Metaphysics, Philosophy, Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Metaphysics as Seeing: The Importance of Metaphysics

Wolfgang Smith Metaphysics as Seeing Part IThere are five primary questions every person will wrestle with throughout their life, and how these questions are answered will shape who they are and what they might become. Even if these questions are ignored, or suppressed, they will remain lurking in the psyche of each individual. And because there is no escape from these questions any attempt to ignore them is in actuality an answer to them.

The five most important questions every person must confront and provide an answer for are these:

  1. Does God Exist?
  2. Why is there something rather than nothing?
  3. Who am I in relation to all that exists?
  4. What is the good life?
  5. What happens when you die?

These questions are fundamental and ultimate. It is because of their ultimacy that nobody can evade responsibility for providing answers to them. Every moment of any person’s life will result in a way of thinking, knowing, believing, and acting which reflect how these questions have been answered. The answers might be thoroughly examined or they may be entirely unexamined, but either way, they will be answered in the choices we make here and now in this life.

The fundamental importance of these questions is also the strongest reason why so many people attempt to hide from them; because once they have been answered the virtuous will recognize the necessity to submit and conform to the truths discovered. Hiding only leads to ruin and spiritual decay.

While these questions might seem disparate and independent of one another, the truth is they are intricately united by a word that causes modern men to tremble in fear – metaphysics. These five questions are metaphysically united; how the first question is answered will affect the manner in which the rest of the questions are answered. And even if the first question – Does God exist? – is ignored for the sake of starting with the fourth question – What is the good life? – the examination of what constitutes the good life will inevitably lead to whether or not God exists. The impact the divine has on the questions of life are, as we will come to see, world changing.

There are at least three all-encompassing metaphysical questions that directly overlap with the questions of life (these three questions are taken from the book, Metaphysics)

  1. What are the most general features of the World, and what sorts of things does it contain? What is the World like?
  2. Why does a World exist – and, more specifically, why is there a World having the features and the content described in the answer to Question 1?
  3. What is our place in the World? How do we human beings fit into it? [1]

It is evident, then, that there is no way to avoid metaphysics when examining life’s ultimate questions. It is built into the fabric of reality.

As penetrating as these questions might be, and as daunting as metaphysics can become, there are only two general metaphysical frameworks or schematics of reality that make sense given the nature of the questions under examination. For example, God either exists or He does not exist; the world/universe is either infinite or it is finite; there is a purpose or reason for why we are here or there isn’t; there is either a good life or there is not a good life; there is an afterlife or there is not an afterlife; the reality we perceive either exists independently of the mind or it is dependent on the mind; there are minds or there are not. Nuances arise when figuring out how these options might fit together in a coherent whole, but there are really only a couple of available routes from which to choose at the foundational level.

Another way to break down the metaphysical situation is to recognize that throughout the history of rational thought there has been a theistic and a materialistic/atheistic schematic vying for sway in the minds of men, and ultimately the cultures men find themselves living.

The theistic answers to the fundamental metaphysical questions are all of reality and everything therein exists because it has been created by God;[2] God is the necessary being which sustains all of created reality;[3] and human beings are made in His image to love, serve, and honor Him in this life and the next.[4]

The materialist/atheistic answers to the fundamental metaphysical questions are that all of reality is reduced to atomized matter in motion;[5] matter is a brute fact and eternally exists;[6] and human beings are intricately structured products of the material reality they find themselves existing.[7]

The theistic and materialist/atheistic metaphysical schematics cannot both be true. They are both making claims about reality that are fundamentally incompatible. Moreover, this metaphysical incompatibility significantly influences what might constitute the good life, that is, questions concerning moral philosophy, as well as answers concerning the mysteries of life after death.

The ultimate questions of life are vitally important and will impact every person not only by the choices made today, but potentially in the afterlife as well. The answers to the ultimate questions are fundamentally informed by metaphysical presuppositions that can either be examined or left unexamined by those who fear the consequences of what might arise concerning the truth. And these metaphysical presuppositions will directly influence how a person will answer moral questions and questions pertaining to the afterlife. Now that the importance of metaphysics has been established, it is worth examining why metaphysics is necessary and unavoidable.

