Saturday, 29 April 2017

Mass readings in Scots: 3rd Sunday in Easter (Year A)




First reading
Acts 2:14,22-33
 

 
Bot Petir stude with the elleuen, and raasit vp his voce, and spak to thame. Ye men of Israel, here ye thir wordis. Jesus of Nazareth, a man previt of God before you be virtues, and wonndris, and taknis, quhilkis God did be him in the myddis of you, as ye wate, Ye tormentit, and slew him be the handis of wickit men, be counsale determinit and betakin be the forknawing of God. Quham God raasit, quhen sorowis of hell war vnbundin, be that that it was impossibile that he war haldin of it. For Dauid sais of him,
 
I saw on ferre the Lord before me euirmare,
for he is on my richthalf, that I be nocht mouet.
For this thing my hart ioyit,
and my tonng made full out ioy,
and mare ouir my flesch sal rest in hope.
For thou sal nocht leeue my saul in hell,
nouthir thou sal geue thin hali to se corruptloin.
Thou has made knawne to me the wayis of lijf,
thou sal fill me in mirth with thi face.
 
Brether, be it leefull hardilie to say to you of the patriarch Dauid, for he is dede and berysit, and his sepulture is amang vs in to this day. Tharfor quhen he was a prophet, and wist that with a gret athe God had suorn to him, that of the fruit of his leynd suld aan sit on his sete, He seand on ferre spak of the resurrectioun of Crist, for nowthir he was left in hell, nouthir his flesch saw corruptioun. God raasit this Jesu, to quham we all ar witnessis. Tharfor he was vpheit be the richthand of God, and throuch the behecht of the Haligaast that he tuke of the fader, he sched out this spirit, that ye se and here.

(From Murdoch Nesbit's translation into Scots (1520) here.)




Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 15(16):1-2,5,7-11


1. Waird me weel, O God,
I lippen till yerlane.

2 Ye hae said until the Lord,
My Lord, ye 're a' my ain; I hae nought that 's gude, abune yersel.

5 The Lord himsel's the fow o' my ha'din an' my caup;
my luck yerlane hae lucken'd.

7 I maun blythe-bid the Lord, wha gies me wyss rede;
an' my lisk, night by night, hauds me ay learnin.

8 The Lord evirmair hae I set fornenst mysel:
for he's at my right han', I sal ne'er be sair steerit.

9 Wharthro' my heart 's fu' fain, an' my gudeliheid fu' blythe is:
na, my vera bouk itsel bides in tryst.

10 For my saul ye winna lea' i' the lang hame o' dead;
ye winna gie yer dearest ane till see the sheugh o' dule.

11 Yersel sal gar me ken the vera gate o' life:
routh o' joies afore thy face is;
pleasurs thrang at thy right han' evir mair.

(From P. Hately Waddell's translation of Psalm 16 (1891) here)

 
Second reading
1 Peter 1:17-21

And gif ye inwartly call him fader, quhilk deemys without acceptioun of persounns be the werk of ilkman, leeue ye in drede in the tyme of your pilgrimage; Witting that nocht be corruptabile gold, or siluir, ye ar boucht agane of your vane leving of fadris traditioun, Bot be the precious blude as of the lambe vndefoulit and vnspottit, Crist Jesu, That was knawne befoir the making of the warld, bot he is schawit in the last tymes, for you That be him ar faithfull in God; that raasit him fra dede, and gaue to him euirlasting glorie, that your faith and hope war in God.


 (From Murdoch Nesbit's translation into Scots (1520) here.)


GospelLuke 24:13-35

And mark! twa frae ’mang them war gaun on their journey, that vera day, till a village seeven or aucht mile frae Jerusalem, ca’d Emmaus. And they spak thegither o’ a’ thae things that had happened. And it cam aboot, as they war speakin and reasonin thegither, Jesus his sel cam nar, and gaed wi’ them. But their sicht was hauden, that they soudna ken him. And he says to them, “Whatna words are thae that ye hae ane to anither, as ye gang on?” And they stude still, wi’ a sorrowfu' look.

