Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Things Conservatives Believe

 

I take the following to be among the most important principles that inform and motivate conservatives. I am not giving an argument in hopes of persuading non-conservatives, just an explanation of some foundational principles.

I say “foundational” because a decent statement of conservatism might not actually contain any of them. These aren’t the principles that are conservatism, but principles that motivate conservatives. Sometimes one of them (especially one of the first two) is an unstated premise lurking behind a conservative argument that just doesn’t seem to reach non-conservatives.

It is possible to believe one or more of these things and not be a conservative. And it is possible to be a conservative and not believe all three (though I believe all three myself). I certainly don’t presume to speak for all conservatives or aim to replace the other good explanations of conservatism that are out there.

1. We believe that any kind of an island theory of human nature is mistaken. We think the Apostle Paul and Breakfast At Tiffany’s are right: People do belong to each other–husbands and wives, parents and children, friends, etc.

People do belong to each other. And that’s why smoking isn’t just an individual choice, Audrey.

One consequence of this is that there is no such thing as a real but victimless crime. Every sin has a network of victims: starting with the sinner himself (as my homeboy Plato, a great enemy of island theories of human nature, understood), then moving outward to include the people close to him who hurt when he hurts, the people the sinner didn’t do good for as a result of his hurting himself, and moving further outward to include the people who had to help the sinner recover from the effects of his sin, and the other people they couldn’t help while they were busy helping him.

Now I’m not advocating anti-smoking laws with the caption in the clip above. Writing on Ricochet when kids need to be put to bed isn’t just a personal matter either, and I sure don’t want the government regulating my Ricochet!

There is a whole lot of room for common ground with libertarians even if you reject island theories (and I imagine some genuine libertarians do agree with us on this point). And I want Ricochet to succeed, just as I want the right-of-center coalition to continue, to grow, and to succeed.

Whether or not anti-smoking laws or marijuana bans are proper, conservatives will not (typically) oppose them on the grounds that smoking something is a personal choice for the individual. It’s not, and practically nothing is. (By the way, I myself don’t understand how — assuming originalism is correct — federal marijuana bans can be constitutional if federal alcohol bans aren’t.)

This is also one reason we tend not to like the “get government out of the marriage business” or the “same-sex marriage doesn’t hurt you” idea. If we happen to think that one idea of marriage is less accurate, less beneficial, or less just than another, we fear that its enactment in society will eventually affect everyone. Notably, we tend to think of marriage as an institution that involves everyone: the marriage partners themselves, any children they have, their friends, their family, their neighbors and local church, and even the government.

A few brief clarifications. We also – enthusiastically – reject the tendency (more popular on the Left) to reduce the individual to the community. And we tend to think that it’s an actual village that raises a child, not the federal government. And when we reject island theories of human nature, we’re usually not talking about economics. (But some of us might be up for combining a non-island theory of human nature with a liberty-based idea of economic cooperation; think Von Mises and the book I, Pencil. And, to be candid, many of us are comfortable with a degree of regulation and some sort of a scaled-down welfare system).

2. We believe that things have natures. And when I say “natures,” I mean the sort of “nature” in sentences like “It is the nature of the heart to pump blood” or “The natural function of the kidneys is to clean out the blood.” I don’t mean “the natural world” or “the laws of physics” or “the way things usually are.” (In the dictionary, I mean numbers 8, 10, and 18.)

In general, “the nature of X” refers to the kind of thing X is. And natures have implications for how a thing should be; it should be used in accordance with its nature, and not contrary to it. (This is the sort of ethics you get in Alasdair MacIntyre and others in the Aristotelian tradition.)

The fact that things have natures is the reason they have proper functions. The proper function of a heart is to pump blood, because its nature is that of a blood-pumping thing. The function of an eye is to see, because it is a seeing thing. The function of a leg is to walk, because it is a walking thing.

In really big stuff, the function of a human being is to do such-and-such, because the human being is a such-and-such-doing kind of thing. Such-and-such might be having reason govern bodily appetites (Plato, Aristotle, C. S. Lewis), or loving God and neighbor (various confessions of faith and, again, Lewis), or living according to moral law (Stoic philosophers or, perhaps, Kant; and maybe Confucius and, again, Lewis).