To be continued…

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Metaphysics, Inwagen, 3rd Ed., Pg. 4

[2] “The World consists of God and all He has made. God is infinite (that is, he is unlimited in knowledge, power, and goodness) and a spirit (that is, He is not material). He has made both spirit and material things, but all the things he has made are finite or limited. God has always existed, and at a certain moment in the past He first made other things; before that, there had never been anything besides God. God will always exist, and there will always be things He has made.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[3] “God has to exist, just as two and two have to equal four. But nothing else has this feature; everything besides God might not have existed. The things other than God exist only because God (who has the power to do anything) caused them to exist by an act of free will. He could just as well have chosen not to create anything, in which case there would never have been anything besides Himself. Moreover, God not only brought all other things into existence, but he also keeps them in existence at every moment. If God did not at every moment keep the sun and the moon and all other created things in existence, they would immediately cease to exist. Created things no more have the power to keep themselves in existence than stones or lumps of iron have the power to keep themselves suspended in the air.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[4] “Human beings were created by God to love and serve Him forever. Thus, each of them has a purpose or function. In the same sense in which it is true of John’s heart that its function is to pump blood, a human being has free will and can refuse to do the thing for which it was made. What we call human history is nothing more than the working out of the consequences of the fact that some people have chosen not to do what they were created to do.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[5] “The world consists of matter in motion. There is nothing but matter, which operates according to the strict and invariable laws of physics. Every individual thing is made entirely of matter, and every aspect of its behavior is due to the workings of those laws.” Ibid, Pg. 5

[6] “Matter has always existed (and there has always been exactly the same amount of it), for matter can be neither created or destroyed. For this reason, there is no “why” to the existence of the World. Because the World is wholly material, and because matter can be neither created nor destroyed, the World is eternal: it has always existed. The question ‘Why does it exist?’ is a question that can be asked only about a thing that had a beginning. It is a request for information about what caused the thing to come into existence. Since the world is eternal, the question ‘Why does the World exist?’ is meaningless.” Ibid, Pg. 5, 6

[7] “Human beings are complex configurations of matter. Since the World is eternal, the existence of complex configurations of matter is not surprising, for in an infinite period of time, all possible configurations of matter will come to exist. Human beings are just one of those things that happen from time to time. They serve no purpose, for their existence and their features are as much accidents as the existence and shape of a puddle of spilt milk. Their lives – our lives – have no meaning (beyond such purely subjective meaning as we choose to find in them), and they come to an end with physical death, since there is no soul. The only thing being said about the place of human beings in the World is that they are – very temporary – parts of it.” Ibid, Pg. 6

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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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History, Politics

Christopher Ferrara’s Judicial Thought Experiment

Christopher Ferrara's Judicial Thought ExperimentIn the article, A High View of Justice?, I argued that the interpretative theory mainstream conservatives utilize when reading the constitution has significant flaws,

“This gets to an important point concerning these competing views of constitutional jurisprudence. A primary problem with the conservative view is that they seem to adhere to a jurisprudence that does not consider the important question of what a justice ought to do. What a justice ought to do when deciding a case is much different than focusing on what the constitution affords justices the power to do when deciding a case. Progressives, on the other hand, seem to be totally focused on the question of what a justice ought to do when deciding a case no matter the constraints within the text of the constitution. This is why progressive justices will “legislate from the bench” on certain issues; they believe they have a duty to sanction justice exceeding the constraints considered to be culturally arbitrary. The problem with the progressive view, I maintain, isn’t that they focus on what justices ought to, it is that they are the philosopher kings of an erroneous political philosophy informed by the tenets of a fallacious liberalism.

Consider this from the perspective of the current debate concerning marriage and the Obergefell decision overturning laws throughout the states that had enshrined the traditional, conjugal view of marriage. What if the justices had decided differently? What if the justices not only upheld the traditional marriage laws where they already existed, but overturned the laws in other states that opened marriage to redefinition while stating that the only valid laws are those adhering to traditional marriage? Now, if the traditional view of marriage is true, right, and just could any conservative seriously argue that this is an act of unjust judicial activism? Would it be unjust to protect the family from progressive redefinition? It is important to also consider whether something being unjust and something being unconstitutional is the same thing.

The justice adhering to the textualist interpretative view of the constitution may argue that they cannot make such a ruling because they have no power to do so. The constitution does not afford them the authority to rule on the definition of marriage. This perspective will most likely result in these justices not being able to rule as they ought to in this instance. If this is the case, then it is a reasonable criticism to say that the conservative view of the constitution prevents justices from doing as they ought to in cases requiring adherence to a higher view of justice afforded by the written text of the constitution.

But can this be a correct and moral jurisprudence, let the constitution reign though justice be thwarted?”

Keep these arguments in mind when considering this judicial thought experiment taken from the pages of Christopher Ferrara’s book, Liberty: The God that Failed.


Changing History: A Thought Experiment

It is not hard to imagine what would happen if Catholics in public life awoke from their liberty-minded trance and remembered that the God who judges His creatures for failing to obey His law does not require a visitor’s pass to enter the courtrooms and legislative chambers of the Western democratic republics. He is there already, and the same judges and legislators who routinely defy His will even piously invoke His name.

