...on readings, writings, rants, and random reflections
With the ridiculous and failed war on drugs and politicians pandering to the most basic fears of people, it is very easy to understand how this could be...
AIP--If it weren't so expensive, it would be that easy to understand. But, given the cost, it hard for me to process the fact that people put up with it.
The simple answer, Rob... too many criminals. (*SHRUG*) I mean, you're not a stupid man; even granting that statistically speaking there must be people in jail who were falsely accused and convicted, I assume (God help me... I'm taking a risk here) that even YOU acknowledge that by and large our problem here in the States isn't that we jail too many innocent people unjustly, it's that our system is weighted against "First Strike and You're Out" and statistically, it's rare that a person is caught, tried, convicted, and jailed on his or her FIRST offense. (*SHRUG*)(BTW... the actual report can be found here: http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/One%20in%20100.pdf)BILL
Bill--The question is--why does a country so rich, and so varied (with so much room to spread out in) and with such a great degree of potential upward mobility, have "too many criminals"?And why are we so fascinated with criminals, as shown by our entertainment tastes?
Why do we have too many criminals? Partially because we have so many laws. (*SHRUG*) (BTW, I'm not being a wiseass, I'm answering your question conversationally, but seriously.)A sophisticated society with a solid (relatively speaking) rule of law has the infrastructure (and funding and personnel) to "deal" with anti-social/criminal behavior and so... it does.Next... the poverty argument. (*SHRUG*) It's not that simple, though. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Take black crimes stats for instance. As black Americans have - as a distinct statistical segment of the population - advanced economically the crime stats have also advanced. Now of course we then go to the socio-economic splits within the black community (poor vs. middle class, etc.) and "ghetto" vs. "mixed" in terms of community... (*SHRUG*)... but what it seems to break down to is the breakdown of the black family (relatively).You can mail out checks... ya can't mail out fathers. You can spend $10-$15-K per student... ya can't make 'em learn. (*SHRUG*) (And no... I'm not saying blacks or poor people are incapable of learning, I'm saying that if you have chaos in the home... chaos in the neighborhood... chaos in the school... chaos all around a child's growing/learning/socialization environment, it's next to impossible to not have the problems we're discussing as chaos leads to disorder and lack of descipline and ultimately crime and eventually punishment which often leads to a cycle of recidism which...(*TAKING A BREATH*)You get the idea. (*SHRUG*)I'd say illegitamacy rates tied into poverty and social chaos are the determining factors.As to why people are fascinated with criminals... (*SHRUG*)... that's like asking why people are fascinated with sex. It's the "thrill" factor. Also, human beings seem (starting with religion) to be atuned to "good vs. evil" as a central facet of the universal struggle of life and afterlife. (*SHRUG*)BILL
Bill--That all makes pretty good sense. Now, however, we need to propose solutions to this ridulous situation. Got any? How do we integrate the people who are generating the criminals into the mainstream of society? Or do we not? Do we just keep building more prisons?
Time out for a moment just to make a cross-blog observation.Compare THIS thread here on your blog to the nonsense that (yes, I admit I'm enjoying myself engaging in - guilty as charged) passes for "political discussion" on my oft-acknowledged "favorite blog."Hell... even go to Ed's where he's posted a serious topic lead on global warming.NO! Not everything has to be serious. You know me... I'm quite happy sharing recipes and discussing pop culture topics, but at least I realize what's ultimately "important" and "worth fixating on" as opposed to this soap opera like focus on the horserace of politics that so many are caught up in as if stuck in mental quicksand.See, Rob... this is why I'm almost manic in terms of screaming for change yet knowing no matter how many problems we few who pay attention and care "solve" or even just deal with in our own minds... it doesn't matter. Even if you and Moose and Ed and RAG and people "like us" (interested in these topics) were to actually get more involved instead of just talking... it wouldn't matter. There's not enough people who would go to the mat, do the research, come to conclusions, and DEMAND change (true change... actual POLICY changes) to move the vast bipartisan establishment governing class. (*SHRUG*)Anyway... rant off.BILL
Well, Bill, we can always say that you first have to identify and look at the problem, i.e., analyze it, before you can decide how to address its solutions.
Now... back on topic...There are no solutions. Not in the real world. (*SHRUG*)If you read the actual 37-page Pew study you'll note the constant "interference" of the judiciary in the administration of prisons. (And no doubt you would mainly approve of the judicial mandates, but that's not the point - the point is that the judicial mandates have a HUGE effect UPWARD on costs.)Could Dictator Bill "solve" or at least "deal" with the problems described? Sure. But there's not gonna be a Dictator Bill. (*SHRUG*)The "solutions" the establishment will come up with will likely be less imprisonments. Of course, with more criminals - even if you further compress this to "more recidivists - what you get are increased costs borne by the VICTIMS of recidivist criminal activity with that cost also borne by society as a whole. (*SHRUG*)Ya want some "Dictator Bill" solution just to have some fantasy hypotheticals to go back and forth on? Let me know and I'll take a shot at it.BILL
One thing we could do to decrease the prison population is decriminalize recreational drugs and make drug use a public health problem. We would greatly diminish the black market; decrease gang activity and turf wars over "markets"; stop wasting money and police manpower hours in the pursuit of users and streetcorner pushers; and be able to regulate to a much greater degree the influx of drugs like cocaine and opium into the country (i.e., the government could buy it, either directly, or through licensed corporate agents).
We could... but we shouldn't. That's my opinion.We have massive problems with alcohol abuse. Obviously tobacco is a societal scurge also. And so we want to ADD - in a legal sense - drug use to the already existing negatives of alcohol and tobacco abuse...? No. I don't think so.But, hey... let's take you suggestion as a STARTING point for further discussion.So... do we decriminalize both use and SALE...??? Do we treat all drugs the same or are you referring only to certain drugs? If all drugs... I guess then we do away with the whole drug prescription thing, right? (I mean... what would be the point - you wouldn't need a prescription for cocaine but you would for valium?)Do we as a society simply "allow" private concerns to sell drugs under "quality" regulation and of course an appropriate tax kick-back to the gov't? Or... does government itself become the seller - and I suppose the pusher...??? (Yes I read your post, but I'm still not sure where you come down on this, so at the risk of making you repeat yourself, please clarify your position.)BILL
Some "Dictator Bill" solutions:Make drug use more risky. Target the "for kicks" gateway. With plenty of advanced warning and viable opportunity for rehab for those already addicted, start a program where confiscated drugs are poisoned and put back into the supply chain. Harsh, no doubt. Hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of morons would inadvertantly kill themselves in the first few weeks or even months of such an operation and lots and lots of them would be white middle class kids. (*SHRUG*) My thought... a future win for the gene pool. (*SHRUG*) Seriously... since I'm assuming such a (theoretical, will never happen) plan would actually WORK... in the long term it would be worth the short term "waste" of lives. (*SHRUG*)BILL
My position is that addiction is a quasi-disease (i.e. it is something other than a moral failing) and that there is always a static percentage of addictive personalities in any given population. Such people will become addicted to something whether that thing is legal, or not. So I don't think that the burden of drug use on society in terms of the public health problem would greatly increase, if at all. But, if users could buy their drugs at cost at state-licensed facilities, you would cripple or eliminate the black market for everything that was made legal.Prescription drugs, taken for pathological conditions under a physician's supervision would be handled no differently than now--why should that change? People don't take antibiotics, etc., for kicks and giggles. Psychotropic prescription drugs like Valium fall into a gray area. The policy there would need to be hammered out more carefully. Since pain-killers and mood elevators, etc. are black-marketed now, I guess that I would favor selling them over-the-counter: my main goal is the elimination of the black market.
More "Dictator Bill" solutions:Well... definitely execute sellers. Perhaps give users one chance at rehab. (Ahh... what the heck... I'll give sellers ONE strike too.)Aside from drug offenses, you know my views, Rob... I'd execute a lot more criminals for a lot more crimes. (*SHRUG*) Prisons...? They'd be bare bones to say the least. AND... the prisoners would work their asses off - not just building and maintaining their own quarters and growing their own food and things like that, but road gang type work. Medical care? Again... bare bones. If it's related to prior illegal activities forgetaboutit! My basic thought: If you didn't want to face being sick in prison, you shouldn't have done something to get you sent to prison.For minor stuff... AGREED... especially for first offenses, try something besides prison. Corporal punishment. Public stocks. Public whippings. Hey... if I'm Dictator we're gonna beat respect for law and order into those who require such a lesson. (*SHRUG*)But, Rob... again... this is all just fantasy. (*SHRUG*) (And no doubt you disapprove of it even as fantasy.) The reality is... in the real USA of 2008 and years to come... the trend will no doubt be LESS punishment and thus eventually MORE crime.(*SHRUG*)BILL
"My position is that addiction is a quasi-disease..."I understand that. (*SHRUG*) My position is that it's self-assumed behavior and individuals are responsible for what they do or don't do. (*SHRUG*)"...there is always a static percentage of addictive personalities in any given population."No doubt. Don't care. (*SHRUG*)As to the rest... (*SHRUG*)... we end where we start - disagreeing. YET... (*SMILE*)... disagreeing in a civil and mutually respectful manner - both in word and tone.Thanks, Rob.BILL
How could it happen? two words: divorce and illegitimacy. You may think that this is a stretch. I can give some documentation. There are of course many other factors. Another big one is that housing prisoners is big business for local sheriffs and private companies.Rodak, this is off topic, but have you seen this:http://www.understandingamericanpie.com/Whether or not you agree with what this website says, you might find it interesting.
Dude, I think all the bad guys were "over there."
Civis--Thanks. The "American Pie" site is interesting. I'll study it more carefully when I have more time.Question: Why didn't you post it on this thread? Then it would have been directly on-topic.Kyle--Huh?
Nevermind. Failed joke.
Kyle--Well, better luck next time; I can always use a laugh.Or...how about this?: at the heart of every joke (failed or not) is a serious point. Why don't you share the point that would have been conveyed, had the joke been successful?
Poor Bill...lamenting the sad and sorry state that Ragged Thots has become...I can just picture the poor fella thinking to himself..."I must stand athwart the blogosphere and yell, 'Stop!'"...as to the idea of making punishment more draconian and executing more people...yes, that has worked so well for us as a society up to this point, eh? If it wasn't for this moralistic attitude, we could actually treat drug addiction as an addiction rather than a crime...how is it that someone like Rush Limbaugh can become addicted to Oxycontin and recieve nothing more than a slap on the wrist for his troubles but someone addicted to heroin in the streets of Baltimore or Detroit gets thrown in jail with others hoping the key to the lock gets thrown away? As far as the question of divorce and illegitmacy...what is the cure? Should we force people to stay in loveless marriages, including women who might be abused? Should we force certain people to be sterilized so that they do not produce and reproduce? Yes, freedom is not free and all that, but how does taking away freedoms help to make society better? In the end, locking more and more people up doesn't seem to be the answer to society's problems...poverty seems to be a nasty breeding ground for crime and illegitmacy...perhaps our time and resources would be better served looking for and implementing ways to decrease poverty rather than simply warehousing certain groups of people...
With regard to the divorce rate and the break-down of the family, I see a chicken vs. egg situation. That is, are we running wild because of the break-down of the family, or is it so very difficult to maintain family stability due to all the temptations that have us running wild? Which came first? And with regard to prisons, I have to note that we can send young men to prison for relatively minor, or even for "victimless" crimes--as minor league criminals--and when they come out, they've become major leaguers. They've earned their Ph.D. in crime. They've been so brutalized by the coping and survival techniques learned in the lock-up that they pose a much greater threat to society when they come out than they were when they went in. How do we win there?
"How could this be?" I'd guess poverty.
Russ--Poverty is too easy an answer. We not only have the largest raw number of persons incarcerated, but we also have the highest percentage of the population behind bars. But, obviously, we are far from having the largest percentage of our population living in poverty. The math just doesn't support the hypothesis of poverty as the main cause.
I found the statistic to be odd given all the political rhetoric about our being the good guys and the evil in the world being somehow localized "over there." Something is terribly wrong over here, but we're too fixated on threats overseas to see it.
Something is terribly wrong over here, but we're too fixated on threats overseas to see it.Kyle--I couldn't agree more. (And, thank you.)
You've got a good point, but I wonder if this fact; “Illegal aliens account for 30 percent of this nation’s prison" has something to do with it? No, I'm not sure of the accuracy of that fact.
Russ--I don't know. But I'm also not sure that it matters. People cross borders very freely in much of the rest of the world, too, looking for work. Our situation is not unique in this.
"Question: Why didn't you post it on this thread? Then it would have been directly on-topic."Because I didn't read that post. Sorry. 95% of your posts are over my head, so I have trouble following. I'm always excited when I "get" one of your posts. ;
"They've been so brutalized by the coping and survival techniques learned in the lock-up that they pose a much greater threat to society when they come out than they were when they went in."No kidding. And the stories of brutality are for real. I used to hear the guards talk about beating prisoners and watching one inmate beat another (I served with some prison guards in the National Guard). I'm not sure how much of this was inhumanity on the part of the guards and what part cowardice. It really pisses me off. I mean I'm as "law and order" as the next guy--maybe more--but these prisoners are still human beings. And believe it or not (I'm speaking rhetorically here) just because someone is charged does not mean they are guilty. And guilty people do get sent to prison from time to time--victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or more commonly a DA running for reelection."Ask not for whom the bell tolls...." that could be you or me in prison.
At the risk of someone accusing me of being racist, lets face it, most of the people behind bars are black.There could be a lot of explanations for this, and bias towards blacks does explain some of it but IMHO by no means all. Here is one other factor: Role models. 1) For a lot of young black men, thier role model is a gangster. 2) And why is it that when a black man or woman is successful he she comes under attack? 3) Many young black men do not have a father figure at home.RE the chicken and the egg RE illigitimacy, I don't think your argument works except in one instance. A young man (of any race) is far more likely to commit a crime if he comes from a broken or never established home. That is a simple fact. Your chicken-and-egg thoght is correct in that the availability of contraception has a) made infidelity easier and b) made it easier for a man to treat his wife like an object. Both of these are harmful to marriage for obvious reasons. Your chicken and egg thought is also correct in that welfare has enable woemn to be less dependent on men and less at risk if consent to a little fun.
Civis--Then, you don't see any possibility that those homes are broken because of unbearable pressures brought on certain family units by societal circumstances with which they just cannot cope? p.s. Nothing I write is over your head; I'm quite confident of that.
I'm not sure I understand what you mean. If you are saying there are other (additional) reasons for divorce, I agree. What societal pressures are you refering to?
Civis--Given the fact that the divorce rate across the board in our society is around 50%, I'd say that there are plenty of pressures working against stable nuclear families. Compound those pressures with poverty, and the feelings of helplessness, shame, and guilt that Americans heap on people who "can't cut it" and you can understand some of what I mean.This is a consumer-driven society, and those who don't have the means to acquire everything that they are told hour-by-hour, 24/7 that they need to have in order not to be left out of the Big Show (including perfect love from a perfect mate) lose all perspective and all incentive to play the game by the rules. And they pass often pass their feelings of futility on to the next generation, either purposefully, or by example.
"Your chicken-and-egg thoght is correct in that the availability of contraception has a) made infidelity easier and b) made it easier for a man to treat his wife like an object. Both of these are harmful to marriage for obvious reasons."Oh really? Might I humbly suggest that men haven't needed contraception to treat women as objects, not to mention possessions, for thousands of years...and infidelity is a basic human trait that has also been with us forever...the fact of the matter is that contraception allows sex to be separated from procreation...while some religious and moral conservatives might find this alarming, it allows people to have more freedom and control over their own bodies and lives...why shouldn't procreation be controlled rather than left to chance?
AIP,Assuming all you say is true, that would not undermine the fact that it makes infidelity and disrespect easier."why shouldn't procreation be controlled rather than left to chance?"Do you really want to go there?
Rodak, Not being argumentative here, but just trying to follow: You say there are plenty of pressures which are "couponded by..." What do you think those pressures are? BTW, I'm as disturbed by divorce as anyone--more by the ones around me like frinds and family than by statistics--but I'm told that the divorce rate picture is a little better than what it appears. the 50% figure figures in people who have multiple divorces. There is not a first time marriage failure rate of 50%--or that's what I'm told. I don't have personal knowledge.
Poverty: we don't have poverty in America. There are some gaps in wealth, but the poorest in America lives in luxury compared to most in the world.Feelings of helplessness: I don't undersatand.Shame, and guilt that Americans heap on people who "can't cut it": I'm not familiar with that either. Could this be a regional thing or among those you socialize with? Maybe I'm missing something. It could be where I live.
What you say about the consumer driven society is "right on" IMHO.It seems to me that we think that life should be pleasurable and that there should be a pill or a machine to rid us of every inconvenience. If one toy does not make us happy, we buy another. If one spouse does not make us happy, we get a new one.No spouse and no toy will make us happy. In the words of the Dred Pirate Roberts, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."
Civis--If you have never heard anybody opine that the only reason people are unemployed, on welfare, poor, etc. is because they just aren't trying , then I don't know how I can help you. That is the stock conclusion of the Protestant Ethic, which is still the operative principle of the American Dream: if you don't work, you don't eat.The most famous expression of this was probably Ronald Reagan's myth of the "welfare mothers in Cadillacs", which was never true, and was pointedly disparaging of the poor.the poorest in America lives in luxury compared to most in the world.Within walking distance of where I am sitting at this moment, there are people living out in the woods, in literal tarpaper shacks, without running water, who live on a combination of food stamps and whatever squirrels, etc., they can harvest from the wild. (You will now tell me that this is their choice, and their own fault, which will prove my previous point.)Do you know why they stay there? Because they own the land. And it's all they have. And it has, to-date, no commercial value. Some of those families have been on that land since the very early 19th century. We have homeless people in this country, Civis. Homeless people in America are every bit as poverty-sticken as homeless people in Calcutta or Darfur. You don't fall any further into poverty than having no place to lay your head.Think about it.
