's validity, I can also demonstrate that your "essential" argument is not valid, because of the example of women with Turner's syndrome. These women are biologically, completely unable to have children (the syndrome arises from possessing only one X chromosome which causes them to not experience puberty), yet there is no law or justification preventing them from entering marriage. However, you may likely still categorize this example as a "privation" that does not detract from your original point, so if that is the case, please disregard, although the difference between this and most other "privations" is that in this case, the couple certainly knows they are infertile long before they enter into marriage.

Therefore my assertion holds true that "biological ability to procreate" is not a requirement to enter into a civil or legal marriage in the United States. The contrary assertion is by definition religious because it originates from a belief in "Go forth and multiply," and nowhere else.

To summarize that, essentially I'm saying that some marriages are platonic, or for any of a multitude of reasons, legitimately does not produce children. Gay marriage is not unique in that respect.

Because of this, it is impossible to draw a line against which marriage is defined, so the line you must be trying to draw, and the basis on which you apparently must be denying gays their right to marriage, is necessarily the line between straight and gay.

My reference to past civil rights struggles is justified as follows: Inferring that marriage is based on "straightness," which, for the above reasons, is what you must be arguing, is no different than inferring that suffrage is based on "whiteness" or "maleness" as has been done throughout history. You must have a legitimate reason to do this and so deny marriage to gays. Basing it on a question of biology (which as you said, is unchangeable, unlike behavior) fails as a justification, again, because of the above reasons (demonstrating that no line can be drawn; no definitive distinction can be made). "It's always been that way" is only a legitimate argument if the "way" it's "always been" is correct and just, therefore that is a side debate to the real discussion at hand and all arguments or questions remain the same.

My apologies for the first paragraph of my previous post, which reiterated topics from your original post and was therefore redundant. Going back to that post, I must reinforce the idea that "marriage [includes] the essence of the conjugal act in view of the marital union as a whole" is false, because civil marriage has no requirement or definition regarding "conjugal acts" in the first place. Frankly, "sex" is not a requirement for civil marriage. That is another religious belief.

On that subject, I would have thought that, as a conservative and possibly even as a Roman Catholic, you would have agreed with me that the government has no right to legislate in the bedroom. And the bedroom is the only place where homosexual marriage is different than heterosexual marriage: the bedroom (or "conjugal") act, and the ability or inability of that act to produce children, which as displayed above, is not a justifiable distinction to make for legality.

For those reasons neither you, I, nor the government has any right to tell other people what their marriage is for.

While religious marriage has many definitions depending on the faith, denomination, sect, etc. civil marriage in the United States has only one: it is a contract between two people. The only legal requirements, in most states, are that both individuals be 18 years of age or older, and that they not be related as first cousins or any closer. Like these qualifications, any "inferred" or added requirement must have a legitimate reason regarding the welfare of those involved or affected by two individuals' marriage, or the welfare of the nation (or commonweal, if you prefer) itself.

On the subject of "culpability," I agree that while I believe sexuality is (at least in large part) determined by genetic or inherited factors (I will share my reasons for this if you like), "it does not follow that the actions associated with it are not open to choice." However, if that is true, then it follows that it is true for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. You seem to be holding gays to a higher standard than you expect straights adhere to. Maybe you should elaborate more, but at a basic level it seems that you expect gays not to act on their sexual urges, while with straights it is perfectly okay. This probably results from a belief that 1) sex is for procreation only and/or 2) homosexuality is a sin. For obvious reasons, both are religious views, and as stated above, they form no basis for interfering with the affairs of others' bedrooms. It also provides one more example of the lack of distinction between straights and gays, as obviously both groups engage in sexual activity that is deliberately intended and arranged to not produce children.

Also, although states and nations that allow same-sex marriage may be a recent development, the fact remains that although their opponents predicted doomsday, the downfall of society, the invasion of churches and homes by gays, and any number of disasters that would befall municipalities that changed their marriage laws as such, none of it happened. The gay community bean clamoring for its rights. In certain areas, after a long struggle, their rights were granted. And those areas, notably several foreign countries such as Denmark and Canada, as well as US states like Massachusetts, have not experienced any disasters that were predicted by the opponents of gay marriage. In fact, such measures even cause a small boom in the local economy and tourism industry, which apparently tends to last about three years.

So I ask you, if a group of people believe their rights are being violated (even if you believe they are wrong), and giving them what they ask for (and believe they deserve like anyone else) does not cause problems, infringe on anyone's rights, or hurt anyone, then frankly, why not? Why oppose those measures?

In closing, may I say that I am familiar with your definition of "liberal," that I understand it, more or less agree with it, and if you value "truth" as the greatest good, then I enjoy seeking it with you on this topic.

brendon said...

As briefly as possible, and quite probably a bit scatter-shot:

That marriage is for the procreation of children strikes me as an obvious fact that has been demonstrated throughout human history. Even in societies where homosexual and adulterous relationships were, if not accepted, then at least tolerated, marriage was still privileged. This is because it is through a marriage that children were not only conceived and born, but reared and educated to be integrated members of society. That is why marriage was and is privileged. To grant such privileges to relationships that are, by their very nature, unable to accomplish the end for which marriage is privileged is absurd.

The inability to have children because of some disease or old age is a privation and accidental. It does not change the essential nature of the relationship.

I am purposefully ignoring intent. Any relationship that is based in some way upon the will and consent of those in the relationship can have its nature changed if their wills are not in order with the reality of the relationship. But the question becomes, "How does one go about discovering the intent of those entering into marriage?" Just as it is more prudent to treat all children born to a married woman as the children of her husband unless it is contested, it is prudent to treat all putatively married couples as actually married unless this is contested. But since only those involved have the right to contest, and since it is extremely unlikely that two people who intend not to have children are going to contest their marriage because they do not have children, the problem isn't one that comes up.

"Sex" isn't required for a Sacramental marriage either. That a relationship be ordered towards the procreation of children does not mean that one must attempt to procreate, only that one is capable of it.

And the bedroom is the only place where homosexual marriage is different than heterosexual marriage

This treats sexual distinctions as something irrelevant to being human. But sexual distinctions are ontological realities. While men and woman are both equally human, to be a man is not the same thing as to be a woman. Thus homosexual relationships are completely ontologically distinct from heterosexual relationships at all times, not just in the bedroom.

