For those who take an interest, Angel Millar has published my essay on Gustave Flaubert’s “Herodias,” a tale of John the Baptist, and one of the Three Tales (1877), at his People of Shambhala website. We think of Flaubert as the consummate social novelist (Madame Bovary  and A Sentimental Education ), but he was also, despite not being much of a believer, a powerful religious thinker (Salammbo  and The Temptation of Saint Anthony ).
From Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978; English translation, 1987); Book III, Chapter 3, “Mimesis and Sexuality” (Pages 337 – 338)
“If we recognize that the sexual appetite can be affected by the interplay of mimetic interferences, we have no reason to stop at ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ in our critique of false psychiatric labels. Let us grant that the subject can no longer obtain sexual satisfaction without involving the violence of the model or a simulation of that violence – and that the instinctual structures we have inherited from the animals, in the sexual domain, can allow themselves to be inflected by the mimetic game. We then have to ask ourselves [whether] these cases of interference are not likely to have a still more decisive effect and give rise to at least some of the forms of homosexuality.
In reaction to my post “Say No to Same-Sex Pseudo-Marriage,” commenter “The Man Who Was…” objects to our claim that homosexuality is largely caused by one’s upbringing. He says no evidence exists for this claim.
The truth is rather different. That homosexuality is largely due to the environment in which one is raised is very nearly true by definition, and is therefore not subject to either proof or disproof by empirical means. If The Man Who Was… objects that “studies” don’t prove that homosexuality is induced by a disordered environment, he’s probably failing to notice that “studies” also don’t disprove it. Continue reading →
The Kermit Gosnell case is very interesting to me. On the one hand, most people seem rightly horrified at the prospect of plunging a scalpel into a baby’s spine because mom wants to backpack across Europe next summer (or whatever). On the other hand… hello, this just is what abortion is like, as anyone can see who isn’t being medicated futilely for something. Gosnell wasn’t lying when he said that “that’s how it was supposed to go.” That’s how it goes every single time. The right’s affectation of disproportionate horror over Gosnell is more or less a tacit concession of the leftist conceit that it doesn’t really “count” as murder if the baby is on the wrong side of the birth canal.
This case is indeed a horror show, not because it’s so exceptional but because it’s so banal for us, so utterly routine.
A fascinating discussion on the sacrament of marriage is being hosted over at Zippy Catholic (see here, here, here, and here). The question at hand is whether modern ideas about marriage (i.e., its indissolubility, exclusivity, unity, and openness to children) are sufficient to render most modern marriages sacramentally invalid. Zippy comes down on the positive side, arguing that, whatever arrangement they’re consenting to, a couple who believe they can divorce and remarry in case of adultery certainly aren’t consenting to marriage.
In the discussion following Tom Bertonneau’s post Another Day in the College Classroom, commenter Johnathan J. has been arguing with Dr. Bertonneau and me about the interpretation of the Dominical injunctions that we ought to turn the other cheek, do unto others, love our neighbours as ourselves, and so forth. While I greatly respect Johnathan’s position – not least because it used to be my own – I think it is incorrect, and impossible to carry into practice while also surviving.
While I doubt it will change Johnathan’s mind, I am going to take the opportunity this presents to repost a comment I made to a discussion at VFR in 2008, on the same subject, which was itself a repost of a comment I posted to a private online discussion group, and which owed its central insight to long-time VFR commenter Sage McLaughlin. Sage is a brilliant man, and his profound comment, quoted below, cleared up a lot of questions about Christian morality that had bedeviled me for years.
You will notice that the “hats off in the house” rule is included in the course-syllabus. It is an item in the “Guidelines for Classroom Decorum”:
Hats and head-coverings off during class-time. A college-level humanities lecture is a serious, adult occasion and a civilized, professional activity even quasi-solemn in character. The Instructor therefore institutes the “no hats” rule to help students, especially the hat-wearing ones, make the sometimes-difficult transition from their state of pre-critical high-school-and-popular-culture conformism to that of adult, civilized, intellectual reflexivity and ethical independence. In practice, the “no hats” rule applies mostly to men, but in principle it includes women.
In the middle of the night I awoke with a brainstorm about economics. The basic problem at every moment is simple: what is the right thing to do now, the best thing to do?
Life is not therefore about the production of goods, but the production of goodness. Likewise, ergo, and a fortiori, for a society and its political economy. The Platonic society will produce a great many holy lives; and those that are not quite holy will be often righteous, or at least predominantly excellent. Mere goods are secondary factors, instruments or by-products of righteousness and virtuous behavior. It is only righteousness that can result in true human flourishing, no matter how many goods there may be scattered about the landscape; for righteousness constitutes the proper approach to reality, and the enaction of policies really fitted to the truth of things. Is it not obvious that only such policies are likely to succeed, mutatis mutandis?
To take usury for money lent is unjust in itself because this is to sell what does not exist.
This is not to rule out lending per se, but to rule out usurious lending. It is not to rule out interest per se, but usurious interest. These distinctions obtain, even granted that money can operate as a store of value (although I would point out in respect thereto that money’s capacity to function as a store of value depends entirely upon its general acceptance as a medium of exchange; “stored value” is just a way of saying “deferred exchange”).
Perhaps the distinction might be made clearer by tracing the aetymology of “usury,” which derives from the Vulgate usare, “to use.” A usurious loan is one in which the lender expects to continue to enjoy the value of the use of his money, *in addition* to his enjoyment of the value of his equity interest in the project for which his money has been lent.
Atheists think Hell is a problem, and sure proof that God is the cosmic sadist of whom Antony Flew wrote. In response, Christians have endeavored to redefine their understanding of Hell, as a place freely chosen. I suspect this is motivated in part by the pastoral desire to appeal to liberal atheists, for whom nothing is worse than being made to do something or be somewhere against one’s will; and if Hell is chosen, after all, it can’t be all that bad.