Suppose for example, that five of the six Catholic justices now sitting on the Supreme Court bench join in a majority opinion overruling Roe v. Wade. Let us suppose that this opinion holds that the Fifth Amendment protection against the deprivation of life and liberty without due process of law, applied to the States via the Fourteenth Amendment, extends to life in the womb. Suppose further that the opinion holds that the Fourteenth Amendment itself, which provides that no state shall ‘deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws applies to persons in utero. Finally, let us suppose that the opinion ends with this astonishing declaration:

The Constitution was not drafted and ratified in a moral or theological vacuum. The Framers lived in a society whose common law tradition still recognized the Law of God, and in particular the ‘divine positive law’ of the Ten Commandments, as the ultimate source of human positive law. The classic commentaries of William Blackstone place this historical conclusion beyond serious dispute. The justices of this very Court take an oath to God, and we deliver our opinions while sitting beneath a frieze depicting Moses the Lawgiver holding the tablets containing the Commandments.

We recall here Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic declaration in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ in the midst of the civil rights movement of the 1960s: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’” For too long, the legal distortions created throughout the fabric of this nation by our unprecedented legal decision in Roe have placed conscientious Americans in the same position as Dr. King, writing from his jail cell. Indeed, Roe has given rise to a new civil rights movement and concomitant social turmoil that show no signs of abating nearly forty years after Roe divided this nation in a way not seen since the abolition movement that followed the everlasting embarrassment of our decision in Dred Scott vs. Sanford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857).

But beyond a mere appeal to history, which provides the context for our textual interpretation, we hold today that the Constitution’s morally freighted terms ‘person,’ ‘life,’ and ‘liberty’ cannot be considered apart from the same ultimate source of moral authority that Blackstone, our nation’s common law tradition, and Dr. King had in view. As this Court observed in Zorach v. Clausen, 343 U.S. at 314, ‘We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.’ Men are creatures of that Supreme Being, accountable to Him for any human law that contravenes His law, which is written on the heart. Our unfortunate decision in Roe is such a human law. We overrule it today, not only in the name of history and tradition, but in the name of God.

That the issuance of such an opinion now seems absolutely inconceivable is in itself a demonstration of the depth and breadth of the dictatorship of Liberty. But what would happen if the Court so decided? The mass media would of course erupt in an unprecedented storm of outrage. These would be calls for impeachment proceedings to remove all five Catholic justices. But what would be the impeachable offense – that the five justices had violated their oaths to God by citing His law in their opinion? Who in the Senate would be foolhardy enough to lead a prosecution of five sitting Supreme Court justices based on their adherence to God’s law, supported moreover by references to history, tradition and Saint Martin of Birmingham?

Consider the galvanizing effect the decision would have on a nation whose population is still overwhelmingly at least nominally Christian. Surely, in response to the liberal onslaught, conservative talk radio and TV would hail the justices as heroes, as would evangelical Christian leaders and even many members of the ordinarily craven United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Pope would hail the decision, emboldened by the courageous witness of the justices, and Catholics around the world would join the Pope. Certain orthodox Jewish leaders who have long allied themselves with Christians on moral and social issues would lend support to the justices as they come under attack by the media jackals and Congress. And what could the President do? Like Thomas Jefferson in his frustration over Justice Marshall’s interference in his attempt to railroad Aaron Burr to the gallows… he would be reduced to ranting having no legal effect on the life tenure of the five justices. The justices would hold on to their seats and the ‘separation of powers’ that was supposed to characterize the American Republic would receive a tremendous vindication.

In the States, pro-life initiatives in the courts and legislatures would gain powerful impetus. If not outright bans on abortion, state after state, freed from the dead hand of Roe, would be able to enact measures that drastically reduce the number of abortions. Christians would come out of hiding throughout the political process, now openly proclaiming that God’s law ought indeed to govern positive law and judicial decisions, and what were we thinking before? The resulting rightward shift in national politics could produce a fundamental realignment in Congress and even another Catholic president, but this time one who would not be afraid to proclaim his faith while urging Americans to unite on the great moral issues of our time, using the bully pulpit of the presidency to preach national repentance and conversion of hearts while the liberals seethe with rage.

All of these things could well happen because five jurists had the courage to remind their nation that there is a God in heaven, that we must all die and face His eternal judgment, and that both men and nations have a duty in this world to follow His law. In short, our imaginary Supreme Court scenario could be a defining moment in the battle for the soul of the West, with the potential to change not only the course of American history, but the history of the world. And what is to stop this imaginary event from becoming a reality? Nothing, save fear of the powers that be. When our leaders overcome that fear, the rescue of the West from the clutches of Liberty can begin.

As the Protestant-led NRA movement recognized long ago, only when conservatives – both on and off the bench, in America and in every Western nation – begin to invoke and defend the law of God, rather than the will of the people or the text of a document standing alone, can there be any hope of regaining the vast moral territory we have already lost and of avoiding a final defeat that can only mean the destruction of what is left of the moral order and the overt persecution of believing Christians throughout the Western world. Whoever among us still does not see this is fiddling while the West burns.