For those reasons neither you, I, nor the government has any right to tell other people what their marriage is for.

What marriage is "for" follows from what marriage is. To assume that we can make marriage to be whatever we want is to assume that there is no reality behind the word "marriage," and so we can each make it mean what we like. But since I deny this, I do not grant that government has no authority to protect the reality of marriage through the passage of laws.

civil marriage in the United States has only one: it is a contract between two people.

This is obviously false. Until recently it was a contract between two people of opposite sexes. It is still that is most states.

Also, although states and nations that allow same-sex marriage may be a recent development, the fact remains that although their opponents predicted doomsday, the downfall of society, the invasion of churches and homes by gays, and any number of disasters that would befall municipalities that changed their marriage laws as such, none of it happened.

Except, of course, those priests and pastors who have been tried for "hate speech" because they preached the traditional and biblical understanding of marriage to their congregation.

And those areas, notably several foreign countries such as Denmark and Canada, as well as US states like Massachusetts, have not experienced any disasters that were predicted by the opponents of gay marriage.

Essentially zero time has passed since it has been legalized in these localities. To think these things can be measured in months and years rather than decades and centuries would be evidence of a mark lack of historical consciousness.

And, quite frankly, none of these places have been a healthy society for decades.

In fact, such measures even cause a small boom in the local economy and tourism industry, which apparently tends to last about three years.

How libertarian. There is more to a healthy community than an abundantly profitable economy. "They are making money" is not proof that all is well.

So I ask you, if a group of people believe their rights are being violated (even if you believe they are wrong), and giving them what they ask for (and believe they deserve like anyone else) does not cause problems, infringe on anyone's rights, or hurt anyone, then frankly, why not?

Not enough time has passed to say that problems do not exist. "Hurt" is more than physical pain. It also includes moral and spiritual harm. Quite frankly, by this definition everyone is hurt, starting with the homosexual couples themselves.

Why oppose those measures?

Because consequences are not starting point in judging moral actions, but the last hurdle to be cleared. Because even if there were no negative consequences--something I obviously do not admit--such measure would still be wrong in and of themselves.

Your last post has been very helpful. It has made clear to me that our differences are not simply ones of ethics or political philosophy, though those obviously exist. It is a difference in anthropology, differing views on what it means to be human. Since the starting point of ethics and politics is the human person, such differences obviously affect those areas, but they are themselves more fundamental.

I must be honest. I cannot lay out an entire philosophical anthropology, as well as the ethical and political positions that follow from it, here in a comment. I am sure that this is obvious to you from the terseness of some of my answers on specific points. I honestly could not accomplish such a task in a single post either. Perhaps, if I keep blogging for years, I might eventually have a series of posts that one could go through in a specific order to achieve an essential summary. But really, the whole thing would require a book, or even a series of books. And while that sounds like a noble endeavor, I have to worry about finishing my thesis and getting a teaching job before writing a book becomes even an imaginable reality.

Still, I thank you for your comments. Discussion is always worthwhile for clarifying thoughts, positions and arguments, even if neither of us convinces the other. Feel free to visit as often as you like and to comment if and when it suits you. I always try to respond to arguments and questions. And I will always attempt to be charitable in doing so, even though I am aware enough of my own sins and vices to know that I will certainly fail at times.

ontheturningaway: said...

I think you have said a few things that reveal the thinking behind your arguments more clearly than your arguments do themselves, therefore I should make a conjecture as to the philosophical underpinnings of what you have been saying.

It is telling that you chose the phrase "authority to protect the reality of marriage." I was under the impression that while it is arguable that religious, or sacramental, marriage may have a divinely-ordained reality that we here on Earth should not attempt to change or circumvent, civil marriage is, in fact, "civil," meaning it was created by the government and thus government grants it whatever reality it has.

More importantly, you chose the word "protect." While your church or my church may wish to "protect" their version of sacramental marriage from anyone they deem unqualified to receive it, the government has no such right.

The reason for this is the question, "What are you protecting it from?" More marriages, which happen to be of a nature that, for some reason, you don't like. What are you afraid of?

Even more important is the fact that the government may not withhold rights from a group of people based on the spectre of the possibility that it may cause harm. While I agree that these things can not "be measured in months and years rather than decades and centuries," the fact remains that there needs to be evidence of a problem, not the mere spectre of a problem on the horizon, before we deny gays their rights. The economic argument is just one example, and one that I brought up because of a friend of mine who has similar views to yours, and also has a libertarian streak. Nonetheless, while you may say that at this point in time I have no proof that all is well, likewise, you have no proof that something is wrong, and the burden of proof is on you.

You said earlier that marriage is not about love. While I could interpret that as a rather cynical statement, I see what you're saying. The fact remains that some couples marry for love, while others marry for the purpose of procreation, and others marry for yet other reasons. Many couples choose to marry for a combination of those reasons. So again, you have no right to dictate to others what their marriage is for. The beliefs you have expressed so far, as to the purpose of marriage, apply only to sacramental marriage.

Denying marriage to gays must be based on the premise that granting it to them would damage the welfare of society, threaten the state, or infringe on someone's rights. There are numerous examples, anecdotal and scientific, that suggest quite strongly that the presence of gay marriage is actually good for society.

Other hints in your posts suggest that you believe gay marriage hurts society because you believe homosexuality is a sin. While I'm sure it would be foolish to try to convince you otherwise at this point, that belief is irrelevant to policy anyway, because the United States is not in the business of regulating matters pertaining to the afterlife. The definition of sin varies, and people are free to sin here.

Since I don't think you believe gay marriage presents a threat to the state, we must move to the other two possibilities. If you think it hurts the welfare of society, then I'm sorry to say, you must wait for that to actually manifest itself somehow before you actually condemn gay marriage for hurting the welfare of society. Otherwise you are merely repeating the same demagoguery that was responsible for miscegenation laws.

So since I think we agreed that gay marriage has not yet proved itself to be harmful to society (correct me if I'm wrong), that leaves us the last example, that is, the possibility that gay marriage infringes on someone's rights.

If it doesn't cause one of these problems, then denying gay marriage constitutes a denial of their rights, so it must be shown that granting it would deny someone else their rights, respectively. So at this point I must ask, whose rights does it violate?

brendon said...