Lewis
Lewis is awesome.

 In really controversial stuff, the function of marriage – if marriage also has a nature — might be sexual companionship and reproduction, which can perhaps be reducible to one term: heterosexual companionship). And the function of sex might be the same. With that in context, we can ask:

  • Are things contrary to nature sinful, or merely unhealthy?
  • Should anything contrary to nature be subject to government restriction? And which things?
  • Is occasional use of birth control to delay pregnancy an act against nature, or just a refusal to live up to the full ideal of nature (just as I – quite innocently – refuse to live up the full ideal of my body’s nature when I don’t keep constantly in fit condition for running marathons)?

Now, here is one sort of thing that is sometimes said in opposition to the idea that things have natures: “How can natures exist if all is matter, and hasn’t science proved that all is matter?” This is really two questions; the first one is a good one, and probably the best answer is they can’t. But the answer to the second question is no, and for at least two reasons. One reason is that science — while it does a good job studying things made of matter — doesn’t show that there is nothing that isn’t made of matter: that is not the business of science, but of metaphysics.

The other reason is that, as Thomas Nagel says, “the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False” (more on this topic here and here on Ricochet). Another challenge is: “Explain these natures! What are they, and where are they? Why should anyone believe in such mysterious entities?” There are two ways to respond to this challenge.

One is the direct response, and that is to explain natures. I won’t attempt that here! (I’m not entirely sure I can, but maybe I can; at any rate, if I can I would need a new post to do it in.) A second response would challenge the premise behind the challenge: that you can’t rationally believe in something you can’t explain. This premise is false: We all rationally believe in the existence of time and believe that we are in it and moving through it, but few if any of us can explain time.

Note that sentences SoCon Ricochetti sometimes use such as “heterosexual sex is by nature fertile” entail the reality of natures, which we might as well admit are a bit hard to explain. However, sentences like “It’s 6:35 AM” entail the existence of time, which is just as hard to explain!

Everyday reality is almost infinitely mysterious. It’s best if we learn to live with the mysteries, or learn to explain them. But let us not explain them away or ignore them. And let us not accept some mysteries we like while rejecting others on the grounds that they are mysterious!

3. We think that religion can be a source of knowledge. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this topic. We conservatives commonly think it is possible to know something from God, or from the Bible – or perhaps another sacred text — or from the Church or even from the (uncapitalized) church.

Every item of knowledge, as philosophers have known at least since Plato, is a true belief, and also has some other characteristic: it is justified, or warranted, or believed on good evidence, or believed due to the operation of cognitive faculties aimed at truth and functioning properly in the right environment, or whatever.

Naturally, the beliefs we’re talking about include the material of our own internal theological and ethical squabbles. And, of course, the big controversial political ones often include beliefs like “Marriage is a man-woman thing” and “All human beings, being made in the image of God, have human rights.”

Now, since we think it is possible to have knowledge from religious sources, we think that such a belief is true. And since it is true it is not just a matter of personal opinion. So we can’t go along with the popular postmodern ideas that relegate all truth-claims to mere personal perspectives. And, since we think it is possible to have knowledge from religious sources, we don’t generally think that such a belief is something we are just lucky enough to have. We may be lucky (or, more properly, blessed or graced) to have such a belief, but such a belief will also stand to reason. So we aren’t obligated to just keep it to ourselves and pretend that our knowledge is a private matter.

Whether — and in what manner — to require others to act like they have the same knowledge is a separate question, and again, there is considerable room for agreement here with our libertarian friends. In fact, a lot of us think we have knowledge from religious sources that religious liberty is best! (See here, for example; scroll down to section XVII on religious liberty and note that the principles are justified by appeal to theology and Scripture.)

And since we think it is possible to have knowledge from religious sources, we are unusually invulnerable to fallacies of the appeal to the people variety – at least when it’s not our own people that are being appealed to! God overrules any popular view that history is heading in this way or that way. We prefer not to betray God just to side with history. If history really is going that way, we’d rather be with God on what looks, for the short term, like the losing side. And we know that history won’t go that way forever because God is never on the losing side.