Rodak,I didn't say "because they are not trying" did I?The people in the woods are still rich by world standards. The vast majority of people survive on what amounts to a bowl of broth.RE the homeless, I worked with the homeless for amout four years. Thier problem is drugs 90% of the time and in actual fact they do have a place to lay thier head--they usually chose to live in the street. The shelter I worked at took good care of the men who came in but we had 2 rules 1) find a job within 2 weeks or you are out (they always did because we found them jobs--jobs making a good living wage in fact) 2) Stay here every night or let us know where you are.I never ate better than when i worked there BTW.
I didn't say "because they are not trying" did I?Civis--No you didn't say that. But I've heard it said umpteen times. The people in the woods are still rich by world standards.They are "rich" compared to some; not rich compared to others. Compared to the average American (which is my point) they are very poor. How does it help them that they are richer than homeless ex-peasants in the slums of Mexico City? What does it say that we even need to make such comparisons in order to discuss their condition?There is a book which provides some interesting insights on poverty in various places around the globe. It is entitled simply Poor People. The author is William T. Vollman. Here is a quote from that book which might be how he would respond to your last comment:For me, poverty is not mere deprivation; for people may possess fewer things than I and be richer; poverty is wretchedness.I agree with that.
Note: I spelled Vollmann's name wrong above.Here is a link to the amazon.com listing of the book in question.
"'why shouldn't procreation be controlled rather than left to chance?'Do you really want to go there?"Yes I do want to go there, only in the narrow sense that individual people should control their individual bodies, not the state, nor any church, nor any corporation (by the way, abortion, which involves another life, is a totally different matter than contraception)...as far as contraception supposedly making infidelity and disprespect easier, even if you are right on that point, should we ban it simply because of that? By the way, if some people believe that just because the poorest of the poor in this country live better than a lot of other people in the rest of the world, and that in and of itself makes the poor's situation not that bad, how is it possible for someone like Rob to argue that their situation is bad at all, since they have it so much better than most other people in the world...
With that quote it seems you are now shifting the ground on which we are speaking.My point is that people who have far less are able to have viable marriages. Why can't Americans do the same? I.e. poverty is not the problem.
This seems to be the day for straw men.I did not say poor people don't try.I did not say anything about banning contraception. I merely stated a fact about contraception.I did not say "the poor's situation [is] not that bad" either. My point was that people who have far less are able to have viable marriages.I have my hands full defending the things I say. People don't make me defend things I don't say. ;)
The people in the woods are still rich by world standards.The point Vollmann is making about wretchedness is that, perhaps, the measure of poverty is not to be based only lack of resources of one kind or another. He goes directly on from there to say:[Poverty] must then be an experience more than an economic state. It therefore remains somewhat immesurable. If statisticians assured us that so many percent of human beings were unhappy, we would doubt their exactitude. Lacking telepathy (or perfect empathy), I do associate economic factors with emotional ones, in hopes of making some comparisons between people, however vague and loose; but I can best conceive of poverty as a series of perceptual categories.This goes to my argument. Unhappy people will often want to get out of the situation they are in. This is true regardless of their level of wealth. A frustrated man leaves his family and takes off for parts unknown. Sometimes he does this because of a nagging wife--"Get a job, you bum!". Sometimes because of meeting another woman. Sometimes because of the shame of not being able to provide, etc. As Vollmann says, the causes are mainly experiential, rather than measurably material. The rich have differing sets of repulsions and enticements contributing to the instability of the family unit, but those are still societally determined in many ways.
You're losing me on this new stuff about poverty. I thought poverty had something to do with material lack. Anyway, I agree with you that discontent is a factor in divorce--which I take to be the point of your last paragraph.
My point is that people who have far less are able to have viable marriages.It is also true (to relate the divorce thing back to the original question) that the children of broken homes who had far more are far less likely to end up in prison. I would weight illegitimacy more as a factor than divorce.But I would weight a feeling of hopelessness, usually coupled with a feeling of resentment, as by far the strongest factor generating criminal behavior.
Rodak, you never did explain "Feelings of helplessness". Can you shed any light on "Shame, and guilt that Americans heap on people who "can't cut it".
You're losing me on this new stuff about poverty. I thought poverty had something to do with material lack.You should read Vollmann's book. I can't really encapsulate how he arrived at that conclusion in comment boxes, but he does make a strong argument, based both on his own field work, and on "expert" stats, that the concept "poverty" can't be based on deprivation of material resources alone.
Can you shed any light on "Shame, and guilt that Americans heap on people who "can't cut it".No. To me that is so patently true that I can't imagine how to explain it to somebody who disagrees with it.Listen to one full Rush Limbaugh show and you will hear many times over.
Okay, bear with me here--I'm a little slow. How does research change the definition of a word?Poverty: n. The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts. etymology: Middle English poverte, from Old French, from Latin pauperts, from pauper, poor.
Actually, Civis, the phrase I just used when talking about divorce sums it up beautifully: "Get a job, you bum." How many cartoons on that theme have you seen in magazines?What is there about the word "bum" that you don't associate with "shame" and "guilt."
Okay, bear with me here--I'm a little slow. How does research change the definition of a word?As I said, you'd really need to read the book. What he did in the field is interview people in various countries, all of whom you and I would define as "poor." What he discovered was that our definitions of "poor" had little to no correlation with many of these peoples' self-image and/or experience of the way they lived.The dictionary definition of "poor" had no meaning experientially, even though the objective circumstances of these people would be called "poverty" by you or me.
No doubt being called a bum is shameful--did I say it wasn't. So one of the reasons for the high divorce rate is that women call their husbands "bums"? Haven't women been doing that for a long time? Mine sure has. She says I spend too much time in the garage drinking beer--go figure.
No doubt being called a bum is shameful--did I say it wasn't.You implied that you had no idea what I was talking about when I said that people heap abuse on the heads of indivduals who can't hack it. Calling them bums is just one of the ways in which that abuse is heaped. So one of the reasons for the high divorce rate is that women call their husbands "bums"?You are now just being pointlessly argumentative. Go out in the garage and have beer. ;-)
[Civis fails at humor]
I still feel like I'm missing something. Like this "indivduals who can't hack it". Where is this coming from?
Civis--No you didn't. That's why the winking emoticon at the end of my last comment. Shit, man: you have nothing to fear but beer itself.
I still feel like I'm missing something. Like this "indivduals who can't hack it". Where is this coming from?You're trying to make it too complicated. Individuals "who can't hack it" are the kind of people about whom one says, "He's a loser" or "He's just a bum" or "He's a hopeless fuck-up." We hear this kind of language every day. What's the mystery?
"With that quote it seems you are now shifting the ground on which we are speaking."That is, perhaps, your interpretation but certainly not my intention...I chimed in on your points when I thought you were implying that contraception is a bad thing...if I misinterpreted, my mistake...
The quote I was referring to was something Rodak quoted.I WAS saying contraception is a bad thing. You can quote me on that. ;)
63 (and with this one 64!) comments! Jeez, Rob... ya sure caught the "public imagination" with this thread. Good job!BILL
Bill--Thanks. But it's mostly me and one other guy. Good discussion though. Any thoughts on it?
civis, what exactly is wrong with contraception, apart from your belief that it supposedly makes infidelity and disrespect "easier"?
AIP,It's liable to be a long discussion.Rodak,Would it be rude to go into this here? We could go for the world record for most comments on a single blog post.
AIP/Civis--Go to it.
Let me just state my understanding of what the objection to mechanical and/or chemical birth control is, as explained to me by Zippy, of Zippy Catholic:Birth control is wrong because it is a breach of Natural Law, in that it negates the teleology of the sex act, which demands that conception should be a possibility on every occasion.
World’s record here we come!What makes contraception “bad”? We'll probably have to define a few terms before it's over. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to define what I mean by bad. I mean something that is morally wrong. When I say something is morally wrong, I don’t mean just because God says so, but because it is harmful to human beings.I don’t know much about you AIP, except that you apparently believe abortion is wrong, so forgive me if I assume you agree with a premise you don’t agree with or if, on the other hand, I preach to the choir you are in.There is a lot I could say about contraception, although I haven’t dusted off my research and thinking on the topic in a while. Maybe the best thing would be to list my reasons for saying contraception is bad and you tell me which one you want to talk about first. 1)[already stated] It makes infidelity easier.2)[already stated] It makes disrespect easier3)It has harmful physical side effects4)It gives a false sense of security. They fail even when properly used. 5)It leads to abortion. It fosters the mentality that life is not beautiful, but a thing to be guarded against. When they fail, it’s off to planned parenthood.6)Oral contraceptives are abortafacients 7)The divorce rate is higher among those who use contraception.8) Abuse of women has skyrocketed since it has become legalThere is more, but I think this gives us plenty to talk about.
Rodak, I did not see your latest comment until I posted my latest. Regarding Zippy's argument, I would prefer not to use that one at this time as it seems better to begin with what we can agrre on--seems like I would have to spend a lot of time building a foundation for that argument.
"1)[already stated] It makes infidelity easier.2)[already stated] It makes disrespect easier"These two are simply your opinion."3)It has harmful physical side effects"As do many drugs, but if someone knows the risks, why shouldn't she have the freedom to take that risk?"4)It gives a false sense of security. They fail even when properly used."Few things in life are 100% guaranteed, but certainly the possibility of pregnancy is severely reduced by using contraceptives. "5)It leads to abortion. It fosters the mentality that life is not beautiful, but a thing to be guarded against. When they fail, it’s off to planned parenthood."Again, your opinion. I could make a contrary argument that contraceptives and abortion are two completely unrelated things in that unwanted pregnancies lead to abortion and if procreation is able to be controlled, there is no reason to seek out an abortion. It's not so much a matter of thinking that life is not beautiful, but rather, being in full control of one's life."6)Oral contraceptives are abortafacients" I do not know enough details on this point to comment meaningfully."7)The divorce rate is higher among those who use contraception."Do you have any proof to support this?"8) Abuse of women has skyrocketed since it has become legal"Ditto #7
AIP,I would submit to you that none of these are opinions. Which one would you like to discuss? Rather than, as you say, trading opinions, lets discuss one of these points further and see what support there is pro and con."....why shouldn't she have the freedom to take that risk?"The straw man strikes again.
I am neither going to join this argument tit-for-tat, nor am I going to referee it, but I will say this:The argument that I suggested above, i.e., that birth control is a violation of Natural Law, is the only arguement by which one can state that birth control is objectively evil. Any other argument is either a matter of opinion, a matter of sectarian dogma, or based on statistics that are misleading, in that they can't prove a causal connection between birth control and anything else, since there is no control group using birth control and also unaffected by literally thousands of other socio-economic-cultural factors. If b.c. is not objectively evil, than all objections to it are contingent upon outside factors, and being either for it or against it is a matter of moral relativity.
"The argument that I suggested above, i.e., that birth control is a violation of Natural Law, is the only arguement by which one can state that birth control is objectively evil."That may be true. But I have certain reasons for my approach today. "Any other argument is either a matter of opinion, a matter of sectarian dogma...."Well, what I said above is not an opinion. No doubt about that. It is also not, coming from me, a matter of sectarian dogma. That leaves...."....or based on statistics that are misleading, in that they can't prove a causal connection between birth control and anything else, since there is no control group using birth control and also unaffected by literally thousands of other socio-economic-cultural factors."While you do have a good point here, what you are pointing to is a problem inherent in any study of man since, so far we have never taken thousands of humans and kept them in a controlled environment. But--well if you remain true to your argument are you ready to throw psychology and sociology out the window? I think I much of what you have said in your various blog discussions would be invalidated as well. "If b.c. is not objectively evil, [then] all objections to it are contingent upon outside factors, and being either for it or against it is a matter of moral relativity."Isn't that a truism?--though I'm not sure what you mean by "contingent upon outside factors".
I meant to say:I think much of what you have said in your various blog discussions would be invalidated as well. Sorry
I think I much of what you have said in your various blog discussions would be invalidated as well.For instance? I'm not sure what you mean by "contingent upon outside factors".The most obvious one would be that it's against the teachings of one's religion. Others, for some methods, might include fear of the side effects you mention, etc. Those are some "con" contingencies. The "pro" ones are too many and too obvious to bother mentioning.
I should note in connection with the above that by "outside" I mean outside of the desire to have sex without risk of pregnancy.
"....why shouldn't she have the freedom to take that risk?"The straw man strikes again.Although I said I wasn't going to referee this, that is not a strawman. That is a perfectly valid, defensible argument, which is also true of virtually every drug that one might take, for whatever reason, and is based on the libertarian insistence that one's own body is one's own body into which to put anything that one wants to put into it.Unless that ingestable thing is illegal, or against one's religion, this is not a contestable assertion.
Now, I am an early riser; so--to bed. Talk amongst yourselves...
Alright, back to logic 101. That is a straw man: attack what someone never said or prove a point not under discussion.
civis, many of your arguments against contraception do seem to be your personal opinion rather than some indisputable fact...in the end, I doubt that any argument you or I could make would change our respective opinions about contraception, therefore, I will agree to disagree with you on this subject...
Oh come on. You're going to give up that easily? I thought you said you wanted to "go there"? Civis goes off to rant on his blog.
Okay, my wife is making me do this.AIP, you asked for more information on a couple of my points. I can give you more information, but it takes time to dust off this stuff, so maybe you could tell me which one interest you most--or you doubt the most and I'll give you more information.But if you are not committed to talking about it, just say so [civis thinks you already said so, but he lives under a petty tyranny and is being forced to make the offer] so I'm not just wasting my breath [Which Civis thinks he would be. I don't expect to convince anybody, but sometimes I'd just like to have a real discussion about an issue.]
Hello, I am a newcomer to the conversation. As I started reading this thread, I thought I was going to respond to the issue of why we have so many prisoners and towards the end did I realized that a very different conversation was in play. The issue is whether we can judge that contraception is objectively wrong. To accomplish this goal would be to agree on a given philosophy over the nature of sex—namely the end of the sexual union. For example, John Paul II wrote an entire book over six hundred pages in the English translation called Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, which culminates in an argument against contraception. My point is that whether or not contraception is permissible or good, it would be quite the feat to adequately develop the philosophical framework by which to properly evaluate it.I don’t think that I can possibly do much by way of convincing someone that contraception is wrong if that person already earnestly affirms the opposite. This is an acknowledgement of my own limitations. However, I do think a stance against contraception is reasonable and at most, I hope to show that there is at least some reason in this stance. I will attempt to try to give a few insights and an argument against contraception. The downside is that I may not justify each one of my premises very well so I apologize ahead of time. If great issue is taken with one of the premises, I will do my best to defend it (I am not an expert). Furthermore, I am developing this argument as I write it so it may be very unpolished. I have for a while now been against contraception but never have I tried to collect my thoughts and articulate them as I am attempting now. Simply stated (and I don’t think I am competent enough to prove this) contraception is ultimately a philosophical problem by which man manipulates his body to exert control over it and use it towards selfish ends. Thus contraception is a technological problem of man treating his body as an object for unchaste reasons. The accusation stated more definitively is this: there is a beauty and goodness to human spousal love and the whole sexual sphere, but technological processes like contraception cheapens this experience by way of a reductive and scientific way of viewing nature. My claim is this: there is sacredness to life. Some people call it dignity, some call it mystery, I don’t really care what you call it. I favor sacredness but this is less politicized than terms like dignity and more direct than terms like mystery. I believe this sacredness is why abortion is such an atrocity. I don’t know whether that the fetus is developed enough to be called human, I can’t empirically observe what makes something human. But I do know that there is something sacred there. Just as that presence is sacred so is the process that created it. I believe the very act of sex is sacred. And as with all sacred, dignified, mysterious things you better make sure you have a damn good reason before you mess with it. I think this sacredness can be identified by light of natural reason precisely because it identifies something that cannot be quantified. If sex was nothing more than two bodies joining together like putting together two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or even if it was just for pleasure (I believe many people treat sex as if it was just for pleasure) then I would have nothing to argue. However, if sex is a sacred act and one of the greatest means of expression love between two humans, then something like contraception may be a big issue. With this being said, I do not thing we should treat the human body or its processes like just another piece of machinery. This is the problem with Cartesian dualism- it divides the unity between the body and soul treating the human person as a ghost in a machine. We cannot treat the body as if what we do to it doesn’t really matter. More particularly, we cannot treat sex as if it doesn’t matter. Given the sacredness of sex I think it proper that it is practiced monogamously in the context of marriage (I am not going to spend much time defending this. I intend only to mention it and rant a little bit about it). If I had entered this thread earlier, I would have argued that we have so many divorces because people get married for the wrong reasons. I do not recommend people to get married to have sex. Sex is an expression of love within marriage but it is not the whole thing. I tend to think people, including Christians, often overemphasize the value of sex in marriage, and sex in general. I do not think sex is a right even if you are married. A spouse does not have a right to have physical access to his/her partner just because they really want to have sex. Even in marriage, a spouse should not use the other spouse simply to fulfill their sexual lust. Marriage does not take away a person’s ability to use another person. Neither should marriage simply be seen as a situation where either spouse has mutual access to use the other- mutual utility. Sex should always be seen as a gift within marriage to be freely given and received; not merely requested or ordered like a McDonald’s happy meal. Marriage is a way to experience a communion of persons; however, it is not the only way to experience a communion of persons. Marriage should be about love and not sex alone. The nuptial mystery is there, but love is shown through sacrifice and not primarily through sex. Thus the fullest expression of love will always be that of sacrifice. Therefore, sex is not even necessary for a full expression of love, otherwise everyone would have to be married and having sex in order to love. Rather it is an expression of love within a particular vocation, but there are other vocations and many expressions of love. With that being said, there still is the issue of sex and it is a good thing. Sex is about making a gift of the self to another, an exchange of persons. This may be my romantic side talking but sex is about a joy of transcendence and escaping the prison of the self to love another, the other. Sex becomes more than pleasure, but a joy that comes through the giving and reception of the gift. A part of the gift of sex is not only that it is unitive but that it is procreative or open to life. This openness/ humility is a part of what constitutes the proper gift in the sexual act. To negate this openness is to negate the blessedness of the act. Not only is the possibility of life being contracepted but the whole purpose of the sexual act as a total and sincere gift of self to another is being negated as well. Children should be seen as a fruit and blessing of the sexual act, not a negative consequence. My conclusion: Contraception is objectively wrong because it inhibits a total gift of self in the act of sex (not unitive), it is not open to life (not procreative), it encourages a philosophical world view that exalts technological means to control a natural and sacred process, it is often motivated by selfish ends (pleasure) that trivializes sex, it places too much emphasis on sex in an already sex driven culture, it treats pregnancy as a disease to be avoided and treats children as a negative consequence. Onside of these consequences I really don’t see what advantage the contraceptive mentality has for society in general. It is not really an answer to anything except a way for people to have sex and limit their accountability and consequences. At best, it is a bandage that is poisoning minds. If we want people to stop having so much sex, we need to emphasize virtue and the good life by appealing to their desire for good, not their desire for sex. I think the contraceptive mentality has an awful lot of similar features to the abortive mentality, and I have a hard time discriminating against their fruits. Sorry for the long comment, I got carried away. I am not really sure what is proper in length by way of reply and etiquette so if I have over stepped my boundaries please tell me so I can make sure not to do it again. Also I probably should have edited this more before posting, may God forgive me.