But ane, by name Cleopas, answer’t, “Div ye bide by yere lane in Jerusalem, and hae-na kent a’ the things that hae cam aboot i’ thir days?” And he said, “Whatna things?” And they said to him, “Anent Jesus o’ Nazareth, that was a prophet, a man michty in deed and word, in God’s sicht, and o’ a’ the folk. “And in whatna way oor Heid-prieets and Rulers deliver’t him up to deid, and hae crucify’t him. But we lippened it wad hae been he that was to deliver Isra’l; and forby a’ this, the day is the third day sin’ thae things war dune. Aye! and a wheen weemen o’ oor ain gar’t us be astonish’t — gaun ear' to the tomb, and no findin his corp, they cam sayin they had seen a vision o’ angels, that said he was leevin ! And some that war o’ us gaed to the tomb ; and faund it e’en as the weemen had said ; but they sawna him.”

And he says to them, “Oh, glaikit anes ! and dour in yere hearts to lippen to the things the Prophets hae said. Was’t no for the Christ to suffer thae vera things? and to enter intil his glorie?” And, beginnin frae Moses, and frae a’ the Prophets, he made plain to them in a’ the Scripture the things anent himsel.

And they cam nar to the village they war gaun till; and he lookit as gin he was gaun on. But they pressed him, sayin, “Bide ye wi’ us! the day is far gane, and the nicht is comin!” And he gaed in to stop wi’ them. And it cam aboot, whan he was sutten doon wi’ them to meat, he took the laif, and bless’d; and breikin it, gied till them. And their e’en war unsteekit; and they kent him! and he dis- appear frae them. And they said ane to the ither, “Did oor heart no lowe within us, while he was speakin to us on the way, and exponin to us the word!”

And they raise up that vera oor, and gaed back till Jerusalem, and faund foregather’t the Eleeven, and thae wi’ them, sayin, “The Lord did rise! and appear’t to Simon !” And they war tell in the things by the road; and hoo he was made kent to them i’ the breikin o’ breid.

(From William Wye Smith's translation (1904) here.)



















Friday, 28 April 2017

New venture: Mass readings in Scots language


                                                       Lazarus dressed for blogging

Ninian Winzet's savaging of John Knox in 1563 for forgetting "our auld plane Scottis quhilk zour mother lerit you." Winzet, McClure explains, was merely ladling on yet more irony in questioning why Knox had not answered the doctrinal questions Winzet had earlier posed: perhaps you are unable to read my handwriting; perhaps you have forgotten your mother tongue. For the purpose of his argument, Winzet could allege a difference in language between his own "plane Scottis" and the variety of English Knox had adopted as part of an excessive "curiositie of nouatiounis."

From: 
Bailey, Richard W. (1991) "Scots and Scotticisms: Language and Ideology," Studies in Scottish Literature: Vol. 26: Iss. 1. (Available at: http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ssl/vol26/iss1/7 )


David Leask has been banging on a while now about the way Unionists have amongst other things) developed a neuralgic reaction to the Scots language (eg Herald article here). I wouldn't put it quite the way he does, but I do think there's a general problem of political debate in Scotland becoming simplified into the one issue of 'Independence -for or against?' and of other important questions becoming weaponized by both sides in the attempt to win this one battle.

From the 'progressive' Nationalist side, I don't suppose I need to make a case for Scots. (Although in principle, the justification for an emphasis on Scots ought to be problematic in such circles, even if in fact it isn't.)

