Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chapter LC: Wherein our protagonists recall their titular argument

It's a bad sign for my stability that, having encountered the word 'titular' with more-than-average frequency over this weekend, I still feel compelled to misread it as referring to boobs. Namely, me.

Anyways, so, dialogue!

In yon days, there was an entertaining bit of polemicism regarding everyone's favorite application of latex since we started coping with stress with sex as opposed to gum chewing:

There are so many things to make fun of here that I pondered creating photocopies and having impromptu breakfast seminars to put together a small journal which would be called:

"The psychosomatic risks of sex on college campuses: A study of how 20-somethings are pathologically incapable of making healthy decision, and are otherwise stable and boring to write journals about"

This would actually just be an amalgam of funny stories, prurient drawings, and various re-write of messer Nava's column in different contexts (for instance, a re-imagining of it as a Senate oration by Cato.

"With a serious and concentrated effort, the campus can raise even greater awareness about the psychosomatic risks of casual sex, and destroy Carthage."

In the interests of avoiding any confusion with an un-self-interested me, I would also like to add that there are HUGE psychosomatic risks of casual abstinence. Or, as we discussed on the Nass-list, one should only read just enough philosophy to enjoy sex, and not so much that one becomes incapable of it. No one warned 15-year-old Hal!

However, while this would have been fun (but it was probably more fun to just suppose doing it and then write the above, since it involved no work), the thing that really vexes me about that column, or similar columns about euthanasia, abortion, the death penalty, and just about anything else that involves coitus or killing as a matter of public policy (except, apparently, wars and economic sanctions, because moral indignation is only ok when it involves things with personalities, and not populations), is the obnoxious, characteristically post-Vatican II religious conservative tendency to phrase arguments whose motivation is ideological in terms of the very disciplines which said conservatives hold in suspicion.

That is, for instance, that Prince column is upset at the university for distributing condoms to students because sometimes students use them in ways that they really, really regret afterwards. Now, I'm personally as excited about chlamydia outbreaks and unintended pregnancies as the next Manichaean desirious of the end of the human race, but, um... seriously. The only possible objection anyone could have for free prophylactics is religious.

Whence my irritation. If you object to the University's distribution of condoms because you feel that any behavior which encourages sin is intrinsically sinful, that's actually a completely valid position. There's nothing a priori wrong with theocracy; in fact, if you think about it, if one could create a valid theocracy, it would be an ideal government (since, an ideal theocracy would, definitionally, order the world as your favorite omnipotent deity deems best, and, being omnipotent, if'n yfod deems it best, it, uh, is best). However, happily, this ideal is purely theoretical, since yfod is not my favorite omnipotent deity (mine likes pecan pies much more than yours does), so in the meantime we get to continue to make shit up and hope we're vaguely approximating the desires of an unknown mysterious power.

So what bothers me about what I'm terming closeted theocrats, (yes, I'm suggesting that they all have self-loathing homosexual fantasies, and continue to elect representatives with self-loathing homosexual tendencies, purely because this amuses me) is that, instead of making perfectly good arguments that limpidly demonstrate the significant metaphysical distance between themselves and everyone else, they try to pretend that for the same reason that, um, sane people have determined that you should do things so that you don't cause the number of babies or parasites increase at undesired rates, you actually SHOULDN'T do these things. I imagine there are two reasons:

1 - Demonstrating inherent flaws in your opponents argument that end up proving your own point is like every debater’s wet dream.

2 - They're a few too few degrees of academic separation away from Niehaus, who's all into this natural law, you can use logic alone to demonstrate the superiority of religious positions.

Now, I'm going to use point 1 in my objection to point 2. In doing so, I will be horrendously lazy and sloppy. This is where you come in, Hal, and try to make me more cogent. We might need to give Stefan temporary posting privileges, too.

I hate hate hate people who try to make religious points without starting out from religion. I think it's patently dishonest to say "Now, I think I should act this way because Hell is scary as fuck (no one should act according to this, but yeah), but you should just be swayed by the cleverness of my arguments. Also, my really snazzy outfit." It's also not useful. As far as I'm concerned, the power of any religious argument stems from one of two sources:

1 - Religious experiences (which are, a priori, incommunicable, so, um... you actually are just supposed to pray for other people to have them. See how that works?)

2 - Extensions of religious experiences to prefer a religious world (that is, and I'm badly stealing from my memory of Schleiermacher, religious experiences are intensely personal, but give birth to a desire for intersubjective experiences, or, are the vehicle for such experiences, insofar as they are possible on Earth, and as such, a community of people who have/are having such experiences would try to shape the outward fashion of their world to facilitate such experiences in those who have not had them).

So, basically, if you're going to say that people shouldn't use condoms for casual sex because they shouldn't be having casual sex because it reduces the partner to an object of desire and pleasure, and reduces the self to an unrational animal which must be satiated, robbing both of the more full and valuable life-experience which would be otherwise had, um, just say that. (This is my argument for why no one should listen to music I dislike. It's sadly uncompelling, however, since said music seems to be a pretty big barrier towards getting wasted and dancing and subsequently hooking up with someone. Fuck you. I'm going to listen to Anthony Braxton now, out of spite).

If people naturally came to behave as religion would have them behave by the use of reason in the absence of a religious experience, what would religion be? Why would we even bother with it at all? There OUGHT to be arguments and contention between the religious and the non-religious, signs of contradiction, and so on. This is the self-defeating part of the closeted theocrat’s position, and the one that angers me as a religious person… I like my religion. I find it extremely useful and valuable. I don’t share it nearly as much as I should, though. Do you know why? Because these guys are stigmatizing it, by first pretending that it’s unnecessary to draw conclusions from it, and avoiding doing so because they expect these conclusions will then be rejected out of hand. That is, the CT’s avoidance of explicitly religious arguments concedes that, yes, it is not valid to use your religion as a basis for behavior in the public sphere. Plus, they have really stupid positions. Vexing in the extreme.

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