 

– 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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Book Review, History, Military History

A Higher Call

A Higher Call Book Cover“It’s probably the best book I’ve ever read,” my dad told me.

“It’s really, really good,” my brother Phil confirmed.

Though I’d purchased the World War II aviation story for both my dad and brother after being drawn to its intriguing dust jacket at Barnes and Noble, I’d not yet found the chance to read it for myself. However, once I opened its pages, I understood exactly what they were talking about.

A Higher Call by Adam Makos tells of a kind of heroics we don’t often get to hear about in the 21st century. It’s a story of chivalrous behavior between men who are mortal enemies.

The following is from the book’s blurb:

“December, 1943: A badly damaged American bomber struggles to fly over wartime Germany. At the controls is twenty-one-year-old Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown. Half his crew lay wounded or dead on this, their first mission. Suddenly, a Messerschmitt fighter pulls up on the bomber’s tail. The pilot is German ace Franz Stigler—and he can destroy the young American crew with the squeeze of a trigger…

“What happened next would defy imagination and later be called “the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II.

“The U.S. 8th Air Force would later classify what happened between them as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention for fear of facing a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search the world for each other, a last mission that could change their lives forever.”

While the climax of A Higher Call is the suspenseful encounter between the desperate American bomber crew and the German ace, the book is about much more than that, as it carefully traces the paths of the two pilots which led to their dramatic meeting in the skies over war-torn Europe.

There are a couple of important morals that stand out in this masterfully written story.

The secondary moral, which I will address first, is that there were good people on the German side of World War II. As Americans, we tend to forget this, as we prefer to see ourselves as having been the unquestioned heroes of the war, fighting against pure evil. We don’t like to be reminded that much of the Nazis’ wicked, eugenic philosophy originated in the United States and was even defended by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell.

By contrast, there were many Germans, including those serving in the armed forces, who despised Adolph Hitler and his National Socialist regime and blamed the Nazis for Germany’s unfolding destruction and for the appalling suffering of the German people. The majority of Germans voted against Hitler in the election of 1932, yet the popular support he did have enabled him to rise to power anyway and then drag his country into war.

Once in control, the Nazis ruled Germany with an iron fist and would brook no dissent. Among the stories Makos relates is that of a widowed wife of a German soldier who was executed because she told a joke about Hitler to her fellow factory workers.

In an oppressive environment like this, men like Franz Stigler fought not for the hated Nazi regime and its dreaded SS enforcers, but rather for their families and friends who lived in ever-increasing squalor in the bombed-out cities below the German skies.

Against this rather dramatic historical backdrop, Makos paints a play-by-play picture of Stigler’s noble decision to spare the lives of his defenseless enemies, even at grave risk to his own. It’s in this act that we find the primary moral of the book.

As the reader will discover, Stigler had every reason to shoot down the wounded American bomber plane and no practical reason whatsoever to spare it. Despite this, in that adrenaline-fueled moment over his devastated homeland, he decided to put aside his desire for personal glory and chose instead to answer a higher call.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

 

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Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Scholasticism, Thomism

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange on the Point of Culmination

Point of Culmination

Reginald Garrigou Lagrange Young“This point is found in the idea of self-subsistent being. This idea unifies the five ways as a common keystone unifies five arches. Five attributes appear, one at the end of each way, in ascending order thus: first mover of the universe, corporeal and spiritual, first efficient cause, first necessary being, supreme being, supreme directing intelligence. Now these five attributes are to be found only in self-subsistent being, who alone can say: ‘I AM WHO AM.’ Let us look at each of the five.

The prime mover must be his own activity. But mode of activity follows mode of being. Hence the prime mover must be his own subsistent being.

The first cause, being uncaused, must have in itself the reason for its existence. But the reason why it cannot cause itself is that it must be before it can cause. Hence, not having received existence, it must be existence.

The first necessary being also implies existence as an essential attribute, that is, it cannot be conceived as merely having existence, but must be of itself existence.

The supreme being, being absolutely simple and perfect, cannot have a mere participated share of existence, but must be of itself existence.

Lastly, the supreme directing intelligence cannot be itself proportioned to an object other than itself; it must itself be the object actually and always known. Hence it must be able to say, not merely ‘I have truth and life,’ but rather ‘I am truth and life.’

Here, then, lies the culminating keystone point, the metaphysical terminus of the road that ascends from the sense world to God. This ascending road ends where begins the higher road, the road of the wisdom which, from on high, judges the world by its supreme cause.

