I could say all of those things if I were of a mind to, if I believed that my friend really wanted to get into this. But I know he doesn't, does he?
I think your friend would want to get into this argument if you changed your frame of reference.By Marriah, at 10:19 AM
First, you seem to view this argument as optional, especially by the act of equating marriage to traditional peasant food. I seriously doubt your friend would think of this argument in such a casual way.
Second, you seem to view the argument as one about a dependent variable - what are the factors leading to a successful marriage - whereas your friend probably views the argument as one about an independent variable: what are the factors necessary for raising productive members of society, marriage being one of them?
Finally, you seem to base your logic on moral autonomy (likely from a Kantian deontological perspective deriving from the reasoning capacity of all individuals), whereas your friend probably bases his logic on moral heteronomy, using the teleological philosophical foundations of Aristotle, the utilitarian ethics of Bentham, and the Communitarian arguments of Sandel. In short, your friend probably sees marriage as a necessary mechanism for producing productive members of his or her community, and not as some byproduct of socio-economic status.
So you can present lots of data for this argument, but I suspect your friend will want to engage the argument only if he or she views the outcome as compulsory, not as optional. Otherwise, I suspect your friend is too busy raising his or her kids at the moment.
Your actual friends would respect your life choices, and would not show up to postulate that your marriage won't last or opine that you never should have gotten married in the first place.By Dr. Brazen Hussy, at 10:27 AM
"your friend probably sees marriage as a necessary mechanism for producing productive members of his or her community"By Arbitrista, at 10:34 AM
Wow, wait to insult all of the single mothers and fathers out there as well, if you need marriage in order to have a productive member of the community.By Silk Stocking, at 10:39 AM
Also, while I don't have any statistics, I would guess that all of these childless couples who divorce rather than go to counseling probably haven't been married particularly long and that possibly your statistics speak to an eagerness to get married without fully considering the consequences. Even if divorce and childlessness are correlated, that doesn't mean that one causes the other.
Just food for thought.
"Your actual friends would respect your life choices, and would not show up to postulate that your marriage won't last or opine that you never should have gotten married in the first place."By Marriah, at 10:46 AM
There is a big difference between presenting a theory about the foundations of society and applying that theory to one's friends in a judgmental way. I think both the person presenting the theory, and the friends who are potential targets of the theory, would recognize that.
In short, friends don't take academic debates personally unless it is explicitly stated in personal terms.
For instance, a person can easily think abortion is morally repugnant and simultaneously support a close friend who chooses to have an abortion. The same person can also argue that homosexuality is morally wrong and still have many homosexual friends. Theoretical arguments should not be applied personally until they are supported by the evidence.
As to friendship, would you think it was sensible to propose an intellectual debate about whether the Holocaust happened with someone of the Jewish faith? Perhaps that's an extreme case, but do you see where I'm going?By Arbitrista, at 11:06 AM
As to the substance, I have to say I'm confused. Your original position, as I understand it, was that as an empirical matter couples that don't have children tend to get divorced (the reason we are offended is that by implication we are making a bad decision by choosing not to have children, or that our unwillingness to have kids reflects poorly on our relationship). Now you seem to be saying that we need to have marriage and children from some sort of greater good - that we are obligated to procreate for the good of society. Which is it? If it's the former, then your stance seems ill-informed, based on the preliminary reading I've done on the matter. If the latter, then you've adopted a position that treats marriage not as a good in and of itself, but as a means to an end - which is just sad. I don't think most people would find that perspective plausible, or morally praiseworthy. Or I suppose you could be holding both positions simultaneously, which I think could get messy, philosophically speaking.
And Bentham? Honestly? I didn't think anyone took him seriously anymore.
"There is a big difference between presenting a theory about the foundations of society and applying that theory to one's friends in a judgmental way."By Rebecca, at 11:20 AM
In fact, that whole philosophical theory as applied to friendship is bullshit.