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  1. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Oh well done. I will have to think on you wrote a bit more to add to or pick a bone with it but I wanted to say thank you for such a thought provoking post. It was joy to read.

    • #1
    • June 15, 2015, at 5:01 AM PDT
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  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Brian Wolf:Oh well done. I will have to think on you wrote a bit more to add to or pick a bone with it but I wanted to say thank you for such a thought provoking post. It was joy to read.

    Thanks, Brian!

    • #2
    • June 15, 2015, at 5:02 AM PDT
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  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    As an extension of the OP, I would add that I think we Cons agree with our libertarian friends that government coercion should be limited to prevention of harm.

    But because of the strong rejection of any island theory of human nature, we think a lot more behaviors (e.g. gambling and illegal drug use) cause harm.

    But because we tend to like so many institutions that aren’t government (also, in part, because of the strong rejection of island theories), we think government is not the only–or even the most useful–preventer of harm.

    • #3
    • June 15, 2015, at 5:54 AM PDT
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  4. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    One question I would like you to take up is this: Is Religion a necessary part of a Conservative’s world view?

    The conservative need not be a member of a religion or even a believer of any sort but they can’t help but see the need for religious institutions. One thing I have always wondered about when I meant a strong atheist libertarian is what they expect to replace religion with? I mean what kind of civil society stands against Government over reach if that society is anchored by bowling leagues?

    Do we think perhaps organizations like the Federalist Society or some such would step in?

    Another way of asking this is I suppose is according to your post here can you be a real conservative without religion or at least being someone that sees religious belief as a virtue?

    • #4
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:04 AM PDT
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  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Brian Wolf:One question I would like you to take up is this: Is Religion a necessary part of a Conservative’s world view?

    I don’t think so. But it sure is easier to be a Conservative if you’re religious!

    The conservative need not be a member of a religion or even a believer of any sort but they can’t help but see the need for religious institutions.

    I concur! Cicero, William James, and Eisenhower come to mind as folk who saw a social value in religion independent of whether the religion’s doctrines are correct.

    One thing I have always wondered about when I meant a strong atheist libertarian is what they expect to replace religion with? I mean what kind of civil society stands against Government over reach if that society is anchored by bowling leagues?

    Indeed. The term is “Burkean platoons,” isn’t it? And I think Tocqueville talked about this too

    Another way of asking this is I suppose is according to your post here can you be a real conservative without religion or at least being someone that sees religious belief as a virtue?

    I do think it is possible. But I think it’s harder, which might be why it’s so rare.

    What about Krauthammer? He’s not religious, is he?

    • #5
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:26 AM PDT
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  6. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Augustine:What about Krauthammer? He’s not religious, is he?

    No, but like Jonah Goldberg, as another example and Charles C.W. Cooke they see the value in religion and recognize it as an important part of civil society. They don’t want anything to do with Religion personally but see the value in it for the many believers.

    Some libertarians just want to dismiss all “Bible thumpers” to the dust bin of history and live free and clear of religious types. I have always wondered what bedrock they think society will base itself on to secure their future. Even given Ayn Rand fiction as soon as the chosen, talented few have rebuilt society for the masses I am pretty sure they will start voting themselves bigger government again.

    Thank you for your thoughts and the shout out to Alvin Plantinga who I really enjoy reading in your original post.

    • #6
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:41 AM PDT
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  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Augustine:

    What about Krauthammer? He’s not religious, is he?

    Krauthammer on religion: Jewish, not religious, thinks atheism is highly improbable.

    • #7
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:41 AM PDT
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  8. Profile Photo Member

    Brian Wolf:One question I would like you to take up is this: Is Religion a necessary part of a Conservative’s world view?

    The conservative need not be a member of a religion or even a believer of any sort but they can’t help but see the need for religious institutions. One thing I have always wondered about when I meant a strong atheist libertarian is what they expect to replace religion with? I mean what kind of civil society stands against Government over reach if that society is anchored by bowling leagues?

    Do we think perhaps organizations like the Federalist Society or some such would step in?

    Another way of asking this is I suppose is according to your post here can you be a real conservative without religion or at least being someone that sees religious belief as a virtue?