Thus again, at the summit of the universe reappears the fundamental Thomistic truth. In God alone are essence and existence identified. In this supreme principle lies the real and essential distinction of God from the world. This distinction reveals God as unchangeable and the world as changeable (the first three proofs for His existence). It becomes more precise when it reveals God as absolutely simple and the world as multifariously composed (fourth and fifth proofs). It finds its definitive formula when it reveals God as “HE WHO IS,” whereas all other things are only receivers of existence, hence composed of receiver and received, of essence and existence. The creature is not its own existence, it has existence after receiving it. If the verb ‘is’ expresses identity of subject and predicate, the negation ‘is not’ denies this identification.

This truth is vaguely grasped by the common sense of natural reason, which, by a confused intuition, sees that the principle of identity is the supreme law of all reality, and hence the supreme law of thought. As A is identified with A, so is supreme reality identified with absolutely one and immutable Being, transcendentally and objectively distinct from the universe, which is, essentially diversified and mutable. This culminating point of natural reason, thus precisioned by philosophic reason, is at the same time revealed in this word of God to Moses: ‘I AM WHO AM.’

Now we understand the formulation given to the twenty-third of the twenty-four theses. It rungs thus: The divine essence, since it is identified with the actual exercise of existence itself, that is, since it is self-subsistent existence, is by the that identification proposed to us in its well-formed metaphysical constitution, and thereby gives us the reason for its infinite perfection. To say it briefly: God alone is self-subsistent existence, in God alone are essence and existence identified. This proposition, boundless in its range, reappears continually on the lips of St. Thomas. But it loses its deep meaning in those who, like Scotus and Suarez, refuse to admit in all creatures a real distinction between essence and existence.

To repeat. According to St. Thomas and his school God alone is His own existence, uncaused, unparticipated self-existence, whereas no creature is its own existence; the existence it has is participated, received, limited, by the essence, by the objective capacity which receives it. This truth is objective, a reality which antecedes all operation of the mind. Hence the composition of essence and existence is not a mere logical composition, but something really found in the very nature of created reality. Were it otherwise, were the creature not thus composed, then it would be act alone, pure act, no longer really and essentially distinct from God.

Self-existent understanding is given by some Thomists as the metaphysical essence of God, as the point where the five ways converge and culminate. While we prefer the term self-existent being, self-existent existence, the difference between the two positions is less great than it might at first seem to be. Those who see that culminating point in ipsum esse subsistens, begin by teaching that God is not body but pure spirit. From the spirituality follow the two positions in question: first, that God is the supreme Being, self-existent in absolute spirituality at the summit of all reality; second, that He is the supreme intelligence, the supreme truth, the supreme directive intelligence of the universe.

On this question, then, of God’s metaphysical essence according to our imperfect way of understanding, the two positions agree. They agree likewise when the question arises: What is it that formally constitutes the essence of God as He is in Himself, as He is known by the blessed in heaven who see Him without medium, face to face? The answer runs thus: Deity itself, not self-subsistent existence, not self-existent understanding. Self-subsisting existence indeed contains all divine attributes, but only implicitly, as deductions to be drawn therefrom in order, one by one. But Deity, God as He is in Himself, contains in transcendent simplicity all these divine attributes explicitly. The blessed in heaven, since they see God as He is, have no need of progressive deduction.”[1]

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, Pg. 67-70

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Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Scholasticism, Thomism

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange on the Fundamental Validity of the Five Ways

Fundamental Validity of the Five Ways

Reginald Garrigou Lagrange“All these proofs rest on the principle of causality: Anything that exists, if it does not exist of itself, depends in last analysis on something that does exist of itself. To deny this principle leads to absurdity. To say “a thing contingent, that is, a thing which of itself does not have existence, is nevertheless uncaused” is equivalent to saying: A thing may exist of itself and simultaneously not exist of itself. Existence of itself would belong to it, both necessary and impossibly. Existence would be an inseparable predicate of a being which can be separated from existence. All this is absurd, unintelligible. Kant here objects. It is absurd, he says, for human intelligence, but not perhaps in itself absurd and unintelligible.

In answer, let us define absurdity. Absurd is that which cannot exist because it is beyond the bounds of objective reality, without any possible relation to reality. It is agreement between two terms which objectively can never agree. Thus, an uncaused union of things in themselves diverse is absurd. The only cause of union is unity. Union means a share in unity, because it presupposes things which are diverse, brought together by a higher unity. When you say: ‘Anything (from angel to grain of sand) can arise without any cause from absolute nothing,’ then you are making a statement which is not merely unsupported and gratuitous, but which is objectively absurd. Hence, we repeat: A being which is not self-existent, which only participates in existence, presupposes necessarily a Being which by nature is self-existent. Unity by participation presupposes unity by essence.

We have here presented the principle of causality, as St. Thomas does in question three, by the way that ascends from effect to cause. The same truth can be treated in the descending order, from cause to effect, as it is in fact treated later in the Summa. Many modern authors proceed from this second viewpoint, But the first order ought to precede the second.

