Friday, December 15, 2006

Duties Before Rights

Duties Before Rights

Interview With Director of Van Thuan Observatory

VERONA, Italy, DEC. 15, 2006 ( By promoting a culture of rights without first promoting a culture of duties, society creates a "babel" of rights in which the strong prevail over the weak, says the director the Van Thuan Observatory.

Stefano Fontana, who heads the institute that promotes the social doctrine of the Church, is also the author of "Per una politica dei doveri dopo il fallimento della stagione dei diritti" (For a Politics of Duties After the Failure of the Season of Rights), published in Italian by Cantagalli of Siena.

In this interview, which also appears on the Web page of the observatory, the author explains why it is necessary for a society to not only promote duties, but to make them a priority.

Q: Two questions immediately come to mind when reading the title of your book. The first is: Has the season of rights failed already? Are we still far from the complete fulfillment of human rights?

Fontanta: It is true that many people in the world do not enjoy even the most basic human rights. But I wonder: Isn't this because other people in the world have sped up the race for the state of the art rights to the point that they have transformed all their desires into rights?

Q: But the Church, and especially Pope John Paul II, has been a leading advocate for human rights for a very long time.

Fontana: The question is not to deny rights, in fact the opposite is true. The point is that we have to understand that without duties rights spiral upon themselves, they annul each other. In the end, the babel of rights leads to the triumph of the right of the strongest. The rights themselves, in order to be truly such, must accept the priority of duty over them. This is the right way to protect rights and the Church has always done that.

Q: Why talk about the priority of duty? Isn't it enough to reaffirm the complementarity between duties and rights?

Fontana: Any right has a corresponding duty and vice versa, this is absolutely true but it is not sufficient. It is easy, in fact, to artificially fabricate a duty that can be used as a justification for a new right. In Italy, the right to abortion is recognized by a law that starts from the duty to nurture life. The right to euthanasia is based on the duty to relieve suffering. The complementarity between rights and duties is true but is susceptible to ideological manipulation. We really have to go back to the priority of duty.

Q: And this priority of duties would be grounded on what?

Fontana: On the priority of receiving and accepting over producing. We do not produce ourselves but we receive and accept ourselves. We do not produce nature but we receive and accept it, we do not produce culture but we receive and accept it. Of course, we also do produce, but on the basis of an original receiving and accepting.

Q: Receiving and accepting implies a duty?

Fontana: Duty is "being available" while a right is "to have the availability of" something. This is why duty does not come from within us but from the outside. Now we have to decide if we are our own masters and the masters of our own being or if we, ourselves, and our own being are entrusted to us as a task. Modern thought holds the first belief and therefore absolutizes rights, I hold the second belief and thus I start from the duties, i.e., from a call, from a task that has been entrusted to us.

Q: It seems to me that the "I" is a rather risky concept: Isn't the "I," i.e., the subject, the place of free creativity? After all, we are who we want to be. We are the architects of our lives.

Fontana: According to the modern notion of consciousness, this is true: the "I" is a pure consciousness that shapes itself as it wishes. However, according to Christian philosophy, from Augustine to Wojtyla, the "I" is not pure consciousness, but is consciousness of being, i.e., it is a subject that becomes aware that it is something that is given to itself. I am first and foremost also a task for myself, I am a duty to myself, I cannot even dispose of myself, as well as of others, as I wish.

Q: In other words, the priority of duty over rights is the response to a call that comes from outside, from transcendence that is?

Fontana: Rights refer to the right to do something. Thus, they refer to having the availability of something. Instead, duty is to be available. Thus, it refers to a dimension that is unavailable to me, which I cannot use but which I must serve. Since it refers to the unavailable, duty always refers to the transcendent. As Dostoevsky said, without God there is nothing a man is bound not do; i.e., there are only rights and not duties.

Q: In the title we see the word "politics." What does politics have to do with duties?

Fontana: Our society is dying from rights. The right to produce man in laboratories and, in general, the right of doing any action is absolutizing technology, and technology alone is deadly. Rights will never put a limit on themselves. Rights are the right to do something; there will always be new things to do and therefore new rights, without any limits. Limits stem from duties. A politics of duties is a politics of sense and of limit.

Q: A politics of duties, where do we start?

Fontana: A politics of duties concerns all social spheres. However, if I were to suggest a starting point, I would say it is the theme of life. It is the first duty we are entrusted with, the first duty that is placed in our hands. When life is denied, all the subsequent duties are weakened and at the end only the rights prevail.

Q: Could you suggest other realms where a politics of duties might be urgent?

Fontana: I think about the fact that we have many universal declarations of rights but none of duties. I think about the fact that no community identity can be created without duties and therefore the dialogue between cultures is extremely difficult. I think about the crisis of citizenship if it does not become an ethical citizenship, i.e., one that is grounded on sharing duties. I think about the many subjects of civil society that would be ready to take on new responsibilities, i.e., duties.

Devopment of Doctrine East and West

Scott Carson's post

Again, thanks to Dr. Liccione.

Ancestral sin and original sin

Ephrem Hugh Bensusan on original sin and ancestral sin

See also his Original Sin in the Eastern Orthodox Confessions and Catechisms and Fr. George Mastrantonis on Ancestral Sin.

Thanks to Dr. Liccione.

Plus, he writes:
An excellent example of the traditional schema for rejecting the Immaculate Conception can be found in the book The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God, by St. John Maximovitch, the relevant chapter of which can be found here.

If one aspect of original sin is inheritable corruption of the body, why should the Blessed Mother not be preserved from it? After all, she contributes 1/2 the matter at conception; if God were to purify the matter miraculously, one could make the case that the Blessed Mother is not really a mother at all, just a womb or incubator.

Plato, The Laws

The Internet Classics Archive Laws by Plato
Alfred Edward Taylor's translation
Banjamin Jowett's translation
unknown translation
Perseus: English, Greek

OUP: The Laws of Plato

Other links:
Plato's Laws in the Hands of Aristotle (pdf)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate

Evolutionary psychology vs... Aristotelian physics. Two alternate explanations of how something is what it is? Is Aristotelian physics committed to a view of efficient causality that precludes neo-Darwinism? I have written on that elsewhere... just some comments.

If the matter is proportioned to form and function, then should we not expect that the body and its tools, including the brain, are hard-wired in a certain way, and differently for the sexes, if being of a certain sex entails a certain role and function within Creation?

book website; Amazon
Biology vs. the Blank Slate
Edge; interview
Tanner lecture
MIT world

Q&A with Steve Sailer; Pinker's Progress
The Great Debate
Observer review

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Used to translate dominus or kurios (and a synonym of lord in this sense).

But also used to translate magister (but not exactly a synonym of teacher).

Which sense is being used to refer to one's teacher? I would think the second. I believe master in the second second is what translates the degree and title conferred upon those who received the appropriate university education in the middle ages and thus had a license to teach.
One is a teacher of some science or skill or art, having 'mastered' it.

It is not the same as being called a master because one is the master of some person. Today in our egalitarian age this meaning of master is unpleasant. I should look up the meaning of si, as in si fu.

Ckhnat has a post on the use of master or lord to refer to one's husband (after the example of Sarah in the OT. This would make me a bit uncomfortable, and seems to me to be an example of illegitimate or sinful patriarchy. A wife is not a slave or maid of the husband. Still, the Church teaches that is a rightful exercise of authority by the husband over the family (as a social unit).

John Finnis critiques Aquinas' account of the husband-wife relationship in his Aquinas, Moral , Political, and Legal Theory, pages 171-5. What would Finnis make of Fr. Check's The Authority of the Husband According to the Magisteruim?

From Christian Order, Karol Wojtyla and the Patriarchal Hierarchy of the Family by G.C. DILSAVER

Edited, 5 April 2007:
Holy Thursday at St. Columkille was a mixed English-Spanish Mass. During the Mass I was thinking of master again, and was look at the Spanish maestro, which seems to be derived from magister. Though the etymology of master is not as obvious to me, I came home to check and see what info was available online. This is what I found at Online Etymology Dictionary:

master (n.)
O.E. mægester "one having control or authority," from L. magister "chief, head, director, teacher" (cf. O.Fr. maistre, Fr. maître, It. maestro, Ger. Meister), infl. in M.E. by O.Fr. maistre, from L. magister, contrastive adj. from magis (adv.) "more," itself a comp. of magnus "great." Meaning "original of a recording" is from 1904. In academic senses (from M.L. magister) it is attested from 1380s, originally a degree conveying authority to teach in the universities. The verb is attested from c.1225.
I don't think Master should be used as a synonym for Lord (Kurios, Dominus), but if the etymology dictionary is correct, it gained the sense of "one having control or authority" rather early.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Access from BC?

The following work when accessed from BC.