That is a straw man: attack what someone never said or prove a point not under discussion.Civis--I read it as a response to your point 3: "It has harmful physical side effects" To which AIP replied:"....why shouldn't she have the freedom to take that risk?"How is that a strawman?
I thought I was going to respond to the issue of why we have so many prisonersRyan--Welcome. And feel free to return to the topic that originally interested me, if you have thoughts on it.
Thus contraception is a technological problem of man treating his body as an object for unchaste reasons.That is an assumption as to the motive for using contraception. It is also a value judgement on the nature of sex. In the first instance, the motive may well be economic: I can't afford another child. In the second instance, it is assumed that sex for any reason other than procreation is morally wrong (i.e. "unchaste"). Therefore, your conclusion is already present in your opening statement.
technological processes like contraception cheapens this experience by way of a reductive and scientific way of viewing nature.Are you, perhaps, a Christian Scientist? Would you let "technological processes" like radiation or chemotherapy save the life of a child, or would that "cheapen nature" by intefering with the teleology of cancer? Either nature can be tampered with by man, as part of man's dominion over it, or it cannot. How do have the right to cherry-pick your tampering?
Ryan--I fully agree that our culture is over-sexualized. But I don't agree that this was caused by contraception in any way. People have practiced "birth control" of one kind or another since Day One. The cheapening of our culture is directly attributable to the general secularization of our culture.I will point out that this has also happened in most every other culture around the globe, yet we are the nation with the disproporionate number of human beings in cages; not any country in Europe; not even the Chinese dictatorship, whose total population dwarfs ours.
Rodak, I thought you went to bed.....Crap! you're up! you are an early riser. You're not a benedictine are you?
4:00 AM--prior to all the distrations of the world starting to stir...
Rodak,RE the straw man, not that it's important, but not only was that not my point, we previously established it was not the point. Further, the question under discussion is "Is BC bad?". I wanted to respond to what he said, but what he said would take us off topic, so my response (I beleive in meeting a man point for point) was that he was avoiding the issue.
Fine. Let's don't get sidetracked over that detail.
Thanks Rodak, I think I shall return to the original topic but not yet. I must first do some damage control with all I have said thus so far. “Thus contraception is a technological problem of man treating his body as an object for unchaste reasons.” Although I didn’t deal with it, I imagine there may be good reasons for using contraception, but in my mind this wouldn’t be using it primarily as a contraceptive. “May be” as in the case in which one spouse has some kind of life threatening disease in which the contraception isn’t being used primarily to prevent birth but to stop the infection of the partner. I am not decided on this issue but it has some interesting application with the principle of double effect (this has been a continuous discussion among the synod of bishops especially when dealing with Africa). By unchaste I meant for reasons that tries to deny either the unitative or procreative purposes. My assumption is that both “ought” to be present. This is a value judgment on the nature of sex, one in which I may be wrong. I do not think anything I’ve said is so philosophically sound as to be beyond argumentation. Given the complexity of the issue I only promised to try to give some reason for a stance against contraception, not a definitive one. Although this statement already anticipated my conclusion, this doesn’t trouble me because it wasn’t my main argument or my only opening statement. But to clarify, I don’t think the procreative reason is the only reason for sex. I do think that the sexual act should inherently be open to life. And if someone is motivated to used contraception for economic reasons I’m sure there are other equally viable solutions such as fasting from sex and using the symptom-thermal method. I do not think people should be having children if they honestly cannot afford it. There is responsibility to the potential life of the said sexual union. Yet, I also feel that many people’s standards of what constitutes affording a child may be grossly exaggerated by which many people tend to consume more material goods than they actually need and they could theoretically do with less while providing for another human being(of course this may be just another unfounded judgment). To address what I said about the sympto-thermo method (also known as natural family planning—I favor the more scientific name). This method has been shown to be more effective then artificial contraception. Although this method does decrease the chance of procreation it can hardly be considered an equivalent means as artificial birth control. The sympto-thermal method relies on an understanding of the natural rhythm of the female’s body and can be used both for couple’s wanting children and couple’s trying to refrain from having children. Unlike artificial contraception the sympto-thermal method works within the natural framework of how the female’s body works. Of course there seems like the contradiction: if both artificial contraception and the sympto-thermo method are both leading to the same end of not having a child, aren’t they really the same. However, we cannot use the end to justify the means and the means are different because with artificial contraception there are extraordinary/ artificial efforts to prevent life. Either way even if a couple is using sympto-thermo method they should still be open to the possibility of life. The advantages of using the sympto-thermal method are as follows: it require the woman to have intimate knowledge of the cycle of her body, it doesn’t require the introduction of more chemicals and harmones into the blood stream of the female, it doesn’t use any artificial method to prevent life, and it may require some self-control and fasting from sex (this may be good in a sex driven culture). I am not a Christian Scientist (lol). I have no problem with “technological” process that saves life by interfering with cancer. I just do not think pregnancy should be treated as cancer. Oddly enough most birth control pills operate by pumping powerful hormones in the woman’s body and making the body think its pregnant so no fertilized eggs will attached themselves to the uterine wall. You show me how cancer is truly equivocal to pregnancy and I will concede this point. I do not think the over-sexualized culture has been caused by the over-sexualized culture. My charge would be more on the line that an over-sexualized culture has found a need for contraception and the use of this contraception creates a mentality that perpetuates an over-sexualized culture. My charge is contraception is not a part of the solution.
Hey! I thought I was the resident logic chopper! [My comments in brackets]:"Thus contraception is a technological problem of man treating his body as an object for unchaste reasons.That is an assumption as to the motive for using contraception. [Let's call it a hypothesis amd see how it stands up to observation: I think that it would be supportedby observation] It is also a value judgement on the nature of sex. [are you saying then it is just an opinion? I would submit that it is capable of proof or disproof therefore it is not an opinion or value judgment] In the first instance, the motive may well be economic: I can't afford another child. [Yeah right and people only get abortions when they get raped. yada yada yada] In the second instance, it is assumed that sex for any reason other than procreation is morally wrong (i.e. "unchaste"). [I believe that you are mistating what RH is saying. I can see how you would think he is saying that, but I don't think he is] Therefore, your conclusion is already present in your opening statement. [Huh? Isn't that kind of the point? You state your position, you defend it then you sum up with a restatement.]"
These things can get so convoluted that nobody can follow them. Last night I made several responses to Ryan's open salvo, and I'm going to hang fire until he returns and responds to those. I'm at work now, anyway, and have stuff to do. Catch you later.
Oops. Ryan's return and my last comment crossed in the mail. Nonetheless, I need to sign off for awhile. Talk amongst yourselves.
Looks like my comment crossed as well. And I need to go to work as well. Later fellas.99 comments and counting baby!
BTW, Rodak, you are right that economic reasons are another reason and sometimes a valid reasons--I let my sarcasm get away from me.But I do think it is a thin excuse more often than a real issue here in this country--though not so in other places.
To me the economic argument is a slippery one. I don't think whether something is affordable should determine whether something it is moral. Thus, because a child isn't affordable doesn't justify killing it. The fact is that the economic situation for the individual considering possible consequences might possibly go either way. The couple that thought they didn't have enough financial means for a child may find they do just fine whereas the couple that thought they did have enough financial means struggle greatly. Maybe we should criticize the first couple for thinking too little of their economic situation and the second couple for thinking too much of it. The point is this falls into a type of consequentialism of trying to foresee the economic capital that a person may have at an unknown future. The danger is pretending that the presence of financial capital makes something right or wrong. While its definitely a consideration, an important consideration, I don't think it is by any means the overriding consideration. May people take financial considerations too seriously. Rather than using economics to determine the moral status of an action, we should first determine the morality of a situation and order the ethics of economics around it. For example, the dignity of a human person ought to be enough argument to favor human life over economic gain and personal profit. This is the current argument over slave labor in other countries. Even if sustaining that life is an economic problem, getting rid of life or stopping the possibility of life shouldn't be the viable option we choose. And all this might be my idealistic youth speaking, but I though I should throw it out there. It seems to me that historically that possible economic limitation has often been used as a viable argument for keeping justice at bay(slavery, abortion, unjust working conditions, etc.)
Thus, because a child isn't affordable doesn't justify killing it.But we are talking about preventing a child from being conceived, not about getting rid of a child who has been conceived.A childless couple, for instance, may find that they can get by financially despite and unplanned birth. A couple who already has five children, who are already going hungry at times, might find it both prudent and moral not to have another.
true, rodak. I was merely trying to point out the disadvantage of using an argument of economics to determine whether something is objectively wrong and that ultimately it should not be the overriding consideration. It was more of an argument by way of analogy. You are right to point out that they are different because one is discussing actual life and the other is discussing potential life. I just wanted to offer a critic of the economic factor in general as being consequentialist, but even my critique as you point out has limits.
Ryan--I don't see how one can place a value on a non-event. Not conceiving a child today is morally equivalent to not going bowling on Thursday. If I do go bowling on Thursday, I can then fret over whether I've wasted the money it cost me, or whether my time could have been more profitably spent. But, something that hasn't happened is non-existant. There is no such thing as a pregnancy that didn't happen.Next, I will argue that there is no logical reason why a million pregnancies that didn't happen were ever needed; or why they would be an objectively good thing. There is no shortage of human beings. Arguably, in fact, there are far too many human beings already. The vast majority of the world's children endure life conditions that you and I would find to be intolerable. Unless you can convince me that a pregnancy that didn't happen somehow had a preexistance of which it was deprived by not being conceived, I will argue that all we are discussing is a non-event, like not going bowling on Thursday.
But to clarify, I don’t think the procreative reason is the only reason for sex. I do think that the sexual act should inherently be open to life.So, what you're saying there is that being open to life is a necessary condition for "chaste" sex. You don't object to sexual pleasure per se, but it is a "good" only as an add-on to a procreative attempt. Sexual pleasure as an end-in-itself is evil. Therefore, bottom line: sex is good only as a means to a specific end. I just do not think pregnancy should be treated as cancer.I don't find that a fair recapitulation of what I said. First of all, if we were treating pregnancy as we treat cancer, we would be talking about abortion, not about birth control. What we are treating the same (so I believe) is preventing a death by cancer, and preventing a conception by birth control. In each case we are so doing by not allowing nature to take its course. When I was a boy, effective birth control didn't exist, and, if you got cancer it was time to put your affairs in order. Due to medical technology, neither of those things is today necessarily the case. And, equally in both instances, this is because nature has been overridden by human ingenuity. In both cases, also, the results have been seen as good results, despite nature having been tampered with. If there is a teleology of sex, there is a teleology of disease and death. Each is part of the same nature. On that level, they are equivalent.
Rodak, I do believe you are circumnavigating the issue. My blurb about economics was to call into question how much of a factor economics played in determining the objective good of a given action. By way of my examples, I hoped to show that its role was non-existent. I appropriately used other situations dealing with sacredness and dignity of life to show that although there always exist economical considerations that this could not be the foundation or main argument in determining the objective morality of an action. In essence I was trying to weaken the effect of using the economical argument altogether. I thought I made a valiant effort. My argument against contraception was not dependent or contingent upon this argument, and you should not have treated it as if it was. I think your last comment is nonsense and your discussion of the non-event is nothing but misdirection from the real issue. I will argue that your last argument is really a non-argument because it does not address any of the points I raised. I never discussed a pregnancy that did not happen or non-events. You are putting words in my mouth. On the contrary, I have been discussing a real event, SEX. I hope you do not consider sex a non-event. If so, this conversation has nowhere else to go. If you are married, good luck with explaining that one to your wife. What I have been doing is placing value on a real event called sex. I have called it a sacred process and listed a defense of maintaining this sacredness. This is where you should direct your argumentative energy.
Our posting crossed again! And just for the record I am enjoying this conversation. I don’t object to sexual pleasure per se, but it is also a good inherent to sex. I would stress the unitive and procreative aspect equally. Sexual pleasure as an end-in-itself is evil because without the unitive and procreative aspect it is only a matter of selfish utility of the other person. Bottom line: sex is only good as within the inner dynamic of a relationship of love that fosters both unity and an openness to life as the fruit of the union. I think these aspects are inter connected. Meaning that if you take away either the unitive, procreative, context of marriage and love, then the other aspects are negated as well. Sorry if it was an unfair recapitulation, I just didn’t find the cancer analogy appropriate. Whereas cancer is a disease, fertility is a gift. I have no problem treating the body for disease, I just don’t see how this means we should treat fertility as a disease. Preventing conception by birth control is not the same as preventing death by cancer. In one aspect the body is healthy and in the other it is diseased. The problem with your teleological analogy is that I assume the end of cancer is a bad end and the end of fertility is a good end. Once again your equivocation is erroneous. I’ll be off to work myself, so I am not sure with what frequency I will be able to respond.
What I have been doing is placing value on a real event called sex.That's just not true. You have placed the value on the potential outcome of "unprotected" sex. You have said that is "unchaste" if not open to life. Unchaste is a perjorative term; therefore you see sex as an evil, if pregnancy is not a potential outcome of any given occurrence of it. The rhythm method is an equivocation, and any honest person will admit that. There is nothing "natural" about keeping a basal temperature chart in order to determine when best to have sex so as not to conceive. That's pure sophistry as an option to a condom, or foam, or any other mechanical means of birth control.Being open to life is not about the sex, but about the potential for pregnancy as a result of that sex.My argument--that if you prevent the possibility of conception you have not done anything at all concerning a "person" or a "life"--is not nonsense. Where there is no potential for a thing, there is no thing, no being, no life, no event.I.e.: Sex can be an end in itself.As for the teleology of sex, saying that sex can't be shared strictly for pleasure, is comparable to saying that the only use of a knife is cut things with. I say, in a pinch you can use a knife to turn a screw; or you can use a knife to play a game of mumblety-peg.
Rodak,“There is no shortage of human beings. Arguably, in fact, there are far too many human beings already.” That is not a correct statement. In some places there is over population. In other places there is under population. Are you saying that overpopulation in India justifies contraception in America?RE your discussion of cancer vs. contraception there is a get difference between the two. In one case you aid a natural process of healing and fighting disease. In the other you frustrate nature by frustrating a natural process. It is similar to the difference of exercising to keep the weight off as opposed to visiting the vomitorium.RH,You'll find straw men prowling the blogosphere everywhere you turn. Sigh.
Sexual pleasure as an end-in-itself is evil because without the unitive and procreative aspect it is only a matter of selfish utility of the other person.That makes it precisely equivalent to having a good conversation.
Rodak, I don't think he is referring to the Rhythm method. I would suggest we hold our discussion on methodology and come back to it. It will make for a good discussion, but maybe we have enough on our plate at this time. That's my thought anyway.
In one case you aid a natural process of healing and fighting disease.There is no "natural" process of healing with cancer. Fifty years ago, if you got cancer, you were a dead man walking. They could sometimes keep you alive longer than "nature" would have allowed you to live, but eventually you died. Today, there are real cures. But, make no mistake--there is nothing fighting cancer other than very new medical technology, none of which is "natural" in the least.
Are you saying that overpopulation in India justifies contraception in America?I'm not saying that overpopulation anywhere justifies anything. I am saying that there is no shortage of human beings anywhere. A few million non-conceptions--even a few billion non-conceptions--does exactly zero harm to anything. Where there is overpopuation, however, contraception is a damned good idea.
Whereas cancer is a disease, fertility is a gift.Now we are into the realm of religion. If you want to say because I am a Catholic, I am taught that birth control is evil, and I therefore do not practice birth control, fine. End of discussion. Under those circumstances, I would not respect you if you did favor birth control.If, however, you want to make a rational argument against birth control, you can't characterize fertility as a "gift." Nature is purely utilitarian. It favors no individual and is profligate with death, and "wastes" life in great abundance. Between 30 and 50 percent of all human conceptions pass out of the woman's body without attaching to the uterus. This would seem to me to be a problem for those who believe in ensoulment at conception. God is making all those souls--for what? What happens to them? Yet, knowing this, I am to believe that just preventing x-number of those conceptions from ever happening makes "protected" sex an evil thing. I can't do the math.
"There is no "natural" process of healing with cancer." Once again you are mistaken. You body develops cancer all of the time but your body generally overcomes the cancerous cells.
"I'm not saying that overpopulation anywhere justifies anything. I am saying that there is no shortage of human beings anywhere. A few million non-conceptions--even a few billion non-conceptions--does exactly zero harm to anything."You cannot be prepared to stand by this statement.
You cannot be prepared to stand by this statement.Of course I can. A non-event has no existence. It is neither pro- nor con-; neither good nor evil. It has no being. It isn't a factor in anything. It's the null set, the void.
" 'Whereas cancer is a disease, fertility is a gift.' Now we are into the realm of religion."Unless I misunderstand you, you are implying that fertility as a gift is a mere matter of religion. There would be quite a few anthropoligists who would disagree with you here.
Once again you are mistaken. You body develops cancer all of the time but your body generally overcomes the cancerous cells.Okay, good. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you just go on home, have a beer, watch some TV and wait for that to happen for you.
Guys, my lunch hour is well over. Gotta go. More later. Thanks.
