Jeffersonian utopian homosexual liberationism runs up against the awful awful reality of America

From the website of America’s best known homosexual former conservative:

EMAIL OF THE DAY II: “I am a 25 year-old gay man, and I can’t even describe how saddened I am today by the re-election of President Bush and the numerous state amendments banning gay marriage that were passed on election day. I’m not really angry… just very sad and afraid. I don’t know what country I live in anymore. I thought this was the land of freedom. I thought I was free to pursue my own happiness. But right now I feel like my country hates me. What is going on?”

No one told this guy that most people think the idea of two men marrying each other is … a little strange? But of course it’s people like America’s best-known homosexual former conservative who have planted these irrational ideas in the young man’s mind, leading him to believe that any opposition to any of his demands is simply irrational bigotry.

A correspondent adds:

It’s so amazing. Only yesterday, no one even thought of men marrying men. Now that this 25 year old finds he can’t do it, he cries out to the cosmos that he doesn’t know what country he’s living in, as if there were homosexuals being made to scrub the streets or something. How rapidly the disease of liberalism spreads!

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 04, 2004 01:08 PM | Send

If the infantile 25-year old wishes to experience how much more tolerant others in the world are about his lifestyle, he should go and take a bike ride in Holland.

Posted by: Carl on November 4, 2004 1:25 PM

You can find expressions of opprobrium against homosexuals as far back as Plato and the Old Testament. Literature in ancient China describes it in disdainful terms. The majority in most societies on this planet have never been willing to openly accept homosexuality. Those few who have were primitive. Yes, I know about ancient Greece, but that was only one side of the coin. Many Greeks stood against it. The early Romans were disgusted by the Greeks. One of the reasons Christianity gained wide acceptance in the Roman Empire was because of its unambiguous stand against the practise. The ancient Germans punished the practise by death. Anyone foolish enough to think that human nature is going to change certainly deserves a bike ride in Amsterdam. I have warned my liberal friends many times that they were flirting with electoral disaster if they thought Christians, liberal or otherwise, would accept a gay agenda. I believe I have been proved right.

Posted by: Bob Griffin on November 4, 2004 3:17 PM

Two liberal correspondants of mine have in the past used a return label that read: Teach Tolerance. As we have now seen on a variety of issues-especially gay rights and immigration—tolerance is merely a phase, a strategy, a marketing ploy. Most people are tolerant in the traditional sense i.e.,indulgence or sympathy for beliefs differing from one’s own. But for forty years now mainstream Americans have seen that same toleration being used against them to erode their cherished way of life.That is why, here in Ohio,Issue 1 was passed despite being castigated by most major newspapers and elected officials, including Gov. Taft, as a legal and economic boondoggle.
Also, many thanks to Mr. Auster for running the site with the best conservative insights and analyses on the internet. As a nighthawk, I appreciate the fact that Mr. Auster often posts after 10:00 or 11:00PM!

Posted by: DS on November 4, 2004 3:51 PM

It’s apparent that even though there are people who are born gay, it’s mostly a matter of choice. All of the “this is how God made me” and “this is who I am” arguments are simply nonsense and even the gays themselves know it, they just use those arguments to invoke sympathy to their filthy cause.

Posted by: Eugene Girin on November 4, 2004 4:47 PM

It’s amusing to listen to all the same leftists who have for years insisted that all human behavior is basically learned and not fundamental now insisting that homosexuality is somehow immune to outside forces of any kind, existing as a sort of meta-trait. Please.

Posted by: Dan on November 4, 2004 5:03 PM

At least this disturbed young man is still alive. This reminds me of the case of Stuart Matis:

The argument over whether the cause is heredity, environment or choice is unproductive. All three are necessary and no one is sufficient.

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on November 4, 2004 5:16 PM

I had a Gary Oldman moment yesterday(for those who saw The Professional). A liberal friend asked, “What kind of person has a problem with two men getting married?”

I answered, “Everyone.”

