« Video: Maria Woltjen on the Immigrant Children's Advocacy Project | Main | Is Sex Special? Martha Nussbaum Replies to Todd Henderson, James Joseph, Valentina Urbanek, Scott Anderson – and William Landes »

March 24, 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican

Spitzer’s Adultery: We Should Also Feel Sorry For Mrs. James Carville, Mrs. Alan Dershowitz

By John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com;

“Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.” – Proverbs 30:20.

I am, of course, feeling very sorry for Mrs. Eliot Spitzer and her three daughters. But, I’m also feeling sorry for Mrs. James Carville and Mrs. Alan Dershowitz. And I’m feeling sorry for these two ladies because their respective husbands have been all over national TV saying that Eliot Spitzer’s whoremongering adultery -- which God says is a death penalty crime -- is no big deal.
Mr. Carville has said re: Eliot Spitzer’s cheating on his wife: “I don't think he should resign just because he saw a prostitute one or two times…. He didn't steal anything. If this is all it is. I don't know that. It may be much more than this but if this is all it is I say hang in there.”
But, lest you think Mr. Carville is a total libertine, with no moral code, who has no sense of right and wrong, of good and evil, he has said there is something very bad about the Spitzer mess, something he calls “the worst thing.” And that “worst thing” is (are you seated?) all the folks who will be denouncing Spitzer’s whoremongering adultery! On “CNN” Mr. C. said: “The worst thing is you have to listen to all these moralizing and self-righteous jerks on TV pontificate about all of this.”
Oh, and there’s one other thing about Spitzer’s whoremongering adultery that bothers Mr. Carville. No, it’s not the pain and suffering he inflicted on his family. Mr. C worries that Spitzer might have been set up. On this same “CNN” program, Carville says: “I wonder if there's not some political shenanigans underneath this….I think the press needs to look into why are we sitting here going crazy on this about a man hooking up with a prostitute? It's not the first time it has happened.”

Harvard Law (?!) Professor Alan Dershowitz – who (surprise!) taught Eliot Spitzer at Harvard has said: “Men go to prostitutes -- big deal, that's not a story in most parts of the world….but let's put this in perspective. It's a man and a prostitute….If every lawmaker and law enforcer who broke the law, even in minor ways, had to resign, we would have very few people in public office….[this is] a very, very slight offense, sounds to me very much like a victimless crime.”

Comment: Fewer people in public office? Yes! Amen! I’m for it! Clean’em out, now! – for almost any reason!

“A very, very slight offense?” Exodus: 20:14: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Mark 10:19: “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery….” Sounds like God sees adultery as a very serious offense.

A “victimless crime?” No, Spitzer himself, his wife and children are certainly victims of his sin as are all the whores with whom he had sex.

Dershowitz has also said: “Well, let's remember, we have had presidents -- we have had presidents, from Jefferson, to Roosevelt, to Kennedy, to Clinton, who have been great presidents and who have engaged in sexual misconduct, probably all of which were illegal under some rules of law. They remain great presidents.”

Comment: “Great” here has no meaning other than that Dershowitz likes these men. All mentioned here were not, however good men, meaning Godly men. Jefferson was a heathen; FDR was a liar who got us into World War II; JFK was another whoremonger; ditto, Clinton. Bad men do not make good leaders. The only thing “great” about those named here was their sin.

Dershowitz: “I think we risk losing some of the best people who can run for public office by our obsessive focus on the private lives of public figures. So, yes, I do think we're making much too much of it.”

Comment: There is today almost no focus on a person’s “private life” as a qualification or disqualification when that person runs for the civil government offices that God has ordained. This despite the fact that the “private life” reveals the true character of a person. And without a moral, virtuous, Christian people our governmental system will not work, as our Founding Fathers stated repeatedly.

Finally, watching Dershowitz saying all these things, I’m also feeling sorry for Harvard. Harvard, that once truly great (because Godly) college founded by Bible believing Christians. Harvard, whose motto once was: “For Christ and the Church.” Harvard, which graduated only Christian ministerial students until the middle of the 19th century.

And now --- “law” is taught by Alan Dershowitz whose “law” philosophy was revealed on a Washington DC TV show (“Panorama,” 6-10-1986). He explained that when he believed one of his clients, Claus Von Bulow, was innocent, he (Dershowitz) said: “Let’s put more evidence in, let’s get to the bottom of this thing. Let’s not try to keep evidence out.” But, he added, with a big smile: “When I have a guilty defendant, my job is to keep the evidence out.”

