When a certain group puts a book on a forbidden index because it is vulgar, harmful, despicable, heinous, vile… well that’s intolerant, hateful censorship.
When another group does it, well then it’s valiant, courageous, the right thing to do.
But this is the state of moral dogma in our society. It really isn’t a dogma at all, except that it has one dogma: If it used to be right, it’s doubtful and if it used to be wrong, it’s even more doubtful– in a word, Doubt is the new Moral Dogma. And it is propped up by an even more dubious principle of Absolute Relativism, or even Relative Absolutism. Whichever way we look at it, those in power with a revolutionary agenda made their way to power by peddling a well-thought out critique of Absolute Morality and offered a very enticing alternative of subjectivist/relativist liberation.
Oddly enough (not really), the “question authority” regime seems now to have little tolerance when others question them. Suddenly, the other dubious principle of “Legal Positivism” is cited (not in those words) as a Divinely given principle which only the most crude and uncivilized would question.
But I don’t know if the Secular Progressives are much different than the Religious Conservatives who used to run the show. I couldn’t argue reasonably with them any more than those now calling for Pa Duck’s head on a silver platter (with apologies to St. John the Baptist). Morality for the Religious rulers was just a different kind of Absolute Relativism. “Homosexuality is evil ’cause the Bible says so.” ‘Why?’ I am banished from the society because reason isn’t required and is rather impious. Likewise, the new Non-dogmatic Dogmatists say with all the brilliance of Divine assurance that same-sex marriage is an absolute right. ‘Why?’ I am banished from the society because reason isn’t required and is rather impious. After all, how could anyone *nowadays* question that without being a homophobic, bigoted son of a bitch?
Well, I question both statements. So I am a lot things to a lot of people (my mother might have something to say about that last distinction). So was Plato…
But I must admit, it is rather irksome that the two biggest competing groups for power are not required to reason. It makes my job a bit harder (viz., impossible).
And I also must say that the Religious dogmatists at least had an Absolute, Divine (if not completely arbitrary) source of their dogmatic proclamations. The new Dogmatists refute the very idea of Divinely given morality on the one hand and demand, on the other, the unquestioning assent of faith upon which the old faith was based.
When a certain group puts a book on a forbidden index because it is vulgar, harmful, despicable, heinous, vile… well that’s intolerant, hateful censorship.
“I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to the terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So we don’t have anything to worry about.”
Really? How is it that a man can sanction the surveillance state of 1984 because, “I ain’t done nuttin’ bad.” How about the principle that the 4th amendment is there; and that no matter how innocent you are, the government cannot just violate your constitutional rights? And if they’re rummaging through our records now, what are they going to do later? Would Mr. Graham be OK with an FBI or CIA agent sitting in his house 24/7? Apparently. He ain’t done nuttin’ wrong.
I often hear that the government shouldn’t be involved in this anyway. Well, that may be right, but it’s not a factor here. An interesting exchange did take place between Justice Kagan and Mr. Clement about how unprecedented it is for the federal government to get this involved in marriage.
Next we hear about the rationality of DOMA with Clement, J. Kagan and J. Kennedy:
Interesting, at the very least…
I would highly suggest listening to both oral arguments presented to the Supreme Court Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Prop 8:
There is much to think about in these cases before the Supreme Court. The arguments made by all the parties involved are well thought out and well argued. I don’t pretend to know how these cases will play out in the end, but I can offer a few thoughts.
It was fascinating to hear Charles J. Cooper argue in the first case that the purpose of marriage is children.
Later he says:
“society’s interest in responsible procreation isn’t just with respect to the procreative capacities of the couple itself. The marital norm, which imposes the obligations of fidelity and monogamy, Your Honor, advances the interests in responsible procreation by making it more likely that neither party [...] will engage in irresponsible procreative conduct outside of that marriage. That’s the marital — that’s the marital norm. Society has [...] an interest of seeing any heterosexual couple that intends to engage in a prolonged period of cohabitation to reserve that until they have made a marital commitment. So that, should that union produce any offspring, it would be more likely that that child or children will be raised by the mother and father who brought them into the world.”
(Official transcript, 24-27)
Society at large seems to have an interest in preserving the traditional understanding of marriage and eschewing that which would undermine one major objective of marriage; that is to say, children. There are of course, practical benefits as well. Offspring are needed if humanity is to continue. Marriage is ideally suited to the continuance of the human species. Same-sex unions are by nature bereft of procreative power. It is by its very nature sterile. While an older couple who get married may be past the childbearing age, that is merely an accident of time. Heterosexual sex is by nature able to end in conception. An elderly couple getting married are doing nothing to frustrate this primary purpose of sexual relation. Gay sex is, by its very nature, primarily a frustration of that end.