"If, however, you want to make a rational argument against birth control, you can't characterize fertility as a "gift." Nature is purely utilitarian. It favors no individual and is profligate with death, and "wastes" life in great abundance. Between 30 and 50 percent of all human conceptions pass out of the woman's body without attaching to the uterus. This would seem to me to be a problem for those who believe in ensoulment at conception. God is making all those souls--for what? What happens to them? Yet, knowing this, I am to believe that just preventing x-number of those conceptions from ever happening makes "protected" sex an evil thing. I can't do the math."Mother nature kills thousands (millions maybe--I don't know the figure) of children and adults per year. What's the difference if I usea few for target practice? If life were truly sacred, mother nature would not kill so many.Okay, this is absurd, and you are not saying that, but the logic is the same.
Civis: You cannot be prepared to stand by this statement.Rodak: Of course I can.Come on Rodak, you are willing to argue that underpopulation does not cause problems.
"Okay, good. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you just go on home, have a beer, watch some TV and wait for that to happen for you."Okay, now you are being needlessly argumentative. You do see my point don't you: one thing aids nature another frustrates it. You are bordering on proving RH's point that conception is being viewed as a cancer.
RE: Lunch hour. Ditto. It's been a productive hour: 2 hot dogs, a chapter of AMERICA AT THE CROSS ROADS (Fukuyama) and a stimulating exchange with Rodak. Life is good.
"What I have been doing is placing value on a real event called sex."That is true. I have placed value on the actual process of “unprotected” sex as well as its possible outcome—regardless of whether that outcome is conception or not. I said I thought the sympto-thermo method is doesn’t negate the purpose of the sexual act if the other conditions (unitive, procreative, love, marriage, etc) were present. My claim is that I don’t think sex should be “against” conception. I don’t think the sacredness of sex should be interred with by artificial contraception. Conception may not be a desirable outcome, but why people should be totally against it? “Being open to life is not about the sex, but about the potential for pregnancy as a result of that sex.” Being open to life is about a mentality in which sex is approached. It is about how you view the world. There is an event because there is a coming together of two people. I don’t see how you can call the coming together of two human beings with their own sacredness within the context of such an intimate act as a non-event just because it doesn’t result in children. As I stated before, what people do with their body affects them physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, etc. Sex can be treated as an end in itself, but this doesn’t mean it should be. If I am hooking up with somebody solely for the purpose of having sex, that is the definition of objectification and utility. I am using that person as an object of my lust.
Whereas cancer is a disease, fertility is a gift. I think I can defend this without getting into the realm of religion. I am a Catholic, but I believe that God is both the author of the book of revelation and book of nature. Given this I have no problem to stay away from religious arguments. I believe what I have said can be supported by the light of natural reason. F.Y.I. the church has no official teaching on when ensoulment happens, I stay away from those types of arguments altogether (frankly I don't think it matters much in terms of arguments against abortion). As it happens I am a little busy at the moment but you can expect me to give an attempt at giving a natural law argument that fertility is a gift.
one thing aids nature another frustrates it.When nature has given you a critical mass of cancer cells that your immune system can't eliminate, then nature wants you to die. If you fight that cancer, using surgery, radiation, chemo, then you are doing something unnatural and negating the teleology of your disease. If thwarting the teleology of natural occurring events is wrong, then you should accept your lot and die of your cancer (if you want to be consitent with your position on b.c., that is.) You want to have it both ways. Btw--the sum of all the conceptions that never happened is: zero. You can't count that which does not, and never did, have existence. Gotta run...
Disease is an attack on natural processes. Getting cancer is "natural" in much as getting a sword thrust through you. Cancer is sometimes--maybe always, research is ongoing-- due to a foreign elemment, like the sword, attacking the body. Conversely, cancer MAY be due not so much to the foreign element as the particular body's ability to deal with it. The natural thing is for the body to overcome the cancer. That is the way that the body works naturally. Cancer treatment helps a natural process.Contraception frustrates a natural process.
Contraception frustrates a natural process.As does chemotherapy. The cancer isn't equivalent to the sword thrust--the chemotherapy is.
No, the chemotherapy is the removal of the foreign object--roughly speaking. Chemo is BTW, not the only treatment for cancer. There are also synthetic peptides that aid the body in fighting the cancer.
Sure. The key word there is "synthetic."
I am a Catholic, but I believe that God is both the author of the book of revelation and book of nature. Given this I have no problem to stay away from religious arguments.But, Ryan, don't you see that once you posit the existence of God, and make everything "natural" God's doing, then you've already and inescapably got a religious argument.Your task here, should you choose to accept it, is to formulate an argument that will convince a hard-core atheist, who is, however, a moralist, that birth control is objectively evil.
Rodak,RE "Synthetic" and the discussion of what is natural: I've been giving you the benefit of the doubt that I am not making myself clear, but it appears you are hanging your hat on the fallacy of equivocation re the term "natural."RE your 3/4/08 5:26 PM comment, you are touching on part of my reasoning for usuing the arguments I used with AIP.You are also touching on an issue I have with Natural Law. It's too much to discuss fully here I guess, but it seems to ME it ought to be possible to argue for natural law without God. However, natural law theorists I respect claim it is not possible (those who try to remain true to St. Thomas). John Finnis and Germain Grisez have developed a natural law theory that does not depend on God, but it entails a number of problems of its own.I personally favor a natural law theory in the tradition of Aristotle and the Stoics (which St. Thomas does, though with a heavy injection of revelation, which, as you point out, is problematic to some). If we took that approach, the real issue is what is the purpose of sex. One thing you say in your 3/4/08 5:26 PM comment is, I think, out of place. You say "Your task here, should you choose to accept it, is to formulate an argument that will convince a hard-core atheist, who is, however, a moralist, that birth control is objectively evil." I'm a bit confused, since I thought RH was speaking to Rodak, not a "hard-core atheist." Please advise.
I thought RH was speaking to Rodak, not a "hard-core atheist." Please advise.I am not an atheist. That said, I do not favor the passage of laws based the doctrines of any sectarian religion. People who think birth control is evil should not practice it. That sectarian decision should not, however, be enforced against secularists by law. If, however, the argument is being made that birth control should be outlawed because it leads to the dissolution of the family, and thus to crime, and thus to the highest incarceration rate in the world, that might be a secular reason to outlaw it. That might be a "sociological" reason, backed by empirical evidence, to ban it. I remain, at this point, unconvinced by that argument, however. Societies have become sexually depraved without having effective birth control. Ancient Rome being the most striking example. My contention would be that sexual depravity is just one of a number of symptoms of a decadent society; it is not one of its causes.
While I appreciate the arguments that are being made by civis and ryan, in the end, their arguments are based on their own religious and moral beliefs...in a pluralistic society with a secular goverment, any particular individual's moral and religious beliefs should not be imposed on others by the force of law...so while I understand why they feel the way they do, it is a moot point, as they have no right to impose their beliefs about contraception on me or anyone else...I do appreciate the discussion, though, it has been very stimulating...
In the immortal words of Ronald Reagan, "There you go again." Who said anything about baning BC? Your right to contracept is quite safe.
"...any particular individual's moral and religious beliefs should not be imposed on others by the force of law..."There you go again!My but the procontraceptors are insecure. You right to practice BC is quite safe. If you guys really belive what you're saying, why be so defensive?
“But, Ryan, don't you see that once you posit the existence of God, and make everything "natural" God's doing, then you've already and inescapably got a religious argument. Your task here, should you choose to accept it, is to formulate an argument that will convince a hard-core atheist, who is, however, a moralist, that birth control is objectively evil.”I am wounded by the accusation and presumption. First off I try to tailor my conversations to the person I’m speaking with. If you remember, that was you. I admitted that I probably would not be able to convince anybody that already was absolutely convinced that contraception was good. If I was arguing a hard-core atheist I imagine that I may have quite a few problems in worldview, especially ones that are hard-core materialist. Coincidentally you have not really addressed the main arguments I originally offered. Before you start telling me what my philosophical worldview allows me to do, I much prefer that you ask me what my philosophical view is. In case you didn’t know it there isn’t one philosophical worldview that is cloned onto every believer. I was not trying to pass laws based on doctrine for the sake of argument. I only argued against contraception because I believe it is objectively wrong. I argue for truth. Furthermore, I never argued that contraception should be outlawed or that it was “the cause” of society’s problems. I argued that an over-sexualized culture found a need for contraception and that its use helped perpetuate an over-sexualized culture. I said contraception doesn’t really solve anything. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to argue that it should be outlawed or that outlawing it would solve anything. I would make a case to outlaw those types of contraception that are abortive. I am much more interested in affecting the faulty philosophical foundation of utility and reductive philosophies that permeate in society. For your information, philosophically I am a Personal Thomist. Very broadly, this means I like the moderate critical realism of Thomistic metaphysics with a healthy dose of phenomenology to have a metaphysics rooted in experience and therefore reality. I like the epistemology of Bernard Lonergan that starts with the phenomenon of experience and builds a theory of knowledge from the ground up. Everything I have argued has been based in the belief that being is shrouded in mystery. I believe good philosophy leads to mystery. Thus none of my arguments would stand up against a materialist, but I would have a whole litany of problems with that type of world view. The fact is that there is something sacred about each human person that cannot be quantified in empirical science. I did not bring religion as such into the equation. I did not make inherently religious arguments from scripture or a particular faith tradition. I appealed to a sense of the sacredness of humanity and the sacredness of certain experiences. Furthermore, if that Church is correct that sex does matter and what we do in the act does matter, this truth of this experience will be true for the religious and the non-religious. How is it that when I try to engage someone in an intellectual conversation about a controversial issue that my religious views are used to invalidate my insight when I wasn’t relying on religious arguments? How come the atheist’s lack of faith doesn’t invalidate their argument? Why should we ultimately by anyone’s argument given the pluralistic society in which we live? The reason why I reference natural law is because I must. If there is no law and moral sense that is co-natural to human consciousness that I can try to reason with then all ethics are lost. We are merely camps of people trying to impose our views on others for no good reason other than the will to power.
Speaking of strawmen...no one is talking about banning anything, other than you, civis, and no one is defensive or insecure...what I typed was in regards to the fact that I assume that you are making your arguments in an attempt to persuade (if not, pardon the error). If that is the case, your arguments are falling on deaf ears towards anyone who does not hold the same moral/religious views that you do...
"I said contraception doesn’t really solve anything."Really? Tell that to women who want to have an active sex life but do not, for whatever reason, want to get pregnant...I suspect they would disagree...
I would make a case to outlaw those types of contraception that are abortive.Abortive contraception is a contradiction in terms. You can't have an abortion if you've successfully contracepted. As I said before--if your religious beliefs prohibit your use of contraception, then you should not use it, and I would not respect you if you did. If, however, John Doe doesn't share your religious beliefs, you should not judge his conduct by the standards of your beliefs and agitate to pass laws requiring him to so conform. In a pluralistic society, that is how it must be.Some things--murder, theft, for instance--can be agreed upon as objectively evil by materialists and theists alike. Some things cannot. You dan try to persuade on the latter, but you cannot, or should not, try to coerce. That is why I said that you need to make an argument that would persuade an atheist that contraception is objectively evil.
Please remember that the point of this thread was to try to come to an understanding of why America has such a disproportionate number of people behind bars. Constraception was brought up (not by me!) as a factor contributing to the rampant criminality in America. This implies that contraception should be banned if we want the crime rate to drop. Otherwise, why are we discussing contraception at all in this context?
"Please remember that the point of this thread was to try to come to an understanding of why America has such a disproportionate number of people behind bars." Oh, that's easy...fear...
Well rodak the conversation has been fun and interesting but I think it may be time for me to retire from this thread. I discussed contraception because that was where this thread was when I jumped in. Your insinuation that an argument has to be so good that it convinces an atheist is faulty. Not all atheists agree on philosophical outlooks. And you may try to say you are only referring to those atheist that have some kind of moral notion but that is cheap as well because there are competing moral theories based in very different ideologies among atheist as well. Convincing an Atheist on this would probably involve be an argument first on epistemology, then metaphysics, then morality. For every moral theory is based off a certain theory of knowledge, being, and system of actions that follow. Either way, it is faulty to point to people with a certain type of belief (or non-belief) and say that if you convince them maybe only then you have something. Anyway I am not an expert on atheist, I just think your insinuation is greatly misguided. You never did deal with the actual content of the argument I originally gave. The conversation digressed to talking about my religious convictions, which was your doing not mine. I have decided I won’t waste my time trying to provide a natural law argument as I promised earlier as you have not bothered to deal one way or the other with my other claims. I never tried to coerce anyone not to use contraception; I only intended to point out that it may be reasonable to be against it. I have one recommendation for you that I think would benefit you greatly if you were open to it. Read G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, it may not change your mind on anything but it will handily point out the faultiness of your way of thinking on a great many things. I think you would enjoy the book, it really is quite amazing.
Ryan--I've read Chesterton, and I've posted on it. But thanks for the tip.The basis on which both theists and atheists in America should be able to come to an agreement on how to deal with contraception socially is called the Constitution of the United State of America. In this thread I was trying to have a discussion about a social problem, not about the epistemological basis of sectarian beliefs. I am perfectly willing to listen, if you insist upon talking about your religion, but I am under no obligation to continue to engage the argument on your terms, since it did not seem to be leading us towards a discussion of the original topic. You don't seem to be able to come to grips with the fact that this is a pluralistic society, in which all citizens, whether Catholic, Protestant, atheist, Jew, Muslim, or anything else, must live together in peace under the same secular law. That is why it is necesary for you to convince an atheist of your argument, if your conclusions are to be universally applicable in our society. If your conclusions are not to be universally applicable, then they are best kept to yourself, since they will only cause dissention. If contraception is a factor in prision populations, I ready to listen to that argument.
My discussion of Chesterton's Orthodoxy began here.
A bit more on Chesterton, including his portrait, here.
My initial reference in a post to Chesteron, here.
A final reference to Chesterton here.
Oh, that's easy...fear...AIP--Fear of the Other?
Unless I misunderstand you, you are implying that fertility as a gift is a mere matter of religion. There would be quite a few anthropoligists who would disagree with you here.The word "gift" implies a giver; a giver implies a directed consciousness. If you find me an anthropologist who qua anthropologist, describes any naturally occurring event as a "gift" I will concede your point. I'm not saying you can't find an anthropologist who is a theist and sees things that way, of course. Nature "gives" all things natural--some good, some bad. Nature "gives" the HIV retrovirus every bit as much as nature gives human conceptions.
Okay, this is absurd, and you are not saying that, but the logic is the same.It's not "absurd"--it's the way things are. If human life is to be exempted from that general statement, it is to be exempted only because of the special relationship of human beings to God. Otherwise, mankind is just one of millions of species, to which we are partial by reason of self-love.
Furthermore, if that Church is correct that sex does matter and what we do in the act does matter, this truth of this experience will be true for the religious and the non-religious.Yes. But, how has that been shown? That's what I keep asking: how will you show a person who does not believe that sex must be open to life because that's the way God wants it, that sex must be open to life, or else be evil?
Conclusions can be universally applicable without being convincing to everyone. I wasn’t framing my argument strictly on religious grounds, and so, you should have attacked what I actually said in the name of religion instead of blindly pointing to the issue that because I’m religious that anything I argue on the topic will inherently be a religious argument. I would have at least respected that course of action. If you want to drop the conversation because it was a diversion from your original purpose of this comment section I have no problem with that. The epistemological basis for sectarian beliefs are a social problem, everyone has a theory. If you weren’t interested in those theories maybe you shouldn’t have a comment section on your blog. Also our conversation probably hasn’t lead anywhere since you never dealt with the argument I gave. “If your conclusions are not to be universally applicable, then they are best kept to yourself, since they will only cause dissention.” Is this a serious universally applicable statement? You don’t seem to be able to come to grips with the fact that this is a pluralistic society. Are you really implying to ignore dissention? I am sorry but I don't agree(oh no more dissention). Honestly, this sounds more like religious dogma than anything else. I will comment on the original discussion of what I think is the underlying social problem. Maybe I am too influenced by the work of Alasdair McIntyre but I think a proper context of virtue ethics is lacking in society. As it is now, certain virtues like self-discipline and other semblances of virtue are emphasized in secular institutions in an utilitarian fashion of procuring a competitive society (see definition of virtues by Benjamin Franklin). The problem is the idea of happiness being communicated is very material. The American dream has become a material dream. Youth are automatically placed in competition with their peers and community in which they live. To be successful they must elevate themselves above others. But not everyone can get to the top within this paradigm. Even those who get to the top will be greatly disappointed when they find that material goods only lead to the illusion of happiness. I can’t help believing that this type of education is setting young people up for personal failure and depression. They are told that certain things will make them happy but what happens when the illusion fades and they are still stuck with their unhappy selves. Individualism and materialism hasn’t been shown to work at creating a better society. Fertility is a gift. Even if you take the most Darwin perspective of the good of perpetuating one’s species, fertility is a necessity. Procreation may be one of the most basic human desires. If you want to define it in terms of what is natural it may be one of the most natural desires. If I went to the natural law perspective, I would have described it as a good and naturally occurring gift. None of this would have negated the fact that I could entertain it as divine gift as well, but my argument wouldn't have hinged with it being a divine gift. “Furthermore, if that Church is correct that sex does matter and what we do in the act does matter, this truth of this experience will be true for the religious and the non-religious.”Why ask questions about a discussion you pretty clearly don’t want? More generally, I suppose this would be shown in human disappointment with sexual experience. It has been shown from the phenomenological perspective that people don’t want to be treated as mere objects, even sexually. As for the second question of how would we know that sex is suppose to be open to life, this might be shown in the biological reason for sex, the psychological dynamic of self-giving of those involved in sex, the mentality behind why people contracept the sexual act, the possible dignity/sacredness of the sexual act, a good philosophical understanding of the meaning of sex, etc. Either way I don’t think it would be a simple answer. From the beginning I never assumed it would be. If there is a God and that God intended that the sexual act ought to be open to life, I think the only way everyone is responsible to this is if it can somehow be known in light of natural reason. There would be a need to know it as reasonable without positing its necessary formulation in the will of God known only in divine revelation but by understanding how this necessary openness is reflected in the very structure of human moral experience. Possible ways to disprove the claim that contraception is objectively wrong would be to prove that the sexual act isn’t sacred, that human beings can healthily do whatever they want to their body, that sexual ethics have no effect one way or the other or on the human psyche, that the way humans treat sex have no correlation with the way the treat each other, etc. However, I don’t think you can prove that contraception is an objective good so this is up for discussion as a social issue in the public arena with a healthy debate with plenty of dissension. At this point I am intended to let this conversation on the nature of contraception die as you seem to have recently claim that this is a distraction to your original intention of this thread. And apparently I only talk about it out of fear (whatever that means…)
Also our conversation probably hasn’t lead anywhere since you never dealt with the argument I gave.Ryan--Please restate said argument, concisely, and in isolation, and I will attempt to do so. It has not been my intention to dodge anything here.
