Which Is Worse?

Monday, 09-17-2018

 

Query:

St. Augustine seems to have allowed for prostitution on the grounds that the evil that would arise from stamping it out would exceed the evil of letting it be with restrictions.

We live in a polity that has already accepted homosexual acts and even homosexual "marriage".  Should we take Augustine's attitude toward homosexual acts, or is homosexual behavior too destructive to be countenanced?

 

Reply:

Take a look at Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q. 96, Art. 2.  He agrees with St. Augustine that sometimes the attempt to suppress a vice causes even more harm than the vice causes by itself.  “Now human law,” he concludes, “is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue.  Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.”

I should say that the danger to our own social order is not that a relatively small number of people engage in same-sex acts, but that a great number of people are approaching the view that the bodily powers have no purpose but physical pleasure, and that not even marriage has any necessary connection with either the procreation of children or the union of their parents.  One might say that heterosexuals are coming to accept an essentially homosexual view of sex.

Related posts:

The Other Thing the Sexuality Debate Is About

Nature, For and Against, Part 3 of 7

Nature, For and Against, Part 7 of 7

Book:  On the Meaning of Sex

 

Global Cooling

Monday, 09-10-2018

 

TEXAS CITY SUFFERS SUB-SUB-ARCTIC COLD

Portent of Global Cooling, Scientists Warn

 

AUSTIN, TEXAS (CMM) – An unexpected summer cold snap shocked the Texas capital yesterday as the mercury plunged to minus 17,966° F.

Nicholas Huffenpuff, director of development for the Climate Research Unit, East Anglia, U.K., warned of “an impending era of global cooling” and said “This is a wake-up call for the human race.”

A dozen environmental organizations including the Terran Planetary Trust, the Burnt Umber Club, People for Giving Ethics the Treatment, and the Weather Liberation Front issued press releases calling for a new climate summit.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., demanded an immediate tripling of the federal budget to deal with the problem.  Republicans, as usual, had nothing constructive to say.

At the Vatican, an unidentified highly-placed source told reporters that the release of particulate matter into the upper atmosphere, blocking the rays of the sun, “has got to stop” and that an increase in greenhouse gasses is urgently needed to compensate.  “About 50 billion metric tons annually should do it.”

On the street, Austin citizens seemed more puzzled than concerned.  Munching on a taco at an outdoor food wagon, Michael Stubbistoe said “How can it minus 18 thou?  Isn’t that almost, like, absolute zero?”  Michelle Caterwaul, his companion, said “Feels like about 78° to me.  I think someone’s weather app just made a mistake.”

Asked to comment, climate spokesman Huffenpuff said, “Attitudes like that are just anti-science.”

Related:

The Church and Public Policy

Pining for Mordor

 

 

If We Were Immortal

Monday, 09-03-2018

 

Last semester some of my students asked whether, if it were possible, we should do something to our genes so that, barring accident, our lifespan was unlimited.

Our lifespan in this world, mind you.  It’s a tempting thought, but consider.

If we were immortal, no new generations would arise to replace us.

If we were immortal, we would become set in our ways and resist all new things.

If we were immortal, we would never learn anything.  We would never grow up.  We would think there was plenty of time.

At first we might condescend to having young to replace losses from accidental death.  Eventually even that would seem too great a burden.

We would forget the sound of childish laughter.

Sacrificial love would seem a scandal.

Bored with ourselves, closed unto ourselves, selfish as only fallen men can be, we would despair of this life, but we would have given up the hope of any other.

If we were immortal, we would probably die out quickly, and I say it would be good riddance.

Related posts:

What If We Changed Our Nature?

Why Shouldn’t We Transcend Our Nature?

 

Conference on Fatherhood

Saturday, 09-01-2018

 

Fatherhood is taking it in the chops these days, and fanatics use the term “patriarchy” as a synonym for oppression.  Against all that is this:

Patriarchy:  Fatherhood and the Restoration of Culture

Thursday 11 October – Saturday 13 October

Trinity International University, Deerfield, Illinois

I can hardly believe that the organizers were brave enough to give this conference the title “Patriarchy.”  Take that, you foes of fatherhood!  Doesn’t it give you a thrill?  But this isn’t going to be a chest-thumping festival.  Naturally, distortions of manhood and fatherhood will be discussed too.

