Wednesday, January 10, 2007

After Virtue, After Virginia

This year saw the monthly debate society I host, which meets the first Wednesday of each month at Lolita Bar in Manhattan, confront a relatively timeless question: “Is Chastity a Good Idea for Singles?” Dawn Eden, who has become a gung-ho Catholic since I dated her five years ago, wrote a book arguing “yes” (a Book Selection of the Month for December 2006) in answer to that question, while my friend Virginia Vitzthum wrote a book about the wild and libidinous world of online dating, so why not throw ’em in a room and have ’em sort it all out? (You can watch the debate on YouTube, in fact.) Not surprisingly, our twenty-first-century, New York City audience voted against chastity, though Dawn’s forces were not as thoroughly routed as one might have expected (and the whole thing was written up in the London Observer).

As for me, I was just pleased, especially so recently after the epochal mid-term elections, which may well spell the end for conservatism as we have known it for the past few decades, to see that people are still willing to take a step back from the urgency of the twenty-four-hour news cycle and the latest politician misstep to talk about bigger, less partisan moral questions and to do so civilly even when confronted with views ostensibly diametrically opposed to their own. It’s almost enough to give one hope that Alasdair MacIntyre is wrong in his book After Virtue (the Book Selection of the Month for January 2007), when he argues that coherent moral debate is impossible in our era because people tend to start from incommensurable fundamental premises. We managed to have the Village Voice sex columnist and an editor from Pat Buchanan’s magazine sit in the same audience for over an hour without hurting each other, at least.

UPDATE 2/11/07: Virginia was scheduled to appear on ABC News to talk about her book just after its release and just before Valentine’s Day but was bumped by a report about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Sex sells, but not as well as sex + death + drugs + mystery + celebrity, apparently.

UPDATE 4/1/07: They rescheduled Virginia for 8am yesterday.

UPDATE 4/7/07: And here she is.


Todd Seavey said...

[...] Science- and econ-loving guy that I am, I wouldn’t normally plug a book (aimed at Christian women) about how to avoid premarital sex while navigating the modern dating scene, but it just so happens an ex-girlfriend of mine wrote this and devoted a section to her failed attempt to sustain a relationship with an atheist boyfriend she calls “Tom” but who is actually called “Todd Seavey” (and indeed, I suggested that she use my real name so that I can get proper credit for my work, but at least some of you now know the truth, or at least that paltry portion of it given to the mind of mortal man to know, etc., etc.).  [UPDATE: Dawn was one of our January debaters at Lolita Bar, up against former sex columnist and author of I Love You, Let’s Meet, Virginia Vitzthum.] [...]

Todd Seavey said...

[...] There’s something Mobius-strip-like about his syncretism, leading via a given philosophy to its apparent opposite and back again without being fickle about it. It reminds me that one of the things I want to try very hard to do on this blog is avoid simply pitting my single philosophy against all the enemy philosophies (I think that’s been done to death) and instead try to set a positive (and hopefully somewhat surprising) example of drawing on any and all philosophical and political influences that offer insight, without pausing to advertise the fact that I’m crossing a quasi-tribal boundary. G.K. Chesterton, for example, had some very valuable insights even though there is no God, so why not use them? (Indeed, one of our debaters at Lolita Bar this month is a big Chesterton fan, something we can agree on despite my atheism and her gung-ho Catholicism — and speaking of our debate on sexual mores at Lolita, I notice that MacIntyre has been married three times, though this isn’t necessarily at odds with his Greco-Roman conception of the virtues.) [...]