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The Odour of Sanctity

Simone Veil, the French politician most responsible for the passage of the law to legalise medical termination of pregnancy in France, died recently at the age of 87 in what I would be tempted to call, if France were not so militantly secular a country, the odour of sanctity. She was incontestably a redoubtable woman, a survivor of the German camps to which she was deported at the age of 16; but the effects of the law that she so assiduously promoted soon escaped her control and went far beyond its original intentions, as so many reformist laws are inclined to do. Very few reformers, however, ever take this tendency into account, perhaps because, for many of them, reform is the whole purpose and meaning of their lives.

The French law was intended to relieve the suffering consequent upon the prohibition of deliberate abortion; but, just as it had in Britain several years before, it rapidly became something else entirely, in effect the guarantee of a human right now deemed to be as fundamental as, say, protection against arbitrary arrest. If the French had looked across the Channel in 1975 (the year the law was passed), they would have seen how quickly abortion under certain prescribed conditions had become, in effect, abortion on demand; but despite (or perhaps because of) the proximity of the two countries, neither ever condescends to learn from the experience of the other.

Before long, there were cases of abortion in Britain granted to women who did not want to be pregnant during their holidays. Like the French law, the British was ostensibly intended to avoid the suffering caused by the prohibition of abortion: but if you offer an incentive for people to be miserable, then misery (or at least claims to misery) is what you will get. It is true that doctors were excused on grounds of conscience from signing the requisite forms recommending termination, but they were obliged to point women in the direction of doctors who would sign the forms, so that the requirement was a dead-letter; and in any case, it was soon argued that, statistically-speaking, termination was safer than any pregnancy carried to term, and therefore that termination was always justified under the terms of the law.

Whether the original framers of the law intended this outcome or not (I suspect that some of them did), abortion on demand was its outcome.

However, the issue of abortion never became quite as heated or divisive in Britain or France as it became, and as I suspect it remains, in the United States. But if my understanding of the controversy in the United States is correct, the debate is carried out in rather crude terms. On the one side there are those who say that the fertilised ovum is a full human being and therefore to kill it is as much murder as to shoot dead a passer-by in the street; on the other are those who claim that a woman’s body is her own and she has an inviolable right to do with it what she chooses. East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet.

It seems to me that both sides in this dialogue of the deaf are mistaken and grossly oversimplify reality. It seems to me intuitively absurd to claim that killing a conceptus is no different from killing a child or a grown man, even if that conceptus is growing in a twelve year-old child who has been raped. Likewise, supposing (per impossibile) that one were faced with the choice of saving either the mother or a conceptus by causing the death of the other, it would be absurd to claim that the choice was a morally neutral one. And if someone were to mourn (as against regret) a spontaneous miscarriage in the same way and to the same extent as the death of a child or parent, one would think him or her not merely very odd, but morally unbalanced.

The other side is no better, however. In the first place, to say that one owns oneself and can therefore dispose of oneself as one chooses is wrong. To say of one’s body that one owns it is a peculiar way of describing the relationship between one’s self and one’s body: I don’t own my face like I own my computer, for example.

Moreover, ownership does not imply, or necessarily imply, an infinite right, either legal or moral, to disposal of what is owned. I own my house, but I have no right to burn it down if I see fit to do so. And if I own a Vermeer, I may have a legal, but surely not a moral, right to destroy it. Morally speaking, I do not own the Vermeer; I am its temporary custodian. It is otherwise with the lead pencil on my desk, which I likewise own. It seems to me that our bodies are more like Vermeers than they are like lead pencils.

Furthermore, a conceptus is not just part of a woman’s body, and the fact that she carries it, and will eventually give birth to it in pain and sorrow, does not give her infinite rights over it. Her interest in it may be greater than anyone else’s, no doubt, but it is not unique or exclusive. For one thing, the conceptus is partly the father’s, at least until such time as humans replace themselves purely by parthenogenesis. One would hope that children were most often the product of a loving mutual decision of the mother and the father; and a world in which mothers militantly put their supposed rights above such decisions in importance would be a truly horrible one, deeply savage and uncivilised.