While your church or my church may wish to "protect" their version of sacramental marriage from anyone they deem unqualified to receive it, the government has no such right.

Your assertion is not proof. Moreover, it is nonsense. The purpose of government is to defend the common good, i.e. those goods necessary to all people for the attainment of their proper end as human beings. More on this to follow.

...civil marriage is, in fact, "civil," meaning it was created by the government and thus government grants it whatever reality it has.

"Civil" does not mean "created by the government." It means "arising out of society." The belief that government fiat creates the reality of marriage is false. More on this later as well.

The reason for this is the question, "What are you protecting it from?" More marriages, which happen to be of a nature that, for some reason, you don't like. What are you afraid of?

First, to say I oppose something simply because I do not like it or because I am afraid of it is emotivism. Emotivism is bunk. I oppose and dislike a number of things because I first became convinced that they are wrong, rather than the other way around. The man I was some 10 years ago would not have cared about this issue at all. The man I am today cares about it because I was first intellectually convinced that the position held by the defenders of marriage is true and in accord with right reason.

Even more important is the fact that the government may not withhold rights from a group of people based on the spectre of the possibility that it may cause harm.

What right is being denied? Rights are not something that all people have unless it is shown that they do not. Rights are correlative with duties, and only exist within relationships. Rights are those things one is due within a relationship because justice demands it based upon the nature of said relationship. Rights do not exist except within a matrix of relationships, duties and justice. No government simply "owes" people rights that do not exist under the natural or positive law, and no government can "owe" anyone a right via positive law that is contrary to natural law.

Nonetheless, while you may say that at this point in time I have no proof that all is well, likewise, you have no proof that something is wrong, and the burden of proof is on you.

No, it isn't. As previously stated, tradition and custom have the force of law. There is no tradition anywhere in the history of Western civilization of giving homosexual relationships the legal respect and rights of marriage. Thus, the burden of proof is yours.

You said earlier that marriage is not about love.

Actually, I said that marriage was not about love as it is primarily understood by moderns, i.e. love as defined by desire, passion, emotions and feelings. I freely admit, and as far as I can see so admitted above, that love understood as willing the good of another, with the duty and sacrifice this entails, is a primary part of marriage.

While I could interpret that as a rather cynical statement, I see what you're saying.

I'm not sure you do. And, far from being cynical, my understanding of the love necessary within marriage is, I believe, far more romantic and noble. "I will die for you," is the stuff of high romance. "You make me feel good," is the stuff of insubstantial fluff and of drugs. "I desire to deposit bodily fluids in your orifices," is the stuff of pornography.

The fact remains that some couples marry for love, while others marry for the purpose of procreation, and others marry for yet other reasons. Many couples choose to marry for a combination of those reasons. So again, you have no right to dictate to others what their marriage is for.

This is nominalism. Nominalism is bunk. Words, if they are worth anything, express underlying realities. The idea that words express nothing other than what we will them to express does violence to language, to logic and to reality. It doesn't matter what people "choose" marriage to be, since their choices have zero affect on reality. It matters what marriage is.

Other hints in your posts suggest that you believe gay marriage hurts society because you believe homosexuality is a sin.

I believe that gay marriage hurts society because it is contrary to the common good. The commons good, as explained above, is made up of those goods necessary to all people for the attainment of their proper end as human beings. These are, in turn, based upon human nature.

One of these goods is civil society itself. Human beings are, by nature, social beings. We are born into a family, dependent upon it, especially upon our parents, for all our needs. Even as we grow, we still depend on our parents for many of our needs and for our education. As adults we still need others, since each man has his own skills, which makes it easier for each to use his own skills and trade his labor and its fruits with others who have different skills. This causes the interaction among different families, witch in turn leads to the merging of families via marriage. And in this way families become tribes and tribes become a people, a nation, a society.

We are born into the society of the family, in which we are raised and educated. This is part of our nature. It is from the society of the family that society at large comes into being. The family is the building block of civil society, Thus, and attack on the family is an attack on civil society itself. And so to defend itself, civil society must defend the family. The family and civil society itself are necessarily part of the common good. For government to defend marriage is for government to defend the common good, which is governments job.

If you think it hurts the welfare of society, then I'm sorry to say, you must wait for that to actually manifest itself somehow before you actually condemn gay marriage for hurting the welfare of society.

It hurts society by definition. It destroys the respect and protection owed to the family as the building block of society. It does this by blurring the distinction between the reality of marriage, which is the foundation of the family, and relationships that are not and cannot, by definition, be marriage. It further obscures the purpose of marriage. It also obscures truth by falsely asserting that disorder is the same as order.

So since I think we agreed that gay marriage has not yet proved itself to be harmful to society (correct me if I'm wrong), that leaves us the last example, that is, the possibility that gay marriage infringes on someone's rights.

We obviously don't. And, quite frankly, rights talk is foolish and a waste of time, for reasons already stated.

If it doesn't cause one of these problems, then denying gay marriage constitutes a denial of their rights, so it must be shown that granting it would deny someone else their rights, respectively.

It constitutes no such thing. Continually asserting that homosexuals have some "right" to have their relationships recognized as equivalent to marriage does nothing to actually demonstrate that this is so. And no demonstration is possible. Homosexual relationships are essentially different from heterosexual relationships. The latter is the source of the family, the building block of society; the former can be no such thing. Thus the relationship between these relationships and society are completely different. Different relationships are justly treated differently and as such have different rights and duties. And from this it follows that what society owes heterosexual relationships is different than what it owes homosexual relationships.

ontheturningaway: said...

Much of your opposition is still founded on the notion that civil marriage is for the explicit purpose of procreation. That is simply untrue.

You say that even though this provision for marriage cannot be found in any law, it can be inferred. Fine, then let's examine why we would do so. The government cannot deny marriage to certain people unless, as you say, doing so falls under the task of protecting the common good. Let's take a look at why this would meet that criteria, or why it can't.

I am currently unmarried. When I decide to settle down and make a permanent commitment, one of the things I plan to do is have children. Probably more than one. However, that will not be the purpose of my marriage. It will be one of its purposes. There are many people who have similar ideas about marriage, and you are contending that they are all wrong, and going against what marriage "is." But you still haven't separated civil marriage from sacramental marriage, even though you do such a good job of separating your image of marriage from reality.