“What do you mean, ‘Everyone’?”


Posted by: Derek Copold on November 4, 2004 5:26 PM

Jeffersonian Utopian Homosexual Liberationism, in the true historical sense, could only refer to his proposal to remove sodomy from the list of capital offenses in Virginia, since “the reformation of offenders, tho’ an object worthy the attention of the laws, is not effected at all by capital punishments, which exterminate instead of reforming …”

In place of execution he submitted the following proposal in 1778:

“Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro’ the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least.”

I suppose this would be an adequate remedy for a State to adopt. Either way, I feel entitled to a far greater sense of justification than Mr. Sullivan in not recognizing what country I live in anymore.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on November 4, 2004 5:35 PM

Surely you must realize where the word “queer” comes from. You are a very odd individual and should be phased out of the gene pool.

Posted by: Arlie on November 4, 2004 7:27 PM

How long has Sen. Specter been posting here?

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on November 4, 2004 7:49 PM

The expressions of the liberal mind we occassionally see here, in all its intellectual bankrupcy and belligerent incoherency, never cease to awe and amaze.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on November 4, 2004 10:19 PM

Derek I also remember and continue to be impressed by the Gary Oldman scene you mention. Why are British actors so good—their expertise with English maybe?

Posted by: Paul Henri on November 4, 2004 11:20 PM

I’m shocked at the extreme punishment Jefferson proposed for sodomy. Of course, when I spoke of “Jeffersonian utopian homosexual liberationism” in the title of this entry I didn’t literally mean that there was any connection between Thomas Jefferson and homosexual liberation. I was referring to the Sullivan’s correspondent’s basing his demand for homosexual marriage on the idea that this is a free country where people can pursue happiness. While Jefferson would have been astounded at the idea of homosexual liberation, it is nevertheless consistent with the modern development of Jeffersonian thought.

As for this:

—A liberal friend asked, “What kind of person has a problem with two men getting married?”

I answered, “Everyone.”—

That reminds me of the first time I debated homosexual marriage. I was at a Thanksgiving dinner at a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side around 1991, people were sitting around the large living room in separate conversational groups. I was having a chat with my host in one corner of the room. Somehow he brought up the subject of two men he knew living together, and I spontaneously replied, “Why, that’s disgusting.” Now, when I said this, the two of us were having a one-on-one conversation in one side of the room, nobody else heard it. I wasn’t trying to make a point or start an argument, it was just a spontaneous response. But as soon as I said it, my host raised his voice in shock and announced to the entire room, as though it were a scandalous thing, “Larry thinks that two men living together is disgusting!” Then we all launched into this long debate on the subject of homosexual marriage. I had had no sleep the night before and was ill equipped to defend my position singlehandedly against a room full of liberals. But I at least got them to back off from the demand for homosexual marriage and settle for the equivalent arrangement of what is now called civil unions. Today I suppose the same people are demanding homosexual marriage.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 5, 2004 1:01 AM

Mr. Auster,

The imagery of your Thanksgiving dinner experience reminds me of a scene from the movie “Sleeper” by Woody Allen. He plays a person who goes to the hospital for a routine procedure and wakes up 500 years in the future.

There is a scene where Allen (Miles Monroe) is disguised as a servant robot. He is working for an artsy pseudo-intellectual master, Diane Keeton, who is hosting a cocktail party. Individual groups are assembled throughout the futuristic home conversing. Among them are loose women, swastika clad eccentrics and caped fashonisitas.

They pass around the “Orb” to get stoned and enter the telephone booth sized “orgas-matron” for pleasure. To Allen this bizarre social behavior is anathema to his 1972 morality. But it is the norm and it is his values and morality which are obsolete and alien.

It is a very funny social commentary of the time and seems to have envisioned social and moral chaos and decadence, a running theme of story tellers and futurists, fairly well.

Posted by: andrew2 on November 5, 2004 3:20 AM

Off-topic: English actors?