In general, though, women do not consider abortion an operation just like any other (though some do); it is not for them the same as the removal of a blemish of the skin, say, or even the removal of a gall bladder. They apprehend, perhaps not fully or coherently, that abortion is not simply another operation, but has a much profounder significance; and they apprehend it even if they have no religious belief.

So how do you frame a law that avoids the indisputable cruelties and hardships occasioned by total prohibition, while not acceding to the uncouth and ill-founded demands of the other side, and avoiding the bogus jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade? Arguments that rely solely on competing rights can result only in shouting matches; they have the psychological effect of limiting the moral imagination. On the other hand, the law must lay down with reasonable predictability and consistency what is permissible and what is not.

There is a limit to what the law can achieve if it is not to become, in effect, the absolute arbiter or dictator of our lives. Therefore, it is up to the population to exercise virtue, because:

Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

Reader Discussion

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on July 21, 2017 at 09:32:27 am

It seems, to Dr. Dalrymple, "... intuitively absurd to claim that killing a conceptus is no different from killing a child".

His claim that there is a difference is, on the other hand, intuitively absurd to those of us who believe that there is a God, to whom each human being is precious, valuable in the sight of God, from conception onward. Those who understand human life as a continuum.

Yes, I agree; to those who are materialists or who hold to any form of atheism, this must seem "odd. Perhaps they would actually consider us "morally unbalanced". And yet many have believed this and lived or died in honor of it.

At this point in time, perhaps no solution is possible beyond that of changing our approach to abortion on demand. Persons of intellectual standing have suggested that abortion be declared "legal", thereby allowing those persons, such as Theodore Dalrymple, perfect freedom of choice.

Legal imposition, definition of some particular thing as a "right" imposes burdens on other persons; it allow no disagreement. Those in opposition are forced to conform or face dire consequences.

To list physicians and hospitals who will perform abortions and, also, those who will not would not impose an undue burden upon anyone. Many institutions do now decorate themselves with signs or banners indicating support for other issues.

If the issue of referrals could be made in the best interests of everyone, there would then be no need to force (and often humiliate) those in opposition to personally provide names of providers, rather than face exclusion from their professions.

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Linda Smith
on July 21, 2017 at 10:14:06 am

Excellent rebuttal, well reasoned, excellent points, Ms. Smith. You've laid them out perfectly, there's nothing I would want to add.

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Paul Binotto
on July 21, 2017 at 12:05:11 pm

I will be re-reading the post and will attempt (with gratitude for your counsel) to respond to the questions and concerns with which Dr. Dalrymple closes his piece.

One way to begin is discover first principles. Theodore Dalrymple is a person of good will and seriousness. He warns about the limits of law, "if it is not to become, in effect, the absolute arbiter or dictator of our lives. Therefore, it is up to the population to exercise virtue ...".

He seems to locate the source of virtue within each individual person of good will. Is his basis for such a point of view found in Natural Law teaching? That seems possible.

Theodore Dalrymple writes of the "indisputable cruelties and hardships occasioned by total prohibition [of abortion]"; also of the "uncouth and ill-founded demands of the other side. He believes these cannot be the only alternatives. But he is not certain how we can find a common ground.

One wonders if we are in a state resembling one described by Dr. Josef Pieper in "A Brief Reader On the Virtues of the Human Heart".

"It is good to be forewarned that the mightiest embodiment of evil in human history ... could indeed appear in the form of a great ascetic. In point of fact, this is the nearly universal lesson of Western historical thought.

One who does not grasp the fact and the reason that the worst corruption of the natural man is injustice [are we excluding the unborn from the set of those to whom we owe justice?] has to come to ruin through the experiences that call attention to themselves amid a disorder that can scarcely be overcome. Above all, he [this great ascetic or ascetics] would be incapable of recognizing the historical prefigures of that final condition:

[and finally] while he is looking out for the powers of corruption in a mistaken direction, they establish their rule before his eyes."