And apparently I only talk about it out of fear (whatever that means…)I never said that. I seem to recall Civis asking AIP and me what we are so afraid of...
A part of the gift of sex is not only that it is unitive but that it is procreative or open to life.That is where you lose me. You present that as a given; I disagree that it is a given.As for the body being treated like a "ghost in a machine"--how is a woman's body not being treated like a baby-making-machine if she has no control over if, and when, she has a baby? What is your opinion of surrogate motherhood?
I don’t have enough time at the moment to recapitulate the argument, I can do so later (much later after work), but I am referring to what I wrote in my first comment. The fear comment was a misunderstanding of what I thought AIP was saying. I misread. I thought he was saying that we got on the contraceptive topic as identifying the social issue out of fear (or something like that). Either way that was a misread and misinterpretation on my part. Mea culpa. As far as fertility, I was taking the stance that fertility is a natural and intrinsic good of human existence. Which may be a better way to state it to circumnavigate the said problems with the idea of gift. I don’t like woman being treated merely as a baby-making-machine. All women should be responded to in love and with dignity. We should not value people solely by means of their function but because of their sacredness. Society tends to value and exalt people according to function. I think this is one of the problems, not a solution. I also don’t think motherhood has to be physical nor is it every really only physical. I can’t really get too much into this without getting too theological. I have no problem with surrogate motherhood. I believe the correct structure of society is family whereby every person can act as a spiritual brother, sister, mother, or father.
Society tends to value and exalt people according to function. I think this is one of the problems, not a solution.I agree with you wholeheartedly on that. I believe the correct structure of society is family whereby every person can act as a spiritual brother, sister, mother, or father.I agree with you there as well, facing the fact, of course, that it has never been that way, and never will be that way, until there is a new heaven and a new earth.
Ryan--You don't need to recapitulate your whole argument, please just address this:A part of the gift of sex is not only that it is unitive but that it is procreative or open to life.That is where you lose me. You present that as a given; I disagree that it is a given.
fair enough, i will but i haven't got the time at the moment.
Me neither. Lunch hour over. I'm glad that you decided to return to the discussion.
Rob, getting back to the original point of the discussion, I think that this could definitely be an interesting part of the conversation...
Ryan Hallford said... Sorry for the delayed response, I have been swamped with work and responsibilities. “A part of the gift of sex is not only that it is unitive but that it is procreative or open to life.” First off, my whole argument is hinged around the fact that sex is a sacred, intimate, and natural expression between two people. I never claimed to be able to definitively prove my conclusion but only maintain a reasonable stance against contraception that would not be aimed so much as convincing someone else but giving account for my own belief. I doubt many people will argue against its unitive aspect of sex so I’ll take this as a given. I think inherent to the unitive aspect is that sex shouldn’t be about mutual use of the other but about mutual self-giving. If sex is sought merely out of lust or pleasure then there is no gift of self to the other but a dynamic of utility. Sadly I think the dynamic of utility has dominated sexual ethics. I believe very few things have been as powerful in the undermining of human moral knowledge and moral living as the sexual revolution. As for sex being sacred, I think this is one of the few things, even in secular society, that can produce something along the lines of a mystical self-transcending experience. If sex is sacred, unitive, natural, and purposes to be a form of self-giving and transcendence, than that gift must be given freely and completely. I feel this follows because if sex is forced than the intention of the person is not really that of self giving. And if the gift of self is not complete than the act cannot objectively be called one of self giving; thus incomplete. I’m proposing that the freedom of the act deals with the person’s motive/internal disposition and the completeness of the act deals with the objective nature of the act in its self. The unitive aspects of the sexual act can be judged off the merits that the act itself is a complete self-giving and the internal disposition of the person is one of self-giving. Together, this freedom and completeness accounts for both the internal intentionality of the person and the extrinsic objectivity of the act in itself. I am defining the quality of completeness according to the reality that nothing is withheld, even physically, from the other person in the sexual act. A person’s fertility is very much part of that person. The fertility of a woman is constituted by her eggs and the fertility of a man is constituted by his sperm. We would hardly call a person a man or woman if they didn’t have some kind of sexually distinct organs that somehow contributed to this fertility, even if those organs are defective and the potentiality for fertility is negated. Contraception withholds and inhibits a person’s fertility from the other. Objectively speaking the contracepted sexual act is not objectively a complete self-giving because the fertility is withheld. The self-giving is physically incomplete. In this sense, fertility can be seen as a gift of sex because the person who freely and completely gives himself in the sexual union also gives his fertility as a part of the sexual act. So yes, the gift does insinuate a giver. Furthermore, fertility is a natural and intrinsic good of human existence. One could hardly expect to continue the existence of the human race, or more particularly the family as the most fundamental building block of society, without fertility and children. I also said that fertility is a good and naturally occurring. It would seem to me that negating the naturally occurring goods intrinsic to the sexual union would indicate a type of depravity. What could be more natural than sex producing children? Contraception inhibits fertility within the sexual act and forbids the possibility of children as a good and natural end of the sexual act. In conclusion, contraception negates an actual good, fertility, and a potential good, children, which are both intrinsic to the sexual act. I am not emphasizing the potential good of children as the factor that makes contraception wrong but only as a potential good necessarily contingent upon the good of fertility. It is the good of fertility that I am claiming that ought to be present in a sexual act. If contraception goes against a naturally occurring good, namely fertility and children, then it negates some natural good. If something negates a good then it is evil because evil is a negation of good. My argument and attempt at a reasonable stance against contraception without using inherently religious reasons is this: maybe openness to the procreative aspect of one’s naturally good fertility is a fundamental part of the complete self-giving that constitutes the inner dynamic of the unitive aspect of the sexual act. I may be wrong about this, but I believe it is at least a reasonable possibility, which is all I set out to prove.
AIP--Yes, that is certainly the immediate reason for the huge numbers. As your article points out:State and federal prisons are packed with victims of the drug conflict. A new report by the Pew Center shows that 1 of every 100 adults in the U.S. — and 1 in 15 black men over 18 — is currently incarcerated. That's the world's highest rate of imprisonment.
...sex is a sacred, intimate, and natural expression between two people.Ryan--In this context, why cannot sex be thought of as a form of physical communication? Love and appreciation can be communicated to another person through touch as well, or better in some cases, than in any other way. I fail to see how an intent to procreate needs to accompany every instance of this in order for it to be "sacred, initimate, and natural."Like anything else, sex can be misued. But sex partners can be using each other for pure physical kicks, even if the act itself is "open to life," quite clearly.Prostitutes get pregnant by their customers. Victims of rape and incest get pregnant. Does this validate that kind of sex? I think not. I think that the intimate, physical "conversation" that is loving sex is a sufficient condition for that sex being "good" and that being "open to life" is not a necessary condition for sex being good.Objectively speaking the contracepted sexual act is not objectively a complete self-giving because the fertility is withheld.From whom is it being withheld? If both partners very much want the intimacy, but don't want the possible pregnancy, then there is no "withholding" doing on between them. What there is is a mutual agreement to postpone fertility until another time. Only in the case of irreversable, surgically effected sterility is fertility "withheld" in any irrevocable way. Fertility is no "gift" if it isn't wanted. In instances where adding another child to a family would mean further depriving the already existing children of an already insufficient amount of food and other basic needs, fertility becomes the very opposite of prudence, and even of rational love. Then fertility negates sex by making it impossible. And by so doing, fertility has negated itself. Because of medical advances, most live births today thrive. Gone are the days where a couple needed to have eight or ten children in order for four or five to live to maturity. Without birth control, our planet would soon be completely unable to support to food and particularly the water needs of mankind. When God granted Man stewarship of the planet and the brains to manage it, He clearly foresaw that Man would one day face overpopulation and need to cope with it, or else destroy His creation. There is the bottom line.
“In this context, why cannot sex be thought of as a form of physical communication? Love and appreciation can be communicated to another person through touch as well, or better in some cases, than in any other way. I fail to see how an intent to procreate needs to accompany every instance of this in order for it to be "sacred, initimate, and natural."”True, I think sex is obviously a form of physical communication, but it is a physical communication unlike any other. Even as I talk about sex, I can’t help to go back to an earlier point that it seems to be over-emphasized in society. I don’t think sex is the ultimate form of love. It is an expression of love, but not the highest. I would argue that the highest form of love is laying down one’s life for another. This self-sacrifice would also have to be free and complete in order to be an authentic expression of love. And I guess what I’m saying is a little hard to express. I don’t think the couple needs to have the “intent” to procreate to accompany every instance of sex but only not do anything to artificially negate the possibility so they can still remain open to the possibility. I guess my question is what gives us the right to use technology to inhibit a naturally good process and forbid its naturally good end and call this action good? And maybe man does have this right. I just don’t see it. “Like anything else, sex can be misued. But sex partners can be using each other for pure physical kicks, even if the act itself is "open to life," quite clearly.”True, but “open to life” was a necessary condition not a sufficient one. I wasn’t saying that if sex is open to life than it is good. I was only saying that if sex wasn’t open to life than there may be something lacking objectively in the act itself even if it isn’t lacking from the intentionality of either party. “I think that the intimate, physical "conversation" that is loving sex is a sufficient condition for that sex being "good" and that being "open to life" is not a necessary condition for sex being good.”But the argument goes further than this. The claim is that you can place some kind of artificial barrier or take some kind of chemical that inhibits fertility and forbids children and this doesn’t negate the condition of sex being good. This is where you lose me. Objectively speaking the contracepted sexual act is not objectively a complete self-giving because the fertility is withheld.It is being withheld physically so you can call the act a complete self-giving because something physical is being withheld. I can want intimacy without having sex, but if I express intimacy through sex and than withhold something from the other person in that sexual act, namely my fertility, than the self-giving can not be called objectively complete. I am not describing this on the inter-subjective level but describe the actual reality of the act, and what is actually withheld. “From whom is it being withheld? If both partners very much want the intimacy, but don't want the possible pregnancy, then there is no "withholding" doing on between them. What there is is a mutual agreement to postpone fertility until another time.”If couples want intimacy but not pregnancy I am sure there are other means to have sex without artificially neglecting fertility that would pretty accurately limit that outcome of pregnancy. Also there are other ways to be intimate without having sex. Self-control and fasting can also be an intimate expression of love. “Only in the case of irreversable, surgically effected sterility is fertility "withheld" in any irrevocable way. Fertility is no "gift" if it isn't wanted. “You are right, surguically effected sterility would seem to “withhold” fertility in an irrevocable way. But artificial sterility still endues fertility at that instance in a very real way. Fertility is a natural occurring good. If this is not seen as a gift in the sexual act maybe this is a problem with the participants. Maybe they have some inability to see the objective goodness in fertility so they reduce the goodness of sex to their subjective feelings. I would argue from an Aristotelian/ Thomistic notion of ethics that the morality of a situation does not involve only a person’s internal disposition but the objective nature of the act itself. “In instances where adding another child to a family would mean further depriving the already existing children of an already insufficient amount of food and other basic needs, fertility becomes the very opposite of prudence, and even of rational love.”I do think there are legitimate reasons in foregoing the addition of more children. I am not arguing that people should have as many children as possible. But in this case it isn’t fertility that becomes the opposite of prudence, and even of rational love, it may be the decision to have sex at the woman’s peak time of fertility or even the decision to have sex at all. Why don’t we negate our sexual appetite rather than changing the objective and intrinsic nature of the sexual act. “Then fertility negates sex by making it impossible. And by so doing, fertility has negated itself. “Fertility negates sex by making “rational love” impossible. And fertility than negates itself because of it. That is quite the argument. So you claim is in the situation where another child to the family would deprive already existing children of a sufficient amount of food and other basic needs that having children is imprudent. Let’s say that is true. It does not follow that fertility becomes imprudent and contraception becomes prudent if it negates the objective self-giving of the sexual act. Furthermore, maybe the reasons of using sex for rational love of not neglecting the needs of other children may be the main reason for contraception, but I hardly think this is really the case. More often it is used to justify sexual promiscuity. Even within marriage I don’t know if the desire are as ultraistic as you claim. Let me offer I side argument(I think this will come out more hazily than it exist in my mind). If fertility is constitutive of the very sexual differentiated identity of man and woman as I suggested in the last comment. “The fertility of a woman is constituted by her eggs and the fertility of a man is constituted by his sperm. We would hardly call a person a man or woman if they didn’t have some kind of sexually distinct organs that somehow contributed to this fertility, even if those organs are defective and the potentiality for fertility is negated.” Contraception not only withholds and inhibits a person’s fertility from the other but artificially undermines the unitive aspect of the man and woman having sex as man and woman by denying the fertility between them that is constitutive to their nature. Artificial contraception reduces the reality of man and woman having sex by denying an essential part of the act of having sex as a man and woman. “Without birth control, our planet would soon be completely unable to support to food and particularly the water needs of mankind.” I am not a consequencialist so this statement doesn’t do it for me. We cannot look at possible none existent ends to justify one’s actions. We have to look at the act itself, the situation, and the internal disposition of the moral agent. It seems to me that the problem is not procreation or fertility, but the selfish over consumption of material goods. Possibly the same type of selfishness that is perpetuated in the contraceptive mentality. We may have the natural resources but they may very well have to be distributed very differently.
How could this be -- because we have been fighting a stupid "war on drugs" that puts away a bunch of people for nonviolent "crimes." Tobacco is not a huge problem. Alcoholism we treat like a disease so long as someone does not get loaded and drive into a playgorund full of children. So long as you stay off the road and do not operate heavy machinery while drunk, we leave you alone. Pot is less dangerous than alcohol. Many drugs are less dangerous than alcohol. Why not change how we look at them?
Anthony--You're preaching to the choir. But, thanks for dropping by. I personally take a completely libertarian attitude towards all drugs: I would decriminalize them and wipe out the black market. Think of the ripple effect on crime that would have.
I guess my question is what gives us the right to use technology to inhibit a naturally good process and forbid its naturally good end and call this action good? And maybe man does have this right. I just don’t see it.Unless we are also going to stop using technology to keep sick people from dying--and particularly from childhood diseases which used to carry off many children before they reached child-bearing age--then I see birth control as more of a duty than right. I was only saying that if sex wasn’t open to life than there may be something lacking objectively in the act itselfI don't necessarily disagree with that. But I do think that, unless a couple mutually, consciously, and deliberately wants a pregnancy to occur, that sex without that aspect of it, can still be good, and is definitely not ipso facto sinful. Objectively speaking the contracepted sexual act is not objectively a complete self-giving because the fertility is withheld.Again, you don't answer from whom fertility is being withheld, if it's not being withheld from either of the sex partners, neither of whom wants it at that moment. Is it being withheld from Nature? No. Nature has no needs. Is it being withheld from some realm of abstract possibility? Is it being withheld from God? It might be noted that most other mammals have their sex urge triggered only by the female being in oestrous. Humans are not built that way, indicating at least a possibility that sex for humans may have as much, or more, to do with group cohesion than it does with fertility alone.Fertility is a natural occurring good. Nothing is good in overabundance that is susceptible to overabundance; and fertility definitely is--on the family level, on the societal level, and finally, on the global level. More often it is used to justify sexual promiscuity.In general, perhaps. But in the hypothetical as stated, how could you possibly know that?We cannot look at possible none existent ends to justify one’s actions.That's just nonsense. That negates the whole concept of preventative medicine, for instance. Are we to say "Go ahead and smoke--you may not get cancer or emphysema, who knows"? Or, "Go ahead and drop the bomb on the apartment complex--there may be nobody in there but terrorists, who knows"?If that's consequentialism, then I'm a consequentialist. My experience with people who say that they aren't consequentialists has usually shown me that they cherrypick their nonconsequentialism to suit their personal biases, and turn very consequentialist when not being so might be to their own discomfort or disadvantage. But maybe you're above that?It seems to me that the problem is not procreation or fertility, but the selfish over consumption of material goods.Up to a certain point that's true. But only a consequentialist could take the necessary steps in advance to aleviate the problem before it becomes acute. And there is a limit to it. There is only so much fresh water, and so much arable soil available on the earth. That's why Man was assigned stewardship over it: it needs to be tended, just like a garden. Herdsmen cull their flocks to fit their grazing territories: that's part of being a Good Shepherd.