My guess: The English are into economy of communication, both verbally and emotionally. So, they can modulate their output, and when they go full bore, it has a greater effect. In contrast to Oldman, you can look at Sean Penn, who does little more than continually emote.

Posted by: Derek Copold on November 5, 2004 10:28 AM

“The English are into economy of communication, both verbally and emotionally.”

I’ve had the same thought myself, and it’s one of the things I most admire about the English. They put just the appropriate amount of emotion into what they do, not too little, not too much. This is one of the marks of their superiority as a people and a culture.

The way I’ve put it to myself is, the English are “well-made” people.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 5, 2004 10:41 AM

Mr. Auster wrote: “I’m shocked at the extreme punishment Jefferson proposed for sodomy.” Is it as shocking that the penalty in effect at that time in Virginia was _death_?

That should not be surprising at all, considering the strong religious beliefs, based on the Bible, that predominated. In ancient Israel: “If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Lev 20:13)

Also, I’m not a big defender of Jefferson, but I have no idea how Mr. Auster concludes that anything Jefferson ever advocated has any connection whatsoever to modern sodomite “liberation.”

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on November 6, 2004 7:36 PM

As I’ve already explained, when I wrote the title of the current thread, I was not suggesting that Jefferson had anything to do with advocating sexual liberation of any kind. I was referring to the fact that the homosexual liberationist whom I quoted was appealing to Jefferson’s statements about the equal right of everyone to pursue happiness. Today’s liberationists are participants in the same utopian vision of unrestricted human freedom effortlessly harmonized with social order of which Jefferson is the most famous and eloquent exponent. They are simply carrying that vision further.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 6, 2004 7:57 PM

“…by cutting thro’ the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least.” Jefferson may have considered it a punishment, but in my city this is the height of fashion.

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on November 6, 2004 8:04 PM

I am stunned at Mr. Auster’s analysis. The reason I posted Mr. Jefferson’s proposal was to show that he most assuredly did NOT believe in UNRESTRICTED human freedom. The “pursuit of happiness” phrase he copied from Mason, or any other similar position he advocated must be understood in context. If you take that context away, you can prove almost anything in respect to many of the concepts that underlay early American thought.

Mr. Jefferson could only have endorsed that happiness should be pursued within a limited framework established by the religious and cultural strictures that everyone of that day took for granted. Those, like Sullivan, who grasp at statements or phrases but strip them of the whole framework in which they were made, are guilty of perverting those concepts—while Mr. Auster seems to assert that this somehow represents the natural and inevitable evolution of those concepts. I could not more strongly disagree. This amounts to a dangerous concession that could warp any sound principle of society or government.

When the Sullivans of the world perpetrate this fraud, our response should not be to give credence to it and then declare the original concepts to therefore be illegitimate. Indeed, Mr. Auster rightly criticizes certain paleos for similar behavior. We should instead explain how these concepts are only workable within a Godly, Biblical framework. Our response should be to expound the CONTEXT of values, rooted in Christianity and Western experience, that we as _conservatives_ mean to _conserve_— or at this point to _restore_, without which nearly any distinctly (and truly) original “American” position veers toward disaster.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on November 6, 2004 8:32 PM

Mr. LeFevre, if I said anything that suggested that homosexual liberation “represents the natural and inevitable evolution” of Jefferson’s concepts, I did not mean that. I am speaking of the popular understanding of Jefferson in the modern world, how people understand the idea that we have a right to the pursuit of happiness and that society must protect this right. Yet at the same time, one must admit that such wide-open language as Jefferson’s certainly does contain the potentiality to be misunderstood. Does Mr. LeFevre deny that?

I have a story to tell about this. In the 1970s when I was living in Aspen, Colorado, there was an Aspenite named Reb Brendes. Every Fourth of July he had a big party on his land a couple of miles outside of town. Every year, toward the end of the afternoon, he would go to the microphone (which had been set up for the entertainment) and read excerpts of the Declaration of Independence to everyone. It was nice. Then, one year, we were rather surprised to hear that he had come out as a homosexual. The next July Fourth he had his party again, only this time, before reading the Declaration of Independence, he prefaced it with a statement about his new-found sexuality and how the Declaration was an expression of this. It seemed a little yucky to us, but there it was.