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Linda Smith
on July 21, 2017 at 12:34:54 pm

Excellent! And, I will be re-reading your words here so as to better understand their assertions, lessons.

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Paul Binotto
on July 21, 2017 at 13:55:57 pm

For Josef Pieper the "controlling power", to which Theodore Dalrymple refers, would be derived from one's freely chosen acceptance of God's law, followed by lifelong dedication to living out the consequences of that acceptance, in hope of achieving conformity, as much as is possible, with Christ.

A person whose thinking is formed in this way would, in cases of extreme emergency, be required to act, to the best of his ability to do so, in conformity with the divine will. There is no guarantee of perfection. One would have only a certain peace that a best possible effort had been made. I do believe that, until recent times, we had some reason to hope that such "best efforts" were the norm within the medical profession.

Two passages offer insights into the concept of justice - again from Josef Pieper: (Dr. Pieper uses the former meaning of the word "man" which then was used to include all human beings):

"That one man gives to another what belongs to the other is the basis of all just order in the world. In contrast, all injustice means that what belongs to someone i s either withheld or taken from him, not indeed by misfortune, bad harvest, fire, or earth quake, but by man."

"The just man, the more he realizes that he is the recipient of gifts and that he has an obligation to God and to man, will alone be ready to fulfill what he does not owe. He will decide to give something to the other that no one can force him to give." This principle if freely accepted would encourage fathers and mothers to protect their children from all harm; to protect the child's life; claims of legality of abortion notwithstanding.

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Linda Smith
on July 21, 2017 at 19:33:37 pm

This subject and this essay are not easy to forget.

"So, how do you frame a law ...". asks Theodore Dalrymple. He answers his question: "... it is up to the population to exercise virtue ...".

"Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; ... It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free." These are impressive, daunting words.

Does he mean that it is in the nature of things that men must be temperate or enslaved? Perhaps he does. Others have thought the same. How will an undisciplined population, many members of which have abandoned any idea of self-control, who fight for a right to fulfillment every of desire, be persuaded to desire virtue?

It is not impossible. Such things have happened. In the meantime the only temporary solution may be a change from "a right to abortion" to "legal status for abortion"; no coercion of those who object.

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Linda Smith
on July 21, 2017 at 20:06:42 pm

Sorry, *Teddy*:

Perhaps, you have spent too much time sipping the aromatic beverages of the coffee / wine shops in London, Paris and Mew York city. Careful now, pungency is often positively correlated with potency!

What, pray tell is a "conceptus"? It sounds like some vile thing that would pop out of the belly of Sigourney Weaver in a late 1970's horror flick. If your peculiar "rubricization" is correct, that what am i to call my 2 year old grandson who, on his own, is certainly non-viable"? Oops, I got it - he must be a "post-ceptus"; an apt term, bringing to mind the blood disorder known as sepsis.

Why accept the underlying premise that one person's *convenience* (and I recognize the case of the 12-yr old you proffer is a MAJOR *IN-convenience* supersedes the life of another human being - as innocent as the driven snow, BTW - Oops, that's right, I forgot, it is really a *conceptus*, a term, which incidentally, evidences the "conceit" of the credentialed deployed as a weapon against the well meaning, but nevertheless, unenlightened, rubes of the world.

I would prefer that, just once, one comes out and says straight out what they mean / believe: MY convenience trumps your life!

A conceptus, ha! did you treat many of them in prison?

Ahh! but the voice of reason, melodious as it may appear, may still lead one down a frightful path.

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gabe
on July 22, 2017 at 09:45:21 am

Dear Gabe:

No one can accuse you of failing to say "straight out" exactly what you mean. Thank you.

The language used by Theodore Dalrymple is strange; you are right. When speaking of abortion and other things, I remember that Pope John Paul advised everyone to "call things by their right names."

The dilemma (as I rambled on about in previous posts), is found in trying to find the core of this issue. You have correctly stated that for many people it is "my convenience trumps your life". This conclusion is possible for those who assign no intrinsic value to the lives of all human beings.

I realized that for many, many people - more than we might think - changing the name of something changes what it is. Therefore, a "developing human being" becomes a "conceptus". It makes doing the "procedure" possible, even easier, for them.

