Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Owl of Minerva Must Fly

1        We have no purely rational argument against gay “marriage” because, as C. S. Lewis says, we have lost “the evidential character of man.” The “evidential character of man” is the experience of man qua man, and it was lost 50 years ago in terms of human sexuality with the introduction of the pill. This loss has been chronicled by Damon Linker in a recent article in “The Week” entitled “How gay marriage’s fate was sealed more than 50 years ago.” It explains to those who are stunned by the rapid, pervasive and ubiquitous appearance of a gay culture that it has been present for at least ½ a century but in gestation beneath the appearance of a heterosexual “normalcy.” The epistemological heart of the matter consists in the loss of the experience of self-giving in heterosexual-conjugal relations, and with it the consciousness of the meaning of sex as male and female conjugally joined as husband and wife. Gone that consciousness, homosexual pundit Andrew Sullivan announced: “We Are All Sodomites Now.”[1] 

2        The epistemological discovery to be made here is the connection between experience and consciousness which has been the central academic task of Benedict XVI from the very beginning of his theological career, through his years as head of the CDF with John Paul II, his 8 years as pope and, I suspect, what he will be about as pope-emeritus in the wings.[2] It is the “new evangelization.”  It is “the broadening of reason.” Its absence is the cause of our stammering in the attempt to formulate the rationality of the perennial understanding of conjugal sexuality as heterosexual. Its absence is also our stumbling over the meaning of the Second Vatican Council and the hermeneutic of continuity with the sensus fidelium of the Church of always.

John Paul II as Wojtyla-philosopher explained consciousness as knowledge of the self in the experience of going out of oneself. In a word, the very notion of experience is the realism of subjectivity that has consciousness as a necessary element, otherwise, it wouldn’t be experience. When you experience, you know something, in fact, someone: yourself. As he said in the opening gambit of his “Acting Person:” “Man’s experience of anything outside  of himself is always associated with the experience of himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself.”[3]
The topic of the contraceptive pill has diminished the intentionality of the person as self-gift in the conjugal act that has now ceased to be conjugal, and perhaps even to be truly sexual. It has altered human anthropology and the consciousness thereof.  If the percentages are true, the American public has been contracepting for the past 50 years in what cannot be described in terms other than mutual masturbation in which each is locked “self-referentially”[4] into self. This ceases to be an experience of the human person as image of the divine Persons whose very revelation has been rendered theologically/philosophically as pure Relations. In a word, the contracepting human person has lost the experience of being a self-in-relation, and in so doing has lost the very consciousness and human meaning of male and female.
Given that the intelligibility of sexuality is to be found on the level of consciousness as corollary and concomitant with the experience of mutual self-giving of man and woman, and not on the level of concepts, and therefore conceptual, reasoned argumentation, Damon Linker in his “How Gay Marriage’s Fate Was Sealed More Than 50 Years Ago”[5] dismisses the logic of Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George, “What is Marriage?” Man and Woman: A Defense,” [6] as irrelevant to disproving the case for gay “marriage.” What they have done, he argues, is what no one else has done: “No critic of gay marriage has gone further in claiming that reason alone can tell us to reject gay marriage – and no critic has done more to demonstrate (inadvertently) how deeply confused the case against gay marriage really is.” What they have done, he highlights, is make an “argument against contraception, not gay marriage.” Why? Because these authors identify rationality with legality. And legal is what is recognized by the State. And the State is what makes laws, the law as what they consider rational.The State recognizes unions of persons that provided citizens that integrate society. To be recognized by the State is to be rational as generating citizenry and family life. To oppose it by way of legalizing gay “marriage” is “irrational.”[7] The conclusion is correct if we are thinking in terms of morality or Catholic Magisterium, but the internal dynamic of the reasoning is purely functional and material.
It is admirable that the authors want to reach the greatest number of persons in a democracy pervaded by religious freedom, and so want universal access by y reasoning alone, but the greater problem would be to treat the question on the wrong epistemological level. Since the truth of the sexual person must be found in the consciousness resulting from the experience of self-transcendence, it is deeply confusing to attempt to  prove what is not susceptible of proof and by pass the millennial experience of total self-giving that is constitutively open to procreation. This coincides with Catholic Christian doctrine, but not for that is it “religious.”
In 1990, Joseph Ratzinger addressed the bishops of the U.S. on the topic of conscience in which he explained that conscience is the consciousness of conforming to an ontological tendency inherent in the human person as imaging God to go out of self toward the divine. This consciousness is what we understand by “natural law” that could be better named “the law of the person.” It is a natural tendency creating a natural experience available to everyone yielding the concrete perception, among other things, of being masculine and feminine that is equal, different and complementary.  An ideologically based logic will not hold up here.

[1] New Republic,” March, 2003.
[2] This is not a new theme. It was announced by Hegel under the metaphor of the owl of Minerva flying at dusk. That is, as the Enlightenment contradicts reality conceptually, consciousness (the owl of Minerva) emerges (if we go forth out of self). 
[3] K. Wojtyla, “The Acting Person,” D. Reidel Publ. Co. (1979) 3 (From the Introduction).
[4] I take this from Pope Francis’ pre-Conclave remarks to the Cardinals.
[5] “The Week,” op. cit.
[6] Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George, “What is Marriage?” Man and Woman: A Defense,” Encounter Books, 2012.
[7] Ibid. 9.

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