By the way, a few months later he died in a car accident near his home.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 6, 2004 9:01 PM

What Mr. Auster wrote was, “Today’s liberationists are participants in the same utopian vision of unrestricted human freedom effortlessly harmonized with social order of which Jefferson is the most famous and eloquent exponent. They are simply carrying that vision further.”

It is not “the same” vision at all, nor is it something of which Jefferson was an exponent. It is the result of an improper expropriation, taking a general concept, and removing the whole framework of cultural strictures that must give it the delimited definition previously understood—it is not the concept that is the problem, it’s the fact that those strictures have eroded. That is where our battle is properly waged.

Nor is Jefferson’s apparently “wide-open” language the problem—if the whole story is told. It seems to me that a proposal by Mr. Jefferson, in very clear language, advocating castration for the offense of sodomy, 2 years after the Declaration of Independence, should be more than sufficient to clarify just how “wide-open” his positions were meant to be understood.

I don’t think any of the early Americans could have foreseen a day when the Christian ethos then predominant would be so thoroughly undermined. Subtlety of speech would not have been necessary in a moral cultural framework universally acknowledged and respected. It’s up to us to remind our fellow countrymen that without this moral framework, and its limitations generating from revelation and from millenia of human experience, nearly any concept involving human freedom or rights will go the same way.

I am saying that these concepts cannot be legitimately viewed as representing their proponents apart from the cultural context. And it only hurts our cause if we infer a sameness or continuity when what we really have is contrast and perversion. Instead, we have here an opportunity to show a very significant _difference_, to reprove some slanderous assertions against our forebears, and to affirm the moral framework indispensable to the workability of their propositions.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on November 6, 2004 9:44 PM

I agree my earlier statement seems to say that this is Jefferson’s own thought, not just a popular or leftist distortion of his thought. I’m not sure what my precise views on this are, and I’m not equipped at the moment to have a full discussion of this with Mr. LeFevre. But to explain where I’m coming from, I am influenced by a recent reading of Joseph Ellis’s “American Sphinx,” an extremely interesting study of the mind and character of Jefferson. Ellis says that Jefferson had conceived from his early years this utopian, romantic view of the ideal society in which individual freedom is effortlessly harmonized with social order. Ellis thinks Jefferson’s idea is wrong, that it doesn’t correspond with reality, but that Jefferson’s life-long effort to keep alive the flame of this idea despite the fact that it was contradicted by reality explains much of his life and thought.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 6, 2004 9:56 PM

Mr. LeFevre wrote:
“I don’t think any of the early Americans could have foreseen a day when the Christian ethos then predominant would be so thoroughly undermined.”

I am not sure it matters what they would have foreseen though. Ideas have consequences; consequences that don’t care whether or not the initial proponents of the ideas would agree with them. It is rare indeed for a man to fully understand where his ideas lead (which is part of why tradition, particularly in politics, must exercise authoritative restraint over novelty).

I am not here getting into the larger question of whether or not Jefferson’s ideas naturally lead to homosexual liberation. Rather I am making the specific point that whether they do or not does not depend on what Mr. Jefferson would have expected himself. In fact reality is generally opposed to the expectation that the proponent of an idea will always agree with where that idea leads.

Here at VFR I’ve often set myself against not only the liberal tendencies in modern thought but also the nominalist tendencies. You can’t effectively oppose the one without opposing the other. Lets stipulate that Jefferson himself was against homosexual liberation as a premise. Does that mean that his ideas do not naturally lead to homosexual liberation? Not at all. Ideas are like children. They may originate with particular men, but where they ultimately lead is not up to their fathers. It must be conceded that for Jefferson, opposition to homosexual liberation may be an unprincipled exception. So the fact that he personally opposed homosexual liberation does not mean that his ideas do not ultimately require it.

