Thursday, March 08, 2007

Getting Serious with Siris: II

It may very well be that Siris is correct to think that my argumentative approach has little hope of convincing conservative Anglicans, even apart from questions around the cogency of premise (4). Even if I had a plausible response to such questions, the conservative might be so firmly in the grip of a picture on which all homosexual activity is sinful that he would think it more probable I had made a hidden error somewhere than that the argument was sound--and then he might well think too that I am in the grip of a picture on which some homosexual activity is not sinful. Regardless of how the argument went, we might remain at odds. Thus I will put minutia about the argument aside for now, and look to some other relatively peripheral points Siris made in his original post, Body and Bride, points of some interest in themselves.

On Thomas
First, about Aquinas and women. I had said in passing that

Aquinas was wrong to assimilate humanity to being male, and to go on to picture females as defective males. That view, predating Aquinas of course, has done the church inestimable damage, and continues to tear at its flesh,

having in mind notes on Aquinas I had posted some time ago. There, I called attention to a few quotes from Aquinas in the course of arguing that Aquinas' reasons for denying women ordination should be seen now as specious. The one that really hurt my feelings was this, according to which women come off as freaks like two-headed calves:
If it were not for some [divine] power that wanted the feminine sex to exist, the birth of a woman would be just another accident, such as that of other monsters.
Nisi ergo esset aliqua virtus quae intenderet femineum sexum, generation feminae esset omnino a casu, sicut et aliorum monstrorum.
De Veritate 5, 9, d. 9.

But of course, there is this golden oldie from the ST, according to which woman is in a state of subjection to man not by convention but rather by nature, as she by nature lacks the male measure of rationality:
Subjection is twofold. One is servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit; and this kind of subjection began after sin. There is another kind of subjection which is called economic or civil, whereby the superior makes use of his subjects for their own benefit and good; and this kind of subjection existed even before sin. For good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates. Nor is inequality among men excluded by the state of innocence, as we shall prove.
Summa Theologica I, qu. 92, art. 1, ad 2

And so on to the simply risible:
The woman’s hair is a sign of her subjection, a man’s is not. Hence it is not proper for a woman to put aside her hair when doing penance, as it is for a man.
Summa Theologica Supplement , qu. 28, art. 3 ad 1.

Siris has this to say:
Incidentally, in an aside at the end, Bates brings up the old claim that Aquinas holds that the female is a defective male. In fact, it is Aristotle as received in the Latin who holds that the female is a defective male; Aquinas on the contrary argues that the only thing this can reasonably mean is the Aristotelian view that males result from the semen, as the 'male' principle, overpowering the female principle and that females result from a defect in such power, as a result of which the female principle wins. He denies it any more significance than this.

In light of the above quotations from Aquinas, I do not think Siris' comment is well grounded. Aquinas in De Veritate and elsewhere is not simply speaking in the voice of Aristotle, as Siris seems to suggest; Aquinas is not merely trying to rescue some cogency for Aristotle's off-the-wall biology of sex. To the contrary, Aquinas speaks rather plainly in his own voice. And he does not rest his case merely on the male seminal pricniple "overpowering the female principle" such that the female is defective in the sense of relatively lacking (causal?) "power". Aquinas seems to view the defectiveness of females as having some "more significance" indeed, and not merely because he takes a "male perspective", whatever Siris meant by that. Alas, Aquinas quite plainly says that, were it not for a special exercise of power on God's part, females would be monstrosities. God, by his ordained power has providentially provided the means for the continuation of our species in reproduction by ensuring that the birth of females, I suppose he means to say, is not the relatively rare event one would expect from freaks of nature, but much more frequent. Moreover, female inferiority is evident long after conception not merely in the relative strength of male and female generative principles, but by a natural lack of reason among females.

On the Episcopal Church's Argument
I had summarized the core of TEC's argument in To Set our Hope on Christ this way:

Arg. I
(1) Same-sex unions realizing the unitive end do so by God's love.
(2) Any realization of the unitive end effected by God's love is holy.
Therefore, (3) same-sex unions realizing the unitive end are holy.

