Facing the Interlocutor

Quoted from Lydia McGrew:

Comments are closed for cause. The reasons have to do with particular annoying readers and the fact that I prefer to put this out there for posterity and do other things with my time than waste it responding to those particular annoying readers. I will be crossposting at Extra Thoughts, where comments are fully moderated. There are plenty of people whose comments I’d be happy to hear in a moderated environment.

Lydia McGrew wants to put her post out there “for posterity” but does not want to engage with “particular annoying readers”. She will only allow other comments, from people she likes, to be made about her post in a heavily moderated environment.

Lydia has made it clear that her post is out there for people to read and she only want to engage in a debate she has full moderated control over. Given that, I hope you understand why, even though I always quote her directly and have linked directly to her original post, I’m not interested in playing this game on her terms.

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26 Responses to Facing the Interlocutor

  1. Crude says:

    Taking a break from my hitting her argument, I will say this: while I think Lydia is that unfortunate combination of ‘really snarky and personally insulting’ plus ‘incredibly thin skinned’, I can respect her desire to just say what she wants and not get in a fight, plus your desire to not deal with her site if she runs things that way. I’m a big skeptic about the power of conversation among people who fundamentally disagree. Note the ‘fundamental’ – you can have a productive conversation with an atheist who isn’t hugely invested in atheism. But I have never seen a truly productive conversation between a die-hard atheist and a die-hard theist. The best you get is good quotes that are normally the sort of thing you’d get from either of them just writing on their own.

    • My problem is less what she says but how she says it, and then how I’m expected to respond to it: Lydia wrote a post that she literally said is up “for posterity” and she didn’t want “annoying commenters” responding, and suddenly I’m doing something wrong for not clicking the link to her far less popular personal blog and engaging in a moderated debate with her?

      Bullshit. You don’t get to try and drive people away and then get mad that people aren’t personally arguing with you.

  2. Chad says:

    Lydia has, in the premised of this one post, argued that women are unable to reason enough to follow natural law, are always victims, and in need of men to guide them.

    Which is fine. But why would any man want to talk about these matters with such a woman? From the implications of her own arguments, we should rather seek out whatever man is held accountable for the actions of his woman. If unable to do so, is it a surprise we decided to talk amongst men rather than a woman advocating all women lack the moral culpability we grant to 10 year olds?

  3. Zippy says:

    If you read the comments to her post at her blog you can watch her basically walk it all back.

    • Yeah, looking at her last few comments, her position just comes across as completely incoherent. I’d frankly rather respond to the points in the post she put up “for posterity” then the completely different arguments that come to completely different conclusions that she uses in the comments of her post. Life is just too short.

    • Let’s put it this way: If she recognizes a whole bunch of situations where punishing women is relevant…what is the argument?

      If she says that this shouldn’t be a “goal” of the pro-life movement, what the hell does that even mean? Who said it should be a “goal”? Isn’t the goal to end abortion?

      It’s bizarre.

      • GJ says:

        You’re assuming the point of the post was primarily to put forth her own clear and coherent stance.

        Before she posted on WWWW I had suggested that it was necessary to defend the principledness of the mainstream stance to justify continued support for Cruz. Then the post appeared, which she later walked back on her own blog.

      • Zippy says:

        It is possible that some part of all of this is just anti-trump RealTrueConservative tribalism, which is why it has come off as such unreasoning raving. But a part of it definitely runs deeper: those “abortion has two victims” bumper stickers have been soiling the public square since long before Trump declared his candidacy for president.

      • Crude says:

        What a muddle. It comes across as Lydia realizing her position has some serious problems, and she’s trying to get out of it by saying she just meant that the -goal- of the pro-life movement has been to stop abortion, period, NOT to punish women for having abortions. If we have to punish women to stop them, well, then so be it, but she doesn’t seem to think that’s even arguably necessary (or if it is, she hasn’t heard that argument yet) therefore… (Cue Lydia coming across ‘new’ arguments and saying well of COURSE in those cases we should pass laws against women, but first let’s focus on – and only on – the abortionists.)