I am not saying that they *do* require it; just that “he was personally opposed” is quite literally irrelevant to that determination. To think otherwise is a manifestation of nominalism.

Posted by: Matt on November 6, 2004 10:31 PM

And I am saying that ideas cannot be construed apart from the setting in which they are conceived and advanced. They are like elements on a painting, where the canvas is expected to retain its shape and substance. If the latter is altered, so are the painted objects.

I’m not sure it’s really correct, as Matt asserts, to say that these ideas have _lead_. The cultural context in which they were given is what has changed, and the ideas as compartmentalized units, landing in a destructive setting, have accordingly become so morphed that they cannot be considered the same ideas as first propounded. Otherwise we might as well say that a group advocating legal rape were only following Jefferson’s ideas to their logical conclusion, (notwithstanding that rape was also to be penalized with castration.) The same with pedophilia and the like.

Matt, indeed, expresses a disagreement in one sentence and then affirms my overall point in the next when he says, “which is part of why tradition, particularly in politics, must exercise authoritative restraint over novelty.” Exactly! And the tradition I refer to is that of a Christian, moral, cultural framework within which our political system was devised and its ideas formed. If a given idea was understood only within the context of recognized limits, the removal of those limits must represent a quite “novel” idea!

The concept of liberty must be considered within a Christian framework or it becomes license. The ideas Mr. Jefferson espoused simply cannot be divorced from this essential context without those ideas becoming something entirely different, representing not a continuity but a fundamental alteration in their meaning. To suggest otherwise further encourages our opponents by attaching to their perversions an authoritative reference to which they are in no way entitled.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on November 6, 2004 11:19 PM

Another note of caution here is that people will hold certain beliefs for various reasons, and then try to rationalize them after the fact. In that process, they will tend to use famous and reputable writings as a justification in order to gain legitimacy. This does not imply that these writings “led to” the beliefs; the chronological order is the reverse, in that the beliefs came first.

Examples abound throughout history. The Bible was used to justify slavery; did it “lead to” slavery? Welfare statists will take the preamble to the Constitution, with its “promote the general welfare” clause, ignore the meaning of “welfare” and “general” in the time of the writing of these words, ignore the fact that the preamble is a statement of intent and not a granting of powers, and conclude that the preamble authorizes the welfare state. Were the framers remiss in including such general language? Did the language “lead to” the modern welfare state?

Posted by: Clark Coleman on November 7, 2004 12:25 AM

Let me try to sum up my understanding of Jefferson as it relates both to Matt’s and Mr. LeFevre’s arguments, and see if I can clarify their relationship.

What is the essential Jeffersonian idea, the idea with which his name is most closely associated, and which, though it doesn’t actually correspond to any society that has ever existed or can exist, has played such a key role in the formation of the American psyche and personality? It is the idea of society as consisting of free individuals, who are not subject to any external constraints, but who nevertheless behave virtuously and responsibly in the conduct of their affairs. This, it makes one uncomfortable to realize, is not far from Rousseau’s ideal of freedom, in which man exists apart from civilized institutions with their oppressive inequalities, yet is naturally virtuous.

Now, Mr. LeFevre is certainly correct that Jefferson’s idea, to be understood correctly, must be understood in the social and moral context in which Jefferson understood it. What is at issue for Mr. LeFevre is whether the idea contains something of lasting truth and value for us, or whether we must simply let it become whatever people want it to become. A correct understanding of the American Founding and of Jefferson’s thought presupposes the understanding of a certain form of society, including authoritative Christian moral belief. Jefferson, though not a Christian, believed in Christian ethics and accepted the Christianity of his society.