There are people, heterosexual people, who get married for convenience. There are heterosexual people who get married for tax reasons. There are people who get married because one spouse's green card is set to expire. Recently there has even been an increase of people getting married for health insurance reasons. There are "golddiggers" who marry people who are well above the age of fertility, in hope of inheriting money, instead of marrying someone else who could mother or father children with them. There are people who get married and specifically forgo any and all intention to have children. There are people who get married and live their entire lives together without having children, despite perfect biological ability to do so.

All of these examples represent a clear disdain or ignorance of what you still maintain marriage "is" and what it's purpose is.

But for some reason you aren't arguing that these people should be legally forbidden to marry. Just gays.

So this selective enforcement is a bit troubling to me.

You keep coming back to the biological ability to have children, but consider this: you appear to be arguing that a heterosexual couple (both perfectly fertile) who marry and don't have children because they don't want to, is somehow better than a homosexual couple who marry and don't have children because they can't.

So your selective outrage is a bit troubling to me.

You assert that heterosexual relationships are the building block of families and thus society. While I value family as well, I fail to see how two gay parents, who love, care for, and raise their adopted child, are somehow less legitimate or less of a family than two heterosexual parents who love, care for, and raise their adopted child.

You assert that homosexual marriage is damaging by definition because it "destroys the respect and protection owed to the family as the building block of society." I'm a little confused, because I actually gained significant respect for California about a month ago. Only people who are against gay marriage will actually lose respect for anything with its legalization, but I am surprised at your assertion that you would lose respect for the entire institution of marriage in that case.

Surely your marriage would not suffer because of other marriages suddenly being available? If so, then the people of The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Spain, Massachusetts, and California must be hiding the grave consequences of gay marriage from the rest of the world. Surely if the institution of marriage suffers a loss of respect when gays participate and partake, then the existence of these unions in various localities would have shown this and everyone would realize how bad it really can be.

But of course, you mentioned that we should measure these things in decades or more, rather than mere months or years. Fair enough, but of course that means I am content to wait until such negative proof presents itself, because until it does, gay marriage cannot be shown to be contrary to the welfare of society. The mere possibility that it could, at some point in the future, cause negative consequences, is not enough to condemn it.

So if, at some point in the future, it is shown that gay marriage harms society, of course I will reverse my decision and join you in fighting for the condemnation, both legal and moral, of gay marriage everywhere.

Moving on, a thought had occurred to me. I wonder, what could possibly do more to harm the image and respect for marriage than the institution of divorce? Divorce is perfectly legal, albeit often expensive, here in the United States. It stands in direct contrast to everything marriage stands for, in large part due to its propensity to end marriage. However, I have not personally lost respect for marriage due to the existence of legal divorce. And because of it, maybe marriage really does depend on what people make it. Current divorce rates in this country suggest that we're, frankly, not that great at it.

But more significant than that, I think, is the fact that in other countries that have legalized gay marriage, divorce rates have not risen. In fact, they have gone down, although this is of course far from entirely attributable to gay marriage.

You have not mentioned any problem with heterosexual marriages dissolved by divorce. Obviously divorce creates a few barriers in front of the whole procreation thing. Two perfectly fertile people choosing, for whatever reason, not to continue the relationship under which they can lawfully and loyally have children together apparently doesn't register on your radar.

I still find it hard to believe that you won't accept the concept that civil marriage is free from this purpose. If it needs to be inferred, why leave it to chance at all? Why not actually write it into the definition of marriage? Otherwise poor, misinformed people like myself can come along and claim it doesn't exist. Why leave it to chance? It seems like a rather large risk to me, if barring gay couples from marriage is as important as you make it sound.

No, sir, civil marriage carries no requirements that aren't actually written and enforced. In fact, as far as I know, most states have even stopped requiring blood tests before issuing marriage licenses.

So again I reiterate that gay marriage must present a clear danger to other individuals or the state. The seven justices of the California Supreme Court issued a decision showing that four of them don't believe it does. It came with a nice statement, as always, with the rationale for the decision, which you might want to look into. And by the way, six of the seven justices were appointed by Republicans, so considering the distinct likelihood that a few of them are personally uncomfortable with the concept of gay marriage, you might want to consider the possibility that they know something you don't.

But more important is the danger you did mention. I disagree with the idea, as outlined above, that gay marriage inherently causes a loss of respect for marriage. For one thing, polls in California show a narrow, but visible majority in that state who are in favor of legalized same-sex marriage. So, it stands to reason that slightly more than half of California's citizens will not feel their respect for marriage diminished because of the marriage licenses that have been issued in the last few days. If we look at the rest of the population, slightly less than half might very well lose respect for marriage, although I doubt it. So if we do the math, that looks like a net gain of respect for me. So your "respect" argument really means you shouldn't be completely against gay marriage; you should actually be in favor of its legalization where there are large populations of people who disagree with you.

Of course, all this is secondary to a more important concept: if "loss of respect" is all you can come up with, then I'm not too worried about the prospects of a society with gay marriage. For all this talk about destroying the status of the family, if your marriage or your family can't withstand a few families that are a little different than yours, then frankly it probably sucked in the first place.

I don't understand your rationale here. It sounds like "Oh, the gays are marrying so my marriage is doomed," is a very real threat in your mind. Even if you don't think gay marriages are a good idea, their existence will not cancel the existence of straight marriages. No one is arguing that they are better than straight marriages, which is the only circumstance under which I think the standing of straight marriage would be diminished.

If you value the heterosexual family, I fail to see how the existence of homosexual families will change that. Although I am straight, I value both, and the existence or non-existence of either will not change that. Even the gay community does not disdain straight marriage in any way. Honestly, it's just not their thing. I have even met children of gay marriages, and they also have no ill regard for straight marriage, probably because like the population as a whole, most of them are straight.

No, sir, gay marriage does not constitute a threat to society any more than it constitutes a threat to existing straight marriage. It is simply a long overdue addition. Even if you still maintain that marriage is for having children, the simple act of not having children is not "contrary" to its purpose. There are three levels here: productive, not productive, and counter-productive. The latter two are not interchangeable. "Not going good" for society is not the same as "actually doing bad" for society. So, whether you consider marriage to be a right or a privilege, denying it to gays is unjust. For all the reasons outlined above: if they ask for it, why the hell not?

