Culture, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics

Peter A. Redpath on Metaphysics, Science, & Wisdom

A Not So Elementary Christian Metaphysics“4. Why recovering a proper understanding of metaphysics is essential to restoring a proper understanding of philosophy, science, and their essential relation to wisdom.

In my opinion, the disembodied reason of Descartes, the depersonalized, collectivist reason promoted by Rousseau, and the anti-contemplative reductionism of modern and contemporary physical ‘science’ falsely-so-called are foundational elements of the murderous depersonalization promoted by modern utopian, and scientific, socialism like Nazism, Fascism, and Marxism. Having a view of human reason totally out of contact with reality, these thinkers and the Enlightenment socialists they spawned, had no way of properly understanding real, individual, human relationships: individual, free, rational, living, loving acts. They had no way of comprehending human beings as metaphysical, contemplative beings, or moral or political agents. According to all these thinkers, outside of mathematically-measurable data, or mechanistically or socialistically controlled events, no truth exists about the physical universe that real human beings inhabit and no real relations that exist in that world are comprehensible.

For the purpose of understanding the main arguments of this book, need exists to comprehend that the metaphysical principles that underlie the prevailing, contemporary, Western understanding of science and its development are not philosophical. They are sophistic principles of human nature, conscience, and natural law; chiefly ideological, propagandistic, principles derived from Rousseau’s sophistic, utopian dream of human nature, science, and happiness. Strictly speaking, no rational justification exists to reduce the whole of philosophy, science, wisdom, and truth to the procedures of the contemporary social system of mathematical physics. Such a reduction is founded upon a rationally unjustified assumption, nothing else.

Hence, if we want to transcend this fundamentalistic, Enlightenment mindset, and the murderous, utopian socialism that exists chiefly to justify it, in place of the disordered understandings of human reason that Enlightenment intellectuals mistakenly claimed to be the metaphysical foundations of philosophy, science, wisdom, and truth, then the acting person (the sentient, embodied individual actively engaged in free, personal, living relationships) must once again become a founding, metaphysical principle of philosophy, science. In place of some collectivist mass, disembodied spirit, or collection of mechanistically-controlled individuals as the foundation of scientific understanding, to re-establish the proper union between wisdom and science, the West needs to re-establish primacy of the individual, sentient being engaged in personal action as a first principle of knowing, truth, science, philosophy, and wisdom.

Moreover, need exists to recognize that our contemporary Western educational institutions and the socialist political regimes that give birth to and support these gulags are necessary effects of the application to the practical order of Enlightenment sophistry about the nature of philosophy, science, wisdom, and truth: of the political attempt to reduce the whole of knowledge to a social-system-science of historically-emerging clear and distinct ideas.

In short, mainly under the influence of Descartes’s and Rousseau’s disordered metaphysical understandings of science, philosophy, wisdom, and truth, the Enlightenment project unwittingly gave birth to educational institutions that are institutes of sophistry, essentially socialistic forms of propaganda and secularized fundamentalism. These arose as the necessary means for engendering a poetic, metaphysical myth in the form of utopian history that the story, ‘narrative,’ of the birth and the development of the practical science of modern physics, which only the socialistically-minded, mathematical physicist, like a shaman, can supposedly comprehend.

Under the influence of Descartes, Rousseau, and their progeny, modern physics sought to be intellectually all-consuming, to be the only form of human learning, of human truth. No rational argument can justify this quixotic quest. So, the modern ‘scientific’ spirit turned to poetic myth, sophistry, fairy-tale history, and fundamentalistic spirituality to create the metaphysical arguments it needed rationally to justify its all-consuming nature. In practical terms, this means that, if universities are primarily institutes of higher education, and metaphysics is the highest form of natural human education, the modern scientific spirit necessarily inclined Western intellectuals to create propaganda institutes, and political regimes that support the existence of such institutes, to justify modern mathematical physics’ false claim that it is the only form of human knowledge, science, and wisdom about the universe.

Most critics of modernity today correctly call these neo-gnostic, fundamentalistic, principles ‘secular humanism.’ Precisely speaking, they wrongly call them ‘philosophy,’ ‘science.’ Educationally, under the influence of Rousseau, these sophistic principles maintain that all learning is revelation, or disclosure, of the something that replaces the traditional Western creator-God, of something they call the ‘human spirit.’ By ‘human spirit’ they mean a universal scientific spirit (the spirit of progress, true human freedom, the human project: the utopian-socialist will-to-power) that grows by first revealing itself in forms of backward Scriptural writings and organized religious practices: the same sort of universal, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic spirit that was a main cause of the development of Fascism, Nazism, and Marxism.

For their adherents, metaphysics is the epic poetic story, an Enlightened, fairy-tale history, about the evolution, or emergence, of human consciousness, the universal human spirit (‘true science’) from backward states of selfishness and primitive religions like Judaism and Catholicism, to that of a new political world order dominated by Enlightenment systematic science and the religion of love of humanity, ‘secular humanism.’ And tolerance is this mythical history’s chief engine of progress, story-telling, and means of reading history.

The means of such emergence consists of a synthesis of what Rousseau calls the ‘voice of conscience’ (which he conflates with natural law) and poetic enthusiasm, or, more simply, ‘tolerance,’ an increasingly inclusive socialist feeling for love of humanity, an increasing willingness to incorporate all human differences into a higher state of socialist, political consciousness as a means for achieving the political goal of a world socialism: for everyone to think in the same neo-Averroistic way Enlightened intellectuals think.

Traditional Western universities, classical liberal arts, the classical understanding of philosophy, natural law, individual liberty, the dignity of the individual human being, and republican government, individual rights, and families are unsuitable handmaidens for generating, growing, and sustaining these myths. Needed are imperious, centralized bureaucracies.

St Thomas Aquinas Framed and Labeled TSCTo defeat these myths, Westerners need (1) a radically different approach to philosophy and science: one that insists on the existence of forms in physical things, including that of a soul within the human person; and (2) a return to an educational philosophy rooted in human beings possessing human faculties that become maturely developed through human habituation.