But at the same time, it is also true that once a certain idea is enunciated, especially an idea as powerful and magnetic as Jefferson’s,—and especially, also, when we remember that the all-important context is not automatically included with the idea as Jefferson himself conveyed it—it is inevitable that this idea will be applied in more and more ambitious ways. The essential idea, as I said, is a society consisting of free individuals not subject to external contraints because the individuals contain the principle of natural virtue within themselves. Mr. LeFevre can say that this was NOT Jefferson’s idea, because Jefferson assumed a Christian society in which Christian morality was authoritative. But it is also true that the Jeffersonian idea in its most famous formulations is Christianity-free. The idea of the perfectly autonomous individual, free to pursue and develop his own independent life, naturally leads to ever more radical notions of personal freedom, and ultimately, among others, to the contemporary notion that a homosexual person is a free individual who naturally behaves virtuously and therefore ought to be able to form whatever sorts of relationships he wants. Since he, as a responsible person, is capable of forming relationships of his choosing, such relationships ought to be respected and recognized by the society. I don’t think it’s possible to deny that there is an underlying Jeffersonian quality about this demand that resonates with a central strand in the American mind.

At the same time, we can and must argue that the homosexual liberationist vision is not compatible at all with the vision of society as Jefferson and other founders themselves understood it, a society of free and self-responsible individuals who are held together by an implicit Christian morality, and without which vision the notion of the perfectly autonomous individual would simply be destructive. For one thing, the cultivation of virtue depends on the traditional family, and homosexual liberation is incompatible with that. See my brief article on this:

So, what have I done here? I’m trying to suggest that both Matt and Mr. LeFevre are seeing part of the truth and that they are not in complete disagreement. Mr. LeFevre is correct that the Jeffersonian idea is falsified if separated from its social and religious context, and that in order to prevent the idea from being hijacked by radicals, we must continually insist on the correct context of the idea. On the other hand, Matt is correct that the Jeffersonian idea seems to have an essence that contains its own, non-traditional, non-Christian principle. The very notion of a perfect individual autonomy would seem to cast aside the need for religious and moral authority. In that case, what we need to do is not to articulate Jefferson’s moral context for the purpose of showing that his idea is good and is compatible with a decent society; we need to say that Jefferson’s idea, by itself, is wrong. However, as a practical matter, that’s not far from what Mr. LeFevre says. Mr. LeFevre himself would agree that the idea becomes wrong and destructive if taken apart from its context. The question is, is its context part of its essence? If yes (LeFevre), then we must keep articulating the context to keep the idea from becoming destructive. If no (Matt), then we need to say that the idea by itself is destructive, and that it needs a historical context in order not to be destructive. (In fact, Matt probably wouldn’t say that, because he apparently rejects equalitarian and democratic thought in all instances.) In any case, both Matt and Mr. LeFevre are pointing to the necessity of a Christian religion and culture that lies beyond Jefferson’s explicit idea.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 7, 2004 12:38 AM

On further thought, it seems to me that Mr. LeFevre is trying to claim that Jefferson’s idea is completely compatible with a traditional society, that there are no radical implications in it at all. I don’t see how that could be maintained. Remember, Jefferson so hated any inherited institutional or social structure that he once wished for the destruction of the entire human race but for one man and woman, if only that would free humanity from constraining and oppressive institutions. Jefferson had a definite radical strain. But Mr. LeFevre’s underlying intent seems to be to maintain that there are no fundamental problems of radicalism in the founding, if only we would understand the founding correctly. I disagree and think there clearly are problems in the founding, but unlike some traditionalists, I don’t reject the founding. I think there’s plenty in it that is sound, but that it must be _re-articulated_. Mr. LeFevre, by contrast, thinks it just needs to be _articulated_, not re-articulated. Matt, for his part, would probably throw it out, at least insofar as it embodies the dangerous idea of equal rights.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 7, 2004 12:59 AM

I’m entering this discussion very late in the game, so to speak, but my sense is that, however much we admire Mr. LeFevre’s exhortation that we never fail to remember the historical context of Jefferson’s ideas, we cannot in the end “historicize” them either. Historical context, in the final analysis, must yield to a judgment of a thinker’s ideas, his philosophy, which either approaches the truth about the nature of Man and the State, or obfuscates that truth and retreats from it. Philosophy is prior to history, because Truth is prior to Change.