Some people are just tactless - it happens to run in my family a little, so I have close personal experience with it. And I think you, Arbitrista, have taken the high road in not taking it any further unless it obviously becomes remarks aimed specifically in judgment of you in a way that seems to require a response. Another possibility is that a friend, because they care about you, is worried for you because of data they've come across and is actually looking for reassurance from you that your marriage is solid. But those are things only you can tell from other communication clues.
But some people are just tactless, they can't help it, and their friends just have to accept it as part of the package. That's what real friends do.
What they don't do is deliberately offer gratuitous critical value judgments. Period. Even when phrasing them "adademically" or "theoretically".
I'm sorry, but the word "tactfully" is taken entirely out of context here.By Marriah, at 11:54 AM
Tact is when you go to someone who has an obvious problem with, say, drinking or gambling, and present the evidence of their destructive behavior in such a way that they listen to you instead of ignoring you. You are being compassionate and you want to be seen as a friend, not an enemy.
Tact is being a manager and firing an employee in such a way that the employee leaves peacefully instead of going on a violent rampage against coworkers.
Tact, fundamentally, is about the just and peaceful application of facts or theories to personal situations, not about merely discussing ideas that may possibly offend someone.
Academics who have PhDs in particular subjects should understand this difference. Presenting a theory about the plausibility of the Holocaust to a Jewish friend is perfectly fine as long as you are not applying the theory to that friend. Once you start applying the theory (by saying, for instance, "I don't believe your family was killed in the Holocaust") then you become tactless.
If we are not able to separate theoretical discussions from our personal friendships, we will have neither good friendships (because we will lack tact) and we will produce bad theory.
We should be able to separate theory and friendships easily.
"Your original position, as I understand it, was that as an empirical matter couples that don't have children tend to get divorced. Now you seem to be saying that we need to have marriage and children from some sort of greater good - that we are obligated to procreate for the good of society. Which is it?"By Marriah, at 12:11 PM
Think of the argument as a causal chain. Society cannot survive without procreation. However, procreation alone is not enough. We must also consider the quality of the population in order to avoid a Malthusian situation of overpopulation without sufficient resources. Thus, education becomes necessary to use resources in the most efficient way. This requires two components for a healthy society: The efficiency component (economic management) and the education component (raising children). One parent cannot do both well unless we create a welfare state dependent on heavy taxation. I want specific components of a welfare state - free health care and education - but without the taxation. the only way to accomplish that is to have a healthy civil society - what we call community. A healthy civil society depends on married couples with kids. Single parents do not have the time to engage in civil society. You can easily have a childless couple, but then you lack the procreation, and that couple will be the last couple. So, if we accept that a couple with kids is the only viable way to support civil society and the welfare state with minimal taxation, then we must make sure that families stay intact. Kids are part of that: Having children is an investment, therefore compelling couples to prolong the marriage even if there is no longer much romance, for the sake of producing healthy and educated kids. The other components, as you mention, included socio-economic status (its easier for middle- and upper-class couples to stay married, with or without kids, than it is for lower-class couples). There is also religious activity that supports healthy families. There are many other components, but the basic argument is that healthy families, with kids, are a critical foundation of any healthy, civically engaged society. If you take away the kids or the marriage, then either civic engagement (our sense of community) will suffer, because single parents don't have time, or society will suffer as the population and economic base shrink.
Does that make more sense?
"Single parents do not have the time to engage in civil society."By Rebecca, at 12:40 PM
That just sounds completely insane.
Presenting a theory about the plausibility of the Holocaust as though it has any merit whatsoever just proves you are a wingnut, regardless of whether you have a PhD or whether the person you are speaking to is Jewish.
So the answer to your question is no. None of it makes sense. It is such a breathtaking display of nonsense that I almost cannot believe it was written by a rational person who expects to be taken seriously. If it was merely meant to spark discussion for entertainment value, then kudos, happy to have been of service. Otherwise, I sincerely hope they are not the comments of a teacher or parent who has access to impressionable minds. Unfortunately, I happen to know that there are too many wingnuts in both positions to be optimistic about the possibility.
