Thursday, May 5, 2016

“If Vulcans Had a Church”

One of the not-so-amazing things we’ve discovered while trying to get some “serious” writing done — free plug alert: Easter Witness: From Broken Dream to a New Vision for Ireland (2016) — is that you can’t read much (or at all) for fun when you’re struggling to track down a key fact or untangle events from nineteenth century newspaper accounts.  Every page of Louis Lamour, Robert Heinlein, or Rex Stout you turn makes you think, “Yeah, I really ought to be doing some work . . . could have written a paragraph . . . done a little research . . . okay, just another fifteen minutes . . . or fifty pages . . .”
John C. Wright, one of the newer fellows (at least to us)
So, even though we have a rather large number of SF&F tomes in our library (that’s “Science Fiction and Fantasy” to you Muggles and Mundanes), we haven’t read much coming from “new” writers (or used writers, for that matter) recently.  That’s why we were a little startled to come across a quote from John C. Wright, one of “the newer fellows” (meaning he entered the lists after 1970. . . .) to the effect that if Vulcans had a church, they’d be Catholics.
Now, we didn’t take the time to verify that Wright did, in fact, say that, or say something to that effect.  It could potentially take more time to track it down then could be justified for a quickie blog posting.  It served its purpose by giving us a chance to reiterate our stance on the compatibility of the Just Third Way with any philosophical or religious system based on an Aristotelian-Thomist understanding of the natural law, viz., there is a universal moral code of behavior that can be discerned by observing human nature and applying reason, illuminated by faith, if necessary (and, if you believe Aquinas, it generally is).
"Don't leave me hanging, Dude, gimme three!"
Do we mean that we agree that supposedly supremely rational beings like fictional Vulcans would find the Just Third Way logical?  Sure — you don't think the triad of that "Vulcan salute" is a coincidence, do you?  Reason, after all, is the basis of the whole thing.  As was declared by the First Vatican Council in the 1870s and paraphrased by Pope Pius XII in the 1950s, “[A]bsolutely speaking, human reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world, and also of the natural law, which the Creator has written in our hearts.” (Humani Generis, § 2.)
Translation: people can (that’s “can” not “necessarily will”) know that there is a God, and the difference between right and wrong just by being, er, logical.  That’s pretty much the basis of CESJ’s Core Values and Code of Ethics.
Don’t worry.  We’re not going to get into Aquinas’s empirical proofs of God’s existence, or even Anselm’s ontological argument — although the combination is pretty powerful.  What we’re after is a demonstration of the falsity of the moral relativism that has virtually taken over modern culture, especially in the West.
Rommen, solidarist, jurist, escapee from Nazis.
According to the solidarist jurist Heinrich Rommen, a student of the great Heinrich Pesch, S.J., the shift from reason to faith (or from the Intellect to the Will) in understanding the natural law, is the basis for totalitarianism as well as pure moral relativism.  Mortimer Adler and Pope St. John Paul II concurred.  This was also the opinion of Fulton Sheen, G.K. Chesterton, and Msgr. Ronald Knox.
This is a matter of opinion, but it seems that all the arguments advanced for accepting redefinitions of traditional morality, institutions, or anything else, always start with the demand that those who uphold the old order prove that the old way is not wrong.  There may be exceptions, but the demand for tolerance pretty much boils down to a demand that anyone who objects to a new definition of, say, marriage prove that they are not guilty of intolerance, bigotry, racism, or anything else for standing by the old definition.
And there’s the rub — and what drove Fulton Sheen bananas (in a manner of speaking, so to speak).  Do you see the trick?  It’s a demand that anyone who objects to moral relativism or deviancy prove they are not guilty of some offense, rather than that those who want to change definitions prove that their innovation is consistent with human nature.
What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? — for which a very good reason exists, by the way.  As Fulton Sheen explained at great length in his first two books, God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (1925) and Religion Without God (1928), you cannot prove the existence of non-existence.  It’s a logical impossibility, utterly contrary to reason.
Thus, if someone says to you, prove you are not a bigot for opposing my new definition of marriage, money, private property, or Ruben Sandwiches, that individual is demanding that you prove, that is, provide evidence and a sound argument, that you are not something.
"A contradiction violates the first principle of reason and is therefore illogical."
Obviously (as every Vulcan can tell you), you can only prove that something “is,” not that something, “is not.”  I can’t prove I am not a bigot, nor do I have to.  You have to prove that I am — and it can’t be a circular argument, either, e.g., “Only bigots oppose my definition of private property.  You oppose my definition of private property.  You are therefore a bigot.”  A circular argument starts with the conclusion stated as a premise, and simply restates it as the conclusion, ergo, “circular reasoning”; there is no evidence in the premise distinct from the conclusion.
Think about it: where do you get existing evidence that does not exist?  You can’t — that would be the same as saying that non-existence exists, which is a contradiction, and therefore nonsense.
So, would Vulcans, if they had a church (and if they existed), be Catholics?  That’s a matter of opinion, obviously, but they would certainly be Aristotelian-Thomists — and thus supporters of the Just Third Way.
It’s only logical. . . .

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