An article by Fr. Cessario:

A review of Fr. Sherwin's book By Knowledge and by Love by Daniel Westberg.

an article about autonomy

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Solomon's prayer

Liber Sapientiae, IX

1 “ Deus patrum meorum et Domine misericordiae,
qui fecisti omnia verbo tuo
2 et sapientia tua constituisti hominem,
ut dominaretur creaturis, quae a te factae sunt,
3 et disponeret orbem terrarum in sanctitate et iustitia
et in directione cordis iudicium iudicaret,
4 da mihi sedium tuarum assistricem sapientiam
et noli me reprobare a pueris tuis,
5 quoniam servus tuus sum ego et filius ancillae tuae,
homo infirmus et exigui temporis
et minor ad intellectum iudicii et legum.
6 Nam, et si quis erit consummatus inter filios hominum,
si ab illo abfuerit sapientia tua, in nihilum computabitur.
7 Tu elegisti me regem populo tuo
et iudicem filiorum tuorum et filiarum;
8 dixisti me aedificare templum in monte sancto tuo
et in civitate habitationis tuae altare,
similitudinem tabernaculi sancti,
quod praeparasti ab initio.
9 Et tecum sapientia, quae novit opera tua,
quae et affuit tunc, cum orbem terrarum faceres,
et sciebat quid esset placitum in oculis tuis
et quid directum in praeceptis tuis.
10 Emitte illam de caelis sanctis tuis
et a sede magnitudinis tuae mitte illam,
ut mecum sit et mecum laboret,
ut sciam quid acceptum sit apud te.
11 Scit enim illa omnia et intellegit
et deducet me in operibus meis sobrie
et custodiet me in sua gloria.
12 Et erunt accepta opera mea,
et diiudicabo populum tuum iuste
et ero dignus sedium patris mei.
13 Quis enim hominum poterit scire consilium Dei?
Aut quis poterit cogitare quid velit Dominus?
14 Cogitationes enim mortalium timidae,
et incertae providentiae nostrae:
15 corpus enim, quod corrumpitur, aggravat animam,
et terrena inhabitatio deprimit sensum multa cogitantem.
16 Et difficile conicimus, quae in terra sunt,
et, quae in prospectu sunt, invenimus cum labore;
quae autem in caelis sunt, quis investigabit?
17 Consilium autem tuum quis sciet,
nisi tu dederis sapientiam
et miseris spiritum sanctum tuum de altissimis?
18 Et sic correctae sunt semitae eorum, qui sunt in terris;
et, quae tibi placent, didicerunt homines
et salvati per sapientiam sunt ”.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"Principles of Doing Philosophy"

Never engage someone in a discussion of someone else's thought, even if he believes in it wholeheartedly.

1. He may be misunderstanding or misrepresenting what the author/text is saying. An example: a discussion last week of how AM defines modernity.

2. In a dialogue, one is concerned not with what some accepted authority teaches, but whether that teaching is true or not. So if the other person says, "I believe that x's teaching on y is true," the reply is to see whether this teaching has sufficient support or not, not whether he is reporting the teaching correctly because presumably he believes in this teaching, regardless of whether it is actually that of the author or not.

If it turns out that he's just a yes-man, then a different approach must be taken.

3. This principle is even more important if you yourself are not familiar with the texts or authors to which he refers. So a common basis for dialogue must be sought elsewhere--our knowledge of reality, which should be the primarily resource anyway.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Some articles by Fr. John Behr

Fr. John Behr is a member of the faculty at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary.

The Trinitarian Being of the Church
The Paschal Foundation of Christian Theology

Fr. Oliver Herbel makes references to Fr. Behr in the discussion of St. Maximos and the filioque at Energetic Procession.

(SVS photo gallery)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Worker's paradise?

Today I read an article on the Jesuit Reductions of South America, and posted it over at The New Beginning. Was the evangelization of the Guaraní halted with the destruction of these Jesuit missions? How many Guaraní today are Catholic? How much of the current state of S. American countries is due to the injustices perpetuated by those with power? How great of an impediment to evangelization has been created by these so-called "Catholics"? Did the Church fail to excommunicate when it should have, even at the risk of persecution? And what have the liberal revolutionaries done to improve the situation for the poor? (How anti-Church and anti-clerical were they?)

Should the Reductions be considered to have been truly self-sufficient polities? What sort of crops did they cultivate for food? Did they domesticate animals? What can the transition of these hunter-gatherers to agriculture teach us about limiting the ecological footprint of our communities? While their adoption of European culture (especially music) as their own is well-known, is this an example of cultural imperialism? Or is it the case that the Guaraní found European music to be truly beautiful?

The Reductions were an example of communes--property was owned in common, I believe--though it is not clear to me if there was no private property whatsoever. Were they Communist? Not at all--they were Christian in inspiration. I do not know if the Guaraní owned things in common as hunter-gatherers, and if this was something they carried over into the Reductions, or if it was introduced by the Jesuits. Who exercised leadership in the Reductions? The Jesuits? The Guaraní? A select group among the Guaraní? The Jesuits and the Guaraní jointly? I should see if there are any good histories that would provide the answers to these sorts of questions.

Was this sad event an example of just polities being destroyed by empire? The oppression of the peaceful and relatively powerless by the powerful and the rich?

Tonight I checked out Fr. Augustine Thompson's Cities of God from O'Neill. I will be looking to the Italian city-states to see what sort of lessons can be drawn for the science of politics. Does the conversion of peoples lead to the formation of healthier political communities? And if so, why did it not happen, especially with the Germanic tribes? How does one account for the rise of monarchies and the feudal system? Would not tribes be more likely to have some sort of democratic government? Or did the Germanic tribes grow too big in size for this to be practically possible? Was the feudal system rooted in the customs proper to tribal alliances/subordination?
When did the Germanic tribes start practicing agriculture? Were there different social strata/classes within the tribes?

So many questions for me to find answers to...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

St. Francis de Sales, on the natural love of God

See his Treatise on the Love of God




Cicero, the cardinal virtues?

again, from the De Officiis

{15} V.

You see here, Marcus, my son, the very form and as it were the face of Moral Goodness; "and if," as Plato says, "it could be seen with the physical eye, it would awaken a marvellous love of wisdom." But all that is morally right rises from some one of four sources: it is concerned either (1) with the full perception and intelligent development of the true; or (2) with the conservation of organized society, with rendering to every man his due, and with the faithful discharge of obligations assumed; or (3) with the greatness and strength of a noble and invincible spirit; or (4) with the orderliness and moderation of everything that is said and done, wherein consist temperance and self-control. Although these four are connected and interwoven, still it is in each one considered singly that certain definite kinds of moral duties have their origin: in that category, for instance, which was designated first in our division and in which we place wisdom and prudence, belong the search after truth and its discovery; and this is the peculiar {16} province of that virtue. For the more clearly anyone observes the most essential truth in any given case and the more quickly and accurately he can see and explain the reasons for it, the more understanding and wise he is generally esteemed, and justly so. So, then, it is truth that is, as it were, the stuff with which this virtue has to deal and on which it employs itself.

{17} Before the three remaining virtues, on the other hand, is set the task of providing and maintaining those things on which the practical business of life depends so that the relations of man to man in human society may be conserved, and that largeness and nobility of soul may be revealed not only in increasing one's resources and acquiring advantages for one's self and one's family but far more in rising superior to these very things. But orderly behaviour and consistency of demeanor and self-control and the like have their sphere in that department of things in which a certain amount of physical exertion, and not mental activity merely, is required. For if we bring a certain amount of propriety and order into the transactions of daily life, we shall be conserving moral rectitude and moral dignity.

{18} VI.

Now, of the four divisions which we have made of the essential idea of moral goodness, the first, consisting in the knowledge of truth, touches human nature most closely. For we are all attracted and drawn to a zeal for learning and knowing; and we think it glorious to excel therein, while we count it base and immoral to fall into error, to wander from the truth, to be ignorant, to be led astray. In this pursuit, which is both natural and morally right, two errors are to be avoided: first, we must not treat the unknown as known and too readily accept it; and he who wishes to avoid this error (as all should do) will devote both time and attention

{19} to the weighing of evidence. The other error is that some people devote too much industry and too deep study to matters that are obscure and difficult and useless as well. If these errors are successfully avoided, all the labour and pains expended upon problems that are morally right and worth the solving will be fully rewarded. Such a worker in the field of astronomy, for example, was Gaius Sulpicius, of whom we have heard; in mathematics, Sextus Pompey, whom I have known personally; in dialectics, many; in civil law, still more. All these professions are occupied with the search after truth; but to be drawn by study away from active life is contrary to moral duty. For the whole glory of virtue is in activity; activity, however, may often be interrupted, and many opportunities for returning to study are opened. Besides, the working of the mind, which is never at rest, can keep us busy in the pursuit of knowledge even without conscious effort on our part. Moreover, all our thought and mental activity will be devoted either to planning for things that are morally right and that conduce to a good and happy life, or to the pursuits of science and learning. With this we close the discussion of the first source of duty.

{20} VII.

Of the three remaining divisions, the most extensive in its application is the principle by which society and what we may call its "common bonds" are maintained. Of this again there are two divisions — justice, in which is the crowning glory of the virtues and on the basis of which men are called "good men"; and, close akin to justice, charity, which may also be called kindness or generosity. The first office of justice is to keep one man from doing harm to another, unless provoked by wrong; and the next is to lead men to use common possessions for the common interests, private property for their own.

