The Form of the Argument regarding Marriage

Some people criticizing aspects of the argument of last week’s post, guest-posted at Catallaxy Files, don’t seem to appreciate the flow of the argument re marriage. Let me outline it.


Firstly, the argument begins with an attempt to distinguish marriage from other types of relationship by reference to their orientations. There are many types of relationship in any society (i.e. transactional, civil, enterprise, friendship, familial, tribal, and so on) and the process of distinguishing involves comparing and contrasting each type in order to find what orientation or set of orientations each has that differentiates each from the other. So, the argument begins but does not end with marriage as we have found it historically – thus, the argument is not from tradition. As I’ve said, marriage is distinguishable from other relationships we might find in a society by its orientation towards (a) unifying the persons and (b) the children that may arise therein from such a relationship. Again, all this does is distinguish marriage as marriage from friendship (where each is orientated toward the good of the other) as friendship, and so on.

Continue reading “The Form of the Argument regarding Marriage”


What is Marriage? A Reply to David Leyonhjelm

In the Australian Financial Review (13/7/14) – you can find a copy of his essay here – DL outlined his argument for removing the qualification that marriage is exhaustively a relationship between the sexes. What is his argument? Well, it is actually difficult to grasp.

He begins his essay by comparing ‘arranged’ marriage with ‘modern’ marriage and invites us to consider how the former is any different an interference than our existing situation where marriage is defined as a relationship between the sexes. He presses this claim by then arguing that just as arranged marriages might have been a norm of the past, so too now can we say that marriage being a relationship between the sexes is also a norm of the past. However, what DL fails to do is distinguish between aspects of marriage that are accidental/incidental (changeable) and those that are essential (unchangeable).    Continue reading “What is Marriage? A Reply to David Leyonhjelm”

Secular celebrants in Indiana

Given that a government official was available this is just silly:

(RNS) A federal court has ruled that humanist couples in Indiana can be married by their own “secular celebrants,” something that until now was illegal under state law.

In a unanimous ruling, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said denying humanists the right to be married by celebrants who share their lack of belief in a deity is a denial of their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.

Under a law dating to the 1850s, Indiana required marriages be conducted by religious clergy or government officials. The humanist plaintiffs argued this denied them the right to be married by celebrants who share their philosophy and gave preferential treatment to religious people.

I’m sorry, the absence of a particular belief does not constitute an identity. If they held or shared a set of positive beliefs about the world that they admitted constituted a set of religious beliefs one could see their point. In the absence of that they just appear to be aping people the typically criticize.

h/t: The Anchoress

Everything has a Cause?

Norris Clarke The Creative Retrieval of Aquinas

If you have ever engaged New Atheists in argument over the cosmological argument, you will have had the misfortune of encountering the line that the argument is fallacious, because it commits the error of asserting that “everything has a cause” but of excluding what we call God from the premise. However, no where in the cosmological argument  is there such a premise, “Everything has a Cause”; in fact, the relevant premise in the Aquinas’s First Way, for instance, simply asserts that “Whatever is moved [changed], is moved [changed] by another.” How did this oft-repeated mistake arise? Well, it was an absolute pleasure to be introduced to W. Norris Clarke’s article, A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Arguments (contact me for a copy), a few months back at the Thomistic Discussion Group on Facebook, because, therein, we learn that this oft-repeated mistake probably originated with Hume and traveled to us via the two Mills, and Russell, and has remained with us ever since.

W. Norris Clarke’s essay is also included in his, The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old.

Ed Feser has just provided a detailed discussion of W. Norris Clarke’s essay and the mistake here. I heartily recommend it.


The Calm before the Storm

With the brouhaha over SCOTUS’s Hobby Lobby decision winding  down, I though it would be worth having a look at some fine commentary on the issues raised, as they relate to the decision itself, the broader question of religious freedom, as well as what can be said in the context of the culture war in which such questions are fronts of dispute.

The Decision:

Three clear and concise accounts of the decision where those given by Robbie George, Ryan Anderson, and Ilya Shapiro at First Things, Public Discourse, and The Federalist, respectively. Given the absurd reaction by many liberals, Damon Linker’s essay at The Week was a model of welcome sobriety.

Religious Liberty:

On the matter of religious liberty, the dispute between Hadley Arkes and Ryan Anderson as to the best approach when defending religious freedom into the future is fine fare.

Matthew Frank considers the immediate future of religious freedom.

For a wider view of the ebb and flow of religious liberty in the US, Ed Whelan reviews Steven D. Smith, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom.

The Culture War:

The Hobby Lobby decision has received overwhelming attention, as opposed to other SCOTUS decisions delivered in the last fortnight, apart from the ruling on abortion buffer zones, precisely because both these issues are fronts in the culture war that is gaining pace both here in the US and abroad. At First Things, R. R. Reno concludes, I think rightly, that unless we win the battle over culture, all these legal wins achieve is buying us some time. Nonetheless, both the decision and the time bought are precious given the secular inertia that needs to be set aright. In light of this, Pete Spiliakos considers the importance of winning over public opinion.

At Bloomberg, Megan McArdle considers some of the issues at play in the culture war, with responses by Mark Movsesian and Rod Dreher.

More to come.

Dawson, Piketty, Scruton, Enlightenment, and all that Jazz.

Mervyn F. Bendle considers the work of Roger Scruton.

Edward Feser casts a critical eye on the Enlightenment.

Richard M. Doerflinger takes a look at the two-faces of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) on the matter of the unborn child.

Bradley J. Birzer on the “grey eminence of Christopher Dawson”.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on the mis(fortunes) of Klein, Vox, and the Left.

Robert P. Gregory reports on the narrowing secular gates at our colleges and universities.

Jordan Lorance provides a guide for the perplexed on the issue of religious liberty law.

Kate Maltby on the rights and wrongs of rights-talk.

Paul Merkley on the “perpetual assassination of the Jew Leon Klinghoffer”.

Video: Richard Epstein on Piketty.

Three articles on marriage:  Sarah Albers, Childless elite, Spouseless Poor

Mark D. Oshinskie, To Those Who Wait to Conceive

Ramesh Ponnuru, Pro-Growth, Pro-Family, Again

Richard Marshall interviews Thomas Satting on the double of objects.

Finally, Robert M. Woods reconsiders the Christian humanist, Pico Della Mirandola.


(Il)liberalism, Marriage, Mathematics, the Noseless One, and then some.


Kim R. Holmes on the culture and politics of (il)liberalism.

Ryan T. Anderson ponders Where to from here on marriage at the NRO. While over at RealClearPolicy, along with Robert P. George, they discuss the freedom to marry and dissent, rightly understood. Their book, also co-authored by Sherif Girgis, What is Marriage?, remains one of the most clear and concise discussions available.

James Franklin has written a wonderful piece on what mathematics is about. For those interested in a fuller account of his position, read his most recent book, An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics: Mathematics as the Science of Quantity and Structure.

Is death our friend or enemy? Ed Feser argues that death is, indeed, the last enemy. Over at MavPhil, Bill Vallicella discusses Jack London’s solution to the Noseless One and finds it not up to snuff.

Ross Douthat, at the NYT, takes a sobering look at the prevailing culture of Hefnerism.

Hadley Arkes recasting the case for religious freedom, from sincerity and beliefs to principles and reasons, in a lecture at Hillsdale College.

Randy E. Barnett, a natural law libertarian, discuss his recently updated book, The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law, at

Matthew Frank discusses the inept ventriloquism of Sarah Moon in How Arguments (Do Not) Function at First Thoughts, a blog of First Things.

Finally, and humorously, we find the New York Post reporting that hipsters are ‘racists’. Who knew?