Turning to the Right, to the extent that the Right is now synonymous with Unionism in Scotland, there is no particular reason why Scots as a language should be a target. There can be different views on its importance, but there is no obvious reason in principle why hostility to Scots is entailed by hostility to Scottish Independence: one of the great pleasures in reading Walter Scott's canon recently was the discovery of just how well he uses Scots in a variety of different registers. (And no obvious SNP-er he.) I sympathise with a kneejerk reaction to the nonsense that graces the pages of The National and to  political Nationalist attempts to coopt the language, but what is kneejerk needs to be resisted. Conservatives need to be much smarter than this: culture is much, much more important than politics.

But, digging a little more deeply, what of a conservatism that is not simply identical with Unionism? Difficult though it may be to peer through the fog of war and see the underlying principles at stake here, it's essential that those of us who (at least in broad terms) think of ourselves as cultural conservatives don't fall into the trap of a simple identification with the Conservative Party and thus Unionism (because the Scottish Conservative Party is self declared as progressive and because, in any case, social conservatives do not have to be supporters of the Conservative Party) or of a simple identification of Unionism and conservatism. I think the former point is relatively straightforward, so it's to the latter I turn.

Imagine for a moment that I am a Kirkian or Scrutonian conservative. Let's adopt the (somewhat ill-fitting) title of 'palaeo-conservative' as shorthand. Why would I be hostile to Scots (quite apart from necessarily hostile to Nationalism or Independence)? I put aside as utterly irrelevant the question of whether or not it is a proper language: it is at the least a proper dialect, and one with a rich, longstanding literature. With an emphasis on the local and the imaginative, and quite simply the preservation of what has been, why would I be resistant to at least preserving (quite apart from promoting) Scots? I struggle to think of an answer except for the assertion that there are more important things to think about. Possibly. But one of the key elements at least of Russell Kirk's conservatism is its element of fancy and eccentric individuality: if people see fit (as many whom I admire do) to spend their time promoting and thinking about Tolkien, then why should not those of us whom Tolkien leaves rather cold, spend time thinking about and preserving Scots?

Beyond this, I think there is a special duty on Scots Catholics to re-imagine and re-enchant Scotland. There has been a strong current in English Catholicism, seen both in Walsingham and the sense of England as Our Lady's Dowry, to remember and wish to recreate at least in imagination, an England in which the Reformation never happened or at least has been healed. For whatever reasons, this sense is rather diminished in Scotland. (The main exception to this in recent years has been George Mackay Brown, but, even here, his emphasis on Orkney reduces his impact on non-Scandinavian Scotland.) So what would a Scotland freed from the poison of the Reformation look like? What would it be for it to live as a daily reality its status as Specialis Filia Romanae Ecclesiae? Well, for one thing, at the very least a greater awareness of the mediaeval literary heritage in Scots. (Back to Dunbar, indeed.)

Anyway, let him wha will be a traitor knave. I don't know what other shenanigans I'll get up to on this, but, from this Sunday (and at least monthly thereafter until -as per usual- I get bored) I'll be posting selected Mass readings in Scots. These will be pilfered from a variety of sources rather than my own workings and this will doubtless result in a number of absurdities. (On present estimates, I'll need to make use of at least some readings in modern Ulster Scots as well as in Scotticised Middle English. (I don't totally dismiss the possibility of resorting to machine translation either.) The resulting linguisic tensions can either be ignored or celebrated as a re-enactment of the linguistic tensions necessarily involved in the original language texts of a 'book' which has been assembled by the Church from a variety of texts produced over centuries.) As with so many other ventures, I am happy to do it badly with a view to others eventually doing it better.

A couple of final points. First, everything I say above in favour of Scots could be said of Gaelic but with even greater force. That I say nothing here of Gaelic is a result entirely of my very, very limited acquaintance with that language. Secondly, none of this is to be taken as suggesting that actual Masses should be said in Scots. I suppose there is an argument in favour of such a view, but it's not one that I'm engaged in. (For what it's worth, I would ban all experiments in the language of the Mass for 1000 years and, if there is a lust for linguistic variety, urge a greater use of Scotland's other great historic language, Latin. But that's for another day.) My purpose here (quite apart from its being a simple jeu d'esprit) is simply to allow that imaginative reception of the liturgy into a wider culture that can be seen (eg) in mediaeval mystery plays and church decoration, and the transformation of that wider culture by a Catholic presence. (Pie in the Sky in practice, no doubt, but at least (ignored) there will be in principle a Catlick presence in a field too often dominated by Proddy, Secularist (and Ginger) Dugs.)