Worse, some otherwise reasonable people do think of the unborn child as a "life", "a developing baby" but, using utilitarian reasoning - their end justifies the means - or materialist reasoning - the developing child is a thing among other things and can be dealt with as a thing, hold firmly to their belief that there is no inviolable right to life for innocent children or anyone for that matter.

But, viewing Dr. Dalrymple as a thinking, caring atheist, I credit him with at least trying to make a distinction between indiscriminate killing on demand and terrible cases that arise and have to be dealt with, some immediately.

In those cases, when an immediate decision to act must be made, only a "moral people" can be trusted to act rightly; never perfectly but as best they can.

As you say, there are pathologies of reason. Ancient moral standards shaped our country until now. Reason was tempered and instructed by moral thinkers and people of faith.

The "frighful path" you mention seems to be the one we are on. Can we find the better path, the better way forward, is the question.

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Linda Smith
on July 22, 2017 at 09:58:40 am

I should have added that the "law" sought by Theodore Dalrymple - and I suppose by Simone Veil - is an impossibility.

Killing of perfectly innocent persons (in the case of abortion, defenseless persons) cannot be declared "legal" or worse "a right" in a nation calling itself civilized.

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Linda Smith
on July 22, 2017 at 11:24:22 am

"But, viewing Dr. Dalrymple as a thinking, caring atheist, I credit him with at least trying to make a distinction between indiscriminate killing on demand and terrible cases that arise and have to be dealt with, some immediately. "

As do I (credit him with that). At times, and in a world where one is constantly beseiged by an onslaught of seemingly *reasonable* assertions regarding morality / ethics, etc that masks the underlying assumptions and, yes, inherent cruelty of such assertions / beliefs, it may be proper to inject a "wee bit" of intemperance into a discussion - if only to highlight the underlying fallacy of the *received wisdom* of the day.

CHOICE: ( Traditionally) what you do when you select vanilla over chocolate ice cream.
(Presently) what you do when you destroy a *conceptus*. All this done while regurgitating saccharine laced pronouncements on "choice, equality, self-determination", etc.

Clarity of expression / thought would be welcome as opposed to the mental prestidigitation practiced by our credentialed elites AND those content to "live lazily upon beggared opinions (slogans)" (again, apologies to John Locke).

But yes, the good doctor does at least make an attempt at fairness.

.

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gabe
on July 22, 2017 at 12:29:38 pm

Thank you for your proper "'wee bit' of intemperance". It has the effect you describe.

The person I have been quoting, Josef Pieper, has written about justified anger. I cannot find the exact passage right now. (I do not presume to understand everything that he writes. I can say that the small number of parts I do understand are so immediately comprehensible as right and good, beautiful and true, as to seem "otherworldly".

My mangled quotation is: He says that a person who refuses to be angry, when anger is the correct response, is spiritually dying; a nation that refuses to collectively express anger against great wrongs will soon be dead.

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Linda Smith
on July 22, 2017 at 14:00:48 pm

A very thoughtful essay. It should be distributed far and wide.

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David B.. Frisk
on July 22, 2017 at 17:25:20 pm

Linda:

You are both "sweet" and gracious in your comments.

Pieper is correct, of course. It would appear that we, in this decaying Republic, are presently confronted with a choice between anger and lassitude - that overwhelming sense of fatigue consequent to constant haranguing by our "intellectual" and "moral" superiors.

For a brief instant, this past year, anger prevailed and The Trumpster secured victory in the election.
At root, this is why he won. All too often, the mass of the citizenry are burdened by, and unable to shake off this sense of lassitude, of an almost existential despair. They believe themselves to be without voice. They are, however, incorrect in this assessment, albeit, perhaps only temporarily (as the GOP is weak and spineless).

Is there anger in the citizenry (and me?)? - perhaps?