To proceed. The denial of the principle of causality is not, it is true, a contradiction is immediately evident as if I were to say: ‘The contingent is not contingent.’ St. Thomas gives reason why this is so. In denying causality, he says, we do not deny the definition itself of the contingent. What we do deny is, not the essence of contingent, but an immediate characteristic of that essence. But to deny the principle as thus explained is as absurd as to affirm that we cannot, knowing the essence of a thing, deduce from that essence its characteristics. Hence to deny essential dependence of contingent being on its cause leads to absurdity, because such denial involves the affirmation that existence belongs positively to a thing which is not by nature self-existent and still is uncaused. Thus we would have, in one subject, the presence both of unessential existence and of non-dependence on any cause of its existence: a proposition objectively absurd.

But we find the denial of this principle of causality in ways that are still less evidently contradictory (in Spinoza, for example) where the contradiction is, at first sight, hidden and unapparent. To illustrate. Some who read the sentence, ‘Things incorporeal can of themselves occupy a place,’ cannot at once see that the sentence contains a contradiction. And still it is absurd to think that a spirit, which lives in an order higher than the order of quantity and space, should nevertheless be conceived as of itself filling place, place being a consequence of quantity and space.

Likewise there are contradictions which emerge only under the light of revelation. Suppose, as illustration, a man says there are four persons in God. Faith, not reason, tells us the proposition is absurd. Only those who enjoy the beatific vision, who know what God is, can see the proposition’s intrinsic absurdity.

If denial or doubt of the principle of causality leads to doubt or denial of the principle of contradiction, then the five classic proofs, truly understood, of God’s existence cannot be rejected without finding absurdity at the root of all reality. We must choose: either the Being who exists necessarily and eternally, who alone can say ‘I am truth and life,’ or then a radical absurdity at the heart of the universe. If truly God is necessary Being, on which all else depends, then without Him the existence of anything else becomes impossible, inconceivable, absurd. In point of fact, those who will not admit the existence of a supreme and universal cause, which is itself existence, and life, must content themselves with a creative evolution, which, lacking any raison d’etre, becomes a contradiction: universal movement, without subject distinct from itself, without efficient cause distinct from itself, without a goal distinct from itself, an evolution wherein, without cause, the more arises from the less. Contradiction, identity, causality, all first principles go overboard. Let us repeat. Without a necessary and eternal being, on which all else depends, nothing exists and nothing can exist. To deny God’s existence and simultaneously to affirm any existence is to fall necessarily into contradiction, which does not always appear on the surface, in the immediate terms employed, but which is always there if you will but examine those terms. Many of Spinoza’s conclusions contain these absurdities. A fortiori, they lie hidden in atheistic doctrine which denies God’s existence. Hence, agnosticism, which doubts God’s existence, can thereby be led to doubt even the first principle of thought and reality, the principle of contradiction.

Having thus shown the validity of the five ways to prove God’s existence we now turn to dwell on their unity, the point where they all converge and culminate.”[1]

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought, Pg. 65-67

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Politics, Traditionalism

Traditionalist Political Realism & Modern Political Agendas

Traditionalist Political RealismThose who are committed to truth will eventually move towards traditionalist political realism, and those moving toward traditionalist political realism will inevitably begin to recognize the certainty of concrete political agendas.

Traditionalist political realism is a view that is totalizing in nature. It is informed by a theological commitment to the Social Kingship of Christ, which in turn is championed by the Church Militant in its proclamation of the Great Commission. These theological commitments are supported by a metaphysical structure articulated in the ancient tenets of classical realism, which were baptized by the Patristics, and perfected by the Scholastics. Traditionalist political realism also recognizes the reality of hierarchy and authority, which are not add-ons to maintain social tranquility, but are built into the fabric of reality and organically develop in accordance to the social communitarian nature of man. The traditionalist will also pay little attention to rights and focus on duties because there is no such thing as a right not fully guarded by a duty that is ultimately secured by loyal allegiance to the authorities protecting a given culture, which is best expressed in the structure of Catholic monarchy. Rights are empty platitudes if not secured by men committed to their protective duties. It is because of a commitment to duty that the jurisprudence of the traditionalist is perfectionist in nature. Laws are meant to make men better, not to simply secure alleged universal rights derived from the fictitious state of nature whereby a “social contract” is built to invent a just, civil society.

This description of traditionalist political realism obviously stands in stark contrast to the modernist political idealism infecting our current culture, institutions, and government.

Traditionalist political realism recognizes the existence of powerful groups motivated to enact an agenda in society according to a theological and philosophical vision of reality that is looking to overthrow the Catholic worldview. It follows, quite naturally from this, that these inherently secularist, quasi to neo-pagan groups will be informed by a spirituality which prompts them to either be a “prime mover” on the world stage, or if not orchestrating events to implement a specifically selected program, said groups exploit events (usually tragic) to nudge society toward their desired end.

