Maybe Not Everybody

Joe Biden today, repeating his campaign misstep of praising the comity he had with segregationists: "Even back in the old days when we had real segregationists... at least we'd end up eating lunch together."

Not everybody would, since the lunch counters were segregated. I guess everyone who was important to him was there, though. 

Platonic versus Aristotelian Causality

Tom asked a question about how things are caused in the post about the philosophy of abortion. This is exactly the sort of question that most people will find impossibly irritating, dense, arcane, and useless to consider; it is also, therefore, exactly the sort of question I love to think about. Aristotle says that the highest things are of course useless: to be useful is to be good for something else, as a tool is good for being able to perform a repair, and the repair is good for being able to return to using the truck, and the truck is good for being able to fetch food for yourself and your family, and the food is good for feeding the people you love so that they won't die. The people you love, though, are good for their own sake: they may not be useful at all. Nevertheless they can become the focus of your whole life: especially a baby is not useful but readily becomes the focus of the parents' lives for quite some time.

So too philosophy, especially metaphysics: it may not be useful at all, but that is because it is the study of the very highest things.

So I'm going to answer this question at length. Out of courtesy for the rest of you, I'll put it beyond a jump break so that you can dodge the question if you want.

PR Firm: Keep Your Corporate Mouths Shut

A major PR firm that reps for Coca-Cola and others is advising its clients not to talk about abortion. They warn that this is a 50/50 issue, and the brands risk permanently alienating a large part of their customer base  no matter what they do. The journalist reporting on this is so unhappy about it that they cited, in parentheses, a poll that found that 72% of Americans object to overturning Roe. Yet the polling is all over the place on this subject; Gallup found that 70% of Americans favor abortion restrictions.
Long term, there have been very durable gains in pro-life sentiment. Gallup polls conducted in 1995 and 1996 indicated that less than 37 percent of Americans identified as “pro-life.” When the results from Gallup polls conducted between 1995 and 2009 are averaged, “pro-choice” outpolled “pro-life” by six points. However, over the past decade, the pro-life position has reached parity with the pro-choice position. The 14 polls Gallup has conducted on this issue since 2010 show that an average 47 percent of Americans identify as pro-life, and an average 47 percent identify as “pro-choice.”
As clearly as I can make out the numbers, there are less than a fifth of Americans in the "ban all abortions" or "ban no abortions" camp. The rest of the country is in the middle somewhere (including me, as you know from reading my philosophical account of it from the other day). How you phrase the question can lead to a 70% figure on either side of the issue, but that's illusory. For the most part Americans want to restrict abortion somewhat but not entirely, and differ about just where the line should be.

The Second Russo-Japanese War

 History rhymes, they say:

Although Russia suffered a number of defeats, Emperor Nicholas II remained convinced that Russia could still win if it fought on; he chose to remain engaged in the war and await the outcomes of key naval battles. As hope of victory dissipated, he continued the war to preserve the dignity of Russia by averting a "humiliating peace". Russia ignored Japan's willingness early on to agree to an armistice and rejected the idea of bringing the dispute to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. The war was eventually concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth (5 September [O.S. 23 August] 1905), mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt. The complete victory of the Japanese military surprised international observers and transformed the balance of power in both East Asia and Eastern Europe, resulting in Japan's emergence as a great power and a decline in the Russian Empire's prestige and influence in eastern Europe. Russia's incurrence of substantial casualties and losses for a cause that resulted in humiliating defeat contributed to a growing domestic unrest which culminated in the 1905 Russian Revolution, and severely damaged the prestige of the Russian autocracy.

The Russians have once again found themselves in a conflict with a power they assumed inferior that they can neither seem to win nor escape. In this case the sticky element is again that the supposedly inferior power proved to have military might much greater than expected: the Japanese because they'd carefully constructed Western-style technologies over the decades following the Meiji Restoration; Ukraine because NATO and especially the United States have found ways to support the conflict without being dragged into it (so far).

Russia is still making slow progress in the Donbas region, which was the main objective of their offensive, so they may avoid a 'humiliating peace.' Their reputation as a military power has been savaged, though, and the prestige of the Putin regime badly damaged. Whether that portents a future revolution in Russia remains to be seen.

A Revealing Press Conference

Jen Psaki says that the President supports no limits on abortion whatsoever, and refuses to condemn people who are posting maps to the homes of Supreme Court Justices.

The Supreme Court put up barricades today, making it now the case that all three constitutional branches of the Federal government feel the need for walls to protect themselves from their own citizens. 

With some justice:

Col. Kurt: Reject Freaks and Weirdos

Kurt Schlichter does have a way with words.
Have you noticed the absolute freakshow quality of the people who want to keep us in chains? Perhaps it’s one thing to be repressed by people who are at least nominally badass, like Romans or Mongols. But these geebos who make up the Democrat Party’s loudmouth wing? The sexually hopeless toads outraged because other people who might someday know the loving touch of another human can’t whack their babies? No. Not only does their tyranny fail the freedom test, it fails the aesthetic test....