Arg. II
(1) Same-sex unions exhibiting effects of the Spirit are holy.
(2) There are same-sex unions exhibiting the effects of the Spirit.
Therefore, (3) There are holy same-sex unions.

Arg. III
(1) The church is permitted to bless holy unions.
(2) Some same-sex unions are holy.
Therefore, (3) The church is permitted to bless some same-sex unions.

I called attention to what seemed to me the main premise in need of support, II(2): an empirical premise. As for II(2) strictly, one SSU exhibiting effects of the Spirit would suffice, I took it to be rather plausible, and tacitly inferred the argument was good on its own grounds, but bad only for not taking account of what would likely convince conservative Anglicans.

Siris thought differently, conceding II(2) for the sake of argument saying:

The conservative Anglican can still point out that a proponent of something recognized as vile -- for instance, pedophilia -- could run a parallel argument; and the problem with such an argument is not that there is no empirical evidence for the effects of the Spirit in pedophile unions, but that there an insuperable obstacle to believing I.1, namely, that pedophilia is immoral, and nothing immoral can 'realize the unitive end'.

That is, Siris thinks the real problem is with I(1), where I say SSUs realizing the unitive end do so by God's love. I(1) is false, Siris is claiming; in effect, for the conservative Anglican SSUs are morally on par with pedophila to the extent that both are simply immoral, period: "nothing immoral can 'realize the unitive end '" he says.

But surely Siris' objection is formally mistaken or logically confused. Even supposing the conservative is right to say SSUs are simply immoral and on that ground cannot realize the unitive end, I(1) is true: perhaps even necessarily. Regimented, I(1) has this form:

For any (x), if x is a SSU realizing the unitive end, then x relaizes the unitive end by God's love.

The only way I(1) could be false is if there were a SSU realizing the unitive end that did not do so by God's love. If there were no SSUs realizing the unitive end--for whatver reason, mind you--I(1) would be trivially true. And if it were impossible for SSUs to realize the unitive end, then I(1) would not be merely true, but necessarily true. Again, Siris' objection is groundless. In fact, as more than one critic has failed to notice about this formalization of TEC's argument, the beauty of it--if I may be so vulgar--is just that the case is focused on the truth of II(2), our empirical premise, where I think TEC is on excellent ground. For TEC's case to the rest of the Anglican Communion has long been thatthere is empirical evidence of numerous SSUs exhibiting effects of the Spirit. Critics are put in the position of having to claim that what seems to all the world like faith is not faith, unity is not unity, charity is not charity, virtue is not virtue, lifelong fidelity is not lifelong fidelity...and not because of any special, evident sin concomitant to the homosexuality of the sexual activity other than the mere fact it is homosexual. The critic's case ends up being a sheer piece of a priori speculation.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

AS, you may have addressed this somewhere in the extensive headwaters upstream... but I would suggest that the "unitive" can be achieved apart from God's love, and in a morally culpable way*; in much the same way that the procreative can be morally good or bad depending on the context of the relationship -- which seems to me to point to your II(2) as the qualitative indicator.
*That the "unitive" can occur in an immoral setting is attested by Paul (1 Cor 6:16 -- intercourse with a harlot leads to the same unity of flesh that happens in marriage).

At 3:37 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Presumably, Paul and his school wrote with a number of notions of unity in mind: the eschatological union between Christ and the Church, between Christ and each member of the Church, in marriages, between a harlot and his or her customer.

The nuptial unitive end would function, perhaps, as a couple's intended realization of an imitation of eschatological union with Christ (though maybe not under just that description). Maybe it is enough to say that the john (or the harlot) does not intend or promise living with the harlot (or the john) with the unitive end in view as a telos; his union with the harlot is merely occurent

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Brandon said...

I address the argument about Aquinas here.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Brandon said...

And the argument about the Episcopal Argument here.


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