    I seriously doubt most libertarians (regardless of religious affiliation) even entertain the thought of religion being replaceable. We have to realize that ceteris paribus is an apparent guiding principle of libertarianism, which is heavy on the assumption that nearly all of society will stay as close to same as possible, regardless of changes that happen.

    Most conservatives ought to know that Ceteris is never Paribus.

    • #8
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:47 AM PDT
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  9. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Brian Wolf:

    Thank you for your thoughts and the shout out to Alvin Plantinga who I really enjoy reading in your original post.

    Thank you for reading!

    I have two published articles dealing with Plantinga. One is online here, but it deals directly w/ Plantinga a bit less than the other.

    • #9
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:48 AM PDT
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  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Oh my, I’m on the Main Feed. My gratitude goes out to the Editors. Or at least to one of them.

    • #10
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:53 AM PDT
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  11. Profile Photo Member

    IOW, conservatives very much should know that, when comparing a current action to what happened previously, there are ALWAYS other, mitigating, circumstances. Too many conservatives tend to skirt past this.

    • #11
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:53 AM PDT
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  12. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Augustine:

    Brian Wolf:

    Thank you for your thoughts and the shout out to Alvin Plantinga who I really enjoy reading in your original post.

    Thank you for reading!

    I have two published articles dealing with Plantinga. One is online here, but it deals directly w/ Plantinga a bit less than the other.

    I only had time for the first two pages and one foot note but I am hooked. Later tonight I am going to really enjoy your article. Thank again.

    • #12
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:54 AM PDT
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  13. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Enjoyed this a lot. I disagreed with a lot of it, but that’s a different matter.

    The fact that things have natures is the reason they have proper functions. The proper function of a heart is to pump blood, because its nature is that of a blood-pumping thing. The function of an eye is to see, because it is a seeing thing. The function of a leg is to walk, because it is a walking thing.

    To me, this seems to get things very backward, arguing function from purpose, rather than the other way around. Put differently, it seems to treat the definition of things as more important — and fundamental — than their physical reality. I’m not saying this kind of thinking is categorically wrong, but that it seems like the wrong default.

    Moreover, I’m less skeptical of the existence of natures than I am of people’s ability to accurately identify them, either in part or in the whole. Many — if not most — things have multiple functions and uses, and the most apparent are not always the best or most important. Heck, oftentimes they’re in opposition to the intent of their creator.

    To take an obvious example, open water swimming is pretty clearly contrary to human nature: we’re physically ill-equipped for it and cannot do it without training and practice. Now I’m by no means accusing conservatives of opposing swimming, but the kind of mentality you’re describing — inferring “nature” from natural function — would seem to proscribe the kind of thinking that would lead to swimming’s discovery and oppose its adoption.

    • #13
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:55 AM PDT
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  14. donald todd Inactive

    1. I too enjoy CS Lewis

    2. I too believe that there is such a thing as human “nature” and that, like everything else it can be ignored or abused or denied

    3. I too believe in sin; and would note that people who have come back from hitting bottom are told to find those they have hurt and give them an apology. This from Alcoholics Anonymous and the Big Book

    4. We are once again seeing the splintering of religion, in part in the old way of schisms and breaks, but in part in a new way. Some parts of Christianity are now subject to a moral break from the old norms of moral behavior. We once shared a nearly monolithic moral position but that is no longer true and it works against the Author of truth and against us

    5. Smoking was mentioned so it seems wise to note that tobacco is not illegal and what is not illegal is permitted even if it is harmful; and tobacco is not alone in the category of what is permitted even should it be harmful

    Once we get to this point, we are trying to strip away freedoms in favor of control or coercion. (Of note, I am not a smoker, other than an occasional cigar should a father have a child. I welcome that cigar and even more, that child.)

    6. We are free to be wrong

    • #14
    • June 15, 2015, at 6:55 AM PDT
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  15. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Augustine:1. We believe that any kind of an island theory of human nature is mistaken…

    One consequence of this is that there is no such thing as a real but victimless crime. Every sin has a network of victims: starting with the sinner himself (as my homeboy Plato, a great enemy of island theories of human nature, understood) then moving outward to include the people close to him who hurt when he hurts, the people the sinner didn’t do good for as a result of his hurting himself, and moving further outward to include the people who had to help the sinner recover from the effects of his sin, and the other people they couldn’t help while they were busy helping him.

