Saturday, July 02, 2016

Horndog ethics

Thus far I haven't make any personal observations about Richard Carrier's downfall. A few random thoughts:

i) Obviously, it's easy to compile a long list of sexual misconduct by Christians or professing Christians. Christians and atheists are wired the same way. 

ii) Carrier's behavior poses a dilemma for atheists, because–unlike Christian ethics–it raises the question of whether certain kinds of sexual conduct are blameworthy. To begin with, you have atheists who reject moral realism. And even among atheists who affirm some form of moral realism, they often make a point of ridiculing Christian sexual ethics. They have a far more expansive list of sexually licit practices. 

For instance, the Cynics were named after dogs, in part because they had public sex and promiscuous sex just like dogs. They thought humans were just animals, so why not? That's a consistent position.

Christians can say certain kinds of sexual conduct are morally illicit. That can be grounded in natural law theory or divine command theory. Hence, Christians have a basis for condemning the sexual misconduct, including their own. 

iii) Mind you, Carrier has his own version of moral realism, so he can't excuse himself by appeal to moral relativism, fictionalism, or nihilism. 

iv) In many ways, Carrier brought this on himself. To begin with, he didn't keep his private life private. If he kept his sex life private, he'd be less vulnerable to the allegations. But he turned his blog into a tabloid commercial in which he cultivated a Casanova image, bragged about his Jovian exploits, and inviting women to meet him for hookups when he was in the area. By shamelessly projecting a horndog image, he scripted the very narrative that made the allegations all too plausible. 

v) He assumes the role of moral crusader, attacking fellow atheists (e.g. Michael Shermer) for alleged sexual misconduct. That, of course, left him with few sympathizers when he found himself on the receiving end of similar accusations. 

vi) He has loudly proclaimed himself a feminist. But that means he should be judged by feminist criteria. Feminism has a very broad definition sexual harassment. In feminism, moreover, men accused of sexual misconduct are presumptively guilty. It is, therefore, entirely fitting to hold Carrier to his own stated standards. Having endorsed feminism, he chose to wade into the shark-infested waters of affirmative consent.  

vii) I'd add that there's prima facie plausibility to the allegations. I never took seriously his braggadocio talk about about how many girlfriends he has. Is Carrier chickbait? He isn't a hunk. He isn't rich. He's not a CEO who can promote women in exchange for sexual favors. He's a middle-aged nerd without a regular job. So it doesn't surprise me if he's hitting on women rather than women hitting on him. 

viii) Finally, Carrier has been spinning out of control for years. He suffers from what I call aging atheist syndrome. His best years are behind him. As time goes on, he has ever less to look forward to. It's not surprising that many atheists become increasingly bitter and angry as they get older. 

What's striking is the public silence of long-time friends like Jeff Lowder as Carrier became ever more unhinged. Is that their blue code of silence? 

No comments:

Post a Comment