My first post on disutilitarianism began with the realization that simply rubbing together the different utility functions of individuals is by itself completely impotent to reconcile them. You can’t build a society out of disagreeable men unless they have some prior common basis for reaching a mutual agreement about how to proceed, despite their differences, in a coordinate way. And their different preference schedules cannot themselves furnish any such basis.
I want this, you want that: unless we have some idea that an agreement between us would be better than disagreement, we have no way even to get started talking together, and all we may then do is war.
Take a group of people and plop them down together in any given set of material circumstances. Given the resources and stressors present in those circumstances – not, i.e., introduced by the people themselves – each of them will develop a different schedule of preferences about what should happen next, so as to maximize each his own net hedonic utility. Only when the constraints of the circumstances on what is practically possible are extremely tight – only, that is, when there are only very few options that are tolerable for any of them (as when, e.g., the flood waters are approaching) – will the utility functions of the whole group approximate to unanimity.
Only rarely, then, will all the members of a group completely agree about what should best be done. Almost always, they shall find that they must negotiate with each other in order to reach a joint decision about the fitting uses of the resources at hand. The greater the number of options furnished by their material circumstances, the more likely are they to disagree with each other incompatibly.
When this happens, the question between them is which of them will have to suffer some disappointments or other in order for the group as a whole to achieve an acceptable mix of disappointment and satisfaction – of, that is to say, costs and benefits. It is here that market and gift exchanges begin – and with them negotiations, crimes, laws, politics, and so forth – the whole panoply of common life. Because resolution cannot happen except in virtue of some degree of disappointment, it cannot but produce resentment, which of course threatens always to end in violence.
The problem of society as such, then, is to find ways of increasing the likely degree of compatibility among utility functions, so as to salve resentment, reduce intramural violence and improve coordination.
How does homosexuality – so obviously lethal to reproductive success – keep propagating? It’s really quite simple.
When I read Moira Greyland’s horrifying account of her repeated sexual molestation as a child at the hands of her homosexual parents, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen, everything suddenly clicked into place. It’s not so much that there’s a gay gene (although there might be); or a gay virus (ditto); or a preconscious nisus among gays to spread their perversion through predation upon the young, “waking up the natural homosexual feelings that all people have,” so that they themselves can feel that they are somewhat more normal and unobjectionable (seems not unlikely); or that homosexuality is a search for the approval of an absent or distant or mad parent (a reasonable theory, prima facie). All these factors might be at work. But they are not needed to secure the propagation of homosexual behavior down through the generations.
When white males do wrong these days, everyone takes them to be responsible, and so culpable. Other sorts of perpetrators are almost always treated as themselves somehow victims, devoid of effective moral agency or ratiocination, unable to act rationally in service of the good, and thus essentially insane, chaotic, like a storm or a flood. Their crimes are wholly adventitious, “random attacks” that hurt someone “in the wrong place at the wrong time” because of essentially harmless youthful hijinks or a “botched crime” that would otherwise have been carried forward to a successful and unobjectionable conclusion. The crime then does not generate any moral guilt, but only the legal sort. Thus the sense among liberals of the injustice involved in incarcerating felons: they didn’t really do it, their environments did.
This is our clue to the fact that, despite the ruin of the ancient patriarchal system in the modern West, everyone still subconsciously thinks that only white males possess full moral agency. They feel that their own moral agency is derivative of the agency of white males, and as derivate is therefore but partial. Whatever their failures, then, or the defects in their lives, they blame on white males, whom they still apprehend as fundamentally in charge of the way things work. You can blame him only who has himself done wrong; and in the modern West only white males are understood as thus quite fully competent, and therefore culpable. The less that white males actually do, the more are they blamed for what happens. And lots of white males agree with this analysis; they hate and blame their own ilk just as much as everyone else does.
Almost everyone feels, in other words, that patriarchy is still in full effect. And they are hot with resentment at the patriarchs. They insist that the patriarchy must be overthrown, when they themselves have been in charge of things for fifty years or so, and the patriarchs have (almost) all recused the office of patriarch. Why?
In ancient Greece, the scapegoat was selected each year via ostracism. The men of the polis would assemble, and each would write the name of his least favorite fellow on a potsherd – an ostracon. The ostraca would be collected, and the man most generally resented would be the chosen victim, banished forthwith.
Where execution of the scapegoat was wanted, it too sometimes proceeded by way of ostraca. The victim was flayed and then dismembered with their sharp edges – the death of a thousand cuts.
For the Jew or the Christian, this world and its logos, as creatures of the Good himself, are likewise fundamentally good, and so conformity to that logos can possibly be righteous. There is for them a Way of Heaven, a Tao, that pervades the Earth, forms and guides her and all her denizens as she moves in and with it; a Way to which they may, and indeed ought, to aspire. Such folks have a shot at holiness themselves. So we sometimes find them taking that shot, and trying to be good.
