The Good Old Days?

Monday, 10-15-2018


When people say that the standard of virtue is declining, it is considered shrewd and knowing to reply “Every age thinks it was better in the old days.”

Perhaps every age does think it was better in the old days.  But morally speaking, some ages really have been better, and some really have been worse.  People in better days who say “It was better in the old days” are mistaken.  And people in worse days who say “It was better in the old days” are right.

So maybe it was just as bad in the old days as in our days, but what makes us so sure?  Perhaps we should work harder to avoid being smug, since the five most common ways to attain complacency seem unconvincing.

One is to consider the evidence selectively.  After all, we no longer mistreat people in certain ways.

The second is to deny that our favorite vices are vices.  How could anything we really want to do be misbehaving?

Third, and more radically, redefine vices as virtues.  This is how the coarse and profane becomes frank and refreshing.

Conversely, redefine virtues as vices.  Consider all the virtues at the mention of which sophisticates are supposed to smirk.

Fifth, simply deny the possibility of moral judgment.  This is the most interesting, because it is the most irrational.  Among other things, it implies that no one should even try to examine his own conscience.

For who is he to judge?


Song of the Thomists

Monday, 10-08-2018


(To the tune of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” here sung by Fats Waller.

I'm gonna sit right down and write a good objection

And then show why it can't be true

I’m gonna fill it up with smarts

It’s gonna fly right off the charts

A lot of comments on the margin

It’ll be a bargain


I’m gonna smile and say I hope I’ve got an answer

And close the way I always do

I'm gonna sit right down and write a good objection

And then show why it can't be true



Monday, 10-01-2018


We are not just knowers, but seekers, who spontaneously incline toward certain realities other than ourselves.

When I say that this attraction is spontaneous, I do not mean that it is arbitrary, because that is not the way that we experience it.  One way of saying this is that we do not merely experience ourselves as drawn to things; we experience the things themselves as being such as to draw us.  Our word for their being so – and there is such a word in every language – is “good”; goodness is the quality of being such as to draw us.

So another way to express what I am saying is that we experience certain things as good, and experience ourselves as drawn to them because of their goodness; we are designed to be so drawn.

We are magnetized.

With an air of demystification, subjectivists like Thomas Hobbes announced to us that it is the other way around.  They deny that we are inclined toward things because they are good.  Instead, they say, we call them good because we happen to be inclined toward them (as we may happen to be inclined to different things tomorrow).  Goodness is merely a name, and inclination does not point outside itself after all; it just is.

But this is not just bad theory, it is a bad description of the experience.  If you ask a man “Why do you love that woman?” he does not normally reply by telling you about himself – “I just do” – but by telling you about her – “Because she is wonderful.”




Getting Out of Dodge



First Transpecies Surgery

Monday, 09-24-2018


Proves there is no natural law, scientists say

AUSTIN (CMM) -- In a 14-hour surgical marathon, doctors at Seton Hospital turned Austin man Clinton Confuso into a jellyfish.  Surgeons took 14 hours to remove most of his vital organs, including his brain and central nervous system, enclosing what was left in a new, biosynthetic body which resembles a used plastic bag.

In a statement recorded for the press on the day before surgery, the patient said “I always knew I was a jellyfish.”  Added wife of twelve years Crissy Confuso, “So did I.”

Hospital authorities say the former Mr. Confuso, now known by his jellyfish name, Medusa, is doing well.  Recovery ward staff reported that immediately after surgery he seemed to be signaling that he wanted a latte.  “We think he was joking,” said an unidentified nurse.  “If he can joke,” she added thoughtfully.

Reaction to the pioneering species-change surgery has been swift.  Medical researcher Trine Schtopmie said “This proves that there is no natural law.  There are no rules.  We can all relax.”  Asked for comment, the receptionist at People for Treating Humans Like Animals (PETHLA) tearfully recited the lyrics of “Imagine,” a ballad believed to have been popular in the era of singer Rudolph Valentino.

Sources report that the new jellyfish has already been offered a job modeling a Lava Lamp [see photo].  At present, however, he is resting and considering his options. 


Which Is Worse?

Monday, 09-17-2018



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

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



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

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

Related posts:

The Other Thing the Sexuality Debate Is About

Nature, For and Against, Part 3 of 7

Nature, For and Against, Part 7 of 7

Book:  On the Meaning of Sex


Global Cooling

Monday, 09-10-2018



Portent of Global Cooling, Scientists Warn


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Church and Public Policy

Pining for Mordor



If We Were Immortal

Monday, 09-03-2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

We would forget the sound of childish laughter.

Sacrificial love would seem a scandal.

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

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

Related posts:

What If We Changed Our Nature?

Why Shouldn’t We Transcend Our Nature?