        I’ll throw out my dissent: no, the goal of the pro-life movement has not been to merely stop all abortion, period. It has, in large part, been to establish the idea that abortion is an act of murder – the taking of a human life, an innocent one that deserves to live and grow, as much as is possible. The rallying cry of ‘The sole and ultimate goal is to stop or at least vastly reduce abortions!’ is recent, and to be dead honest, it’s largely a liberal pro-abortion-but-REALLY-pro-life rallying cry.

        You see it with the Sanders supporters who talk to Catholics, where they say that sure, Sanders is for abortion on demand. But they believe his policies are ‘family friendly’ and will help poor women, who constitute a sizable chunk of abortions – therefore, even though abortion is totally celebrated by him, they expect marginal reductions in the number of abortions. The reduction is the goal, ergo Sanders is the REAL pro-life candidate. This schtick has been around for decades – ‘Safe, Legal and Rare’, it was originally billed as. Rare got dropped in favor of ‘affordable’ once abortion became such a sacrament that discouraging it was deemed too judgmental by the left.

        And it’s a load of bull, especially in a world where popping a pill can induce an abortion. In Sanders’ world, abortion doesn’t mean a thing, and if it’s safe and no one cares about it, no harm done. No reason to even think about ways to reduce it, save for as some kind of ‘efficient use of resources’ consideration.

        To frame this better, here’s a thought experiment: imagine a world where no abortions ever take place. Literally, they have been reduced to zero. However, most people think the fetus is just a blob of cells – indeed, they think any child under age 3 is just a blob of cells that has no moral value and no rights. But they take care of the inconvenient blobs, grudgingly, for a simple reason: some powerful being has the ability and will to kill anyone, on the spot and in a gruesome way, if they attempt to perform or induce an abortion. Other than this, by the way, it’s a pretty benevolent world.

        Would the pro-life movement bring out the ‘MISSION ACCOMPLISHED’ banner? Or would they go, ‘wait, no, these people have a terrible view. They are wrong, and we should be changing their minds about this.’? You know, since you’d have a society of freaking moral monsters only kept in check by threat and power.

        Here’s the nasty truth about abortion, the pro-life movement, the Catholic view, natural law, and more: it is impossible to reduce the abortion question to a pure consequentialist metric where you can measure ‘progress’ entirely in terms of ‘number/proportion of abortions being carried out’. At least, it’s impossible to do so while still retaining the original intellectual (natural law and religious and otherwise) motivations that framed abortion as a monstrous thing that must be stopped to begin with. Pretending otherwise is a recent innovation, the result of political message-shaping gone awry. And this is going to inevitably lead to outrageous talk, like, ‘Men and women’s sexual choices can be right and wrong, and some should be encouraged while others discouraged, at least to some cultural degree’ and ‘A woman who aborts her child is, all things being equal, a murderer committing a monstrous act’.

        I can respect a certain degree of pragmatism. But what’s essential to pragmatism is the recognition that you are, in fact, being pragmatic – that you’re making a concession that you must, in order to achieve a limited success. *Not because you’ve reshaped the very definition of success itself*. Lydia seems to be trying to make the abortion question more tractable by turning it entirely into an issue of stopping abortion, period, such that all we have to do is make the penalties more and more severe for abortionists. ‘Judge Dredd style executions on the spot aren’t ending abortion? Okay, I have another idea for them. Who here has read ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’?’

        Nice try, but no. I’m afraid it won’t work. The real goal is a bit more complicated.

      • I suspect the main factor here is that a lot of people in the pro-life movement have difficulty believing that any woman would ever actually choose to have an abortion. Hence, if a woman does choose (or “choose”) to abort, that is ipso facto proof that she’s being coerced in some way. From here it’s a short step to the idea that the woman’s a victim just as much as the baby is, that it would be unjust to punish them, et cetera.

      • Zippy says:


        Hence, if a woman does choose (or “choose”) to abort, that is ipso facto proof that she’s being coerced in some way. From here it’s a short step to the idea that the woman’s a victim just as much as the baby is, that it would be unjust to punish them, et cetera.

        Even that doesn’t fully explain the attitude though.