On June 6, 1986, Dershowitz said, in an interview on the “CBS Evening News”: “My job as a criminal defense attorney is to prevent the truth, the whole truth, from coming out before the jury because the whole truth will sink my client.”

Alan Dershowitz alone refutes the theory of evolution. Because when you look at him, and listen to him, you know the fittest have not survived.

Uzair Kayani

Hi Professor Anderson,

I am unclear about your distinction between puritanical and non-puritanical reasons for discouraging prostitution. You note that we have several "social practices" that guard against commodifying sex, but these social practices are as likely to be rooted in puritanism as in any non-puritan notion of sexual autonomy.

Also, the "sexual autonomy" argument seems incomplete: we wouldn't say we were promoting "labor autonomy" by banning certain labor contracts (consider minimum wage and workplace safety laws). Such laws may serve valid purposes (redistribution, solving collective action problems) but they don't enhance autonomy. In fact, it is unclear how banning or discouraging certain behaviors has anything to do with "autonomy." Banning is simply a form of paternalism, that is, the opposite of autonomy. Perhaps we want to say that there are non-puritanical reasons for paternalism when it comes to sexual behavior. The "autonomy" language seems out of place, though.

A few other points:

(1) You write that "Unless the laws are manifestly unjust, officials are bound by duty to enforce them[.]" Does this mean that officials are not duty-bound to enforce unjust laws? Including judges? You might expand on this.

(2) You also write that "If all prostitution looked like the sort that Spitzer’s money and tastes demanded, it might be objectionable in many ways, but I doubt that we could justify using state resources to ban it." This seems to presuppose a theory of when to use state resources to discourage objectionable behavior. Do we have such a theory?


Autonomy is a stupid modernist goal, the stuff of atheists and idiots. It means literally "a law unto the self." It's the essence of all things liberal and decadent, denying that there is a moral order and purpose of social life, a telos, to which we are all subject. It substitutes naked appetite and will for law, for reason, and for nature.

If we are to allow prostitution, let's recognize at least what we're doing. We're destroying the dignity and self-respect and social position of the prostitutes, a sacrifice of the few for the many.

As Tolstoy said, "Should we permis promiscuous sexual intercourse, as many 'liberals' wish to do? Impossible! It would be the ruin of family life. To meet the difficulty, the of development has evolved a 'golden bridge' in the form of the prostitute. Just think of London without its 70,000 prostitutes! What would become of decency and morality, how would family survive without them? [I don't know, maybe Martha Nussbaum can enlighten us.] How many women and girls would remain chaste? No, I believe the prostitute is necessary for the maintenance of the family."

Anonymous Bosch

Roach wrote: "It substitutes naked appetite and will for law, for reason, and for nature."

Being the decadent modernist I am, I always thought that "naked appetite and will" were the essence of nature, while reason was its opposite. Too much Wild Kingdom and not enough Genesis, I suppose...


Our nature is defined by our freedom, our reason, our living together in community, our capacity for speech and abstract thought and self-control. Our nature is not like the nature of water, or a rock, or a tree, or an animal. We have a higher nature and thus can live a noble and moral life (or not), as we choose individually and collectively.

Samir Chopra

Why is our nature not like that of an animal? I'm not sure we are any closer to being able to extract any kind of "essence of humanity" despite thousands of years of trying.


Well, our nature is animal +. See Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Function argument.

I don't get why Roach claims autonomy at telos are at odds. Someone needs to re-read the chapter on Lords and Bondsmen in the Phenomenology of Spirit! Autonomy is certainly a necessary step for self-relaization and achieving our teleological potentials. Certainly not the end itself, but autonomous individuals are further down that teleological path than, say, blind god fearing idiots who believe in religious ghost stories and practice the other nonsense that goes with them. Individuality and autonomy are boudned concepts to be sure, but telos of that Hegelian/Aristotelian sort I'm quite fond of always involves a society in which autonomy, individuality and self-determination are possible. Only then can people start looking *clearly* at all the ways in which liberal notions of autonomy and indviduality fail. And if you don't get to autonomy you're just with sheep like false consiousness, usually of the religious sort (though more and more of the distrubing pop-culture consumer sort (OMG I love Uggs!))

I know it may be hard to conceive of Roach, but there are more choices in life than blind religion or grotesque godless consumerism.



