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April 2019
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Michael Zeleny [userpic]
no respect

Kwame Anthony Appiah derives his honor code from a universal right to respect wherein he presupposes all normal human beings to vest:

Some people think only hierarchical forms of the right to respect should be called “honor.” There’s a reason for this, beyond the insistence of a committed defender of social hierarchy like Edmund Burke: many of the most noticeable forms of honor from the Iliad to the Pashtunwali are, indeed, hierarchical. The issue here is not just a matter of a terminological stipulation, though: I think that much is to be gained by thinking about hierarchical and non-hierarchical codes that assign the right to respect together. The argument for that view is this book.
    What is democratic about our current culture, then, is that we now presuppose all normal human beings, not just those who are especially elevated, to be entitled to respect. But granting everyone recognition respect is perfectly consistent with granting greater appraisal respect to some than to others, because these are different forms of respect. From now, I’ll reserve the term dignity for one species of honor, namely, the right to recognition respect. So now we can say: Honoring some especially is consistent with recognizing the dignity of everyone else. Such dignity does not require the comparative forms of appraisal that go with more competitive forms of honor. It’s not something you earn, and the appropriate response to your dignity is not pride so much as self-respect; after all, if your humanity entitles you to respect, then it entitles you to respect even from yourself!
—Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010, p. 130
A fundamental problem with this approach to honor stems from the fact that honoring rational beings entails a recognition of their beliefs about God and life, right and wrong, good and bad. In our current democratic culture, this recognition involves an accommodation of what John Rawls calls the citizen’s comprehensive moral doctrine. One such doctrine subsumes the Christian articles of faith spelled out by Paul of Tarsus in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which counts homosexuals amongst the unrighteous (adikoi), debarred from inheriting the Kingdom of God. Elsewhere Appiah boasts of having reconciled with his homosexuality as a Christian before he eventually stopped being a Christian. But a Pauline Christian needs must discount this reconciliation of an arsenokoites with the Christian doctrine, as proceeding pursuant to a honor code of a congenital contortionist. Notably, Appiah makes an effort to acknowledge some congenital attributes as “relevant bases for partiality”, while altogether disclaiming their suitability as grounds for moral and social superiority:
The struggle to break the tight connection between honor and birth is nearly as old as the connection itself. Recall Horace—son of a freed slave—addressing Maecenas, the richest and noblest of the private patrons of the arts in Augustan Rome, some two millennia ago. Maecenas “says it’s no matter who your parents are, so long as you’re worthy,” but Horace complains that most Romans take the opposite view.6[6. Horace, Sermones, I.6, II.7-8.] Anyone who offers himself for public office, the poet grumbles, gets asked “from what father he may be descended, whether he is dishonorable because of the obscurity of his mother.”7[7. Ibid., II.34-37.] This is the feature of the old system of honor that we have rejected, as we have grown suspicious of the idea that some people deserve better (or worse) treatment on account of identities they did not choose. Social status—class, if you like—should grant you no moral rights, people think; nor should your race or gender or sexual orientation.8[8. Ascriptive identities to which one is assigned by birth, such as family membership, can, I should insist, be relevant bases for partiality. You are entitled (indeed, sometimes required) to treat A better than B solely because A is your sister and B is unrelated to you. But recognizing something as a form of partiality is recognizing that there is nothing intrinsically superior about those to whom one is partial: if there were, one's reasons for favoring them could be impartial. See Appiah, The Ethics of Identity, Chapter 6.]
Op. cit., pp. 185, 245
For the purposes of Appiah’s argument, his moral gerrymandering is impotent in its extravagance. It is extravagant because rejecting the old system of honor based on the idea that some people deserve better (or worse) treatment on account of identities they did not choose, would leave our society with no means of legitimately honoring the fast runner or the brilliant mathematician. It is impotent in virtue of leaving room for the Christian pastoral policy of requiring that “homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society”, while asserting “the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of”. And notwithstanding Appiah’s insistence on “granting everyone recognition respect” irrespectively of their sexual orientation, no such granting can take place between himself and and his fellow citizens of the Pauline Christian persuasion. Within the liberal bounds of Rawlsian reasonable pluralism, these latter cannot advocate the use of coercive political power to impose conformity with their views upon non-believers. But they have every right, not only to withhold respect from their fellow citizens whom they find morally wanting, but also to subject them to public displays of contempt.
    To those who object to the incorporation of religion into the range of doctrines subject to recognition by a democratic culture, let it be pointed out that moral objections to homosexual behavior can be and have been made on rational secular grounds, from Plato and Aristotle, to Immanuel Kant and Jean-Paul Sartre. And to those who would carve out sexual orientation from the purview of moral discourse capable of grounding human entitlements to respect, let it be pointed out that secular objections of comparable gravity attach, within comprehensive moral doctrines recognized as legitimate by our democratic society, to a spectrum of divisive issues ranging from abortion to welfare. While a democratic society may warrant the security of abortionists and welfare recipients, it cannot ensure their freedom from disparagement by reasonable citizens whose moral views equate welfare with theft and abortion with murder. That is why any reasonable pluralistic society whose citizens uniformly presuppose all normal human beings to be entitled to respect, is bound to harbor no end of disagreement on the scope of this presupposition, depending on the disparate construals of normalcy within its citizens’ comprehensive moral doctrines. In short, no democratic entitlement to respect can emerge from the mere fact of humanity. Democracy is the right to shame and shun the unrighteous through faith and reason.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]philosophy.

Comments

Why are you translating "arsenokoites" as homosexuals? There doesn't seem to be any good reason for this, and it does seem rather manifestly intolerant.