{21} There is, however, no such thing as private ownership established by nature, but property becomes private either through long occupancy (as in the case of those who long ago settled in unoccupied territory) or through conquest (is in the case of those who took it in war) or by due process of law, bargain, or purchase, or by allotment. On this principle the lands of Arpinum are said to belong to the Arpinates, the Tusculan lands to the Tusculans; and similar is the assignment of private property. Therefore, inasmuch as in each case some of those things which by nature had been common property became the property of individuals, each one should retain possession of that which has fallen to his lot; and if anyone appropriates to himself anything beyond that, he will be violating the laws of human society.

{22} But since, as Plato has admirably expressed it, we are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold, everything that the earth produces is created for man's use; and as men, too, are born for the sake of men, that they may be able mutually to help one another; in this direction we ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by our skill, our industry, and our talents to cement human society more closely together, man to man.

{23} The foundation of justice, moreover, is good_faith; — that is, truth and fidelity to promises and agreements. And therefore we may follow the Stoics, who diligently investigate the etymology of words; and we may accept their statement that "good faith" is so called because what is promised is "made good," although some may find this derivation/a rather farfetched. There are, on the other hand, two kinds of injustice — the one, on the part of those who inflict wrong, the other on the part of those who, when they can, do not shield from wrong those upon whom it is being inflicted. For he who, under the influence of anger or some other passion, wrongfully assaults another seems, as it were, to be laying violent hands upon a comrade; but he who does not prevent or oppose wrong, if he can, is just as guilty of wrong as if he deserted his parents or his friends or his country.

{24} Then, too, those very wrongs which people try to inflict on purpose to injure are often the result of fear: that is, he who premeditates injuring another is afraid that, if he does not do so, he may himself be made to suffer some hurt. But, for the most part, people are led to wrong-doing in order to secure some personal end; in this vice, avarice is generally the controlling motive.

Cicero, ius naturale?

De Officiis,

{11} IV.

First of all, Nature has endowed every species of living creature with the instinct of self-preservation, of avoiding what seems likely to cause injury to life or limb, and of procuring and providing everything needful for life — food, shelter, and the like. A common property of all creatures is also the reproductive instinct (the purpose of which is the propagation of the species) and also a certain amount of concern for their offspring. But the most marked difference between man and beast is this: the beast, just as far as it is moved by the senses and with very little perception of past or future, adapts itself to that alone which is present at the moment; while man — because he is endowed with reason, by which he comprehends the chain of consequences, perceives the causes of things, understands the relation of cause to effect and of effect to cause, draws analogies, and connects and associates the present and the future — easily surveys the course of his whole life and makes the necessary preparations for its conduct strangely tender love for his offspring. She also prompts men to meet in companies, to form public assemblies and to take part in them themselves; and she further dictates, as a consequence of this, the effort on man's part to provide a store of things that minister to his comforts and wants — and not for himself alone, but for his wife and children and the others whom he holds dear and for whom he ought to provide; and this responsibility also stimulates his courage and makes it stronger for the active duties of life. {13} Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man. And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life. Thus we come to understand that what is true, simple, and genuine appeals most strongly to a man's nature. To this passion for discovering truth there is added a hungering, as it were, for independence, so that a mind well-moulded by Nature is unwilling to be subject to anybody save one who gives rules of conduct or is a teacher of truth or who, for the general good, rules according to justice and law. From this attitude come greatness_of_soul and a sense of superiority to worldly conditions.

{14} And it is no mean manifestation of Nature and Reason that man is the only animal that has a feeling for order, for propriety, for moderation in word and deed. And so no other animal has a sense of beauty, loveliness, harmony in the visible world; and Nature and Reason, extending the analogy of this from the world of sense to the world of spirit, find that beauty, consistency, order are far more to be maintained in thought and deed, and the same Nature and Reason are careful to do nothing in an improper or unmanly fashion, and in every thought and deed to do or think nothing capriciously. It is from these elements that is forged and fashioned that moral goodness which is the subject of this inquiry — something that, even though it be not generally ennobled, is still worthy of all honour;[2] and by its own nature, we correctly maintain, it merits praise even though it be praised by none.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sarah Byers article

on how Descartes gets Aristotle wrong on the definition of life

see Review of Metaphysics

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fr. Giertych on Thomistic contemplation


verify with Summa Theologiae?

Analysis of the Moral Act by Antonio Pardo


see ST I II 18, 10-11
Steven J. Jensen, "Do Circumstances Give Species?" The Thomist (Jan. 2006)

TOB Institute

main page

Retranslating the Theology of the Body: Pt 1, 2

Dr. Chris Burgwald interviews Dr. Waldstein

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A response to the conciliarists

Or to the Orthodox who would use the Council of Constance as an argument against papal authority, for that matter...

Either [a] one of the claimants was the pope and he resigned for the good of the Church, or [b] there was no legitimate pope to begin with.

The pope could resign on his own initiative, seeing that it was practically impossible to adjudicate between the competing claims. This does not mean that the council itself was responsible for deposing the pope, or that it has a greater authority than that of the pope. The council would be taking credit for something that was not due.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Peter Simpson on the U.S. Constitution

video/lecture; ppt

Magna Moralia

Not Aristotle's, but St. Gregory the Great's commentary on the Book of Job... sigh. Will it ever be available in English translation online or in print? There's this, but as you can see, it is not complete. Someone should reprint the Patrologia with acid-free/library-suitable paper; I wonder how much that would cost... it's unlikely I would be able to get the complete set.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Documenti e studi

special topic: ethics
published by SISMEL


(also, RSPT website)

20% off new releases from CUA Press

For a limited time: refer to discount code PHB when placing your order.
CUA Press

The following titles are included in the sale:
The Soul of the Person, Adrian J. Reimers
The Person and the Polis, ed. Craig Steven Titus
Human Nature in its Wholeness, ed. Daniel Robinson, Gladys Sweeney, and Richard Gill, L.C.
The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy, S.J. McGrath
The Religion of Reality, Didier Maleuvre
Praeambula Fidei, Ralph McInerny
God and Evolution, Jozef Zycinski
Christian Faith and Human Understanding, Robert Sokolowski
Resilience and the Virtue of Fortitude, Craig Steven Titus
The Augustinian Person, Peter Burnell
Cusanus, ed. Peter J. Casarella
In Search of Schopenhauer's Cat, Raymond B. Marcin
From the Nature of the Mind to Personal Dignity, Juan Franck
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Vol. 1 and 2, Jean-Pierre Torrell
A Short History of Thomism, Romanus Cessario
Ethica Thomistica, Ralph McInerny
St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition
Commentaries on Aristotle's On Sense and What is Sensed and On Memory and Recollection
Personalist Papers, John F. Crosby
The Philosophical Vision of John Duns Scotus, Mary Beth Ingham and Mechthild Dreyer
Truth Matters, ed. John Trapani, Jr.
Form and Being, Lawrence Dewan
The Texture of Being, Kenneth L. Schmitz
Metaphysical Themes in Thomas Aquinas II, John Wippel

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Theopoiesis vs. Theosis

Via Pontifications

Peter Leithart on Theopoiesis.

Carl Mosser of Eastern College gave a superb presentation on deification at the ETS meeting. A large part of the presentation was a study of terminology. He noted that the Greek work THEOS (often thought to be equivalent to "God") had a broader meaning, referring to powers that were immortal, incorruptible, and glorious - the very words that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15 to describe the resurrected body. For the early fathers, this is what is meant by "deification," and they frequently link the doctrine to adoption via Psalm 82. Deification is not a capitulation to Hellenism (as Harnack argued) but grew out of biblical exegesis and the patristic understanding of salvation. (Interestingly, Mosser said that 2 Peter 1:4 plays little role in the earliest fathers.)

Gregory of Nazianzus was the first to use the word "theosis" to describe this, and he used it very infrequently. The doctrine and terminology of theosis kicks into gear with Pseudo-Dionysus, the hesychast controversy, Palamas and Maximus the confessor. It is thus linguistically anachronistic to claim that the early fathers have a doctrine of "theosis." With the hesychast controversy, not only the terminology but the doctrine changes. Instead of a strongly soteriological understanding of deification, theosis develops in a mystical context, and is worked out by Palamas and others through the distinction between the essence and energies of God, a distinction that has no place in the earliest doctrine of deification.

The confusion of theosis and the broader doctrine of deification creates significant ecumenical problems. Deification is an ecumenical doctrine, taught in some form by everyone from Irenaeus to Wesley and beyond, but theosis is a distinctly Orthodox development. When the two are confused, deification appears to be a distinctly Orthodox teaching as well. Treating the two as synonymous also leads ecumenically minded Western theologians to downplay the distinctiveness of mystical theosis; Eastern apologists, meanwhile, claim that a true doctrine of deification must take the uniquely Eastern form - complete with the essence/energies distinction - and when the West is found to lack such a teaching, Eastern apologists can claim that the West lacks a doctrine of deification as such.

Mosser ended with some consideration of the best way to describe the reality of deification. The term raises problems, since it implies that men become deities; divinization is hardly better. Mosser suggested that "theopoiesis" is the best way to describe the general, ecumenical view of the church, of which theosis is a uniquely Orthodox variation.