I am not a Jefferson expert by any means, but it is difficult to avoid the “uncomfortable,” as Mr. Auster puts it, conclusion that he was profoundly, perhaps irretrievably, influenced by Rousseau. And if we follow Irving Babbitt in identifying Rousseau as the most commanding mind behind the modern project in politics, we cannot help but come to the sad realization that Jefferson, for all his brilliance, for all the patriotic attachment which we as Americans feel toward his memory, was nevertheless on the other side — the wrong side.

In short, Jefferson stands or falls with Rousseau. Now, as a matter of fact, I am not as eager as most traditionalists to see that Rousseau falls. I have been led to a cautious reconsideration of Rousseau by reading Willmoore Kendall and others. Even Babbitt praises Rousseau thusly: “Rousseau merits the distinction of having given the wrong answers to the right question. It is no small merit to ask the right questions.”

Anyway, that’s another topic altogether. My main point is to agree with Matt that “It must be conceded that for Jefferson, opposition to homosexual liberation may be an unprincipled exception. So the fact that he personally opposed homosexual liberation does not mean that his ideas do not ultimately require it.”

Posted by: Paul Cella on November 7, 2004 2:38 AM

Mr. Auster wrote: “The essential idea, as I said, is a society consisting of free individuals not subject to external contraints because the individuals contain the principle of natural virtue within themselves.”

The Rousseauean idea expressed here, which was indeed taken up by Jefferson and modified, flies in the face of 4000 years of Jewish and Christian tradition and scripture regarding man’s basic nature. The question, to my mind, is whether Jefferson was being a subversive radical here or simply neglected mentioning the all-important restraining moral framework when he sent his intellectual offspring walking out the door into the future because he could not imagine its removal.

Apart from God and religion, there is no virtue. The free individual not subject to their external contraints inevitably reverts to vice and savagery of the worst sort. The naturally virtuous creature described in Rousseau’s imagination, and wished for by Jefferson - the noble savage - is a fictional character altogether. Perhaps Jefferson saw this basic flaw in Rousseau’s fantasy creature and was aguing that a God-fearing free individual, one who recognized the natural law, was therefore virtuous to a minimal level, thus requiring only moderate constraints from the worldly authorities. This would dovetail nicely with my favorite quote form John Adams.

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Mr. LeFevre is certainly correct about the Judeo-Christian framework being all-important. Stripped of such framework, the Jefferson’s idea quickly turns into a Frankenstein. The life is in the framework, which is not of our creation. A plant removed from its surrounding soil withers and dies in short order.

Posted by: Carl on November 7, 2004 2:44 AM

Carl writes:
“Mr. LeFevre is certainly correct about the Judeo-Christian framework being all-important. Stripped of such framework, the Jefferson’s idea quickly turns into a Frankenstein.”

The question then remains as to whether or not - as an objective matter of truth or falsity -Jefferson’s ideas actively emancipate themselves from that framework. And, as per my comment above on nominalism, whether that is the case or not is independent of what Jefferson himself thought or asserted (particularly in his more public writings where he was not as overtly anti-Christian as in his letters).

Posted by: Matt on November 7, 2004 10:32 AM

Mr. Auster framed the problem this way:
“Mr. LeFevre himself would agree that [Jefferson’s] idea becomes wrong and destructive if taken apart from its context. The question is, is its context part of its essence? If yes (LeFevre), then we must keep articulating the context to keep the idea from becoming destructive. If no (Matt), then we need to say that the idea by itself is destructive, and that it needs a historical context in order not to be destructive.”

