Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thinking "in Stereo" on Gay Marriage

I have a whole philosophy of what the process of sound thinking requires. It requires that one is certain and uncertain simultaneously. Specifically it means that a thinking person allows himself to be confident that his initial hunches and hypothesis contain substance, that they represent a “pre-articulate” understanding of something real. It also means that a thinking person is continually evaluating counter-arguments in order to understand the domain of his pre-articulate wisdom: in other words, in what realm the original hunch proves to be true and in what realm it gives way to another idea.

This realm, this cross section of reality that is best understood by a particular idea is that idea’s “domain”/“jurisdiction”. This jurisdiction may be simply academic or it may also affect social and legal jurisdictions.

A thinking person does not have the obligation to chuck his hunches out the window and let his opinion drift whenever he’s presented with a contrary opinion. A thinking person does, however, have the obligation to continually refine his opinion. He has the obligation to better and better understand the contours and boundaries of where his idea’s jurisdiction begins and ends.

With our human vision, we have a “dominant eye” and a passive eye. Our dominant eye goes squarely in the direction where we wish to look, while the passive eye follows. As a result, the passive eye sees what the dominant eye sees at a slightly different angle, giving us depth perception.

This principle of vision applies to actively thinking. My hunch/my sense that I am developing from a hypothesis into a thesis is the “dominant eye” of my thought. My willingness to allow myself to consider contrary views is my “passive eye”. Together, the two bring the intellectual equivalent of depth perception, which in the case of ideas, is having a correct understanding of how the jurisdiction of one idea fits with the jurisdiction of another. As we see in stereo, this is what it means to “think in stereo”.

So I have been applying this principle of “thinking in stereo” to my thoughts on gay marriage. This is a debate I’ve had with myself, imagining myself talking to a tough opponent. So as to have intellectual honesty I have held nothing back in imaging the best and most articulate and intellectually honest advocate of gay marriage I can think of as an opponent. Here it is:


ME – “If gay is the new black”, do you believe that gender is as superficial as skin? Do you intend to have the raising of the American flag symbolize the end of the meaning gender as it now symbolizes on Martin Luther King Day the end of the meaning of skin color. If so, why isn’t this statement of human design “gender is as superficial as skin” put forward front and center? I think you don’t make this bold of a statement because it makes you face a wide body of naturalistic, commonly available evidence for the value and meaning of gender.

IMAGINARY OPPONENT Gayness is no better or worse than hetero from a natural perspective. They are both naturally occurring realities that both have a place in a human ecosystem as they do in the animal ecosystem.

ME – But human society doesn’t function by mere instincts. We create the conceptual, social and physical tools to survive. You can’t look to an animal ecosystem of pure instinct as a moral compass for human society.

IMAGINARY OPPONENT If you’re going to look to naturalistic evidence to put hetero unions on a moral pinnacle above a gay union, you open the door to all of what is contained in nature.

ME –Any idea of what is “good” is selective about nature, subdividing nature into “raw natural” and “archnatural”. It is OK to look at nature for evidence from nature that there is an archnatural aspect of nature that suits us best, that is good. A hetero-union is archnatural and good, and there is plenty of naturalistic evidence that points in this direction. On the other extreme, there are less idea expressions of nature such as naturally occurring diseases.

IMAGINARY OPPONENTIf you’re going to look to nature at all as the basis of any division between “archnatural” and “natural”, you need to look at this way: human’s tendency to oppress and constrain his fellow man with prejudice is “raw natural”/bad and tolerance of his fellow man is “archnatural”/good. Therefore, the only concept of the good that is relevant for the organizing of human society is maximum freedom and minimum intolerance.

Humans require freedom unless they are doing something that directly hurts the freedom of others. Any attempt to extrapolate harm beyond what is imminently hurtful to another’s freedom will lead to people imposing their moral views on others. We should be blind to the question of marriage, and we should raise our American flag to symbolize this idea of “moral minimalism”: that whatever is not an imminent harm to others is a justly entitled privilege to myself.

As for understanding nature, we move beyond fears and prejudice of others when we appreciate the broad endowment of diverse human instincts that aren’t imminently harmful to others.

ME –The flaw in a “moral minimalist” approach is that you are blind to a host of moral hazards that are real while at the same time being diffuse and slow to mature. If you were to destroy the original color of the Declaration and replace the museum that houses it with low income housing, there would not be imminent harm. The harm would be hard to pinpoint other than the fact that it is a sacred document of our founding and meaning as a people.

Not all harms are imminent and “spreadsheetable”. There is a cost to re-interpreting the American flag as backing a sacred moral idea that gender is irrelevant in order to make the law blind: it uses the American flag to make gender meaninglessness into a sacred moral truth.

Furthermore, you don’t merely believe that the harm of gay marriage is simply not imminent. You believe there is no harm at all by any yardstick of measuring harm.

