Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Church, State, and Humanity, VI: The Effect on Civil and Religious Society

As we have seen in this series, there is massive confusion these days over the respective roles of faith and reason, charity and justice, supernatural law and natural law, where rights come from, who has them, and the meaning and purpose of life.  (We don’t get into the small issues on this blog!)

Once we’ve done away with the primacy of the intellect (reliance on reason as the foundation of faith, and of justice as the foundation of charity), and gone with the primacy of the will (opinion), “anything goes.”  If you are strong enough or have enough power, you can get whatever you want.  Might makes right.

Consequently, pinning modernists and positivists down to anything specific becomes virtually impossible.  If you try to discuss a principle on faith, they shift to reason.  If you talk reason, they shift to faith.  Regardless what your principles may be, they instantly take refuge in other principles, or even try to change yours — whether or not you want them changed.

This makes modernists, like the legal positivists with which Crosskey dealt, very slippery fish.  Calling it “the Manichean philosophy” (although it is far from being a true philosophy in the Aristotelian-Thomist sense of the term), G.K. Chesterton described this sort of thing in the following way:

“What is called the Manichean philosophy has had many forms; indeed it has attacked what is immortal and immutable with a very curious kind of immortal mutability. It is like the legend of the magician who turns himself into a snake or a cloud; and the whole has that nameless note of irresponsibility, which belongs to much of the metaphysics and morals of Asia, from which the Manichean mystery came.”  (G.K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The “Dumb Ox.” New York: Image Books, 1956, 106.)

With this sort of thing, whether in civil society, religious society, or, increasingly, domestic society, the Family, the idea of absolutes of any kind ultimately disappears.  Everything becomes expedient, depending on whoever is strong enough to force his whim or will on others.

The result, as the solidarist political scientist Heinrich Rommen observed, is pure moral relativism, even nihilism.  (Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law. Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1998, 52.)  The media, catering to a market that assumes moral relativism as a fundamental principle (or, more accurately, non-principle), naturally tries to give the customer what it thinks it wants.


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