Michael’s understanding is always provisional. Whenever Rachel calls, he gives her an opportunity to explain herself, to account for her behavior, to allow him to think better of her. It is a courtesy that he extends to everyone, given only enough time to reconsider his options. He might deny it under duress. If Rachel were pointing a gun at him, he would not ask her to explain yourself, in lieu of shooting. But in this case, though Rachel’s projectile weapon is is far more pernicious than a mere lead slinger, it leaves Michael with just enough room to pose an explanation, and her, to propose an excuse. Here goes.
Michael is proceeding along the slimmest of threads, in this attempt to unravel the woolly knot of willful obtuseness that clogs Rachel’s mental plumbing. By her own admission, in continuing to contact him, she is acting selfishly. So noted. Rachel understands that in playing the victim of love, she prolongs the unpleasantness for both of them. Michael agrees. Although Rachel fails to conclude that this pattern has manifested itself in her behavior throughout their relations, making this point does not matter enough to him. They can differ on the extent and existence of her exploitation. There is no room for differing on the extent and existence of her ignorance. It spews forth every time Rachel tries to account for her behavior. She cannot begrudge him his attempt to get back some measure of gratification.
Rachel tells Michael that she killed their child because she was afraid that he would not get a job to support it. She says it after having boasted of her willingness and ability to be a single mother. This alone is enough to invalidate her excuse. But it gets worse. Rachel knows that Michael works for money whenever he wants to. She knows that there is no need for him to do so at any given moment. For better or worse, his family assets insulate him from the hustle. If he wanted to live a life of leisure, all otium, no negotium, all Michael would have to do is liquidate some of them. He would have to turn down the screws on the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed. But that means next to nothing to him. He could and would support a woman with his child without too much trouble. And even if Rachel chose against all evidence to doubt it, the state enforces laws that make it so.
So Rachel’s explanation regarding some financial anxiety is both more and less than that. It is less than an explanation because it is a stupid excuse. It is more than an explanation because it reveals persistent self-delusion. It does nothing of the sort that Rachel wants it to accomplish. Instead of accounting for her sudden reversal from hopefully expectant motherhood, to unilaterally executed abortion, it exposes her oblivious ignorance of whatever subconscious motive might underlie it. And therein lies Michael’s final beef with Rachel.
In his shorter conversation with Hippias, Socrates explains that a willful lie is not as bad as an ignorant lie. He makes his case with an analogy with walking. The man intentionally affecting a limp is better at walking, or at least less deficient at walking, than the man afflicted with a real limp. Similarly, a man who tells lies on purpose is more virtuous, or at least less deficient in virtue, than a man who tells lies out of ignorance. The mind that errs involuntarily (ἀκουσίως ἁμαρτάνουσα) is worse than the mind that errs voluntarily (ἑκούσιος). (Hippias Minor, 375b, the theme recapitulated by Xenophon in his Memorabilia 4.2.19 ff.) Rachel’s errors appear to betoken ignorance of her own motives, if not an outright refusal to deal with their nature.
If there is one position that Rachel has consistently sustained in all their conversations over the past three years, it is that she is not a liar. She has maintained it through thick and thin, even unto reassuring Michael of her fidelity in the wake of sucking another man’s cock, much as Erin had done after prostituting herself online. But there is this difference between the two of them: that in contrast with Rachel’s arrant bullshit, at far remove from the constantly shifting grounds of her implausible justification, Erin’s lies are both conscious and deliberate. Erin is only pretending to limp. Rachel is limping for real. Other factors being equal, Erin would be closer to walking straight. All she would have to do is stop pretending. Rachel would require some major surgery beforehand.
So why is Michael wasting his time talking to Rachel instead of Erin? For one thing, because Rachel’s problems are her own, while Erin’s problems are compounded by the monkey on her back. All problems should be treated at their source. That is why Michael has settled his lawsuits with Erin, and that is why he continues to wallop her father. Moreover, Michael sees no chance of eliciting contrition from an incestuous degenerate or his despoiled offspring, whereas there still remains a hope of getting through Rachel’s obstinacy.
The Socratic analogy is not exact. A gimp in need of surgery could go either way, opting for amputation or epiphysiodesis. Some people are fixated on removing a healthy limb, getting their kicks from apotemnophilia. This fetish is not unlike aborting a healthy fetus. Indeed, an apotemnophiliac can boast consistency in motivation that is lacking in Rachel’s hysterical reversals. Rachel’s mental problems may be of that kind, or worse. If so, she is best advised to stay away. If not, Michael welcomes her efforts to prove it.