There is a facile enthusiasm about “believing” that is manifest every Christmas season and often enough in-between. Sentimental movies like “The Polar Express” and “The Miracle on 34th Street” chime in with their paeans to believing, and even works like “The Life of Pi” suggest that it is proper and even admirable to accept as true “the better story” even when it is the unlikeliest story imaginable.
At the front end, let me admit that there is a kernel of truth in these expressions. But there is also great danger is assuming that optimism can or should trump reason, and that belief in the truth of whatever appears good or lovely is itself necessarily good.
At least in questions where the relevant evidence is capable of being comprehensively considered, the proper formula is very simple: belief should be according to the evidence. Continue reading →
We recently received a message from “asaasa1983” in response to an article we had written. The article was about helping children nourish healthy sexuality while avoiding destructive and deceptive outlets like pornography. To me it is a relatively secure platform.
Both statistically and within my own anecdotal experience, pornography can have a negative influence on relationships. It’s bad for the viewer and often bad for the people on the other side of the screen—the ones taking the pictures. However, I am not entirely ignorant of arguments against conservative sexual mores. We can come across as uptight, prudish, genophobs. And before I go forward I want to acknowledge that conservative sexual paradigms have at times been restrictive, narrow, and damaging. So there’s certainly some constructive liberal critiques worth listening to.
Still I was surprised by asaasa1983’s response—so surprised in fact that I reproduce it here in its entirety:Continue reading →
You have probably never heard of François-André Danican Philidor. If you were to see a picture of him, he would look like one of a hundred English aristocrats of the eighteenth century: Large nose, powdery wig, silk cravat, waist coat, the works. He was a musician by trade but is remembered today because he wrote a book about Chess. In it he explored nine different ways to begin a game. What he realized, and is remembered for saying, is that “good play of the pawns [is] the soul of chess.”
And why are they the soul of chess? Because they are practically stationary. If chess represented war, the queen, knights, and rooks would be the armies and the pawns the terrain. So the way you orient your pawns at the beginning, dictates so much of how the rest of the game is played. And once they are established, they will remain for the rest of the game relatively immobile. The play happens around them.
In my last “Against Chronological Snobbery” essay I introduced the debate between the “progressive” view of American history (that America’s history has been one of clear moral progress) and the “non-progressive” view (that it hasn’t—i.e., that the question is at least subject to debate). I endorsed the latter position. Representing the “progressive view” was Justice Kennedy’s Obergefell opinion, together with Justice Marshall’s assertion that the founders lacked any remarkable degree of wisdom, and that the greatness of the Constitution is its more recent embrace of equality and individual rights. Representing the “non-progressive” view was Justice Robert’s dissent in Obergefell and Justice Scalia’s dissent in U.S. v. Virginia, both of which included a scathing rebuke of the majorities’ chronological snobbery.
In this essay, I hope to continue my attack on the “progressive” view by assaulting one of its citadels—the self-satisfaction of contemporary mainstream culture with regard to its own value system.
This is the first in a series of posts intended to expose the snobbery that is often entailed by claims of the “progress” of culture. I hope to attack various manifestations of the view that currently popular moral, social, and philosophical views may safely be regarded as superior to those that were popular in past ages. Subsequent posts will deal with issues such as the alleged progress of our moral ideology, our philosophical understanding of the nature of things, and our ability as a culture of foster human thriving. But here I will attack chronological snobbery as it is found in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence. Continue reading →
We live in an age obsessed with self-actualization, self-fulfillment, self-realization, self-discovery, self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-expression, self-help, self-image, self-identity, etc. Selfies, iPhones, YouTube, me time. We’re self-obsessed.
The idea of “being true to yourself” implies that there is a core-self at our centers to which we could, theoretically, be false. But I doubt that. Continue reading →