Meritocracy or virtue?

I’ve noticed something odd about the (still relatively early but) angry commentary over the college admissions scandal, whereby celebrities, “ethical fund” managers, parenting book authors and others crossed legal lines to get their slacker children into elite colleges (or at least more elite than they could get into on true merit). The odd thing is the trope that these parents are arranging for their children to “get ahead” unfairly.

But what is this “getting ahead” in the first place? What virtue is there in it? So far as I can tell, there is none whatsoever.

“Getting ahead” means superficially looking like a meritocratic success. And America is all about superfice.

What is the reality for these slackers? So far as I can tell, it’s going to hell in a delusional cocoon — or whatever sad fate awaits those lacking virtue.

So it seems to me that the most fruitful discussions that can arise out of this chapter in the annals of American superficiality are, as has always been the case, what it means to be human, and more particularly what it means to be a person of virtue — a prize infinitely more valuable than glitz and glamor.

And if you happen to favor deontological or consequentialist ethics, as the commentariat appears to, what these parents did will still fail your ethical tests. It’s unethical all the way down.

But it’s all these parents know in their bones, whatever platitudes pass their lips or gets printed in a child-raising book or fund prospectus.

So why would any sane person want their child to join their ranks?

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You can read my more impromptu stuff at Micro.blog (mirrored at microblog.intellectualoid.com) and, as of February 20, 2019, at blot.im. Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

A pornographic response to porn

Kudos to the Times‘ Maggie Jones for highlighting the issue [of teen exposure to online pornography], but if this were a math assignment she would only get partial credit. She’s guessed the correct answer without quite understanding what makes it so. The Times piece seems to imply that pornography is hurting our children by showing them the wrong kind of sex—male dominated, aggressive, overwhelmingly straight, and featuring bodies that conform to outmoded beauty standards (which is to say, beauty standards). The unarticulated subtext is that if only children were watching some “woke” version of pornography, the issue wouldn’t be so alarming. It’s a response almost as crass as the subject it explores, an anemic reaction to an issue that’s more than an isolated contemporary technological predicament: it’s emblematic of the deeper operating logic of contemporary society as a whole. Simply put, it was a pornographic response to pornography.

(Scott Beauchamps, The Pornification of Everything) Beauchamps also discusses the anthropology of philosopher Byung-Chul Han, of whom I had not previously heard.

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I also blog short items at Micro.blog.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Deep chasm

American Law from a Catholic Perspective:
Through a Clearer Lens

Edited by Ronald J. Rychlak
Rowman and Littlefield,
326 pages, $42

In this assemblage of twenty-two essays, Catholic academics and legal scholars apply Catholic social teaching to the poetic and prosaic aspects of the American legal system. The subjects discussed range from labor and employment issues and family law to property law, religious liberty, and the philosophy of law. The authors attempt to show the commonalities between Catholic teaching and American law; they also point out where the two diverge.

In reading these essays, I was struck more by the latter. Over and over again, we see the deep chasm between the Catholic understanding of the human person and the anthropology implied by American liberalism. The difference is stark. The former conceives of each human being as a person—a relational being, in relationship to God and others and dependent on God and others. The latter sees each human being as an individual who can make and fashion his own being and existence autonomously and apart from God and others. God is a valid choice, but he is just that, a choice. The Catholic lawyer cannot help but feel a dissonance between his deepest beliefs and the law he is called to practice each day. American Law from a Catholic Perspective helps to remind readers where their allegiances must lie. The attentive reader can begin to see the ways in which he must work to change American law at its very roots to help it conform to the truth proclaimed by the Church.

—Conor B. Dugan writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

(First Things, January 2018, emphasis added. The paywall crumbles as the month wears on.)

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Potpourri 6/10/17

  1. A deeply commercialized religion
  2. Happy-Clappy Jibber-Jabber
  3. Winning a Pyrrhic victory?
  4. Two opinions in one
  5. The nature of the person
  6. Pre-eminent for ability and virtue
  7. Credo in unum eros
  8. Allegiance

Continue reading “Potpourri 6/10/17”