IMAGINARY OPPONENTThe sacredness of the meaning of gender is sacred only to religious people and people of a certain worldview. If I am not religious why should I have sacredness imposed on me and at my expense of being able to marry? Gay marriage will not stop hetero marriage but your moral vision will stop me.

When too much sacredness with vague harms comes at the expense of imminent and tangible limitations on others, that parochial view of sacredness must give way to freedom. The Declaration is not standing in anyone’s freedom. If it were, perhaps we should do something about it. On the other hand, your “hetero exceptionalism” as the law of the land is standing squarely in the way of my freedom.

ME – We are blind to skin color because we have a sacred moral truth that skin, like bloodlines is irrelevant. In the name of advancing freedom, you are trading one idea of sacredness and replacing it with another: the sacredness of gender meaning with the sacredness of gender blindness. It is a realm of conflicting impositions. This is a moral pivot point in the law that is not merely a legal adjustment on par with adjusting a speed limit. You are replacing one moral imposition with another. If you are intellectually honest, you say that you believe that your moral imposition is a better trade-off for our society.

IMAGINARY OPPONENTLet’s say that we, gay marriage advocates, wish to define gender blindness as an American principle on par with “skin blindness” that by default will result in certain legal, cultural and moral impositions; an advancement of a “sacred” moral idea to use your term. The end result will be more tolerance, less prejudice and a wider and broader tent for a greater cross section of experiences, orientations and personal goals. It is necessary for a nation to be “blind” to the sacred meaning that you wish to invest in gender for a nation where it is possible for the maximum number of people to pursue the maximum happiness.

ME –Human sexuality is a complicated “both/and”. There is a dimension of sexual orientation that is fixed and there is a dimension of flexibility to human sexuality. To the extent that there is any dimension of flexibility it should be encouraged toward committed one man-one woman unions. This encouragement is enhanced by putting man-woman unions on a legal and moral pinnacle.

There have been societies where the flexible dimension of sexuality has been directed away from man-woman committed unions, where gay and pederasty behavior became normative.

IMAGINARY OPPONENTSocieties where men turned to a certain degree of gay and pederasty behavior are societies were men were kept away from women for long and extreme periods of time and space. It was a consequence of less freedom not more freedom. Furthermore this happened in societies that still only recognized marriage as a man-woman union on an institutional level. Therefore, in those societies, the institutional recognition of “hetero-exceptionalism” by way of only honoring male-female marriages was obviously not enough to offset the problem you are concerned about.

There is fluidity to sexuality in a free gender-mixed society, but it is whether one is promiscuous within one’s orientation, not whether one has one orientation or another. It is whether you are a committed gay person or a promiscuous gay person, whether you are a committed hetero or a promiscuous hetero person.

A free society will not cause someone to “flip a script”. People should be encouraged to commit in marriage. It is commitment, and commitment period, that should be encouraged in the institution of marriage, not just hetero commitment.

ME As I said, we humans do not act soley act out of instincts but must guide our instincts with good conceptual tools that we have a hand in creating. Healthy committed sexuality is one seeing a part of one’s humanity that is both alien and familiar in the other sex. In a committed hetero sexual union one is nurturing that alien aspect of ones own humanity by caring for another, allowing the other to live out that part of ones own humanity as an extension of oneself. Our sexual orientations give us the raw material to begin this process, but it must be consummated by good choices, good concepts and good conditioning in our society and environment. A society that has made gender meaningless in order to make gender blindness a sacred social truth will sow confusion into this process.

That is the moral hazard to denying meaning to gender that will take long to mature. The harm is not “spreadsheetable” but real. Of course having hetero-exceptionalism on a legal pinnacle is not the only part of this healthy gender conditioning process but it does matter, and it is a necessary part of a social matrix for encouraging people into healthy man-woman unions over the long term.

I agree that a gay committed relationship is better than a promiscuous one, but the gender nullity required for a legal and social blindness of gender for gay/hetero marriage equality is based on a worldview that borrows too heavily from “raw natural”/animal and instinct ecosystems in order to construct its moral compass for managing our sexuality.

While it is true that not all gay marriage advocates are pro-promiscuity. In the end the advancement of the gender nullity worldview contributes to and justifies promiscuity because it is fruit from the same tree if not the same branch of the tree. Promiscuity operates in the animal ecosystem as does a lot of not ideal things as “natural endowments of instinct”. The civil religion of a gay marriage worldview is a civil religion that is oriented to an animalistic/desire-based raw natural view of the world.

In terms of flipping scripts, a society of enforced gender nullity will, over time, create new forms of peer pressure and “experimentation”. This will occur as people operate with their natural instincts to bond and follow each other while adopting a "times change" and "who's to say?" philosophy in order to avoid the sin of being intolerant.

(This debate could go on and on, but I’ll stop it for now)

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