Discussion at Sacramentum Vitae.

Religious Liberty Has Public Dimension, Says Pope

Religious Liberty Has Public Dimension, Says Pope

During New Italian President's First Official Visit to Vatican

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 20, 2006 ( During Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's first official visit to the Vatican, Benedict XVI stressed that authentic religious freedom is not simply the absence of violence against believers.

The Pope explained to his guest, who arrived to the Vatican accompanied by his wife and a group of high-level governmental officials, that the religious dimension also has a public dimension which must be guaranteed.

"The Church and the state, though fully different, are both called, according to their respective missions and with their own ends and means, to serve man who is at once the end and participant of the salvific mission of the Church and citizen of the state, and they collaborate in promoting his integral good," the Holy Father said.

At the same time, "man appears before the state with his religious dimension, which consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God," the Pontiff said, quoting from the Second Vatican Council declaration "Dignitatis Humanae," No. 3.

"No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind," Benedict XVI added.

The Pope said it is an error "to consider that the right to religious freedom is sufficiently guaranteed when personal convictions suffer no violence or interference, or when we limit ourselves to respecting the expression of faith within the confines of a place of worship."

Social nature

"It cannot, in fact, be forgotten that the social nature of man itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion; that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community," the Holy Father stated.

"Religious freedom is, then, not just of individuals, but also of families, of religious groups and of the Church herself," he indicated, in an address that was broadcast on public television channel RAI 1.

Benedict XVI continued: "An adequate respect of the right to religious freedom implies, then, the commitment of civil authorities in helping to create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men's faithfulness to God and to his holy will.

"The freedom that the Church and Christians claim does not prejudice the interests of the state or of other social groups, and does not seek an authoritative supremacy over them. Rather, it is a condition enabling the fulfillment of the vital service that the Church offers to Italy, and to all other countries in which she is present."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Professor Heck's most recent critique of the PGR

Richard G. Heck's webpage

his recent critique of the PGR (his original critique, written about 4 years ago)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More things for me to look up

Revival Preachers and Politics in 13th-Century Italy; The Cult of Remembrance and the Black Death; & Death and Ritual in Renaissance Florence

(Includes a review of Fr. Thompson's, O.P. first book, Revival Preachers and Politics in Thirteenth-Century Italy (1992).)

Go to BC for this:

(Should contain a review of Cities of God.)

The Mendicant Orders and Sanctity in the Thirteenth Century: A Bibliography

Remember Kenneth Pennington

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Philosophical Gourmet Report

Dr. Pakaluk's original post
Resonse by Keith DeRose. (Scroll down for update.)
Dr. Pakaluk's response to Dr. DeRose.

PGR on ancient philosophy

On medieval philosophy
The evaluators: Jeff Brower, Brian Leftow, Scott MacDonald, Calvin Normore, Eleonore Stump.

Come on, the majority of whom are known analytics? And their judgments of analytic-dominated historical programs might not be biased? (Look at which programs are ranked high and which are not.)

R. Cessario, "The Sacred, Religion, and Morality"

access from BC?

Cessario, Romanus "The Sacred, Religion, and Morality"Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture - Volume 9, Number 4, Fall 2006, pp. 16-32 Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

BMCR of Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship


See Action and contemplation : studies in the moral and political thought of Aristotle / Robert C. Bartlett, Susan D. Collins, editors.

5. The Natural Foundations of Right and Aristotelian Philosophy / Richard Bodeus and Kent Enns

L'exemple du dieu dans le discours aristotélicien

His faculty listing.

Clifford A. Bates' website; Aristotle on Founders

Obedience, Transgression, and Conquest: Aristotle on the Rule of Law

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fr. Ashley, Dei Verbum and Christian Morals

Catholic Dossier article

Leon Kass, The End of Courtship

The End of Courtship

By Leon R. Kass

In the current wars over the state of American culture, few battlegrounds have seen more action than that of "family values"--sex, marriage, and child-rearing. Passions run high about sexual harassment, condom distribution in schools, pornography, abortion, gay marriage, and other efforts to alter the definition of "a family." Many people are distressed over the record-high rates of divorce, illegitimacy, teenage pregnancy, marital infidelity, and premarital promiscuity. On some issues, there is even an emerging consensus that something is drastically wrong: Though they may differ on what is to be done, people on both the left and the right have come to regard the break-up of marriage as a leading cause of the neglect, indeed, of the psychic and moral maiming, of America's children. But while various people are talking about tracking down "dead-beat dads" or reestablishing orphanages or doing something to slow the rate of divorce--all remedies for marital failure--very little attention is being paid to what makes for marital success. Still less are we attending to the ways and mores of entering into marriage, that is, to wooing or courtship.

There is, of course, good reason for this neglect. The very terms--"wooing," "courting," "suitors"--are archaic; and if the words barely exist, it is because the phenomena have all but disappeared. Today, there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony. This is true not just for the lower or under classes.Even--indeed especially--the elite, those who in previous generations would have defined the conventions in these matters, lack a cultural script whose denouement is marriage. To be sure, there are still exceptions, to be found, say, in closed religious communities or among new immigrants from parts of the world that still practice arranged marriage. But for most of America's middle-- and upper-class youth--the privileged college-educated and graduated--there are no known explicit, or even tacit, social paths directed at marriage. People still get married--though later, less frequently, more hesitantly, and, by and large, less successfully. People still get married in churches and synagogues--though often with ceremonies of their own creation. But, for the great majority, the way to the altar is uncharted territory: It's every couple on its own bottom, without a compass, often without a goal. Those who reach the altar seem to have stumbled upon it by accident.

Then and now

Things were not always like this; in fact, one suspects things were never like this, not here, not anywhere. We live, in this respect as in so many others, in utterly novel and unprecedented times. Until what seems like only yesterday, young people were groomed for marriage, and the paths leading to it were culturally well set out, at least in rough outline. In polite society, at the beginning of this century, our grandfathers came a-calling and a-wooing at the homes of our grandmothers, under conditions set by the woman, operating from strength on her own turf. A generation later, courting couples began to go out on "dates," in public and increasingly on the man's terms, given that he had the income to pay for dinner and dancing. To be sure, some people "played the field," and, in the pre-war years, dating on college campuses became a matter more of proving popularity than of proving suitability for marriage. But, especially after the war, "going-steady" was a regular feature of high-school and college life; the age of marriage dropped considerably, and high-school or college sweethearts often married right after, or even before, graduation. Finding a mate, no less than getting an education that would enable him to support her, was at least a tacit goal of many a male undergraduate; many a young woman, so the joke had it, went to college mainly for her MRS. degree, a charge whose truth was proof against libel for legions of college coeds well into the 1960s. (1)

In other respects as well, the young remained culturally attached to the claims of "real life." Though times were good, fresh memory kept alive the poverty of the recent Great Depression and the deaths and dislocations of the war; necessity and the urgencies of life were not out of sight, even for fortunate youth. Opportunity was knocking, the world and adulthood were beckoning, and most of us stepped forward into married life, readily, eagerly, and, truth to tell, without much pondering. We were simply doing--some sooner, some later--what our parents had done, indeed, what all our forebears had done.

Not so today. Now the vast majority goes to college, but very few--women or men--go with the hope, or even the wish, of finding a marriage partner. Many do not expect to find there even a path to a career; they often require several years of post-graduate "time off" to figure out what they are going to do with themselves. Sexually active--in truth, hyperactive--they flop about from one relationship to another; to the bewildered eye of this admittedly much-too-old but still romantic observer, they manage to appear all at once casual and carefree and grim and humorless about getting along with the opposite sex. The young men, nervous predators, act as if any woman is equally good: They are given not to falling in love with one, but to scoring in bed with many. And in this sporting attitude they are now matched by some female trophy hunters.

But most young women strike me as sad, lonely, and confused; hoping for something more, they are not enjoying their hard-won sexual liberation as much as liberation theory says they should. (2) Never mind wooing, today's collegians do not even make dates or other forward-looking commitments to see one another; in this, as in so many other ways, they reveal their blindness to the meaning of the passing of time. Those very few who couple off seriously and get married upon graduation as we, their parents, once did are looked upon as freaks.

After college, the scene is even more remarkable and bizarre: singles bars, personal "partner wanted" ads (almost never mentioning marriage as a goal), men practicing serial monogamy (or what someone has aptly renamed "rotating polygamy"), women chronically disappointed in the failure of men "to commit." For the first time in human history, mature women by the tens of thousands live the entire decade of their twenties--their most fertile years--neither in the homes of their fathers nor in the homes of their husbands; unprotected, lonely, and out of sync with their inborn nature. Some women positively welcome this state of affairs, but most do not; resenting the personal price they pay for their worldly independence, they nevertheless try to put a good face on things and take refuge in work or feminist ideology. As age 30 comes and goes, they begin to allow themselves to hear their biological clock ticking, and, if husbands continue to be lacking, single motherhood by the hand of science is now an option. Meanwhile, the bachelor herd continues its youthful prowl, with real life in suspended animation, living out what Kay Hymowitz, a contributing editor of City Journal, has called a "postmodern postadolescence."