For example, can anybody really deny the historically realized agenda to overthrow throne and altar? Not many people who are privy to the facts of the French Revolution would deny this, and some would even extol the virtues of this particular scheme because of the shared spirituality of anti-logos revolutionary commitments.

Concrete political agendas can be scary for some people today because everybody wants to believe that they have a voice in the public square, that their vote counts toward important political changes, and that they can alter the manner in which government conducts itself following the era of revolution; as if the anti-logos spirituality will be quenched once power has been attained. To the contrary, the political revolutionary commitment will not cease until all opposition has been crushed and is no longer a threat to their chaotic rule. Everyone wants to believe revolution and the groups pushing for societal discord is a thing of the past, but that is ultimately a naive suggestion. It exists here and now. Traditional political realists are those who are not afraid to bring up this uncomfortable fact.

Traditionalists are the scapegoats on behalf of truth.

The Church, guided by the Vicar of Christ, used to acknowledge the reality that there are enemies looking to destroy the Mystical Body of Christ. The Freemasons are one example of this recognition. Times have changed. The heresy of modernism has blinded the clerical hierarchy into believing that if they lay down their arms and accommodate the enemies of Mother Church, these revolutionaries will renounce their agenda. This mentality surrenders the Great Commission given to the Church Militant and establishes a spiritually neutralized Church Ecumenical where the Gospel of Jesus Christ takes a back seat to “meeting people where they are at” or focusing on the “the accompaniment of sinners.” Conversion and repentance are considered to be harsh measures for the ears of modern man. This too is a lie. Modern man, now more than every must hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter the cost.

We must never forget the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,

“If the world hate you, know ye that it hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: the servant is not greater than his lord. IF they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake: because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the worlds that no other man hath done, they would not have sin: but now they have both seen, and hateth both me and my Father. But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law: They have hated me without cause. But when the Paraclete is come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me: And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.”[1]

Christ continues this teaching saying,

“These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized. They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth service to God. And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things I have told you: that when the hour of them shall come, you may remember that I told you.”[2]

The fallen, sinful world hates Jesus Christ, “because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light; for their words were evil.”[3] St. Paul, following the Captain of his own salvation tells us through the church of Corinth (emphasis added), “ For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles, foolishness: But to them that are called Jews, and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God, is wiser than men: and the weakness of God, is stronger than men.”[4][5]

The Church Militant has been handed what looks like an impossible task. Jesus Christ the God-man, has told us that the world hates him because he is the light exposing the evil works of men; Christ has told his followers that the world will hate them too because they preach the message of Christ crucified, which continually exposes the darkened heart of fallen man in need of salvation; St. Paul, who suffered the hatred of men towards the Gospel he preached, tells us that this message is a stumbling-block because it is not what carnal ears want to hear.

The Church Militant is not meant to compete for popularity points among those who love the world and perishing in their sin.

And while the Great Commission seems impossible given the stakes, Jesus reminds us of a truth that fuels our passion (emphasis added), “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.[6]

The Church Militant is in a battle against those who collaborate against the Kingship of Christ. However, the Church cannot vanquish an enemy it refuses to identify. It is time for the Church Militant to rise up, forget about the nonsense of ecumenism, and commit to proclaiming the revealed truth handed to us in the Great Commission. There will be hostile opposition to baptizing the nations into all that Christ as taught, but our King reminds us that the victory has already been won; He has already overcome the world.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] John 15:18, 19

[2] John 16:1-4

[3] John 3:19

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:23-25

[5] “The Jews, in the mean time, ask for miracles, such as God formerly wrought in their favor, and the Greeks, or the Gentiles, to be converted, expect from us, what they would look upon as the highest points of human wisdom and knowledge; for that which appeareth the foolishness of God, is wiser than men, and able to confound the highest human wisdom; and that which appeareth weakness of God, is stronger than men, who cannot hinder God from converting the world, by means and methods, that seem so disproportioned to this his design. Wi. – Foolishness. That is to say, what appears foolish to the world in the ways of God, is indeed most wise: and what appears weakness, is indeed above all the strength and comprehension of man.” Douay-Rheims Commentary

[6] John 16:33

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Fr. Cornelio Fabro, Philosophy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Scholasticism, Thomism

Aquinas’s Five Ways & Biblical Commentary

Saint Thomas in Mystical EcstacyTo properly understand the Angelic Doctor’s cathedral of thought, he must be read as a mystic, a theologian, and then only after that – as a philosopher. To enter the cathedral of Aquinas by way of Aristotle, rather than Christ, is to enter the sanctuary incorrectly.

With that being said, I recently stumbled upon this section of an essay by Fr. Cornelio Fabro titled, The Proofs of the Existence of God. In this section Fr. Cornelio identifies a “complement to the five ways” in Aquinas’s biblical commentary on the Gospel of St. John.