Your selective application of logic is a bit troubling.

Your neighbor's marriage does not affect you or yours, regardless of the gender of your neighbor and your neighbor's spouse.

brendon said...

This has become pointless.

You persist in voluntarist and nominalist definitions of marriage: it is what people desire and will it to be, it is what government says it is via law, it is what most people say it is &c. This is all, to not put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

Marriage is an actual reality, attested to by thousands of years of civilization. It is between man and woman for the purpose of children. That is what it is. Redefining the word we use to speak about the reality is an abuse of language and an assault on truth.

But for some reason you aren't arguing that these people should be legally forbidden to marry. Just gays.

Any and every putative marriage between a man and a woman is essentially capable of producing children, however warped the intention of those entering into it. No homosexual relationship is capable of producing children. The latter is obviously and essentially contrary to the proper end of marriage. The former is particular and cannot be known without an imprudent and unjust extension of the government in the familial.

You keep coming back to the biological ability to have children, but consider this: you appear to be arguing that a heterosexual couple (both perfectly fertile) who marry and don't have children because they don't want to, is somehow better than a homosexual couple who marry and don't have children because they can't.

A heterosexual relationship is essentially different than a homosexual relationship, and is a better relationship insofar as it is, by its very existence, properly ordered towards the ends of a sexual relationship. A homosexual relationship is, by its very existence, disordered and contrary to the proper ends of a sexual relationship. This doesn't mean that the couple in the heterosexual relationship necessarily acts within the bounds of right reason towards the proper end of their relationship, and insofar as they do not they act viciously. But this does nothing to change the fact that their relationship, by its very nature of being between a man and a woman, is rightly ordered towards the proper ends.

Homosexual relationships are essentially disordered. They are essentially contrary to the nature of sexual relationships. The very nature of homosexual attraction is disordered. The purpose of sexual desire is a sexual relationship. The purpose of a sexual relationship is the procreation of children. To desire a relationship contrary to the purpose of sexuality is to have disordered passions or a disordered will.

While I value family as well, I fail to see how two gay parents, who love, care for, and raise their adopted child, are somehow less legitimate or less of a family than two heterosexual parents who love, care for, and raise their adopted child.

It does moral and intellectual violence to the children. It does this by teaching them, through the very nature of the relationship, that homosexual relationships are essentially the same as and as rightly ordered as heterosexual relationships. This is, quite frankly, a lie.

I'm a little confused, because I actually gained significant respect for California about a month ago.

Which proves the point. Your understanding of marriage is, as expressed in this discussion and explained above, voluntarist and nominalist. You think marriage is whatever people want it to be. You, and many others, now feel confirmed in that fact. The reality of marriage has been assaulted and obscured, and respect for real marriage has been lost because a caricature of marriage is now being treated the same as real marriage.

Fair enough, but of course that means I am content to wait until such negative proof presents itself, because until it does, gay marriage cannot be shown to be contrary to the welfare of society.

Of course it can. Legally recognizing gay "marriage" does violence to the common good, for reasons explained more than once, and is thus, by definition, contrary to the welfare of society.

Moving on, a thought had occurred to me. I wonder, what could possibly do more to harm the image and respect for marriage than the institution of divorce?

Separation, let alone divorce, for any reason other than adultery or abuse is an obvious injustice. No-fault divorce is a plague on society. You will get no arguments from me on the cultural poison that is divorce.

But more significant than that, I think, is the fact that in other countries that have legalized gay marriage, divorce rates have not risen.

I fail to see the relevance. Even if homosexual "marriage" was single-handedly responsible for lowering the divorce statistics, this is meaningless. The statistics would have changed because non-marriages were now being counted as marriages due to the abuse of language and power. But since they are not real marriages, whether or not they end in so-called divorce is irrelevant to the real problem of divorce.

Two perfectly fertile people choosing, for whatever reason, not to continue the relationship under which they can lawfully and loyally have children together apparently doesn't register on your radar.

And interesting rhetorical technique. So because I do not mention one evil that is contrary to marriage while discussing another evil contrary to marriage, the only logical conclusion is that I don't recognize the former as an evil? (Hint: the correct answer is, "No.")

Why not actually write it into the definition of marriage?

Because not fifty years ago the very idea that two men can marry each other would have had anyone suggesting it justifiably held up to scorn or run out of town on a rail? But sure, since we live in an age that cannot recognize absurdity, I suppose we must. The voters in California did. But then, of course, four men in black told them they couldn't. Funny old world.

For one thing, polls in California show a narrow, but visible majority in that state who are in favor of legalized same-sex marriage.

Again, you seem to be under the impression that the will of the majority somehow alters reality. It doesn't. Moreover, I call bullshit, since when the people of California actually voted, homosexual "marriage" was defeated.

For all this talk about destroying the status of the family, if your marriage or your family can't withstand a few families that are a little different than yours, then frankly it probably sucked in the first place.

"My" marriage is not the issue here, since I am not married.

Again, homosexual "marriage" is an assault upon marriage and the family because the legal recognition of such "marriages" obscures the true definition of marriage by treating a caricature of marriage with the same respect as real marriage and making the two equivalent under the law, and thus all too often in the minds of the people.

For all the reasons outlined above: if they ask for it, why the hell not?

Because their disordered desires do not change reality and to act otherwise is to commit moral and intellectual harm to both them and to society by leading them and society to believe that their disordered desires are good, true and rightly ordered.

ontheturningaway: said...

How's this for pointless:

You continually assert that people, specifically gay people in this case, cannot change the reality of marriage.

I have been thinking about this more, and I think I understand where you're coming from. Your assertion rests on the premise that marriage gets its reality from somewhere else besides the people who get married.

The only source I can think of, to which you might be referring to, is God.

Doesn't that sound like sacramental marriage to you?

brendon said...

The only source I can think of, to which you might be referring to, is God.

Or human nature. Human nature cannot be changed by the particular choices, feelings, inclinations &c. of particular men. I cannot jump of a building and fly, even if I really want to. Similarly two men or two women cannot be married, no matter how much they really want to be.