Those women and men who get lucky enter into what the personal ads call LTRs--long-term relationships--sometimes cohabiting, sometimes not, usually to discover how short an LTR can be. When, after a series of such affairs, marriage happens to them, they enter upon it guardedly and suspiciously, with prenuptial agreements, no common surname, and separate bank accounts. Courtship, anyone? Don't be ridiculous.

Recent obstacles to courtship

Anyone who seriously contemplates the present scene is--or should be--filled with profound sadness, all the more so if he or she knows the profound satisfactions of a successful marriage. Our hearts go out not only to the children of failed--or non-marriages--to those betrayed by their parents' divorce and to those deliberately brought into the world as bastards--but also to the lonely, disappointed, cynical, misguided, or despondent people who are missing out on one of life's greatest adventures and, through it, on many of life's deepest experiences, insights, and joys. We watch our sons and daughters, our friends' children, and our students bumble along from one unsatisfactory relationship to the next, wishing we could help. Few things lead us to curse "o tempore, o mores" more than recognizing our impotence to do anything either about our own young people's dilemmas or about these melancholy times.

Some conservatives frankly wish to turn back the clock and think a remoralization of society in matters erotic is a real possibility. I, on the other hand, am deeply pessimistic, most of the time despairing of any improvement. Inherited cultural forms can be undermined by public policy and social decision, but once fractured, they are hard to repair by rational and self-conscious design. Besides, the causes of the present state of affairs are multiple, powerful, and, I fear, largely irreversible. Anyone who thinks courtship can make a comeback must at least try to understand what he is up against.

Some of the obstacles in the way of getting married are of very recent origin; indeed, they have occurred during the adult lifetime of those of us over 50. For this reason, one suspects, they may seem to some people to be reversible, a spasm connected with the "abnormal" sixties. But, when they are rightly understood, one can see that they spring from the very heart of liberal democratic society and of modernity altogether.

Here is a (partial) list of the recent changes that hamper courtship and marriage: the sexual revolution, made possible especially by effective female contraception; the ideology of feminism and the changing educational and occupational status of women; the destigmatization of bastardy, divorce, infidelity, and abortion; the general erosion of shame and awe regarding sexual matters, exemplified most vividly in the ubiquitous and voyeuristic presentation of sexual activity in movies and on television; widespread morally neutral sex education in schools; the explosive increase in the numbers of young people whose parents have been divorced (and in those born out of wedlock, who have never known their father); great increases in geographic mobility, with a resulting loosening of ties to place and extended family of origin; and, harder to describe precisely, a popular culture that celebrates youth and independence not as a transient stage en route to adulthood but as "the time of our lives," imitable at all ages, and an ethos that lacks transcendent aspirations and asks of us no devotion to family, God, or country, encouraging us simply to soak up the pleasures of the present.

The change most immediately devastating for wooing is probably the sexual revolution. For why would a man court a woman for marriage when she may be sexually enjoyed, and regularly, without it? Contrary to what the youth of the sixties believed, they were not the first to feel the power of sexual desire. Many, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one's partner than for one's mother.

The supreme virtue of the virtuous woman was modesty, a form of sexual self-control, manifested not only in chastity but in decorous dress and manner, speech and deed, and in reticence in the display of her well-banked affections. A virtue, as it were, made for courtship, it served simultaneously as a source of attraction and a spur to manly ardor, a guard against a woman's own desires, as well as a defense against unworthy suitors. A fine woman understood that giving her body (in earlier times, even her kiss) meant giving her heart, which was too precious to be bestowed on anyone who would not prove himself worthy, at the very least by pledging himself in marriage to be her defender and lover forever.

Once female modesty became a first casualty of the sexual revolution, even women eager for marriage lost their greatest power to hold and to discipline their prospective mates. For it is a woman's refusal of sexual importunings, coupled with hints or promises of later gratification, that is generally a necessary condition of transforming a man's lust into love. Women also lost the capacity to discover their own genuine longings and best interests. For only by holding herself in reserve does a woman gain the distance and self-command needed to discern what and whom she truly wants and to insist that the ardent suitor measure up. While there has always been sex without love, easy and early sexual satisfaction makes love and real intimacy less, not more, likely--for both men and women. Everyone's prospects for marriage were--are--sacrificed on the altar of pleasure now.

Sexual technology and technique

The sexual revolution that liberated (especially) female sexual desire from the confines of marriage, and even from love and intimacy, would almost certainly not have occurred had there not been available cheap and effective female birth control--the pill--which for the first time severed female sexual activity from its generative consequences. Thanks to technology, a woman could declare herself free from the teleological meaning of her sexuality--as free as a man appears to be from his. Her menstrual cycle, since puberty a regular reminder of her natural maternal destiny, is now anovulatory and directed instead by her will and her medications, serving goals only of pleasure and convenience, enjoyable without apparent risk to personal health and safety. Woman on the pill is thus not only freed from the practical risk of pregnancy; she has, wittingly or not, begun to redefine the meaning of her own womanliness. Her sexuality unlinked to procreation, its exercise no longer needs to be concerned with the character of her partner and whether he is suitable to be the father and co-rearer of her yet-to-be-born children. Female sexuality becomes, like male, unlinked to the future. The new woman's anthem: Girls just want to have fun. Ironically, but absolutely predictably, the chemicals devised to assist in family planning keep many a potential family from forming, at least with a proper matrimonial beginning.

Sex education in our elementary and secondary schools is an independent yet related obstacle to courtship and marriage. Taking for granted, and thereby ratifying, precocious sexual activity among teenagers (and even pre-teens), most programs of sex education in public schools have a twofold aim: the prevention of teenage pregnancy and the prevention of venereal disease, especially AIDS. While some programs also encourage abstinence or non-coital sex, most are concerned with teaching techniques for "safe sex"; offspring (and disease) are thus treated as (equally) avoidable side effects of sexuality, whose true purpose is only individual pleasure. (This I myself did not learn until our younger daughter so enlightened me, after she learned it from her seventh-grade biology teacher.) The entire approach of sex education is technocratic and, at best, morally neutral; in many cases, it explicitly opposes traditional morals while moralistically insisting on the equal acceptability of any and all forms of sexual expression provided only that they are not coerced. No effort is made to teach the importance of marriage as the proper home for sexual intimacy.

But perhaps still worse than such amorality--and amorality on this subject is itself morally culpable--is the failure of sex education to attempt to inform and elevate the erotic imagination of the young. On the contrary, the very attention to physiology and technique is deadly to the imagination. True sex education is an education of the heart; it concerns itself with beautiful and worthy beloveds, with elevating transports of the soul. The energy of sexual desire, if properly sublimated, is transformable into genuine and lofty longings--not only for love and romance but for all the other higher human yearnings. The sonnets and plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Keats and Shelley, and the novels of Jane Austen can incline a heart to woo, and even show one whom and how. What kind of wooers can one hope to cultivate from reading the sex manuals--or from watching the unsublimated and unsublime sexual athleticism of the popular culture?

Decent sex education at home is also compromised, given that most parents of today's adolescents were themselves happy sexual revolutionaries. Dad may now be terribly concerned that his daughter not become promiscuous in high school or college, but he probably remains glad for the sexual favors bestowed on him by numerous coeds when he was on campus. If he speaks at all, he will likely settle for admonitions to play it safe and lessons about condoms and the pill. And mom, a feminist and career woman, is concerned only that her daughter have sex on her own terms, not her boyfriend's. If chastity begins at home, it has lost its teachers and exemplars.

Crippled by divorce

The ubiquitous experience of divorce is also deadly for courtship and marriage. Some people try to argue, wishfully against the empirical evidence, that children of divorce will marry better than their parents because they know how important it is to choose well. But the deck is stacked against them. Not only are many of them frightened of marriage, in whose likely permanence they simply do not believe, but they are often maimed for love and intimacy. They have had no successful models to imitate; worse, their capacity for trust and love has been severely crippled by the betrayal of the primal trust all children naturally repose in their parents, to provide that durable, reliable, and absolutely trustworthy haven of permanent and unconditional love in an otherwise often unloving and undependable world. Countless students at the University of Chicago have told me and my wife that the divorce of their parents has been the most devastating and life-shaping event of their lives. (3 ) They are conscious of the fact that they enter into relationships guardedly and tentatively; for good reason, they believe that they must always be looking out for number one. Accordingly, they feel little sense of devotion to another and, their own needs unmet, they are not generally eager for or partial to children. They are not good bets for promise keeping, and they haven't enough margin for generous service. And many of the fatherless men are themselves unmanned for fatherhood, except in the purely biological sense. Even where they dream of meeting a true love, these children of divorce have a hard time finding, winning, and committing themselves to the right one.

It is surely the fear of making a mistake in marriage, and the desire to avoid a later divorce, that leads some people to undertake cohabitation, sometimes understood by the couple to be a "trial marriage"--although they are often one or both of them self-deceived (or other-deceiving). It is far easier, so the argument goes, to get to know one another by cohabiting than by the artificial systems of courting or dating of yesteryear. But such arrangements, even when they eventuate in matrimony, are, precisely because they are a trial, not a trial of marriage. Marriage is not something one tries on for size, and then decides whether to keep; it is rather something one decides with a promise, and then bends every effort to keep.