Rebeccah: Thanks. I agree with you completely.By Arbitrista, at 12:42 PM
Marriah: I believe I follow your argument, yes, but I think it's quite flawed in a number of respects, which I don't have time to address in any detail at the moment. But I will say that your neither your notion of tact nor your notion of marriage take much account of how human beings behave, or what they really want. People get married to be happy, not to further some abstract social good. And friends should avoid needlessly giving offense to friends.
"But I will say that neither your notion of tact nor your notion of marriage take much account of how human beings behave, or what they really want. People get married to be happy, not to further some abstract social good. And friends should avoid needlessly giving offense to friends."By Marriah, at 1:01 PM
Oh I certainly understand how people behave.
This is why I stipulated conditions for such a discussion about marriage. Many people, as you say, get married to be happy (whatever they think of as happiness). Many other people don't think that what they want is enough, but that they must obey what they "should" do (Ought becomes paramount for them). Hence, they feel irresponsible and selfish if they merely do what makes them happy. The "should" is usually communicated through church and extended family.
Thus, posit two couples. Couple A is married because it makes them happy, and kids are an optional byproduct. Couple B is married because their community and their church say they must, for the sake of the community and larger society, and so they have kids.
My argument is that couple B will likely last the length of time to raise the kids because it makes their lives meaningful, even if it doesn't necessarily make them happy at any given moment, while couple A will likely last only 5 years, so long as the romance stays alive and they are always happy.
I will not impugn your marriage or the marriage of any other childless couple. However, your personal life choice has no bearing on the soundness of the argument regarding couple A and couple B.
First, as to this:By Arbitrista, at 1:18 PM
"Couple B is married because their community and their church say they must, for the sake of the community and larger society, and so they have kids."
That's a sick, positively medieval reason to get married. I pity people who think that way. I really do. It makes human beings into objects for the good of an abstraction, totally independent of their own good, or of any other person's good. It's twisted and authoritarian.
"My argument is that couple B will likely last the length of time to raise the kids because it makes their lives meaningful, even if it doesn't necessarily make them happy at any given moment, while couple A will likely last only 5 years, so long as the romance stays alive and they are always happy."
Do you have a shred of evidence that this contention is true? Because the data as I see it doesn't support this position at all. And who said that getting married in order to be happy meant that you had to always be happy. No one is happy all the time. Marriage is about valuing your connection with another person, about wishing that person's good and its relation to your own.
I think I'll conclude this discussion, despite your rather high-handed stipulations, by saying that I think that marriage isn't for the purpose of anything but for the good of those participating in it. Otherwise it's just another institution of social control - which is what I think your version of marriage in Option A reflects exactly. A social order that takes no account of the good of its members isn't a social order worth defending.
That's acceptable to me. We can agree to disagree on the basic framework. Since we have very divergent views about the value of social groupings vis-a-vis individual preferences (I think the social group's values trump the individual's preference to promote the social good, whereas you do not), I suspect the actual sharing of evidence wouldn't be productive.By Marriah, at 1:24 PM
But this has been an enlightening philosophical, if not empirical, discussion. Thanks!
Rebecca: I am generally against the idea of tenure for professors because I don't think it has any practical social use. However, your reaction to the discussion - not the application - of specific theories strikes me as a very good justification for tenure.By Marriah, at 1:40 PM
Professors should be able to do any research they want on any theories, even if the theories deny the Holocaust, support the slavery of African-Americans, and the oppression of women and gays. You are free to argue against those theories. That's what free speech is for after all.
I think the creation of Think Tanks is a direct response to the denial of tenure to academics who propose "undesirable theories".
Marriah, your comparison is flawed. Denying the Holocaust existed is like denying slavery existed and the oppression of women/gays exists.By Rebecca, at 2:23 PM
You can argue all you want for the "theories" espousing those things to be good. Free speech allows for the support of Nazi theory as well as other despicable schools of thought. However, you are not allowed to rewrite history. Denying the Holocaust existed is exactly the same as denying slavery existed. Only the worst of the wingnuts give that a shot.
