Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Private Property in Capital "Catholic"?, VI: Is Property God?

Sometimes we think that we have made an unanswerable argument by giving the plain, common sense meaning of something as we have reasoned it out. In today's climate of moral relativism, however, that never seems to be enough. People who disagree with reason can always find reasons for that disagreement, as paradoxical as that sounds.

Thus we should not have been surprised when our correspondent came back after the last response and claimed that we were saying that property is God. We stated the obvious — that we had never said anything so dumb — and requested that she stop putting words in our mouth. Or does the "editorial we" have more than one mouth?

Anyway, it had become clear that our commentator had, consciously or not, shifted the basis of the natural law from God's Nature or Essence, self-realized in His Intellect, to her private interpretation of something she accepted as God's expressed Will. This is precisely the error against which Pius XII warned in Humani Generis, "Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine," in 1950 — using faith to do the job of reason, and vice versa.

This is very bad news. In essence, we were speaking two different languages. She was intent upon proving us wrong based on a set of principles that she determined, and which were based on assumptions fundamentally different from ours. We were therefore not engaged in a genuine argument, for we did not even agree on what the words we were using mean. We might even have been saying the same thing in different ways, but when she automatically gainsaid whatever we posted, we would never know. Our correspondent forgot to keep in mind Chesterton's advice from The Dumb Ox:

"At the top of his fury, Thomas Aquinas understands, what so many defenders of orthodoxy will not understand. It is no good to tell an atheist that he is an atheist; or to charge a denier of immortality with the infamy of denying it; or to imagine that one can force an opponent to admit he is wrong, by proving that he is wrong on somebody else's principles, but not on his own. After the great example of St. Thomas, the principle stands, or ought to have stood established; that we must either not argue with a man at all, or we must argue on his grounds and not ours. We may do other things instead of arguing, according to our views of what actions are morally permissible; but if we argue we must argue 'on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves.'"

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