Tuesday, 30 June 2015


'Vices are potholes in the landscape of the character, but no one is compelled to fall into them. The great thing is to keep an eye on one's feet, and watch where one is going.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.99. 


'From time immemorial one of the meanings of the word "person" has been simply "body," for although we are more than our bodies, we are never less than our bodies.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.73. 


'Love that is mute in the language of promises, though it might be called love, is not love but something else.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.68. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015


'...every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother.' 
Alice von Hildebrand in J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.56. 


'Yes, of course, cultures try to nuance the difference between men and women in different ways, but that does not make the difference itself just a product of culture. And yes, not all women are more nurturing than all men, not all men are more assertive than women, and so on. Even so, the fact that most women are more nurturing than most men is much more than an accident. It arises from a genuine difference in the underlying reality, the difference between womanhood and manhood as such.
To say that there is a real difference between manhood and womanhood as such is not at all to say that this difference is simple or all-encompassing. Because men and women are not different species, but corresponding sexes of the same species, each is defined partly in terms of the other. When called upon to dos so, they can even step outside of their roles in some ways, they can become partners in some of the same tasks, and they can even tone down some of their differences. None of this means they are the same! For even when men and women do step out of their roles, they tend to have different motives for doing so. Even when they do share tasks, they tend to view them differently. And even when they do tone down their differences down, the most common reason is they have taught each other something. How is it that they have something to teach each other? Because they are not the same.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.50. 


'How many more colors there are in the world because there are two sexes and not just one! How amusing they are to each other, and yet how baffling! Mutual perplexity can be part of the fun, a fountain of mirth, making the shimmering hues of strangeness sparkle all the more. In our day, though, perplexity isn't so amusing; it has an edge to it. We see alll those colors all right, but admitting to the sight is considered shameful and offensive. Just as some ages have held it loutish to work with ones hands, so our times holds it crude to make use of one's eyes. So we make ourselves a little blind. We squint, throw dust in our eyes, and try not to look at things straight on.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.35. 


'Among humans, procreation takes place within the context of a unitive relationship. To destroy the unitive meaning of the procreative act is to turn it into a different act altogether, for it is no longer procreation, but production; the child is no longer an expression of his parents' love, but an output, a product. In simple truth, he has no parents. He was orphaned before his conception. His relation to his caretaker is that of a thing bought and paid for, to the one who bought and paid for it.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.32. 


'One condition that makes the mutual gift of selves possible is that the two selves have something to give - that they complement each other.' 
J Budziszewski, On The Meaning of Sex, p.28. 


'A bodily action is like a word; we mean things to each other no less by what we do than by what we say. In fact, when the speech of the mouth contradicts the speech of the body, the body's speech reveals the mouth's. To crush your windpipe with my thumbs is to say to you, "Now die," even if I tell you with my mouth, "Be alive." To join one flesh, is to say, "I give myself to you in all this act means," even if my mouth shapes the words, "This means nothing,"' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.27. 


'Why not say that the meaning and purpose of the sexual powers is pleasure? Certainly sex is pleasurable, but there is nothing distinctive about that. In various ways and degrees, the exercise of every voluntary power is pleasurable. It is pleasurable to eat, pleasurable to breathe, even pleasurable to flex the muscles of the leg. The problem is that eating is pleasurable even if I am eating too much, breathing is pleasurable even if I am sniffing glue, flexing the muscles is pleasurable even if I am kicking the dog. For a criterion of when it is good to enjoy each pleasure, one must look beyond the fact that it is a pleasure.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.24. 


'If it really were impossible to derive an ought from the is of the human design, then the practice of medicine would make no sense. Neither would the practice of health education. Consider the young glue-sniffer again. How should we advise him? Is the purpose of his lungs irrelevant? Should we say to him, "Sniff all you want, because an is does not imply an ought"? Of course not; we should advise him to kick the habit. We ought to respect the is of our design. Nothing in us should be put into action in a way that flouts its inbuilt meanings and purposes.'
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.22. 


'At the dawn of the sexual revolution, social scientists produced statistical studies purporting to show that children are better off when quarreling parents divorce, that broken homes are just as functional as intact ones, and that cohabitation has no influence on the stability of the consequent marriage. As anyone conversant with the field now knows, newer and more careful studies show all that to be wildly false. A young, untenured family sociologist who I know used to circulate the results of these new studies secretly among other scholars. But he asked me and his other friends never to mention his name. Why? Because calling the mirage a mirage is a good way to end a career.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.13. 


'Someone might say that no-one should write a book until he is in full possession of the quarry he seeks, but in that case no one should write a book, because in this life knowledge comes little by little.' 
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.11. 