You seem to echo a common theme on this thread when you write that "autonomous individuals are further down that teleological path than, say, blind god fearing idiots who believe in religious ghost stories and practice the other nonsense that goes with them." Though I would like to distinguish myself from the "blind god fearing idiot" label by suggesting that while I am God fearing I am neither blind nor an idiot, I sense that I am precisely the type of individual you have envisioned with the encomium. A few things. If by autonomy you mean anything like autonomy, I find it odd that you think that rational human beings cannot be "autonomous" if they adopt beliefs, such as religious beliefs, that others have developed. While it is certainly possible, and likely the prevailing case, that one could inherit religious beliefs with a numb and unthinking obeisance, it is surely also the case that others have arrived at their state of belief - faith - through rigorous analysis. Would you really deny them the choice of these beliefs in the name of autonomy? I suspect that you might find rigorous analysis and faith more compatible were it not for the "religious ghost stories," yes? When evaluating the ghost stories that attach to systems of belief - and they do attach to all systems of belief - it is useful, though taxing at times, to distinguish between those that are essential and those that are accidental or even apocryphal. If we feel comfortable dismissing ideas based on the least coherent ramblings of their silliest adherents, we would soon find ourselves with no ideas.

A word about the word religion. We use it these days somewhat haphazardly. I bet you could formulate your own religion, as we use the term, in a matter of minutes. You might already have some prophets in mind - Hegel and Aristotle - and could no doubt find some ways to pay homage to them, such as citing them in a blog post. I trust that the difference is not simply that Moses and Christ predate Hegel and Aristotle, so the qualms with religion - organized religion - must relate to something else. Is it that you can replace one of both of your prophets at will? No, the blind idiot can swap Christ for Muhammad and be no less an idiot in your estimation. Nor should it be your objection that ceremonies or certain behaviors attend such beleifs, unless you believe it to be universally true that one cannot be logically consistent or autonomous while putting belief into action. Alas, perhaps you attack "religion" because the blind idiots disagree with you?



Whatever autonomy means (I tend to reserve it to refer to matters of the body/physical being, but Roach used it broadly so I did in my response) it certainly allows for "adopting beliefs that others have developed." Lord knows we are all contingent beings; from language to knowledge to love for the Cubs. It is the exercise of reason in arriving at those beliefs that is the measure of one's independence and autonomy. It is about arriving at one's beliefs in the absence of coercion.

There is much room for faith, for ritual, for community, for spirituality, for love and humility within the fold of reason. What there isn't room for is dogma, blind belief in stories that divide people based on which *irrational* set of stories they buy into despite their obvious falsity. There is no room for believing in thousands of years old cults that think they are a chosen people, or that God impregnates virgins and sacrifices (and resurrects) the child so that you can have an eternity of bliss despite being a sinner, or believing you have to face a certain direction when you pray cause God told you to through his prophet.

And I won't even begin to gratify your attempt to equivocate science and reason with religion on a U of C board. Philosophy, Physics and Divinity are different departments for a reason. Mistaken beliefs that Jesus walked on water didn't contribute to the development of computer. Enrico Fermi is far more real for the people of Nagasaki than Buddha could ever be. Recognizing the limits of knowledge and understanding but still seeking it is far far different than making stuff up, let alone believing in 1400-6000 year old made up stuff (and that other made up stuff is wrong, but yours is right).

Uzair Kayani

Hi RM,

The point is not that religious people are not autonomous. The whole point of "freedom of religion" is that people should have a measure of autonomy regarding religion. Here, the argument is that when religious (or secular) people use governmental or other coercion to make strangers conform to their views (abstain from prostitution, for example) they are depriving those strangers of their autonomy. Most laws do deprive people of autonomy, broadly understood. This is not bad in itself. Of course, if you adopted Mr. Lofton's views (see the first comment: "And without a moral, virtuous, Christian people our governmental system will not work, as our Founding Fathers stated repeatedly.") you would be a religious tyrant.

So the coercion/autonomy distinction has nothing to do with the religious/non-religious distinction. The two are only in tension if your religion makes you tyrannize others.

On a more minor note, Christ did not predate Aristotle.

Joan A. Conway

"But for the grace of God go I."

I don't know who said that but it fits in well.

Often tempted beyond my endurance when it comes to receiving emotional support from the same species but the opposite sex, I know the temptations and weakness faced in these situations.

But personal growth comes from just this sort of tension. If one compromises one's integrity, the personality is static. If one overcomes the lure, the personality is dynamic. This conclusion does not address morality, but an individual's ability to mature into an adult unencumbered by instant gratification. Developing control overself and one's impulses is the goal here.

For an governor to cater to his lust illustrates how slavishly he is to his state job. For this reason, and his lack of independence, and appearance of independence, he demonstrates a debauched officeholder. He is not a professional by any stretch of the imagination.

He failed his internship and whoever was responsible for it should be made to pay a price for producing such a fraud upon the public.

The comments to this entry are closed.