John C. Wright (johncwright) wrote,
John C. Wright

Witnesses for the Defense

Back when I was a fun-loving, God-hating atheist, logic forced me to the conclusion that the passions of man, including sexual passions, were destructive of happiness and life unless conformed into the boundaries of reality.

My conclusions can be summed as follows. I do not give each step of the logic here, due to space limitations, but a disinterested reader can flesh out the enthymemes with common sense:

A is A. Reason is the faculty by which the human mind discovers whether statements about reality are self-contradictory and false. A defect of reason implies a contradiction of reality.

Emotion cannot be sovereign over reason due to the mere fact that facts are facts: reasoning is futile if one has not the character to admit or act upon the conclusions of reason. Therefore reason, merely by its nature, obligates us to honesty, integrity and self-control.

These are the three virtues notoriously absent from any philosophy promoting casual sex. Engaging in the act of sexual reproduction without intending the consequences of sexual reproduction, or fitting the act to the context of sexual reproduction, is unrealistic, an attempt to make passion sovereign over reason. It is an attempt to ignore facts, an insolent contempt for truth.

The role of passion is to be fit, proper and proportionate to the objects of passion: as with food and drink, to be moderate in appetite; as with anger, to be directed against foes, not friends nor mere rivals, and only in keeping with justice and temperance; and so on for all passions.

Logically, then, the just and proper object of the passion that drives us toward sexual reproduction, which is called lust, is an object fitted for sexual reproduction: i.e. the opposite sex, of due age, not by definition infertile.

(If a person is infertile contingently but not necessarily, i.e. Sarah, she is still fit to be an object of lust. Alcibiades is infertile necessarily; even when young and in good health, Socrates cannot have children by him. Likewise for the bull of Pasiphae).

Reproduction fails of its object if it brings forth children into a loveless household or no household at all, since child survival rates drop sharply, and since it is unfitting to the paternal passions to be careless of one's offspring, or to kill him in the womb. Darwin would not approve. Hence, logic requires that romance and marriage surround the sex act before and after: a vow to love exclusively and eternally is more fit for this purpose than any casual assumption.

By 'casual assumption' here I mean that the too-trusting female acts illogically if she expects, merely on an unspoken understanding, that Don Juan will be faithful (will, in other words, act just like a man in love) when he is unwilling to say that he is in love, and unwilling or unready to prove that love by a vow to be a lifelong partner forsaking all others. Common experience, if nothing else, shows that unwed women are as jealous of their rivals as wives for their husband's mistresses: the fact that they have no legal right to be jealous notwithstanding. The libertarian who says the woman can by signing a contract avoid jealousy is a fool: no matter what fancies the human head says, the human heart operates by logic, in this case, Darwinian logic, which commands the organism to protect offspring and therefore to protect mating rights.

A is A. Human nature is what it is. We can pretend to be satyrs and nymphs, or some other form of life that can perform the sex act without taking into account the context or the consequences. That pretense is false.

Economics, the law of supply and demand, if nothing else, says that sex with a loving lifetime mate is more prudent and satisfying than a casual fornication. The logic of the human heart makes these mutually exclusive behaviors. Men despise women they lust after, if lust is unaccompanied by love, and seek to have them out of their beds and away from them as soon as their lust is sated. This is because the logic of the human heart requires men to esteem lightly what they get cheaply, and the remorseless logic of Darwin urges men to go quickly on to the next potential mate. There can be no logical reason why a woman would prefer to be despised than to be cherished, to be a harlot rather than a bride. In the modern West, the women usually sleep with men they estimate are soon to propose marriage anyway, or enter into a cohabitation with the advantages, but not the guarantees, of marriage.

If women uniformly restricted supply of the good, it would drive up the price, and women could force men to guarantee, by means of a marriage vow, what they currently risk in longshot gambles the trustworthiness and steadyheartedness of young lusty males. The risk includes heartache, pregnancy, venereal disease, dishonor. No woman in her right mind who hopes to be treated like Helen of Troy, the woman for whom her suitors will launch a thousand ships, and Paris defy all the spears of Greece, is delighted to discover herself to be the nymph Oenone, or, worse, the hetaera Phryne. This is what she gambles, who thinks not to don a wedding ring before she doffs her skirts.


So much cold logic demanded me to conclude, despite my natural inclination to be libertarian on the issue.