    For the record, I think there’s a lot to this that’s correct. One real eye-opening thing for me a few years ago was when a friend’s car was stolen (though later recovered). The details aren’t important, but the incredible ripple effects that one evil act had on dozens of people was remarkable.

    Augustine:There is a whole lot of room for common ground with Libertarians even if you reject island theories (and I imagine some genuine Libertarians do agree with us on this point).

    …But some of us might be up for combining a non-island theory of human nature with a liberty-based idea of economic cooperation; think Von Mises and the book I, Pencil. And, to be candid, many of us are comfortable with a degree of regulation and some sort of a scaled-down welfare system.

    Thank you. There’s a style of libertarianism — “radical communitariansm,” as I believe Midge has described it — that fits this very well.

    • #15
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  16. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Human beings attempt (and succeed) at defying nature all the time.

    Gravity seeks to draw airplanes towards the Earth’s center of gravity – we defy this by putting wings on giant Tylenols so that they soar gracefully through the air.

    Airplanes do not have a “form” of “airplane-ness” – they have a function that we design them to fulfill which by and large isn’t found in nature. We similarly do that with any rotary machine. There is no “Form” of “Wheel-ness” which gives wheels their utility. They come in all shapes and flavors. So, using nature in this fashion isn’t “sinful” any more than using a fly-rod to spur a horse is. This whole argument about form is preposterous.

    Cancer is an entirely natural phenomenon based upon replication errors and genetic drift. We poison ourselves just a little bit in the hope that it kills the cancer before it kills us.

    Examples like this abound. Because human beings are capable of using things in a fashion which the religious don’t approve of doesn’t make that use inherently sinful any more than people harming themselves (and no others) is sinful.

    We should insist that people shoulder the burden of their individual choices rather than collectivizing guilt.

    • #16
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  17. Barkha Herman Inactive

    Repeatedly I hear that just because libertarians don’t want the government to govern something – that they don’t believe it exists. This is a ridiculous assertion. Smoking is bad for you. But unless the Government says it’s bad for you and does something about it, it has no meaning?

    Augustine – let me ask you – if the Government tells you that your God does not exist – will God disappear for you?

    Suggestion: When pondering writing on Conservatism, do that. Comparison to libertarian thoughts are tangents that add nothing.

    On religion being source of knowledge, only the Austrian theory of economics believes that economics is a subset of Praxeology.

    • #17
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:18 AM PDT
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  18. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    For the record, I think there’s a lot to this that’s correct. One real eye-opening thing for me a few years ago was when a friend’s car was stolen (though later recovered). The details aren’t important, but the incredible ripple effects that one evil act had on dozens of people was remarkable.

    I don’t think the comparison is apropos – clearly, your friend had his property stolen and this is a harm under any definition of his natural rights. I don’t think it compares to “sins” such as onanism or intoxication.

    • #18
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  19. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Majestyk:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    For the record, I think there’s a lot to this that’s correct. One real eye-opening thing for me a few years ago was when a friend’s car was stolen (though later recovered). The details aren’t important, but the incredible ripple effects that one evil act had on dozens of people was remarkable.

    I don’t think the comparison is apropos – clearly, your friend had his property stolen and this is a harm under any definition of his natural rights. I don’t think it compares to “sins” such as onanism or intoxication.

    We agree, and I should have made it clear that I was agreeing to the principle, rather than the particular.

    • #19
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:25 AM PDT
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  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Enjoyed this a lot. I disagreed with a lot of it, but that’s a different matter.

    Thanks!

    To me, this seems to get things very backward, arguing function from purpose, rather than the other way around. Put differently, it seems to treat the definition of things as more important — and fundamental — than their physical reality. I’m not saying this kind of thinking is categorically wrong, but that it seems like the wrong default.