“Unless we are also going to stop using technology to keep sick people from dying--and particularly from childhood diseases which used to carry off many children before they reached child-bearing age--then I see birth control as more of a duty than right.”My argument isn’t one that states that technology is bad, but one that says that technology should be oriented towards a good, it should have a good end and good means. I believe that we live in a culture that exalts doing over being. The knowledge of techne (how to do things) has been exalted over episteme (knowledge of being). This may be why many of our university curriculums are often oriented towards the sciences over the liberal arts. Technology should be held in its proper place, at the service of humanity. But this still raises the issue of what accounts for a good “mean” oriented towards a good end (I discuss this towards the end). I still don’t see how preventing child birth and treating a disease of the body are equivocal. Disease negates that goodness of being and existence. Disease is destructive to the person that is diseased. In my mind, this argument seems to insist that existence of an unwanted child resulting from uncontracpeted sex will ultimately be destructive towards this hypothetical child because there may not be enough resources to care for this child. The human body is designed to keep existing, and disease acts against this end. Human fertility is designed for creating children, and contraception acts against this end. I still think this argument is treating fertility as a disease rather than a natural good. Or shall we to pretend that disease is naturally good just because it occurs in nature? “But I do think that, unless a couple mutually, consciously, and deliberately wants a pregnancy to occur, that sex without that aspect of it, can still be good, and is definitely not ipso facto sinful. “I don’t think a couple has to consciously decide they want a child to have sex, however, it does not follow that they should do something artificial and unnatural to directly negate openness to the other’s fertility. They could then stress the unitive aspect as such without negating the objective completeness of the act. “Objectively speaking the contracepted sexual act is not objectively a complete self-giving because the fertility is withheld.Again, you don't answer from whom fertility is being withheld, if it's not being withheld from either of the sex partners, neither of whom wants it at that moment.”The fertility is being withheld from each partner even if either partner does not want this gift at that moment. Fertility is a part of the person. One of the partners may not mutually want the sexual act to be anything other than causal moment of pleasure by which they are using the other person as a momentary fulfillment of their lust. The prospect of sex connoting something more than may be deemed as unwanted by both members. I don’t see how this reality justifies mutual utility of the other person. Personal disposition does not negate the objective nature of an act. Likewise, even if either partner does not want the possibility of children, it does not follow that the gift of the other person in the sexual act should not include fertility. “It might be noted that most other mammals have their sex urge triggered only by the female being in oestrous. Humans are not built that way, indicating at least a possibility that sex for humans may have as much, or more, to do with group cohesion than it does with fertility alone.”I am not trying to make an argument out of this point, but only as a side note. Studies have shown that stripers that do not use oral contraception and are ovulating rake in more tips than those strippers using oral contraceptives. It is actually better for business not to take oral contraceptives. I do not think this negates your point, but it is interesting. My thing about pills, that I mentioned much earlier as being abortive, was that conception might still occur while using oral contraceptives, but the fertilized egg will not attach to the uterine wall because the hormones will cause a woman’s uterine wall to harden as if she was already pregnant. “Nothing is good in overabundance that is susceptible to overabundance; and fertility definitely is--on the family level, on the societal level, and finally, on the global level. “Fertility is built into every humans body, unless some sexual oriented organ is lacking or defective. Fertility is a natural good intrinsic to every human person. It is there, that is a fact. Thus, fertility is not what is in overabundance. That is like saying hearts are in overabundance because everyone has one. Maybe it is a lack of proper birth control (see qualification in next paragraph) and control of sexual activity that is in overabundance. Sex is what is in overabundance. Too much SEX! I have only heard of one birth in the history of humanity occurring without physical intercourse. Maybe this happens more often than that. Time for distinction: I consider birth control and contraception as two different things. Birth control is literally the control of births. There are several natural means of controlling birth that doesn’t involve artificial contraception: fasting from sex in marriage, abstaining from sex outside of marriage, using the sympto-thermo method (which is not the same as the rhythm method and it is more effective than contraception). A couple should engage in birth control, but one that does not artificially contracept the completeness of the sexual act. I am deeming contraception as a bad means to the end of birth control. (I’ll speak more about means and ends further down)“More often it is used to justify sexual promiscuity.In general, perhaps. But in the hypothetical as stated, how could you possibly know that?”You’re right, as a hypothetical statement I don’t have direct statistics to back this up. I do have plenty of personal experience of those people around me, but I’ll concede that this should have been expressed more as an opinion. “We cannot look at possible none existent ends to justify one’s actions.That's just nonsense. That negates the whole concept of preventative medicine, for instance. Are we to say "Go ahead and smoke--you may not get cancer or emphysema, who knows"? Or, "Go ahead and drop the bomb on the apartment complex--there may be nobody in there but terrorists, who knows"?If that's consequentialism, then I'm a consequentialist. My experience with people who say that they aren't consequentialists has usually shown me that they cherrypick their nonconsequentialism to suit their personal biases, and turn very consequentialist when not being so might be to their own discomfort or disadvantage. But maybe you're above that?”I cannot address this without getting into ethical theory, it is clear to me by your response you misunderstood me. I will not take this to mean that you will agree with me ethical theory but only that so far you have not understood what I was saying in the first place. I was referring to the philosophy of utilitarian consequentialsim that will try to use a perceived end to justify the “means”. This philosophy insinuates that every “mean” should be considered good or bad based upon its ability to bring about a desired end or consequence. I disagree because I think that the “means” must be objectively good as well as the end. Thus, it would be unethical to achieve the good end of eliminating poverty by eliminating people. Because the act of killing innocent non-aggressors would be an unethical “mean” regardless of how good the end or consequence is. From this ethical theory comes the notion that one cannot use the end to justify the means. This does not mean that the end or teleos of the action does not have an important role in ethical consideration. This only does insinuates that the ethical means to achieving an ethical end must be good in itself. The strict proportionalists looks at consequences (or perceived consequences of an action) and there are no absolute norms to guide their “means”. If a person prescribed that there were some absolute moral norms to guide actions towards good ends, then this person would be ascribing to a type of ethical theory closer to my own. I would describe myself as a deontologist (basic goods). I look at the nature of the act itself in terms of basic goods and moral norms. I maintain that certain acts can be judged intrinsically good or evil because of the objective state of the act itself. I do not think humans ought to weigh acts that are evil over ones that are good in the name of the perceived consequence. With that being said, I do believe in a kind of proporitonalism within the natural law context that I am affirming. We can weigh “means” in terms of the perceived good end, but this proportionalism must be guided. If there is a situation where a particular action has two effects—one good and one evil, the action chosen must be because of the good effect and not the evil effect. Aquinas calls this the principle of double effect. However, in order to choose an action that has an evil effect, there must be no other way for the good effect to be achieved. As long as there exists other means to achieve a good end without resorting to an action that has evil effects, it is immoral for the person to chose the action that has evil effects. There must be a proportionate reason for tolerating the evil effect, namely the action is a last resort and the good end could be achieve no other way. My contention is that contraception goes against a natural good, it is not the only means of preventing over population, and it is not a just means. We cannot only look at consequences for ethics but to the nature of the act itself. I think John Finnis gives a good argument against proportionalism that goes as such:Proporitonalism looks to consequences. This porportionalism weighs the consequences of two actions, but not all possible consequences can be foreseen. The porpotionalist may try to choose the best action, but the “best” may be an intrinsic evil. Hence, there is a contradiction because it is irrational to act against an intrinsic good. Morality implies a right or wrong but proportionalism claims that any choice can be right. Proportionalism then becomes too situationalist and caught up on details. “It seems to me that the problem is not procreation or fertility, but the selfish over consumption of material goods.”I still maintain this. There are other means than contraception to alleviate the problem of over-population. There are birth control methods that do not involve contraception. There are ways to distribute natural resources and ensure their preservation. I have no problem with technology being employed to this worthy end, as long as this technology is being pursued through ethically good means. Most people’s present over-consumption of material goods is not good for them or society. People may believe and act as if there is not enough resources to go around, but the reality is that many people use up enough resources for several people. As far as I am concerned, there currently exists enough resources on earth that a single person would not have to go hungry if more people were more frugal and charitable. Man does have stewardship over the earth and this responsibility needs to be addressed in terms of over consumption of material goods, sex, wealth, etc. The birth rates does need to be addressed (in some areas the birth rates are down and the replacement population may not be high enough to keep the economy from collapsing, however, the problem is that overpopulation exists in areas that do not currently have the resources to support the additions). Once again, I am not against birth control, I am against the means of contraception.
The human body is designed to keep existing, and disease acts against this end.Actually, it's not. The human body is designed to age, sicken, and die. Personal disposition does not negate the objective nature of an act.That is a statement. What have you to back it up? I say that it's a false statement. I say that the objective nature of the act is dictated by the intent of the actors. If they are in accord as to the intent of what they are about to do, then nobody is being deprived of anything.Or shall we to pretend that disease is naturally good just because it occurs in nature?I'm not saying that. I'm saying that medicine and contraception are both good, when used correctly, as they allow man to exercise his stewardship over nature.That is like saying hearts are in overabundance because everyone has one.That is a terrible analogy. There are exactly the right number of hearts because everybody has one. In order for species to be perpetuated, each of us needs only to replace himself. With infant mortality so greatly decreased due to technology, very few "spares" need to be born to ensure the survival of the species. Too many "spares", on the other hand, will eventually be too many for the earth to support. The seas are already being fished-out, as I'm sure you've heard.the sympto-thermo methodIsn't this just the employment of a basal temperature chart to predict ovulation? If so, it is most definitely not more effective than the pill. All kinds of things can cause false positives and negatives using temperature as an indicator of fertility.I disagree because I think that the “means” must be objectively good as well as the end.Yes, I figured you would counter with that. But what we are arguing about is whether the means of contraception is good, or not. I say contraception is a good means, when used for good ends. You say that the ends of contraception are objectively evil. I can give you many hypotheticals in which, for utilitarians reasons, the ends of contraception are good. On your side there is only a single, philosophical axiom, which might work well in Logic 101, but which is disastrous when applied to life in the real world.I do not think humans ought to weigh acts that are evil over ones that are good in the name of the perceived consequence.Nor do I. I oppose, for instance, torture, even in the ticking bomb scenario. I just don't think that contraception is objectively evil.You say "Too much sex" and I might agree with you on that. But, nature being what it is, young people think about sex literally minute-by-minute, and they will have sex as often as they can, regardless of their circumstances. The sex drive is very powerful, as we all know. People, especially, females, used to marry much younger than we do now, and begin having babies, willy-nilly, immediately. That no longer is the case. You are tying to apply a medieval philosophy to a situation which no longer pertains to our reality.Once again, I am not against birth control, I am against the means of contraception.Again, I see this as a distinction without a difference. If the end is sex without fertility, the means of achieving that are irrelevant.
“Actually, it's not. The human body is designed to age, sicken, and die.”The human body is designed to perpetuate life. It fights against disease and tries to heal itself when injured. The body fights to stay alive even though it continues to decline in health until death. "“Personal disposition does not negate the objective nature of an act."That is a statement. What have you to back it up? I say that it's a false statement. I say that the objective nature of the act is dictated by the intent of the actors. If they are in accord as to the intent of what they are about to do, then nobody is being deprived of anything.”It seems that we have a disagreement over appropriate ethical systems. My ethical reasoning was supposed to back it up- the whole part of the conversation against proportionalism. I don’t think a person’s disposition can change the objective morality of an action. If “the objective nature of the act is dictated by the intent of the actors” then as long as a person intends good they are acting ethically. According to this theory who are you to judge whether someone is acting in accord to their intent? This is unreasonable. You make morality so subjective that there is no way to reasonably judge the objective morality of actions. Once you say that the objective morality of an action depends on a person’s subjective feelings and intentions, then morality becomes subjective. “I'm saying that medicine and contraception are both good, when used correctly, as they allow man to exercise his stewardship over nature.”I have argued that the objective completeness of the act of sex which includes fertility is a part of the unitive aspect. If this is true then contraception is not a good means of birth control. You’ll have to convince me that the objective lack in the unitive aspect is not really a depravity or that one can use unjust means to procure a good end when there are other means available that do not have the evil effects. "“That is like saying hearts are in overabundance because everyone has one."That is a terrible analogy. There are exactly the right number of hearts because everybody has one. In order for species to be perpetuated, each of us needs only to replace himself. With infant mortality so greatly decreased due to technology, very few "spares" need to be born to ensure the survival of the species. Too many "spares", on the other hand, will eventually be too many for the earth to support. The seas are already being fished-out, as I'm sure you've heard.”There is exactly the right amount of fertility because it is intrinsic to the body of living individuals. I think referring to people as “spares” is a terribly horrible analogy. And I am not arguing people should procreate for the survival of the species. This is an argument, but not one I am currently taking up. You don’t know that we will not eventually find away to renew certain resources fundamental to human survival. I am not saying we should count on this possibility. We should prepare for the worst. However, from none of this does it follow that there should be contraception. I already admitted that people have some responsibility for birth control, but they also have a responsibility not to negate a naturally good process when other good means are available that will bring about this same end. “the sympto-thermo method Isn't this just the employment of a basal temperature chart to predict ovulation? If so, it is most definitely not more effective than the pill. All kinds of things can cause false positives and negatives using temperature as an indicator of fertility.”The only 100 percent effective form of birth control is abstinence. I may be wrong on this but as far as I know the most effective oral contraceptive is 98% effective (when used properly) and other contraceptive practices reduce in their effectiveness. If you can find evidence to the contrary, I’ll be happy to read about it on the citation you provide. In contrast, the sympto-thermal method, when used properly, is 99% effective. The sympto-thermal method involves observing indicators of fertility by changes in basal body temperature, cervical mucus changes, and calendar calculation. The use of several makers makes this method more accurate than if only using one marker. This method is oriented to the irregularities of individual women and helping them accurately recognize their ovulation time. Unlike the Rhythm Method that assumed to ovulation a constant cycle of ovulation for all women, the modern sympto-thermo method can take into account shorger or longer cycles and how this cycle varies month to month. Thus, this method is even highly effective for women with irregular cycles. (http://www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/1303/36/) I would also like to note that advantages to this method: it doesn’t artificially inhibit fertility, it works within the natural cycle of fertility without negating objective openness within the sexual act, it has no health risks as all oral contraceptives, it requires both partners to understand the cycle of fertility, it requires self control and restrain through periods of fasting from sex, it can be used as a form of birth control for those seeking to conceive as well as those seeking to not. In the end, none of my argument, is based on the effectiveness of this method anyway.“But what we are arguing about is whether the means of contraception is good, or not. I say contraception is a good means, when used for good ends. You say that the ends of contraception are objectively evil. I can give you many hypotheticals in which, for utilitarians reasons, the ends of contraception are good. On your side there is only a single, philosophical axiom, which might work well in Logic 101, but which is disastrous when applied to life in the real world.”I’m sure you could give me several utilitarian reasons to justify many good ends, I know I could. All can think of several unethical ways to end poverty, preserve nature, stops using up natural resources, etc. I considered working on a diet book that called for voluntary starvation. You looking to the consequence of an action (the end) to justify the means doesn’t make your ethical system sound or correct. This becomes an ethical debate about deontology versus proportionalism. “Nor do I. I oppose, for instance, torture, even in the ticking bomb scenario. I just don't think that contraception is objectively evil.”I am glad you don’t favor torture, but other than looking towards the disposition of the person which can be disordered, or to the end which doesn’t justify the means. You have not given me a good objective reason that speaks to the nature of the sexual act itself of why people should interfere with a naturally occurring good through artificial and technological means. “You say "Too much sex" and I might agree with you on that. But, nature being what it is, young people think about sex literally minute-by-minute, and they will have sex as often as they can, regardless of their circumstances. The sex drive is very powerful, as we all know. People, especially, females, used to marry much younger than we do now, and begin having babies, willy-nilly, immediately. That no longer is the case. You are tying to apply a medieval philosophy to a situation which no longer pertains to our reality.”I agree with you that the situation is such that it seems hard to ignore the problem of sex in culture where many people have sex without restraint or considering its dangers. Contraception very much helps prevent unwanted children, but so does abortion. I can even understand the notion of preferring somebody to use contraception rather than later aborting a child. However, neither abortion nor contraception is going to solve the problem. My thinking on this matter is not as clear cut as one may suppose based off my previous arguments. The sexual problem is a problem in a philosophical understanding of family, relationship, love, happiness, sex, etc. This highlights a great need to spread the truth on sexual ethics. Of course, this will not work over night and neither will it ultimately prevent people from abusing sex. On the flip side there is something I don’t understand. For instance, I believe sex should only be practiced within marriage. Furthermore, I don’t think people should be promiscuous and have sex with multiple partners and have one night stands. A part of me reasons that if you are going to have sex outside its proper context and meaning anyway, why not go all out and use contraception to at least reduce the effects? Although I think this, I still think that it is important to consider both actions as wrong. This is a perplexing situation. Two evils do not produce a good, I am not arguing that they do. I am only trying to state that this is a grey area in my thinking. I use to joke that the difference between sexually active teenagers in Public School and Catholic School is that the Catholic School kids didn’t use condemns. I find it amazing how some people will cling to one moral teaching but not the more important teaching of sexual purity. Maybe another example would be that of heroin addicts. I wish people wouldn’t get addicted and shoot up heroin. I also wish that heroin addicts wouldn’t use clean or shared needles because this increases their chances of disease. However, it would be a very perplexing situation to go out into the streets and hand heroin addicts a continuous supply of clean needles. This may keep them healthier in the short term but it will also enable them in their destructive practices. We are in a cultural war; I think a stance against contraception is important, because contraception is destructive to the true meaning of sex. It objectively negates the complete self giving and negates the innate good of fertility in the sexual act. We need a comprehensive education and enculturation to help construct a good society. We need a context of virtue ethics. A good society is one that helps its citizens be good. Problems of sex won’t be solved with contraceptives. While this may be seen as a quick fix, it may have unforeseen consequences to a society already declining in moral health with a forecast of perpetuating the sexual problems you pointed out. "“Once again, I am not against birth control, I am against the means of contraception."Again, I see this as a distinction without a difference. If the end is sex without fertility, the means of achieving that are irrelevant.”Contraception negates fertility. Other birth control methods like abstinence and natural family planning works within the natural framework of fertility. They have the same good effect without the negative effect and it achieves the same end. The ends may be similar but the means are different and relevant. As I said before, if I want to accomplish the end of eliminating poverty, all have to do is kill the poor. Or I could seek other means that ensure that the poor have basic goods to survive. So no, I don’t see how using different means to achieve the same end is irrelevant.
