Today Mickey Kaus points to a book from 1978 that demonstrates what he calls an 'eerie prescience.'  The book's thesis is...
...that control of politics has passed out of the hands of the majority in part as a consequence of the development of a body he identifies as "the new elite", whose self identity is based not on ties to a specific community, but on a common reference to "scientific" measurement of intelectual capacity by grade scores and class achievements. This, he contends, drives an anti-majoritarian urge, which removes control from the hands of the electorate. The "new elites" do not accept the principle that all others are entitled to a valid and meaningful vote on issues which concern all of society.
Indeed.  So today, we have a ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by a democratic majority.
The Court finds that neither Congress' claimed legislative justifications nor any of the proposed reasons proffered by BLAG constitute bases rationally related to any of the alleged governmental interests. Further, after concluding that neither the law nor the record can sustain any of the interests suggested, the Court, having tried on its own, cannot conceive of any additional interests that DOMA might further.... 
Prejudice, we are beginning to understand, rises not from malice or hostile animus alone. It may result as well from insensitivity caused by simple want of careful, rational reflection or from some instinctive mechanism to guard against people who appear to be different in some respects from ourselves.
This is not the first time we've talked about this claim that there is "no rational basis" for this definition of marriage.  I remain astonished by the claim, however, because this definition of marriage is backed by a huge amount of rational argument, with a history of hundreds of years.  Just last fall, we looked at Aquinas' arguments on whether matrimony arises from natural law.

Let's make two points about this.

1)  Note the list of citations in the series of sophisticated arguments offered.  The principle cited sources are Cicero and Aristotle, from works on ethics, rhetoric, and politics.  There is only one Catholic text cited, and it's offered as an example of an argument Aquinas rejects.  This underlines the point -- recently made to the German parliament -- that natural law theory is not a Christian but a secular philosophy, one that arises chiefly from the Stoics but also from Aristotle.

2)  Aquinas follows Aristotle and Boethius in defining humanity in terms of its rational nature.  "A person is an individual substance of rational nature."

My point here is not that Aquinas' definition is right, or impossible to argue against, or that you should personally adopt it.  It is that the claim that this definition is without a rational basis is indefensible.  It is simply impossible to sustain that argument.

How much easier, though, to assert it!  How much easier to declare that the problem is "a simple want of careful, rational reflection" -- and that of a tradition founded on Aristotle, Aquinas, Cicero, Boethius, and the Stoics!


Dad29 said...

IT should be further noted that not ONE other society in the history of the world has adopted "same-sex" marriage.

Not ONE religious tradition has done so.

This is a revolution against nature and nature's God, plain and simple. It must be quashed, by whatever means necessary.

Grim said...

Well, some European countries have done so in recent years; the initial reporting on the consequence trends negative, but it's still early.

Still, you could dismiss 'no one has ever' or even 'there's a long history' as an irrational argument; both depend on informal fallacies (ad populum and ad antiquitatem, respectively). Aquinas' argument for matrimony arising from natural law, though, doesn't assert either such proposition; it's rooted in a very different kind of argument from the classical tradition.

It's also a little strange to assert that something like 'animus' likes at the back of this. Aquinas' argument wasn't driven by animosity towards gay marriage, because he never imagined such a thing. He was talking about issues like polygamy, which were relevant to him in his day. Aristotle's arguments from which he is drawing arise from a society as well-disposed towards male homosexuality as has ever existed.

Grim said...

By the way, when I say that it would be possible to dismiss those arguments as irrational, I don't mean to say that it is right to dismiss the arguments. A fallacious argument often proves to be true; it's just that its truth cannot be guaranteed by logic alone.

Logical forms are truth-preserving forms: assuming the antecedent is true and the form is logically sound, the conclusion must also be true. A fallacious argument can have a true antecedent and a false conclusion. Thus, it does not preserve truth in the way that a logically sound form does.

A fallacious argument can therefore have every single component of it true; or just the antecedent; or just the conclusion. You just can't guarantee that the conclusion is true based on the truth of the antecedent and the form.

karrde said...

I suspect that this is another case of arguing by assuming that Old and Culturally Deprecated means Disproved.

I agree; it is very worthwhile to study the logic of the argument.

I also notice that most people who discuss the redefinition of marriage aren't interested in rational argument. They are interested in winning or losing an argument over which part of society defines the meaning of idea.