Lacking the formalized and public ritual, and especially the vows or promises of permanence (or "commitment") that subtly but surely shape all aspects of genuine marital life, cohabitation is an arrangement of convenience, with each partner taken on approval and returnable at will. Many are, in fact, just playing house-sex and meals shared with the rent. When long-cohabiting couples do later marry, whether to legitimate prospective offspring, satisfy parental wishes, or just because "it now seems right," post-marital life is generally regarded and experienced as a continuation of the same, not as a true change of estate. The formal rite of passage that is the wedding ceremony is, however welcome and joyous, also something of a mockery: Everyone, not only the youngest child present, wonders, if only in embarrassed silence, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" Given that they have more or less drifted into marriage, it should come as no great surprise that couples who have lived together before marriage have a higher, not lower, rate of divorce than those who have not. Too much familiarity? Disenchantment? Or is it rather the lack of wooing--that is, that marriage was not seen from the start as the sought--for relationship, as the goal that beckoned and guided the process of getting-to-know-you?

Feminism against marriage

That the cause of courtship has been severely damaged by feminist ideology and attitudes goes almost without saying. Even leaving aside the radical attacks on traditional sex roles, on the worth of motherhood or the vanishing art of homemaking, and sometimes even on the whole male race, the reconception of all relations between the sexes as relations based on power is simply deadly for love. Anyone who has ever loved or been loved knows the difference between love and the will to power, no matter what the cynics say. But the cynical new theories, and the resulting push toward androgyny, surely inhibit the growth of love.

On the one side, there is a rise in female assertiveness and efforts at empowerment, with a consequent need to deny all womanly dependence and the kind of vulnerability that calls for the protection of strong and loving men, protection such men were once--and would still be--willing to provide. On the other side, we see the enfeeblement of men, who, contrary to the dominant ideology, are not likely to become better lovers, husbands, or fathers if they too become feminists or fellow-travelers. On the contrary, many men now cynically exploit women's demands for equal power by letting them look after themselves--pay their own way, hold their own doors, fight their own battles, travel after dark by themselves. These ever so sensitive males will defend not a woman's honor but her right to learn the manly art of self-defense. In the present climate, those increasingly rare men who are still inclined to be gentlemen must dissemble their generosity as submissiveness. (4)

Even in the absence of the love-poisoning doctrines of radical feminism, the otherwise welcome changes in women's education and employment have also been problematic for courtship. True, better educated women can, other things being equal, be more interesting and engaging partners for better educated men; and the possibility of genuine friendship between husband and wife--one that could survive the end of the child-rearing years--is, at least in principle, much more likely now that women have equal access to higher education. But everything depends on the spirit and the purpose of such education, and whether it makes and keeps a high place for private life.

Most young people in our better colleges today do not esteem the choice for marriage as equal to the choice for career, not for themselves, not for anyone. Students reading The Tempest, for example, are almost universally appalled that Miranda would fall in love at first sight with Ferdinand, thus sealing her fate and precluding "making something of herself"--say, by going to graduate school. Even her prospects as future Queen of Naples lack all appeal, presumably because it depends on her husband and on marriage. At least officially, no young woman will admit to dreaming of meeting her prince; better a position, a salary, and a room of her own.

The problem is not woman's desire for meaningful work. It is rather the ordering of one's loves. Many women have managed to combine work and family; the difficulty is finally not work but careers, or, rather, careerism. Careerism, now an equal opportunity affliction, is surely no friend to love or marriage; and the careerist character of higher education is greater than ever. Women are under special pressures to prove they can be as dedicated to their work as men. Likewise, in the work place, they must do man's work like a man, and for man's pay and perquisites. Consequently, they are compelled to regard private life, and especially marriage, homemaking, and family, as lesser goods, to be pursued only by those lesser women who can aspire no higher than "baking cookies." Besides, many women in such circumstances have nothing left to give, "no time to get involved." And marriage, should it come for careerist women, is often compromised from the start, what with the difficulty of finding two worthy jobs in the same city, or commuter marriage, or the need to negotiate or get hired help for every domestic and familial task.

Besides these greater conflicts of time and energy, the economic independence of women, however welcome on other grounds, is itself not an asset for marital stability, as both the woman and the man can more readily contemplate leaving a marriage. Indeed, a woman's earning power can become her own worst enemy when the children are born. Many professional women who would like to stay home with their new babies nonetheless work full-time. Tragically, some cling to their economic independence because they worry that their husbands will leave them for another woman before the children are grown. What are these women looking for in prospective husbands? Do their own career preoccupations obscure their own prospective maternal wishes and needs? Indeed, what understanding of marriage informed their decision to marry in the first place?

Not ready for adulthood

This question in fact represents a more subtle, but most profound, impediment to wooing and marriage: deep uncertainty about what marriage is and means, and what purpose it serves. In previous generations, people chose to marry, but they were not compelled also to choose what marriage meant. Is it a sacrament, a covenant, or a contract based on calculation of mutual advantage? Is it properly founded on eros, friendship, or economic advantage? Is marriage a vehicle for personal fulfillment and private happiness, a vocation of mutual service, or a task to love the one whom it has been given me to love? Are marital vows still to be regarded as binding promises that both are duty-bound to keep or, rather, as quaint expressions of current hopes and predictions that, should they be mistaken, can easily be nullified? Having in so many cases already given their bodies to one another--not to speak of the previous others--how does one understand the link between marriage and conjugal fidelity? And what, finally, of that first purpose of marriage, procreation, for whose sake societies everywhere have instituted and safeguarded this institution? For, truth to tell, were it not for the important obligations to care for and rear the next generation, no society would finally much care about who couples with whom, or for how long.

This brings me to what is probably the deepest and most intractable obstacle to courtship and marriage: a set of cultural attitudes and sensibilities that obscure and even deny the fundamental difference between youth and adulthood. Marriage, especially when seen as the institution designed to provide for the next generation, is most definitely the business of adults, by which I mean, people who are serious about life, people who aspire to go outward and forward to embrace and to assume responsibility for the future. To be sure, most college graduates do go out, find jobs, and become self-supporting (though, astonishingly, a great many do return to live at home). But, though out of the nest, they don't have a course to fly. They do not experience their lives as a trajectory, with an inner meaning partly given by the life cycle itself. The carefreeness and independence of youth they do not see as a stage on the way to maturity, in which they then take responsibility for the world and especially, as parents, for the new lives that will replace them. The necessities of aging and mortality are out of sight; few feel the call to serve a higher goal or some transcendent purpose.

The view of life as play has often characterized the young. But, remarkably, today this is not something regrettable, to be outgrown as soon as possible; for their narcissistic absorption in themselves and in immediate pleasures and present experiences, the young are not condemned but are even envied by many of their elders. Parents and children wear the same cool clothes, speak the same lingo, listen to the same music. Youth, not adulthood, is the cultural ideal, at least as celebrated in the popular culture. Yes, everyone feels themselves to be always growing, as a result of this failed relationship or that change of job. But very few aspire to be fully grown-up, and the culture does not demand it of them, not least because many prominent grown-ups would gladly change places with today's 20-somethings. Why should a young man be eager to take his father's place, if he sees his father running away from it with all deliberate speed? How many so-called grown-ups today agree with C. S. Lewis: "I envy youth its stomach, not its heart"?

Deeper cultural causes

So this is our situation. But just because it is novel and of recent origin does not mean that it is reversible or even that it was avoidable. Indeed, virtually all of the social changes we have so recently experienced are the bittersweet fruits of the success of our modern democratic, liberal, enlightened society-celebrating equality, freedom, and universal secularized education, and featuring prosperity, mobility, and astonishing progress in science and technology. Even brief reflection shows how the dominant features of the American way of life are finally inhospitable to the stability of marriage and family life and to the mores that lead people self-consciously to marry.

Tocqueville already observed the unsettling implications of American individualism, each person seeking only in himself for the reasons for things. The celebration of equality gradually undermines the authority of religion, tradition, and custom, and, within families, of husbands over wives and fathers over sons. A nation dedicated to safeguarding individual rights to liberty and the privately defined pursuit of happiness is, willy-nilly, preparing the way for the "liberation" of women; in the absence of powerful non-liberal cultural forces, such as traditional biblical religion, that defend sex-linked social roles, androgyny in education and employment is the most likely outcome. Further, our liberal approach to important moral issues in terms of the rights of individuals--e.g., contraception as part of a right to privacy, or abortion as belonging to a woman's right over her own body, or procreation as governed by a right to reproduce--flies in the face of the necessarily social character of sexuality and marriage. The courtship and marriage of people who see themselves as self-sufficient rights-bearing individuals will be decisively different from the courtship and marriage of people who understand themselves as, say, unavoidably incomplete and dependent children of the Lord who have been enjoined to be fruitful and multiply.