        Consider the case of a young gang-banger initiate, who is being told to kill an innocent child as part of some initiation (or as revenge against the child’s father ‘dissing’ the gang, or whatever). He may by personal history have had very few options/opportunities. He may feel coerced, indeed may even feel fear for his own life. He may have a very callous attitude toward the lives of various kinds of people, an attitude inculcated into him his whole life by the society in which he lives: he may not believe that murdering them is wrong.

        But we don’t exonerate him – not on principled grounds, and not on ‘pragmatic’ legal-only grounds – when he murders an innocent child or has an innocent child murdered. These kinds of factors can mitigate guilt and punishment, but they do not determine categorical status as guilty and punishable.

        The pro-life freakout over Trump’s ‘punishment’ remark has made very public something rather seriously wrong with the mainstream ‘movement’. I expect that motivations and psychology vary from person to person. The various psychological explanations we’ve been discussing – disbelief in female agency, conservative taqiyya (as if we could ever win against the Devil in a game of lies), substantive mens rea in favor of women, anti-Trump RealTrueConservative tribalism, etc – are probably all psychological factors, factor which vary by the individual.

        But the position they all support, for their various psychological reasons, is raving incoherent special pleading.

      • GJ says:


        Fair enough, I do tend to underestimate the amount of ‘progress’ that has taken place.

      • @Zippy:

        On the other hand, if the guy in question was in fear of his own life, I think a fair few people would be in favour of letting him off entirely.

        Perhaps we might also draw a comparison to suicide. The Church roundly condemns killing oneself, but most Catholics would probably consider it to be ipso facto evidence of mental illness or coercion so strong as to obviate (almost all) culpability, and any politician who tried to gain favour with Catholic voters by proposing that we re-criminalise attempted suicide would probably not be very popular.

        As for the explanation, it would as you say vary from case to case, but if forced to guess I’d probably say that the most common reasons are naivety (“Oh no, no normal woman would *ever* do that…”) and wishful thinking (the notion that ~30% of women in the country — more than likely including several of your friends and family members — are murderers is a pretty disquieting one; much easier to believe that they just didn’t understand what they were doing, and shift the blame onto the — much smaller — group of abortionists)

      • Zippy says:


        On the other hand, if the guy in question was in fear of his own life, I think a fair few people would be in favour of letting him off entirely.

        I think you are just kidding yourself there. Gangbangers, street kids, corner boys, etc. live in constant fear for their lives, probably feel like they have no other options, etc. We don’t let them off legally for murder (or lesser crimes like dealing drugs, stealing, etc) because of it.

        We might quite rightly show mercy, of course, but showing mercy presumes that the person is guilty and deserves punishment in the first place, just as tolerance presumes that the thing tolerated need not be tolerated in the first place.

        Perhaps we might also draw a comparison to suicide.

        That’s already been discussed. See e.g.


        Comparing abortion to suicide rhetorically erases the real innocent victim and is in my view one of the more despicable attempts to justify this incoherence.

      • Crude,

        I don’t disagree with you at all, but I’d do the magic wand thing and make abortion disappear immediately if I could. Nothing you say is wrong, though.

      • Crude says:


        Sure, and I can understand that. I’d do the same (with a wand – hypothetical psychic terror-monster is a bit more complicated.) My point there is that ‘totally eradicating/reducing’ abortion isn’t the singular goal of the pro-life movement. It never has been, and more than that, it shouldn’t be. People are now trying to rewrite history and convictions by turning it into a numbers game. Bad move. The numbers are only part of the story, as important as they are.

        By the way – let’s add a little fun data to this one.

        You know what happened shortly after Trump talked about punishing women who had abortions? Poland decided to get in on the act. Keep in mind, Poland there already has some tremendously strict abortion laws. In fact this is a weird situation – going by the article, Poland’s youth are getting more conservative despite declining church attendance.

        They are upping the ante, and yes, they’ve got an eye on punishing women who get abortions.

        Shall Lydia McGrew be piping up to condemn Poland? How about the March for Life?

      • You’re assuming the March for Life isn’t on her side.

      • Crude says:


        I’m assuming their leadership is, as a matter of fact. They were the ones who zeroed in on Trump and lambasted him over his ‘prosecute women for abortion if it’s illegal’ view.