    I wasn’t trying to argue function from purpose rather than vice versa. Broadly speaking, I’m an Aristotelian where these matters are concerned, and it’s pretty safe to say that Aristotelianism can avoid these objectionable defaults.

    Moreover, I’m less skeptical of the existence of natures than I am of people’s ability to accurately identify them, either in part or in the whole. . . . .

    I’m very sympathetic to that sort of concern.

    To take an obvious example, open water swimming is pretty clearly contrary to human nature: we’re physically ill-equipped for it and cannot do it without training and practice. . . . the kind of mentality you’re describing — inferring “nature” from natural function — would seem to proscribe the kind of thinking that would lead to swimming’s discovery and oppose its adoption.

    That contrariness doesn’t seem clear to me at all. But it might look like that, and I’ll grant that carelessly dogmatic thinking about human nature could lead to hasty proscriptions.

    • #20
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:26 AM PDT
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  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Augustine: . . . But some of us might be up for combining a non-island theory of human nature with a liberty-based idea of economic cooperation; think Von Mises and the book I, Pencil. And, to be candid, many of us are comfortable with a degree of regulation and some sort of a scaled-down welfare system.

    Thank you. There’s a style of libertarianism — “radical communitariansm,” as I believe Midge has described it — that fits this very well.

    To which I say: Woo hoo!

    Sounds like a good name.

    Oh, dear. Comments are already well out of the range where I can easily read and reply. My apologies in advance to all relevant commenters whose remarks I may ignore in whole or in part!

    • #21
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:27 AM PDT
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  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Majestyk:Human beings attempt (and succeed) at defying nature all the time.

    That’s a different definition of nature.

    This whole argument about form is preposterous.

    No, it’s just Aristotelian.

    • #22
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:28 AM PDT
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  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Barkha Herman:Repeatedly I hear that just because libertarians don’t want the government to govern something – that they don’t believe it exists. This is a ridiculous assertion. Smoking is bad for you.

    I’m confused. I didn’t say anything like that, did I?

    Augustine – let me ask you – if the Government tells you that your God does not exist – will God disappear for you?

    No. I don’t in fact understand why you area asking this question.

    (This may be unimportant for this conversation, but I’m very uncomfortable with the “for you” appended to the “disappear.” If my God exists, he exists for me and for all, whether they know it or not. If he doesn’t exist, he doesn’t exist for me, whether I know it or not.)

    • #23
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:33 AM PDT
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  24. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Augustine:

    Majestyk:Human beings attempt (and succeed) at defying nature all the time.

    That’s a different definition of nature.

    This whole argument about form is preposterous.

    No, it’s just Aristotelian.

    You and Aristotle. Aristotle was wrong about… well, almost everything.

    Why do you bother wheeling out Aristotle as if he’s dispositive? Few people have been more wrong on a variety of topics (and proud of it) than him.

    His ideas about physics and astronomy (which Mr. Leroi mostly, and conveniently, ignores) were wrong in every important respect. Aristotle thought celestial bodies moved in perfect circles, failed to recognize inertia, asserted that velocity—not acceleration— was proportional to applied force, rejected atoms, and argued that the Earth and the heavens were made of totally different substances. As Bertrand Russell observed: “Throughout modern times, practically every advance in science, in logic, or in philosophy has had to be made in the teeth of opposition from Aristotle’s disciples.”

    • #24
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:40 AM PDT
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  25. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Augustine:We believe that things have natures. And when I say “natures,” I mean the sort of “nature” in sentences like “It is the nature of the heart to pump blood” or “The natural function of the kidneys is to clean out the blood.”…

    In general, “the nature of X” refers to the kind of thing X is.

    It is the nature of asthmatics to have asthma attacks?

    It would seem to be, since the kind of thing an asthmatic is is someone who has asthma attacks.

    And natures have implications for how a thing should be; it should be used in accordance with its nature, and not contrary to it…

    The fact that things have natures is the reason they have proper functions. The proper function of a heart is to pump blood, because its nature is that of a blood-pumping thing…

    • Are things contrary to nature sinful, or merely unhealthy?

    • Should anything contrary to nature be subject to government restriction? And which things?

