THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The State is God, God is the State, Part III

In the previous posting we discovered that basing the natural law on the Will rather than the Intellect almost inevitably results in the formation of a totalitarian State. Moral standards change from absolutes, discerned by reason and confirmed by the common consent of all mankind, to relativistic opinions, valid only for the individual holding that opinion, and then only until he or she changes his or her mind.

Attempting to correct or counter this problem within the framework of a Will-based natural law results in the now-familiar accusation that any attempt to reestablish moral standards is "forcing your morality" on others. This actually has some validity — within this context. Private interpretation of God's Will is necessarily personal and, given free will, a matter of opinion. Moral standards based on the common consent of all mankind, as embodied in, e.g., the Decalogue, however, are the opposite and complete negation of moral standards based on a private interpretation of God's Will, despite the fact that both methods can and, in many cases do, come to similar conclusions as to the content of the natural law.

Assuming an otherwise well-ordered society in which everyone who bases the natural law on the Will accepts the same source as expressing the Will of God and agrees on its interpretation, there should be no major conflicts between the two parties, Intellect or Will, regardless of the basis used for the natural law. The problem comes when the elite in power begins to interpret precepts of the natural law in order to meet an emergency. If the foundation is solid, i.e., there is a clear understanding of the natural law based on the common consent of all mankind and discerned by reason, the expedient developed can be measured against the objective moral standards and adopted, tolerated, or rejected, depending on how well the proposal complies with universal moral precepts.

If the foundation is not solid, that is, understanding of the precepts of the natural law is based on faith and personal interpretation of something the interpreter regards as coming from God (the Will), the expedient may be consistent with universal precepts of morality. It may do the job it is intended to do. It is, however, far more likely that the social order will be thrown into chaos, depending on how far personal interpretation of the natural law based on faith gets from a reasoned conclusion based on the common consent of all mankind.

A house built on rock and a house built on sand may appear identical and each will do the job of providing shelter adequately as long as the sun is shining and everything is fine. Inevitably, however, the rains come, and expose the weakness of anything built on a shifting foundation, such as basing the natural law on the Will rather than the Intellect. As Dr. Heinrich Rommen pointed out in his book on the natural law,
For Duns Scotus morality depends on the will of God. A thing is good not because it corresponds to the nature of God or, analogically, to the nature of man, but because God so wills. Hence the lex naturalis could be other than it is even materially or as to content, because it has no intrinsic connection with God's essence, which is self-conscious in His intellect. For Scotus, therefore, the laws of the second table of the Decalogue were no longer unalterable. . . . an evolution set in which, in the doctrine of William of Occam (d. cir. 1349) on the natural moral law, would lead to pure moral positivism, indeed to nihilism. (Rommen, The Natural Law, pp. 51-51.)
In our next posting on this subject we will examine why the interpretation of the natural law based on the Will is so popular.