I choose a "voice" to deploy ( although, it is my *native* tongue, as it were) in an at times vain attempt to enable others of like mind and background (my football tailgating buddies, for instance) that first, they do have a voice, secondly, that they need not be hesitant or self conscious about expressing that voice within and through their own idiomatic system(s) and lastly, that the credentialed are no better *observers* of the world or assessors of good morals / ethics than are they who are not "afflicted" with credentialed "educational incapacitation."

On a personal note, Dear Woman: YOU have absotively no reason to tread lightly, nor highlight your own "lack" of credentials (whatever they may be or not be). There is a simple elegance to your words AND a solid, observant intellect behind those words.

take care
gabe

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gabe
on July 22, 2017 at 17:41:21 pm

Dalrymple's post is very thoughtful and should be distributed far and wide.

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David B Frisk
on July 22, 2017 at 17:45:50 pm

And for all of those who do not believe that the *trivialization* of fundamental life decisions (i.e. abortion, assisted suicide, etc) does not lead to an ever more "frightful path" that will ultimately lead to a LOSS of liberty, check out these two news items:

https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/07/21/bill-nye-older-people-need-to-die-for-climate-change/
(wherein the bow-tie wearing buffoon Bill Nye prepares to sacrifice the aged to the "god" of global warming)

https://townhall.com/tipsheet/christinerousselle/2017/07/21/judge-says-charlie-gard-cant-go-to-the-united-states-n2358120

Wherein the HIGHLY credentialed and educationally incapacitated jurists of the EU deny the right of parents to decide what treatment is to be provided for their ailing child. So now we are to perform the "equivalent" of a post-partum abortion. Obviously, these enlightened jurists have determined that a) the child is not worth saving, b) that the parents would be better served by spending the $1 million on something better (perhaps, carbon offsets for the jurists as they fly from city to city rendering such decisions), c) and that, although from time immemorial, parents were deemed to be guardians of a child, it is now deemed proper for Jurists to exercise that responsibility.

This is the path that our elites have chosen for us. Tread carefully, my friends and avoid "tolling bells."

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gabe
on July 22, 2017 at 21:13:14 pm

I trust that you have not continued on this discussion for good reason; hopefully the reason is your departure with your family on summer vacation.

Best wishes.

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Linda Smith
on July 24, 2017 at 06:42:17 am

I've been here, but in the background, following the trail of excellent commentary being forged by you and Gabe - my silence was two-fold; because my concentration was necessarily diverted elsewhere, and most especially because anything I could have added would only have muddied ("too many hands in the pot spoil the sauce") the clarity of discourse being exchanged. Great Discussion!!

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Paul Binotto
on July 27, 2017 at 19:21:58 pm

I love TD but he's made a couple of logical mistakes here:

'It seems to me intuitively absurd to claim that killing a conceptus is no different from killing a child or a grown man, even if that conceptus is growing in a twelve year-old child who has been raped'

Variations in the cause of pregnancies don't constitute variations in the likeness of a conceptus to a child or grown man. How like a conceptus is to other life stages is not altered by the fact of the rape of the mother--no matter how young she is.

'And if someone were to mourn (as against regret) a spontaneous miscarriage in the same way and to the same extent as the death of a child or parent, one would think him or her not merely very odd, but morally unbalanced.'

Here, a conflation of a mother's emotional attachment to the thing, and the value of the thing in itself. Should my life mean nothing much if my mother were to not mourn me? And would people also not think it strange if I mourned a total stranger in the same way I mourned my own child? Would that strangeness of mourning a stranger mean the stranger's life had comparatively little value to that of my own child?

These are not arguments for pro-life (though I am pro-life)--these are arguments for reason.

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Caitlin
on July 28, 2017 at 05:58:31 am

Thank you for your arguments which clarify this issue. I fear that those who reason from different first principles will object.

We have made an "idol" of desire. This idol, human desire, is a stern taskmaster. The idol requires re-definition of language to accommodate desire. It requires denial of the basic moral concepts so laboriously defined through long centuries of trial and error.

Laws are now passed to render desires "legal". We no longer question the "rightness" of a desire. We shape the law to fit human desire and become inhuman. We kill unborn children on demand. No anguished moral struggle of a physician faced with an emergency involving life and death is needed or wanted. Just desire.