A necessary condition for the start of such a recovery program is that, like the utopian addicts we are, Westerners must bottom out and recognize that (1) what my friend and colleague John N. Deely rightly calls ‘postmodernism falsely-so-called’ is simply modernism on steroids and essentially out of touch with reality; and (2) we cannot build, or recover, a culture based upon the conviction that no real communication exists between substances. As Deely well says in a recent monograph, Semoitic Animal: A Postmodern Definition of ‘Human Being’ Transcending Patriarchy and Feminism, ‘Just as in politics you cannot effect a revolution and at the same time preserve the ancient regime, so in intellectual culture you cannot develop what is new simply by repeating what is old.”

If we want to transcend depersonalization in contemporary science, we have to transcend the Babelism of modern thought that is essentially related to the denial of the existence of individually existing human beings naturally capable of communicating with each other independently of social science and the utopian, socialist state. We have to restore wisdom to science because, absent wisdom, strictly speaking, science cannot be science. In such a situation, scientific reason becomes displaced by sophistry, intellectual malpractice, propaganda, myth: utopian dreams.”

– Peter A. Redpath, A No-So-Elmentary Christian Metaphysics – 


 

– Lucas G. Westman

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Philosophy, Political Philosophy

The Modern Liberal Dialectic

The Modern Liberal DialecticMainstream political philosophy, commentary, and policy debate exist on a predetermined arc of the liberal dialectic. Within this fixed categorization of liberalism exists a range of allowable opinion. For example, the modern concept of individual autonomy is accepted no matter the chosen political label. Progressives, conservatives, and libertarians all accept the principle of individual autonomy. Progressives champion individual autonomy in the area of sexual ethics and expression, and deny its legitimacy in the area of business and economics. Conservatives champion individual autonomy in the practice of entrepreneurship and economic self-improvement, and deny its legitimacy in the area of sexual ethics and expression. Libertarians accept the principle of individual autonomy in both areas previously mentioned with various ad hoc qualifications.

These surface level disagreements are capable of instigating fiery debate, but the discord has nothing to do with basic principles. The conflict has to do with the extent of application regarding the principle’s recognized legitimacy on a predetermined spectrum of political and cultural agreement. Even the competing theories of anarchy considered to be edgy alternatives to “mainstream” theory, whether anarcho-capitalism or anarcho-syndicalism, operate according to the ideals of liberal capitalism and progressive socialism.

What this dialectical framework amounts to is a modernistic spectrum of respectable political opinions; it presents those participating in the discussion with a set of predetermined options, none of which question the categorical framework itself. To question the entirety of the programmatic classification is to extricate oneself from what is reasonable regarding the legitimacy of worldviews informing our culture and governing institutions.

A contemporary example of competing options within the predetermined liberal framework is the debate between political liberalism and republicanism. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and Philip Pettit’s Republicanism are two works examining concepts of freedom from a modern perspective. Despite being treated as competitors, the actual differences between them amounts to nothing more than the narcissism of little differences.               

According to Mill, there is a limit to the legitimate use of force in a civil society, and finding this limit is imperative for the flourishing of human affairs.[1] On Mill’s view, freedom in society is achieved when we are able to pursue liberty of thought, develop our own opinions and sentiment, and exercise the liberty of our conscience in all subjects whether practical, speculative, scientific, ethical, or theological.[2] Mill’s conception of freedom is best understood as non-interference, and the principle guiding this model of freedom is the “harm principle.” While in pursuit of the previous objectives the only appropriate use of force by a government against the will of its citizens is to protect others from harm.[3] Although government interference to protect others from harm is justified, any paternalistic notion of protecting an individual from himself is wholly insufficient grounds for restriction. If the government is limited to intervening action according to the harm principle this will protect the individual from the tyranny of the majority as well as the alleged despotism of custom.

The “harm principle” presented by Mill seems complete in its basic assertion – elucidation would almost be redundant.[4] Nonetheless, Mill is able to expound the principle by specifying reasons why it is profitable for a civil society to adopt it. Mill argues on behalf of the harm principle by emphasizing two main components; first, the protection of personal autonomy; second, the protection of individualism. Defense against mob rule is an important reason for protecting personal autonomy. According to Mill, citizens must be able to maintain their autonomy as they pursue their life goals without coercion from outside forces. Interference in illegitimate ways is a negative that will not only hurt the individual, but society as well. For example, if the governing authorities obstructed an individual’s pursuit of becoming a physicist, given this pursuit was not harming others, the detriment of this obstruction is not only to the person interfered with, but also to society for having possibly lost the benefits of potential scientific advancement. On this view, stifling the autonomy of the individual from pursuing vocations that benefit the person and society upon successful achievement can only stand to smother human flourishing and innovation.

Just as autonomy is important for Mill’s conception of liberty so is individualism. In maintaining autonomy a person is more likely to attain the proper notion of individualism with respect to his freedom of thought, discussion, and action. Mill’s utilitarianism is wedded to the individualism described above because he is optimistic the best results will obtain when open dialogue is permitted. Mill’s commitment to freedom of thought and discussion is affirmed in this statement,

“Let us suppose, therefore, that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion, either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind, minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”[5]

The reason for such a strong observance to this idea of individualism in thought, discussion, and action is based on the pretense of man’s fallibility. A contemporary case that pertains to this issue is the “Intelligent Design” movement taking place in the biological sciences. Although this movement is an extreme minority in mainstream biology departments, those associated with and advocating this view are not dilettantes; they have advanced degrees from prestigious universities and are accomplished in their field. Even Thomas Nagel in is latest book, Mind and Cosmos, briefly states that their arguments should not be dismissed in such an off-putting manner.[6] In principle, Mill would welcome the debate because a monopoly on ideas can only hinder scientific progress. However, the open exchange of ideas in the scientific community is different than challenging the consensus of political power. Mill might deny the legitimacy of silencing a single individual who goes against the will of the majority, but this becomes problematic for his theory when it leaves the theoretical realm and enters into its practical application.