        I don’t trust these movements anymore. It was one thing when I suspected the GOPe was insincere. That’s one thing. But catching wind that the ‘pro-life leaders’ are engaged in this kind of thing? That’s when it’s time to start talking organizational takeovers similar to what went down with the NRA long ago.

  4. Andrew says:

    Well, I’m going to jump in and make a couple of claims, and then I’m possibly going to walk them back.

    (1) There are three primary victims in an abortion. The child who is killed, and the two parents whose legacy has been diminished. Perversely, at least one of the two is also the perpetrator.

    (2) I think infanticide of one’s own children (whether pre- or post- birth) is a special case that requires extra finesse from the law. It’s easy for an independence-focused westerner to see a child either as a nothing or as a completely separate entity, but I think the west has an impoverished understanding of family.

    As I’ve already stated, self-infanticide is an attack on both yourself and your legacy. Moreover, of the parties who would normally be owed vengeance (or compensation, or justice), one is dead and the other is party to the crime. Applying the death penalty for attempted suicide has an incoherence about it; there are echoes of this when it comes to severe penalties for self-infanticide.

    I see similar tensions in situations where one parent conducted the infanticide against the will of the other. From one perspective, the innocent parent may want the guilty one punished severely. From another, removing the guilty parent may cause further suffering to the family. There’s no particular injustice in the family suffering when one parent has committed a crime against a third party, but there are possible concerns if the family suffers due to the punishment (as opposed to the crime) of a member of the family for crimes against the family. (Contrariwise, the innocent parent may decide the family is better off with the guilty one gone, in which case no concern arises).

    So am I saying that parents shouldn’t be punished for self-infanticide (including abortion)? By no means. To refuse any form of sanction is to implicitly condone the act, and there needs to be a very clear disincentive for killing ones’ own children (specifically young children; at some point the child is sufficiently adult that he or she can be treated as a third party and treated as simple murder). Nor would I want to claim that women are somehow not moral agents in this context! But I do think the Law should include an awareness that self-infanticide is also a form of self-harm, rather than just harm against another, and apply punishment accordingly.

    Of course, the #1 issue with abortion as widely practiced in the west is that it is in denial at this very point. Abortion rhetoric not only de-humanises the baby, but also the parents’ (not just the mother’s – why are the fathers always forgotten in such discussions?) relationship with the baby. The child, who should be embraced as an expression of the family identity, is instead seen as an external threat that needs to be eliminated. Severe sanctions against those performing abortions (or otherwise assisting in infanticide) is the first step in turning this around. Sanctions must also be applied against complicit parents, but if these can be applied in such a way that communicates that self-infanticide is both killing of another and an act of violence against the self / own family then I suggest we will see social attitudes reformed more effectively than if the child is treated entirely as a third party.

    (and yes, I see very little moral difference between abortion and the killing of one’s own child up to the age of – say – five or even 10, except that abortion is harder to execute successfully solo)

    • There’s no such thing as self-infanticide, since infants can’t commit suicide.
      There is perhaps “self-dislineation”, but the subject of an *infanticide* is the infant.

      • Andrew says:

        Obviously I’m using the term to mean “infanticide of one’s own infant” rather than “suicide of infant”. Strictly speaking, it’s possible for infants to kill themselves, but this is usually incompetence rather than will and we usually expect the parents to protect them from it (which is what makes killing one’s own infant a particularly egregious breach-of-trust).

    • Zippy says:

      Murderers are victims too, because they become ammunition-deprived and their once clean knives become bloodied.

  5. GJ says:

    at some point the child is sufficiently adult that he or she can be treated as a third party and treated as simple murder

    It’s easy for an independence-focused westerner to see an grown child either as a nothing or as a completely separate entity, but I think the west has an impoverished understanding of family.

    self-infanticide is also a form of self-harm, rather than just harm against another

    Murder is a form of self-harm not least in how it affects character.

    But I agree with your point (2), that is:
    I think infanticide of one’s own children (whether pre- or post- birth) is a special case that requires extra finesse from the law.

    Unlike towards the general stranger, one has a duty of care towards one’s young children, both moral and legal. By killing your child you’re committing a worse crime because not only do you commit murder, you also breach the very strong duty of care.

    Therefore the punishment should be greater.

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