The body fights to stay alive even though it continues to decline in health until death.Right. It ages, sickens, and dies. Some fight, some don't; all die. as long as a person intends good they are acting ethically.That's true, unless the goodness of their intent is retroactively negated by the result obtained. You make morality so subjective that there is no way to reasonably judge the objective morality of actions.No. I can judge the action, I just can't judge the actor. "Judge not that ye be not judged" pertains here. Therefore, I can't judge the use of contraceptives within marriage. And, that being the case, I can't say that contraception is an objective evil, since I can't say that it's evil in every case, under every possible familial circumstance.You’ll have to convince me that the objective lack in the unitive aspect is not really a depravityAu contraire, you'll have to convince me that it is. It is certainly not self-evident. The practical aspects of controlling fertility are self-evident. Your argument is counter-intuitive.I think referring to people as “spares” is a terribly horrible analogy.Have you never heard the phrase, probably arising from the law of primogeniture, "An heir and a spare"? That said, the "spares" as persons, are certainly not less precious. Besides which, no particular person is "extra"--it's just that in the aggregate, there are more persons born than are strictly necessary for biological reasons. It's not like "shirts" and "skins" to choose up sides for touch football in gym class. The sympto-thermal method involves observing indicators of fertility by changes in basal body temperature, cervical mucus changes, and calendar calculation.Right. And that's a "natural" way to have sex, I suppose. Like I say, it's a difference without a distinction. It's a grand rationalization trumped up on a technicality to get around an insoluble problem. If shoving a thermometer up your butt every morning and charting the temperature is more natural than using a diaphragm in your world, well, welcome to it. I don't even want to picture the means of testing mucal viscosity. This method is oriented to the irregularities of individual women and helping them accurately recognize their ovulation time.And how many "accidents" do you suppose occur before those irregularities are charted over time and become quasi-predictable? Anybody who tells you that this method is more effective than the pill is flat out lying. It's disinformation and propaganda based on a moralistic agenda with no basis in objective reality. As for the health risks involved with the pill, it increases some risks, and it also decreases others. All drugs have potential side-effects, as any drug commercial on TV makes very clear. As AIP said long ago, it's up to the individual woman to assess the risks and make her decision with a physician's advice. That's why the pill is a prescription drug.You have not given me a good objective reason that speaks to the nature of the sexual act itself of why people should interfere with a naturally occurring good through artificial and technological means.Yes, I have. Over and over again. You just refuse to accept it as a good objective reason. One last time: Man is the steward of nature, and can use the means at his disposal to best manage nature. He can do this at the family level; the societal level; and the global level. The size of a population and the range within which that population can gather resources, is one of the main factors to be taken into account in that stewardship. Oral contraceptives are the best available means to achieve population control. They use the body's natural hormonal response to prevent pregnancy. They don't do it by introducing a toxin. Mechanical means simply block the sperm from getting to the egg. In that method one can't even make the case that it's really "abortion." By refusing to accept the analogy with the use of medicine to cure disease, you are inconsistent in your argument. A virus is a naturally-occurring organism, usually specific to a particular species, and designed to kill its host. That is just as much a feature of Natural Law as is fertility. The virus is nature's way of keeping the population down to a size that doesn't destroy the whole species by destroying its habitat through overpopulation. If you prevent the virus from doing its job, you are interfering with the teleology of the whole eco-system. You like babies and dislike death, so you refuse on emotional grounds to accept the analogy. Your argument is inconsistent and illogical.
And before you tell me, again, that you object to my equate fertility with disease, please note that this is NOT what I am comparing. What I am comparing is the use of medical technology to manage both fertility and disease.I am not comparing fertility to disease by my argument any more than I would be comparing an automobile to a garden by saying that I use a hose to spray water on both the car and the garden, albeit for different purposes.
I maintain that in this discourse I have argued that a unitive aspect of sex includes openness to fertility and contraception directly negates that fertility. I argued that fertility is a natural occurring good. Your counter was that people might have moral reasons for using contraception because the end coupled with the individual’s intention makes the act moral. I argued from the perspective that three things constitute the morality of an action- the object of the action (is it good or evil), the disposition of the person (are they intending good or evil), and the situation/ context of the action. You tried to address the internal disposition of the person and even the situation but you never were able to address the objective nature of sex. At one point you even seemed to admit that something may be objectively lacking from sex if it wasn’t open to life. You said “I don't necessarily disagree with that.” I renewed my vigor of this discussion with this potential common ground. When I said that you’ll have to convince me that the objective lack in the unitive aspect is not really a depravity, I was thinking in terms of what seemed to be an agreement on your part. I guess I was mistaken. You have focused on determining the morality of contraception in terms of the perceived end. I will always maintain that this is faulty reasoning. You never even attempted to touch the argument against proportionalism but you still used proportionalist arguments for contraception. The body argument is insignificant. You suggest that the purpose of the body is not life but death, the body exists for the sole purpose to die, and the life principle in the body is not to keep existing but to perish. This seems like non-sense to me but so be it. You claim to be able to judge the action according to a person’s intention but not able to judge a person’s intention. I wonder how exactly that works. How do you judge something that depends upon something you can’t judge? Your argument is counter-intuitive. My argument has not been based on the disposition of the person, that has been your argument. I’ve consistently been trying to address the objective nature of the act itself. You seem to have chosen to argue from individual circumstances to circumnavigate my argument on the objective nature of sex. If contraception is to be deemed as objectively evil, then we need to be able to do that apart from any individual’s disposition that we cannot really know, as you accurately pointed out. The Sympto-thermal method was not even fundamental to my argument. I only wanted to show there were substitutes to contraception that did not artificially prohibit conception. I would argue that a woman mapping her fertility would probably be good for the end of understanding the cycle of her body. I think maybe you should do some more study on the effectiveness on natural family planning methods that utilize fertility markers to determine ovulation and the effectiveness of contraceptive methods before throwing out accusations. I cited a reliable source on effectiveness of the sympto-thermo method, I would imagine it would only be proper for you to cite a reliable source against it. Otherwise your words are out of line. You have not shown good objective reason, only instances of possible internal disposition and certain possible consequences. The argument of stewardship doesn’t deal with the objective nature of the act. The argument that man has a right to use whatever means he has to manipulate nature towards whatever end he wants doesn’t follow the premise that man must be a good steward to nature. Are you claiming that it is for the sake of “nature” that population control is good and this justifies using any means necessary including contraception? Now that sounds abstract. “Oral contraceptives are the best available means to achieve population control.” This statement is a flat out lie. Not having sex or sterilization or abortion or infanticide or euthanasia or homicide are all more efficient means of achieving population control than oral contraceptives. From the moral system that you have attempted to argue from I would like to see you soundly argue from any of these possible means to achieving your end. If you are going to claim that none of these means are good, why not? Are the morality of these actions only tied to a person’s internal disposition and the end of population control? “They use the body’s natural hormonal response to prevent pregnancy.” Now that is a bunch of propaganda. Hormones are very powerful chemicals and the body has a certain balance between hormones. Oral contraceptives introduces more hormones into the woman’s body to make it act as if she were pregnant. It is not natural for a woman’s body to act as if she were pregnant when she is not. I did not make the argument that mechanical means is abortive. I said oral contraceptives can be abortive because it can discard a fertilized egg. “By refusing to accept the analogy with the use of medicine to cure disease, you are inconsistent in your argument. A virus is a naturally-occurring organism, usually specific to a particular species, and designed to kill its host.” If you are arguing that a virus is a naturally occurring good, we have more philosophical distance between us than I originally supposed. I argued that fertility is a naturally occurring good of sex. Your disease analogy is not applicable unless you are arguing that disease is a naturally occurring good of the body. Unlike disease, fertility does no harm to the body. On the contrary the body is naturally oriented towards fertility. It’s internal process is geared towards making fertility possible. Disease acts against the good of the body whereas the body acts towards the good of fertility. Thus it is not even consistent to compare medical technology to manage both fertility and disease. “That is just as much a feature of Natural Law as is fertility.” Saying that viruses are as much as a feature of Natural Law as fertility is ridiculous. I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with Natural Law better before making bogus claims such as this. “The virus is nature's way of keeping the population down to a size that doesn't destroy the whole species by destroying its habitat through overpopulation. If you prevent the virus from doing its job, you are interfering with the teleology of the whole eco-system. You like babies and dislike death, so you refuse on emotional grounds to accept the analogy. Your argument is inconsistent and illogical.”It is interesting that you are now accrediting an internal intentionality to nature now. As if nature intentionally kills people. I don't now how seriously you expect me to take this personification of nature. Natural Law is not about allowing nature to follow its natural course. It is about identifying intrinsic goods of human existence and finding concrete rational and willful ways to act in accordance with those goods. Natural Law does not insinuate that we should allow viruses destroy human life when we have the means to prevent death. Your argument is inconsistent and illogical. You are analyzing a philosophical system you do not understand. There is no problem using technology for human ends if the means does not negate some inherent human good. Also, the issue of contraception is not about disrupting nature as such, but the manipulation of the human body in terms of oral contraception, and the inhibiting of fertility all around. By comparing the use of medical technology to manage both fertility and disease you are making an equivocation. Just because disease and fertility naturally occur does not mean man ought to use technological means to manipulate the body as he sees fit. Nor does it mean that both are naturally occurring goods. If fertility is a natural good and disease isn’t, then it would be morally justifiable to use technology to get rid of disease and immoral to get rid of fertility. If fertility and disease are both naturally occurring goods, then it is immoral to get rid of either of them. If fertility and disease are both not goods at all, then it is morally permissible to use technological means to get rid of both of them. If as I maintain, disease and fertility are not comparable in terms of being natural goods of human existence, then it cannot be demonstrated that using technological means to manage both fertility and disease is the same thing.
Rodak, I have no problem with continuing the conversation. But if you desire for this conversation has diminished and you are just looking for a polite way to end it, or just trying to entertain me, please let me know. I come an environment where healthy debate is a part of everyday discourse, so I don't mind the confrontation. However, I want to be charitable towards you even if I haven't been completely in this discourse. I often fail to live my own ideals. I understand that we disagree on this issue pretty passionately and there may be no convincing of the other, and I'm find with that. Even with that knowledge I have no problem continuing the conversation. I only set out to show some reason in my position. I may of accomplished the opposite effect in the process and proven my insanity.
unitive aspect of sexRyan--The crux of the disagreement is right there. Your "unitive aspect" is a philosophical term that is ultimately founded in a metaphysical concept with which I don't agree. I don't think that we can get beyond this fundamental impasse.What I suggest, therefore, is that we agree to disagree on whether or not contraception is objectively evil, and return to the original question of whether or not readily available contraception is a contributory factor in the societal break-down that has resulted in America having the largest prison population in the world, both by raw numbers and by percentage.It is ironic that I gave Civis permission to basically commit a threadjacking in order to argue with AIP about contraception, and both of them have dropped out long ago.I greatly appreciate your persistence in arguing your position. You have done it exceedingly well. But we are arguing from different worldviews. At this juncture, each of us is only restating the same points, using slightly different language.If you have no interest in the original topic, I understand.If you would prefer to have that discussion, but on the appropriate thread on Civis' blog, that would be fine with me, too.Again, whatever you decide, I thank you for the opportunity to have engaged in this well-fought debate.
One parting shot:You are analyzing a philosophical system you do not understand. No, I'm not. I'm rejecting an understanding of a philosophical system with which I disagree.
Thank you for entertaining my argument and enduring me. I think we both have written quite a bit, which if nothing else, has given me the opportunity to process my thoughts on the subject. Hopefully next time I decide the write on this I can refine and organize my thoughts quite a bit more and develop the many weaknesses that developed by trying to write off the cuff. If the “unitive aspect” was such a big disagreement I would have hoped that this is where the conversation would have been directed. I was under the impression that you were acknowledging at least some kind of objective lack in the contracepted sex act as you seemed to indicate (On 3/7/08 12:06 PM). Where I delved into the whole distinction of the sexual act being both free and complete (on 3/7/08 1:15 AM) is where I really tried to make an effort to argue that openness to fertility being an objective part of the unitive aspect.As for the original issue of societal break-down and prison population, I think even if the ready distribution of contraception somehow aided this current break-down, this would be almost impossible to prove (at least for me). I could only point to what seems to be a faulty philosophical worldview of egoism and materialistic competition that surely is not combated with ready available contraception. But I think that is about as far as I could go along those argumentative lines at this point.I agree that we are beginning to repeat the same things worded slightly differently. I don’t think I have anything new to say that I haven’t already said. I would have liked if other people stayed in the conversation, but oh well.One parting shot:My accusation of you not understanding Natural Law was the from your charge that this philosophical system must view viruses “as much a feature of Natural Law as is fertility.” This claim tries to undermine the value of a Natural Law perspective by insinuating that this perspective is unable to make proper distinctions between naturally occurring entities like viruses and fertility by which they would have to be equivocally treated the same. You concluded that if my perspective treated viruses and fertility differently in terms of medical technology that meant that my perspective is inconsistent whereas your perspective had no problem treated them both with medical technology because of Man’s absolute dominion (I mean stewardship) over nature. Thus you conclude that the only way for my perspective to be consistent is that if I did not permit the use medical technology for fertility than I ought not to allow medical technology to treat diseases. You solution was to either allow both or forbid both. I opted for a third way-allow one and forbid the other given a correct understanding of how they were different issues. You may have understood all of this and still disagree with a Natural Law perspective, but then you should have discussed your real objections.*Please feel free to respond to my parting shot. At this point I will not use this thread to comment on this the issue of Natural Law, contraception, fertility, or diseases unless you express desire for my clarification of something in the form of a direct question. Otherwise, I consider this issue adequately exhausted. To be honest, out of all the desirable positions to take on an issue in terms of argumentative power and ease of debate, I think contraception would be very far down on that list, especially outside of a theological context.
I opted for a third way-allow one and forbid the other given a correct understanding of how they were different issues.But I think that they are not different issues from the standpoint of good stewardship, but merely complementary facets of the one, overriding issue--that of "tending the garden." Your position is that a questionable moral issue, operative at the level of the individual, trumps the attempt of the collective to provide the best possible living conditions for the greatest number of individuals--with "greatest number" being contingent upon what is the greatest number of individuals who can achieve a decent life-style within the parameters posited by the resources available to them within the territory under their political control. Your perspective works quite well in a rich country such as this one. But one needs only to objectively observe the poverty and squalor that prevails in the Third World to see the disasterous effects of unregulated population growth in areas where economic growth does not, or cannot, keep pace with it. It is true that there are other ways to address poverty. But limiting population growth is clearly the most effective starting point in areas of limited resources. Other options entail the redistribution of wealth, which is anathema to conservative elements and vigorously opposed by entrenched power, and charity, which never has been, and never will be, even close to sufficient to meet prevailing need.I would not say, however, that birth control should be made mandatory anywhere. I say only that it should be freely available, and even promoted, as a morally neutral, pragmatic option, to individuals who realize its benefits.That's my last word.
Well, I've been down with the flu for the past few days. I can see how this stuff can kill a person. I can't recall when I've been this sick--I think it was pneumonia in 1986. Anywho…..Looks like a lot of water has gone under the bridge and as usual the discussion is all over the waterfront. Oh well, I guess that’s what free speech and the exchange of ideas looks like eh?I would return to the point on the BC pill being an abortifacient, and rebut with another point:“Abortive contraception” is not “a contradiction in terms.” Linguistically speaking, you are correct, but make no mistake, the BC pill also aborts AFTER conception. That is a simple fact of medicine. Just read the information on any medical website that give detailed information for drugs.If I’m not mistaken, both Rodak and AIP are not pro-abortion. How do you defend the BC on this count?BTW, Rodak and AIP et al, this is what I wanted to come back to, but if you prefer I address something else the pro contraception folks have said that you feel is a good point and you think I should address, let me know. I’m interested in truth and am quite sure that truth and good is on my side, so I’m willing to discuss the issue on any front. My feeling, and this discussion has only made it stronger, is that the only thing procontracteptors can bring to this argument are fallacies and misinformation. Those with truth and good on their side have no need to turn to the cheap tricks of sophists—Rodak, you being a fan of Plato and Socrates ought to know better! ;)Thus I challenge the procontraceptors to pick one argument I have made and lets discus it thoroughly—unless of course you are afraid of what we will find if we stop avoiding the issue and get down to the nitty gritty.
Civis--I'm sorry that you've been ill. I hope that you're feeling better. Unfortunately, I've pretty much punched myself out on this topic in the interim. I don't know that I have much more to say about it.I would say, that I don't think you've really got "conception" until the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. As many as 50% of all fertilized eggs spontaneously fail to implant. So, how do we define "conception?"Is there a soul in a fertilized egg at the moment of contact with the sperm? If so, what happens to the souls of that large percentage of eggs that never attach?The point is, there are no answers to these questions. But there are answers to the kinds of questions Ryan and I have been discussing for the past several days. We have reached an impasse. I don't know what I could add to what I've said aready.
Wow, what a long and detailed conversation! Makes me wish I had gotten here earlier. Well, be that as it may, it seems the contraception debate has ended. However, if Rodak is willing to continue the conception topic that has just been started, I would like to join! I’d like to clear up some confusion concerning conception and contraception.Unless you want to redefine conception, it has always (to my knowledge) and still is defined pretty much as fertilization. To be clear, we should stick with set definitions for terms. I suggest that conception remain meaning fertilization and implantation remain meaning um, implantation of a blastocyst in the uterine lining. I don’t think the definition of conception changes just because so many tiny humans don’t stick, so to speak.With that being said, I’ll move on.Is there a soul in a fertilized egg at the moment of contact with the sperm?Who knows? Does it matter? Not much happens to this tiny cell-dividing fiend of an organism for seven days more or less. During these seven days (+/- 1), the blastocyst makes its way to the uterus. If all goes well, it implants. Hurrah, congrats, you’re having a successful pregnancy thus far!If so, what happens to the souls of that large percentage of eggs that never attach?First, terminology. This is no longer a fertilized egg. It’s a blastocyst made up of hundreds of cells. Do we know if this has a soul either? No, no idea. However, I think everyone in this conversation agrees on the dignity of human life ensouled or not. What we do know is when human life begins – conception, aka fertilization (As far as ensoulment goes, for all we know, maybe babies aren’t ensouled until birth or maybe not until 30 days after birth…). In terms of abortion (like OC pill induced kind), if we don’t know whether or not it has a soul, and that is one’s defining factor for whether or not to use the pill, then one’s first response shouldn’t be, “use it since we don’t know.” Since we don’t know if it has a soul or not, it may very well have one, and by using the OC pill, one is aborting an immortal ensouled person. However, I believe that regardless of what point the person is ensouled, it is a person at conception and should be treated like one. More miscarriages occur than we know probably (at all times throughout the pregnancy), but this is also not an excuse to allow inducing of abortions (inducing of a miscarriage) through drugs at any stage. If something can be done to reduce the risk of destroying life, it should be done.Also, since as Ryan pointed out, the sympto-thermal method works, (which by the way, taking a basal body temperature can be orally or rectally; millions of women don’t wake up every morning and take their rectal temperature in bed) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221065200.htmso there is no reason other than selfishness that the conscientious person would not give up the OC pill to adopt a less harmful means of birth control. The difference between the pill and natural family planning is sex at any time you please versus sex only when it is prudent (if you are trying to avoid having kids). I might add that the introduction of the OC pill has sent the numbers of aborted blastocysts – tiny humans – skyrocketing because people have more sex around the time of normal ovulation, and when the extra hormones don’t stop ovulation (the release of an egg), it often gets fertilized, grows, and then is defeated by an unfriendly uterine wall.Personally, one of the reasons I’ll never use the pill is because I don’t want a blood clot! Funny story though, a friend of mine had to be switched off of her OC because of blood clots forming, and while she was in transition she got pregnant! What are the odds. She’s thrilled to be having the baby anyway though.