But enough of all that, which is highly debatable and should be discussed over a several pipes and some single malt Scotch with friends and those of good will. In terms of the “equal protection” application, the point is that homosexual couples are not “similarly situated” compared to heterosexual couples. And being “similarly situated” is the key to determining whether there has been an equal protection, or Fourteenth Amendment, violation. And as to whether these groups are similarly situated, Mr. Copper offers the following answer in response to an objection raised by Justice Ginsburg about the past prohibition of interracial marriage:
Finally, the real question is whether Prop 8 is constitutional. Mr. Cooper offers this tidbit which is never refuted by his adversaries:
What about the “equal protection” argument vis-à-vis DOMA? Listen to these exchanges from the DOMA hearing.
Justice Alito begins the first three audio selections with a question, and Mr. Clement offers his rebuttal in the last clip.
Mr. Clement, in rebuttal:
It seems clear that there is some issue at stake here with equal protection no matter what the court does. If it says DOMA is unconstitutional, then it only means that some homosexuals will get “equal protection” under federal law. As was pointed out in the third clip with Ms. Kaplan, (pages 100-101 of the transcript), a couple could get married in New York, but move to a state which does not recognize their marriage and, presumably, be back at square one until that state recognizes homosexual marriage or the federal government forces the state to do so (which would open another can of worms). You would then have a case of a lawfully married couple in New York enjoying the benefits, and a lawfully married couple who relocated to Oklahoma who do not enjoy the benefits. And what about the military couple that are transferred to Oklahoma? Suddenly, they are out of luck as well? Wouldn’t there be an even greater inequality perpetrated by striking down DOMA?
Furthermore, there would be a rather large uniformity problem for the federal government. It would have to treat the same homosexual couple differently depending on their state of residence. The litigation would mount up. But, I suppose one could argue that there is a moral obligation to go through all that pain. However, isn’t a moral obligation what in part led to DOMA and many state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman?
Does political might make right? We’ll see.
The interesting exchange between Cruz and Feinstein over gun control brought out in bold relief the theoretical and philosophical differences between a libertarian/conservative/traditional view of government and a liberal/progressive/socialist(ish) view. Just listen to the back-an-forth:
Senator Cruz framed the question in the opposite way from which it was answered. He wants to know if it’s permissible to positively single out individuals or things for which the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights apply. Senator Feinstein (and senators around her) wanted to say that we negatively identify certain individuals or things for which the rights in the Bill of Rights do not apply. But that is an answer to a different question. The question isn’t, “Are there exceptions to the Bill of Rights?” but rather, “May we identify a certain number or group of people or things and say that these are the only people or things which have protection under the Bill of Rights, such that even if there are twenty individuals who are identical regarding their legal standing as American citizens, Congress may decree that only one of them has the right to protection from unwarranted search and seizure?” The implication is obviously that the other citizens do not have that right, but the new decree need not specify that.
Another layer is peeled back when we note Sen. Feinstein’s statement that “we just make laws and if the courts strike them down, then fine.” That is an interesting view on governing. Is she about defending the Constitution, which she has pledged to do in her oath of office, or seeing what she can slip past it?
This back-an-forth also reveals her view that the Government is what gives us our rights—or at least that is what is implicit in her approach. She may not explicitly believe that and may even deny such a claim. But we often hold contradictory views without even realizing it. This may be one such moment for the Senator. But given the fact that many of us are legal positivists, I have my doubts about what degree of cognitive dissonance she may be experiencing.
However, Feinstein’s guns ablaze tactic for gun control appears to have frightened off fellow Democrats who come from Purple States and are facing reelection.
I know I have said that all politicians are stinking liars, but St. Paul did say the same about all Cretans and I am sure that there were and are exceptions in both cases. Say what you want about Rand Paul, but please don’t let it be said that he is a typical politician concerned only with his reelection (at least don’t say that yet… who knows what the future holds). You may agree or disagree with his position on drone attacks, but I think we all can agree that he has elevated the intellectual tone of the debate. I watched his interview with Greta Van Susteren and was delighted to see that he didn’t stick to the same old used up rhetorical devices that seem to work on the so-called “low information voter”, but leave people with their own thoughts and principles out in the cold.
