As we saw in our last exciting episode, you can’t really understand or critique a system unless you understand the principles of the system. Despite that, many people today declare that they can change the fundamental principles of natural law within an Aristotelian system from reason-based, to faith-based.
This shift from “the intellect” to “the will” (i.e., from reason to faith) ends up being a system of pure moral relativism in which the will of the strongest prevails — might makes right, the Triumph of the Will.
You can’t really separate faith and reason — the intellect from the will — and expect to get away with it for very long. It distorts reality. We see this in the respective roles of faith and reason in our everyday life.
Reason deals with things that are “manifestly true,” that is, the natural world and things like natural law, whether you’re talking about the physical laws of the universe such as Newton’s laws of motion, or the natural moral law, the general code of human behavior. Human beings form their ideas of what constitutes physical laws and moral laws by observation (empirical evidence) and applying reason (logical consistency). A thing that is proved in this way is “manifestly true.” Reason applies to the “natural virtues” of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice.
Faith, on the other hand, relates to that which is not “manifestly true.” Where reason relies on empirical evidence — observations — and replicable results, faith deals with revelations and beliefs that are not replicable. Where reason deals with the natural world, faith deals with the (literally) supernatural world, that is, that which is “above nature” and therefore not subject to observation and the gathering of empirical evidence. Faith applies to the “supernatural virtues” of faith (obviously), hope, and charity.
The common ground on which faith and reason meet is logical consistency. A thing may be held by faith and is not subject to empirical observation or be reproducible, but it must not be contradictory, or it is by definition not true. Reason in this sense comes before faith because faith cannot be illogical and contradict what is known to be true. A matter held by faith may not be grasped by human reason, e.g., the belief that angels exist, but it does not contradict reason to say that there are spiritual beings.
What reason cannot do is prove that something does not exist, i.e., prove the existence of non-existence, which is a contradiction in terms. Logically speaking, it is impossible to prove a negative, i.e., that something is not. You can only prove that something is. That is why, for example, courts of law and moral philosophy require proof of guilt, not a demonstration of innocence, and why a judge rules “not guilty” instead of “innocent.” As any judge, lawyer, or law enforcement officer knows, a suspect may be guilty as hell, but he or she is presumed innocent until and unless guilt is proved.
But what has this got to do with moral relativism and the logical consistency of the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism . . . or the arguments of the socialists and capitalists? We’ll get to that in the next posting in this series.