Another example Mill would approve of is the 2012 republican primary presidential campaign of Ron Paul. While other candidates toed the party line, Paul stood firm in his principles and awakened a new liberty movement among blossoming libertarians and conservatives. Mill would certainly have supported the message of Ron Paul amidst the sea of sound-bite politicians our country is routinely offered by strict party politics. And while Mill would most likely have approved of Ron Paul’s campaign, this too, has its problems because the Paul message was nothing more than a different articulation of the prevailing views existing on the predetermined arch of liberalism. Paul’s message wasn’t a direct challenge to the liberal program; it was a different opinion on what constitutes legitimacy regarding personal autonomy and individualism. Many believe Ron Paul to be a prophet who is challenging the system. To the contrary, he was merely expressing a version of liberalism that was more popular two hundred years ago. And these same principles from the Lockean yesteryear are what have bequeathed to us the matured liberalism of today’s careerist politicians operating in the halls of Congress.

A supposed alternative to freedom as non-interference espoused by Mill is republicanism. Philip Pettit’s articulation of republican freedom is best understood to be freedom as non-domination. For Pettit an individual is free when they are not dominated by governing agents or other individuals in society. On Pettit’s view, interference is allowed as long as it is not arbitrary. This supposedly differs from a Mill-styled freedom as non-interference because it recognizes that a person may not be interfered with, but remains dominated. Moreover, under the republican conception of freedom a person can be interfered with but not dominated.

Pettit is concerned with domination in society based on arbitrary whim. For example, we can imagine a benevolent slave-owner refraining from interfering with the daily choices of his slaves. Although the benevolent slave-owner does not interfere with the choices his slaves make, he could, on a whim, choose to interfere for any reason without explanation. Moreover, there is no penalty for arbitrarily interfering in a capricious manner. In this case the benevolent slave-owner is not interfering with his slaves, but he possesses the power to do so by way of arbitrary dominion. To be sure, Mill would most likely respond by saying that this comparison is fallacious to begin with because the very concept of slavery requires an illegitimate level of interference despite the claim that a slave-owner is refraining from meddling in his slave’s daily affairs. To even own a slave, Mill might retort, is to interfere – in principle – with a person’s autonomy and individuality. So this ends up being a distinction without a difference between freedom as non-interference and freedom as non-domination.

Similarly, Pettit argues that a person can be interfered with absent domination. For example, a person can be interfered with by having to pay a tax on his property for the purposes of national defense. This interference is not arbitrary since every citizen benefits from a national defense, and the individual is not dominated because he can live continuously without fear of arbitrary interference. Once again, Mill might find himself in agreement with this example on his own principle of non-interference, because taxation does not constitute by necessity a kind of majority force when every person in a civil society theoretically benefits from the existence of a military capable of defending a nation’s land and people.

On Pettit’s view, freedom as non-domination will obtain when the governing authorities generate laws forming a well-ordered republic.[7] He says, “freedom is seen in the republican tradition as a status that exists only under a suitable legal regime. As the laws create that authority that rulers enjoy, so the laws create the freedom that citizens share.”[8] Freedom as non-domination is threatened when the laws of the republic become the “instrument of any one individual’s, or any one group’s, arbitrary will.  When the laws become the instruments of will, according to the tradition, then we have a regime – say, the despotic regime of the absolute king – in which the citizens become slaves and are entirely deprived of their freedom.”[9] This stated position regarding the obtainment of freedom as non-domination is also something Mill might wholly endorse. What Pettit has expressed in this defining characteristic is what was referenced above from Mill, which is the safeguard against a tyrannical majority exercising its will arbitrarily against individuals dissenting from said majority.

Both of these views of freedom overlap quite a bit, and this is especially evident when examining constraints on government power both would agree on. The above paragraphs introduce these principled similarities, but there are more that can be identified. For example, there is not a single amendment in the Bill of Rights Mill or Pettit would not entirely defend. On Mill’s view, the Bill of Rights would be a legitimate constraint of governing power to interfere with the personal autonomy and individualism of the citizen. Moreover, as Mill might argue, the Bill of Rights constrains the government from stifling valuable dialogue resulting in the best effects for societal flourishing. On Pettit’s view, the Bill of Rights prevents the governing authorities from using the law as a device to dominate its citizens in an arbitrary manner. What seems to be obvious at this point is that these two theories are expressing almost identical concepts of freedom. The vocabulary emphasizes different components of freedom from a decidedly liberal perspective. And from this shared perspective, freedom as non-interference and freedom as non-domination turn out to be two sides of the same liberal coin.

In addition to these theoretical similarities, areas of public policy agreement might help to further expose the reality that divergent theories of freedom operating on the liberal political spectrum are differences of degree and not kind. Consider the “war on drugs;” Mill’s view explicitly rejects paternalistic laws implemented to protect a man from himself. On Pettit’s view, an argument could be made on behalf of the legitimacy of the “war on drugs.” Although mostly paternalistic, it is difficult to see why preventing the consumption of mind altering and sometimes debilitating substances would be a form of domination. For example, making the consumption of crack cocaine, heroine, or methamphetamine illegal does not seem like a viable candidate for domination by arbitrary whim. However, an alternative argument could be made in accordance to freedom as non-domination that is an agreement to Mill’s anti-paternalistic stance. An advocate of freedom as non-domination could also argue that paternalistic laws protecting individuals from themselves would be the embodiment of domination. Therefore, the so-called “war on drugs” would be disqualified based on violations of freedom as non-interference and freedom as non-domination.

Another scenario providing insight on this matter is government-funded healthcare. At first glance this seems like an easy case for Mill, but it is conceivable that Mill, or an adherent of Mill’s conception of freedom, would be in favor of such a program based on this statement (emphasis added),

There are also many positive acts for the benefit of others, which he may rightfully be compelled to perform; such as, to give evidence in a court of justice; to bear his fair share in the common defense, or in any other joint work necessary to the interest of the society of which he enjoys the protection; and to perform certain acts of individual beneficence, such as saving a fellow creature’s life, or interposing to protect the defenseless against ill – usage, things which whenever it is obviously a man’s duty to do, he may rightfully be made responsible to society for not doing.”[10]

Given this passage it is plausible to think an adherent of Mill’s freedom as non – interference could make a case for government funded health care, if even only at the local level.