Rebecca, if someone wants to deny that the Holocaust happened, or that slavery doesn't exist, that is fine with me. It is just like arguing that the Earth is flat. For every person who denies, there will be more people (many more) to affirm. That's normal: as long as the deniers are in the extreme minority, they still have a right to exist.By Marriah, at 2:32 PM
What I don't understand is your revulsion to this fact. It's like being angry that solar eclipses, a rare astronomical event, happen. Just accept it and move on.
Marriah, can you even hear yourself? What you wrote to Rebecca was outrageously condescending. A BA at Harvard doesn't give you the right to talk to people like that. Show some respect.By Arbitrista, at 2:53 PM
Arbitrasta, I am asking Rebecca to show respect for different opinions. Her outrage has no justification. You of all people (with your background in Rawls) should understand that. Even theories that are extreme outliers, like denying the Holocaust, deserve the right to exist. She's the one who should be apologizing to me for her condescending attitude toward my theories. You have shown justified restraint, and I thank you for that.By Marriah, at 3:00 PM
"It is such a breathtaking display of nonsense that I almost cannot believe it was written by a rational person who expects to be taken seriously. ... I sincerely hope they are not the comments of a teacher or parent who has access to impressionable minds."By Marriah, at 3:18 PM
See what I mean, Arbitrista? I consider that to be very condescending toward me, and you agreed with all of it. I don't think language like that is very respectful at all. So, if you are going to talk about being condescending, there is your evidence.
Marriah, opinions and theories are one thing and facts are another. The earth is not flat, slavery and the Holocaust existed.By Rebecca, at 5:34 PM
Yet you are assigning equal credibility to the people who believe the world is flat as to the people who don't.
And while I respect the right of everyone to have an opinion, it doesn't mean I actually have to respect the opinion itself.
So I'm sorry, I find it impossible to accord respect to the beliefs that the world is flat and that the Holocaust or slavery did not exist. Because all of those beliefs are in flagrant contradiction of the facts. And to be perfectly frank, I am every bit as appalled to find out that Harvard graduated a person who believes the Holocaust didn't happen as I would be to find out that they awarded a degree to someone who believes that the world is flat.
But you are right, I should not be name calling. So I apologize for using the term wingnut.
I will try, instead, to calmly explain the source of my outrage. It's my belief that theories such as denying the existence of slavery or the Holocaust encourage the persecution of others. For that reason, I consider them dangerous and hate to see them passed on as truth to people who may not know any better. In my purely anecdotal experience, these theories are only espoused by bigots and are used to teach bigotry to others.
That is my opinion, and I respect your right to disagree with it. I doubt there are any facts to support either side of such a subjective argument. At least not such incontrovertible evidence as a bunch of huge ovens and mass graves, anyway.
Rebecca, thank you for clarifying, and apology accepted.By Marriah, at 8:01 PM
I only use Holocaust denial, flat Earthers and denial of slavery as examples of extreme outliers on the range of opinions. They are obviously outside the mainstream, but I think academia exists to protect such extreme opinions on any topic.
As for your explanation, that is news to me. I am sure your anecdotal evidence is compelling, and I know that some theories, based on pseudo-science such as Phrenology, were in fact used to persecute minority groups, Jews in particular.
That said, theories are just, well, theories. I hold them to be neutral, just as facts produced from any type of scholarship are neutral. Theories are arguments regarding cause and effect. Opinions are positive or negative assessments of cause and effect. The problem throughout history, as I see it, is that very few people really know the difference between theories, facts and opinion, and thus may be willing to accept a theory denying the Holocaust as fact, as you say.
The problem I see with your analysis is the same problem Madison saw with interest groups in Federalist 10: To deny equal credibility to people who believe the world is flat and people who believe the world is round is a cure worse than the disease. I simply have more faith in people than your analysis allows. I really do not think that, if presented with 1 theory denying the Holocaust and 1000 theories and facts approving it, a normal person would choose the 1 theory denying the Holocaust. People are very smart.