'...human nature is not a master, distinct from us, reducing us to bondage. It is the deep structure of what we really are. The fact that we are not free to be other than human doesn't mean that we aren't free; how could it truly be freedom to be false to ourselves? Blue may as well demand the liberty to be red, odd the liberty to be even, vegetable the liberty to be mineral. That kind of liberty is just the liberty of self-annihilation. But if true freedom doesn't lie in being false to ourselves, then as the old adage claims, it must lie in being true to ourselves.'  
J Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, p.7. 


'Liberals stand up for victims of oppression and exclusion. They fight to break down arbitray barriers (such as those based on race, and more recently on sexual orientation). But their zeal to help victims, combined with their low scores on the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations, often lead them to push for changes that weaken groups, traditions, institutions, and moral capital. For example, the urge to help the inner-city poor led to programs in the 1960s that reduced the value of marriage, increased out-of-wedlock births, and weakened African American families. The urge to empower studets by giving them the right to sue their teachers and schools in the 1970s has eroded authority and moral capital in schools, creating disorderly environments that harm the poor above all. The urge to help Hispanic immigrants in the 1980s led to multicultural education programs that emphasized the differences among Americans rather than their shared values and identity. Emphasizing differences makes many people more racist, not less.
On issue after issues, it's as though liberals are trying to help a subset of bees (which really  does need their help) even if doing so damages the hive. Such "reforms" may lower the overall welfare of a society, and sometimes they even hurt the very victims liberals were trying to help.' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.361. 


'To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.' 
Edmund Burke in Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.359. 


'Religions are moral exoskeletons. If you live in a religious community, you are enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior. But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to reply somewhat more on an internal moral compass, read by the rider. That might sound appealing to rationalists, but it is also a recipe for anomie - Durkheim's word for what happens to a society that no longer has a shared moral order. (It means, literally, "normlessness."). We evolved to live, trade, and trust within shared moral matrices. When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago. 
Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don't really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever know at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.313. 

Friday, 26 June 2015


'...soon there will be nothing left to subdue the pride of men. There is nothing we will not have mastered. Except, of course, ourselves.' 
Philipp Meyer, The Son, p.396.

Friday, 19 June 2015


'Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life.' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.264. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015


'We humans have a dual nature - we are selfish primates who long to be part of something larger and nobler than ourselves. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee.'
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.255. 


'It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.' 
Michael Tomasello in Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.237.  


'Human beings are the giraffes of altruism. We're one-of-a-kind freaks of nature who occasionally - even if rarely - can be as selfless and team-spirited as bees. If your moral ideal is the person who devotes her life to serving strangers, well then, OK - such people are so rare that we send film crews out to record them for the evening news. But if you focus, as Darwin did, on the behavior in groups of people who know each other and share goals and values, then our ability to work together, divide labor, help each other, and function as a team is so all-pervasive that we don't even notice it.' You'll never see the headline. "Forty-five Unrelated College Students Work Together Cooperatively and for No Pay, to Prepare for Opening Night of Romeo and Juliet."'
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.230.  


'Reading in bed last night...of Emily Bronte,  was struck by Emily's knowledge of passion without apparently having experienced it. I think after all that those who have never experienced passionate love can very easily imagine it, and having read deeply can know it even better than from actual experience. After all the desires are there, and because not realized become no less poignant, rather more so. It is unfulfilled love that intensifies passion.' 
James Lees-Milne, A Mingled Measure: Diaries, 1953-1972, p.187. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


'Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.' 
Leon Kass in Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.177. 


'The brain is like a book, the first draft of which is written by the genes during fetal development. No chapters are complete at birth, and some are just rough outlines waiting to be filled in during childhood. But not a single chapter - be it on sexuality, language, food preferences, or morality - consists of blank pages on which a society can inscribe any conceivable set of words.'  
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, p.152.  

Thursday, 4 June 2015


'...each individual reasoner is really good at one thing: finding evidence to support the position she or he already holds, usually for intuitive reasons. We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. But if you put individuals together in the right way, such that some of the individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system. This is why it's so important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or community of scientists) or to produce good public policy (such as a legislature or advisory board).' 
Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, p.105.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


"'Do you know, Alexandra, that I could pick out exactly the right sort of woman for Frank - now. The trouble is that you almost have to marry a man before you can find out the sort of wife he needs; and usually it's exactly the sort you are not."'
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! p.108.


"'Freedom so often means that one isn't needed anywhere."'
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! p.68.


'"Isn't it queer: there are only two or three hundred human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years."'
Willa Cather, O Pioneers! p.67.


'...I can reconcile you to the human condition,
The condition to which some who have gone as far as you
Have succeeded in returning. They may remember
The vision they had, but they cease to regret it,
Maintain themselves by the common routine,
Learn to avoid excessive expectation,
Become tolerant of themselves and others,
Giving and talking, in the usual actions
What there is to give and take. They do not repine;
Are contented with the morning that separates
And with the evening that brings together
For casual talk before the fire
Two people who know they do not understand each other,
Breeding children they do not understand
And who will never understand them.'
TS Eliot, The Cocktail Party, p.123.