Thursday, July 15, 2010

Talking Down

Having just returned from the old alma mater -- the U of Eye Fightin' Eye-rish -- your LakeCountyEye was on-hand down-state to deliver the commencement address. The best applause line of the evening:
You have convened this fine mid-july day to go forth into the world -- and your LakeCountyEye is struck by some incontrovertible facts. The corn is knee high. You're watching the all-star game on the iPhones. And the competent students all graduated back in May. But even though you've been held back for summer school; and even though you face the worst job market since the Great Depression; fear not. Because your LakeCountyEye is living proof that a bright future awaits even you as an Internet blogger.
That line always brings down the house. Afterward, and in the beer tent, a good time was had by all. Your LakeCountyEye can report that the campus was abuzz over a Religion Department instructor who was fired for lecturing that homosexuality is morally wrong. The NewsSun noticed the story, where the instructor, Kenneth Howell said ...
same-sex relations would be acceptable under the concept of utilitarianism, but not under natural moral law. Natural moral law "says that Morality must be a response to REALITY," his e-mail said. "In other words, sexual acts are appropriate only for people who are complementary, not the same." Howell's e-mail also touched on other moral issues, including artificial contraceptives, which he also said would be precluded by natural moral law.
Academic freedom
Now your LakeCountyEye will not go into whether being gay, or birth control, or abortion is morally right or wrong. Nor whether or not Howell's academic freedom was violated. Although your LakeCountyEye notes that Howell didn't waste any time sharing his misfortune with the press. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel; freedom of speech is the second-to-last refuge. But your LakeCountyEye will be the first to recognize a fellow grifter when your LakeCountyEye sees one.

One could do worse than take their direction from Prof Howell. All you need to do is get up on your soapbox and tell everyone that you speak for God. Of course Howell is clever enough to couch it in different terms: he says he speaks for the Natural Moral Law. But everyone knows that is code for saying he takes his dictation from The Almighty. C'mon, the guy is a Catholic theologian.

Operatives who have a candidate to get elected, or an issue to support, or just some pet hobbyhorse to flog -- tell everyone that you speak for natural moral law, or original intent, or self-evident truth, or the goal of history, or manifest destiny, or some other vague highfalutin' concept. Everyone will know what you really mean.

Anyhow your LakeCountyEye knows a good scam and is not one to let an opportunity go to waste. From God's mouth, as they say, to your LakeCountyEye's -- erm -- ear. You heard it here first!


Bystander said...

Very interesting post, Mr. Eye. Wikipedia has a scholarly entry on natural law that mentions "natural moral law," which actually sounds like an oxymoron to me. Naturally, the concept is a Catholic construct, and it has to do with doing the right thing for the right (altruistic) reason. So I conclude that, by natural moral law, (a) homophobia is wrong because it isn't consistent with charity toward our fellow human beings and (b) for a candidate to claim "natural moral law" or "original intent" is wrong because it's strictly self-serving. Come to think of it, that's true of most of what some candidates ever say ...

Anonymous said...

Any comment that begins with "Wikipedia has.." can't be taken seriously. Why don't you read actual defenders of natural law, not an anonymous unaccountable, non-peer reviewed glorified combox.

Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero all embraced natural law. Were they Catholic?

As for "dictates of the Almighty," the depth of your ignorance is stunning. NLT is a philosophical school of thought that offers a non-Scriptural account of certain normative claims.

For example, the Bible says, "Thou shalt not murder.' The NLT says, but I think I knew this already, long before I read the Scripture. What justifies that knowledge? It seems that human beings have intrinsic dignity. So, it seems that it would be wrong to kill them unjustly. (That's an all-too-brief presentation, but you should get the drift)

Barney Baxter said...

hi Bystander,
All I know about Kenneth Howell is what I've read about him. But I suspect that his idea of a Natural Moral Law is not quite the same as the Wiki entry's. I do think the idea plays an important role in political movements that don't mind mixing their politics with religious beliefs. Like the Tea Party.

Barney Baxter said...

hi Anonymous,
I doubt that Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero all embraced natural moral law. One reason being Natural Moral Law strikes me as a contemporary attempt to smuggle theological concepts back into political discourse.

Regarding what you said about "thou shalt not murder". You seem to be saying that it is wrong to kill people -- with your justification being that human beings have "intrinsic dignity". Well "humans have intrinsic dignity" is just another normative claim. What justifies that claim? Is this some transcendent understanding I have? If that's all that it is, then what makes it incorrect for me to say that "humans have intrinsic dignity" is something that was dictated to me by God?