Or, if you don’t like Fox News, here’s CNN (which is a little long and the hostess of the show is somewhat irritating with her attempted gotcha which she seemed to think was successful, but only highlighted her dimness):
I understand how some conservatives are disappointed with Paul. But I don’t understand how many Liberals are not standing with Paul. (I mean, I understand, but I just don’t understand… you understand?) If the Bush Admin had been this evasive in answering a straightforward question, I can only imagine the uproar. I mean, my goodness, our country simulates drowning on a few people and we are barbaric torturers, but we assassinate people overseas and no biggie (if it’s our guy doing it). Paul wanted to know if we could do that here with US citizens. Suppose there is a woman who is a US citizen inside the United States suspected of ties with a terrorist group and furthermore she is declared a enemy combatant. Can the DoD use a drone strike on her while she is in her home or walking down the street or otherwise not engaged in any nefarious activity? The answer is obviously, “No.” So why couldn’t the DoJ just say that? Why the slippery answers? Why not just say, “That’s ridiculous! Of course we could never do that! Americans have constitutional rights. What’s more, we can’t just call someone an enemy combatant and then take them out while they are not engaged in combat like we do overseas with people we designate as enemy combatants. We can’t just designate here in the US. We have to accuse first and then prove that accusation.”
Well, we finally got something like that, but it took way too long.
There has been quite a bit of haze surrounding the Akin comment and the establishment GOP response. It is our job to clear the haze. I think what has been lost in the whole fiasco is the intellectual dishonesty, or maybe more charitably, we could say cognitive dissonance, of pro-life politicians who think abortion ought to be allowed in the case of rape, incest and life of the mother.
Before getting into it, let’s just get the “You think rape is good??!!” idiocy out of the way. Let’s not even go there. That’s just stupid.
Let us be clear. The pro-life position states that human life begins at conception. It is therefore to be afforded the human right to life. What is unclear is this: how is it that a human being conceived by rape or incest has forfeited his or her right to life and may be murdered? For this is the pro-life position; abortion is murder, because it takes the life of an innocent. Or does the fact that the child is conceived in one these most unfortunate and appalling circumstances make him or her guilty of a capital crime which demands capital punishment?
In cases where the life of the mother is at stake, there is a lot of haze… more than we can clear in one article. It is extremely touchy and we shall not go into this area at the moment. However, we do promise a forthcoming article on this problem. There are cases in which a child’s life is lost in the womb because of a medical procedure and yet the procedure is not an abortion. The future article will explain in detail how one can maintain a consistently pro-life position while allowing for such instances.
The cases of rape and incest are very clear. It should not be surprising that someone who is pro-life does not make exceptions for rape and incest. If the blob isn’t a blob but a human being, it has the right to life and being the product of rape or incest doesn’t change that. The most compassionate and loving thing to do, if you can’t keep the child, is to give her up for adoption and at least give her a chance at life.
In this essay we will be examining the concept of the general, or popular, will as understood by French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and American all-around intellectual giant Orestes Brownson. In explaining the positions of Rousseau and Brownson, we will look at the particular issue of law and authority as it relates to the success of a liberal democracy.
The concept of general will in Rousseau is best explained in his work The Social Contract. In this essay, Rousseau offers his theory of the way political society evolves from a simple, completely free existence. This state of natural liberty where man has a right to whatever he can successfully attain is called by Rousseau the state of nature. Continue reading →
(If you have not, please read my first post, Legal Positivism.)
There are, of course, many great books and articles on this topic. I can only hope in such a short space to give a brief answer that will hopefully spark your interest and compel you to further research. I have written briefly on this before, and I do not mind plagiarizing myself.
NB: This piece intends to answer and is limited to the question posed. While the specific question of a limiting principle is very important and a necessary component to the discussion as a whole, it will not be addressed here.
Is the Purpose of Laws to Make Men Good?
In order to answer the question of whether laws are intended to make men good, it may be helpful first to ask a few questions that should give us a clearer understanding of what we are asking. This will not only help us give a correct answer to the question, but an answer that has the ring of a common sense truth. We will first ask what is meant by the terms law and good. Having ascertained and understood these concepts, we will be in a position to attempt an answer to the question. Finally, we will discuss this topic as it relates specifically the United States of America. Continue reading →
We have quite a bit to think about in these last three months. In the post entitled Considerations for the Upcoming Election, I asked several questions of my readers. Continuing the series of “Finding my Political Philosophy”, let’s look at a question or two, and try to give an answer which will help us clarify what we think about these important, foundational issues.
I had asked a series of questions, not in any particular order of importance, but in general the later questions tended to be the most important. Let’s consider the question on Legal Positivism. It is not surprising that many people you talk to may have never heard of this term and have no idea that it describes exactly what they think about the nature of laws.
Let’s think about an example or two. You are having a conversation with a friend about capital punishment and your friend thinks it is wrong, but since it is legal it can be used. The conversation turns to another topic, abortion, and your friend gives a similar response. She is against abortion, but it’s legal, so abortions can be performed.
Two other people are talking about marijuana. 4:20 guy is saying the sweet Mary Jane is good stuff and we should have the right to smoke it, and it’s like totally natural. His friend, who has both his feet firmly planted on the ground, says that it may be the case that pot is great, but it’s illegal to use and that settles the question for him.
Continue reading →