See the LSJ entries for ἄρσην and κοίτη. That said, the point is not that I am choosing to translate this term one way or another, but that its “rather intolerant” translation is deeply entrenched within the comprehensive moral doctrine of Pauline Christianity.

"That said, the point is not that I am choosing to translate this term one way or another..."

You're mistaken, that's exactly my point.

People have a fundamental right to be mistaken about such things. In our society, it is recognized under the rubric of the pursuit of happiness.

"People have a fundamental right to be mistaken about such things."

I'm not contesting your right--which seems like a rather odd expression for the thing, but in any case--to be mistaken about the meaning of foreign terms, although if you want to put it that way, I'm contesting your right to persist in error having been corrected, particularly what that error is conducive to intolerance.

I deny having been corrected in error. LSJ parses arsenokoites as an active male partner in sexual intercourse with another male. I am aware of Boswell and others who argue for alternative readings, and find them unpersuasive.

More to the point is the Pauline Christian argument of Persona Humana, which I referenced above. In taking their position on “the finality of the sexual act and on the principal criterion of its morality”, and asserting that “it is respect for its finality that ensures the moral goodness of this act”, its authors exemplify a Rawlsian comprehensive moral doctrine. This doctrine must be accommodated within the bounds of reasonable pluralism, even as it withholds respect from parties disrespectful of its construal of the finality of the sexual act. The pursuit of happiness in religious faith by a Catholic priest is no less worthy of social recognition than the pursuit of happiness in sexual intercourse by a queer activist, even if these personae don’t happen to coincide within the same individual.

"I deny having been corrected in error."

It doesn't bother you that the term is never found in any Christian writing of the period or adjacent period with the meaning you ascribe to it, and is found with meanings expressly contradicted to that you ascribe? I mean, this seems like a pretty obvious indicator that you've gone horribly wrong in your translation efforts.

Nevermind that your suggested translation simply has no cultural salience in the context. That you think Plato is in principle anti-homosexual when he is constantly celebrating people's pursuit and fucking of Alcibiades is rather gross evidence of your error. Of course Plato like Paul uses words that refer to sexual degeneracy, but your insistence on translating their concept of sexual degeneracy as 'homosexuality' is grotesque at face, neverminding that it's contradicted by the facts at hand.

"More to the point is the Pauline Christian argument..."

You keep using this expression. What the hell are you on about with it? Do you mean Pauline Christians in the sense of Paul's faction at the council of Jerusalem? Do you mean Pauline Christians in the sense of the nascent orthodoxy of the second and third centuries against the diversity of Gnosticizing heresies? I mean, it's difficult to imagine what else you could possibly mean, yet both of these meanings reduce your claims to comic absurdity.

Or, I mean, do you just not have the faintest idea what you're talking about? You are the fellow who pontificated previously about how the Greeks had no concept of madness, right? Actually, have you ever posted anything here which wasn't farcical in its transparent error?

Thus spake Wikipedia: “Pauline Christianity is a term used to refer to the Christianity associated with the beliefs and doctrines espoused by Paul of Tarsus through his writings.” It should suffice to cite Josiah Royce to settle the legitimacy of this definition. As for specific usage, the Septuagint translates the Hebrew term for the insertive male partner in intercourse with another male, as follows:

  1. Leviticus 18:22
    • καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην γυναικός· βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν.
    • And thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman, for it is an abomination.
  2. Leviticus 20:13
    • καὶ ὃς ἂν κοιμηθῇ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοίτην γυναικός, βδέλυγμα ἐποίησαν ἀμφότεροι· θανατούσθωσαν, ἔνοχοί εἰσιν.
    • And whoever shall lie with a male as with a woman, they have both wrought abomination; let them die the death, they are guilty.
In each instance, the expression ἄρσενος […] κοίτην affords a plausible basis for Paul’s usage in in 1 Corinthians 6:9.

"Thus spake Wikipedia"

Oh, well, if you can quote a recursive definition from wikipedia, who could ask for more? :|

"It should suffice to cite Josiah Royce to settle the legitimacy of this definition."

Oh, well, if you say that Royce says... well you don't say he says anything. But if you name-drop Royce, I'm sure that meets the evidentiary standards of any reasonable person. I mean, on one hand you're translating a term in a way in which it is never used and which is manifestly anachronistic. On the other hand, Josiah Royce!

"As for specific usage, the Septuagint translates the Hebrew term for the insertive male partner in intercourse with another male, as follows"

Well, if a translation of a Hebrew term whose meaning itself is in question reminds you of the Greek term whose meaning is in question, what more could--again--any reasonable person demand of you?

you're translating a term in a way in which it is never used and which is manifestly anachronistic

The KJV renders arsenokoitai as “abusers of themselves with mankind”. The LSJ translates the singular as “sodomite”. Kindly redirect your complaints to these authorities.

Right, because "sodomites" and "abusers" are the same thing as homosexuals. :|

I mean, we're really hitting on what is grotesque about your position here.

My position here is that no one vests into a right to respect merely in virtue of his presumptively normal humanity. Feel free to address the issue if and when you get tired of abusing poor old Aunt Sally.

As a side note, there is no "Hebrew term for the male partner". The Hebrew phrasing quite literally says "a male that lies with a man as with a women" in both cases. There are no special terms involved.

Is there any doubt that a male that lies with a male as with a woman is the insertive male partner in intercourse with another male?

Firstly, yes, there is doubt, since there is no way for a male to lie with another male as with a woman (neither one has a vagina), so the question of whether we know which partner it is boils down to a question of how much flexibility we allow in the analogy.

Secondly, my point is that there is no one single term, but rather a phrase composed of words that are not particular to homosexual behavior outside of the context of the phrase.
This extraction of terms seems to be something you are attempting to do with the Greek.