 


“4. Critical Note on the Five Ways

The criticisms inspired by modern thought, though perhaps easier to understand, are not for this reason more satisfying. We can cite, for example, what may be the most common and specious objection: with the five ways, St. Thomas arrives at more than Aristotle’s unmoved Mover, who in fact is not the creator of the world, exercises no Providence regarding humanity, is not personal, etc. – the exact opposite of the Thomistic exegesis. St. Thomas, however, has not simply repeated the Stagirite’s principles, but has penetrated them ‘metaphysically’: in the spiritual climate of Christian creationism he has ‘recovered’ Aristotelian realism’s robust structure of the real, without its historical limitations.

An excellent complement to the five ways is a text which seems to me to be extraordinarily important; later than the Summa, it is still little known even among Thomists.

In the Prologue to his marvelous Lectura in Iohannem St. Thomas shows that philosophers have arrived at God in four ways. He presents them at the beginning of the great commentary on the Gospel of the Word to show how, in its best moments, philosophy was nourished by the Word Himself, turning to Him almost by an inner attraction. I will present their essential content here, as these ‘ways’ can correspond well to the five ways of the Summa, and because the text is unknown and certainly not used by the Thomistic school, though later than the Summa and marvelously explicit.

1) ‘Some attained to a knowledge of God through His authority, and this is the most efficacious way.’ This is the fifth way of the Summan, which here becomes the first: only an Intelligence which transcends the world can explain the finality and order which reigns in the phenomena of nature. ‘For we see the things in nature acting for an end, and attaining to ends which are both useful and certain. And since they lack intelligence, they are unable to direct themselves, but must be directed and moved by one directing them, and who possesses an intellect. Thus it is that the movement of the things of nature toward a certain end indicates the existence of something higher by which the things of nature are directed to an end and governed. And so, since the whole course of nature advances to an end in an orderly way and is directed, we have to posit something higher which directs and governs them as Lord; and this is God.’ The ‘some’ at the beginning of this passage are legion, i.e., all theistic philosophers and indeed all of humanity who, from the order of the world and from the aspirations of man, have always thought of a supreme Orderer to which everything tends and from which all are suspended, the heavens and nature, as Aristotle himself said.

2) ‘Others came to a knowledge of God from His eternity. They saw that whatever was in things was changeable, and that the more noble something is in the grades of being, so much the less it has of mutability. For example, the lower bodies are mutable both as to their substance and to place, while the heavenly bodies, which are more noble, are immutable in substance and change only with respect to place. We can clearly conclude from this that the first principle of all things, which is supreme and more noble, is changeless and eternal.’ This is clearly the way which corresponds most closely to Aristotle’s thought.

Two straightforwardly Platonic ‘ways’ follow; one is in fact attributed to the Platonists, the other to St. Augustine.

3) ‘Still others came to a knowledge of God from the dignity of God; and these were the Platonists. They noted that everything which is something by participation is reduced to what is the same thing by essence, as to the first and highest. Thus, all things which are fiery by participation are reduced by fire, which is such by its essence. And so since all things which exist participate in being (esse) and are beings by participation, there must necessarily be at the summit of all things something which is being (essence) by its essence, i.e., whose essence is its being. And this is God, who is the most sufficient, the most eminent, and the most perfect cause of the whole of being, from whom all things that are participate in being (esse).’ The emphasis and breadth of style show clearly the growing esteem in which St. Thomas held Neoplatonic speculation as the years progressed.

4) ‘Yet others arrived at the knowledge of God from the incomprehensibility of truth. All the truth which our intellect is able to grasp is finite, since according to Augustine, ‘everything that is known is bounded by the comprehension of the one knowing’; and if it is bounded, it is determined and particularized. Therefore, the first and supreme Truth, which surpasses every intellect, must necessarily be incomprehensible and infinite, and this is God.’ The Gospel of St. John gathers these four ways, each the fruit of human ingenuity, into an even greater height and breadth: ‘John’s contemplation was also full. Now contemplation is full when someone is able to consider all the effects of a cause in the cause itself, that is, when he knows not only the essence of the cause, but also its power, according as it can extend out to many things.’ The same can be said of the height and perfection of John’s divine knowledge, such that his Gospel embraces all of the sciences: ‘The Gospel of John contains all together what the above sciences [moral, natural, and metaphysics] have in a divided way, and so it is most perfect.’

It seems beyond doubt that St. Thomas considers all four of these ‘ways’ which today would more properly be called ‘methods’, to be valid and conclusive: he emphasizes arrived at, meaning, ‘they have concluded.’”[1]

– Fr. Cornelio Fabro, The Proofs of the Existence of God –

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Selected Words of Cornelio Fabro: Volume 9 God An Introduction to Problems in Theology, Fabro, Pg. 88-90

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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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