For the gnostic, no such luck. Having rejected the creator of this world, and classed him among the evil ones, there is no way that a gnostic can consistently understand the order of his world as intelligibly good. Nor therefore can he believe that agreement with this world’s corrupt order is somehow good or righteous, let alone holy.
… it is precisely because this revolution [of homosexual “marriage”] is not the success it appears to be that it must be accompanied by tyrannical measures. That’s the way it must be. The more society diverges from the Natural Law, the more oppressive it must become.
A sovereign cannot attain the sum of good government by recusing himself from all rule, for man is wayward and short-sighted, and so needs law to guide him more quickly and easily toward the destination that nature and her God tend anyway to push him. But if his laws accord with Nature and her Laws, the sovereign won’t need very many of them to get the job done (or therefore many police, judges, or prisons), and nor will anyone feel particularly oppressed or troubled by them, because they will after all only help men discover that comfort of moral and practical agreement with reality which they naturally seek. A good law, that agrees with human nature, is no more troublesome to men, and no harder to enforce, than the convention that everyone should drive on the right side of the road. It is only bad law – law that tries to push men to act in ways that under Heaven they ought not to act, and which their natures therefore resist – that fails to govern them the way that it would, and so needs ever more laws, ever more police, and ever stiffer punishments. In the limit, you get persecution over microaggressions: utter totalitarian tyranny.
The hunter has paid for his kill, by his excellence, his effort, his diligence in training and attention, his dedication and focus. Nevertheless it is the god who has given the kill to the hunter, by putting the prey in his way. In the excellence of the hunter and of his works is the way; the prey he finds in that way is from the god, and gratuitous, nowise earned. The hunter does not make the prey, after all, and cannot. All he can do is fit himself to the gift of it. He therefore stands in ontological debt to his divine benefactor (sometimes personified in and as the prey itself, often understood as an avatar or totem of the god). So the duteous, righteous hunter, who would that his own ways continued prosperous, is not proud, but rather gives back his kill to the god who sent it his way in the first place. Along with the effort he has expended in the hunt, and the excellence of his hunting (learned – earned – by arduous training to the mastery of his art), the sacrifice is partial payment for the hunter’s ontological debt.
It goes deeper. Like all his fellows, the hunter knows well and in his bones that he stands in irreparable debt to the god not just for the kill but for his own very being – and with it his capacity to pursue his way – which he cannot himself procure. As the hunter cannot create his prey, nor can he create himself. Everything, then, is owed to the god. So at the root and uttermost limit of sacrifice, the righteous man dedicates the whole of his own life and work to the god, and stands ready to make of himself the sacrifice, to the god and for his people, his flock.
So it’s election season again in the US, and the press is all abuzz over the recent declarations of candidacy. Last time around, I still cared a bit, mostly out of habit I suppose. I liked Romney, who I think is a fundamentally decent man, and I was disappointed to see such a talented, intelligent and enterprising fellow rejected in favor of an inept fool like Obama. So I was interested to that extent.
But Christian reaction had by then so permeated my being that I knew the only difference the election might possibly make is that of a few percentage points in my federal tax rate. Not that those percentages are unimportant, for they are, and the welfare of millions hangs upon them; but thanks to the mind-boggling deficits of the first four Obama years, they are upward bound, for the foreseeable future, almost no matter what. Obama spent so much money that no future administration is going to be able to cut taxes. Obama has eliminated all room for such maneuvers. It’s a genius move, albeit not the move of a genius.
Evil is fundamentally stupid. You can be ingeniously evil, but to be evil in the first place is stupid. E.g., you can devise a brilliant plan to rob a bank, but robbing a bank is an essentially stupid thing to do.
If as the libertines insist sex has no inherent meaning of its own regardless of what we might think, then it can mean “only” whatever we happen to think. Say with modernity that it were so. In the first place, then, a sexual act that had been at first understood by the participants as agreeable, and indeed urgently desired by all of them, might later be understood retrospectively by one or another as rape (or vice versa, for that matter); and no assessment of its sexual meaning at any time, by any one, could be rightly construed as in any sense true. But in the second, the inherent meaninglessness of the sexual act would entail the utter vacuity of the term “rape,” as denoting a peculiarly sexual crime. Rape would then be an empty category, and reduce to the more basic, asexual category of assault.
But assault is likewise vulnerable to a similar nominalist reduction to morally meaningless contact: not inherently problematic, but only subjectively so. I.e., not really problematic at all. It’s just atoms meaninglessly hurrying about, nothing more.
Under a nominalist epistemology, no juridical procedure then can ever arrive at a verdict that can be properly characterized as such – as, literally, a true speech (vere dictum). If there’s no truth about acts in the first place, such truths cannot be apprehended or spoken of, nor therefore may there be any justice done about them. But if justice be impossible, so is society. All that is then available to us from each other is war.