[J]ust look at the antics of that fascist disinformation girl. She sings show tunes. She’s into Harry Potter – non-threatening sensitive and magical boys are sooooo dreamy. She’s also eager to shove you into a train car headed to a gulag, and as it pulls away from the station she’ll be shouting at you ruffians to use your inside voices.

That’s right – the mediocre girl who played the lead in your high school’s production of “Hello, Dolly!" – which you skipped to go pound Buds with your pals like normal people – is the harbinger of tyranny.
Young Arlo Guthrie described the crowd at Woodstock thus. Somehow they've taken over.

UPDATE: On reflection, COL Kurt is of course being too harsh here. That's his thing. Yet there is also an Aristotelian point about power and virtue. Power is the most dangerous human quality, and a wise society strictly limits its existence to only absolutely necessary cases, and then further limits its concentration. Where power is unavoidable, power should not be entrusted to people who are not virtuous; having the right virtues to exercise an office is in fact the major qualification for holding that office. These are the true virtues, the classical ones: wisdom, courage, moderation, self-discipline. 

We use the phrase "virtue signaling" to indicate what is actually a vicious behavior. People who engage in it are trying to exercise power that they haven't earned. The Biden administration is engaging in attempting to govern almost exclusively as a performance of virtue signaling, and these appointments are themselves signals of that sort. It's no wonder that everything is falling apart.


"Ultra MAGA"

Now MAGA stands for "Make America Great Again." Therefore, "Ultra MAGA" would imply an intense devotion to doing things that would make America great again. 

Old Uncle Joe Biden seems to think that is a bad thing. What's his alternative? Not making America great again? Making China or Iran great? CNN refers to this as him 'sharpening his midterm message,' but it had better get sharper than this if he wants to make any sense to voters -- who happen, ex officio, to be Americans.

Let Me Explain the Two Rules of Business


LAT: Roe Was Never That Great

I expect to learn that the draft we've seen is merely Alito's argument to the court, rather than a final decision; but it is interesting to see no less than the LA Times admitting that Roe was actually a badly reasoned decision. "Shaky legal foundation" means that we understand why we're going to lose this thing we really care about. 

Confer Mt. 7:24-27.

Philosophy on Abortion

I've written about this at length over the years, but I find this morning that search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo can't find anything I've written on the subject. So let's run through it one time quickly.

1) Abortion kills a living, individual, human being. 

1a) Living: Philosopher Hans Jonas points out that the activity that is life, what makes a living being different from a rock, is that the living being is taking resources from nature and putting it into its own order. Your body does this all the time. You eat, your body digests the food and breaks it into constituent elements or molecules, and then puts those things into the order of your muscles, bones, organs. That's life. That's what life means; that's what life is. A child is doing that from the moment of conception, dividing and ordering, taking resources from its mother to bring itself into the order that also is itself. 

Cf. Aristotle Physics II.1: "Of things that exist, some exist by nature, some from other causes." That's what he meant too: the baby in an important sense causes itself to come to be ('by nature'), whereas the rock came to be because of forces not its own. Heat created magma, uplift created cooling, weather broke it from the earth and made it a rock rather than a part of a mountain. Life entails having a nature, an order of your own, taking from the world and putting a part of the world into your own order.

So: abortion kills a living being.

1b) Individual: The order that the being is putting itself into is its own. It is not its mother's, nor its father's. Even in the case of twins, quickly the orders begin to diverge from each other and are subtly different. The child is a unique being. The child is not you: the child is himself or herself.

1c) Human: Nevertheless, all children have an order that is recognizably human. It is genetically distinct and different from other sorts of beings, e.g. dogs or bats.

Therefore: It is proven that abortion kills a living, individual, human being.

2) Aborted children are usually innocent in the strict sense of the word.

2a) Innocence implies absence of guilt. As a rule, guilt is a matter of the will. The child's will, before birth, is in a minimal state of activity: the child can move about the womb of its own free will in the later stages, but for the most part his or her actions are informed by instinct rather than will. Growing, for example, is an act of the child but not a chosen or willed action.

2b) Occasionally guilt can occur accidentally. When a child's body embeds itself in an intratubal manner, the child through no act of will is going to be guilty of killing his or her mother. Other times, children die in the womb and cannot be ordinarily expelled. These children, likewise, are accidentally guilty of killing their mother through sepsis and the like. This is not guilt in the strict sense, but by analogy; but it is nevertheless the sort of thing that might license violence in self defense (see 3, following). If someone is accidentally about to kill someone, and there is not time or space to reason with them about it, you might reasonably use violence to stop them from doing so.

3) Usually violence towards another individual human being is only justified by defense of self or another who is innocent.