It was with very much chagrin but without much surprise that I discovered the common sense common to all men had come to the same conclusion. The same common experience, the same obvious facts, the same axioms, always must lead an honest man to the same conclusion, if not when he is a bachelor, at least when he is a grandfather.

Religious sentiment had nothing to do with these conclusions: they follow from the axiom that reason, if it is not to be futile in human actions, obligates the reasoner to be honest and rational. Logic, and not sentiment, said that a woman was prudent to prefer Romeo to Lothario. Romeo was not only willing to climb a wall and defy the swords of the Capulets, but also to marry Juliet before he consummated his love.

To my infinite amusement, a Christian friend of mine was a sexual revolutionary, boldly waving the banner of free love. Meanwhile, I, the coldhearted freethinker and skeptic, was the partisan of chastity, romance, and marriage. 

His claim was that no one believed in chastity; that it was my opinion alone, and that the overwhelming majority opinion approved of fornication and adultery.

With the help of CS Lewis, I wrote to him an imaginary trial of history, which I include here below.

It was not to prove the truth of the claim that I called my witnesses to the stand, but merely to prove the fact that my conclusion was not the neglected minority opinion my friend thought it was. Every writer whom any civilized peoples (and by civilized here, I mean city-dwelling and literate) regarded as a moral authority or fountainhead of wisdom was on my side. Those peoples who practiced polygamy and concubinage called it immoral to steal another man's wife. Whether they were right or wrong to call it immoral, I do not here dispute: the claim under consideration was whether the vast majority of people called it immoral or not. We are not debating morality, but history.

I reprint it here, because I see the error repeated. The so-called cosmopolitans among us are in truth parochial and innocent. They honestly don’t know what other people think or say, outside their own little clique of modern fashion.

Here is what I wrote.


The first person I will call onto the witness stand is your Lord Jesus Christ, who says in no ambiguous terms that anyone who divorces a woman and remarries is an adulterer. (Mark 10: 11, Matthew 19: 9, Luke 16; 18; 1 Corinthians 7: 10) Any man who looks at a woman not his wife with lust in his heart is an adulterer (Matthew 5: 28). He seemed to take the sacrament of marriage quite seriously: do you think He would have preached fornication without marriage was acceptable? If so, give me the quote where He says so.

 For more on fornication, see also Ephesians 5: 3, 1 Thessalonians 4: 3, Colossians 3: 5.

 Next, I will call his Dad, God Almighty, who decreed that thou shalt not commit adultery. (Deut. 5.1-21 1, Ex. 20.14) Correct me if I am wrong, but the commandment here forbids sex outside of marriage, not merely stealing another man's wife.

 Next, I call the Schoolman: "The sin of lust consists in seeking venereal pleasure not in accordance with right reason. This may happen in two ways. First, in respect of the matter wherein this pleasure is sought; secondly, when, whereas there is due matter, other due circumstances are not observed...

 "First, because it is inconsistent with the end of the venereal act. On this way, as hindering the begetting of children, there is the "vice against nature," which attaches to every venereal act from which generation cannot follow; and, as hindering the due upbringing and advancement of the child when born, there is "simple fornication," which is the union of an unmarried man with an unmarried woman.

 "Secondly, the matter wherein the venereal act is consummated may be discordant with right reason in relation to other persons; and this in two ways. First, with regard to the woman, with whom a man has connection, by reason of due honor not being paid to her; and thus there is "incest," which consists in the misuse of a woman who is related by consanguinity or affinity. Secondly, with regard to the person under whose authority the woman is placed: and if she be under the authority of a husband, it is "adultery," if under the authority of her father, it is "seduction," in the absence of violence, and "rape" if violence be employed." (Summa Theologica II-II, Question 154)

 I will not bother to quote St. Augustine, Calvin, or Luther, or the Book of Mormon or Science and Health. No denomination of your religion, over the last two thousand years, has promoted sex outside of marriage as an innocent form of love: all have condemned it. Can you quote me any contrary authority?

 Marriage in a sacrament in your religion, friend, not mine: nor do I believe I will be burned on Judgment Day in the Hell-fire for disobeying Holy Writ.

 If you prefer pagans to Christians, the next person I will call to the stand is Epictetus who says that one of the duties of Stoic is to marry and beget children. (Greek List of Duties, III vii.)

 See also de Officiis by Cicero.