Sunday, 23 April 2017

Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday): sermon of Lancelot Andrewes




A brotherhood, we grant, was begun  then at Christmas by his birth, as upon that day, for 'lo then was he born'. But so was he now also at Easter; born then too, and after a better manner born.

[...]

There was then a new betting this day. And if a new begetting, a new paternity, and fraternity both. But the 'Today I have begotten thee' of Christmas, how soon was he born of the Virgin's womb he became our brother, sin except, subject to all our infirmities; so to mortality, and even to death itself. And by death that brotherhood had been dissolved, but for this day's rising. By the 'Today I have begotten thee' of Easter, as soon as he was born again of the womb of the grave, be begins a new brotherhood, founds a new fraternity straight; adopts us, we see, anew again by his 'my brethren' (John 20:17), and thereby he that was 'first-begotten from the dead' becomes 'the first-begotten' in this respect 'among many brethren' (Romans 8:20) Before he was ours, now we are his. That was by the mother's side; so, he ours. This is by 'your Father', the Father's side; -so, we his. But half-brothers before, never of the whole blood till now. Now by father and mother both, twin brothers, most fraternal brothers, we cannot be more.

To shut up all in a word, that of Christmas was the fraternity arising out of 'my God and your God'; so then brethren. This of Easter, adopting us to his Father, was the fraternity of 'my Father and your Father'; so brethren now.

[Excerpt from today's reading in the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. 'A Sermon preached before the King's Majesty, at Whitehall, on the twenty-first of April A.D. MDCXXII, being Easter-Day'. (Many of Andrewes' sermons can be found online here. But not this one!)]

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday



O blessed day of the Resurrection, which of old time was called the Queen of Festivals, and raised among Christians an anxious, nay contentious diligence duly to honour it! Blessed day, once only passed in sorrow, when the Lord actually rose, and the disciples believed not; but ever since a day of joy to the faith and love of the Church! In ancient times, Christians all over the world began it with a morning salutation. Each man said to his neighbour, 'Christ is risen'; and his neighbour answered him, 'Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon'. Even to Simon, the coward disciple who denied him thrice, Christ is risen; even to us, who long ago vowed to obey him, and have yet so often denied him before men, so often taken part with sin, and followed the world, when Christ called us another way.

 'Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon!': to Simon Peter the favoured Apostle, on whom the Church is built, Christ has appeared. He has appeared to his Holy Church first of all, and in the Church he dispenses blessings, such as the world knows not of. Blessed are they if they knew their blessedness, who are allowed, as we are, week after week, and Festival after Festival, to seek and find in that Holy Church the Saviour of their souls! Blessed are they beyond language or thought, to whom it is vouchsafed to receive those tokens of his love, which cannot otherwise be gained by man, the pledges and means of his special presence, in the Sacrament of his Supper; who are allowed to eat and drink the food of immortality, and receive life from the bleeding side of the Son of God!

[Extract from today's reading from the sermons of Blessed John Henry Newman in The Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, p.319.]

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sex (and Aristotle)


Mudblood Catholic (Gabriel Blanchard) is currently doing an excellent series of posts (first here) in response to Ed Feser's equally excellent natural law analysis of sex (best to start from this blogpost here accompanied by reading Feser's paper referred to in the article).

