Beyond the Alpha-Beta-Gammas, Part 1: Dalrock and the Aristotelian Mean

Some thoughts on the manosphere and the fight for genuine masculinity.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asserts (and I agree) that there are in almost every moral inquiry at least two wrong answers, two opposite errors into which a man (or a woman, but for brevity hereafter I use “man” for both except where the sex-referent requires it:  there capitalized) may fall.  Very often the error is achieved by too-studious avoidance of its opposing vice, rather than the deliberate rejection of the intermediate virtue they both oppose.  In the case of a Christian Man’s right behavior to a Woman, to all Women, and particularly to his own Wife or fiancee, the principle errors in American and Western culture (21st c.) generally belong either to the cults of Courtly-Love or of the Pick-Up Game (C/L and Game hereafter).  The first deifies Women and makes its male acolyte her adoring slave, as Tristram is to Mark’s wife Iseult or Launcelot to Guenevere in the later Arthurian tales.  The second, the Game, makes Womankind the chattel and cattle (nearly!) of Men who may use any expedience to bring them to heel or to bed:  Mallory’s character of King Pellinore, and to a lesser extent Sir Kay the Senescal are rakes and rascals of just such a mold.

But there is a third way.  There is always a Strait Road in the midst, and that road is called Chivalry.

Contrary to the argument that Chivalry itself is identical to Courtly Love (Dalrock, for one, uses the two words interchangeably), it is the proper and disciplined expression of manly virtues that C/L pretends to be and the strong freedom of relational action that Game promises.  There are several chivalric “codes” available, from the Song of Roland to the Bushido Code* to the knight-errant’s ethos that Wolfram’s titular hero in Parzival*.  Some of them contradict each other, of course, but what they have in common is a focus on self-discipline, courage, and service to a Greater Cause.  There are even rules for Courtly Love* that echo the chivalric codes in form.  But the only Greater Cause espoused by C/L or by its opposite error Game is getting the desired Woman into the worshipper’s bed.  C/L is in many ways a bastardized Chivalry, because it sets the young man’s Lady up as the Greater Cause herself, and sexual consummation as the pinnacle of her mysteries.  For the Pick-Up Artist, the man playing Game, sex has no value to his own commitment the Greater Cause is his self-appointed status as a Casanova, and getting the women or the Ideal Woman into bed is merely a way to keep scoring.  For the practitioner of Chivalry, the Cause needn’t and likely will not involve the Fair Sex at all (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

The Words We Use Matter

You might make a case that my defense of Chivalry against equation with C/L is mere semantics.  But semantics is the study of meanings, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (def 1), and it is crucial, in knowing what to do with a concept like C/L or Chivalry or Game, to know what these things are, and what they mean.  It is my contention that DalrockCane Caldo, and others men whom I generally agree with on many points and whose essays I’ve reblogged are wrong about Chivalry because they do not know its Meaning.  I intend to correct that, or to provide at least an understanding of its distinction and value.

As used in this essay, then, Chivalry means The collective habits, attitudes, and disciplines, by which a Man maintains himself in pursuit of or service to the Cause to which he gives Allegiance.  I will also reference the definitions found at the Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries and OED sites on occasion. 

For my purposes, the M-W definition of C/L will suffice:  a late medieval conventionalized code prescribing conduct and emotions of ladies and their lovers, with C. S. Lewis’ addenda from The Allegory of Love, that it (C/L) is a theology of adultery, with the paramour necessarily of lower rank and station to his lady, as Lancelot to Arthur’s wife or Tristram to King Mark’s wife, and thereby he is subservient to her.  In modern/post-Victorian use, the woman is elevated above her husband without the necessity of actual adultery present.  This is the C/L that grandsired contemporary feminism, and which Dalrock asserts to be “Chivalry”.

To understand the Game of the Pick-Up Artists I will point you to its most succinct definition I know:

Game is the applied science of attraction, most commonly expressed as the art of seduction. It’s based on the supposed evolutionary psychology of human; with a special emphasis on exploiting the condition of hypergamy.
Hypergamy is a philosophy of the condition of women that says, whenever possible, any given woman will choose to mate with the male in her vicinity that is exhibiting the most, and most dominant, sexual traits. Those sexual traits, themselves, are Game.

Cane Caldo in “Cypher’s Problem”, on Dalrock, 15 August 2012

I would summarize Cane‘s description further:  Game is That set of attitudes, manners, and conduct by which a Man signals his dominance, independence, and desirability to Women as an optimal mate and to other Men as their sexual superior in order to maximize his own sexual success rate.* If you like, it is very nearly the behavior of game buck deer and tom turkeys and such during the rut.  And for Men whose lives revolve around their sexual prowess, the rut is always in season.  It is also the operational basis of the MGTOW lifestyle, which before the Sexual Revolution and the rise of supremacist feminism, was known and scorned as rakishness and being a cad. As puts it, M.G.T.O.W – Men Going Their Own Way is a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word: “No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is. Looking to no one else for social cues.   The editor at, pen-name Larry Solomon, has a long and thorough essay on “Why MGTOW is an Unbiblical Philosophy,” but its main error is up front:  it’s about a Man’s “self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. … Looking to no one else” pretty well precludes allegiance to God in heaven or any authority on earth as well. But permutations of Game and of MGTOW are the only alternatives to unmanly C/L when one rejects Chivalry.