Considering what we previously said about the “war on drugs” the case for the republican perspective is not obvious. It might seem like this is a clear case where the republican would be in favor of government-funded health care because it is another example of interference without domination. Or, to the contrary, it is conceivable that Pettit, or an adherent of Pettit’s conception of freedom, would argue against such a policy. In order to provide “free” health care the economics of such a policy must be considered. If the services of health care are free there will be a consequent increase in demand for said services. The increase in demand will occur while at the same time the supply of doctors either remains constant or increases at a rate significantly lower than demand of their services. An increase in demand with little to no increase in supply results in an increase in cost. In order to pay for the increase in cost the government will either have to raise taxes, borrow, or try to cut costs. Raising taxes and borrowing is never politically expedient so politicians will argue they can keep costs down. One way to keep costs down is to restrict services offered to certain age groups, namely, life saving procedures for the elderly or infant. Given these considerations the adherent of republican freedom as non-domination could argue the elderly or infant would be dominated by bureaucratic agents of the state with regard to their health care decisions and therefore reject the policy.

However, there are counter-arguments from both perspectives of freedom as non-interference and non-domination that might bring them back into accord. For the adherent of non-interference, it could be argued that a person’s health care falls within the categories of personal autonomy and individualism. How an individual might take care of their own health falls squarely within the realm of personal responsibility. To enact a health care system funded by the government is paternalistic, and directly threatens personal autonomy and individualism. This argument would be in line with the potential position for freedom as non-domination.

It is also possible to argue that not providing government funded-health care would result in the domination of individual persons by large, corporate insurance providers. On this consideration, the government would have a responsibility to guard its citizens from corporate domination and guarantee healthcare to all persons in society.

Both of these theories of freedom can be used to argue in favor of, or against government-funded healthcare.

As I previously indicated, the modern conceptions of freedom exist on two sides of the same liberal coin. They differ only in point of emphasis. It makes no difference whether non-interference or non-domination is selected as a stronger version of freedom. They operate within the same liberal framework, require the same conceptual actualization of governing institutions in order to be obtained, require ad hoc qualifications to be consistently realized, and both can be utilized to formulate arguments resulting in identical policy proposals in the name of advancing freedom.

Moreover, freedom as non-interference and non-domination are progressive-revolutionary from a traditionalist point of view. These versions of freedom operate in a way that widens the scope of the moral anti-perfectionism while further solidifying the incoherent myth of moral neutrality. They attempt to articulate an understanding of freedom as non-comprehensive in scope, which is to say, thoroughly secular. This anti-perfectionist, non-comprehensive view backfires because it becomes comprehensive and perfectionist according to the regime of liberalism. Every relevant social and cultural institution must embody these doctrines otherwise the authority of the regime might be challenged. The value neutral, anti-perfectionist individualism eventually morphs into a tyrannical collectivism held together by the technocratic state. Freedom is eroded in the name of liberty, and communities are destroyed in the name of autonomy.

The liberal dialectic is a trap from the very beginning. It begs all of the most important philosophical questions from the outset of the discourse. This is most evident when it is realized that the basic principles of liberalism are always presumed to be valid no matter the fierce disagreements arising from the perpetually outraged pseudo-rivals in progressive, conservative, and libertarian camps. The fact that the modernist unity of the liberal spectrum remains unseen is a testament to how embedded its presuppositions are in the culture.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] On Liberty and Other Essays, Mill, Pg. 9 

[2] Ibid, Pg. 16

[3] Ibid, Pg. 14

[4] Why Read Mill Today?, Skorupski, Pg. 43

[5] On Liberty and Other Essays, Mill, Pg. 21

[6] “Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously.  They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met.  It is manifestly unfair.” Mind and Cosmos, Nagel, Pg. 10

[7] Republicanism, Pettit, Pg. 31

[8] Ibid, Pg. 36

[9] Ibid, Pg. 36

[10] On Liberty and Other Essays, Mill, Pg. 15

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Culture, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics

Pagan Rome & Neo-Pagan America

Pagan Rome & Neo-Pagan AmericaThe opening paragraphs of Diane Moczar’s book, The Church Ascending, say this,

“What do you think the following passage describes?

‘Once upon a time, there was a country. After a revolution in which it overthrew the rule of a foreign king, it became a small republic. Its religion was simple, emphasizing republican virtues such as piety, discipline, patriotism, and simplicity of life; most citizens were small landowners. The people had a talent for practical rather than theoretical accomplishments; they were fine builders, engineers, and administrators.

The country began to expand, at the expense of its neighbors, and conquer native peoples. It developed cities and an urban culture and began to use slave labor to an increasing degree. It became very wealthy. And as it came into contact with other cultures, it took in ideas and influences from all over the world. People began to say it was losing its own identity.

The early religion declined, and many people took up exotic cults from the East, while intellectuals tended toward atheism. The old republican virtues broke down, and civil war broke out. Birth control, abortion, infanticide, divorce, and homosexuality became common. There was a woman’s liberation movement.

People stopped reading, except for digests and popular science, and the language became debased. There was a craze for spectator entertainment: sports of all kinds, but also other spectacles, which grew more obscene and violent as time went on, and the jaded popular taste demanded new thrills.

Pollution was widespread, and many people died of a mysterious new disease. Economic problems, such as inflation and high unemployment, developed. But what many citizens feared most of all was terrorism and war from ruthless barbarian powers to the East.’

This is, of course, a word picture of ancient Rome, from its origins to its decline. But it also bears an eerie resemblance to the history and current state of our own country. Other nations – particularly England – have also viewed Roman history as a mirror of their own world. Certainly it holds many lessons and warnings for those who would understand the growth and decline of civilizations, the overextension of superpowers, and the role of moral decay in political collapse.”[1]

This is a striking sketch of ancient Rome, as the author indicates, because it is a depiction of the historical trajectories of our own country, and Western Civilization as a whole.