As Gabriel has not yet finished his series of posts and because I simply don't have the Lenten patience to give the topic a complete response, what follows is inevitably incomplete. Instead I'm going to focus on some key features of an Aristotelian reaction to what I've read so far, on the grounds that the Aristotelian background is sometimes assumed rather than stated by Aquinas' position (and thus sometimes overlooked by later Thomist thinkers) and, in any case, is of interest in itself. (It is of course anyway the privilege of an analytic Thomist not to be consistently Thomist and sometimes to try on the mantle of analytic Aristotelianism instead.) I'd stress that the following is simply a reflection on some points in the existing analyses: it claims neither completeness nor aspires directly to correct or refute either Feser or Blanchard.

The first thing to note is that Catholicism allows and even requires philosophical thinking in morality. There is a widely held non-Catholic suspicion that philosophy dies with Catholic dogmatic religion: that answers, being laid out and decided, form a telephone directory of morality rather than, say, the desperate existential, but open-ended quest that seems to typify the earlier dialogues of Plato. This is simply false as both the Blanchard/Feser exchange shows as well as does even a passing familiarity with the internal disputes of mediaeval scholasticism. Quite why this is so is a different matter and one that would require a much more extended discussion than I can provide here. But in any case (an insight I think I owe to Leo Strauss) unlike the legalised reasoning of Islam and Judaism, Christianity to a great extent can embrace the fluidity of the philosophical life in a way that these other revealed religions cannot: roughly, the tension between Athens and Jerusalem is one internal to Christianity and external to Judaism and Islam. So the first point is that understanding sex and the morality of sex for Catholics involves hard philosophical thought: it is not something that can be simply read off the page of a dogmatic codex. (I should note in passing that this philosophical requirement is not necessarily one for each individual but for the Church as a whole. I however pass over the details of this for the present.)  To translate this into Aristotelian terms, the tentativeness about moral reasoning that is found throughout the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics is one that is not foreign to Catholicism. To translate this into Blanchard/Feser terms, the debate between them is entirely to be expected and welcomed. As Gabriel notes:

I started having problems with it immediately, which was delicious. People don’t usually realize how spacious Catholicism really is. Seeing it from the outside, they perceive the dogmas merely as boundaries—and they are in one sense, but they are much more like LEGOs: the defined structure is what lets you do all the fun stuff.

The second thing to note is that, coupled with this philosophical openness is indeed a dogmatic certainty. In the present case, for example, homosexual intercourse is clearly morally wrong: I won't attempt to defend that here except to note that, for 2000 years, that's been the clear teaching. Whatever the philosophical openness, there is also a dogmatic closure. This element of brute assertion is also typical of Aristotle:

That is why in order to be a competent student of the noble and the just, and in short of the topics of politics in general, the pupil is bound to have been well trained in his habits. For the starting point is the fact that a thing is so; if this be satisfactorily ascertained, there will be no need also to know the reason why it is so. (EN I 1095b)

The combination of these first two points is that moral philosophy will have to deal with some moral truths being clearly established and yet the precise reasoning for those truths being open to the sort of fluidity of debate typical of philosophical discussion.

Related to those points is a third point: that what is clear to the wise (moral) person (phronimos) will not be clear to those who are not.

Virtue then is the settled disposition of the mind determining the choice of actions and emotions, consisting essentially in the observance of the mean relative to us, this being determined by principle, that is, as the prudent man [phronimos] would determine it. (EN II 1106b-1107a)

Consequently the unproved assertions and opinions of experienced and elderly people, or of the prudent [phronimoi], are as much deserving of attention as those which they support by proof; for experience has given them an eye for things, and so they see correctly. (EN VI 1143b)

To sum all this up, there will be limits in what philosophical reasoning can establish, both in terms of coming to clear conclusions and in terms of coming to conclusions which might overthrow the common sense of the wise person. (At this point, we might add as Catholics, the certainties of revealed teaching will help. But the space for certainties intruding into philosophical reasoning from external wisdom has already been made by Aristotle.)