Doesn't that sound like sacramental marriage to you?

It would sound like sacramental marriage if I were referring to marriages that exist not only naturally, but also supernaturally through grace. But since I'm only referencing human nature, no, it doesn't, it sounds like natural marriage.

ontheturningaway: said...

So maybe this is where our disagreement truly lies: I believe that homosexuality, and by extension marriages between homosexuals (or bisexuals), is not actually contrary to human nature. I also believe that it is not the job of legislation, or any government function, to enforce what is "natural" or human nature, since that definition is always applied subjectively and selectively.

Your particular idea of the religious institution may say one thing about this, but one of the nice things about civil marriage is that it is supposed to be available to everybody, because everybody has legitimate disagreements about what marriage is for, which may or may not stem from legitimate disagreements about what human nature is.

You've studied philosophy and I'm sure your background in it is much more thorough then mine, but I wonder if you've thought about the fact that people have been arguing about what human nature is for thousands of years, because you seem a little overly certain.

I also take issue with your analogy concerning your ability to fly. We're talking about something that people certainly could do, if only their state or federal government would let them. If the government legalized flying, that would change nothing. This analogy would only be applicable if people could fly, but you thought it was against human nature. Gay marriage is not impossible, even according to your arguments. You are just asserting that it's wrong.

I think we should explore this further, assuming neither of us wants this to become pointless.

brendon said...

So maybe this is where our disagreement truly lies: I believe that homosexuality, and by extension marriages between homosexuals (or bisexuals), is not actually contrary to human nature.

Oh, I am certain that this is where our disagreement lies.

A definition of terms:

Nature: a thing's formal and final cause, insofar as the form of a thing is the principle that moves the thing towards its proper end.

Form: synonymous with essence, formal cause; the type of being a thing is.

End: synonymous with final cause; the proper goal of a being or of one of its powers.

Unnatural: contrary to the nature of a thing.

The sexual distinctions between male and female are natural to human beings. The sexual distinctions between male and female exist for the purpose of reproduction. The purpose of reproductive powers is to reproduce, i.e. to produce new members of the species. Homosexual attraction and activity are contrary to the purpose of the reproductive powers. The reproductive powers are facets of human nature. Ergo, homosexual attraction and activity are contrary to human nature, which means they are, by definition, unnatural.

You've studied philosophy and I'm sure your background in it is much more thorough then mine, but I wonder if you've thought about the fact that people have been arguing about what human nature is for thousands of years, because you seem a little overly certain.

I am certain because I have never encountered a sound argument against my position. I am well aware that the history of philosophy is full of disagreements. That bothers me not at all. Truth is founded in reality, not in human consensus.

We're talking about something that people certainly could do, if only their state or federal government would let them.

No, we're not. We're talking about a natural relationship whose existence stems directly from human nature.

And I've already dealt with the voluntarism and nominalism this statement expresses in previous comments.

If the government legalized flying, that would change nothing.

Which is why the analogy is perfect. The government saying two men can marry no more makes them able to marry than the government saying men can fly makes them able to jump of a roof and soar through the sky.

Gay marriage is not impossible, even according to your arguments.

If you think this, then you obviously have not understood my arguments.

You are just asserting that it's wrong.

I'm not simply asserting anything. I've argued that homosexual activity is wrong. I've argued that homosexual activity and homosexual attractions are unnatural and objectively disordered. And I've argued that marriage is an objective reality that, by definition, cannot exist between two men or two women. My arguments don't stop being arguments because you don't like them, nor do they become false because they don't convince you.

brendon said...

We're talking about something that people certainly could do, if only their state or federal government would let them.

I've just realized something. Your insistence that "civil marriage" exists only as a creation of the government through the laws undercuts any argument you make.

If "civil marriage" exists only as an act of government fiat, then there can be no argument that homosexuals have a "right" to marriage. They would only have a right to it if it were owed them by the government. But since the very existence of "civil marriage" is based upon the will of the government, then they cannot be owed it if the government had not deigned to give it to them.

Something that exists only by government fiat is only owed to some citizens if the government wills itself to owe it to those citizens. It is tautological: government owes it if and only if government wills to owe it, but, since it is a creation of government fiat, to say that "government owes it" is the same as saying "government wills to owe it." So we are left with the statement "A if and only if A," which is a tautology.

If marriage exists only as a product of laws, then nobody is owed marriage except those the law gives the right to marry. And if law doesn't give some group the right to marry, then they aren't owed it.

ontheturningaway: said...

"Something that exists only by government fiat is only owed to some citizens if the government wills itself to owe it to those citizens."

By that logic, if the government decides to remove my right to bear arms, my right to free speech, my right to counsel, or my right to privacy, it no longer owes me that right and I have no basis for complaint.

Therefore, I call bullshit. History is full of instances in which government denies rights to people knowing full well what they are owed.

Maybe I should have emphasized this more before, but obviously I still take issue with your characterization of homosexuality as a "privation" or "disordered," and just as obviously, I disagree. Please consider the possibility that heterosexuality is not the default state of mankind, and that the alternative of homosexuality is not contrary to human nature, but is in actuality a different nature associated with part of the human population. Essentially, I am saying that homosexuality is not wrong, just different, which is what I've been saying all along, albeit not as eloquently as I might wish.

As this discussion has become heated recently, I would like to reiterate that I do enjoy it, despite the frustration on both sides of the debate. If we have found the heart of our disagreement, then I am glad we agree on something!

brendon said...

By that logic, if the government decides to remove my right to bear arms, my right to free speech, my right to counsel, or my right to privacy, it no longer owes me that right and I have no basis for complaint.

Completely true. If you hold these rights to exist only if they are willed to exist as law and that the content signified by the words used to express these rights are whatever the one willing them decides them to be, then there can be no argument if government takes them away.

History is full of instances in which government denies rights to people knowing full well what they are owed.

If the rights only exist because they are given by the government through willing them to be given, how can they be owed anybody? For example, just because I allow someone liberties with some of my property at one time does not give them the right to use it whenever they wish. I can allow them to do so, but I can also change my mind later and forbid it. If another has a "right" to use and borrow what is mine, that "right" only exists as long as I deign to grant it and no longer.