In addition to the Moczar reference, consider this illustrative description of the pagan environment St. Paul found himself doing his missionary work,

“Travelers throughout the empire found a diversity not only of beliefs and rituals but also of landscapes – geographical and otherwise. Yet unifying and dominating the religious, political, civic, recreational, and architectural landscape of the Mediterranean basin in the first century was the cult of the emperor. Devotion to the emperor – including not only the reigning emperor but also his family and his predecessors, especially Julius and Augustus – was a multifaceted affair that permeated the culture. It was a form of religious and nationalistic, or theopolitical, allegiance, both to deified humans (the emperors) and to a cultural and political entity (the Roman Empire). In many respects, therefore, it was one of the most fundamental cohesive elements in the empire, helping to hold its diverse constituencies together.

The cult of the emperor was in some ways a continuation of the Hellenistic ruler cult, which was known in much of the territory that became the Roman Empire. But for Rome it was a very significant change in attitude behavior from the period of the Roman Republic, and it met with some resistance in Rome itself. Perhaps the change was inevitable, however; after all, as ancients and moderns alike have often assumed, no one but (a) god could subdue and then control a huge portion of the known world. From the time of Julius on, Caesar was not only the top political but also the top religious figure, the chief priest (pontifex maximus). Julius was treated in many ways like a god even before his posthumous elevation to deity, at which point his (adopted) son Gaius Octavius (Augustus) and successor became, naturally, the son of god. And even before Augustus was formally deified after his death in A.D. 14, he initiated programs dedicated to himself, Julius, and Rome that would become the imperial cult.

This cult spread like wildfire throughout the empire during the first half of the first century, especially in the cities, and most especially in the colonies (extensions of Rome) in Greece and Asia Minor like Pisidian Antioch, Corinth, and Phillipi. (Recent scholarship has demonstrated the falsity of the common notion that the imperial cult did not flourish or impact Christians until the time of Domitian at the end fo the first century). In provinces Roman citizens were expected to participate in the cult of Rome and the divine Julius, while noncitizens were to be devotes of Rome and Augustus.

By the end of Paul’s ministry as recorded in his letters and Acts, temples for the imperial cult had been erected, or were being erected, in nearly all the major cities of the empire; these temples were often the largest and most central sanctuaries in a city. The huge, elevated imperial temple at Pisidian Antioch was visible for miles. Even more modest temples for the cult, such as the one at Corinth dedicated to Octavia (the sister of Augustus and wife of Mark Antony, who divorced her for Cleopatra), were impressive edifices. In addition to temples, cities erected other buildings and monuments dedicated to the emperors, as well as statues of them. Sometimes imperial statues were placed inside temples devoted to other gods. Coins, which previously bore the images of gods, now also bore the image of the emperor. Cities celebrated the reigning emperor’s birthday, accession, conquests, and so on, resulting in a busy calendar of ceremonies, festivals, parades, and contests (athletic, gladiatorial, and other types) in his honor. Cities – and within cities, leading citizens – vied to sponsor the most impressive events and erect the most monumental structures. The emperor was everywhere, all the time – sponsored by his friends.

The imperial cult, then, was in part a form of prestigious civic and patriotic service, a kind of ‘God and country’ phenomenon. Public oaths of allegiance were part of this theopolitical activity. But the cult also encompassed more explicit forms of religious devotion to the emperor and to Rome. These included ceremonies honoring the ‘genius’ (‘immortal spirit,’ but also a kind of guardian deity) of the emperor, sacrifices offered by the imperial priests, the burning of incense, special meals and so on. The imperial cult was a multifaceted ritual of power – human and divine.

All these cultic activities were, in fact, both religious and political, and devotion to the emperor and devotion to the empire were inseparable. Behind and within the activities was a theology, a set of convictions about Rome as the gods’ choice to rule the world, an election proven and displayed in Rome’s victories throughout the world, and in the ‘peace’ those victories achieved. The emperor was divinely appointed and empowered patron, protector, father, and epitome of Rome and its power. Augustus was the bringer, and his successors and guarantors, of peace and security – in a word, of salvation.”[2]

Given everything that has been said in these lengthy passages, should we be surprised that America can fit this exact description, from its beginning to modern times, when the founders themselves looked to pagan Rome as the exemplar model of good government?

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Pg. 3-4

[2] Apostle of the Crucified Lord, Gorman, Pg. 15-17

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Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saints, Scholasticism, Theology, Thomism

Catholic Theology & Philosophical Foundations

Saint Thomas Aquinas the Angelic Doctor Background“As we will see, Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et ratio strenuously upholds the tradition of giving priority to faith in the question of the relationship between faith and reason. To do otherwise, of course, would be to flirt with rationalism. Faith, however, must be understood; it is always, to borrow from St. Anselm, “seeking understanding,” What rational tools will one use to understand one’s Christian faith? Of the many philosophies that human culture knows and has known, which one ought to be chosen to aid in the comprehension of faith? Is every philosophy equal to this task?

As is well-known, St. Thomas chose the philosophy of Aristotle for this task. He found that Aristotle’s thought served the faith well; he found, most precisely, that the metaphysics of Aristotle provided a strong foundation upon with to “think the faith.” In light of this, and in light of Pope Leo XIII’s Thomistic revival, theologians began to ask if Catholic theology must be forever wedded to the philosophy of Aristotle. Many said no and attempted to change the philosophical foundations of Catholic theology – none with great success.

The University of Fribourg’s eminent philosopher, I.M. Bochenski, sets the stage for an answer as to why this was so. He explains that modern philosophy, that is, philosophy during the time between 1600 and 1900,

“came into being with the decline of scholastic philosophy. Characteristic of scholasticism is its pluralism (assuming the plurality of really different beings and levels of being), personalism (acknowledging the preeminent value of the human person), its organic conception of reality, as well as its theocentric attitude – God the Creator as its center of vision. Detailed logical analysis of individual problems is characteristic of scholastic method. Modern philosophy opposes every one of these tenets. Its fundamental principles are mechanism, which eliminates the conception of being as integral and hierarchical, and subjectivism, which diverts man from his previous concentration of God and substitutes the subject as the center. In point of method modern philosophy turned its back on formal logic. With some notable exceptions, it was characterized by the development of great systems and by the neglect of analysis.”

The mechanistic and subjectivist a prioris of modern philosophy, along with a whole set of reductionisms in contemporary philosophy, simply do not provide a solid enough grounding for Christian faith.”