3a) From 2b, I can see limited cases in which abortion is fully justified. If the mother would die and, therefore, the child will also die, it is sensible to save the one life that might be saved. If there's a legitimate choice between saving either life but not both, the mother might sensibly defend her own life if she chooses to do so. This is not the position of the Church, please note; it is a place where I dissent from the Church's teachings for what I take to be honest and honorable reasons. I trust in forgiveness if I am in error.

4) Thought experiment A: The Deer Hunter

4a) Though it is here proven that the child is a living, individual human being, it is sometimes argued that we cannot really know if the child is a 'person' or not. This strikes me as a fiction created for the purpose of creating an ambiguity that might allow for an immoral action, exactly like 'race' was invented as a concept in order to create a class of human beings whose interests might be ignored for convenience. 'Personhood' separate from 'the category of being a living individual human being' is almost nonsense; it could in principle extend to aliens or some such, but even then it would still embrace all living individual human beings.

4b) However, consider the case of a person who has a duty to feed his family. Times are hard and they are hungry. He takes his rifle and goes out into the woods to hunt for food. After a long time, he sees movement. At that distance, though, he cannot quite be sure if what he is seeing is another person or a deer. It could be a deer, but it also might be a neighbor who is walking in the woods in a deer-colored coat. May he morally shoot what might be another person, being uncertain? 

4c) He may not. If he fires and it turns out to be a deer, all is well; but if he fires, and it turns out to be his neighbor, he is guilty of manslaughter. Choosing not to fire, by contrast, is always guiltless. 

4d) The needs of his family for food might be considered a mitigating factor in determining just punishment, but not a sufficient justification for the manslaughter.

4e) Therefore, uncertainty about the personhood of the child is not a defense for killing it. The only certainly moral choice in cases of uncertainty about personhood is not to choose to kill.

5) Thought Experiment B: The Artificial Womb

5a) Another defense of abortion that is sometimes made is that women should not be forced to harbor a child to term if they do not wish to do so. Consider -- as is not hard -- a technology that would allow the child to be safely transferred to an artificial womb, so that the woman did not have to carry the child if she did not wish. Would she still have the right to kill the child, if there were an alternative?

5b) I submit that her bodily autonomy would be adequately preserved if she were free to remove the child to an artificial womb. However, notice that in such a case she would still have duties to her child. Just as a father has to pay child support even if he is not otherwise involved in the child's life, so too would she -- equal rights, equal duties -- have to pay for the support of a child she engendered even if she did not otherwise wish to be involved with the child.

5c) The current status allows a pernicious inequality of rights and duties between men and women, by allowing women to dispose of the child and/or their duties to the child (many states have surrender points where a living child can be abandoned without questions), but requires men to be responsible for 18 years regardless of their choice. This is a basic unfairness in our legal structure.

5d) More, it violates natural law as regards the woman and the child. The purpose of traditional institutions like marriage is the recognition that humanity naturally produces children, and children by nature need to be supported and educated to adulthood so that they can assume proper places in society. Children are due this from their parents by nature. That is true for both parents. It is a natural duty that our society has for decades attempted to relieve for women.

Conclusion: Except in rare cases as provided in (3a), abortion is morally wrong. It ought to be dealt with accordingly. 

Punk Voters Not Entirely Happy With 'Their' Party

“We, therefore, vow to use every procedural and political tactic possible to guarantee every woman imprisoned for seeking abortion access is given a $50 tax credit for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2023. All they have to do is fill out and sign ten simple forms at our web portal, which we expect will be up and running at some point in the next one to three years.”

It's the kind thing to do


From Wikipedia:
Beltane (/ˈbɛl.teɪn/) is the Gaelic May Day festival. It is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. In Irish the name for the festival day is Lá Bealtaine ([l̪ˠaː ˈbʲal̪ˠt̪ˠənʲə]), in Scottish Gaelic Latha Bealltainn ([l̪ˠaː ˈpjaul̪ˠt̪ɪɲ]) and in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn/Boaldyn. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh—and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai.

Apparently they've been doing a fire festival in Edinburgh since 1988. The BBC has pictures from this year's seasonal fest. 


There’s one of those map overlays, which we discussed in the comments to the last post on topic. 

It turns out that I do know how to do this stuff, which was gratifying to learn. 

A Tragedy in Rooster

This is one of the saddest songs ever written about cock-fighting. It's a sport that I understand remains popular in Mexico and among the Mexican population -- I mean those born in Mexico, rather than Americans of Mexican descent. But it was also popular in China, when I lived there: there was a place called Hangzhou Birds' Paradise that featured daily cock fights. Perhaps there's some ambiguity in the word "paradise" in Mandarin.

In any case, rope in if you decide to listen to this. It's a genuine tragedy.

The Cathedral of May

Happy May Day from the mountain.