Theodore Dalrymple proposes the question: Innocent life having been declared violable, who shall we allow to live?

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Linda Smith
on July 28, 2017 at 07:35:39 am

Gabe, if you are referring to the case of Charlie Gard, then I think your view is mistaken. There was global consensus among padeatric experts that the child was already irreparably brain damaged and in great pain. The American "expert" who offered treatment (and false hope) to the Gard parents did so despite consensus from experts who had examined the child, and despite not having examined the child himself, or having looked at the child's full medical records. Under cross examination it also came out that he had shares in the business that offered the experimental treatment.

The Gard parents also have no inaleable right for their child to be treated with a public health service. The tax payers who fund it do so with the knowledge of a number of competing rights, from many different parents. Money allocated to the Gard child is therefore money taken away from other children, who may require much less money to treat, and for whom treatment will produce a full recovery and a productive life.

I am getting a bit sick and tired of this idea of "rights" when it comes to spending other peoples' money. You have the right, in my view, to spend your own money on your child, but on a National Health Service, like in Britain, you also have to look at the rights of the taxpayer, and your own duties to others who are in need of assistance.

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Hayden
on July 28, 2017 at 22:10:28 pm

Very true, Linda--and thank you.

The mistake TD is making--less so than others, but by degree and not by kind--is thinking that the more the mother wants the abortion, the less the unborn matters. Pro-choicers like to cite extreme examples such as safety of mother being thereatened by birth, but the vast, vast majority of abortions are for convenience.

The pro-choicers also make a false dichotomy: abortion or a life of misery for both mother and child (spurious anyway--I was born in the 70s to an unmarried mother and we're both very happy, despite the hardships of the situation in that decade); they like to pretend that adoption is not a genuine choice--in fact, scoff at and scorn the idea--but it's absolutely a brilliant solution for multiple parties, requiring some (but not immense or long-lasting) self-sacrifice on the part of the mother.

But modern women must not be incovenienced at all, as we see! To inconvenince a woman is to enact patriarchy, and to render the woman deeply and permanently traumatised.

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Caitlin
on July 28, 2017 at 22:26:06 pm

To add: re your observation about desire, and what I said about claims of traumatising women with carrying a child to term: the left know full well that what they're advocating is satisfaction of desire, not justice or humanity. And they know hedonism and wantonness aren't admirable. So they pretend the desire is a desperate need and anyone (even women) who seek to deny it is a woman-hating monster.

Though I tend to the centre right, I think pro-life is well suited to a left-wing sensibility: or would do if the left admitted who the real victims are--and are not.

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Caitlin
on July 29, 2017 at 07:05:46 am

Good morning, Caitlin: You have provided your readers with much to think about. Thank you again.

I have written the following in an attempt to develop an argument, in the best sense of that word; to develop a true "counter-narrative" as those on the left would say, and to invite correction and modification from you and from others.

I actually remember when the persons of the left were pro-life. Sen. Edward Kennedy, other members of the then prominent and admired Kennedy family. Many prominent persons changed their minds in the face of certain systems of thought; arguments that seemed impressive, "progressive", modern.

These systems cleverly intertwined ancient moral wisdom with pragmatic, utilitarian and materialistic ideas; ideas justifying use of human beings as means to their ends. The - for his purposes - brilliant insight of Antonio Gramsci - that in order to "dominate" the existing cultural "climate", the Left would have to gain control of the media, the universities, and the churches", has thoroughly infiltrated our cultural milieu.

Gramsci's disciples spread the "hermeneutics of suspicion ... nothing is as it seems ...". And "truth is no longer important, for truth is just a ruling class construct. What matters is the pursuance and maintenance of power ...".

[Quoted material taken from an article by Daniel J. Mahoney, Ph.D. of Assumption College, Worcester, Massachusetts)

The results of Gramsci's inspiration and the devotion of his often unknowing disciples are now before us, in plain view," before our very eyes". Can this terrible web be unwoven, retaining whatever was good, eliminating the evil, is the question.