Oop, just wanted to clear up that it isn't a blastocyst the entire time during its travel from the fallopian tube to the uterus. It grows into one and is definitely a blastocyst by the time it makes it to the uterus 7 days later. Prior to that of course it is a growing, dividing, single organism but just with different names.
I don’t think the definition of conception changes just because so many tiny humans don’t stick, so to speak.Welcome, Mary-Grace--You have a beautiful name.On technical grounds, I agree with that. But we also don't have a "pregnancy" unless and until we have implantation. It is a pregnancy (not a conception) that is aborted. Therefore, I don't consider the pill--in any of its formats--to be an abortofacient (sp?)--but rather, a contraceptive.This matters little, however, since all of the persons in this converation also condemn mechanical methods, making the distinction irrelevant from my point of view.I think that it does matter whether or not it has a soul. We can decide that it might, and err on the side of caution, as was said somewhere on this thread previously. I would suggest, however, that, since it is known that a sizeable percentage of "conceptions" don't implant, that there is no ensoulment at conception. I believe that regardless of what point the person is ensouled, it is a person at conception and should be treated like one. I disagree there. No soul, no person. Otherwise, nature is aborting more persons than Planned Parenthood. millions of women don’t wake up every morning and take their rectal temperature in bedMary-Grace, if I had known you were going to read this I would have used more elegant language in discussing it above. That said, I believe it's the case that a more accurate reading is to be obtained by taking the temperature rectally. And the more accurate the reading, the effect the method.This method is more effectively used as an aid to effect pregnancies for couples having diffifculty conceiving, than it is as a contraceptive method. Obviously, it makes sex a non-spontaneous chore, which is probably it's most effective feature.blastocysts – tiny humansThat kind of emotionally charged equation is lost on me. Are you saying that it's billions of "tiny humans" that don't implant and pass out of the body, resulting in nada?Many of the drugs that we take to save our lives when we become ill have undesirable side-effects, too. That issue is a non-starter for most women in my experience. The pill also seems to protect women against some cancers, I believe. With any drug, it's sometimes a roll of the dice. One thing is certain, having a child changes one's life completely. It should always be a good change. What could be more selfish than condemning millions of little kids (tiny humans) to lives of abuse and neglect by forcing their unworthy biological parent(s) to breed irresponsibly? I don't buy that as a "religious" agenda.
You have a beautiful name. Thank you! Funny how I hear all the compliments (no complaints here) when it wasn’t my idea. I should start referring people to my mother.We also don't have a "pregnancy" unless and until we have implantation. This just isn’t so. You’re pregnant once fertilization occurs. You have another genetically complete and different organism growing inside of you. This is another technicality though, not what I think the real issue is here.It is a pregnancy (not a conception) that is aborted.I never maintained it was a conception that was aborted, but the blastocyst , and as I just stated, anything > / = in development since a fertilized egg signifies pregnancy. I think it is important for these terms to remain as definites, otherwise we’ll end up talking about horses, by which I mean elephants.This matters little, however, since all of the persons in this converation also condemn mechanical methods, making the distinction irrelevant from my point of view. I’m not arguing against contraception here, mechanical or chemical. I’m arguing that the pill indeed induces abortions, and this makes a difference. We don’t know when the baby (yes, it’s a baby even when it only has a few hundred cells, this is not emotional language, it’s more accurate than me trying to fit in every technical term/different name for what it is at every state) is ensouled, so aborting the blastocyst or gastrula or fetus (whatever you want to call it other than the emotional term tiny human) doesn’t make a difference because you’re aborting the same thing, a person. I think Dr. Seuss had the gist of it when he wrote, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” If it isn’t a person, let me know; I’m curious as to what it is.I disagree there. No soul, no person. Well, considering how convinced you are that we should be able to prove things to atheists, show me how we are to convince atheists not to abort their children, or for that matter, to not kill people. No soul, no person? If someone doesn’t believe souls, then why not kill their own born children too?Otherwise, nature is aborting more persons than Planned Parenthood. Perhaps it is. This does not mean that it is aborting more souls than PP.Obviously, it makes sex a non-spontaneous chore, which is probably it's most effective feature.I don’t know how you can claim this. I guess you aren’t the romantic type. Planning a romantic evening, candlelight dinner, dancing, the whole shebang and then some romping under the covers with your spouse. How is this a chore? If you get in the mood for something, but your spouse says no, I’m ovulating, then you don’t have sex, and instead you cuddle up and watch a movie. If you take all of your measurements in the morning, you don’t have to think about it the rest of the day, and spontaneity can have its way with you. (On a side note, I can’t leave you thinking lots of women wake up and take their rectal temperature every day. Maybe some do. The reason rectal temperatures are generally regarded as more accurate is because there are more factors involved with oral temperatures. Rectal temperatures reflect your core temperature, but you can track oral temperature just the same. You can take the rectal temperature if you want, but I imagine most people don’t: http://parenting.ivillage.com/ttc/ttcsigns/0,,midwife_3ph6,00.html )The pill also seems to protect women against some cancers, I believe. This is true to an extent. I’m not opposed to using the pill to treat endometriosis or lower cancer risks, but I would suggest women don’t have sex while on it to avoid the possibility of abortion.What could be more selfish than condemning millions of little kids (tiny humans) to lives of abuse and neglect by forcing their unworthy biological parent(s) to breed irresponsibly? It would be more selfish to have sex whenever you please rather than giving it up x number of days every month to avoid having children instead of aborting them in their beginnings. I’m asking parents to be more responsible, not less.I think ultimately the issue here is the ensoulment one. I think it is very presumptuous of you to say that the blastocyst does not have a soul until it implants because then that would mean God is allowing lots of souls to die before really getting a chance (am I correct in paraphrasing you?). I don’t claim to have that type of knowledge, so I stick with the person argument.By the way, did you look at the link I had in my last post? I think that’s a pretty good indicator that STM can be done with some practice and self-control. I’m not using the article as any kind of argument other than to say that it is reasonable, and there are effective alternatives to the pill.
Ah the humanity! (see Bartleby, the Scrivener by Melville for the reference). I judged that questions were being begged by your response as indicator of a written expression wanting clarification. I had to take mental liberty of reading a direct question into your comment, but given the liberty you took in giving a religious argument on abortion, I figured such a judgment was in the spirit of your comment. “I think that it does matter whether or not it has a soul. We can decide that it might, and err on the side of caution, as was said somewhere on this thread previously. I would suggest, however, that, since it is known that a sizeable percentage of "conceptions" don't implant, that there is no ensoulment at conception. “ I typically refrain from getting into conversation of ensoulment because of its difficulties. The Catholic Church does not have any dogmatic teaching in this regard. Aquinas didn’t believe that ensoulment happens at conception. There are also the difficulties explaining what happens with twins that split apart after conception such as whether or not the soul splits and how something spiritual can split etc, etc, etc. You, however, take the more questionable stance. You argue that the blob of “tissue” probably isn’t an ensouled human because of the many of the blobs of tissue that don’t implant. I hope this isn’t your real argument on this issue. With this line of religious thinking, we can start implying many things. Maybe God knowing that a potential human person is going to be aborted so He will not impart a soul in that particular blob of tissue so a human isn’t being killed. Blah blah blah blah. This isn’t an argument but a convenient stance that helps people justify immoral actions. “No soul, no person” This kind of emotional and sentimental charged equation loses me. Is this a religious argument? What happened to convincing the atheist? You expect to use a subjective religious sentiment as grounds of creating a universally valid law that effects every person based off of nothing than your like for babies. Like I said, this is one of the many reasons I stay away from arguments of ensoulment. Of course, using Aristotelian language I think we can say that human life does begin at the moment of conception. At the point of conception, the fertilized egg has all the intrinsic unity to begin growing towards the final cause of a human person, given the proper amount of nourishment. It has the formal and final cause of a human. The essence of this new life is distinctly human. If the fertilized egg resulting from human copulation had the ability to intrinsically move towards another end besides being human-namely turning into a monkey, tree, or dog, then this blob of tissue would not be distinctly human. But the fertilized egg due to its own intrinsic nature moves towards no other end but that of being human because it is human. No other thing must be added to give it this nature. Of course other things must be added to allow it to reach its end, namely nourishment and a proper environment. This is known as the efficient cause. And other factors may forbid this human entity from reaching this end but this does not negate its intrinsic end as distinctly human. Furthermore, if you are going to take a stance the humans have souls, this is something you cannot empirically and scientifically observe. We cannot say when a said human entity will be infused with a Christian rational soul. We do know that the fertilized egg and the resulting stages of human life that follow is nothing other than formed matter- matter that has been informed by a human form. This coupled with the sacredness shrouding human existence should be enough to argue against abortion. Precisely because there is a mystery to personhood should suffice in not taking technological liberties to disrupt this sacred processes. I believe we can know that there is a dignity and sacredness to human life and that mystery begins at the moment of conception in the context of the mystical union of sex. Your argument rests on the maxim that because we do not understand the formation of human life, that we must therefore have the right to interfere in as much as we can claim ignorance. But where does this ignorance stop? “One thing is certain, having a child changes one's life completely. It should always be a good change. What could be more selfish than condemning millions of little kids (tiny humans) to lives of abuse and neglect by forcing their unworthy biological parent(s) to breed irresponsibly? I don't buy that as a "religious" agenda.”You are right. That isn’t a religious argument, just one of your worst ones yet. Wanting existing human beings to not be aborted is not condemning them to lives of abuse. Are you suggesting that it is better not to exist than to exist an unhappy life? Then you get to determine what constitutes an unhappy life. By what omniscient criteria are you suggesting that children from abusive households cannot grow up and live fulfilling lives? You are making up hypothetical scenarios and using them to circumnavigate the issue of an actual existing biological organism that can be deemed as nothing other than human. And I did not hear anyone here suggest that people should breed irresponsibly. But just because you are irresponsible does not justify aborting human life.
Mary-Grace--The woman who most needs not to become pregnant is the woman living in a Third World country, in a corrugated tin shack with dirt floors, who has a crude, possibly alcoholic, husband who would beat her half to death if she denied him sex when he demanded it. If she can get her hands on the pill, she has a chance. It's so easy for nice, middle-class Americans to talk about fasting from sex and cuddling under the covers, etc. etc. etc., but life's not like that for several billion women around the world. Then again, you could probably easily afford another child if the basal temperature chart let you down, too. I think it is very presumptuous of you to say that the blastocyst does not have a soul until it implants because then that would mean God is allowing lots of souls to die before really getting a chance (am I correct in paraphrasing you?).Why "presumptuous"? Are you saying that an entity without a soul can be a "person" because of the genetic material that is part of its composition? That makes every cell in your body a "person"--since human cloning is an eventual certainty. It's probably already being done. If all of those "babies" are being created only to be immediately destroyed, there must be a reason for it. Have you got one?
This isn’t an argument but a convenient stance that helps people justify immoral actions.To the contrary, Ryan, it most certainly is an argument, and a very logical one; but it's an argument that you don't want to recognize as such because it is fatal to your case concerning the pill. Is this a religious argument? What happened to convincing the atheist?I don't think that you can convince the atheist. I never said that you would be successful in doing that. What I said was that you would need to be able to convince the atheist in order to legislate against birth control in a diverse society with secular laws. What follows is that such legislation would be unconstitutional.But the fertilized egg due to its own intrinsic nature moves towards no other end but that of being human because it is human.Of course it's human. So is every hair on your head and every single cell in your body. But it is not, at the instance of conception, necessarily a person. There is an important distinction to be made there. A sperm cell is human. An ovum is human. But they are not persons. And they don't become a person when they unite, unless there is ensoulment at the moment they unite. And if there is, why does nature wasted so very many of them? And if nature does so, willy-nilly, why cannot man do so with intent, if the circumstances make this desirable?
I’m rather disappointed in your response. I was hoping for you to discuss the issues I raised rather than setting up a straw man. I don’t know why I actually reply to your comments. I thought that Obviously, it makes sex a non-spontaneous chore, which is probably it's most effective feature. – was an idiotic statement worth refuting. I gave you good examples of how the couple who is looking for spontaneity can find it. You are the one who brought up spontaneity, and I argued you, and now you are accusing me of being cruel and thoughtless to those who aren’t middle-class Americans and are forced into sex – how very spontaneous of you.She can’t afford pills. Ok, so let’s give her free pills so she doesn’t have to have a child by her horrible husband. Oh, wait, instead of passing out pills, why don’t we put her in an abused woman’s shelter and get her away from her husband??!Why "presumptuous"? Are you saying that an entity without a soul can be a "person" because of the genetic material that is part of its composition?No, in fact I am not saying that. Had you actually read my post you would have picked that up. I am saying that at the moment of conception, your bundle of joy is now a person, regardless of whether or not you want to argue from the vantage point of whether or not something has a soul. Its genetic material is specific for it; it is not the mother, it is not the father, but it is a human. See Ryan’s post for further explanation on how this works.If all of those "babies" are being created only to be immediately destroyed, there must be a reason for it. Have you got one?I assume you are talking about the babies being created by irresponsible people, which are then lost because of the drugs they are taking. Yes, I have a reason for this; it’s called cause and effect.To the contrary, Ryan, it most certainly is an argument, and a very logical one; but it's an argument that you don't want to recognize as such because it is fatal to your case concerning the pill.You’re not even defending anything anymore. You’re just stating that you’re right and that Ryan can’t face this fact. Of course it's human. So is every hair on your head and every single cell in your body. But it is not, at the instance of conception, necessarily a person. There is an important distinction to be made there. A sperm cell is human. An ovum is human. But they are not persons.Every cell in your body (minus the ovums and sperms) contain all of your genetic material true, and it is human genetic material, but that is different than calling each cell a human. And they don't become a person when they unite, unless there is ensoulment at the moment they unite. And if there is, why does nature wasted so very many of them? And if nature does so, willy-nilly, why cannot man do so with intent, if the circumstances make this desirable?If persons have souls, then why does nature waste so many of us? Cannot man do so with intent as well if the circumstances make this desirable?By the way, you never said if you looked at that website or not.
Mary-Grace, Ryan--I really have nothing more to say on this topic. Believe it or not, I have little appetite for it. If you go way back to the point at which this became a discussion of contraception, you will note that I had vowed to stay out of it--the discussion was to be between Civis and AIP. It didn't work out that way. I thank you both for a stimulating discussion. Please feel free to have the last word. I will not contradict what you say.
“To the contrary, Ryan, it most certainly is an argument, and a very logical one; but it's an argument that you don't want to recognize as such because it is fatal to your case concerning the pill.”You are arguing a theological point of ensoulment based on the hypothetical quantity of blastocyst that fail to attach to the uterine wall. Exactly what philosophical principal does this follow from? And what exactly is the magic number in this formula. I made my case using the philosophical understanding of the irreducible four causes that are necessarily for the existence of any substance. I really don’t see how calling your speculation an argument weakens what I have said. With the whole “convincing the atheist thing,” I was only trying to point out the irony that you are using a religious concept of ensoulment to justify aborting a human. I never claimed I could convince the atheist. I realized from the beginning that I would first have to defend the philosophical propositions of my world view-which is an activity I do engage on occasion with occasional success. Furthermore, I never said I wanted to have legislation against birth control as such. I don’t think I can take away a person’s freedom to make wrong decisions. However, I have no obligation to recognize those decisions as good or wholesome. I do have a responsibility to legislate to prevent human dignity from being trespassed, which includes unborn life. In this arena, I do an obligation to try to ban oral contraceptives that are abortafacient. “Of course it's human. So is every hair on your head and every single cell in your body. But it is not, at the instance of conception, necessarily a person. There is an important distinction to be made there. A sperm cell is human. An ovum is human.”You may benefit from realizing that there is a philosophical difference between a substance and an accident. Accidents are that which reside in a substance, and a substance is that which undergoes change. Changing the accidents of a substance doesn’t change the substance. Once an egg is fertilized it becomes its own substance that has its own intrinsic end towards which it is acting. This substance may undergo many accidental changes, but it is a distinct human person with its own genetic make sex. Things like hair, cells, and certainly all the matter that constitute a person’s material cause and accidental qualities. These are related to the substance but cannot be equated with it.
Rodak,I'm sorry if I've tortured you with the continuation of this discussion. I didn't realize it would take such a turn with the ensoulment issue. I originally planned to just state the issues with terminology and defend the abortafacient thing briefly.I wish you well! Again, apologies for taking over this post's comment section and forcing you into a conversation you did not wish to have.
Rodak, I only argue because I want Truth to prevail. I’m sorry if the conversation has pushed you to the point of exhaustion. I found real problem in some of your reasoning and tried my best to address it. I also considered the oral contraceptives issue a change in topic as it was an issue of abortion rather than strictly an issue of contraception. I do not know that we have to necessarily agree to disagree, at least not in the ultimate sense, if you ever want to address this topic again let me know. Hopefully in the future when I comment on your blog it won’t be in the context of such a head-to-head debate.
Ryan--Thank you. I hope that you will again comment on my blog; perhaps on a topic with which I am more comfortable.
Mary-Grace--No need to apologize. The reason that I had intended not even to engage the issue of contraception, way back at the beginning, is that I realized that, ultimately, issues of faith would enter in. I do not like arguing against another person's faith, even though I believe myself to be right. You did well to speak as you have spoken. I certainly respect your positions. Please feel free to comment on my blog at any time. I would welcome your in-put.
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