While poverty is not generally good for courtship and marriage, so neither is luxury. The lifestyles of the rich and famous have long been rich also in philandering, divorce, and the neglect of children. Necessity becomes hidden from view by the possibilities for self-indulgence; the need for service and self-sacrifice, so necessary for marriage understood as procreative, is rarely learned in the lap of plenty. Thanks to unprecedented prosperity, huge numbers of American youth have grown up in the lap of luxury, and it shows. It's an old story: Parents who slave to give their children everything they themselves were denied rarely produce people who will be similarly disposed toward their own children. Spoiled children make bad spouses and worse parents; when they eventually look for a mate, they frequently look for someone who will continue to cater to their needs and whims. Necessity, not luxury, is for most people the mother of virtue and maturity.

The progress of science and technology, especially since World War II, has played a major role in creating this enfeebling culture of luxury. But scientific advances have more directly helped to undermine the customs of courtship. Technological advances in food production and distribution and a plethora of appliances--refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dryers, etc.--largely eliminate the burdens of housekeeping; not surprisingly, however, homemaking itself disappears with the burdens, for the unburdened housewife now finds outside fish to fry. More significantly, medical advances have virtually eliminated infant mortality and deadly childhood diseases, contributing indirectly to the reduction in family size. The combination of longer life-expectancy and effective contraception means that, for the first time in human history, the child-bearing and child-rearing years occupy only a small fraction (one-fifth to one-fourth) of a woman's life; it is therefore less reasonable that she be solely prepared for, and satisfied by, the vocation of motherhood. Lastly, medical advances quite independent of contraception have prepared the drive toward our recently permitted sexual liberation: For the triumph of the sexual is a clearly predictable outcome of the successful pursuit, through medicine, of the young and enduringly healthy human body.

In fact, in his New Atlantis, Francis Bacon foresaw that the most likely social outcome of medical success would be a greatly intensified eroticism and promiscuous sexuality, in which healthy and perfected bodies seek enjoyment here and now without regard to the need for marriage, procreation, and child-rearing. Accordingly, to counter these dangers, Bacon has his proposed Utopian society establish the most elaborate rituals to govern marriage; and it gives its highest honor (after those conferred on the men of science) to the man who has sired over 30 living descendants (of course, within conventional marital boundaries). In the absence of such countervailing customs, as Bacon clearly understood, the successful pursuit of longer life and better health leads--as we have seen in recent decades--to a culture of protracted youthfulness, hedonism, and sexual license.

Technology aside, even the ideas of modern science have hurt the traditional understanding of sex. Modern science's rejection of a teleological view of nature has damaged most of all the teleological view of our sexuality. Sure, children come from the sex act; but the sex act no longer naturally derives its meaning or purpose from this procreative possibility. After all, a man spends perhaps all of 30 seconds of his sexual life procreating; sex is thus about something else. The separation of sex from procreation achieved in this half-century by contraception was worked out intellectually much earlier; and the implications for marriage were drawn in theory well before they were realized in practice. Immanuel Kant, modernity's most demanding and most austere moralist, nonetheless gave marriage a heady push down the slippery slope: Seeing that some marriages were childless, and seeing that sex had no necessary link to procreation, Kant redefined marriage as "a life-long contract for the mutual exercise of the genitalia." If this be marriage, the reason for its permanence, exclusivity, and fidelity vanishes.

With science, the leading wing of modern rationalism, has come the progressive demystification of the world. Falling in love, should it still occur, is for the modern temper to be explained not by demonic possession (Eros) born of the soul-smiting sight of the beautiful (Aphrodite) but by a rise in the concentration of some still-to-be-identified polypeptide hormone in the hypothalamus. The power of religious sensibilities and understandings fades too. Even if it is true that the great majority of Americans still profess a belief in God, He is for few of us a God before whom one trembles in fear of judgment. With adultery almost as American as apple pie, few people appreciate the awe-ful shame of The Scarlet Letter. The sexual abominations of Leviticus--incest, homosexuality, and bestiality--are going the way of all flesh, the second with religious blessings, no less. Ancient religious teachings regarding marriage have lost their authority even for people who regard themselves as serious Jews or Christians: Who really believes that husbands should govern their wives as Christ governs the church, or that a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church and should give himself up to death for her (Ephesians 5:24-25)?

The natural obstacle

Not all the obstacles to courtship and marriage are cultural. At bottom, there is also the deeply ingrained, natural waywardness and unruliness of the human male. Sociobiologists were not the first to discover that males have a penchant for promiscuity and polygyny--this was well known to biblical religion. Men are also naturally more restless and ambitious than women; lacking woman's powerful and immediate link to life's generative answer to mortality, men flee from the fear of death into heroic deed, great quests, or sheer distraction after distraction. One can make a good case that biblical religion is, not least, an attempt to domesticate male sexuality and male erotic longings, and to put them in the service of transmitting a righteous and holy way of life through countless generations.

For as long as American society kept strong its uneasy union between modern liberal political principles and Judeo-Christian moral and social beliefs, marriage and the family could be sustained and could even prosper. But the gender-neutral individualism of our political teaching has, it seems, at last won the day, and the result has been male "liberation"--from domestication, from civility, from responsible self-command. Contemporary liberals and conservatives alike are trying to figure out how to get men "to commit" to marriage, or to keep their marital vows, or to stay home with the children, but their own androgynous view of humankind prevents them from seeing how hard it has always been to make a monogamous husband and devoted father out of the human male.

Ogden Nash had it right: "Hogamus higamus, men are polygamous; higamus hogamus, women monogamous." To make naturally polygamous men accept the conventional institution of monogamous marriage has been the work of centuries of Western civilization, with social sanctions, backed by religious teachings and authority, as major instruments of the transformation, and with female modesty as the crucial civilizing device. As these mores and sanctions disappear, courtship gives way to seduction and possession, and men become again the sexually, familially, and civically irresponsible creatures they are naturally always in danger of being. At the top of the social ladder, executives walk out on their families and take up with trophy wives. At the bottom of the scale, low-status males, utterly uncivilized by marriage, return to the fighting gangs, taking young women as prizes for their prowess. Rebarbarization is just around the corner. Courtship, anyone?

Why it matters

Given the enormous new social impediments to courtship and marriage, and given also that they are firmly and deeply rooted in the cultural soil of modernity, not to say human nature itself, one might simply decide to declare the cause lost. In fact, many people would be only too glad to do so. For they condemn the old ways as repressive, inegalitarian, sexist, patriarchal, boring, artificial, and unnecessary. Some urge us to go with the flow; others hopefully believe that new modes and orders will emerge, well-suited to our new conditions of liberation and equality. Just as new cultural meanings are today being "constructed" for sexuality and gender, so too new cultural definitions can be invented for "marriage," "paternity and maternity," and "family." Nothing truly important, so the argument goes, will be lost.

New arrangements can perhaps be fashioned. As Raskolnikov put it--and he should know--"Man gets used to everything, the beast!" But it is simply wrong that nothing important will be lost; indeed, many things of great importance have already been lost, and, as I have indicated, at tremendous cost in personal happiness, child welfare, and civic peace. This should come as no surprise. For the new arrangements that constitute the cultural void created by the demise of courtship and dating rest on serious and destructive errors regarding the human condition: errors about the meaning of human sexuality, errors about the nature of marriage, errors about what constitutes a fully human life.

Sexual desire, in human beings as in animals, points to an end that is partly hidden from, and finally at odds with, the self-serving individual: Sexuality as such means perishability and serves replacement. The salmon swimming upstream to spawn and die tell the universal story: Sex is bound up with death, to which it holds a partial answer in procreation. This truth the salmon and the other animals practice blindly; only the human being can understand what it means. According to the story of the Garden of Eden, our humanization is in fact coincident with the recognition of our sexual nakedness and all that it implies: shame at our needy incompleteness, unruly self-division, and finitude; awe before the eternal; hope in the self-transcending possibilities of children and a relationship to the divine. (5 ) For a human being to treat sex as a desire like hunger--not to mention as sport--is then to live a deception.

Thus how shallow an understanding of sexuality is embodied in our current clamoring for "safe sex." Sex is by its nature unsafe. All interpersonal relations are necessarily risky and serious ones especially so. And to give oneself to another, body and soul, is hardly playing it safe. Sexuality is at its core profoundly "unsafe," and it is only thanks to contraception that we are encouraged to forget its inherent "dangers." These go beyond the hazards of venereal disease, which are always a reminder and a symbol of the high stakes involved, and beyond the risks of pregnancy and the pains and dangers of childbirth to the mother. To repeat, sexuality itself means mortality--equally for both man and woman. Whether we know it or not, when we are sexually active we are voting with our genitalia for our own demise. "Safe sex" is the self-delusion of shallow souls. (6)

It is for this reason that procreation remains at the core of a proper understanding of marriage. Mutual pleasure and mutual service between husband and wife are, of course, part of the story. So too are mutual admiration and esteem, especially where the partners are deserving. A friendship of shared pursuits and pastimes enhances any marriage, all the more so when the jointactivities exercise deeper human capacities. But it is precisely the common project of procreation that holds together what sexual differentiation sometimes threatens to drive apart. Through children, a good common to both husband and wife, male and female achieve some genuine unification (beyond the mere sexual "union" that fails to do so): The two become one through sharing generous (not needy) love for this third being as good. Flesh of their flesh, the child is the parents' own commingled being externalized, and given a separate and persisting existence; unification is enhanced also by their commingled work of rearing. Providing an opening to the future beyond the grave, carrying not only our seed but also our names, our ways, and our hopes that they will surpass us in goodness and happiness, children are a testament to the possibility of transcendence. Gender duality and sexual desire, which first draws our love upward and outside of ourselves, finally provide for the partial overcoming of the confinement and limitation of perishable embodiment altogether. It is as the supreme institution devoted to this renewal of human possibility that marriage finds its deepest meaning and highest function.