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Linda Smith
on July 29, 2017 at 07:55:41 am

"Can this terrible web be unwoven, retaining whatever was good, eliminating the evil, is the question." -

Answer: "His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." - Luke 3:17 (NASB)

P.S. You and Caitlin offer a valuable feminine perspective to this commentary; one that tends to be under-represented in these Commentaries. Thanks for that! Great exchanges going on here!

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Paul Binotto
on July 29, 2017 at 09:00:58 am

"Summer at libertylawsite.org - the "Blog" - A chance to work through issues of the highest import; to have one's ideas challenged; some approved of, some subject to sharp correction. "Sharp correction" - a great good that has been under-emphasized to the "rising" generation.

A great scholar wrote of his hope for a friend who would correct him; set him right when he had gone wrong. I very personally agree with this: One's best friend is he or she (or they) who will risk losing the friendship in order to save a friend from error.

The opposite idea is now seen, particularly in the universities: We must approve of other's desires. All of them. To speak of right and wrong, to correct, would be to injure and traumatize.

As Caitlin writes: "But modern woman [and countless others, divided into groups] must not be inconvenienced at all". No correction; everything is right.

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Linda Smith
on July 29, 2017 at 11:04:34 am

Re: Luke 3:17

A "winnowing fork" would be most helpful ... as soon as possible.

In the interim (perhaps it will be short), we will press on as best we can, in hope that our efforts will be to good effect.

"Chasten us, O God, but in measure, lest you reduce us to dust." Old Testament passage. I will look for the citation.

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Linda Smith
on July 29, 2017 at 15:42:04 pm

Thank you, Linda, and thank you, Paul. What nice people are here!

A series of not-well connected responses:

Well, the left certianly have got control of the universities and the media (I can't comment on the churches). We live in dire times that are getting only more dire as university graduates and their friends get hold of news outlets and public- and social policy--and cultivate more of their ilk. Conservative and classical liberal youth are not that uncommon (I know a few) but they are too aftraid to show their colours.

Thanks, Linda, for pointing out the left used to be pro-life. It makes so much sense (though I have learned recently that the left of old are almost nothing like the new left in many ways). Second wave feminism seemed to have lead the charge in not inconveniencing anyone who wasn't a straight, white man--and of, course, the enemy-ising of the unborn. I wonder if the left's switch to pro-choice was a bid for voters (the unborn can't vote). Interestingly, more men than women are pro-choice. I think, though, that men are often too afraid to say they are pro-life, because of course their opinions on pregnancy either don't matter or are insulting and wrong. Unless they are pro-choice, then their opinions matter.

What you say about the devaluing of truth: did you know anthropologists of the 1970s came up with the idea that all cultures' values were equally good, and there was no such thing as right or wrong? Moral (and, to an extent, epistemic) relativism really took off in the West after that. If there is no objective wrong, then everyone is right--with the notable exception of those who say there are objective rights and wrong, who are just wrong, and bad. Now we have post-moderism to cope with.

I'm a utilitarian and value truth for only its utilty (when it has it) but I can't imagine regarding another life as mine to use--or discard--as I please. Doesn't it feel as if we're living in a crazy house where black is white and up and down? So often I've been stared at in horror when I say I'm pro-life--it's as if I'm a baby killer!

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Caitlin
on July 29, 2017 at 17:32:47 pm

One additional thought re: Luke 3:17

We are hoping for "winnowing" of pernicious ideas, not persons.

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Linda Smith
on July 29, 2017 at 18:09:42 pm

Yes, always hopeful and always hoping for this.

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Paul Binotto
on July 30, 2017 at 06:41:53 am

One final comment!

We are discussing matters of importance. When doing so in a format such as liberty law blog, it is all too easy to create a misunderstanding. No nuance of tone; no facial expression to convey a certain emotion or intent.

I am posting this final comment to clarify two of my posts: First about the "idol of desire". The point I intended to make depended on enacted laws as the source of my conviction. The laws are my concern, particularly their powerful influence, their ability to instruct; to teach that what was once wrong is now right.