I have a tremendous amount of faith in the ability of people to distinguish between theories, facts and opinions. All we have to do is respect that their opinions exist, giving equal weight to everyone and (as JS Mill would say), the truth will come out in the "marketplace" of ideas.
I didn't mean to give you the impression that I actually believe Holocaust deniers or flat Earthers. That's my mistake for failing to separate a demonstration from my personal opinion. However, I hope we can agree that a multitude of facts, theories and opinions, include extreme outliers, is a good thing.
"To deny equal credibility to people who believe the world is flat and people who believe the world is round is a cure worse than the disease."By Rebecca, at 9:51 PM
Okay, then, I'm fine with agreeing to disagree about the cure being worse than the disease.
I can't conceive of any circumstances whatsoever where people who make things up out of thin air with no consideration of the facts should be granted credibility equal to those who are constrained to work within reality. Or why they should be granted any credibility whatsoever.
I am a great believer in minority rights, and in the rights of individuals. Majority opinion should not always rule for very good reasons. Might does not always make right. But it's not necessary to ignore facts in order to achieve this. It sometimes takes a very long while, and a lot of fighting back on the part of the minority group. A perfect example of this is Prop 8 in California.
But to allow people to just make up things and call them truths is abhorrent. And I still maintain that to give them any credibility whatsoever is dangerous.
I do, however, share your faith in people. It is how the Bush and Republican Party have come to their rock bottom approval ratings. A vast majority of the voting public no longer believes all of the lies they were told by politicians who just ignored the facts and made stuff up.
Because that's what you call statements that contradict the facts. Lies.
Ewww.By Ursa, at 10:30 PM
Count me among those believing in Arbitrista and BH's 'theories' of marriage and society, and even the appropriateness of childlessness. Perhaps if the 'marketplace' here shows to have more theorists on that side, we 'win?' Right? Right?
But in any case: their bodies, their lives, their society = their choice. And floating 'theories' which argue against the merits of a friend's life choices, as a philosophical debate/exercise? Just, ewww! Really unnecessary and pointlessly prickly, unless you are proselytizing, in which case, ewww!
Go read some Atwater.
aww cr@p! Atwood. I meant AtWOOD. /headdesk/ gotta hate the missed punchline. Man!By Ursa, at 10:37 PM
Just goes to show it's not worth getting riled over.
But, still. Sheesh.
"And floating 'theories' which argue against the merits of a friend's life choices, as a philosophical debate/exercise?"By Marriah, at 11:24 PM
There's still a great deal of confusion about the purpose of discussing theories and various arguments. The reason we seek out friends is, in part, for the intellectual stimulation. If all you ever do is talk about theories that affirm your life choices, that isn't terribly stimulating, is it? Thus, friendships should, ideally, serve as vehicles for exploring all types of intellectual theories, even if the content of those theories contradicts the life choices of the friends in question. There must be a separation between the personal and the intellectual for this to work. If we cannot separate the personal from the intellectual, either the theoretical discussion will be very limited, or your friends will get very offended. Either outcome is bad.
I have never once made, nor will I ever make, personal attacks based on theories. But what is the point of discussing topics on a blog like this if you cannot respectfully discuss theories?
Let's have a little perspective.
Hey Arbitrista, this whole discussion over the past few days, while interesting in itself, has me thinking: You should devote an entire blog post to the subject of false outrage, or disproportionate responses.By Marriah, at 3:38 PM
For example, what issues can you think of on a national scale that are truly small and inconsequential in nature, but that provoke false outrage from a particular group?
Conversely, what issues can you think of on a national scale that should provoke more outrage than they do?
In general, what is the appropriate level of anger, outrage, etc., for any given topic of political, philosophical, economic, or even personal discussion?
I would love to know your take on this, because my opinion is that there is tons of false outrage in our national politics, but also tons of justified outrage. Distinguishing the true from the false is very difficult, but I think it's a subject worthy of your attention, and likely to produce very compelling results.