 Next I call Norse Sybil, who says, "I saw in Nastrondr (i.e. Hell) beguilers of other men's wives." (Volospa, 38, 39)

 My next witness is Confucius: "There are three things against which a gentleman is on his guard. In his youth, before his blood and vital humors have settled down, he is on his guard against lust..." (Analects 16.7) I hope I am not reading too much into this, but I cannot see logically how fornication and adultery can take place without lust, which is here being condemned, and not lauded as a source of innocent pleasure.

 My next witness is the Prophet (peace be upon him): " Neither fornicate, for whosoever does that shall meet the price of sin--doubled shall be the chastisement for him on the Resurrection Day." (Holy Koran 25.68-69)  see also sura 23.5-11.

 Next I call to the stand, the Enlightened One, the Buddha, who is also called Siddhartha:

 The fourth branch of the Noble Eightfold Path, which the Buddha preached the deer park at Benares, is "Right Action" which includes avoidance of improper acts such as killing and fornication. (Astangika-Marga)

 "The husband receives his wife from the gods; he does not wed her according to his own will; doing what is agreeable to the gods, he must always support her while she is faithful. "Let mutual fidelity continue until death;" this may be considered as a summary of the highest law for husband and wife." (Laws of Manu 9.95, 101)

 And, again: "Four misfortunes befall a careless man who commits adultery: acquisition of demerit, disturbed sleep, third, blame; and fourth, a state of woe. There is acquisition of demerit as well as evil destiny. Brief is the joy of the frightened man and woman. The king imposes a heavy punishment. Hence no man should frequent another man's wife." (Dhammapada 309-10)

 Next I call Vishnu, the Preserver, most benevolent of the Three Gods: "A man should not think incontinently of another's wife, much less address her to that end; for such a man will be reborn in a future life as a creeping insect. He who commits adultery is punished both here and hereafter; for his days in this world are cut short, and when dead he falls into hell." (Vishnu Purana 3.11)

 This is from Krishna, avatar of Vishnu: "When a family declines, ancient traditions are destroyed. With them are lost the spiritual foundations for life, and the family loses its sense of unity. Where there is no sense of unity, the women of the family become corrupt; and with the corruption of its women, society is plunged into chaos. Social chaos is hell for the family and for those who have destroyed the family as well." (Bhagavad Gita 1.40-42)

 Next I call Lao Tzu: "Do not approach thy neighbor's wife or maids." (Tract of the Quiet Way)

And, from the Sikh: " The philanderer lusting after numerous women does not give up seeking in others' homes. What he does daily only brings regrets-- In sorrow and greed he is shriveled up." (Adi Granth, Dhanasari, M.5, p. 672)

the Tirthankara (The Englightened One or Pontiff of Jainism): "Continence is to regard the wife of another as one's own sister or daughter, and to realize that the bodies of women are full of impurity and that charm can only delude the mind." (Swami Kartikeya, Anupreksha 337-39)

 My brother is a member of the Unification Church. Let us not forget the Moonies: "Violating and misusing love is the gravest of all crimes. Abusing love is a greater crime than cutting the universal root of life [murder]. (Sun Myung Moon, 3-20-77)

 Last I call the Master of Those Who Know, the Philosopher, Aristotle: "Such emotions as spite, shamelessness, and envy have no mean and are simply base, just as some actions are bad such as adultery, theft, and murder. Such bad actions do not have a right time or manner."

 If you prefer law to theology or philosophy, fornication is defined as: "the unlawful carnal knowledge of an unmarried person with another, whether the latter be married or unmarried. When the party is married, the offence, as to him or her, is known by the name of adultery. However, fornication is included in every case of adultery, as a larceny is included in robbery." (2 Hale's P. C. 302.) The State of Maryland, where you live, has a law on the books against fornication. Apparently your "majority" is not so overwhelming that they have been able to remove the statute. (The similar statute in the Commonwealth of Virginia was removed, not by a majority vote, but by a narrow margin in the state High  Court: by fiat, in other words, representing no majority, but their own legal opinion.)

 Let us review the score so far. In my corner, I have God, the Son of God, the avatar of God, the Prophet of God, the Enlightened One, the Sage of China, the Other Sage of China, the Philosopher, the Stoics, the Saints, the Pagans, the Sybil and the Law.

 Who have you got in your corner? Hugh Hefner? President Clinton?

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