We must have laws; anarchy is not desirable.! Again, the point I want to put forward is that of law as it shapes behavior. It is no small thing to "stand apart" on a major issue. Isolation is "counter-intuitive" for people, especially young people. But, in the matters now before us - marriage and status of the unborn child - I judge no one's motives. Behavior can be judged from both sides of this issue. But I believe we must avoid any hint of condemnation of a person's motives. This is an impossibility anyway; we cannot know the complexities of a person's reasoning.

To Paul: My last post, about "winnowing" was for the benefit of readers who question the motives of believers - certainly not intended for you. Thank you for your response.

To Caitlin: You make interesting reference to liberty, to utility, and to truth. These majestic ideas take time to sort out. You are young and have time to consider these issues at length.

You might want to consider your idea of "truth" as being of value only when it is "useful" - your comment mentions "its utility (when it has it). This is almost certainly the same thinking that groups and individuals considering abortion would use. Any thought of the "truth" of the infant's life as possessing intrinsic value is discarded. They have been carefully taught, by the pedagogy of the law and our cultural milieu, that they are "in the right" in this matter. Those who teach otherwise are dismissed.

Thank you for posting your comments which inspired much thought. My primary concern is to avoid posting words myself that serve only to add to any misunderstanding.

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Linda Smith
on July 31, 2017 at 02:16:49 am

Thank you, Linda.

I realise you and I mean different things by utility. The pernicious utility you write of is almost evilly selfish and subjective. The utiliy I write of encompasses a hugely broad collection of things that are useful.

Truth, in and of itself, is not of value (in my opinion, of course)--it become valuable when it does someting for someone or something that has interests. These interests can be good or bad, of course.

For example, I could count the hairs on my forearm and come up with a number so that I couold say, 'I have 700 hairs from here to here'. That statement, though true, is of no use to anyone. Wherereas my belief that my mother loves me, whether or not it is true, has great value to me and affects my life in myyraid positive ways.

Many true things are valuable, but would be just as valuable if they were not true.

Some true things are valuable precisely because they are true.

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Caitlin
on July 31, 2017 at 11:13:55 am

Dear Caitlin: I am at all certain that I should post just "one more reply". But, though I am uncertain, I have decided to respond, since you were kind enough to reply to my comment.

I think we both know, at least I hope I understand correctly, that when serious people speak of "truth" or "Truth", they are not referring to trivial truths, such as the one you mention, but of fundamental understandings, those developed through centuries of trial and error; of terrible struggles.

For some time those whose background was shaped by Western Civilization had shared understanding of Truth. This truth contained elements of Greek philosophy, Roman law, Hebrew teaching and moral wisdom, and Christian teaching. For some the moral wisdom was extracted from the religious dogmas. This allowed generations of people to achieve a level of civic order. It was our "commonwealth"; a heritage that was at once good and always in need of correction, particularly as to including everyone within this inheritance.

Your last two sentences demonstrate an approach to life that was effective in preserving order because most people agreed on the difference that you correctly describe.

We now face the necessity to repeat that centuries' old struggle because we not longer agree as to which thing "are valuable because they are true". You mention your friends who cannot understand your being "pro-life" They do not accept the intrinsic value of the unborn child's life. They believe that each individual person can decide on the value of that life; they have power over its life or its death. It is legal to do so. You can attempt a logical explanation of your position. Most people will reject your explanation as having no significance for them.

"What is truth"? A famous question.

We are in danger of continuing one of those "interminable discussions". Thank you though for your comments; thank you for the opportunity to reply.

Best wishes.

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Linda Smith
on August 01, 2017 at 18:25:23 pm

I do absolutely agree with you, Linda. I just meant to show that a huge number of truths ARE trivial--so the dogged, inflexible allegiance to truth over utility (which I find in abundsnce on the left, in the context of religion usually), is misguided.

The truths that have utility BECAUSE they are true--such as the instrinsic value of human life--need defending. People who say there is none are liars; I think they know full well what we are saying but choose to avoid it.

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Caitlin

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