More specifically, in relation to the Blanchard/Feser debate, at some points, what will be clear to the clear sightedness of the moral will not be clear to those of us who are not so gifted. We may remain unconvinced by their arguments. But that does not mean that we are right not to be so convinced: such a failure is a result of our lack, either because we are corrupt or because we are in some other way impaired. As the modern neo-Aristotelian Rosalind Hursthouse puts it:

Aristotle's view allows that his answer will not work for everyone. It fails for two different sorts of people. One is the sort of person who has been sufficiently corrupted by their upbringing not to be able to see anything amiss in the life of the person who is 'successfully' non-virtuous...The other sort of person for whom Aristotle's answer may not work would be an 'unnatural' human being... (Hurthouse in Warburton, 2005, pp182-183)

Given the Catholic understanding of the effects of original sin, particularly on concupiscence, all of us are likely to find ourselves constantly wondering how many of our own judgments are thus impaired.


I now move on to a different aspect of the debate. One may be an Aristotelian either in believing that Aristotle has usefully set out a basic framework of approaching ethics, and/or in believing that how he applies that framework has produced useful results. So, for example, one might accept that the basic Aristotelian approach sketched above (and perhaps adding such matters as teleology) is a good approach to sexual ethics, while denying that the sort of traditional Aristotelian conclusions on such ethics are actually necessitated by such an approach. Aristotle's own treatment of sex, for example, is primarily set out in Books VIII and IX of the Nicomachean Ethics where it is seen as part of the overarching concept of philia (friendship) rather than through, say, the prism of Lewis' The Four Loves. It would be perfectly possible to argue that Aristotle is correct in his basic approach to ethics while suggesting that the treatment of sexual ethics in the Nicomachean Ethics is inadequate. Indeed, it would be hard to argue that sexual ethics is adequately treated by Aristotle because he says very little indeed about it. That said, I am going to argue that what Aristotle does say provides a rather more helpful starting point than (say) Lewis' divisions between the four various types of love (which form an important part of Blanchard's analysis).

Aristotle's analysis of friendship divides it into three main types: that of virtue, that of pleasure and that of usefulness. The friendship of husband and wife is, in terms of its function, one of pleasure (obvious), one of usefulness (both in procreation and other support) and also potentially of virtue 'if the partners be of high moral character' (EN VIII 1162a). A number of points emerge from this analysis.

First, a philosophical analysis can be useful for what it leaves out or passes over as well as for what it includes. I confess that Aristotle's rather brisk way with sexual feelings and romantic attraction attracts me. As he says elsewhere:

We must therefore be content if, in dealing with subjects and starting from premises thus uncertain, we succeed in presenting a broad outline of the truth...for it is the mark of an educated mind to expect that amount of exactness in each kind which the nature of the particular subject admits (EN I 1094b).

That many writers over the years have agonised over the nuances of romantic sensibility does not mean that every nuance so produced is worthwhile: in addition to the erratic nature of the sensibilities of fallen humanity, in general some oversensitivity to detail will tend to disguise the core of the matter. (I find for example the erotic hesitancies and wanderings of Iris Murdoch's characters often intensely irritating in this way and long for a brisk sensibility such as that of Flora Poste.)

Secondly, sex is analysed primarily through the household and the nucleus of that household, the man/woman couple. In essence, this is because the tele (ends) of the organism and parts of the organism make sense within an overall ordering of the cosmos: the species imitates eternity by its eternal existence while its members undergo a cycle of birth, procreation and death. The individual's life takes place within the social units of (eg) the state and the household, which themselves have goals and to which the individual's actions are subordinated and contribute. In other words, sexual activity and the proper use of the sexual organs forms part of an ordered structure of the universe and cannot be understood or even noticed apart from that structure.