There is no substitute for the contribution that the shared work of raising children makes to the singular friendship and love of husband and wife. Precisely because of its central procreative mission, and, even more, because children are yours for a lifetime, this is a friendship that cannot be had with any other person. Uniquely, it is a friendship that does not fly from, but rather embraces wholeheartedly, the finitude of its members, affirming without resentment the truth of our human condition. Not by mistake did God create a woman--rather than a dialectic partner--to cure Adam's aloneness; not by accident does the same biblical Hebrew verb mean both to know sexually and to know the truth--including the generative truth about the meaning of being man and woman. (7)

Marriage and procreation are, therefore, at the heart of a serious and flourishing human life, if not for everyone at least for the vast majority. Most of us know from our own experience that life becomes truly serious when we become responsible for the lives of others for whose being in the world we have said, "We do." It is fatherhood and motherhood that teach most of us what it took to bring us into our own adulthood. And it is the desire to give not only life but a good way of life to our children that opens us toward a serious concern for the true, the good, and even the holy. Parental love of children leads once wayward sheep back into the fold of church and synagogue. In the best case, it can even be the beginning of the sanctification of life--yes, even in modern times.

The earlier forms of courtship, leading men and women to the altar, understood these deeper truths about human sexuality, marriage, and the higher possibilities for human life. Courtship provided rituals of growing up, for making clear the meaning of one's own human sexual nature, and for entering into the ceremonial and customary world of ritual and sanctification. Courtship disciplined sexual desire and romantic attraction, provided opportunities for mutual learning about one another's character, fostered salutary illusions that inspired admiration and devotion, and, by locating wooer and wooed in their familial settings, taught the inter-generational meaning of erotic activity. It pointed the way to the answers to life's biggest questions: Where are you going? Who is going with you? How--in what manner--are you both going to go?

The practices of today's men and women do not accomplish these purposes, and they and their marriages, when they get around to them, are weaker as a result. There may be no going back to the earlier forms of courtship, but no one should be rejoicing over this fact. Anyone serious about "designing" new cultural forms to replace those now defunct must bear the burden of finding some alternative means of serving all these necessary goals.

A revolution needed?

Is the situation hopeless? One would like to be able to offer more encouraging news than the great popularity--and not only among those 50 or older--of the recent Jane Austen movies, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Emma, and (on public television) the splendid BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. But, though at best a small ray of hope, the renewed interest in Jane Austen reflects, I believe, a dissatisfaction with the unromantic and amarital present and a wish, on the part of many 20- and 30-somethings, that they too might find their equivalent of Elizabeth Bennet or Mr. Darcy (even without his Pemberly). The return of successful professional matchmaking services--I do not mean the innumerable "self-matching" services that fill pages of "personal" ads in our newspapers and magazines-is a further bit of good news. So too is the revival of explicit courtship practices among certain religious groups; young men are told by young women that they need their father's permission to come courting, and marriage alone is clearly the name of the game. Various groups, including David Blankenhorn's Institute for American Values, have put marriage--and not only divorce--in the national spotlight. And--if I may grasp at straws--one can even take a small bit of comfort from those who steadfastly refuse to marry, insofar as they do so because they recognize that marriage is too serious, too demanding, too audacious an adventure for their immature, irresponsible, and cowardly selves.

Frail reeds, indeed--probably not enough to save even a couple of courting water bugs. Real reform in the direction of sanity would require a restoration of cultural gravity about sex, marriage, and the life cycle. The restigmatization of illegitimacy and promiscuity would help. A reversal of recent anti-natalist prejudices, implicit in the practice of abortion, and a correction of current anti-generative sex education, would also help, as would the revalorization of marriage as a personal, as well as a cultural, ideal. Parents of pubescent children could contribute to a truly humanizing sex education by elevating their erotic imagination, through exposure to an older and more edifying literature. Parents of college-bound young people, especially those with strong religious and family values, could direct their children to religiously affiliated colleges that attract like-minded people.

Even in deracinated and cosmopolitan universities like my own, faculty could legitimate the importance of courtship and marriage by offering courses on the subject, aimed at making the students more thoughtful about their own life-shaping choices. Even better, they could teach without ideological or methodological preoccupations the world's great literature, elevating the longings and refining the sensibilities of their students and furnishing their souls with numerous examples of lives seriously led and loves faithfully followed. Religious institutions could provide earlier and better instruction for adolescents on the meaning of sex and marriage, as well as suitable opportunities for co-religionists to mix and, God willing, match. Absent newly discovered congregational and communal support, individual parents will generally be helpless before the onslaught of the popular culture.

Under present democratic conditions, with families not what they used to be, anything that contributes to promoting a lasting friendship between husband and wife should be cultivated. A budding couple today needs even better skills at reading character, and greater opportunities for showing it, than was necessary in a world that had lots of family members looking on. Paradoxically, encouragement of earlier marriage, and earlier child-bearing, might in many cases be helpful--the young couple as it were growing up together before either partner could become jaded or distrustful from too much pre-marital experience, not only of "relationships" but of life. Training for careers by women could be postponed until after the early motherhood years--perhaps even supported publicly by something like a GI Bill of Rights for mothers who had stayed home until their children reached school age.

But it would appear to require a revolution to restore the conditions most necessary for successful courtship: a desire in America's youth for mature adulthood (which means for marriage and parenthood), an appreciation of the unique character of the marital bond, understood as linked to generation, and a restoration of sexual self-restraint generally and of female modesty in particular.

Frankly, I do not see how this last, most crucial, prerequisite can be recovered, nor do I see how one can do sensibly without it. As Tocqueville rightly noted, it is women who are the teachers of mores; it is largely through the purity of her morals, self-regulated, that woman wields her influence, both before and after marriage. Men, as Rousseau put it, will always do what is pleasing to women, but only if women suitably control and channel their own considerable sexual power. Is there perhaps some nascent young feminist out there who would like to make her name great and who will seize the golden opportunity for advancing the truest interest of women (and men and children) by raising (again) the radical banner, "Not until you marry me"? And, while I'm dreaming, why not also, "Not without my parents' blessings"?


1. A fine history of these transformations has been written by Beth L. Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988).

2. Readers removed from the college scene should revisit Allan Bloom's profound analysis of relationships in his The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987). Bloom was concerned with the effect of the new arrangements on the possibility for liberal education, not for marriage, my current concern.

3. In years past, students identified with Hamlet because of his desire to make a difference in the world. Today, they identify with him because of his "broken home" -- the death of his father and the too-hasty remarriage of his mother. Thus, to them it is no wonder that he, like they, has trouble in his "relationships."

4. Truth to tell, the reigning ideology often rules only people's tongues, not their hearts. Many a young woman secretly hopes to meet and catch a gentleman, though the forms that might help her do so are either politically incorrect or simply unknown to her. In my wife's course on Henry James' The Bostonians, the class's most strident feminist, who had all term denounced patriarchy and male hegemonism, honestly confessed in the last class that she wished she could meet a Basil Ransom who would carry her off. But the way to her heart is blocked by her prickly opinions and by those of the dominant ethos.

5. See my "Man and Woman: An Old Story," First Things, November, 1991.

6. This is not to say that the sole meaning of sexuality is procreative; understood as love-making, sexual union is also a means of expressing mutual love and the desire for a union of souls. Making love need lose none of its tenderness after the child-bearing years are past. Yet the procreative possibility embedded in eros cannot be expunged without distorting its meaning.

7. I recognize that there are happily monogamous marriages that remain childless, some by choice, others by bad luck, and that some people will feel the pull of and yield to a higher calling, be it art, philosophy, or the celibate priesthood, seeking or serving some other transcendent voice. But the former often feel cheated by their childlessness, frequently going to extraordinary lengths to conceive or adopt a child. A childless and grandchildless old age is a sadness and a deprivation, even where it is a price willingly paid by couples who deliberately do not procreate. And for those who elect not to marry, they at least face the meaning of the choice forgone. They do not reject, but rather affirm, the trajectory of a human life, whose boundaries are given by necessity, and our animal nature, whose higher yearnings and aspirations are made possible in large part because we recognize our neediness and insufficiency. But, until very recently, the aging self-proclaimed bachelor was the butt of many jokes, mildly censured for his self-indulgent and carefree, not to say profligate, ways and for his unwillingness to pay back for the gift of life and nurture by giving life and nurturing in return. No matter how successful he was in business or profession, he could not avoid some taint of immaturity.

Leon R. Kass is Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and The College at the University of Chicago and author of The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (The Free Press).