 

– Lucas G. Westman


*Taken From The Sacred Monster of Thomism

 

 

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Ethics, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics

The Catholic Church & Capital Punishment

The Catholic Church & Capital Punishment“Between 1796 and 1865, Giovanni Battista Bugatti executed 516 condemned criminals, more than four-fifths for murder. Some of them were hanged, some guillotined, and some decapitated with an ax. In the case of especially heinous crimes, the methods of execution were harsher. Some criminals had their heads crushed with a mallet, after which their throats were cut. Some were drawn and quartered.

Who is Bugatti? He was the official executioner of the Papal States, a devout Catholic who carried out his work as a loyal servant of the Holy Father. Indeed, the popes and the Church were active participants in the process of execution, which was highly ritualized and freighted with spiritual significance. On the morning of the execution the pope would say a special prayer for the condemned. A priest would hear Bugatti’s confession and administer Holy Communion to him in advance of the event. In the hours before the execution, a special order of monks would cater to the spiritual needs of the criminal, urging confession and repentance while there was still time and offering the sacraments. They would then lead him to the site of execution in solemn procession. Notices in local churches would request that the faithful pray for his soul. As the sentence was carried out, the monks would hold the crucifix up to the condemned, so that it would be the last thing he saw. Everything was done to ensure both that the criminal received his just deserts and that the salvation of his soul might be secured. When asked in 1868 to stay an execution, Blessed Pope Pius IX, though he certainly had legal power to do so, apparently thought he morally ought not to, replying, ‘I cannot and I do not want to.’”[1]


There are many in the Catholic Church today working to abolish capital punishment. Those participating in this progressive social justice campaign would most likely recoil at the above description of capital punishment being legislated by the Papal States. When confronted with these descriptions of historic realities the aforementioned social justice warriors in the Church would most likely react with banal modernist slogans while exuding emotional manifestations of their delicate sensibilities. Underneath the reactionary platitudes the typical claim being made against capital punishment is that it is intrinsically unjust, immoral, and undermines a culture of life.

This progressive modernist view of justice is in serious error. Unfortunately many Catholics are impressed with mantras coming from liberally compromised clergy rather than looking to the official teachings of Mother Church concerning the execution of justice against evil and violent criminals.

There is, however, a corrective remedy for this problematic position gaining momentum in the ranks of the Mystical Body of Christ.

I recently received my copy of Edward Feser and Joseph M. Bessette’s book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, and it is devastating to opponents of the death penalty. This book contains a systematic proclamation of the truth taught by the magisterial authority of the Church, as well as a complete refutation of the modernist position seeking to abolish capital punishment.

Feser is typical in his brilliant exposition of Thomistic natural law theory, and in my view, thoroughly dismantles the New Natural Law Theorist (NNLT) position, which currently argues that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral in every instance of its application. The NNLT movement is comprised of many prominent Catholic intellectuals, so it is important that Feser interacts with their arguments. Not every moral position articulated by NNLT advocates is problematic. Indeed, their stated positions on marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and many others are often exemplary. Ultimately, however, the philosophical foundations are where the problems initially arise, which lead to negative unintended consequences despite the good intentions of NNLT advocates. Feser makes this point clear and shows that without the proper philosophical foundation, that is, a perennially grounded metaphysics of the Aristotelian-Thomistic sort, NNLT collapses into itself and can no longer justify their extreme positions on the death penalty.

Traditional natural law theory and NNLT differ on key foundational issues,

“The NNLT differs from traditional natural law theory in several crucial respects. As we have seen, for the traditional natural law theorist, what is good for us is grounded in human nature, where ‘nature’ is understood in terms of the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics of formal and final causes. Given formal and final causality, ‘value’ is built into the very structure of the ‘facts,’ and there is no metaphysical space between them by which David Hume and his positivist followers might pry them apart. NNLT proponents, by contrast, tend to endorse the Humean fact-value dichotomy. Like Hume, they insist that an ‘ought’ cannot be derived from an ‘is.’ Thus, like Hume, they deny that morality can be grounded in a metaphysical analysis of human nature.”[2]

Referencing David Oderberg, Feser highlights another key difference,

“Traditional natural law theory is ‘world-centered’, whereas the NNLT is ‘agent-centered’. For the traditional natural law theorist, an agent knows the good by taking an objective, or ‘third-person’, view of himself. He asks what sorts of ends human beings have, given the kind of creatures they are, and thereby knows what is good for him qua human since he is one instance of that kind among others. According to the NNLT, the agent knows the good from the subjective, or ‘first-person’, point of view. Considering what reasons he has for acting this way or that, he asks what sorts of good are self-evidently desirable and for whose sake he might pursue other goods. That is by no means to say that his judgments are, according to NNLT, ‘subjective’ in the sense of being arbitrary or idiosyncratic. They are taken by the NNLT to reflect human practical reason as such, not merely the practical reason of this or that agent, and are thus in that sense ‘objective.’ But they are ‘subjective’ in the sense that it is from the agent’s introspection of his own practical reason in operation, rather than from mind-independent facts of a philosophically informed anthropology, that he finds a guide to action.”[3]

Finally, there are five main divergences between traditional natural law theory and NNLT (these are the words of the author, not my summary of the positioned differences),