You keep talking about "civil marriage" and "legal marriage" and defining it to be what the laws says it is and no more. If this is true, then you cannot argue for some pre-governmental right to get married, since you do not view marriage as a pre-governmental institution. But if marriage exists only through government fiat, then you have no claim to marriage except the claim the government gives you. If you think a thing is created by government fiat, you cannot them argue that you have some right to it that that is prior to government giving the right to you.

Please consider the possibility that heterosexuality is not the default state of mankind, and that the alternative of homosexuality is not contrary to human nature, but is in actuality a different nature associated with part of the human population.

This is contradictory. If it is a nature different than human nature, then those that possess said nature are not human. If those that possess homosexual inclinations are human, then their inclinations are unnatural because they are contrary to one of the ends of human nature. It cannot be both. Something cannot both have a human nature and not have a human nature.

"Natural," as the term is properly used in philosophy, does not simply mean "a phenomenon that happens in the physical world." It is defined as above, i.e. as "a thing's formal and final cause, insofar as the form of a thing is the principle that moves the thing towards its proper end." Homosexual inclinations and acts are unnatural for reasons already given.

An example to clarify the philosophical use of "nature," as opposed to the way it is often used in everyday conversation, or even by scientists: Cancer is natural in the sense of being a phenomenon that occurs in the physical world. But, philosophically speaking, cancer is unnatural, since it is against human nature for the human body to develop in such a malignant way.

ontheturningaway: said...

On the subject of marriage itself, I think we may be getting into semantics. I must stress that I am talking about "civil marriage" which is indeed created by the government's will. Since the government's will should be to protect the rights of the people, the government's will should be to leave civil marriage open to all people, unless it has legitimate reason to deny it.

Obviously this has been done: civil marriage is usually not open to those under 18. Other than the usual complaint that age requirements are arbitrary, the reasons for this are legitimate.

I am arguing that the government does not have legitimate reason to deny marriage to gays. Here is what you might call the heart of this argument: if the government is charged with protecting the rights of the people, gay marriage must infringe on someone's rights in order to be justly denied.

I understand your distinction concerning the word "natural," and thank you for the clarification. Here is my clarification: the "formal and final cause" of heterosexuals is different than that of homosexuals. Biology supports this, and offers possibilities for why homosexuals may serve as useful, especially in species that gather and travel in herds, packs, tribes, etc.

Homosexuals are not meant to have children, therefore their nature is different than heterosexual human nature, but not contrary to human nature as a whole.

Regardless, civil marriage exists in large part due to legitimate differences that people have concerning what marriage is "for," what marriage "should be," and what human nature actually is.

Homosexuals (and those who support them, like myself) believe they are not unnatural in any sense of the word. You may still believe they are wrong about this, and you of course have your reasons for doing so. However, as long as they're not hurting anyone, they should be left well enough alone. You still insist that they are, in fact, harmful. Perhaps you even categorize them as a "cultural poison." But you also show how your judgment may be clouded, since you usually mention "mental" and "spiritual" harm in the same sentence. In the United States, government does not regulate spiritual matters. And the only mental harm you have mentioned is the gay tendency to teach their children that being gay isn't wrong, which is hardly detrimental unless you can demonstrate that homosexuality is unequivocally damaging. There is no evidence to support this, and mounting evidence to refute it.

brendon said...

Here is what you might call the heart of this argument: if the government is charged with protecting the rights of the people, gay marriage must infringe on someone's rights in order to be justly denied.

No, you must first show that such a "right" exists naturally before trying to force the law to protect it. The burden of proof falls on those demanding a "right" whose existence they spun whole out of their own desires.

Here is my clarification: the "formal and final cause" of heterosexuals is different than that of homosexuals.

Then they aren't human.

Homosexuals are not meant to have children, therefore their nature is different than heterosexual human nature, but not contrary to human nature as a whole.

That's not possible. A sub-group cannot have some end that contradicts the group as a whole. They can have additional ends, but not contradictory one's. If A is B and B is C, then A is C.

The reproductive power is a part of human nature in general. To use it for some purpose that is contrary to its end is to use it unnaturally. To say that this is not true for some sub-group is impossible.

But you also show how your judgment may be clouded, since you usually mention "mental" and "spiritual" harm in the same sentence. In the United States, government does not regulate spiritual matters.

Actually, I used "moral" and "spiritual." If you want to argue that the government does not regulate moral matters, then you want to argue for absurdity. Law regulates human behavior. It has moral content by definition.

ontheturningaway: said...

I have no problem with "legislating morality." But I think you'll agree that no one in this country should legislate based on their religious values. You are confusing your religious values with actual universal morals. I fail to see why you think the absence of having children actually causes harm to anyone.

I see no reason why gays should not be allowed to "pursue happiness" through marriage.

Your argument that gays should not be allowed to marry based on the fact that they can't have children ignores a simple fact of American government:

Marriage (the civil kind) does not require an ability or intention to procreate. How do I know this? Because there is no test. Couples who are straight and fertile, but have no intention of having kids, are not prevented from getting married.

Not to mention the fact that these couples (and their gay counterparts) are often perfectly able to adopt.

So perhaps you are arguing that we shouldn't keep only gays from marriage, but in fact should prevent all couples from marrying who don't plan on using their marriage for what you personally deem is its true purpose. I know you have previously said that such couples don't have "real" marriages.

Here's my problem with that: yes, they do. They have a little slip of paper from City Hall that says they are married- and here's the important part- in the eyes of the law.

That's all the gay community is asking for. A little slip of paper.

The real problem with your rationale is that there are plenty of other marriages which you or any individual might not regard as "real" marriage, but of which civil marriage doesn't make a distinction. Depending on how strict of a Catholic you are, you might think all non-Catholic marriages aren't real, and there are many people who may feel that way regardless of what their faith is. The fact remains that this doesn't matter in the eyes of the law.

The law protects peoples' rights, not their biological imperative to procreate. And I would've thought you'd realize that, since the law doesn't have a problem with another group that forgoes its biological imperative for its own reasons: Catholic priests and nuns.

And by the way, biology still says it is quite possible that homosexuality evolved as an adaptation of numbers- essentially, if parents (in a tribe, herd, pack, etc.) are killed on the hunt, there are gay members of the group that don't have kids and can step in and raise the orphans. In that kind of group setting, gays are helpful because they increase the ratio of adults to children.