*Defenders of Game who take objection to my use here may contradict me in the comments.

Fighting for more than “My Lady’s Favour”.

The case against Chivalry being merely a shorthand for Courtly Love is threefold:  its etymology, its scope, and its history.

First of all, the word chivalry comes from the French Chevalier, a knight or horseman, akin also to Cavalry, and thus refers to that behaviour suitable for and proper to knights and mounted soldiers.  This definition itself moves it out of the realms of Courts and of Love and into a context that is fundamentally martial.  The qualities that make a man a devoted lover and those that make him a good soldier are sometimes parallel, but rarely the same.  A knight might be described as the “Flower of Chivalry” on one page (Mallory rather liked the phrase) and on the next act completely boorish around the ladies.  Or he might be described as “all things desirable” and the reader knows he’s worthless in a fight.  “Chivalry” was used to describe most any knight, of prowess in C/L or not.

Second, the requirements for knighthood or the profession of chivalry come from a severely different societal need and call upon a different set of men than do those of C/L do.  Nor have these two sets (always overlapping but never congruent) become outmoded in the centuries since.  The calling of knighthood is that of a warrior, a fighting man.  The call of courtly courtesy is that of an urbane, smooth-talking politician.  Certainly, a warrior may be a politician and vise versa, but they move in different orbits different worlds almost in those roles.  And a strong warrior makes for a good politician more often than a good politician makes for a strong warrior.  The various modes of chivalry all emphasize discipline, loyalty, and martial strength, but they don’t dwell upon the role of women or how to treat them.  The Bushido code of Japan’s samurai makes no mention of them one way or another.

Third, the two terms now so muddled come to us from not only different roots but different historic philosophies.  The source of the current conflation is a superficial reading of C. S. Lewis’ The Allegory of Love, in which he dissects the philosophical origins of C/L as a cultural phenomenon, traceable to the love-allegories of the eleventh century.  The concept and its principles are often linked in the imagination with Elanor of Aquitaine, Richard II’s wife, and Lewis’ sources place its debut in the late eleventh century poet Languedoc.  Its principles from the first “may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love.  The lover is always abject.” (Lewis, The Allegory of Love (Oxford University Press, 1958))  Of these principles, only the first two are held in common with chivalry at all, and neither strength nor honor nor self-control are to be seen.  Lewis associates C/L with the troubadours, just as immoral lives and unmanly behavior are associated with musicians today.  Merriam-Webster’s lists the first use of courtly love, as we use the term now, to 1702.  The word chivalry first appears in the fourteenth century, the period of Chaucer and Sir Gawain, but the concept, of course, is older.  The associated word Knight, or a man-at-arms in service to his feudal lord (in keeping with “Chivalry” as I have defined it), traces to “before the twelfth century” and the Old-English cniht for a man-at-arms or servant, and Old-High-German kneht for a youth (now somewhat disused knabe in modern German for “boy”). 

One reads in medaeval legend not only of the king’s knights, but of the knights of this or that nobleman or lord:  these are the soldiers in feudal service to the master in question.  His cause was their cause, beyond their own MGTOW-ish self-interest.  His commands (not those of the lady of the castle, except insofar and on such matters as she gave an order in his name) were their duty to obey, even to the point of death.  In a society where this sort of fealty is neither taught any longer nor expected, its supplanting by its parody, feminist C/L, is almost automatic.

What’s a Man to Do About It?

I am not arguing here that the Aristotelian Mean of “chivalry” is a be-all or end-all solution to the problem of masculinity.  I contend, merely, that in contrast to both Game (including “Husband Game”) and C/L (medieval and post-feminist alike), Chivalry is the right form that the solution needs to take.  In neither of the other paradigms does the Man look beyond his own sexual desires or his own power in the world:  we must fix our eyes beyond ourselves and swear our fealty to something greater than the bed, even the marriage bed.  Christ has not called us to be either a retinue of courtesans nor a mob of barbarians, but an army of warriors.  And that‘s Chivalry.

In Beyond the Alpha-Beta-Gammas, Part 2, I mean to examine both historic and modern models of chivalry, from Bushido and the Song of Roland to the U.S.Army’s “Army Values” and “Ranger’s Creed,” and contrast these with both the codes of C/L and the rules of “Game” as popularly set down, and show through elements in Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World the ways that Game and C/L converge, and how Chivalry stands apart.

In Beyond the Alpha-Beta-Gammas, Part 3, I mean to examine specifically Christian chivalric models, both historic and contemporary, with their scriptural justifications (if available), and contrast them to contemporary (medaeval to medaeval, modern to modern) secular models.

In Beyond the Alpha-Beta-Gammas, Part 4, I mean to wrap up the series and give final thoughts on Alpha, Beta, and Gamma manhood, Game vs. C/L, and being John-the-Savage.

UPDATE: 11 May 2019 — I ought to have posted this far earlier, but the above series will take a significantly different direction, as Dalrock has in fact addressed the concerns above satisfactorily: in his defense, the Popular-Culture reader has no idea what “Courtly Love” is, but they know it fairly well under the name of “Chivalry.” When I next revisit this topic, therefore, I will refer to TRUE chivalry (as referenced above: a.k.a. “martial chivalry”) in terms of Valor. –J.G.

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