Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Just the logic, ma’am (Chapter 1)

There are, as ever, several stories in the news, that seem to cry out for comment.  However:

(1)  There is no particular reason that readers should care about my personal opinions about such things -- even if they happen to value my analyses (and opinions) concerning, say, Cantorian Realism, or Trinitarian Minimalism, or Humble Woodchucks, since expertise in one area need by no means carry over to expertise (or even common sense) in another.  (So, indeed, I have argued, in satires directed against physicists or neuroscientists who come out with philosophical/theological absurdities.)

(2)  Even if, for some reason, you did care (say, if you were my mother), it’s still just an opinion:  and its appreciation-worthiness is not, so to speak, transitive -- it is not the case that everyone who knows my (let us say) mother, and everyone who  in turn  knows them, will in consequence care about said opinion.  So soon as you proceed, even so far as two degrees of separation, the thing goes pffht.

(3)  In any case, for reasons mentioned here, I have resolved to refrain from ever publically expressing an opinion about anything anywhere to anyone -- the political climate in this country is just too toxic.   There is really nothing in it for anyone thus sticking his neck out, other than flame wars and death threats.  Taceo igitur.

I do, however, have a certain (indeed, certified) knack for linguistic and logical/rhetorical analysis.  (Confer  the peer-reviewed volume,  The Semantics of Form in Arabic, for illustration.)  And,  within these strict bounds, staying not straying, certain observations may be made.

Thus, from earlier today:

When Jessica Kern gave evidence to lawmakers in Washington, DC, last summer opposing the legalization of surrogacy in the district, she was pointedly asked why she wasn’t grateful for the procedure that created her.

“The question was so simple and dismissive,” she recalls. “Like I would choose this for myself? When the only reason you’re in this world is a big fat paycheck, it’s degrading.”

Kern, 30, of Culpepper, Va., is among a number of donor-conceived children in the US who are campaigning for tighter controls on the law governing assisted reproduction.

“You can’t sell your kidney for profit but you can purchase an egg or sell a child,” she says. “There needs to be more checks and balances.

“Most of the consideration within surrogacy is toward the adults and what they want. Often, it’s not in the best interests of the children.”

Kern discovered the true story behind her birth after finding her medical records at the age of 17 which included details of the surrogacy arrangement.

“My biological mother was paid $10,000 for her services,” she says. “I was devastated.”

Kern, who is no longer in touch with her adoptive mother, tracked down her biological mother, but the two are now estranged because of her outspoken stance against surrogacy.

As regards the ethical pros and cons of all this, taceo.  (... Eppur’ si muove …)  But let us offer this purely logical observation:
There is no more a logical contradiction(**) between someone born by surrogacy  coming (upon mature reflection) to condemn the practice, than in the analogous case of someone born by rape, or prostitution, or incest, or bigamy, or A.I.D., or fructification by Zeus in the form of a swan, objecting to (as a general practice) rape, or prostitution, or incest, or bigamy, or A.I.D., or extra-Olympian dalliances by randy deities sub specie cygni.  In every such case, one would not have been born otherwise.   Ms. Kern has evidently progressed beyond that primitive stage of self-involved special-caseness, blind to all wider implications, which the Greeks called that of an διώτης, and has risen to a more nearly Kantian-level generalism.  (That does not guarantee that her enlarged and enlightened stance is quite correct, of course;  merely, that it is in the running -- that she is dining with the grownups now.)  Whereas those who “pointedly” ask her (the adverb here is comical, better befitting an insightful inquiry  than the sort of unreflective grandstanding involved here) why she personally should not be the measure of all things, rather than God or Man, have not so progressed, but are flailing about in blinkered sentimentalism.

Leda and her gentleman-friend

[**Footnote:  By the same token, neither is the contradiction less;  though in this case, it is not a logical contradiction, so much as a psychological disconnect.  Thus, it is entirely possible that, statistically, more of those born via incest  support incest, than those born by other means.  (Indeed, in pharaonic Egypt, that was almost certainly the case.)  Quite possibly such offspring would maintain that they like having just a single eye in the middle of the forehead;  quite attractive, really, once you get used to it.
In considering the testimony of such witnesses, the ethicist will consider what is known technically as their personal equation.   Its value may be compared to that of a witness who swears up and down that Sluggo could not possibly have murdered all those people, when the witness in question is Sluggo’s mother.   Such witnesses are treated gently in court, though their testimony is discounted.]

Srsly, swans make really great dads.
-- Polydeuces

[Note:  The above is, once again, a purely logical exercise.  No personal opinions have been expressed upon any controversial subject whatsoever.   In particular, my remarks should not be interpreted as either celebrating or condemning impregnation via shape-shifting Hellenic godlings, whether in the form of a swan, or a shower of gold.   


Consequently please direct all hate-mail to the Dead Letter Office.]

[Footnote:  For more hot Greek swan-action, check this out: ]


So much, then, for the mere logic of the thing.   As my professional credentials amount to no more than a Bachelor’s in math and a doctorate in linguistics, rather than a Doctor of Divinity, I am in no particular position to comment upon fundamental matters of morals;  they are above my pay-grade.   Accordingly I refer you to the appropriate authorities;  Article 2376 of the Catechism:

Technicae artes, quae parentum provocant dissociationem per interventum personae a matrimonio alienae (spermatis vel ovocyti donum, uteri commodatum) graviter sunt inhonestae. Hae technicae artes (inseminatio vel fecundatio artificiales heterologae) filii laedunt ius nascendi e patre et matre ab ipso cognitis et inter se matrimonio coniunctis. Ius produnt « ad hoc ut alter pater aut mater fiat solummodo per alterum »

[Footnote on delicacy of expression]
You cannot make sense of any of those paintings above, nor hundreds of others like them, if you don’t know that Zeus had coitus with Leto in the form of a swan.  It’s the single thing anyone would want to know about Leto, in terms of cultural literacy, whatever else there might be to know;  just like “Hercules was strong” and “Ananias told lies”.   Yet The Oxford Companion to English Literature (third edition, 1946),  p. 447, makes no mention of this, identifying Leto simply as “the daughter of a Titan, and beloved by Zeus”.  That makes it sound as though Zeus worshiped her from afar; but the very next sentence says “Hera, jealous of her, sent the serpent Python to persecute her during her pregnancy.”  This is comically reticent.  When they mention “pregnancy”, you feel as though the film has skipped a reel.

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