The reader's challenge is to tell me who wrote the following. The rules are simple and 3 in number:
1. No internet searches or research
2. Of any kind.
You either know already or are able to divine the answer. Or not:
G. K. Chesterton remarked that the murderer is the supreme spendthrift, wasting in a moment what he cannot re-create in a life-time. The freedom confusedly derived from the divorce of facts from values is like that: the abortionist destroys a thing he is incapable of reproducing, the skeptic breaks a tradition he could never have begotten. Most of the recently constituted freedoms we now enjoy - or pretend to enjoy - are not the measured liberties of human beings who understand their own nature and limits, but unmeasured irresponsibilities with immeasurable consequences. They are freedoms to renounce. We have begun to declare our independence of our own actions and choices, a declaration that militates against all those accumulated habits summed up in the word 'character.'
If this is freedom, it is not human freedom. It may be canine freedom. Santayana said that the only thing the modern liberal wants to liberate man from is the marriage contract; and this comes close to the hidden agenda of the progressive nihilist. Philosophically, one can doubt anything. One can doubt God, one can doubt matter. With such a rich field of options for doubt, it is instructive to notice which things the modern nihilists have chosen to doubt.
The animus of reductionism is specific,: it is against chastity, or sexual virtue - of all words the surest to evoke sneers. They are also the words that express the highest human refinement except charity. Even the licentious Romans respected chastity, and honored virginity even when they apparently had no virgins. Today the word chastity is almost taboo, except as a joke, because it affronts the values of those who profess to be value-free; it expresses a view of human nature, and of human perfection, that we are implicitly forbidden to act on. There is something almost risque nowadays in reminding people that character is most basically shown in the use of the body, and that the body's properly human use must be directed to something beyond promiscuous animal desire.
When the Reagan Administration recently launched a campaign to include the advocacy of chastity in its sex education program, it was greeted with progressive hoots. Progressives still uphold the fiction that sex education is, can be, and ought to be value-free. In actual fact, of course, they are using sex education as a vehicle for their own moral code, and the Administration's action threatened to convert the whole thing into the very opposite of what they intended it to be.
It is easy to see what they had in mind. They never wanted to destroy marriage or the family, as some of their critics charge. But they thought these could be demoted to the status of mere options among many other "lifestyles," which is to say, sexstyles. And they saw no harm in sexual perversion and promiscuity, so long as the young were told how to avoid certain practical consequences. Sex education, to their minds, meant simply accepting the whole field of sexual behavior and preparing the young to choose intelligently. They utterly failed to see that this in effect meant adopting more or less officially a whole theory of human nature and destiny - one which, if false, would have disastrous results.
It may be as well for dogs to mate as the inclination seizes them. The male has no responsibility to his offspring. With human beings it is different. Moreover, human beings know it. The act of sex naturally has a much richer meaning for them, even if they are too naive to realize it may result in children. They need an entirely different emotional orchestration, and it is also naive to affect ignorance of this.
Real human freedom, as against the canine sort, requires permanence. If there were no rules of property in land we might pitch our tents where we liked and pull them up when we liked; but we would not be free to build houses. The permanence we need also requires sustained intentions, and mutual guarantees of such intentions, which is why Chesterton called the promise the most basic human institution. How can a man keep his soul, he asked, when he cannot even keep his appointments? Chesterton also reminds us that the old English ballads celebrated not lovers, but true lovers. Even a wedding vow is a vow of chastity, a promise of fidelity to one's spouse and restraint toward all others.
PeopIe have always assumed that chastity is preeminently a woman's virtue. To dismiss this as a double standard is to miss the point that the masculine and the feminine differ in more than simple physical form. All societies are organized around the womb, the source of progeny and therefore of society's future, and a woman's body therefore demands both special consecration and especially strict conduct. The very people who complain of the double standard, however, are most derisive toward the idea of male chastity, and the day is past when a Milton would hotly defend himself against a charge of sexual levity - a charge that gave much of its sting by implying that he had used women dishonorably, that is, had been willing to bed them without the decency to wed them. His supposed unchastity would also be a form of uncharity. The other side of the double standard was that a man's honor depended heaviIy on his respect for women's honor.
The institution of marriage and the code of chastity, now derided as middle-class morality, actually served to protect women, including the poorest, from exploitation, to give them a publicly supported right to say No. All of us deserve love, really human love, and since human nature shows no automatic tendency to supply the need at all times - as witness the facts of desertion, divorce, and abortion - social order consists in guaranteeing certain minima of respect.
"Values" are not really vague entities arbitrarily superadded to "facts"; the distinction is artificial. In an essay renowned among professional philosophers, John Searle used the promise to show how to derive "is" from "ought." A promise, he argued, constitutes an obligation. It is something quite distinct from a statement of intent. Intentions may change; promises should be kept. Or there is no such thing as a promise.
It is interesting that Searle should have chosen the same action Chesterton named as basic as a fulcrum for reconstructing the values recent philosophy has done so much to debunk. But as we all realize, at least in practical life, there are some acts with built-in obligations, whether an actual promise is made or not. To have a child is to have duties as a parent. To have sex is to have duties toward one's partner. Such duties spring from what we as human beings are and what as human beings we can foresee. It is no good pretending we are quasidogs, conscious only of "facts."
Yet that is pretty much what we officially pretend nowadays. Society no longer dares to expect virtue, especially sexual virtue, from its members. At the level of law this may seem like a happy increase in freedom, and a welcome decline in busybody government. And certainly government should be modest about enforcing virtue.
But by an unfortunate development, not only government but all of society has grown modest-morbidly modest - about even recognizing virtue. I had a personal glimpse of the truth recently when a young woman, upon two hours' acquaintance, confided to me that she was having an affair with a man slightly older than herself; and it transpired that she wanted badly to marry him and have children, but didn't dare raise the issue. She was miserably afraid he would eventually leave her, as he had left the woman - slightly older again than he - who had formerly been his lover and her best friend. In short, she wanted some assurance of constancy - a vow - but had not the least sense that she had any right to expect it. Though highly intelligent, she took for granted that in the modern world we are, as Sartre put it, condemned to be free. Or, to paraphrase it a bit, condemned to be value-free. We live, as the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has put it in a brilliant book, "after virtue" - having abandoned any "concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential purpose or function."
Neither men nor women have a clear sense of identity, unless they manage to achieve it more or less on their own; at any rate society can't tell them what they are. And now it even transpires that the abortion debate isn't really about facts at all. It turns out that we can agree that a human fetus is a human being. But unhappily, we can't agree on what a human being is.