I guess I would take the question one step further. It is indeed important to consider whether the context does or does not form an essential part of the ideas, and it does appear that Mr. LeFevre comes down on the side of “yes”. As Mr. Auster says though, I don’t postulate a simple “no”. My question isn’t whether the essence of Jefferson’s ideas is neutrally separable from the authoritative context of Judeo-Christian cultural and moral tradition. It is whether Jefferson’s ideas are _opposed to and actively undermine_ that context.

In Mr. Auster’s framing of the question, the context might be something different from the ideas; if so and the context is undermined then the ideas become invalid. What it is precisely that undermines the context (authoritative Judeo-Christian culture and moral tradition) is some unspecified, outside thing. My question is whether it was Jefferson’s ideas themselves that undermined the Judeo-Christian culture in which they were first articulated. My question is whether modern liberalism is a naturally occurring case of fratricide.

Posted by: Matt on November 7, 2004 4:05 PM

If you don’t agree with a man marrying another man or a women marrying a women, then don’t do it. It’s your decision you have the right, allow others to have that right and choice.
What place do you have do tell others that the way they are is wrong, and they don’t have a right to live and enjoy the freedoms that you do?
Just as I do not have the right to tell you that the way you are is wrong and that you can’t live your life the way you want, can’t have what you need, and can’t have the same rights as me!

-The puritan values oppress and marganilize individuals based on “race” (nationality), “gender”, “class”, and “sexuality.” Anyone who doesn’t fit into the socialized roles of the white patriarchal family unit or the perscribed archetypes of indentity are denied human rights, freedom and acceptance based on constructed “morality.” Wake up people! Your living in a fantasy, a fake, made up reality. And have some damn humanity and love! We are your blood, your family and are real living, breathing poeple with feelings just like you. With parents and families, and a hell of alot of shit to face in this world.

We aren’t just “homosexuals” or whatever classification you want to labell us. We are not simply our sexuality. That is only a small part of our selves, of our identities. We need the exact same things everyone needs, including you.

Posted by: Drayton on November 14, 2004 10:00 PM

“If you don’t agree with…then don’t do it [but] allow others to have that right and choice.”

This can’t be a principle, which is derived from the liberal principle that freedom is an end rather than a means, although liberals suppress or don’t realize it. According to this principle, the following conclusion would be valid: if you don’t agree Jewish people (unborn babies) are detrimental and can be murdered, allow others to have that right and choice.

The idea here is to substitute for this principle the principle that one should seek the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 14, 2004 10:55 PM

“We need the exact same things everyone needs, including you.”

Right. Like chastity, for example:

Posted by: Matt on November 14, 2004 11:04 PM

But it seems we don’t need the “exact same things everyone needs.” We all don’t need a homosexual lover or a lover of any kind.

If I may, let urge the commentator to consider ideas held by some psychiatrists, that practicing homosexuality could be eliminated from one’s life and heterosexuality or celibacy can be a fulfilling replacement. Consider the legions of Catholic priests.

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 14, 2004 11:24 PM

On Mr. Henri’s point, it seems to me that the scope of the word “need” adjusts in a plastic manner to accomodate the will-to-power of the person asserting it. This is just nominalism, the flip-side of and ideological partner to liberalism. Instead of “need” being an objective category referring to things like food and shelter it is used to refer to the removal of any impediment to the self-creation of a person according to his reason and will.

For example, another person to whom one is sexually attracted to use as an object for sexual satisfaction will be asserted to be a “need,” even though a homosexual person and many modern heterosexual people are manfestly better off in every objective way without it. It may be too much extrapolation to conclude this, but I expect that Drayton thinks his “needs” are whatever he says they are, and that we have no right to define what “need” means to him. A nominalist always genuinely believes that a category is whatever he says it is, because the essence of a category to a nominalist is whatever those who invoke it will that essence to be.

Posted by: Matt on November 14, 2004 11:59 PM

Perhaps it will seem obesequeous to some, but Matt, as usual, makes excellent points. Matt is a rigorous thinker that, among other things, makes his efforts valuable. Pay attention.

Posted by: Paul Henrí on November 15, 2004 12:32 AM
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