Almost forgot to mention that along with fourteen other speakers, I’ll be giving one of the talks, on “What Makes Men Men.”

 

Varieties of Shame

Thursday, 08-30-2018

 

Shame is not the same as guilt – or perhaps it would be better to say that there are several kinds of shame.

To hide one’s sins from others really is the shame of guilt.  But to practice modesty is the shame of innocence.

Even as to the shame of guilt, a distinction must be made.  One might conceal his sins to escape the punishment he deserves.  But he might also conceal them to spare others exposure to his taint.

I wouldn’t condemn a man for that.

Related:

Trying to Shame the Shameless

What Conscience Isn’t

An Angry Professor

 

It Seems Like Straw

Monday, 08-27-2018

 

Query:

I am a Chinese scholar.  It is said that Thomas Aquinas gave up his research on rational theology before his death and confessed his research is nonsense and it means he retrogressed to Tertullian standpoint (embracing credo quia absurdum).  Is this true?

 

Reply:

Good question.  The view of Thomas Aquinas which you mention is quite common, but profoundly misleading.

At several points in his life, St. Thomas is said to have experienced divine visions.  In one of them, Christ appeared to him and said, “You have written well of me, Thomas.  What would you ask of me?”  St. Thomas replied, “Only you, Lord.”

Later, at the end of his life, he is said to have experienced another vision.  Afterward, he told one of his brothers in the Dominican order that he could no longer continue to write, because in comparison with what had been revealed to him, all that he had written seemed like straw.  This is the statement which gives rise to the misunderstanding about which you ask.

But it is very important to remember that St. Thomas never repudiated what he had written before.  Though his past writing seemed to him “like” straw in comparison with the vision, it was very good so far as it could go.  Straw itself is good.  The Bread of Heaven is better.

This should not surprise us.  Throughout his life, St. Thomas had always argued that what can be known about God by reasoning is excellent, but it is only about God.  The vision of God in Himself, granted to the souls of the redeemed in the next life, is infinitely superior.  Now that he was standing at the very door to that life, it was difficult for him to give his attention to anything less.

As St. Paul had written, in a passage which St. Thomas quoted often, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”

Related:

Reflection

Contentment

Move That Can Six Inches

 

Then Are All Good Men Good Statesmen?

Saturday, 08-25-2018

 

Query:

I read your argument that a bad man cannot be a good statesman – a theme I always enjoy bringing up when I teach.  There are interesting dilemmas, however.  I was not old enough to vote in 1972, but even knowing then what I know now, I do not believe a vote for McGovern could be justified -- which leaves me with Nixon.  But I see no other choice.  Your view?

 

Reply:

I take your point about voting for President Nixon instead of Senator McGovern even though Nixon was a scoundrel, but I don’t see the dilemma the same way you do.  I am only saying that a bad man cannot be a good statesman.  I am not saying that a good man is inevitably a good statesman.

The remark I’ve just made uses the term “good man” in your sense of the term.  By a good man, I think you mean someone who has all of the moral virtues, even though he may lack prudenceSenator McGovern certainly lacked prudence, and he would have made a terrible president.

But there is another, older way to take the meaning of the term “good man.”  For in the classical view, prudence is one of the moral virtues.  In fact, it is their intellectual pivot, because it is nothing more than the wisdom to know how to pursue the ends which the other virtues make us desire.  In this sense, a completely virtuous man is not one who possesses justice, fortitude, and temperance, even though he may lack prudence.  He is one who possesses justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence.

Then would a good man in that sense inevitably be a good statesman?  The answer is still “No.”  Someone might be prudent in the everyday things with which we all have to deal, but not prudent in the larger matters which concern the body politic.  If he has all the other moral virtues, and moreover he has not just everyday prudence but also political prudence, then I would say yes, he has what it takes to be a good statesman – but not every ordinary good man does.  Far from it.

Related:

Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Virtue Ethics