  1. First, it is essentially an attempt to reformulate natural law without either nature or law and is therefore not really a ‘natural law’ theory at all. For since it denies that the good can be grounded in the natures of things in general or human nature in particular, there is nothing ‘natural’ about it; and since it denies that our obligation to pursue the good has anything essentially to do with conforming ourselves to the will of the divine lawgiver, its imperatives lack the character of true ‘law’. [4]
  2. Second, the endorsement of Hume’s fact-value dichotomy is a dangerously radical concession to the philosophical naturalism, positivism, and scientism that are fundamentally at odds not only with the systems of philosophy historically favored by the Church, but with Catholicism itself. This concession is also completely unnecessary, since the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysical foundations of traditional natural law theory’s account of the good are entirely defensible, and since the fact-value dichotomy has in contemporary philosophy been severely criticized, not only by writers sympathetic to the natural law tradition but by others as well.[5]
  3. Third, the approach to political philosophy taken by some NNLT writers also involves dangerous concessions to modern philosophy, owing more to the liberalism and individualism of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant than to the natural law political tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas.[6]
  4. Fourth, the NNLT account of intention is excessively subjectivist and has implications that are simply bizarre from the point of view of traditional Catholic moral theology. As the craniotomy example shows, what would historically have been regarded as an absolutely forbidden direct abortion becomes, on the NNLT, a kind of indirect abortion that is permissible in principle. Meanwhile, because any war appears obviously to involve intentional killing, the very idea of a just war becomes highly problematic. The problem can be dealt with only via implausible and convoluted reasoning to the effect that the deaths of enemy soldiers are not intended but rather a foreseen but unintended side effect of combat.[7]
  5. Fifth, the NNLT list of basic goods (which varies somewhat from writer to writer) is arbitrary and ad hoc, formulated precisely so as to guarantee that certain desired conclusions will be reached and certain undesirable conclusions will be ruled out. The NNLT’s eschewal of philosophical anthropology deprives it of a way of providing an objective criterion by which to determine which goods are really basic, and its appeal instead to the ‘self-evidence’ of some goods and not others seems merely dogmatic.[8]

Following this comparative analysis, Feser demonstrates that by NNLT’s own principles capital punishment does not necessarily need to be considered intrinsically immoral, that the NNLT approach to capital punishment is incoherent, and finally, that the NNLT position on capital punishment cannot be squared with official Catholic teaching.

As important as the philosophical treatment of capital punishment is, I contend that the essential issue needing to be settled is Scriptural authority. What does the Sacred Page have to say about capital punishment? Feser clearly demonstrates that the abolitionist position cannot be associated with Biblical authority. The most explicit endorsement of capital punishment is found in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” This is an explicit command in favor of the death penalty, and it is based on the moral implication that man is made in the image of God. In addition to this, the Mosaic Law identifies specific scenarios justifying capital punishment and God also utilizes the death penalty in some of the most significant events in the Old Testament. The Flood is an obvious instance, and the Egyptians dying while attempting to cross the Red Sea is another. And since I brought up the Exodus, I cannot overlook the slaying of 3,000 at the command of Moses for worshiping the golden calf.

Philosophically combatting errors of reason is vitally important, but even more important is to remind those who are in the Church where our ultimate authority can be found – Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium. If newly invented philosophical systems amount to revoking the authority of Scripture, then the philosophy is in error and must be corrected. As every major saint and doctor of the Church including St. Thomas has taught, revelation and theology guides and corrects human reason in the philosophical arena. Philosophy is the handmaiden to theology not its judge.

In my view, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, systematically settles the debate. There is no way around the arguments being presented, and the only reaction against its necessarily corrective teaching is to remain in the state of modernistic incredulity.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, Feser & Bessette, Pg. 9, 10

[2] Ibid, Pg. 81

[3] Ibid, Pg. 81, 82

[4] Ibid, Pg. 86

[5] Ibid, Pg. 86

[6] Ibid, Pg. 86

[7] Ibid, Pg. 86, 87

[8] Ibid, Pg. 87

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Political Philosophy, Politics

A 5-Step Program For Totalitarian Government

5 Step Program For Totalitarian GovernmentDespite rhetoric promising to drain the swamp, the march toward totalitarian centralization of American government continues on with the Trump administration. The proposal to replace the disastrous Affordable Care Act, as well as the massive congressional budget deal, indicates a commitment to the ongoing trend which perpetuates the cultural monopolization and profligate spending so characteristic in Washington. In addition to the continued centralization of America’s domestic policy, President Trump has moved away from his non-interventionist America first proposal in foreign policy, potentially outsourcing this area to the generals in command of the military.

This is quite the dramatic turn from the governing program outlined during the campaign, especially since all of these shifts in policy took place in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. His most devoted followers refuse to acknowledge the defeat delivered to Trump’s ambitions at the hands of the globalists and the deep state bureaucracy, but the fact remains that the promises he ran on, indeed, those that won him the election have been left unfulfilled. There is no wall, hence no border security. The Affordable Care Act could potentially be replaced with an equally disastrous health care plan that is in actuality a tax cut masquerading as a policy change. And the strained relations with our international rivals have only increased in their intensity based on a foreign policy direction Trump promised to reverse, rather than prolong. The Democrats are positioning themselves as the resistance, and they are winning against a G.O.P. holding majority power in Washington.

More important than these current events, however, is understanding how this centralization process continues without being questioned or even remotely slowed down by any person holding political power. There is a 5-step process that is taking place right before our eyes, and its ultimate end is the subjugation of the American people.

How radicals take control of government, society, and culture in 5-steps:

1. Movement radicals infiltrate and acquire positions of power in the institutions shaping our culture, which leads to radicals of the same mind and spirit pursuing and acquiring positions of power in the government.

2. The radicals who have previously infiltrated the institutions which shape the culture mold and influence society in a specific moral direction in readied preparation to receive the political agenda created by those who have acquired power in government. The radicals who have acquired political power utilize the image of a real or alleged social grievance. The grievance is then packaged as being a problem created either by an action of the government or through a scenario where the government should have acted but failed to do so.

3. The societal grievance is marketed as a violation of specific rights against an identified group whereby a mob clamoring for democratic action demands that the injustice be solved by governmental action.

4. The radicals who have acquired power in the government create legislation to remedy the real or alleged scenario with a centralizing program resulting in the diminishing of legitimate freedoms, and create a path toward the total eradication of freedom at the communal level of culture and society.

5. Repeat steps 2 – 4. Those radicals of the same mind and spirit who have acquired the position of opinion molders and cultural agitators champion the legislation passed by the radicals in the government as a success. Although it is considered a success, the path toward centralization is not complete because the legislation does not entirely solve the problem, and in fact may even increase the severity of the problem so that the mob demands more democratic action resulting in further centralizing legislation, which is created and passed by the radicals pulling the political levers of power.