So unless, for some reason, you have a problem with gay adoption, that should be an acceptable reason to allow them to get married.

brendon said...

You are confusing your religious values with actual universal morals.

Just because a religion holds a certain moral stance does not mean that it is a moral stance particular to that religion. None of my arguments relied upon the teachings of the Catholic Church. They have relied upon actual human nature and actual history.

Couples who are straight and fertile, but have no intention of having kids, are not prevented from getting married.

We have gone over this multiple times. I am ignoring intent. Intent is irrelevant to my argument. Homosexuals do not simply choose not to have children. Homosexual relationships are not infertile simply because of some physical privation. Homosexual relationships are essentially infertile. Homosexuals can no more "choose" not to have children than I can "choose" not to flap my arms and fly. That which is by nature impossible is not an object of choice.

Here's my problem with that: yes, they do. They have a little slip of paper from City Hall that says they are married- and here's the important part- in the eyes of the law.

What the law says is irrelevant to the nature of a thing. Marriage does not exist by government say so. Marriage existed before governments got in the business of recognizing them via law. It existed before anything like what we would consider government existed. Marriage is a pre-governmental institution.

So unless, for some reason, you have a problem with gay adoption, that should be an acceptable reason to allow them to get married.

Of course I have a problem with it. From one of my previous comments:

"It does moral and intellectual violence to the children. It does this by teaching them, through the very nature of the relationship, that homosexual relationships are essentially the same as and as rightly ordered as heterosexual relationships. This is, quite frankly, a lie."

This has become tiresome. You are repeating the same arguments. They are still based off the principles of voluntarism and nominalism. I reject these principles as absurd. I have already explained why.

ontheturningaway: said...

"What the law says is irrelevant to the nature of a thing."

I would argue that the nature of the thing is irrelevant to the law.

Plenty of things existed before governments, especially American governments. The little slip of paper that gay couples would like to obtain is not a pre-governmental institution.

Perhaps you also have a problem with with gay foster parents, who currently provide a home for around 65,000 American children.

Perhaps you should ask yourself why the disservice those foster parents are causing those children has not translated into any real-world harm, resulting in the outlawing of such parenting. Frankly, I might believe your (hypothetical future) children may be told lies by their father, but that doesn't mean I dispute your right to do so.

Perhaps you should reconsider the fact that many people of certain groups believe that many people of certain other groups cause their children moral and intellectual harm to their children, simply by instilling in them a belief that belonging to such groups is not a bad thing, and yet American governments are indifferent.

Perhaps you believe that liberal parents cause their children such harm, and you should ask yourself why despite this, liberals are still allowed to raise children, their own or otherwise, in the United States.

Perhaps you should ask yourself how wise it really is to assert that either I am wrong, or homosexuals are not human, and then still believe that isn't related to homophobia or your religious beliefs.

Since your blog linked to an article that shared many of your beliefs on this issue, perhaps you should consider its assertion (and I apologize if I'm wrongfully assuming you agree) that sexual orientation should not be included in anti-hate crime legislation. Perhaps you should ask yourself exactly why it is that someone may be incapable of functioning as a bank teller, steel worker, court reporter, cashier, or janitor because he/she is not straight.

In light of that, perhaps you should also ask yourself why someone who killed because he/she is gay deserves it.

I have done my best during this discussion to avoid writing you off as an arrogant, condescending, self-righteous asshole. Increasingly, however, I find it difficult to give you the benefit of the doubt. You confuse your personal values with universal morals for the purpose of validating your beliefs.

Therefore, before this conversation can or will go any further, you need to accept that there are two separate institutions of marriage in this country, and understand why this is true.

If you are incapable of doing that, then I wish you luck with your quest to legitimize your preconceived beliefs- because you certainly aren't seeking truth, by any means.

brendon said...

I would argue that the nature of the thing is irrelevant to the law.

Then you have no valid arguments against chattel slavery, genocide, the gulags &c. All such arguments depend upon human nature being worthy of respect irregardless of the law. If the law can ignore nature, then the law can do what it likes regardless of human nature.

Perhaps you believe that liberal parents cause their children such harm, and you should ask yourself why despite this, liberals are still allowed to raise children, their own or otherwise, in the United States.

The analogy fails. However wrong I think liberal parents are, they are the natural parents of their children. Even in the case of adoption, being liberal does not necessarily mean that they, by their very nature, distort the truth of what marriage is as homosexual couples do.

Perhaps you should ask yourself how wise it really is to assert that either I am wrong, or homosexuals are not human, and then still believe that isn't related to homophobia or your religious beliefs.

I never said they weren't human. You tried to argue that homosexuals have a different nature than heterosexuals, even after I defined the term "nature." As such, your argument logically lead to homosexuals not being human, which is what I pointed out.

Since your blog linked to an article that shared many of your beliefs on this issue, perhaps you should consider its assertion (and I apologize if I'm wrongfully assuming you agree) that sexual orientation should not be included in anti-hate crime legislation.

I do. But then I think "hate crime" is an illegitimate class of crime period.

In light of that, perhaps you should also ask yourself why someone who killed because he/she is gay deserves it.

Straw man. I never said homosexuals deserve to be murdered. Nor does eliminating "hate crime" legislation give people a right to murder homosexuals. This conclusion can only be drawn is you assert that not letting people do whatever they want is equivalent with denying their humanity. But that depends upon a voluntarist anthropology, an anthropology I have already rejected as absurd. As such, the claim is baseless.

I have done my best during this discussion to avoid writing you off as an arrogant, condescending, self-righteous asshole.

You have no idea how little I care about what you think of me.

You confuse your personal values with universal morals for the purpose of validating your beliefs.

Yes, obviously, since I disagree with you and have refuted your argument again and again, it cannot be that I have some kind of reason for believing what I do. And it is entirely obvious that you have a much clearer understanding of universal morals than I do.

Spare me the "false consciousness" crap.

If you are incapable of doing that, then I wish you luck with your quest to legitimize your preconceived beliefs- because you certainly aren't seeking truth, by any means.

Yes, thank you for showing me the way, oh impartial seeker of truth. After your continuous reasserting of the same argument again and again, this ad hominem and straw man laced screed has imparted unto me the truth.

Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.