Why does that matter? Well, take Blanchard's following observation:

Thirdly—and this is a lesser point, but it’s important, given the claims made by Neo-Scholasticism for what shows something to be natural—it must be pointed out, as a matter of historical record, that romantic love was not regarded as a dignified or spiritual phenomenon until the twelfth century, at least in Christendom and its Euro-Levantine predecessors—except, in Greece and later in Rome, for homosexual Eros. To revere romantic love, that fanatical, self-abasing, inconstant, reckless, and involuntary phenomenon, was as ridiculous to our Christian ancestors of the early Middle Ages as it was to their pagan ancestors of the classical era. Nor, until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was the romantic tradition linked to marriage even by Romantics; for the Troubadours who originated the tradition of courtly love, adultery was of its essence. The idea that Eros is shown by actual human habits to be naturally directed toward marriage is an artifact of a long and localized cultural development—or, more bluntly, pure moonshine.


Now I take an Aristotelian response here to be something along the following lines. People have all sorts of desire for pleasure. To the extent that romantic love is just a desire for pleasure, it hardly matters. (One might as well worry about the finer points of playing tiddly winks. Even if you are very keen on tiddly winks, it still doesn't matter that much.) It does matter to the extent that it is directed or can be directed towards one of the great ends of human nature. The most obviously relevant one here is that of creating the household (and thus ensuring the continuity of the species by procreation and education of the children). The erotic disorder of romantic love needs to be canalised to that end. (And despite the received wisdom that in long term marriages, such romantic intensity burns low after the initial turbulence, as a member of such a long term relationship, I think I'd have to say that, in many ways, though undoubtedly canalised towards sustaining a childbearing household, its intensity has grown to an extent I never would have dreamed of as being possible those many years ago.)

But in addition to that creation of the household, Aristotle would also have pointed to the greatest end of human beings as being relevant here: that of the contemplation of divine things (EN X 1177a). That contemplation is easier with a few co-workers (1177b) but in general requires minimal external help.

But the friendship of the good is good and grows with their interaction. And they seem actually to become better by putting their friendship into practice, and because they correct each other's faults, for each takes the impress from the other of those traits in him that give him pleasure -whence the saying:

             Noble deeds from noble men.

(EN IX 1172a)

The telos of contemplation is aided by having a few friends. That is possible within a good marriage (although it is certainly not either exclusive to marriage or indeed necessary to marriage). The household by its other directedness of procreation and education of children disciplines romantic love towards the second best life of active moral virtue (EN X 1178a). In the best scenario, it can also discipline romantic love towards the end of contemplation. Both those ends matter because they fit into the wider pattern of the cosmos (through the imitation of eternity in procreation and death, and in the imitation of god by contemplation of the divine). To the extent that romantic love can be turned towards those great ends, it matters. But to the extent it cannot, it is only a constellation of bodily pleasures, the precise nature of which hardly matters at all. (So to take up Blanchard's point, that romantic love is only a comparative late comer to our cultural imaginary and to our understanding of marriage is really neither here nor there: only to the extent that it fits in with the understanding of human teleology sketched above should it be be attended to. However marriage as the possible site of important and virtuous friendship is there in Aristotle, and. I'd suggest, it is this rather than the focus on romantic love which provides a sounder base for the analysis of marriage's (and hence sex's) importance.)


Let me try to sum up the main points of this post:

1) An Aristotelian analysis of love (and of other things) will not always be obvious to all people (or indeed in parts to anyone!) It requires hard philosophical thought and debate. (And may need to be resolved by the assertion of the wise or revelation.)

2) Aristotle's own analysis of romantic love is quite coarse grained and leaves out a lot of detail that later thinkers might introduce. This may well be an advantage.

3) For any human activity, it is always necessary to ask towards what goal it is directed. That direction in turn will fit into a wider, teleological understanding of the universe as a whole. Without that understanding of the whole, it is likely that the telos (and thus nature) of the part will be misunderstood.

4) Sexual attraction is to be analysed primarily in the context of the procreating household and the establishment of the male/female pair. Other cases are of marginal importance.