    • Is occasional use of birth control to delay pregnancy an act against nature, or just a refusal to live up to the full ideal of nature (just as I – quite innocently – refuse to live up the full ideal of my body’s nature when I don’t keep constantly in fit condition for running marathons)?

    It is the proper function of asthmatics to have asthma attacks?

    If so, on what grounds do we prevent these attacks?

    Why is treating asthma legal?

    • #25
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:41 AM PDT
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  26. Mike Hubbard Member
    Mike Hubbard Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    1) No man is an island. Agreed, though this is so broad that even Hillary “It Takes a Government to Raise your Children” Clinton would agree.

    2) Going with “nature” as an explanation is a cop out. Cooking food is unnatural, as is most of modern agriculture. There’s a long strain of primitivism in Western Civilization, of getting rid of all that’s modern and unnecessary to get back to basics (primitivism is one of the big themes in Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence). You can explain many bad things with nature—war, rape, murder, theft, cuckoldry—which makes it suspect.

    A better view of nature is to think of it as a pet to be mastered. Our dog is gentle and can do many things, but we’ll never get her to eat salad, and if we abuse her, she has teeth to remind us that she’s descended from wolves. Broadly speaking, civilization owes nature the same respect.

    3) Respect for religion is conservative, but it’s not sufficient to make one a conservative. The religious left is out there, and they grate on me almost as much as the religious right does. For that matter, there’s a fair number of people on the right who think religion is well meaning but dangerously misguides people, like Heather MacDonald.

    • #26
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:44 AM PDT
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  27. Barkha Herman Inactive

    This is also one reason we tend not to like the “get government out of the marriage business” or the “same-sex marriage doesn’t hurt you” idea. If we happen to think that one idea of marriage is less accurate, less beneficial, or less just than another, we fear that its enactment in society will eventually affect everyone. Notably, we tend to think of marriage as an institution that involves everyone: the marriage partners themselves, any children they have, their friends, their family, their neighbors and local church, and even the government.

    Does marriage only exist if the Government sanctions it?

    Government sanctioned marriage is merely a contract that allows legal privileges to another. The rest is really a social contract (family, kids, etc.)

    A close relative married his long term partner so they would get a better deal on health insurance. Both are conservative, one served in the military, one served in state government, both are baby boomers and do not plan on adopting kids. How does their marriage hurt the family? The community? Friends?

    What has hurt Marriage as an institution is not what people do but how they do it – by making it a function of Government. Had it not been, it would not be corruptible, at least not at the level / rate it is now.

    • #27
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:48 AM PDT
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  28. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Majestyk:

    Augustine:

    Majestyk:Human beings attempt (and succeed) at defying nature all the time.

    That’s a different definition of nature.

    This whole argument about form is preposterous.

    No, it’s just Aristotelian.

    You and Aristotle. Aristotle was wrong about… well, almost everything.

    So there’s a book showing what I’ve always known, that Aristotle was wrong about science. From this you presumably infer that he is wrong about metaphysics. It’s a poor inference.

    • #28
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:50 AM PDT
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  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Augustine:We believe that things have natures. And when I say “natures,” I mean the sort of “nature” in sentences like “It is the nature of the heart to pump blood” or “The natural function of the kidneys is to clean out the blood.”…

    In general, “the nature of X” refers to the kind of thing X is.

    It is the nature of asthmatics to have asthma attacks?

    If we stick to the same sense of the word “nature,” the answer is no. Asthma is a defect in the body, a failure of it to live up to its nature.

    Thank you for the opportunity to clarify!

    • #29
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:51 AM PDT
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  30. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Mike Hubbard:1) No man is an island. Agreed, though this is so broad that even Hillary “It Takes a Government to Raise your Children” Clinton would agree.

    Indeed. See the opening post’s “few brief clarifications.”

    2) Going with “nature” as an explanation is a cop out. Cooking food is unnatural, as is most of modern agriculture.

    A different sense of the word “nature.” See the opening post’s reference to the different definitions of that word.

    3) Respect for religion is conservative, but it’s not sufficient to make one a conservative. The religious left is out there, . . . .

    Indeed.

    • #30
    • June 15, 2015, at 7:53 AM PDT
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