This program of radicalization in politics results in a government that is totalitarian in nature, and all other legitimate spheres of authority in the societal hierarchy – family and local communities closest to those families – are now considered enemies of progress. Moreover, state governments become nothing more than redundancies because they transform into agents of the centralized totalitarian government being run by sociopathic revolutionaries. The surrender of state governments to Leviathan is accomplished by bribing state officials with tax funds that have been expropriated from the very  people these representatives are meant to protect against totalitarian ambitions.

This process is exactly what we are witnessing with the health care laws that have been passed over the last decade. The bill created to replace the Affordable Care Act is not a solution to the problem; it is a step toward a totalitarian system of centralized health care. If it passes the Senate, and is signed into law by President Trump, the ensuing chaos will most likely result in a sweeping change in power and the Democrats will push a single payer system until the G.O.P. surrenders – which they do every single time. By the time this takes place, the people will beg the totalitarians in power to fix the problem, a problem that was created by the radicals in the first place.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


NOTE: This 5-step process is outlined in the book, The Unseen Hand, by A. Ralph Epperson.

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Philosophy, Political Philosophy

Libertarian Gnosticism

Storming of BastillePope Francis recently made some critical remarks about libertarianism. And following these remarks, libertarians responded with their usual bluster.

The immediate and reactionary response is to always claim that whatever has just been said or written about libertarianism is a straw man. It never fails. Every single time a view that is critical of libertarian political philosophy is offered, libertarians inexorably say that libertarianism is being misrepresented. This complaint, however, does not stem from bad interpretations of libertarian political philosophy, but is most certainly due to the incoherence of libertarianism itself. Even libertarians don’t agree on what constitutes libertarianism, which amounts to a self-serving ability to dodge whenever they are criticized on a point of principle or doctrine. If a person criticizes libertarians who are in favor of abortion it is immediately pointed out that not all libertarians are in favor of abortion. If anarcho-capitalism is criticized for its “anarchic” absurdities, which by the way is theoretically postulated by a guy who is dubbed Mr. Libertarian, some libertarians will point out that not all of them are anarchists or that anarchy is not the same state minimalism; on some accounts libertarianism equates anarchy and on other accounts libertarianism equates “minarchy”. No matter which is criticized it can be guaranteed that someone will point out that not all libertarians are in agreement on this division.

Continuing with examples of discord among libertarianism:

If a libertarian commitment to the gold standard is criticized it will immediately be pointed out that not all libertarians like the gold standard, and some may in fact lean towards Friedmanite monetarism. Some think conservatism and libertarianism are allies, some don’t. Some libertarians are metaphysical realists and some are nominalists. Some are natural law theorists and some are consequentialists. Some associate ‘true’ libertarianism to NAP and some do not.

To be a libertarian among this calamity of contradictory opinions amounts to having a mystically infused knowledge of truths applying to the social and political realm. In order to avoid interacting with this dilemma, an almost magical experience is postulated when interacting with the Rothbardian cult of social gnosticism – Rothbard frees people from their statist intellectual tendencies. Creating a mystical social religion rather than a coherent philosophy leads to the esoteric infusion of “truths” regarding the social order; nobody actually knows what libertarianism amounts to other than what the individual believes to be true according to their own subjectively felt involvement with the “philosophy of freedom.”

The above reality points out at least one very important thing; libertarianism is a total mess.

There are, however, two things uniting this divergent silliness (if a cult of personality is excluded from the equation), and that is the reduction of society to the choices of the individual and contractual consent. Libertarianism turns the freedom of choice into a fetish, and this is what Pope Francis is ultimately criticizing; and the Pope is 100% correct in his judgment.

Not only does the inherent confusion of libertarian political philosophy amount to an undeniable need to reject it on purely rational terms, its reductionist principles are at complete odds with Catholic social doctrine. Given the certainty of intellectual and spiritual conflict, Pope Francis’s criticisms are entirely accurate,

“Finally, I cannot but speak of the serious risks associated with the invasion, at high levels of culture and education in both universities and in schools, of positions of libertarian individualism. A common feature of this fallacious paradigm is that it minimizes the common good, that is, “living well”, a “good life” in the community framework, and exalts the selfish ideal that deceptively proposes a “beautiful life”. If individualism affirms that it is only the individual who gives value to things and interpersonal relationships, and so it is only the individual who decides what is good and what is bad, then libertarianism, today in fashion, preaches that to establish freedom and individual responsibility, it is necessary to resort to the idea of “self-causation”. Thus libertarian individualism denies the validity of the common good because on the one hand it supposes that the very idea of “common” implies the constriction of at least some individuals, and the other that the notion of “good” deprives freedom of its essence.

The radicalization of individualism in libertarian and therefore anti-social terms leads to the conclusion that everyone has the “right” to expand as far as his power allows, even at the expense of the exclusion and marginalization of the most vulnerable majority. Bonds would have to be cut inasmuch as they would limit freedom. By mistakenly matching the concept of “bond” to that of “constraint”, one ends up confusing what may condition freedom – the constraints – with the essence of created freedom, that is, bonds or relations, family and interpersonal, with the excluded and marginalized, with the common good, and finally with God.”

Most importantly, however, is the fact that the Catholic claiming the status of libertarian, or claims that Catholicism can be coherently reconciled to libertarianism, is yet to provide the necessary references of official Church documents to make their case. They do not do this because it cannot be done.

Some people claim that I have a vendetta against libertarianism.

This is false.

I have a vendetta against error.

Libertarian political philosophy – left, right, or anarchic – is in error. This error is incompatible with official Church teaching. So those seeking to unite it to the Church will be addressed and their errors refuted. It is as plain and simple as that.

The social doctrine of the Catholic Church and its relationship with political philosophy can really be summed up as a battle between the traditionalists (who are right) and the modernists (who are terribly wrong).

This article by Jeffrey Tucker, reacting to Pope Francis’s recent remarks, is exhibit A. According to Tucker’s interpretation of history Catholic social doctrine is the natural forerunner to classical liberalism, even linking it to Aquinas. In fact, Tucker is under the impression that the Catholic Church has been an ally with Enlightenment liberalism from the very beginning of this anti-Catholic movement committed to the overthrow of Christendom. This is ridiculous to say the least, but it marks the clear division in the Church concerning social issues between the traditionalist and the modernist.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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